Kindling the Fire at Home & in the Community

Inspiration

Remembrance

Remembrance 9-11

We pray to the great Spiritual Power in which
we live and move and have our being.
We pray that we may at all times
keep our minds open to new ideas and shun dogma;
that we may grow in our understanding of the nature of all living beings
and our connectedness with the natural world;
that we may become ever more filled with
generosity of spirit and true compassion and love for all life;
that we may strive to heal the hurts that we have inflicted on nature
and control our greed for material things, knowing that
our actions are harming our natural world and the future of our children;
that we may value each and every human being
for who he is, for who she is,
reaching to the spirit that is within,
knowing the power of each individual to change the world.

We pray for social justice,
for the alleviation of the crippling poverty
that condemns millions of people around the world
to lives of misery – hungry, sick, and utterly without hope.
We pray for the children who are starving,
who are condemned to homelessness, slave labor, and prostitution,
and especially for those forced to fight, to kill and torture
even members of their own family.
We pray for the victims of violence and war,
for those wounded in body and for those wounded in mind.
We pray for the multitudes of refugees, forced from their homes to alien places
through war or through the utter destruction of their environment.

We pray for suffering animals everywhere,
for an end to the pain caused by scientific experimentation,
intensive farming, fur farming, shooting, trapping,
training for entertainment, abusive pet owners,
and all other forms of exploitation
such as overloading and overworking pack animals,
bull fighting, badger baiting, dog and cock fighting and so many more.

We pray for an end to cruelty,
whether to humans or other animals,
for an end to bullying, and torture in all its forms.
We pray that we may learn the peace that comes with forgiving
and the strength we gain in loving;
that we may learn to take nothing for granted in this life;
that we may learn to see and understand with our hearts;
that we may learn to rejoice in our being.

We pray for these things with humility;
We pray because of the hope that is within us,
and because of a faith in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit;
We pray because of our love for Creation, and because of our trust in God.
We pray, above all, for peace throughout the world.

Dr. Jane Goodall


Reconnecting with Nature

After spending the last year immersed in the world of academics and very little rest, I decided that when I graduated, Jay and I needed to get away. Far away from the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives here in southeast Texas. We needed a break, some fresh air, a little perspective and an opportunity to reconnect with our families and the divine in nature. So we planned to make our way back to the west coast for a 2 week vacation that consisted of spending time with family, friends and the great outdoors. It proved to be exactly what we needed.

ImageWe flew into Orange County California and on the flight we were giddy to see the peaks of mountains reaching into the sky. Silly, right? It felt like seeing an old friend after a long time and it was a welcomed sight. Jay seemed to be as excited about it as I was, so that was funny and secretly made me happy to see him feeling the same things I was. We were like little kids flying over the mountains with giant Cheshire cat smiles on our faces. It was hovering over these first peaks that I started to really feel the presence of the divine greeting me and welcoming back home to California. I’m not sure what it is about the Pacific Northwest… if it’s just the familiarity, the history I have there or simply the beauty of the landscape, but being there always makes me feel a concentrated surge of spiritual nourishment. Like water on a hot summer day it quenches my thirst in a way unlike any other place.

Once we arrived in Orange County we picked up our luggage, rented our car and drove to my Dad’s place in Corona. The traffic on the way there was ridiculous and quickly we remembered that the good always comes with a little bad.  Even though the majority of the drive isn’t particularly lovely headed from Santa Ana to Corona, the climb over the grapevine was an opportunity for us to soak in the fact that we were really there! When we arrived at Dad’s place in Corona we were greeted with enthusiasm, hugs and an invitation to Indian cuisine! Yum! We spent a few days spending some quality time together. I got to visit with my Grandma and talked about art, family history and just enjoyed her comforting subtle presence and her dry sense of humor. She didn’t disappoint!

