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Emerging from a slumber: Lessons from nature this time of year

Emerging from a slumber

As we approach Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere – I honor that it is a time when nature nears its completion of its turn toward what we experience as the “shortest” days of the year.  The days are not actually shorter; we simply experience them as shorter because we “see” less daytime, and observe more evening time during a 24-hour period.

As Winter Solstice comes and goes, we tend to say that the light returns. May we all remember that the light never truly goes away.  It’s always there. It’s only that during certain portions of our planet’s orbit around the sun, we experience fewer hours of daylight.  Physically, on the earth, the more north we are, the more extreme the disparity between the total hours of lightness and of darkness.

Not unlike the planet, we, too, as humans are turning and rotating through the seasons…through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives.

What is it about slowing down, lying dormant, by nature’s design, only to be later awakened from our slumber – that sometimes seemingly troubles us? Why is it that in modern day society, we tend to choose overindulgences over what is more meaningful and is more apt to sustain us? Typically, we tend to go for the immediate gratification. Silly humans!

We can take a lesson from the great grizzlies who “den” in the wintertime, seeking refuge from the severe weather conditions. Hibernation affords them an opportunity to preserve their bodies and life force energy when the natural resources on the outside are less readily available and more difficult to come by. It’s a time when the wind picks up, and the temperature drops. The grizzlies forage and bulk up during the weeks preceding their hibernation; they re-emerge leaner and yet just as strong as when they entered.

How does this parallel our own lives as spiritual seekers? Does this open up an opportunity for us each year, to “go inside” and take refuge from the outside forces?  For me, that means surrendering into the natural rhythm of the seasonal shifts, rather than fighting against them.  I used to express disdain for the wintertime.  I saw it as an inconvenience to drive home from work in the dark, and to have fewer hours of sunshine to enjoy the beach and other outdoor activities.

While I’m still practicing my surrendering into the darker times of the year, each trip around the sun I get a little closer to full acceptance. Turning inward, this time of year, I make an even more concerted effort to slow down and tap into my own inner light, my own soulful center.  We all have one.  And, yes, like the sun, it’s always there, too.  Sometimes it’s a flicker; other times, it’s a full glow. It may appear dark and stark from time to time.  I remind myself that it only appears that way. The source of the light remains the same: constant, steadfast, reliable, and true. I have much to receive from it, much to sustain me.  I appreciate it now.  I’m thankful for all that it offers.  And, for you?

For your consideration:

As individuals and as a society, have we been slumbering too long?  Or, to mix metaphors:  Have we been asleep at the wheel?

From a spiritual standpoint: Are we now emerging from our slumber and stepping into a higher level of consciousness?  I would say yes, for many, this is indeed the case.  That’s what’s been the challenge as well as the opportunity…for growth, for a remembrance of what’s pure and true, and for paving a renewed path: a path that honors us, our sacred institutions, and our precious planet and all those who inhabit it.

For me, the recent political landscape in the United States has served as a powerfully potent catalyst that has reawakened me from my own slumber and reactivated my political and legal activism. The misuse of power across many sectors of our federal government, coupled with the blatant disregard for the United States Constitution hurts my heart.  And, at the same time, it fuels my passion. If you’re a regular reader of Soul Notes, then you’ll recall some of my chronicles of such matters the past two years.  I’m feeling into what that means for me, heading into 2019.

Okay, your turn:

Where in your life would you like to take temporary refuge, and regroup, so that later you may re-emerge lean and strong?  What needs shedding or letting go?   What lessons can be found in the darkness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Why do we resist change? (Or, do we?)

Why do we resist change?

In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s talk about change.  I’m not talking about change for change’s sake.  I’m referring to those anticipated or even avoided changes that gnaw at us, and keep us at best distracted or at worst completely stuck, immobile, and hunkering down and ducking from opportunities that may expand us, help us and others, and even allow us fully to flourish.

Rather than resisting or avoiding change, perhaps it’s worth flipping it on its head:

What if instead it was a matter of welcoming and embracing change, in spite of, or even especially when, the outcome is uncertain?  It need not be reckless nor done with wanton abandon.

With, in many instances, hotly contested races in the midterm elections held in the United States this week, many voters heartily embraced a change in the ruling political party and a rebalancing of power among the three branches of government.  Not everyone held on for dear life to the status quo.

Some changes are certain.  They are taken as a given, without resistance: The ebbing and flowing of the tides.  The waxing and waning of the moon.  The rising and setting of the sun.

