Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Her troubled mind had conjured up some frightening scenarios. She sat for hours wringing the hands that had once been so productive and accomplished. Her memory played cruel tricks on her as she tried to survive without her husband. Ernie had taken care of certain aspects of life that had always been a mystery to her. Although my grandparents ran a farm together, sharing the heavy work load, my grandmother was in the dark about the family finances. When she became a widow and could no longer stay alone at her farm it had been sold. Her life of relative freedom came to an end. She lived in institutions or at her children’s homes, never really settling. She missed independence even though she could barely manage daily tasks without a great deal of assistance. She disliked the feeling of being a houseguest, or even a child, of her son’s family. She had lost her matriarch status, and had to defer to her daughter-in-law. This life in suburban Pittsburgh was foreign, and cold. She rarely went out, and when she did she was fearful, even with her family. She lost her ability to relax. Anxiety was her only companion.
When the sun set she sat in the back yard in silence. This time to herself was spent every day engaging in bird watching. She had little sensitivity to human emotions, but was tuned into nature like a trance. She could feel the spirits of each bird soaring. Their playful flight brought a rush of feelings from her youth, from her most sorrowful, as well as her brightest times. She could sense that her own spirit was close to a threshold. She sometimes thought her spirit left her body and explored the sky above her for a while. As darkness fell the caregiver arrived to guide her into the building. Her lightness of being vanished as the door closed behind her. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day she finally takes off for eternity. She feels as if she has already spent an eternity here.
A few years ago I went to California to take a workshop from a group called Tribal Truth. I was invited to go by a good friend who flaked out after I had paid for it. I decided to go because it was taking place at a hot spring I like in SoCal, so I figured I would have fun at the hot spring at least. We were assigned roommates to share dorm style accommodations. The lady assigned to me was a working Jungian therapist who told me right off the bat she had always been a “good girl”. She was relatively sophisticated…I mean, she did actually have a practice in Jungian therapy…but her “good girl” had been blinded by the light. I think her dad had been a preacher. She and I discussed the events of the first night and had different opinions about them. I thought the whole thing was bogus because the meditation they used was plagiarized from Carolyn Myss without crediting her, and they seemed generally lame.
I don’t remember how I found Celina and Donna, my rebel with a cause soul sisters, but we met and conferred about the nature of this Tribal Truth business. We had all paid a lot, and they had driven down from the fabulous east bay to make the most of the weekend. Donna had a lot of experience in the physic realm, along with some bad experiences with a “psychic” cult. She was instantly against the ethics in the room because she was sensitive to the use of so-called truth to control, rob and manipulate others. I didn’t like it because of the plagiarism and this idea that these leaders were somehow gifted, holy, and tribal. Celina is an osteopathic manual practitioner who is highly attuned to dishonesty too. On the first night in the conference room we were given our assignment for the weekend. We were to make up an imaginary business and pitch it to the crowd, like a start-up generator run by plagiarizing glitter fairies. Donna was born in the year of the dog. Both Celina and I were born in the year of the tiger. We decided our business would be the simplest of business plans. Our company, Two Tigers and a Dog Psychic Protection Agency would just sell stickers to put up on any home or business. The stickers would say “This building protected by Two Tigers and a Dog Psychic Protection Agency.” That’s it. We laughed uproariously.
When we told the group we were dropping out because we were all finished with our assignment they went crazy. They tried to shame us into “not breaking the sacred circle”. They made us stay to do something stupid with this circle concept, so I stood up and said something like “sacred, my ass”…and the three of us left to spend our day at the hot spring having fun. Two Tigers and a Dog had so much more fun than those who struggled to identify themselves with these bogus sprit guides. The Jungian therapist moved out of my room because I was a heretic to the tribal situation. This was the best because my room then had 3 beds for…two tigers and a dog to have slumber parties. We partied on, then parted.
We got together years later in the Mission District of SFO with my friend Ardell, a long time friend and personal healer. The federal government had been closed by the Zodiac Killer (Ted Cruz), but we were invited to visit the 9th circuit court of appeals building, probably the most elegant building in the city. We felt so lucky to see the building and meet justices. Then we all got to wear my friend Peter’s robe for a photo shoot. If I knew how to photoshop I would make that sticker for the protection agency, with us all dressed in Peter’s robe. Ardell is a snake, but that can be scary too. Two Tigers, a Dog, and a Snake Psychic Protection Agency is a thing. If you see these women on a sticker….just leave that property alone..don’t take a chance. We are watching you. You never know where we might be.
