I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”. It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska. People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”
We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing. I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge. I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”
My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view. They think it does. It changes the way they approach their days. It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.
I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day. I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.
It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day. I like that. I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in. I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.
In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me. A good day is active rather than passive. I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity. I can have a good day curled up reading. But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.
There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day. A good day demands engagement at some level. Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing. By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days. Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.
Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.
Please share these posts and encourage people to join us in ceremony, in ritual, in prayer on Tuesday December 29th, the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, at Noon in your own time zone.
Meditation on the prayer of “All My Relations”: The Native Americans pray “All My Relations”. This is a statement of humility, connection, and compassion. It is an acknowledgment of the Ancestors and a recognition of the Descendants. In doing this working, in joining the global prayer, in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” we come to a closer understanding of what this prayer “All My Relations” really means.
That All My Relations is a statement of connection seems self-evident. But it doesn’t just honor or acknowledge relatives of bloodline. It calls to a connection with the whole tribe, the community. It makes it possible for us to connect, in an interfaith community, praying to heal our multi-generational wounds. It touches ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart and ancestors of the spirit.
It is also a statement of connection to those ancestors that are very different from us. It is a connection to our ancestors on BOTH sides of this massacre, and of any conflict. It is a connection to people we may not understand or approve of, but who are indeed our relations. It is a connection across race, or species because the bear people are our relations, the wolf people are our relations, the bird people, the fish people. The tree people are our relations. The stone people are our relations. The earth we dwell upon is mother to us all and we are all her people. All My Relations.
All My Relations is a statement of humility, because it recognized our human inability to determine the best possible outcome for all. We’re not even good at always finding the best possible outcome for ourselves! How could we know what would best serve the memories of our Ancestors and honor their work? How could we know what will best serve our Descendants? How can we know what the best possible outcome will be for the Animal people? The Plant people? The Stone people? The Earth? So we prayer to the good of All My Relations in humility for our own limited vision.
All My Relations is a statement of compassion. Every religion has some version of “do unto others” or “what goes around comes around”. Acknowledging a direct connection to the harm and benefit our actions cause shifts our awareness of the impact of those actions. When we harm our relations, we harm ourselves. When we damage our lineage, we damage ourselves.
The other side of that is that we recognize our capacity to stand where our misguided, confused, fearful Relations stand and make their mistakes. All My Relations includes both sides of the argument. All My Relations includes those who lash out in fear and anger. All My Relations includes those whose actions aim only to benefit themselves.
To truly heal our multi-generational traumas we must be willing to take in compassion All Our Relations. We must be willing to honor and acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the loss, the pain, the greed, the anger, the jealously, the hopelessness and meet those feelings with love. One hour of prayer, one anniversary of recognition is only the beginning of this work.
The invitation we were issued at the Parliament of World Religions also calls for us to move forward in a Sacred Way. That is the true working, for All My Relations.
I really hope you are all sharing these posts. It would be great to share in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” on December 29th and Noon. The more the merrier in this kind of global interfaith work.
In my last post I talked about cleansing and creating a sacred space. In this one I’m going to talk about prayer, or ritual, or the working.
Transformation: Fire is transformative, and since we are looking to transform from the 125th anniversary of a horror to a world where those things don’t happen fire seems like a good focus.
Depending on your circumstances, lighting a fire might not be easy or practical. I have a fireplace, but even a candle will work. If you’ve chosen to take time out on your lunch hour visualizing a fire can be effective. There are Kundalini Yoga techniques that build internal fire energy.
However you choose to create fire, remember that this particular fire is sacred. It is symbolic of the divine energy we are calling upon to manifest this transformation. There is a Buddhist philosophy that says the first step to changing the world is changing yourself. In doing this work the hope is we will transform our own understanding of our relationship to these events and carry that change out into the world.
Offerings: The other nice thing about fire is that it will accept offerings. We can offer up gifts, like additional candles or our incense or smudge sticks, in thanksgiving. Expressing gratitude for the help fire gives us in transforming is very appropriate.
We can also offer our own emotions to the fire. This can be especially useful if you can not work with an actual flame. Sitting in meditation with the reality of our history can raise up powerful feelings. Allowing ourselves to experience those feelings fully, and then give them over to the flame is a very transformative process.
