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The Secrets in a Rose

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Photo by Pamela Hale

What do you see when you look at the center of this rose? What emotions do you feel?

When it appeared as one of spring’s first offerings in my garden, I marveled at the perfection of the folds and their graceful sweep. And, I am drawn to the center, wondering in awe at the source of this creation.

The center of all flowers must contain the mystery, the source of their blooming, the secret behind their fragrance and the perfection of their beauty. And of course, if we were to tear the rose apart to discover the secret, we would destroy it. Somehow it is the very form the mystery takes that is part of its perfection. The mystery unfolds on its own, in its own time and in its own way. Just as we do. Just as life does.

I’ve long associated the rose with the power of the Virgin Mary, especially since I live in Tucson, a region where the Virgin of Guadalupe is very present. My husband and I have visited the chapel and shrine to her in Mexico, where a peasant named Juan Diego had an encounter with her and found an imprint of roses inside his poncho afterwards.

For me, the energy and power of the Virgin Mary is paired with Mary Magdalene and the other Marys in the Christian tradition, and the rose reminds me of all of them. They are, for me, aspects of the Divine Feminine that we need desperately now, regardless of our religious beliefs.

And so I was delighted, after I took this photo, to read this article (https://www.thoughtco.com/sacred-roses-spiritual-symbolism-rose-123989 )on the sacred symbolism of the rose that expanded its meaning for me. It turns out that the rose is a key symbol dating from pre-Christian times and associated with devotion to the goddess Venus. For Muslims, roses are symbols of the soul, and are sprinkled through the ecstatic poetry of Rumi and Hafiz. Hindus and Buddhists consider than to be expressions of spiritual joy. And when the fragrance of the rose is present and roses cannot be seen, God is at work.

As for the “mystic rose,” as the Virgin Mary is called, I had never thought of the prayer Catholics offer to her being the “rosary.” The repetition of the rosary is meant to be like a “spiritual bouquet” offered to The Virgin. And since women are particularly devoted to her, she is a powerful spiritual ally for the feminine principle.

I learned that essential rose oil vibrates at 320 megahertz of electrical energy, the highest vibration of any oil. The nearest competitor is lavender at 118. It was humbling to learn that a healthy brain vibrates at a range of 71-90!

If a loved one gives you a rose, no wonder it’s considered a sign of true love. And pay attention to the color. White is said to represent purity, red represents sacrifice and passion, yellow suggests wisdom and joy, and lavender symbolizes wonder, awe and positive change.

I say, be your own lover and give yourself a rose. And you might consider that an invitation for a miracle or angelic encounter. When the deep power of femininity is called forth, mysteries can be solved, wisdom revealed, and the perfection of Beauty can become the medicine for all ills.

 

This post can also be seen on Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58e17d4be4b03c2b30f6a7c2

Seeing Our Way Through the Pachakutiq

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

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The latest earthquake in Japan is said to be an aftershock from the one in 2011, and that means among other things that Mother Earth set a big change in motion back then, and the effects are still going on. Perhaps our electoral, political and psychic earthquake in the U.S. is an aftershock too, a manifestation of unseen forces of change that were already at work long ago.

The ancient Inka people of Peru and their current descendants refer to the pachakutiq, the force that turns the world upside down. The force was named after Pachakutiq Inka Yupanki, 1438-1471, the ruler who transformed the Kingdom of Cusco into the Inca Empire.

Pachakutiq was a conqueror, an empire builder, whose name meant “he who overturns space and time.” But even Pachakutiq had to ultimately bow to death and to Mother Earth, whose power reminds us that we actually are not in charge here.

We live a multi-dimensional life, whether we are conscious of it or not. In our personal world, the pachakutiq occurs when we’re faced with a personal earthquake like a divorce or death of a loved one, or loss of a job. In the collective world, a pachakutiq has occurred with the recent US election, and the aftershocks continue. And in the cosmic dimension, the force you might call God or the Great Mystery is at work too, in ways that are unseen.

What do we do in times of the pachakutiq?

My brother-in-law taught me a lesson about this years ago, when he was suddenly stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, he was unable to dress himself and bound to a wheelchair. By the time I saw him in a rehab facility, he was paralyzed neck down.

“How are you doing emotionally, Bob?” I asked timidly, knowing this was a pathetic, inadequate question.

“Oh, I’m actually fine, now that I made the psychological adjustment,” he answered quickly, as if he had been expecting the question.

“Come on, Bob,” I countered. “How can you make a psychological adjustment to being paralyzed?”

“Oh, but that’s the point. You must.” He had worked this through. “And now that I’ve made it, see those toes on my left foot? You come back next week and I’ll be moving them.”