Stages and seasons of growth in nature:  those are accepted as certain, or nearly always so. Nature takes a certain trajectory, follows a certain course, pattern, cycle, movement, and rhythm. Of all the species, it is humankind that is perhaps the most not-so-kind to the natural world.  We are the species that most interferes with the grand design of this world.

It is we who inject and impose contorted calendars and appointment schedules into what is an otherwise orderly order.  We invoke what are for the most part arbitrary time changes such as “daylight saving time.” It is this imposing of our will over divine will that I would venture to say brings us strife and grief, and long-term suffering at the hands of fleeting, or even altogether unmaterialized, gains.

Maybe it really does come down to the invocations expressed in the Serenity Prayer:  Accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and invite in the wisdom to know the difference. For those circumstances we cannot change, we can still indeed change our response.  (See The Meaningfulness of Meaning here, referencing the work of Viktor Frankl.)

We are in control.  We get to decide how we respond. We get to take inspired action.  We get to adapt, move forward, expand, and grow.  And why not?  To stay stuck is tiring, uninspiring, and altogether dull.

For your consideration:

Is change something to be avoided at all costs?  Why or why not?  Does it depend on the situation?

Okay, your turn

Where has embracing change, even when initially it seemed scary, brought about improved outcomes for you?  On the other hand, when would you have benefited from accepting a situation exactly as-is, and had fully appreciated it in that moment?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Sandpipers dot the shoreline

Sandpipers

Dozens of them

dot the shoreline

as they scamper toward the receding flow of the tide

as it heads out

and back in again

while the ocean water

flows back toward the beach.

 

Symphonically

they keep in rhythm

with each other

and with the tide.

 

Barefoot

I press my feet and toes deep into cool wet sand

on a sweaty Summer’s day

as dusk drops in

 

With each stride

my head dips toward my chest

and I drop into reflection

and then I bring my head back up again

looking out into the setting sun’s light

 

Turning toward the Pacific Ocean

I survey the water

and take in the view

toward the west and the northwest

 

I see the trail of

sailboats

that are heading back toward and around

Marina del Rey’s nearby jetty,

And

I breathe in the view of

the Santa Monica mountains

and the coastal edges of Malibu

peeking out ever so slightly

off in the distance toward the right

 

All the while

I allow all that is

all that is

weighing heavily on my heart

and all that is

swelling my heart

and filling me

with

love

sorrow

sadness

grief

awe

mystery

devotion

reverence

revelation

serenity

solemnity

peace

calm

 

I am a body

and a soul

walking

my path

 

And it

Is

poignant

challenging

heavy and

light

and

dark

and

bright

 

Tragic

and

beautiful

and

joyful

and

in the end

as in the beginning

it is

all

divine

Okay, your turn:

What comes up for you as you read this poem?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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The wisdom of the sages

There’s sage and then there’s sage !

Sage, as we know, is a type of herb. The sage plant has been used by a number of cultures for thousands of years.  It has been used in Chinese medicine.  It has been used by Native Americans in various ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some have even suggested that it leads to immortality!

In China, sage tea has been called the “thinker’s tea.” Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been known to help improve memory and overall brain function.  Perhaps that is why the word “sage” also is used to describe a person who is wise.  It can also be used as an adjective (as in “sage advice”).

The title of this article is a deliberate play on words.  Sages and ages. They both connote a harkening back to ancient times as well as serve as a current example of ancient traditions put to good use in the so-called modern age.  Has there been a resurgence, or have these practices been put to good use all along?  Are we perhaps simply more aware of them now, due to the internet, globalization, and social media?

Sage has even become a somewhat trendy baby name, at least in the United States.  I wonder if it’s part of the ‘Apple’ craze?  (Referring to the celebrity’s baby’s name, not the computer company.)

We all remember being asked the question when we were young: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Me:  a philosopher.  I didn’t hear anyone around me saying that they wanted to be that.  It wasn’t exactly listed anywhere as a possible career track.  That didn’t matter to me.  If it was needed, and served a purpose, why couldn’t it be an occupation?

I wasn’t even exactly sure what all a job as a philosopher would entail. I knew in my heart, though, that it was a role that would be important and one that would be of service to others.  In my imagination, philosophers were the wisest people in their communities.  And, as such, they had a responsibility to answer seekers’ questions and provide helpful suggestions, recommendations, and solutions.