One thing I will encourage you to offer up is the names of those who died 125 years ago at Wounded Knee. The fact is that we don’t have names for even the majority of those who were killed. That is part of the great wound that needs healing. But the names we do know deserve to be honored. Here is a link
There are other things that can be offered as part of this working, part of this prayer. Drumming would be appropriate as would singing and dancing. As this is an interfaith working bringing something to offer from your own faith tradition is very appropriate. Or you could simply allow yourself to be present in the moment and trust that your body, your heart will know what to do.
It is very difficult for white Americans to sing or dance or move directly from our spirit. We tend to edit ourselves. We wonder, “How do I look?” We wonder, “How do I sound?” We ask ourselves, “Am I doing it right?” But if we can find a way through to that child-like trust, If we can truly let go and allow spirit to move through us, that is also a very transformative act.
Two more days, and hopefully two more posts.
Labor Day is a celebration given to us by the labor unions. Regardless of your feelings about unions (it’s complicated), they did give us a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, minimum wage, workplace safety regulations, and a national holiday. We celebrated with my parents and that means parades and picnics. You can’t have a parade without political representation. The local union puts on the picnic.
Talking to people it strikes me to question how spirituality impacts our political outlook. Given the hoopla about Kim Davis this seems a particularly topical point to ponder.
It’s clear to me that our beliefs are foundational to how we view political questions. They impact how we prioritize issues. They impact our personal behaviors. It’s also clear to me that our beliefs shouldn’t ever simply be our politics.
The difference for me is that belief is about acceptance and politics about understanding. Beliefs are personal, politics impact the larger community and therefore must take the necessities of others into account. Thing is, in America, where the political dialog is rated primarily on entertainment rather than information, it’s easy to get lazy.
Our founding fathers originally only gave the right to vote to male landowners. The thought was these people had proven a stability and educational level necessary to understand the political issues. The sexism and racism offend me. Even the idea that people with money and education inherently understand the needs of the masses without those benefits is appalling. Still, the notion that people at least make an effort at understanding the issues has some appeal.
We expect our legislators to at least understand. The fact is that the issues are so complicated, and bills are so full of “extras”, that many of them are voting on the recommendations of their staffs. We’ve heard several times in the past few years “I haven’t read the bill”. (Go ahead and google it if you’re interested.) How is the American public supposed to make good choices when the issues seem daunting even to our elected officials?
Back to the parade. We rode on a political float for the local state representative to congress. (Yes I’ve met him and can support his work, even if he’s not MY congressman.) I’ve blogged before about small town parades and how the people throw candy from the floats. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “No candy, no vote!”
This is not high school. It is illegal to buy and sell votes in this country. It may seem that candy is a small thing compared to some of the wheeling and dealing that appears to go on behind the scenes, but in public it still counts. This is clearly a lack of understanding of the process on the part of the voters. It also points to a failure of the system. Integrity is only questioned when it stands tall.
Here we come back around to spirituality. Spiritual integrity is what Kim Davis is trying to cling to. Unfortunately, integrity doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you’ve already compromised yourself. If you don’t believe in something you don’t take a job where it’s demanded. Or if the job rules change, as they did in this case, you quit and find a job you CAN perform. She’s not being persecuted for her beliefs, as is often claimed, but for failure to perform the job.
Wearing a hajib to work probably won’t interfere with getting the work done. It seems reasonable to allow that kind of accommodation. Transferring someone in an organization to a place they don’t have to do work that compromises their values, like being drafted as a contentious objector, makes sense when it’s possible. Looking for a job you can do as a vegetarian and animal rights activist at the slaughterhouse is probably not appropriate.
But these are big issues. There are small places where we all compromise our spirituality to get along. I drive places I could walk to. I don’t recycle everything I could. I’m not currently managing a compost pile. I spend too much time indoors with the air conditioner and heater rather than outside in nature. I’ll purchase things made in ways I object to because they are less costly. I don’t always honor my body or take time to be grateful for my life.
We could all stand to do better both at honoring our spirit and understanding the complicated issues in the world around us.
I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about Spirituality. In my book, Manifest Divinity, I talk about spirituality as our unique relationship to the Divine (however we might define that.) I stand by that, because I do think spirituality is highly influenced by that feeling of connection. But we all have moments when we question that connection, or wonder if it’s even there.
There is something that sustains us, even through that “dark night of the soul”. We cling to life and are wired for survival, but WHEN people give up varies dramatically. We press on, going through the motions, doing what needs to be done or we curl up and check out. We continue to lean on the connection, out of faith or habit, we look for something “more concrete”, or we despair.
