Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Sounds: Priscilla Herdman

Today's Sunday Sounds is a very personal post. With Thanksgiving Day just behind us, I'm still enjoying a heightened sense of gratitude for all the good things in my life. Family and the beauty that surround me every day are at the top of the list. Friends sit right at the top, too...but I won't use pictures of my friends online without permission, and waking them up on Sunday morning to gather that permission is likely to endanger my friend status. Hence, no friend pics in the video. :)

Enjoy Priscilla Herdman's splendid voice on Raffi's "Thanks a Lot." It's from the album "Stardreamer" and you can pick it up here if you're as delighted by it as we have been. My husband introduced me to this album, and it has been a favorite ever since.

Oh, and the "percussion" you hear in the song is a rocking chair. Nice, huh? Yeah, I think so, too.

Thanks a Lot
written by Raffi
performed by Priscilla Herdman

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the sun in the sky

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the clouds so high

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the whispering wind

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the birds in the spring

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the moonlit night

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the stars so bright

Thanks a lot

Thanks for wonder in me

Thanks a lot

Thanks for the way that I feel

Thanks for the animals

Thanks for the land

Thanks for the people everywhere

Thanks a lot

Thanks for all I’ve got

Thanks for all I’ve got

- Raffi

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Treasures of the Pagan Blogosphere

My friend WitchGeek pointed me toward this blog, Pagan Godspell. The beauty of this post in particular almost made me weep. Such beautiful imagery and honest writing...well worth visiting often!

Speaking of WitchGeek, have you visited The Accidental Streghone? You should. WitchGeek is a researcher for the love of it and a good writer. His articles are well organized, well researched, and easily read, and always provide food for thought. Read his stuff.

While you're at it, check out Thoughts of a Tye Dyed Goddess. I have rarely read anything that so captures the beauty, ecstasy, and wildness of the Pagan experience. Sheer beauty!

I can't leave out WinterWolf's Howl. Winter MoonWolf is a passionate blogger. I don't always agree with his positions, but he never fails to make me stop and reconsider my own positions. And he turns out some fiercely provocative poetry from time to time.

The blogosphere is just chock full of people sharing their thoughts, they knowledge, their screw ups and successes. While some bloggers are monetizing their blogs, most are writing for reasons of their own. The perspectives they share are not limited to those that will be commercially successful. They'll make you think, inspire you, answer questions, raise questions, make you mad, and make you weep. For free.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Sounds: Lyle Lovett "Here I Am"

It's true...I have been on a Lyle Lovett kick lately. That's nothing new...I've been a fan of Mr. Lovett for a long time. I always hope that sharing his music will create more fans.

"Here I Am" is witty, fast, and musically delightful. Enjoy...and if you find yourself liking Lyle Lovett more than you anticipated, please pick up a CD and give him a listen. I recommend "Live in Texas" or "Step Inside This House"...they have become my personal favorites.

Enjoy your Sunday and "Here I Am"...

I'm the guy who sits next to you
And reads the newspaper over your shoulder
Don't turn the page
I'm not finished
Life is so uncertain

Here I am
Yes it's me
Take my hand
And you'll see
Here I am
Yes it's true
All I want
Girl is you

Given that true intellectual and emotional compatability
Are at the very least difficult
If not impossible to come by
We could always opt for the more temporal gratification
Of sheer physical attraction
That wouldn't make you a shallow person
Would it

Here I am
Yes it's me
Take my hand
And you'll see
Here I am
Yes it's true
All I want
Girl is you

If Ford is to Chevrolet
What Dodge is to Chrysler
What Corn Flakes are to Post Toasties
What the clear blue sky is to the deep blue sea
What Hank Williams is to Neil Armstrong
Can you doubt we were made for each other

Here I am
Yes it's me
Take my hand
And you'll see
Here I am
Yes it's true
All I want
Girl is you

I understand too little too late
I realize there are things you say and do
You can never take back
But what would you be if you didn't even try
You have to try
So after a lot of thought
I'd like to reconsider
If it's not too late
Make it a cheeseburger

Here I am
Yes it's me
Take my hand
And you'll see
Here I am
Yes it's true
All I want
Girl is you

Friday, November 20, 2009

True Power: What do you believe? Part Two

What do you believe about death?

What do you believe about life?

What do you believe about choices people make and their right to make them?

We spend a lot of time out of our lives being angry or upset at other people for choices they make that have little to do with us. The anger or upset usually comes from worrying about them, feeling fear that someone we love will do something that will hurt them, cause them pain and suffering, maybe even kill them.