Sometimes we picture “wise ones” sitting on a mountain top, or living in caves in the Himalayas.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured them more along the lines of a wise man or wise woman in Ancient Greece sitting quietly in a town square, as the local villagers would stop by whenever they were seeking an answer to an inquiry or when wrestling with a concern that was weighing heavily on their soul, or when struggling with a conflict they couldn’t quite resolve.

I pictured philosophers dispensing wisdom not unlike a modern day pharmacist dispensing medicine.  And, I did truly envision “philosopher” as an actual vocation, and a paid position, for sure.  I even had a specific annual salary in mind.  I thought that a philosopher should make $300,000 a year.  Here was my reasoning:  At the time, the President of the United States’ annual salary was set at $200,000. Knowing that, accordingly, I figured that philosophers should be paid at least 50% more than the President, as they would be at least that much more wise and valuable to the country and citizenry!  Apparently, I really had put a lot of thought into this (grin).

While Philosopher or Sage may not be a job title, certainly there are modern day professions where others seek their guidance and advice.   Lawyers fall into that category (hence, the term “counselor at law”).  As with some other professions, within law, there are rules of professional responsibility.  It is part of the licensing process, and continuing legal education requirements as well.  And, as covered in this week’s Six-Minute Saturdays episode, many lawyers including myself were drawn to the law as a career because of a deep desire to be of service.

Admittedly, not all legal advice is the sagest or the wisest. I would suggest, though, that the profession is at least designed to serve that purpose, and with that intention.  And, ultimately, the client retains control over whether to heed that advice, ignore it, or even to seek additional opinions.

For your consideration:

So, with that in mind then, allow me to pose this question: Upon whom, ultimately, do we need to rely, for the sagest advice of all?

Are we not, each of us, deep down, our own best philosopher?  We simply need to access that inner wise sage.  That’s why meditation is important.  That’s why getting quiet and still is wise. By listening to our own inner guidance and messages, we each hold the power and divinity to reach the most appropriate conclusions and answers for ourselves.  And, that is valuable beyond compare.

Okay, your turn:

What’s been the sagest advice that you’ve ever received?  What’s the sagest advice that you’ve ever given? What’s the best advice that your inner-sage has revealed to you?  What made it so?  Did you act on it?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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An Ode to Love (aka, ‘not your usual’ love letter)

February, the month of love.  Oh, how we love (and sometimes don’t) love thee, February!

This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to love.  May love find you and you find love in all the divinely inspired ways possible…this month, and always.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Dear Love,

Thank you for sunsets

and sunrises

Thank you for moonrises

and moonsets

 

Thank you for rainbows

and moonbows

and mountain tops

and mountain bottoms

And landscapes

and horizons far and near

and seas to cross

and seas to see

and salty wind sprays

off the ocean

And unswept beaches

with crawly sand crabs

and scurrying sandpipers

 

Thank you for the crunch of gravel

and the scent of pine needles

and the shape of pine cones

and the sweetness of pineapples

 

Thank you for fireflies

and hummingbirds

and macaws

and geckos

 

and the clippity clop

of Clydesdales

 

and the sounds of drumming heard from the drum circle

down in the valley

 

Thank you for heart beats

and heart swells

and heart warmings

 

Thank you for goodbyes

and hellos

 

Thank you for touch

and taste

and ecstasy

and bliss

 

Thank you for stretches

and stretching

and growing

and restoring

and

Thank you for the

remembering

 

Thank you for new levels

and old reliables

 

Thank you for healing

and healing space…s

 

Thank you for being there

even when I don’t seem to notice

 

Thank you for seeing me

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for listening

 

Thank you for knowing all the things

The secret secrets

and the not so secret

 

Thank you for the holding

and the mystery

and the understanding

and the hope

and the reassurance

 

Thank you for the reason

and the unreason

of it all

 

I am with you

We are with you

I am you

We are you

And it is…

divine

Okay, your turn:

What does this poem bring up for you?  What is love?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Savasana and the power of sweet surrender

Restore and Replenish

Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world refreshed and more available to handle its opportunities, challenges and stresses.

During this time of year, as nature slows down and takes a quiet breather to restore and replenish, it’s a good time to revisit our daily practices and employ simple yet effective ways to follow mother nature’s wisdom.   As nature turns inward, I invite us to do the same.