What we often don’t recognize is that challenges to spirituality often strengthen the connection. When night falls we trust the sun will rise again, because that is our experience. When winter comes we trust that eventually it will be spring, because we’ve seen that happen time and time again. When we have lost touch with our spiritual connection, and hold on until it returns that too becomes our experience.
For many people, coming out the other side is what actually crystallizes their connection to spirit. Having the experience of that dark night is the contrast that makes spirituality real. Someone asked me a few weeks ago what was the experience that gave me such a strong connection to my own spirituality. I don’t know.
I talk about playing the Faerie as a very young child in my book, When Gods Come Knocking: An Exploration of Mysticism from a Deity Based Perspective. As far back as I can remember I’ve always felt connected to something. Those connections have been challenged in large and small ways.
My mother tells the story of her 3-year-old daughter “disappearing” on Memorial Day weekend. This is a big weekend in Minnesota. It’s when everyone goes up to open the cabin at the lake. They found me, with my dog, walking on the center meridian of the main highway headed north out of Minneapolis. I was, apparently, unconcerned. I don’t remember the incident, it had no impact on me. I know I trusted the dog.
I got lost as a kindergartener trying to get home from a new friend’s house. I do remember this one. I found a spot to plant myself and cried. A stranger (probably the woman whose house I was sitting in front of) collected me up and took me home. I’ve always had the support I need when I really need it. I also knew my own address. I have to meet the Divine half way, and do my share of the work.
Fifty years later I am again awed by the way help and support has appeared in my life when I needed it. I trust it, I count on it, because I have no other choice. I don’t take it for granted. I know I’m expected to do my share of the work as well. Some of that means getting up, going through the motions, and doing what needs to be done.
Spring is coming. Light and warmth are returning. The green peeks through and my hands are back in the dirt (inside, but in the dirt.) It’s hard to have any perspective on spiritual journey while we’re walking that center median overwhelmed by traffic. It’s the shift of time and distance that allows us to see how big the small miracles in our lives truly are.
That’s an impossible statement, but apparently it happened. It’s impossible because he rides Metro Mobility, which pulls up at the house and will come knock on the door for us if we’re not obviously waiting. It’s impossible because we have breakfast in the living room and I sit right next to the window looking out on the driveway. You can’t get to the door to knock without walking past. It’s impossible because the driver says she went back and forth from the bus to the house knocking 3 times this morning. (She knew she was early the first time, so she waited a bit before trying again.)
I didn’t hear a knock, didn’t see the driver walk past. Orion didn’t hear the knock – or at least didn’t say “Oh! There’s my bus! Got to go!” which would be typical if he had heard the knock. Somehow we weren’t paying attention.
Karina called this morning right about this time, so we were talking on the phone. Breakfast, a phone call, I had a computer game running, I may have been a little distracted. Karina had stayed up late at a Super Bowl party and gone into work right afterward so this was her “call you after work” daily check in. She’s a baker, so going into work at 2am rather than 6am isn’t a big deal. Getting a call when I’m waiting for the bus in the morning, rather than when I’m waiting for Orion to come home in the afternoon, apparently is a big deal. I wasn’t paying attention.
Karina was a little tired, didn’t get any sleep last night. I’ve not been sleeping well either. Being tired makes paying attention more difficult. It’s harder to focus. I’m not sleeping because I’m struggling with pain management. That kind of chronic pain can be a distraction as well. Paying attention to too many things isn’t paying attention.
Orion and I are taking an adaptive yoga class. Mind Body Solutions offers a class at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Yoga is all about being in the moment, paying attention to your body, trusting the messages your body sends. We signed up for the class because I needed something to help me start moving. I guess I need as much help with simply paying attention.
A lot of Spiritual practices are focused on paying attention. That fully focused, in my body, in the moment attention is a struggle for me. I don’t usually miss a lot. I “multi-task” and I have a highly tuned “fill-in-the-blanks” function in my head. It would be a good thing for me to work a little harder at practicing full attention spirituality.
I may not be sleeping well, but it makes it easier to remember my dreams. I was dreaming I was driving in the snow with Orion and messing about on my phone. I wasn’t texting. I think I was trying to find an address. I caught myself traveling blocks (blocks I used to ride my bike on as a kid) without looking at the road. Scary. Not paying attention. Even my subconscious is sending me hints.
Do you catch yourself not paying attention?