Love always wants those we love to be happy, healthy, and safe. That's the nature of love, isn't it? We want the best for our loved ones. And when we observe them doing things that aren't in their best interest, we react. We feel fear, sadness, concern, anger. And because we don't have control over our loved ones' lives, these emotions can seem uncontrollable, too. Often, those uncontrollable emotions evolve into anger at those we love for the choices they've made.

In the Craft, as in many Nature-based spiritual paths, there are several potential explanations of why we're here and why we do the things we do. Common among most of them is that we, like all of nature, are born, die, and are reborn in some manner, over and over again. Perhaps the cycle is endless, but most teaching I've encountered says we continue until we've reached some pinnacle in our development that allows us to escape the cycle. Life presents us opportunities for growth. If we fail to "get it" the first time, life just keeps presenting the lesson until we do. I've seen that pattern play out as truth in my own life more often than I like to admit.

If we truly believe this way, how can we be angry when someone fails a lesson, even repeatedly? Understanding that people learn from experience and in their own time does nothing to lessen the sadness we feel watching them, or the fear for their safety (which is, at its root, fear for our own potential loss). But such understanding can keep us from tipping over into bitter anger that eats at our own spirit.

Anger hinders compassion. It masks the true emotions from which it arises and blocks love. Yet, it is only through love and compassion that we have any hope of helping those we love. By examining what we really believe about living, dying, and the choices we make in the process, we have the opportunity to examine our truest emotions. Looking at what we really feel in each situation lets us take responsibility for our feelings and deal with them appropriately. We learn to sit with our true feelings, to allow them to be without allowing them to consume us.

Anger has its place...but that place is much smaller and less frequent than it may seem. Spend time with yourself and your own beliefs about life, death, and personal choices. Whatever you believe, understanding and owning that belief will help you on your road to peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Sounds Bonus: Lost Highway Records: Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett, one of my favorites, has a new album. I'm listening to "Natural Forces" online right now, and I will be purchasing a copy before sundown today.

If you're familiar with Lyle Lovett, give Natural Forces a listen. He's hard to peg into a genre. He's got a more "country" sound than a lot of current Top 40 country, but nothing like "traditional" country music. You'll hear hint of little Texas swing, gospel, blues, even jazz, and a lot of intelligent lyrics that paint stunning word pictures, and a wicked sense of humor.

The whole album is online and it's all good. My personal favorites on this one are "Loretta", "Whooping Crane", "Natural Forces", and "It's Rock and Roll". Treat yourself to some time to just listen.

Lost Highway Records: Lyle Lovett

Sunday Sounds: Dan Fogleberg

This morning...Dan Fogleberg and "Part of the Plan" from the album "Souvenirs"

So much of life seems like there is no rhyme or reason to the random bits of madness that dot the landscape. And yet...when I look back on my life, I know that the person I am today is a result of my experiences, the lessons learned and wisdom gained from dealing with the random bits. Maybe the plan is this: that we humans are unrepentant experiential learners; that we all write our own lesson plans; that trial-and-error is the only real learning style that applies to life lessons; that no one graduates without repeating a few classes along the way; and that we needn't feel too smug about watching someone else's repeats because we've all had (and will have) our do-overs. Maybe the plan is that we show each other compassion and just keep moving forward.

I like that plan. I like this song. And I like the fact that I can share it with you this morning. Blessings along the way, dear friends...may today's lessons be gentle and sweet.

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.

The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next.
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you.
Some kind of message comes through.

And it says to you...

Love when you can
Cry when you have to...
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand...

I had a woman
Who gave me her soul
But I wasn’t ready to
Take it.
Her heart was so fragile
And heavy to hold
And I was afraid I might
Break it.

Your conscience awakes
And you see your mistakes
And you wish someone
Would buy your confessions.
The days miss their mark
And the night gets so dark
And some kind of message
Comes through to you
Some kind of message
Shoots through --


There is no eden or
Heavenly gates
That you’re gonna make it to
One day
But all of the answers you seek
Can be found
In the dreams that you dream
On the way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

True Power: What do you believe?

Do you know what you believe?

Most people say yes. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most of the people who say yes, when questioned, don't really know what they believe about a whole host of things that affect their lives.

I believe (ah, here's one I know!) that what we believe is the key to how we feel, how we respond, how we live. I also believe (another!) that we can change what we believe; that things we hold as "truths" are more often than not "good guesses" and "cherished assumptions" that we've chosen to embrace; that many of those choices are based on faulty information and misunderstood (or missing) data; and that by changing what we choose to believe, we change how we see the world and how the world sees and treats us. Finally, and maybe most importantly, unless we do the hard and ongoing work of discovering what we believe and holding those beliefs up to the light, we run the risk of letting beliefs that don't serve us rule our actions.