Heading into the holiday season as well, this can be a time of year that may heighten our nerves and trigger deep emotions.  This too makes it an ideal time to implement consistent daily practices to ground ourselves,  and help us “settle everything down”.

In this moon’s edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ancient practice of savasana, and a technique called 4-7-8 breathing.

Turning Inward

So often in our fast-paced world, we seemingly forget to relax! Even low-level activities which we may be thinking are ways to relax often serve more as a mental distraction, and aren’t truly relaxing at all (watching television news, anyone?)

What if we were to allow ourselves to drop into a state of quiet neutrality, where all of our hurried, harried, frazzled parts can come back together and rest?

Savasana, or “final resting pose”: This asana (posture) is typically reserved for the end of a yoga practice.

After a revving up of the body, nervous system, organs, muscles and blood flow during yoga exercises, savasana serves many blissful purposes, including:  reintegration, restoration, and a letting go of any mental chatter, agitation, or “gripping.”  It’s an easing into the floor or ground upon which your body is placed – on your back, with legs comfortably apart, arms opened, palms facing upward.  Eyes are closed.  Breathing is calm, slow, and deep. Savasana is typically done for 5-10 minutes, and may even be done for up to 30 minutes at a time.

By engaging in savasana, you more easily become aware of your breath and your mind state.   Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world and all its many challenges, opportunities, and stresses.

Another way to “turn inward” and combat the day to day stresses we all face, is to combine savasana with a 4-7-8-count breathing technique made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil. As with other yogic breathing, it’s best done with your tongue placed up and against the inside of your upper front teeth.  1. Take a slow deep breath in, for a count of four.  2. Hold the breath for a count of seven.  3. Release the breath out for a count of eight.  In one session, repeat this 4-7-8 breath cycle four times, to complete “one round”.

Start out breathing at a counting pace that’s comfortable for you, and over time you’ll find yourself being able to slow down your breathing and elongating each count.  The sequence, however, remains the same:  4-7-8. In total, a round of four breath cycles takes no more than two minutes, tops!

It will help you relax any time of day.  And, it will help you fall asleep.  Train yourself to do this to help you get centered, grounded and calm before you react to any stressful situation.

Although savasana is usually done at the end of a full yoga set, I’m inviting us all to try it on its own, as part of our daily practice, especially between now and the end of the year. Both savasana and the 4-7-8 technique have compounding positive effects when done consistently and over the course of several weeks and months.

Savasana and the 4-7-8 breathing technique — each of these practices are whole and complete on their own, and need not be done together.  You actually don’t usually see them done in conjunction with one another. I’m suggesting, though, that they make for a powerful combo pack!  I invite you to try them together, at least once a day.  Do a ten-minute savasana, followed by a four-cycle round of the 4-7-8 breathing.

Sweet Surrender

Both of these practices serve as forms of physical and energetic surrender, in all the best ways.  It’s a conscious and powerful choice to grant ourselves devoted time to recharge and receive the bliss that comes with sweet surrender.  Look at the image of the child above, so pure, so relaxed…so open to all of life’s joys, triumphs, and love!

For your consideration and “extra credit”:

In addition to doing one savasana daily*:

Several times throughout the day — and especially right before going to sleep – do the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Remember this practice takes only a minute or two to complete.  You will serve you and your overall health and well-being tremendously by doing so!

*For a refresher on daily practices, go here.

Okay, your turn:

What daily practices, if any, have you been doing throughout the course of this year? Have you tried any new ones?  Are you open to doing something a little differently throughout the holiday season?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the concept of meaning and what that constitutes in terms of a meaningful life.  In this article, I’ll make references to one of Viktor Frankl’s books, originally entitled From Death Camp to Existentialism, now more commonly known by the title: Man’s Search for Meaning.

A doctor of psychiatry, Viktor Frankl (Frankl) is the founder of the psychotherapeutic school of thought he named logotherapy.  In contrast to Sigmund Freud’s focus on human instincts and the human drive for pleasure, Frankl focused his work on man’s (humankind’s) quest for finding meaning in one’s life.

Part One of Man’s Search for Meaning documents Frankl’s personal experiences as an inmate in concentration camps during World War II.  In Part Two of the book, he elaborates on logotherapy and how his experiences in the camps provided the backdrop for himself to become in effect his own best patient.  Part Two includes examples of patients he treated outside of the camps along with scientific and statistical data to illustrate his points.