I like to hang out with all different kinds of people. I have used the term queer to describe myself because I am comfortable with people who see themselves that way. I feel like I fit in with GLBT, Pagan, Multi-ethnic, counter culture fold. I am comfortable being myself in environments that tend to be inclusive and nonjudgmental.
I recognize what it feels like to be alone in a class and discriminated against because of it. I was bullied mercilessly in Jr. High School. I have experienced discrimination as a woman, because of my weight, and in relationship to my special needs child. I have had nasty and rude comments directed at me because of all of those things. I have also traveled enough to have experienced being the only white, only tall, only large female person in a culture where I didn’t have either the language or the cultural background to really get by. And I have been treated in such cultures as “not quite civilized.” I’ve been excluded from groups I could have contributed to simply because I didn’t have the appropriate credentials, regardless of my experience.
I also know privilege. I take advantage of doors held open and offers to carry my bags. I have been moved to the front of the line to accommodate the wheelchair. I have been accepted into business establishments because of the color of my skin and the way I carry myself, rather than being watched like a criminal. It is not infrequent for me to have extra space, because people are reluctant to squeeze in past me or next to me. I know I have an easier time with social services for my son simply because of my class and education.
I have an advantage because of my broad travels, reading, education and olive toned skin. I can pass in places many white urban Americans would be less than welcomed. People often assume that I am “one of them” and if they are not explicit in asking I do not correct them. This holds true not just in ethnicity, but also with “shop talk” in specialty careers. I have been mistaken for a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, a psychologist, an artist, a musician and before I had kids a parent. I fit in, and if I really don’t I’ll often bow out. I’m not trying to fool anyone. I just “get it.”
I appreciate being with people who “get it.” I know talking parenting is different with other parents of special needs kids. I know talking about medicine or life and death issues is different with other cancer survivors. I know that being with other women is different than being in a mixed group. Even being with a group of women “of a certain age” is different than being in a multigenerational group. Talking spirituality with other Pagans is different than talking spirituality with Christians or Jews or Muslims. Shared experience does count.
So how do we graciously allow ourselves exclusive space? When is exclusion appropriate and when is it objectionable? How do we determine exactly how exclusive we need to be?
I expect I’ll write more on this, but I’d really like to encourage you to leave comments, and to pass the word to anyone you might know who would like to get in on the discussion.
From the New Oxford American Dictionary
glamour |ˈglamər|(also glamor )noun the attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special: the glamour of Monte Carlo |[ as modifier ] : the glamour days of Old Hollywood.• beauty or charm that is sexually attractive: George had none of his brother’s glamour.• archaic enchantment; magic: that maiden, made by glamour out of flowers.ORIGIN early 18th cent. (originally Scots in the sense‘enchantment, magic’): alteration of grammar. Although grammar itself was not used in this sense, the Latin word grammatica (from which it derives) was often used in the Middle Ages to mean ‘scholarship, learning,’ including the occult practices popularly associated with learning.
Not entirely what first comes to mind when you hear the word is it? All the news this week is going to be about best and worst dressed at the Oscars. (It wouldn’t matter if there was something actually important going on, something that might make a difference in our actual lives. The news would still be Oscar fashion.) So I’m thinking about glamour. I’m wondering what it really is, what we do to achieve it, I’m also musing about how glamour is used to distract us or hide things.
It never occurred to me that glamour might once have been associated with education or vocabulary. Although certainly the power of words, enchantments, to dissuade the eye is well practiced by todays marketing departments. “These are not the droids you are looking for.” It seems that most advertisements are about associating the product with glamour.
I often associate glamour with adornment. Even children will adorn themselves with all manner of wrapping ribbon, stickers and byproducts of daily life to attempt to achieve some kind of glamour. Sometimes adults do as well, just for kicks.
Even in our spiritual lives we often reach for glamour. Whether we look for status because of our training and talent in spiritual pursuits or if we just dress up for church there is an inherent desire for glamour that sometimes seems in conflict with the spiritual intention. Our spiritual “badges of office” are rarely sackcloth and old rope, but often highly ornate robes, beautiful cloth, or lovely jewelry.
It feels good to feel glamourous. It’s fun to play dress up and bedeck ourselves with finery, real or imagined. It’s spiritually fulfilling to live surrounded by beauty. It is an exercise of spirit to be able to recognize glamour and know if it is enchantment meant to conceal or enhance or if it is inherently present.
Oh and as for Blodeuwedd, that maiden made by glamour out of flowers, check out my flower fairies. The walking iris is blooming in the sunshine adding glamour to a winter day.