Clearly he wasn’t paralyzed psychologically, and that’s because he had moved to acceptance. I’m sure he didn’t like being paralyzed, so acceptance didn’t mean approval. It meant he had ceased to allow shock to numb him into a state of denial where action is impossible.

I’m only now moving into a state of acceptance about the election. It does appear that it actually happened, and it also appears that it’s as bad as we originally thought. Given the severity of the aftershocks and the probability of many more, what do we do?

Bob pointed out back then that when we’re dealt a bad hand, we naturally want to give it back. Acceptance means we give up that fantasy. Now we can play our hand, even if it’s not the one we wanted.

Elizabeth Gilbert posed the question, “Who do I want to be in this situation?” Thank you, Elizabeth.

I want to look at the world through two lenses simultaneously, and to have the near view and the big picture work together, even though they seem opposed.

The big picture is that I’m a little creature in a magnificent creation, making me both tiny and grand, a formless bit of the Life force swimming in the great cosmic soup. So out of the big picture lens, I want to see everything as part of the One Being, part of Love. Despite appearances and conditions.

Out of the other lens I see smelly garbage I need to take out, and our latest empire builder making horrifying appointments that seem to overturn time and space. In this dimension, I will not be paralyzed or silent, but will stand for the truth I see with all my heart, wearing as much beauty as I can muster, and perhaps some combat boots hiding under the silk.

We must hold both truths to be self evident: that this is a sacred time when it is foolish to meet the beast with his own energy of fear; and that real Love can be fierce, shaking us all into a place of humility. If we can put these two views together, perhaps that will give us depth perception.

I do not forget that Bob did get up out of that bed and walk again, and even play his own version of tennis. He did not do this out of a desire to conquer, but out of a love for life. And, I know he prayed. I will do the same.

This piece also appeared in Huffington Post, and can be seen at:  Link to article.

The Power of Ritual and Ceremony

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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The smoke from the copal grew thicker in the room, as Apab’yan fed the small container fire with the granules of incense, and his prayers. People seated around him and behind him prayed too, mesmerized now by the hypnotic chanting in the Mayan language, punctuated by English phrases so we could all track where the prayers were being directed.

The room was darkened in order to suggest the atmosphere of the caves where this water ceremony is usually performed. A bowl of water resting on the table received the blessing, and participants would eventually be offered sips of it, as in communion. Finally, roses were dipped into the water and used to shake drops of water on all those gathered.

It was a potent blessing, because the intimacy and power of ritual transcends cultures, language differences and even philosophical details. Spirit is Spirit in any language. And the language of Spirit is ceremony.

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Apab’yan Tew a Guatemalan Maya Daykeeper and spiritual guide, came to the U.S. as a guest of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a non-profit headed by Carla Woody. Her spiritual travel programs bring North American people together with indigenous leaders. Whether in Hopi land, Peru, Bolivia, or Chiapas, Mexico, the traveler experiences first hand the reality that we are one.

In this case, a crowd of about fifty gathered at St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson for a special event co-sponsored by Tacheria Interfaith Spirituality Center. Apab’yan taught us a bit about the Maya worldview, and then graced us with a water ceremony never before performed outside the mountain caves where foreigners are not permitted.

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And what was the result? Why do indigenous people continue to do ceremony, and what can we gain from participating?

First, there is a palpable power, a felt presence. It is both humbling and empowering. It is a mystery, summoned by a humble shaman.

Ritual and ceremony go beyond words. Through work with the elements: fire, water, smoke, and sacred objects, an atmosphere of mystery took over our rational minds and transported us to another way of being. The sounds of singing and chanting evidently impressed the birds outside, since they began to sing in response.

Culturally we are starved for ritual and ceremony and for experiences of awe and wonder. Indigenous people from all over the world continue to make such experiences central to their lives. We can learn from this.

You don’t have to be a daykeeper or a shaman or a spiritual guide to perform ceremony. Create a simple ritual you can do in your own home or in the back yard. Choose a surface that will serve as an altar. Decide how you’ll make sound: with a drum, a rattle, or with your voice. How will you add fire? A candle will do. And water? Just fill a small bowl. Place stones or sacred objects of yours in an arrangement. Say a prayer. Sing a song of praise.

Apab’yan teaches that this is a way of giving back, when we have received so much. He learned this from his village in the Guatemalan highlands, where people have very little. Gratitude doesn’t cost a cent, but it’s a way to repay whatever spirits you’d like to thank for all your blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

Women Holding the Long Lens

Monday, January 11th, 2016

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I’m visiting family and marveling at how long my grandchildren’s arms and legs have grown, how my daughter has become an inventive and creative cook, and how my ex husband has turned into a gentle friend. As this year just begins to unfold, I’m aware of the longer arc, and of the graceful way life changes the way the path looked …way back then.