Prior to being captured, Frankl had already written the manuscript for his first book, The Doctor and the Soul.  He had tucked the manuscript into his coat before being forced onto the train for Auschwitz.  Once at the camp, he and all the other prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings.  Accordingly, the manuscript he had hidden in his coat was quickly confiscated.

Adding then to the already deep poignancy of Frankl’s observations made during the Holocaust, is the fact that he by necessity documented them all from memory.  He kept his mind sharp by reconstructing in his head the original manuscript of that first book that he would later rewrite and publish.  The only physical remnants of the original manuscript that he had been able to reconstruct while in the camps were in the form of key words and phrases that he would surreptitiously scribble on tiny scraps of paper.

Beyond the Physical:  Love, Spirituality, and A  Life Mission

Physically separated from his wife in the concentration camps, Frankl didn’t know if his wife was still alive.  It was in his mind’s eye that he would hold onto an image of her.  Just as through love he would cling to an image of his wife –- through a sense of commitment to his life’s work and overall life’s mission –- Frankl with devotion clung to the hope and intention of (re)writing his manuscript and publishing his psychological findings, all to the benefit of his profession and mental patients worldwide.

According to Frankl, love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. Love finds its deepest meaning in one’s spiritual being, within the inner self. He also said that even during his time in captivity, glimpses of nature, music, and humor helped him and others to survive.  They were grateful, he said, for the smallest of mercies.

Frankl further went on to contend that by devoting oneself to a cause to serve or another person to love, that the more human and actualized one becomes. In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, he suggested then that life’s meaning even can be potentially unconditional.

If and when conditions get tough on the outside, spirituality can play an even more important role from the inside:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 36, emphasis added).

In other words, the type of person each prisoner would become resulted more from that person’s mental and spiritual state, than purely his physical state.  Profoundly, Frankl maintained that one can decide to keep (and benefit from keeping) one’s human dignity, even in a concentration camp.

The Meaning in Suffering

Frankl was not suggesting that to have a meaningful life, one must suffer.  He did profess, however, that if there is meaning in life at all, there must certainly be meaning in suffering.  According to Frankl, those prisoners who discarded their inner morals, and who concluded that their lives were pointless, and thus “gave up” psychologically, were those who “forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 72).

The Importance of Having Faith in the Future and the Power of Personal Choice

Frankl also understood the importance of having faith in the future. Without a belief in a better future, he said, a prisoner was subject to losing his spiritual hold, and thereby made himself more susceptible to mental and physical decay at a much more fervent pace.

So, what to do?

We may not be able to change every situation that we face in life.  We can, however, change ourselves and our approach.

Through our attitudes, choices and decisions we make and the actions we take, we can rise to any challenge and accept the opportunity to infuse any situation with meaning, even the most difficult ones.  Meaning is possible with or without (although perhaps most strikingly during times of) suffering.

Our lives are lived in moments.  And every human being, as exemplified by Frankl, has the freedom to change themselves — and their experience of any situation in life — in an instant.

 “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 66).

Each of us gets to decide what our existence will be in any given moment, and what we will become in the next moment.

That is true freedom.

Freedom Plus Reasonableness

Freedom alone, however, is not enough.  Frankl makes clear that freedom to choose must be combined with responsibleness.  Otherwise, as a race, the human race, we are destined for destruction. Every person has both potentialities within us – to be either a swine or saint, he said.  Which one is actualized, says Frankl, depends on the decisions we make, and not on the conditions we face.

So the beauty and the promise of Frankl’s work and legacy I would say is this:

Each of us has the challenge and the opportunity to bring with us the values of our past, make empowered choices and take responsible actions in the present, and thereby create futures of the highest value to humankind.

With that, we find meaning.

All is not lost.

Much is gained.

 

For your consideration:

What makes life meaningful? Can there be meaning in suffering?  Is suffering required?

Okay, your turn:

What has helped you bring a sense of meaning into your life?  Was suffering a part of it?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Total Solar Eclipse Edition: Lessons from the Dark Side

The Great American Eclipse, Oh My!

It’s a particularly energetically charged time in the United States, as evidenced by recent politically volatile and even at times highly venomous and violence-infused protests, and counterprotests, resulting in understandable public outcries and feelings of despair and disbelief.