To be in control of our own lives, we need to know what we believe, understand why we believe it, and ask ourselves, always, "Is it true? Does it serve?" Anything that isn't true and doesn't serve should be replaced.

We form beliefs based on things we're told, events we witness, experiences we have...and the way in which we perceive those things, with whatever level of understanding we have at the time, colors and shapes our beliefs. And since so much of what we think we believe about ourselves is based on input we receive and process and use to define ourselves and our roles in the world, we end up with colorful, oddly shaped self images, more akin to fun house mirror images than true reflections. We develop our beliefs about others in much the same way, often complicated and clouded by our ill-formed perceptions of ourselves.

Beyond what we believe about ourselves and others, beliefs about death, life, sex, work, love, learning, short, everything that matters...shape our lives in ways we don't always think about. We act on what we believe most of the time, even when don't know or can't articulate those beliefs. At other times, we ignore what we really believe in favor of some false belief we've cooked up to justify doing something pleasureable or avoiding something uncomfortable.

Discovering what we believe isn't always as straightforward as it might seem. In fact, it's much more a sneak-around-the-back process than a front door process. Beliefs can hide, and often we have to examine both action and motive to uncover the belief.

My personal journey into my own beliefs started with a gift. My ex-husband brought me a little book, Celebrate Your Womanhood Therapy, one of a series called "Elf Help Books." It featured charming little drawings of elves and short insightful sayings on each page. I can't quote the page verbatim, but it said, in essence, "True happiness is not found outside yourself. Happiness is a result of your thoughts, your beliefs, and your actions in harmony."

The statement rang true to me and since I was anything but happy at the time, I started thinking about my beliefs, my thoughts, and my actions. What I discovered, to my surprise, is this:

my actions were based on what I felt;
my feelings were based on what I thought;
my thoughts were based on what I believed;
my beliefs were based on... what?

That's where I got stumped. I reasoned that if I didn't know what my beliefs were based on, then I didn't know why I believed as I did, And if I didn't have a clue why I believed it, how the heck did I know it was true?

For me, discovery started with discomfort. I wasn't happy; if happiness was, as the book suggested, the result of harmony, then places where I felt most unhappy were places to look for what was discordant. Once I started to look, I discovered just what a mess I was! Things I claimed to believe, beliefs I claimed to hold dear, were nowhere evident in my life. Some things I thought I believed, or maybe thought I wanted to believe, I really didn't believe at all; I thought I was supposed to believe them, so I said I did and went on. But my life was telling another tale and the discord and chaos were pretty damning evidence. One discovery led to another, like dominoes falling. It was and is a slow process, one that continues today.

I don't even know where to begin to tell you what I learned and am still learning. The biggest lesson of all,I guess, is that I am not powerless over my thoughts and emotions. When I feel discomfort - anger, disappointment, fear, sadness, betrayal - I am not "stuck" with that emotion. I can dig deeper, look for the underlying belief that causes me to think the thoughts that cause the emotion. When I find it, I can examine the belief, look for its roots, discern its truth. Often, I find that the "belief" I hold so dear is really an assumption, a creative filling of gaps between facts based on some deeper, bigger belief that I wasn't aware I held.

I also learned, in the absence of irrefutible facts, to choose to believe the explanation that brings peace. So much of the time, we fill in motives when all we have observed is behavior. Most behavior (and there are exceptions, of course) doesn't really affect us all that much. It's the motives for the behavior that cause us the most misery. If someone steps on my toe, it hurts for a little while. If I believe she stepped on my toe purposefully, that hurts a lot longer. And if I don't know for a fact that the step was dileberate, I choose to believe it wasn't. It hurts less that way.

Examining my life, I learned that anytime I was acting in a way that was not aligned with what my intuitive, knowing self knew and recognized as the path of honor and wisdom, my life was chaotic and discordant. Let me tell you, that little nugget of wisdom, as obvious as it seems now, was a long time in coming. I wasn't listening to my inner voice. But that inner voice is the voice of our truest, deepest beliefs. It's the one that tells us we're ok, even when we're surrounded by the echoes of other voices telling us we're not ok. It's the one that knows what we love and where we're gifted and our highest purpose in this life. It's the one that tells us when we're about to act foolishly and do something selfish, arrogant, stupid, unsafe, unethical, or unwise...the same one we ignore for so many ill-conceived reasons. I got married twice when my inner voice was saying, "NO! This is not right for you!" because I didn't know how to back out of the relationship and wanted to avoid the discomfort of dealing with it. Talk about trading up! There's discomfort, and there's discomfort! And I put myself through hell and contributed to my partners' hellish experience because I didn't pay attention to what I knew, what I believed.