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After our visit with Dad we headed up north to San Francisco. The place where we met… the place where we grew up. It was another welcomed change of pace. Despite dealing with some potentially disconcerting news regarding his moms cancer prognosis, we managed to find a few moments to enjoy our time in San Francisco. One afternoon we spent time in Crissy Field with a friend from high school and had lunch together. Watching the fog roll in across the Golden Gate bridge brought on a sensation of being wrapped up by the divine. I think I may have been looking for a sign that things were going to be okay with Jay’s mom, but the divine did not disappoint in revealing them just when I needed them. We enjoyed the sunshine, the company, the cool ocean breeze and the best deli sandwiches in the Marina district from Lucca Deli.  Walking familiar streets, shopping at old haunts and seeing the faces of cherished loved ones filled me with a sense of wholeness and rejuvenation in a big way. It was a good visit and we both left there feeling like we had achieved the sense of connection to our family, our friends and the divine in the place we both hold so close to our hearts.

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From San Francisco we made our way up to Southern Oregon. The drive up is so beautiful. Even though I’ve driven it probably a thousand times I never tire of the bounty that nature provides in that area. It’s so green and lush with the fullness of evergreen forests and groves. The entire way up I found myself drinking in the vision of the treetops, mountain sides and valleys. I held them in my thoughts and made space for contemplation. I reached out to the divine the whole way up and offered up prayers of thanks and gratitude. From the sunlight peeking through the trees to the hawks flying beside our car to reaching that first point where Mount Shasta was visible I felt the presence of the Goddess. Usually with a long drive your thoughts are focused on just finally arriving, but much like life truly is… this trip wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. I made every effort to savor the drive, our conversations and every part of reconnection and rejuvenation we started our vacation seeking. We sang songs out loud, joked as we usually do and enjoyed the space. Jay couldn’t help, but tease me about acting like a complete tourist… I took a lot of photos. I guess I just wanted to make sure that I was able to document the time we spent together on this little adventure.

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We took turns driving and when it was his turn to ride shotgun he spent a lot of time looking out of the window and resting. I know that he had a lot on his mind with his concerns regarding his mom so I just kept quiet and let him have some peace and time to relax. As much as the time we spent “doing” something helped deepen our connection to each other, our families, our friends and the divine… the time when we weren’t doing anything, but driving seemed to satiate our spirits in a different, but equally vital way. Many times I looked over to see his smiling face and knew with a deep sense of certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In those moments my connection to the divine felt even more palpable and alive. When you are immersed in routine, daily tasks and the ritual hum drum of daily life it’s not nearly as easy to find, feel or see that clarity. So I was thankful for that.

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We stayed with my Aunt & Uncle in southern Oregon, which was a smart move. They live out in the country on a mountainside. Talk about quiet serenity. The creek running through the back part of the property, the redheaded woodpecker visitors and the explosion of stars in the night sky away from the city lights met and exceeded our expectation of a calm, drama-free and quiet place to just be. Our second day there Uncle Paul, Jay and I headed to a favorite swimming hole and he was pretty amazed at how beautiful it was right there in town. We took advantage of the alligator-free, crystal clear water and took a dip despite how cold the water was. A few minutes to adjust and it was fantastic! We stayed a few hours enjoying the quiet cove, the cool water and the quiet buzz of nature. Unfortunately the skies weren’t clear due to the fires in Glendale, Oregon just north of my Aunt & Uncles home … but even with the haze-filled sky Jay couldn’t stop gushing about how much he loved the area, the scenery, the sense he got about the community and the overall vibe of where we were. The more we talked about our future, the more we realized that we belong out there among the trees, the clear rivers and star filled skies of southern Oregon. As the days went by we started to think that maybe we had some reevaluating to do about what we need to be happy. Sure, you can be happy where you are, but shouldn’t you seek out where you want to be? We think so.