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
William Shakespeare sets out seven ages of man in this monologue from As You Like it. Carl Jung used characters as archetypes to describe the different aspects of one human life. These archetypes are played out in ancient Greek drama and mythology. From biblical proverbs to modern fiction characters based on eternal qualities of humanity are employed to tell stories. We embody different characters during our journey toward the end of life, sometimes joyous and other times somber. We act as students and as guides, as teachers and as pilgrims. Our energies are spent on our greatest passions, and we become known for our most obvious traits. Both our view of the world and the world’s view of us is constantly changing. The way we relate to one group may be different from the way we act toward another one.
Before we die we play parts that we have never considered. The soul is intricate and connected to the past as well as the future. Spirit and soul demand that our basic clay be sculpted into figures that arise from our dreams. The figures are fired in a kiln of experience and discernment. We are asked to step out on a ledge of unknowing in order to satisfy our inner longings. Some of our feelings come from the ancestors and some from our society. By observing our inner lives we can make the acquaintance of our own archetypes at work. By looking into patterns from the past and present we may notice how we fit into the story with other archetypes, the other players on the stage with us.
October is time for costuming and honoring the dead. Let us notice which characters cross our paths, and which ones we are playing. We are the casting directors of our own dramas….scary, isn’t it?
Alex Seotewa was our guide to the mission church he had painted in Zuni pueblo. We had driven there to see the interior of the mission church with the spectacular kachina murals which I had seen once briefly with a Catholic priest. My fascination with this epic work of art started when I saw a television special, maybe even the program above, about Zuni, kachinas, and Alex. I convinced my erstwhile father-in-law to land his private plane in Zuni to see the mural. At that time the church was locked and there was a heavy smell of smoke damage because there had been a fire in the building. I guess that was about 1988. A priest had the key and showed us the inside of church for about 10 minutes, with no background information. There were buffalo heads on sides of the altar. It struck me as not only amazing art but a highly sacred place. It was obviously not in use, and the priest did not expect it would be used in the future.
I tried to see it once again, while driving back to Tucson from a ski trip in Colorado. I jumped out of the car in my pink fluffy ski jumpsuit and asked the people at the convenience store at the turn off for Zuni on the highway for directions to get to the church to see the interior. They insisted there was no church with kachinas. I was adamant that I had been to it. They became highly annoyed with me. I finally got the message that I had behaved badly in that culture and was not welcome. I was confused, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The mystery of the access to the kachinas in that mission church continued to intrigue me. On my third visit the kachinas themselves must have arranged special treats for us. We had a loft bedroom at a small hotel run by a French guy who runs the general store. We arrived in the late evening. At the tourist office in town I asked the young woman at the desk how I could see the kachina mural in the mission church. She said she had never seen it, so I had little chance of being so lucky. This was a real surprise, since she was a member of the tribe about 20 years old. I wondered why it was so difficult.
In the morning I headed downstairs for coffee and encountered fellow residents gearing up to go hunting with a Zuni guide. They were eating breakfast, so I joined them for a cup of coffee. The group had flown in from Atlanta for the privilege of hunting there. They were all excited because they would be in the company of the local expert, which one of them had done previously. I asked this hunting guide if he had any idea how I could arrange to see the inside of the mission, since that was our mission. He made a phone call to his wife and arranged for his father, Alex Seotewa, to meet us at the church and give us a tour. He left us a phone number to reach his father later, since it was only about 6 am, then took the happy hunters off in his truck. I knew this intervention had to be a special reward for holding the images of the kachinas in my mind for so many years. They must have answered my desire to see them again.