So I ask you again...what do you believe? There is tremendous power in listening, asking, digging, and finding our beliefs, questioning them, discovering their sources. There is even more power in having the courage to change beliefs that don't hold up to scrutiny. One of my favorite Bible verses (yes, I have favorite Bible verses!), John 8:32 (World English Bible), says it well: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The power to cause change to occur in our lives in conformity with our will is magic of the highest order.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Sounds: Neil Diamond

Today's Sunday Sounds is one of the newer pieces from Neil Diamond. I'm sure Neil isn't aware of how much time we've spent together in my life, starting when I was about ten years old. My appreciation for his music matured along with his songwriting

There are as many interpretations of this song as there are listeners. People will argue passionately that it's a love song; others will argue just as passionately that it's about God. That's the thing about art; no matter what your original inspiration or intent, once you turn it loose in the world it morphs and changes through each eye and ear and heart on which it falls. Perception is a powerful creative force in itself.

My perception takes Neil Diamond's music and lyrics here and creates a prayer of gratitude for the love in my life...past, present, and future...friends, lovers, and that originates from within and without...divine love in human form.  That kind of grace is pretty amazing.

The album is Home Before Dark and the song is "Pretty Amazing Grace."

Pretty Amazing Grace Lyrics

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me
pretty amazing grace is who You are
I was an empty vessel
You filled me up inside
and with amazing grace restored my pride

Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me
and with amazing grace reclaimed my heart
love in the midst of chaos
calm in the heat of war
showed with amazing grace what love was for

You forgave my insensitivity
and my attempt to then mislead You
You stood beside a wretch like me
Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed.

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel
humbled in God by everything I found
beauty and love surround me
freed me from what I fear
ask for amazing grace and You appear

You overcame my loss of hope and faith
gave me a truth I could belive in
You led me to a higher place
showed Your amazing grace
when grace was what I needed

look in a mirror I see Your reflection
open a book You live on every page
I fall and You're there to lift me
share every road I climb
and with amazing grace You ease my mind

Came to You with empty pockets first
when I returned I was rich man
didn't believe love could quench my thirst
but with amazing grace You showed me that it can

In Your amazing grace I had a vision
from that amazing place I came to be
into the night I wandered
wandering aimlessly
found Your amazing grace to comfort me.

pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing
pretty amazing

You overcame my loss of hope and faith,
gave me a truth I could believe in.
You led me to that higher place
showed me that love and truth and hope and grace were all I needed. 

Friday, November 06, 2009

The True Power of a Witch - Introduction

I am a witch. A lot of different images and thoughts may come to mind when you read that, depending on your perspective. There have been a million and one (give or take a few) essays, articles, and books about what a witch is or isn't, and I'm not going to write another. Rather than providing yet another definition, I'm going to focus on what is, in my opinion, the single greatest tool and power a witch - or anyone - can work with.

Most witches practice some form or forms of magic. This is not stage magic for entertainment, but serious, concious effort to affect change using natural laws and forces. Aleister Crowley provided a definition of magic that I like, claiming magic to be "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will." Indeed, being a witch is all about change, and nowhere is that more applicable than within ourselves.

As a follower of a nature-centered spiritual path, my personal walk also involves an attempt to live in harmony with nature. Mention "nature" and most minds turn immediately to the physical earthly environment. We've seen how important living in harmony with our environment is and the damage we've caused by not doing so. But the nature I refer to also includes me...I am every bit as much a part of the natural world as the rivers and trees. Part of my walk as a witch is to learn to live in harmony with myself and others.

For all the effort, mundane or magical, we put into changing things outside ourselves, we can expect only so much in return. Why? Because we are not the only actors and we are not in control. We have influence in the world, influence that can be increased with knowledge, skill, and applied will and intent, but we have control over only one thing. We control only ourselves - our behavior, our thoughts, and our emotions.

Through the power of personal choice, we have control over more of our lives than most of us know or acknowledge. The power to choose what we do, what we say, what we think and believe and, to a large extent, what we feel is inherent. It cannot be taken away from us. Circumstances can create limited or difficult choices, for sure. Yet even when the choices come down to "do or die," that is still a choice. Understanding, claiming, and using the power of personal choice is the power to create inner harmony.