My Aunt & Uncle provided a comfortable and non-intrusive space for us to call home base during our stay and reflect on all of the things you need to reflect on when you’re taking a break from “the real world”. Their company, my Aunt Tina’s delicious home-cooked meals and the free reign of their property was amazing. It was the first time Jay had met my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul and my first time seeing them in nearly 8 years. There are certain kindred spirits in this life that no matter the time, the distance or the changes life throws at you… when you are back together in the same space, life carries on like you were never apart. That was my experience with my Aunt Tina & Uncle Paul. We caught up on our lives, talked about our plans for the future, hung around playing games and did a bit of adventure seeking together. It was the perfect balance of rest and activity.

ImageDuring our adventures we went to the Redwood Forest in Klamath Falls. We hiked for probably close to an hour and stopped several times to listen to the audio tour. There were some bizarre trees growing in all different manners. Redwoods are so resilient, they can grow sideways and uprooted and on the side of cliffs. Those great big trees teach an important lesson about staying power, resilience and silence. They stand guardian watching on the coast in all their majesty. Standing among them is a humbling experience… it makes you realize just how little the space is that you personally take up on this planet. Even more humbling was the opportunity to see what they see from the tops of their canopy. I didn’t anticipate facing my fear of heights during my vacation, but my desire to see the top of the trees outweighed my fear. So, I went for it. I’m one of those people who gets the racing thoughts when fear creeps in… and being hundreds of feet in the air is a sure-fire way to feel vulnerable when you are petrified of heights. I kept trying to tell myself to “JUST LOOK AT THE VIEW”… “LOOK AT THE TREES”… “LOOK AT THE BEAUTY” and of course “Don’t think about crashing to your death. This lift is safe. You’re okay. It’ll be worth it when we get to the top.” All this internal dialogue going on was doing very little for me. The racing thoughts kept racing. Finally I had the presence of mind to just close my eyes, take a deep breath, say a little prayer and LET GO. A feeling of complete calm washed over me almost immediately.

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The rest of the ride I spent taking photos, watching the squirrels play high in the trees and taking in how awesome what I was doing was. I was so high up in the sky dangling from a little lift and life was pretty good. I wasn’t willing to let fear ruin the experience and I’m glad I didn’t. When we got to the top of the tree lift my reward was a bird’s eye view. Despite the fog, we were able to see the ocean on one side and massive osprey nest on the other side. I stood there just taking in the panoramic view. It was pretty awesome. I couldn’t believe how sweet the air was that high up. My lungs filled and I imagined blowing out every bit of anxiety and shred of fear that I had been feeling. Getting up was one thing… but now I had to ride the lift again to get back down. My only other option was a 1.5 mile hike recommended for advanced hikers that included extremely steep inclines to navigate. Call me crazy, but I was more willing to risk safety in the lift again than I was to try my hand at advanced hiking down a steep cliff.

Webs up high

Just before heading back down Aunt Tina and I decided to make a pit stop at the ladies room. On my way back towards the lift I was giving myself the pep talk and out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention…

Who needs pep talks when the Goddess puts a symbol of feminine energy, patience and the weaver of destiny right in their path. Not this girl. I took this beautiful web as a sign to take comfort in her presence and to rely on my own internal strength as a woman and a daughter of the Goddess. No more fear and the ride down I was cool as a cucumber. For some reason I have never feared spiders. Even as a child I can remember allowing wolf spiders to take up residence in my room from time to time. I never squished them. Something about them seems sacred and worthy of respect, so I give them that.