I’m reminded of the story of how an apparent tragedy occurs, only to become s portal for a fortuitous event, that then morphs into the doorway for another downturn. Age at least provides a lens for the long story, and presents an option not to get too caught up in the drama and apparent truths of each chapter of this wild and beautiful journey.

On this annual solo road trip, I visit family, see old friends, and will end up with seven close women friends who have been a group for over 35 years. We’ve watched each other meet obstacles, embrace blessings, and survive dramas great and small. Perhaps to balance out the complexity of our own sagas, we always pepper our reunion with as many movies as possible, separated by walks on the beach, home cooked food and less wine than we used to drink.

In our seventies, we know we face losses in the upcoming episodes of our reunion series. One of us has already lost a partner to a sudden, deadly heart attack. Another is recovering from a knee replacement and can’t make it this year. What will it be like when our numbers thin? How will we all get to our destination if we’re disabled? Who will die first, and how will we deal with that?

These kinds of questions are a reality of aging, and yet so far there is a saving grace. We have each other. Friendships forged at a progressive Episcopal church we all attended back in the day, our shared values run deep. We taught each others’ children in Sunday school, and so we care who they’ve married and how their children are doing. We also care whether each woman is finding joy, discovering new meaning, and whether she can take a good joke.

We all have common political views, and so we complain about the state of the world. But these are women who are change-makers. We haven’t given up. Back in the 70’s we named ourselves the Women’s Quilting and Terrorist Society, which we thought was funny then. Now we just use the initials, but the desire to shake things up is still very much alive.

Everything has changed for the one whose husband turned out to be gay and still is her best friend. For the one who lives close to the bone, after using all her savings taking care of her father. For the one whose bitter divorce was healed by a surprise passionate romance and marriage, ending in her partner’s sudden death.

And nothing has changed. The big arc of our lives is trained by faith in the unseen. The dramas in each chapter have been tamed by good humor. And the shards of old stories are held in a sacred pot by women who will treasure them, laughing and crying together until we can’t do it in person any more

This year I salute these women and all women and men who come together in groups, urging you to put these meetings first, even when it’s hard to put the important ahead of the seemingly urgent. Every time you meet, you put money in the pot. And the older you get, the wealthier you feel, finding that life is made, after all, not of victories or defeats, but of the stream of love embedded in the entire adventure.

 

This post is also available on Huffington Post at my author archive, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-hale/. Your comments there or here are appreciated.

Honoring Death as Part of Life

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

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On the night of Nov. 1, the whole central plaza of most Mexican cities is ringed with altars (or “ofrendas”) like this one. Each is a unique creation made by family and friends to honor a loved one who has passed to the spiritual realm. When I spent two weeks around Dia de Los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende, it was a carnival-like atmosphere, with music, vendors and crowds–and yet the process is a serious and meaningful one that honors death as part of life.

I felt again how wonderful it would be if we had a tradition in our country to collectively honor the dead. After all, death is even more a part of every life than Columbus Day or some of the other holidays we observe.

As Octavio Paz put it: “A civilization that denies death, ends up denying life.” Food for thought, no? And Mexicans have been celebrating some form of Day of the Dead for 300 years. 

When you look at this altar, perhaps what you see is the vibrant marigolds, the image of the skeleton (the “catrina,” or figure of the skeleton dressed and participating in life), candles and photos. What you may not see is the layers of symbolism encoded here. (I am drawing on information in a 2013 article in the San Miguel paper by Jade Arroyo.)

Here are some of the symbols:  The altar itself welcomes souls (children on Nov 1 and adults on Nov. 2) and guides them to loved ones’ homes. They are called “ofrendas”(offerings) because altars are for saints, and most of us aren’t those! The image of the skull is a tribute to one’s ancestors. The seven steps or levels in the ofrenda are traditional and represent the stages the soul must pass through before finally getting to rest. Items are places accordingly, so that on the top is a picture of a saint or the Virgin and the person being honored. On lower levels are salt, bread, favorite foods, and finally a representation of earth, usually done with seeds or corn.

Some ofrendas have just three levels: heaven, earth and the underworld. All of them include flowers, especially marigolds (called cempaxuchitl, their ancient indigenous name), baby’s breath and cockscombs. White flowers represent heaven, yellow the earth and purple, mourning. Sugar skulls are eaten or broken down when the ofrenda is dismantled. Often copal incense is included, as is pan de muerto, bread baked especially for Dia de los Muertos.

