Saturday, June 17, 2017

Grateful Memories

Tomorrow is Father's Day and I am filled with sweet memories of my childhood hero, my father. He was everything to me. But there was always a distance that he kept, as if his heart couldn't trust the love he felt for my sister and me. But no memories are complete without my mother slipping in between the images. Her love and encouragement made me believe in myself.

However life for my parents became filled with challenges that neither of them were equipped to navigate and my perception of them diminished as they shrank into themselves. Finally their inner demons got the best of their marriage and after 27 years they divorced. My sister and I were young adults by then, with children of our own. I had my own judgements about my parents and I have spent most of my adult years exploring who they were and how their love and personal struggles have influenced me and my choices.

I believe we choose our parents and the family we are born into. I am very grateful for this family of origin and the richness of the ancestral lineage that stands behind all of us. On both sides of my family I can trace our American roots back to the original colonies and I can feel their determination and courage running through my veins. I am grateful for the challenges that have presented themselves along the way because they have shaped who I have become. I am grateful to my parents and their love. They were flawed but I never doubted their love for me.

Now I am watching my children and grandchildren growing up and I am reminded of the courage it takes to be a parent and to stay present, continuing to do our personal work along the way.

So thank you Daddy, from the bottom of my heart, for loving me and shaping my heart and my mind. Thank you for the long discussions about life and history and embedding in me a deep curiosity about the world. Thank you Mom for singing with me and instilling in me the belief that I could follow my dreams with courage and determination. Thank you for the memory of your laughter. Thank you to my ancestors who continue to stand with me as I open unexplored doors to the past that will heal the present and the future for our family. Deep gratitude.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Selkie Magic

Freckles and friend
Since 1993 when I first read Women Who Run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD) and the story "Sealskin, Soulskin", I have been deeply connected to the Celtic stories about Selkies, seals that live in the sea and shed their skin to become human on land during the full moon each month. Stories about these mystical beings are prevalent in the mythology of cultures throughout the world.

Nine months ago I came upon a pod of harbor seals that live here in Laguna Beach, hauling out on the rocks each day to rest. I have been captivated by these magnificent creatures ever since. I find myself looking forward to low tide and the opportunity to sit near my friends. When I am lucky enough to find them, I sit quietly, observing their peaceful presence and allowing myself to be fully present in my own life. When they are hauled out, the harbor seals remind me to recognize whether or not I am grounded. But when I observe them in the water, I am inspired to be playful and find the joy of simply being alive, to be grateful and to recognize the abundant blessings in my life. 

In Celtic mythology seals have a strong and special connection with the human race. Some families are said to be descended from the union of humans and seals. There are also stories about seals helping humans and it is believed that good luck follows those who help seals. 

Olaf
In alchemical writings and shamanic traditions, animal symbols give insight into spiritual wisdom. These animals may appear in dreams or in real life. The important point is to consider the deeper meaning. When I sit with the harbor seals, I observe their behavior and consider what message, or omen,  they offer.

According to Ted Andrew's book, Animal Speaks, seals are associated with beings of the Faerie realm in legend and lore. They are Water Spirits who take the form of gray seals and come on shore at night and shed their seal skins, walking and dancing in the moonlight as men and women. 

One esoteric perspective about the seals is that they teach us how to develop and focus the imagination. They can also teach us how to be grounded. Although their home is in the water, pinnipeds need to haul out  on land between seven and twelve hours daily to rest and regulate their body temperature. Seals ask us to reflect upon our state of balance, within and without. Is your imagination taking you out of your body and leaving you ungrounded? Are you listening to your inner voice or are you being influenced by what others believe is important for you?

The shifts that so many of us are currently experiencing are taking us to the core of our fears and even asking us to reevaluate where and how we live. When we find ourselves caught up in the instability around us, we must find our inner equilibrium. It is during the challenging situations that the invitation to apply the lessons learned appears. When we can trust Divine Love and willingly plunge into the inner realms, we will find ourselves popping up to the surface with new insights and creativity. It is through this ability to shift our perspective and maintain our balance that we create stability.

The seals invite us to connect with our creative life force. They inspire us to be present and grounded while allowing a balance of play and joy into life. They invite us to check our state of being, to rest and regroup, find our equilibrium, and wait for the current to shift and a resolution to present itself.

Thank you my Selkie friends. May we continue to seek balance in our lives while we gratefully  recognize the joy of being alive!

Blessings of peace, love and light,
Gretchen

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Love and Compassion


The last few months have been marked by the collective shadow manifested through fear, xenophobia, inequality, lack of protection of the environment, and the absence of understanding for differing viewpoints and lifestyles. The anger and fear are apparent on both sides, both conservative and liberal. The shadow is BIG!

So how do we find our personal and collective center? How do we manifest the feminine principal of collaboration and compromise? There is no quick fix. There is no simple answer or one way for resolution. There is no room for a narcissistic perspective. However we must find a way to bring us through the shadow and into the light of the new age that spiritual leaders and mystics have predicted.

In order for this to happen, each of us must do our own deep work. We cannot lay blame on another person or system. We must ask our self what personal action is appropriate. Some will be called to peaceful demonstration and activism. Others will become prayer warriors, mentors and teachers. But all spiritual actions and solutions come from a commitment to peace. And therein lies the challenge! When we are confronted daily with the elimination of agencies that have protected groups of people and Mother Earth, how do we stay centered? How do we maintain a peaceful heart?

My Ancestors tell me to do my own work. When the shadow arises within it has many faces but I must look in the mirror and see the reflection. What limiting belief is ready to be released now? And how can I release it?

Meditation. Ritual. Prayer. Surrender. I am always guided to these solutions and reminded that this is a path humankind has walked since the beginning of time. Each cycle has a different face but the same issues are always beneath the surface. For humanity to evolve, change and surrender is required. This comes through personal and collective experiences that bring us to our knees, seeking divine guidance.

We are at a crossroad and it is essential that we seek spiritual wisdom. This comes in many forms…there is no one correct pathway. All paths to enlightenment are correct and it is essential that we support one another on that journey.

I’ve been reading The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. These two spiritual leaders explore the nature of true joy and confront the obstacles to joy – fear, stress, anger, grief, illness, and death. Their simple yet profound wisdom brings a new sense of hope to the reader. We are responsible for our reactions to our challenges and experiences. Our reactions and beliefs create the world we live in. Now is the time to become both introspective and reactive, finding our soul’s pathway to peace making.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu explain why they felt it was so important to write The Book of Joy at this time. The Dalai Lama shares:
“I think the only way really is, as we have said, through education. Education is universal. We must teach people, especially our youth, the source of happiness and satisfaction. We must teach them that the ultimate source of happiness is within themselves. Not machine. Not technology. Not money. Not power.” (page 297)
And Archbishop Tutu adds:
“Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disapperared. You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally quite immeasurable. And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter – and joy.” (page 298)
The book concludes with the Eight Pillars of Joy: Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion, and Generosity. May each of us consider these aspects of joy and begin to reframe our fearful thinking, opening to embodying them within and without. May we become the change we wish to see in the world!