Perhaps then not-so-coincidentally, with this rare total solar eclipse, in the U.S. we are also witnesses to:

The sun’s shadow being cast upon the Earth, traversing along in a large swath forming an arc from West to East, across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the need to rise above the fracas of duality and instead embrace a renewed commitment to bringing forth a new dawn – one of universality.  We truly are all in this together.  Our survival as a society and as a nation may depend on it.

Lessons from the dark side

“We have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.”

Perhaps one of the most well-known among Pink Floyd’s albums, The Dark Side of the Moon contains a song with that phrase within the lyrics of the album’s final song entitled “Eclipse.”

That song describes a descent into madness. While symbolic and figurative, the song is also based in part on what actually does happen in the natural world.  Due to tidal locking, the moon rotates on its axis in nearly exact correlation with its revolving around the Earth. (This is known in the science world as synchronous rotation.) Accordingly, from Earth we always see only the same, one side of the moon.  The opposite side remains dark to us, hidden from view.

So, too, is the case with our own sensibilities, upbringings, cultural orientations, and pre-judgments of ourselves and others.  What is our part to play in all this?  As citizens? As voters?  As participants in our political system and in our legal system?

Unless we challenge the “usual orbit” of love and hate, we will always be seeing only the one side or viewpoint – as it’s the only one we’re willing to see.  What if could do an “about-face” and take a long not so easy look at the dark side of our own beliefs?  What if we were to shed light on the shady undertones of our prejudices? I dare say that’s the golden opportunity afforded to each of us as we experience these seemingly insurmountable (perceived) differences among us.

If each of us chooses to be driven by love and not by fear, and not by unbridled anxiety and distrust, then we can take conscious action and effectuate positive change. We can choose to evolve rather than devolve.  As a society, we have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.

Scientifically, we know that the universe is expanding.  This time of tumult affords us all the opportunity to expand with it, rather than contract or constrict.

It’s Time to Invoke Our Collective Imagination Over Mind

As with a solar eclipse, when the light appears blocked out, we can then better feel into what’s been lying in wait — what’s been hidden in the shadows.

As the divine feminine reemerges, and ethnic equity and gender equity gain more ground, the apparent  threat to the outdated patriarchy becomes all the more real.  Are we reaching a cosmic collision point?  As a nation, are we going to come out the other side of this stronger, more unified?  Or, will we end up even further divided?  Are we moving forward, or regressing?

The conditions are ripe for creative, imaginative solutions to emerge.  Not unlike the financial downfall of the Great Depression serving as a great catalyst and driver for an unprecedented influx of innovation -–the time is now for the collective imagination to become the order of the day.

What if duality were no longer how we positioned things?  What if we were to approach these political divides from a place of universality, instead?  As humans, after all:  We share the same air, bleed the same blood, shed the same tears.

Dualities keep us in a power struggle.  It’s as if we’re each sitting on opposite ends of a teeter totter, competing with each other to fling the other one up and down off the same, single fulcrum.  What if both sides were to step off the teeter totter altogether, and join together on common ground?

Polarities, Dualities and the Opportunity for Growth:  “A Justice of Wholeness”

As Celtic mystic John O’Donohue suggests:  As humans, having a mind “means we’re always confronted by dualities.”

During an interview with Krista Tippett, he went on to say:

“And, I think this is where the beauty of the imagination works.  I think the imagination is committed to what I’d call a ‘justice of wholeness’ and bringing these [polarizing sides] together.”

“The mind separates. And when the mind separates and draws barriers in the heart of these dualities, and the barrier becomes a real barrier as there are [sic] no longer space for breathing, then you have dualism.”

Prophetically, O’Donohue concluded:

“And then you have things cut off that should belong together.  And that’s the heart of all fundamentalisms and fascisms.”

His solution?  He offered this:

“I think that keeping one’s imagination alive always keeps you in vital conversation with the ‘othernesses’ that you tend to avoid or neglect.” (Emphasis added.)

Vital Conversations

Now is the time to reflect on how we treat each other — not only face to face, but on social media as well.  As we covered in last moon’s edition of Soul Notes, Dr. Emoto’s water experiments demonstrated that water’s exposure to written words such as “Thank You” resulted in dramatically different results than when exposed to the word, “Fool.”

So, what is it that we’d like to amplify?  The hatred or the love?  How far apart we are, or how closely we can come together?

It’s time for us to have those vital conversations.  Try having the first one or two with someone who is more likely to lean into the conversation with you from a place of respect and willingness to listen, rather than the urge to berate or cajole.  It’s time to be consciously selective, and with the intention of healing hearts.