Alex was in poor health, but obviously enjoyed telling the story of his art work, his tribal culture, and his calling to preserve his traditional heritage. He spent about an hour with us answering questions and telling us about his life and work. I will cherish the time we spent in his presence because the kachinas came to life with his explanations. There has been controversy and dissent within the community between Catholic and traditional use of the mission. When Alex’s father was a child the church was in disrepair, but it had punitive kachinas painted on the walls. An agreement was made to restore the images between Alex and a priest who thought it was a good idea. Subsequent Catholic clerics have not been as enthusiastic about preserving Zuni religious practice within, or consecutively with their own practices. Alex stopped attending services held by Catholics, but continued to feel his work depicting the kachinas was eucharistic, and a gift given from above. He was a buffalo dancer in ceremony. He described choosing the buffalo to kill and creating the heavy mask he wore for hours. He told us what the importance of the buffalo was to his people, and why it was his responsibility not just to wear that mask, but to become a buffalo in spirit to keep his religion alive. I have a strong memory of the authenticity of his thinking, his truly welcoming appreciation of our visit, and of the moment he showed us his spirit as a buffalo. The old man turned his head away from us then slowly brought his upper body to face us with a steady, fierce gaze. This was not an impersonation of an animal spirit…it was the spirit inside the man. It was touched and grateful to be given the special gift. I consider our time with Alex to be a kind of miracle. Have you ever had an experience of an extraordinary spiritual nature?
What is a spiritual crisis? They are all over the biblical stories and the parables we are taught about heroes. Some power that is not explained in the regular time bound reality has an influence on the character. Through hardship, or magic, or stressful change the hero, or the hero people, become stronger than the force that had power over them. There must be a zillion versions of this in video gaming. Comic superhero figures and stories are based on supernatural battles in altered states with magical super powers thrown into the mix. We see our religion and entertainment in terms of spiritual crisis pending or resolving, or causing trauma. Why do we think of our everyday world as void of spiritual energy? What makes us draw a line between reality and spirit? Why do we think only shamans or monks have obligations to the spirit world? Just as prayer and meditation will not repair the roof, tar and roofing tiles alone will not restore peace and security inside a home that has been bombed. Everyone has both an earthly reality to tend and a higher meaning to life.
Looking at world events as evolving from a spiritual rather than scientific or political causes might change the way we act and react. Our own souls have certain obligations or tasks that coincide with the talents we have been given. It is time to find right livelihood and spend our time and energy uplifting those who need help and who are seeking spiritual guidance. At the end of life, no matter how and when that comes, we will not be concerned about how many insignificant tasks we have completed or how many hours we put on the clock doing busy work. We will wonder if we have done what we have the talent to do, and if we have contributed the gift that was ours to create. Much ado is being made about the suicide of Robin Williams this week. Without diagnosing him or making light of all the circumstances (which I don’t know) I see this incident as a crisis of spirit, like the wars around the world. It makes me sad, but I view it as a call for profound change. We need to shift our outlook, about 2 octaves higher.
We are influenced daily, and there are people claiming to representing us daily, but we are unaware of most of it. As we forge our futures we find obstacles to happiness of both physical and spiritual natures. Our quest is never a solo, even if we think we act alone. We are slaves to certain beliefs and we ensalve others to our beliefs as much as we can. If we do not transform the way we look at our habits and our regrettable past behavior we are likely to be stuck in repeating, regretting, and then repeating the same patterns.
Metanoia is the concept of repentance that has been badly used and understood. Confession can be way to act temporarily sorry to absolve oneself of responsibility for past transgressions. As a practice it may teach that we are out of control, will repeat, and then feel very guilty about our behavior ad infinitum. This constant cycle of guilt and repeated undesirable action has little hope of creating liberation or happiness. The guilt is an almost certain sign that the action will be repeated. It is the currency of pain. Repentance of the depressing kind is a revolving door or shame leading to more guilt.
My favorite author, Thomas Moore, has written a new book, A Religion of One’s Own, which will be zapped into my Kindle in a few days. To warm up for this book he translated the Gospels from the original Greek language. To warm up for reading the new book I am reading Writing in the Sand, a book Thomas Moore wrote about the meaning of the Gospels. Chapter 2 of Writing in the Sand is about Metanoia, but not of the shameful kind. This word refers to a change of mind so profound as to cause a shift in vision. Thomas breaks down the literal meaning to bring a completely different sense to the word and what it represents. His knowledge of the original language brings back the meaning of the Gospels. I agree that we all need a spiritual and a soulful context for living. Thomas Moore is an ethical voice with a powerful message. I hope you will have a chance to read his work. It constantly inspires me.