Our trip to California & Oregon brought Jay and I closer together. It also gave me the peace of mind and serenity I was hoping for when we left on our adventure. It was the perfect escape from the sweltering humidity of southeast Texas and a great transition from my life as a student towards my new life as a registered nurse. Even doing simple things I felt like I had the time to see the magick in all that was around me. I took the time to be present and grounded in my surroundings. It was a welcomed change of pace and something I hope to do more often in my every day life. Life gets busy and you forget to do the little things that make all the difference. I’m going to try to stop what I’m doing and take that time. It really is it’s own reward. In the coming months I hope to seek out mini-adventures for Jay and I to fill our cups with spiritual nourishment and rejuvenate from the mundane world. We don’t need to “get away” for that though… we just need to shift our focus. Work on the core instead of seeking out fulfillment somewhere else. We are all we need. This trip made me realize that in a big way. Life is truly what you make of it… no matter where you are. My challenge to you is to not wait to take a 2 week vacation… take 10 minutes in the morning or an hour in the evening… take an afternoon or a weekend for yourself or for you and your partner to reconnect to what is sacred. Find some place where you can be alone with the divine in nature. You will thank yourself for taking the time and your every day life focus will shift from seeking the divine outside of the mundane to seeking the divine within. Do it! You’ll be grateful you did. I know I am.

Blessings,

Bridey-signature


Pagan Insights Project

 

PIP BadgeIn an effort to liven things up and inspire my expression in more than one way, I’ve decided to give Pagan Insights Project some attention and try to post in ways that are appealing on more than just a standard blogging level. Hopefully working with different mediums will inspire me to write more now that I finally have some free time to do so.

This is something that I heard about from Rowan, but haven’t taken the opportunity to try yet. Since I generally function on a multimedia sort of way, this type of expression makes complete sense to me & really appeals to me. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll go about incorporating my Pagan Insights Project inspired posts into my blog, but I’ll try it a few different ways and see what I like best. I think when Rowan has used Pagan Insights Project to inspire her posts that she’s posts all 5 prompts in one blog post. She’s an ambitious one after all.

This is what Pagan Insights Project has to say about how to use their prompts:

“It’s a mixed media project – one that is designed to give a bit of insight into one’s own path, as well as general information on Paganism, and the Pagan “lifestyle” (whatever that means XD). There are 5 different prompts to work through, which include writing, images, music and more, and the really great thing about this project, is that you can work at your own pace.  You can do all 5 every week, every other week, once a month, or you can work at a more leisurely rate and simply choose one prompt each week so that you have always have something to post. Or you can go all out, and post them all in one blog post, as often as you like.  For some it can be a daily or weekly journal for keeping track of progress on one’s path, and for others it might simply be a touchstone to return to once every holiday, or every full moon to see where you are in that moment. Which ever you choose, how you use the Pagan Insights project is entirely up to you!”

Prompts

* In Your Own Words – your thoughts and feelings – maybe a full blog post on a topic of your choice related to your path (or Paganism in general) or just a few sentences on where you are right now. What are you studying? What are you thinking? Who are you, and where are you going on your Pagan path? What’s right and what’s wrong in Paganism at the moment?

Post A Pic – post an image related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft… if one is a non-religious Witch), along with a sentence or two describing the image.

* Musical Musings – post a song, chant or poem related to your path, or one that invokes a feeling/emotion related to your spirituality (or craft). Can be in word form, but videos would definitely be awesome as well. On a spiritual level, what is your music of the moment? Is this a song stuck in your head, or one you played before your last ritual?

*Action, Action – post about a ritual, working or other experiential moment related to your path that has occurred recently, or that you are planning to do.

Eureka! – post about something new that you have learned, or discovered recently, that is related to your path or Paganism in general.

Stay tuned for some fun new blogging styles.

Blessings,

Bridey-signature


L is for Labyrinths

Sir-Didymus-LabyrinthAs long as I’ve known about them, I’ve been fascinated with labyrinths. When I was younger, I always associated them with mazes that were so complex that you were sure to get lost in them or worse yet you’d end up arriving at… The Bog of Eternal Stench. It didn’t help that when I was 8 years old I saw Labyrinth and all I could think of was Sarah making her way through the Goblin King’s labyrinth in order to save baby Toby. What always stood out to me about that movie, aside from the maze Sarah had to navigate, was the magick within it. From fiesty Hoggle to brave Sir Didymus and his trusty sheepdog steed… within the  Goblin King’s labyrinth was magick in abundance. Always magick.