It’s going to take all of us: Meaning all of me; all of you.  Are you in?

For your consideration:

We need to adjust our eyesight to examine what we have been conveniently avoiding, or simply keeping in the dark altogether.  And, from that place, we can take compassionate action.  This is the true power of love.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have recent events brought out into the light for you new insights?  Are you ready to have a vital conversation or two?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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There are messages in the water

What about the water?

Varying to some degree only by age and gender, our human bodies are approximately 70 percent water. Water is the primary building block of human cells. And, water covers nearly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface.  It’s vitally important to our existence, as individuals and as a species. And yet, or perhaps precisely because of its prevalence in our world, we tend to take it for granted.  You’d think it would be difficult for us to ignore, but somehow we do?

What if we pay more close attention to the water?  What can we learn from the water?  And, what can the water learn from us?  What impact, if any, do we have on each other?  Is it unidirectional or bidirectional?   In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s dig a little deeper, and dive beneath the surface, if you will!

The truth is in the water

“There are messages in the water.”

During a quiet, self-reflective meditation session not too long ago, I distinctly heard these words:  “There are messages in the water.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  What I did know, however, is that I would be looking to the water, in all its many forms, for clues.

And, as I sat down to outline this blog post, I was reminded of the set of water crystal experiments conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto.  I decided to look up his written works, and smiled as I discovered that one of his volumes is entitled, “The Hidden Messages in Water.”  Not one to overlook a good cosmic coincidence, I quickly ordered a copy of the book and devoured it before sitting back down to finish writing this article.  The book is replete with high-speed photographic images of frozen water crystals, observed and amplified under a variety of conditions.

The Emoto experiments

By putting bottles of water on a table, and then freezing them while exposing them to a number of pre-set conditions, and then taking high-speed photographs of the resulting crystal formations, Dr. Emoto was able to test for certain variables such as: exposure to chlorine in the water (common in some communities’ tap water); exposure to music, including Beethoven and Mozart’s symphonies; and exposure to written words such as “Thank you” compared to “Fool”.   Each resulted in specific shapes and formations, some beautifully complete, and others blurred, ill-shapened, or even completely fragmented.

From these experiments, Dr. Emoto concluded that our thoughts can influence water and that words have spirit. Water definitely responds!  We can impact the very structure of water – to our betterment and to our detriment.  That goes for each of us, and for the planet as a whole.

So, what does that mean, if and when we hear the universe whispering to us that “there are messages in the water?” What if the opposite is also true?  Can the water influence our thoughts?  Can the water affect our mind, body, and soul?  What about its potential to impact our joie de vivre, our very experience of life?  Or, how about its effect on our next course of action?  Maybe it’s not only what we say, but what we hear? I would suggest that both propositions are possible.  It’s a magical, mystical dance in which we, with consciousness, shall benefit from being willing participants.

(For a refresher on the importance of listening, click here for the previous edition of Soul Notes, entitled, Trust what you hear when you listen. In the Jap Ji, the 8th stanza translates in part as: “All my pain departs listening to my heart.”  Your heart in the physical sense also benefits from water, as it is a major component of what flows through the blood in your veins and arteries.  Blood is 92 percent water by weight.  Water is our life blood.)

“I have no doubt that water crystals will become a common focal point for people all over the world who are trying to make sense of chaos.” 

— Dr. Masaru Emoto

The truth is in the water.  It is such a fundamental element of our existence, how can there not be wisdom in it? I say we pay attention to it.  Why?  Because as Dr. Emoto posits:  It, like many aspects of the natural world, is a way for us to make sense of the chaos in our human existence.

The self-organizing nature of nature

In its natural form, water when frozen forms into hexagonal (six-sided) shaped ice crystals.  The details within the outlying formation do vary (you may have heard the expression “no two snowflakes are exactly alike”) – but what remains constant in nature is the self-organizing pattern of six-sided frozen water crystals.  There’s lots to explore with regard to sacred geometry (beyond the scope of this blog post), many aspects of which have been observed and studied over the past many centuries. It’s not merely a coincidence that many parts of nature, left to their own (divine?) devices, fall into recurring patterns.   It’s the intervention of humankind that threatens to, and often does, however, disturb these naturally occurring patterns – as the Emoto experiments demonstrate.