Memories, traditions, and the ghost of Christmas Past visit everyone this time of year. Sometimes it is sad to compare the reality of rushing, spending, gifting, and manic activity with an ideal celebration to honor this time. Nostalgia for earlier times is not helpful in bringing about a better spirit of sharing now. How can we contribute to a brighter, more uplifting celebration?
This message was brought to you by citizens for a Clearer Holiday Purpose.
At the crossroads of sports performance and fitness training is a special intersection of interest and comparison. We compete with ourselves in many sports. Team sports have an extra dynamic, but freestyle sports played or performed by individuals offer a chance to bend the meaning of sports and scoring. Winter and summer X games are good examples of these evolving sports and athletes. Tricks and styles evolve each year to new heights and dangers. Extreme sports involve heavy risks, so most folks prefer to watch as fans. Others find sponsors and spend all their time in training or competition. What is the healthiest blend of training, practice, participation, and admiration of others? What is the best way to avoid injury and stay fit while playing or competing?
I believe prehabilitaion is important, mentally and physically. Life requires variety, balance, flexibility, and range of motion. In a healthy athletic training routine personal willpower and strength of spirit are the qualities we admire and aspire to reflect. The athlete archetype is the symbol of transcending limits. Physical limits, including handicaps, are frequently overcome in Special Olympics and Senior Olympics through training and competition. Expectations that build esteem for the whole sport and all the players are the healthiest. Entitlement, either to cheat or misuse athletic ability for selfish ends, is the shadow aspect of this archetype. Winning at all costs, taking power over others, flexing strength beyond games and into inappropriate settings is the activity of the bully, shadow athlete. Football thugs in Europe display this kind of trashy sportsmanship. The false sense of invulnerability and entitlement that lives on the dark side of competition is the enemy of good health and balance. Games are played on and off the field and the clock. All or none, win or loose mentality does not belong in every aspect of life. Check your inner athlete, and how your games are played to learn more about your own beliefs about winning, loosing, and dedication.
What are the personal services you use in daily life? You may not be aware of all of them. If you buy prepared foods, that preparation has been done for you. You know if you hire a child care helper or manicurist that you are buying personal services. It is hard to find all the ways others contribute skill and time to our daily lives. Compared to primitive self reliance our modern lifestyle is comprised of paying more for labor and transportation than we pay for goods. Many have lost the skills needed to make anything from scratch. Farming in the US is a prime example. We are running out of people who know how to grow food as this profession declines rapidly in young people. If we don’t train or import some people to do the service of farming we will face serious problems.
My grandparents owned a farm when I knew them so I was exposed to the milk cow, the beef cows, the pigs, the gardens, and even to the butter churn. I lived in the city of Tulsa but considered the grandparents spread in Arkansas where was assistant farmer on the weekends to be extremely romantic. I rode a mule and shot a rifle. I thought of myself as very Annie Oakley when I was about 5. My parents had grown up without modern 1950’s conveniences and liked the idea of jet setting rather than farming. They enjoyed the country club and the University Club, and garden club, and host of other urban activities that Tulsa and Pittsburgh offered them. They did not seem lazy to me, but they certainly had a different style when it came to personal services than my grandparents had. There was no way they would ever own a mule or live next to a barn. They were over all of that. They were urban, upwardly mobile, and believed themselves to be super liberated. I suppose they were.
Every generation acquires some new skills and drops others that no longer serve the moment. It is a great idea to stay abreast of technology, move with the times, and accept the reality of now. In some phases of life, however, it is healthy, good, and indeed necessary to play a creative skillful part in carefully designing reality. If one chops no wood and carries no water the disconnection from source becomes disabling. The spirit has no dwelling in a world that offers only convenience. The soul requires art, and the spirit creates those artful moments that last in memory. One’s own self realization can’t be purchased, downloaded or installed. There is no service that can impart the satisfaction derived from self expression. Once practiced, polished and realized each one of us has a gift of powerful personal charism to offer to all the sentient beings. We can only hope that some young Americans find a vocation in farming.