It should make sense that the thought of labyrinths insights the images of magick to me even now that I’m a grown woman. I still see them through the eyes of a child in that way. They will always hold that air of mystery and magick. Even the most simple labyrinth drawn on the ground or laid in brick brings on the need to walk it, dance it, meditate within it… no way I could just breeze on by one without paying it some attention. They have and always will be special to me.

In many cultures they are thought to serve as traps for malevolent spirits and in others as a defined path for ritual dance. Still others believe they signify a symbolic pilgrimage; people can walk the path, ascending toward salvation or enlightenment. Since many people couldn’t afford to travel to holy sites and lands labyrinths and prayer substituted for such travel. Over time, most of the spiritual significance (especially in Christianity) of labyrinths faded and they served primarily for entertainment. Recently though their spiritual significance has seen a resurgence. Not just with Christians, but also with Buddhists, Pagans, Hindus and other spiritual people. Many newly made labyrinths exist today, in people’s personal gardens, in churches and in parks. Modern mystics use labyrinths  to help achieve a contemplative state and for meditations.

The history behind them is especially interesting to me. Daedalus built the original  for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its soleLabyrinth-of-the-Minotaur purpose and  function was to hold the Minotaur, the half man and half bull creature. Eventually the Minotaur was killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. The story goes that Daedalus had made the Labyrinth so difficult and skillfully that he could barely escape it after he built it himself. Fortunately for Theseus, Ariadne provided him with a skein of thread, literally the “clew”, or “clue”, so he could find his way out after slaying the Minotaur.

According to Through the Labyrinth by Hermann Kern, “In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.”

This leads me to wonder where the idea that mazes and labyrinths were synonymous came from. Many people, not just myself, think of the labyrinth in the movie with many ways to go and many twists and turns… and we’re all wrong according to Kern. So what was so difficult about navigating the original labyrinth built to hold the Minotaur? Magick, of course! I mean, what else could it be? Surely, if the Minotaur really wanted to he could just plow through the hedges and find his way out, but something kept him trapped… if it wasn’t the branching puzzle of a maze it could be magick, right? Well I think so!

brick-labyrinthMost labyrinths I encounter now-a-days are brick laid or made with stones. It’s quite a rare occasion to see a garden hedge labyrinth anymore, at least it has been for me. Hedges or stones, labyrinths are something I go out of my way to indulge in. However inaccurate the movie is about the true nature of the labyrinth, I’m not sure labyrinths would hold the same mystery and magick that they do for me if it wasn’t for the way it was portrayed. Besides, a story loosely based on a myth is bound to be embellished a little… especially when the embellishment makes it that much more magickal!

Whenever I walk a labyrinth I find myself counting steps and inhaling a little more deeply than usual. It is more often than not, a very relaxing and cleansing sort of thing to do. It doesn’t take long to get into a  meditative head space and as long as I am feeling inspired, I may decide to offer up thoughts or prayers to the Gods. Even though these spaces are not “nature” in it’s truest sense… they are IN nature. Since they are set aside for the purpose of spiritual nourishment  I believe that is why I feel strongly connected to the Goddess when I’m counting paces inside the defined space of a labyrinth. They are beautiful both aesthetically, but their purpose is as well. I hope that if you have the opportunity to walk the paces of a labyrinth, that you will.

To find labyrinths near you check out the Labyrinth Society.

Blessings,

Bridey-signature


Summer Solstice

Last year for Summer Solstice I made my way to Hillsboro, Texas to participate in a Summer Solstice festival being held on the property where Middlefaire Renaissance Faire is held. Initially it was going to be a girls retreat, but many of the women invited weren’t able to come… it ended up being a mother & daughter retreat for mom & I. That’s how I sort of think that it was supposed to be. We needed the time away to reconnect and let loose a little together. Believe me, we did! It was hot as Hades out, but we managed to have a good time and tried to keep cool. It was our 1st Pagan festival in Texas & we were determined to make it memorable!