One of the seven Hermetic Principles, The Princople of Vibration, comes into play here. I have not put in the time and study to call myself a serious student of Hermetics, but I have come to understand the Principles as universal laws. Like other universal laws, one need not ba a student to witness them in action. The Law of Vibration states: "Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates." Students of Hermetics seek to control their own vibration and, through that control, to influence the vibration of others. Of this law, it has been said, "He who understands thePrinciple of Vibration, has grasped the sceptre of power." Even without trying, we see evidence that the state in which we find ourselves, our vibration, if you will, influences the people and events around us.

I cannot count the times in the last five years or so that someone has said to me, "You have the most peaceful aura about you," or, "I feel calmer just being around you." Why would that be? Perhaps, despite all odds, I've been able to reach a vibratory state that is calm, confident, safe, and peaceful. Maybe...just maybe...I have found the center of my own personal power, and while I'm not perfectly in control all the time, I'm aware of and in touch with the choices I make about what I think, what I believe, and how I feel about and react to what happens to and around me.

My life was not always so, and while the steps I took and continue to take to reach this state were abundantly simple, it would be a boldfaced lie to say they were easy. Simple and easy are not synonymous.

It would also be a lie to say that I have it all figured out and nailed down in some sort of plug-and-play process. I don't. No one does. I've hestiated to broach this subject for so long precisely because it's impossible to tell someone, "Do this and you'll be happy." It's a very personal journey, one that requires a lot of intimate time with yourself, painful honesty, and constant catching of yourself in cherished lie after cherished lie. It's hard work...and the results are worth every single uncomfortable, foundation-shaking, long-look-in-the-mirror moment. Reclaiming power over your own life is dirty work with a huge payday. The kicker is that, in this sense, we live from payday to payday; the work of staying in touch with our own power never ends.

In a series of posts, I'm going to talk about my personal experience in reclaiming my personal power in my life. My experience is not unique, I'm sure, nor is anything I will share here groundbreaking news. We all have the same power, always have and always will. We give up that power and put ourselves into positions of victim or pawn, moved and controlled by forces inside or outside ourselves, forgetting that we are the source of most of those forces.

These posts will talk about how we can take back that control through:

What we believe
What we choose to think (and think about)
How we behave
How we feel and why we feel that way
Why the words, "I can't help it; it's just the way I am," should be wiped from your vocabulary
Why we create our own prisons and lock our own doors
Why then, no matter how bad it was, is not as important as now

I hope anyone reading will feel free to join in the conversation. I believe it to be one of the most important conversations we can ever have.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Faith, Hope, and Love

My daughter Amybeth wrote a note recently that must be shared. In her note, as in her life, she embodies the ideals of "kindness, compassion, tolerance, and civility" that I hold so dear. She also has a very fine way with words. :)

A thank you note...

So, recently, a very good friend of mine sent me a gift. She spent hard-earned cash and precious time out of her busy life to send me a quirky little piece of pottery that made her smile, and she knew I would appreciate its beauty. And on an absolutely perfect day in November, I opened a box that contained much more than a pretty piece of clay. That box held the most precious gifts in the world - Faith, Hope, and Love.

Michelle had faith that the package would arrive safely to its intended recipient. She hoped that I would enjoy her gift and that it would bring me as much joy as it gave her. And along with it, she sent her love - her love of adventure (how exciting to receive a package!) and her love of our friendship.

Opening that box filled me with gratitude and happiness, and humbled me beyond belief, that someone would think of me so fondly, even though we haven't seen each other in years.

Most of you know that my spiritual beliefs tend toward the "alternative," and you all have differing paths as well. I know that there are numerous points of contention among our collective denominations. However, whether we are LDS, Methodist, Nazarene, Baptist, Pagan, or Unitarian. I am consistently reminded of how similar our beliefs can be. And I'd like to say a prayer of gratitude to Diety for setting you all in my path.

And so, here's a little Faith, Hope, and Love from me me to you. I have the utmost faith that we will continue to respect each other's differences and cultivate our similarities. I hope that we will be walkiing, talking examples of kindness, compassion, tolerance, and civility to our communities, and I send my love to each and every one of you, each and every day.

~Amen and blessed be~

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday Sounds: Melissa Etheridge

The divine in me ... the divine that is me ... wishes the beautiful, incredible, divine you a wonder-filled fall Sunday. The Universe IS listening ... pay attention to what you say today ... speak truth ... speak love ... speak gratitude. Send a message to yourself and know that you are loved.

Blessings, friends...and may the coming year be filled with living, with love, and with gratitude.

Melissa's album, "The Awakening," has a place of honor in my collection. Maybe it has a place in yours.