So, the invitation is to observe the water, and to listen for its messages, as well as reflect on ways we can enhance the experience of those around us – by the ways we interact with one another.  As everyone is comprised mostly of water, think of the impact we have on each other, physically and spiritually?

What have I heard?  I’m still listening.  And, listening.  I listen in my morning and evening practices.  I listen in the ocean.  I listen in the shower.  I listen in the bath.  I listen in the rain.  I listen in the garden. One thing I heard clearly was this:  “Make water the next topic to be explored in Soul Notes.”  And, so it is.  Welcome to the conversation!

For your consideration:

We tend to bless our food.  How about we remember to bless our water, too?  We each have that choice, and we have good reasons for making that choice.

Okay, your turn:

What lessons are there for you in the water?  Is it time to start paying attention?  Is it time to start paying more attention?  To what end?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Staying the course, and the value of course corrections

Staying the course, of course! Or, rather, is it time to make a course correction?

“Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course.”

Sailing back home from Catalina Island

Years back, a friend invited me to join him and a few of his friends for a weekend of sailing.  We left the shores of Marina del Rey, California and sailed across the 33 nautical miles to Catalina island, spent the weekend on the island, and sailed back. There are several tales to be told from that weekend, some more wild and adventurous than others!  For purposes of this blog post, allow me to focus on one aspect of the trip – and that is our return sail from Catalina, across the Pacific Ocean and back home.

Upon the return, I took my turn at the helm.  Clearly, we knew our intention, and our destination –  to get the boat and ourselves back to the mainland and the port from which we had originally departed.  It was at that dock where we had left our cars, too – so we knew that’s where we needed to point the boat.

Steering wheels on a boat work pretty much the same as a car – turn the wheel to the left, the boat heads toward the left; rotate the wheel to the right, the boat points toward the right.  Sounds simple enough?  Yes and no.  Out on the open ocean, conditions are in a constant state of flux, from the weather conditions, to the wind speeds and direction, to the water currents and cross-currents, to the presence of marine life and sea animals.  Additionally, the faster the sailboat is moving, inversely the more precise and subtle the movements needed to adjust the direction of the boat.  (There are lessons to be learned here about momentum, too.  Perhaps that topic shall get its due in a future edition of Soul Notes?)

Other things are simultaneously happening on the boat, too.  While the boat’s wheel moves the rudder, the sails themselves are usually in need of their own tending in the wind.  And, that’s not even taking into account the sway of the boom upon ‘coming about’…be ready to duck, or you may be knocked over by a solid wood beam!  In other words:  pay attention to what’s happening.  Be aware.  You’re the captain!

A slight variance makes for extensive consequences

Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course. Even a less-than-one-degree variance as you’re heading toward your destination, especially over the course of dozens of miles, can mean the end point is miles from your intended target!  That indeed would have notable and undesired consequences.

If we were to veer that far off course, without course corrections, we’d find ourselves facing one of two situations: either we’d end up hitting the shoreline at a point where there’s no place to dock; or, we are able to dock the boat and yet are miles and miles from where we parked our cars.  (The same thing can happen upon leaving your car near the foot of a mountain, and trekking up one of several available hiking trails.  If you take a ‘wrong turn’ on the way back, and end up on a different trail at or near the top – without a course correction, you’ll likely find yourself hiking all the way down the hill only to arrive several miles away from your starting point. Hill bottoms by nature are substantially wider than are hilltops!)  So, the scope of error increases exponentially, unless and until you notice you’re veering off course and make the necessary course corrections along the way.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  — James Dean

During this time of Summer Solstice, it’s wise to take another inventory of your life, your dreams, and your aspirations. Here’s a reminder from last Winter Solstice’s edition of Soul Notes:

“Review and Replenish
Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel? “

For your consideration:

Is it time to course correct?  If so, what areas of your life are in need of calibration?

Did you keep notes in a journal near the end of last year, heading into this year?  Did you review it during the equinox three months ago?

What has emerged or changed for you since then?   Are your desired destinations the same, or have they shifted?  Has something or someone in your life changed in terms of your priorities, and what’s important to you?  Which ones may have veered a bit off track?  What steps will you take to get them back on track?  Make a commitment to yourself to do so, lest you find yourself miles away from your intended destination.

Okay, your turn:

When in your life have you noticed you’ve veered off course?  What, if any, course corrections did you make?  How did that impact the result?  Are there times when you didn’t notice you were veering off course?  If so, what if anything could you have done differently to increase your awareness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

 © 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.