Much of our time was spent chatting with merchants & patrons there. I quickly befriended a musical group called Dublin Doubles comprised of Teresa, Trey & Lala. For 2 days they were our surrogate family of sorts. They were very welcoming and friendly so it was easy to hang with them and get the lay of the land… plus I really enjoy their music and it gave me lots of time to listen to them play. Next to them were the lovely couple Denise & Mel, who felt like kindred spirits to me the moment they opened their mouths to speak. Something about them just felt very familiar and comforting. Mom & I both bought some fantastic loose incense & burners from the business they run called Practically Magick. When we weren’t buying stuff and mingling with the people… we were off by the stage finding our spiritual groove…. in drum circle with a really cool guy named El Lobo. This was obviously not his first rodeo because El Lobo brought a bunch of drums and noise makers for everyone to play with. We spent hours both days we were there getting lost in the rhythm of the drum beats… it was a lot of fun and very relaxing.

This Summer Solstice when Akasha & Indigo started talking about what we needed to bring with us for ritual, I was excited to find out that we’d be drumming. On our Litha craft day I made a little hand-held drum to bring with me for ritual since Jay was going to be playing my doumbek. I’m not sure how long we drummed, but it was a fantastically freeing sensation. I felt very tranquil drumming and swaying to the beat. Prior to that we were encouraged to dance with abandon, Akasha described it as “mad monkey dancing”… so we did. Danced, spinned & jumped the fire. It was a lot of fun. Probably the most free I’ve felt dancing in circle in a long time.

The tone of the ritual felt very playful & fun… like the sort of ritual a faery would want to attend. What with the flowers, fire, drums, poetry & dancing… who could resist?

Here’s the poem I wrote:

Blazing heat
Fairies dance
‘Round the wise oak
Spin & prance
Rhythmic beat of the drum
Twirl and whirl to the hum
Sacred earth
Summer’s warmed air
Flicker of fire
Cleansing water mists their hair
Energy grows with desire
Solstice sun high in the sky
Joy & merriment as they fly
Longest day has arrived
Blessed Litha they all cry!

We also went on a guided meditation to visit “Ancient Ones” who told us about whatever it was we were seeking. We were told to envision ourselves riding a white mare and when we came upon the opening in the rocks we spoke to the Ancient Ones who talked to us about perception. From our end it appeared to be an opening only large enough to peer through, but on their end it was an opening large enough for us to ride through on the mare. That meditation sat with me even after ritual was concluded, the concept of perception and the need to reevaluate how you look at things. I thought it was a really insightful meditation.

It has helped me focus some attention on some of the things I perceive in my life as “not right”… I have too little time, too little money, too many responsibilities, too many chores, etc. You know, when it comes right down to it, none of that is correct at all. Sure, I wish I had more time to do the things I enjoy, but with good time management I can do most of what I want with my leisure time. I wish I made more money, but who doesn’t? With good budgeting I can afford the things I truly need and even a few of the things I want. Responsibility is something I should welcome & appreciate because that means that I am trusted and counted on, things that only come to someone who is tried & true. I’d much rather spend my time visiting with friends, writing, crafting, reading… really anything other than doing chores, but they’re one of those evil necessities in life. What a drag to have to do laundry, dishes & vacuum the livingroom, but I’d much rather do that than live in a dirty, unkempt home. Perception is important. It helps you to look at the very same thing from a different vantage point to gain a broader view.

That’s what Summer Solstice was for me. Drumming until my hands hurt. Dancing with abandon like a “mad monkey”. Writing poetry. Leaping the fire. And reevaluating my perception. So, what was your Summer Solstice?

Blessings,


The Challenge


  “I challenge you, by Mystery and by Majick, to become the person you were meant to be –

            to cherish the sacred earth –
            to honor the blowing winds –
            to nourish the healing fire – 
            to drink deeply of the living waters.