The cut paper banners that flew over the entire Jardin (as the plaza is called in San Miguel) represent wind and the joy of living. Candles can mark the four directions. Water is offered in clear glasses for the spirit’s thirst and is the energy of life. The person’s favorite foods are offered, along with folk art like catrinas, alfeniques (sugar figurines) and paper chains.

I always put up a Day of the Dead ofrenda of sorts in my house, and this year I’m particularly aware of honoring not only our relatives, but also our Mexican brothers and sisters. I don’t want to borrow this tradition in the spirit of cultural appropriation, but rather in the spirit of gratitude and honoring. In a country thirsty for rich symbolism, ritual and ceremony, we can be particularly glad when we’re inspired to honor all the dimensions of life in a beautiful way.

This article was adapted from a post that appeared at theSpiritedWoman.com, and also appears in the Huffington Post GPS for the Soul.

A New Window on the World

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

My Window on the World

I’m writing you from my bed. I’ve been here a good deal since my surgery six days ago. I do get around on my scooter walker, and also have a wheel chair we used today for my first post-op visit to the doctor. Things are going well on the whole–and this land out the window is an important spot for the healing I still have ahead.

The Sutherland Valley where I live is a beautiful, unspoiled place on the edge of the wild, and has been my healing sanctuary ever since we moved here 14 years ago. Then, I was in the middle of chemo treatment for my first round of breast cancer. These mountains and this land have been a comfort and source of beauty and inspiration for what seems like too many physical challenges.

And yet, I keep recovering, keep learning, keep being inspired, keep finding that life still holds magic and mystery and unanswered questions and unexplored territory that compels me to answer a call.

The view out the window beckons me to enter the majesty of life, even when I am trapped in pain or limitations. Look at all there is! The endless, ever-changing play of light, the land moving from parched to green and back. The line of shadow that seems to be an impassible boundary but is not. Shadow and light. Beauty.

Beauty is my medicine, and I am graced with it all around me. Even in this season that I’ve always proclaimed to hate I find wonders.

So I will write to you from here, musing about the view outside this window, showing you some of its moods, and sharing some of mine. I’m not sure what to expect on this next journey of healing, but I’m on it. Committed. On the way. What will be revealed–in the landscape, in my own nature? How will my foot and the rest of my being respond to this surgery? How will I begin to walk when the time comes?

It is way too soon to know. This is a time for quiet. For being, not doing. For resting, not working. And yet writing is part of my solace and my reaching outside these four walls for contact, for dialogue.

Questions for you to ponder:

  • What do you do and how do you respond when you are sequestered and limited?
  • What is your part in the journey of healing? How do you work with your body? Your emotions?
  • How does the land around you participate in your process? Do you feel energy from the mountains, or water sources or land features nearby?
  • How do you make larger meaning out of an illness or surgical procedure, even if chosen? How do you turn it into an opportunity?

These are questions I’ll be pondering in coming weeks. Let me know your thoughts!

 

What does my wild heart desire? #1

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This is the first of a series of blogs where I’m going to share some techniques I’ve developed for looking deeply within, using the lens of our creative inner eye. I’ll pose a question that I want to explore and share with you, and then present that question using several different processes.

The first question is, what does my wild heart desire?  By my wild heart, I mean the part of my heart that has not been domesticated or tamed by others, by my own traumas and wounds or by the wounds and expectations of the culture. This heart has not been conquered; it is indigenous, in close relationship with the earth and nature and the heavens. It is wild.

The first process is to use the core concept developed by The Painting Experience (processarts.com) to make a painting by feel. That is, I pose the question before a blank paper and my palette, which only has the primary colors, for simplicity. I clear my mind of thoughts as much as possible.

What color wants to go onto the paper? First, it is blue. So I paint blue wherever it wants to go on the paper until that feels finished. Next, I want to make a green of different strengths, so I mix my blue with some yellow and paint until the energy for expressing green quiets. Now I want a bit of red, and then a lot of yellow. And then I feel finished. This painting only takes me minutes, though I have done many that become more complex.

Now I leave the Painting Experience behind, because they do not analyze or name part of the painting. I will involve my left brain and my right to see what message or information I can get from my painting.

What does the blue feel like? And how does the feeling relate to a part of me?

Blue feels like my beloved ocean, like waves, like the part of me that is fluid, flexible, deep, clear and free.

And the green?

Like rolling hills, a beautifully carpeted, lush surface on Mother Earth that supports all life here. The part of me that is both solid, grounded, earthy, and graceful.