I challenge you to live Life more fully –
   to awaken to the infinite possibilities around you –
      to know that you are the only limiting factor in your life.

I challenge you to free yourself from both nation and race –
   to recognize all humans as your family –
      to know that war is not the answer.

I challenge you to become more aware of the other-than-human beings –
   to share habitat and nourishment with them –
      to acknowledge them as your teachers.

I challenge you to truly view this planet Earth as a living organism –
   to understand that She is divine, as are all living things –
      to find your purpose in relation to Her’s.

   In time to come there will be darkness and dissolution,
   There will be raging anger, pain, and deprivation,
   There will be loss and there will be violent death.

I challenge you to continue in your chosen path, living joyously.
   Be deaf to the words of the unawakened;
      lest they give you unease.
         Let not fear immobilize you,
            nor despair make you weak,

   For the Eternal Ones are with you, now and forevermore.”

Elspeth of Haven – 2004

I found this piece of prose online recently and it resonated with me in such a way that I felt it needed to be shared with others. Sometimes it only takes a tiny spark to kindle the fire in someone elses heart. One tiny ember to do what they already know they are meant to do, but for some reason can’t find the motivation to do it. Or there is always an excuse as to why they haven’t started… or “maybe tomorrow” goes on for days, weeks or months. Well, I challenge you to read these words and to truly understand the meaning of them. Let today be the last day that you say “maybe tomorrow” & start living your path. If we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, we are not living our path. There is a difference between studying a path and living one… the choice is yours, which do you plan to do?

Blessings,


D is for Desiderata

“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.”

(1927 poem written by American writer Max Ehrmann)

That poem has always been a part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember. As long as I’ve been able to read, I have known this poem. It’s one of those unusual things in my childhood that left an impression. A long lasting impression. You might wonder why a school-aged child would be reading such an advanced piece and the truth of the matter is that it was an unavoidable focal point in my dining room for years and years. Written in beautiful cursive script on the clock covered in sunflowers… there it was just waiting to be read. So I obliged.

It told me a lot about the ideals & values of my parents. As I grew older, it helped to remind me of my own. When I started to write poetry and journal, I’d often reflect on that poem. It has been with me for so many years now that its meaning in my life surely surpasses the original intent of the author. And it resonates with me more today than ever.

I wonder if Max Ehrmann was a Pagan at heart. It seems as though his philosophy on life is a reflection of so many Pagans I know. There are so many worthwhile messages in this single poem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but I always found a message I needed to hear. It helped to let me know that no matter what life dealt me, I was equipped to handle it. When I read it, I see these messages today:

  • Take comfort in silence despite turmoil and noise around you.
  • Don’t bow down to others, but be nice.
  • Be honest.
  • Listen.
  • Even dull & ignorant people deserve to be heard.
  • Avoid loud/obnoxious people, you don’t need their drama.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others, be happy with yourself.
  • Enjoy making plans & achieving goals.
  • Stay interested in your career no matter what it is.
  • Be cautious, but open.
  • Be authentic.
  • Don’t pretend to care for someone if you don’t.
  • Believe in love.
  • Respect the wisdom of experience.
  • Respect the innocence of youth.
  • Nurture your spirit and be strong if you face hard times.
  • Do not worry or fear unnecessarily.
  • Be gentle to yourself.
  • You are a part of the universe.
  • Even if things seem unsure, they are happening for a reason.
  • Be at peace with the creator/God/Goddess.
  • Life is worth it.
  • Life is beautiful.
  • Be cheerful.
  • Be happy.

Certainly these are messages we all need to hear and be reminded of. It seems too easy to focus on the negative things about life. Especially when we’re going through something rough. Woe is me is so much easier than brainstorming solutions or “looking on the bright side”. This poem challenges us to look at the positive things about life, reminds us that everything is connected and does so in such a soothing way that by the time someone finishes reading it they should feel counseled and relieved. I know I do.

Blessings,