The red is like drops of blood, like the life blood that is both from wounds and passion that punctuates and sustains life here on earth.

The yellow is sunlight, the energy of warmth that sustains life and moves through every part of it. My wild heart wants a warm, lively connection with me and with my journey.

Feeling into the painting, is there more I want to add?

I want to finish with some blue dots in the upper left hand corner that feel like stars, a portal into the unknown Universe of which I am a part.

And so I ask the painting as a whole: What does my wild heart desire?

My wild heart wants freedom, flow, beauty, pulsating life, a connection to the sun and stars and to water and ground—to All That Is. Including a warm, lively connection with me and my journey!

And so what if I made those qualities of experience the benchmarks for success? What if success in my life were to mean pleasing my one wild heart?  Hmmm.

And what would that mean for you? I look forward to your comments!

 

The soul bird

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

“The soul-bird is waiting inside. Even if you have locked it in a cage, it is waiting to fly.”
from Flying Lesson #4

Lesson #4 contains a key moment, when you as a participant in the story, or the coaching or the retreat process, realize that there is indeed a soul-bird inside you who is longing to fly, and who was born to fly and knows how.

Next you realize that as a normal human, you have protected this soul-bird by building a cage around it, and have spent a lot of life strengthening and polishing the cage. At some point you may have forgotten that you actually ARE the soul-bird. You may have forgotten to the degree that you thought you were the cage.

But, no blame. This was just a mistake, not anything unchangeable. You’re right on time. It was just part of your development to concentrate on the cage. Now you are called to do and be something different.

Here’s the good news: Since you constructed the cage, you are the one who can open the door.

Now is the moment of choice.

Can you trust that little soul-bird to do what it came here to do? What adventure will it embark on when it spreads its wings?

This is what you’ve longed to do and be.

Open the door.

Rising to the Level of Peace

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Holidays, despite the fun and joy and lights, can exacerbate the tensions within and between us. People are tired and expectations are high. Sometimes scenes we imagined would be warm and close present unexpected tension. When that happens, it can feel like our feet are stuck in the sand. Hard to move out of the situation or through it with much grace.

The old way would be to try to power through it. Summon the adrenaline. Fight back. Use mental or even physical force. We know where this has led in our personal and corporate lives–to wars of private and global dimensions. Surely it’s the season to something other than digging ourselves deeper.

In my new book, Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life, I made the suggestion that we “rise to the occasion” by elevating our consciousness and finding a new, higher form of power.

Here are some practical suggestions, just in case you get a chance to practice! If you are triggered by someone and tempted to act out of the old kind of power, here’s an alternative formula:

1. Stop.

2. Breathe.

3. Call on your inner observer.

4. Ask that observer what the highest good could come out of this situation.

5. Ask how you might contribute to the highest good.

6. Review your options.

7. Make your powerful decision and then act from that place.

Now, how does the landscape look? Even that sand that once entrapped your feet might form lovely patterns from your position as the observer who can rise above the “gravity” of the challenge.

May you find true peace in your own heart during this holy season.

Piloting Your Way Through the Holidays

Monday, December 5th, 2011

How do we pace ourselves during this holiday season so that we can “fly” through busy schedules, family relationships, celebrations and sometimes travel? After all, the body doesn’t know the difference between “good” and “bad” stress. What it does note is an imbalance.

To fly a plane, a pilot has to master the controls of four forces of flight that act on the airplane: thrust, drag, lift and gravity. The engine can provide the thrust, and power also provides lift. But we don’t want to overdo it, either in the air or on our holiday rounds.

If it’s all thrust, we’ll burn out our fuel and be too speedy to be in control. If we let drag take over, we won’t have the speed we need to fly. Lift is wonderful, but getting too “high” isn’t always wise. Gravity, on the other hand, can bring a body down too quickly, whether it’s made of metal or flesh.

Piloting is the art and science of managing our energy so that our vehicle–whether it has wings or not–can operate with the most ease and efficiency possible. After all, that’s what it was made to do.

Here are some tips for managing your energy so you can soar through this season:

1. Use your mental “dipstick” to mentally measure the energy you have every day, on a scale of 1-10.

2. Decide what your personal minimum should be.

3. How and when will you pause to re-fuel? Schedule breaks.

4. What is your premium fuel? Is it solitude? Prayer? Family? Nature? What have you learned about this?

5. Discipline yourself. Does that seem dreary? It won’t if it means you get through the holidays with your well-being and cheer intact.

6. Joy is the key word for this time of year, but sometimes it’s hard to come by. Track your joy. Pursue it. Treasure it. Give it. It’s good for you!