The Business of Spirituality and its Slippery Slope

money-2724241_1280.jpg
Photo Credit: Pixabay

I spent Sunday at the region’s largest “holistic health” fair and came home exhausted and relieved the day was finally over. That isn’t how I’m supposed to feel. These events are meant to inspire seekers and to provide them with tools for unwrapping the gifts of their true selves. In theory, anyway.

I don’t go to fairs often, whether they are spiritual/psychic fairs, carnivals, or something in between. My introverted nature finds crowds hard to deal with and the empath in me has trouble shielding from all the myriad energies that fill these spaces. Yet, I was intrigued by this expo that I’d heard so much about, and I had two friend who wanted to go.

As often happens, the red flags went up before I left the house. There was that strangely familiar feeling that the day would not play out comfortably…

Spirituality and holistic living has become a big business. You can sell your spirit to someone almost as easily as you can buy a can of soda. And, sometimes I wonder if the one can be just as bad for our wellbeing as the other. In the midst of the authentic healers, readers, and vendors, there are the charlatans who tout their wares with a conviction that their offerings will change you and the world. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the real from the fake. The ego can be a trickster. It is often unaware of itself.

Then there is the issue of the seeker’s addiction. You can get lured into the business of “spirituality” as easily as you can a casino in a search for the pot of gold they both offer. I know people who attend fairs on a regular basis in the hope of finding that magical thing they can’t quite define because the cure is never outside of them. It’s easy to get sucked into the belief that someone else has the answer you seek. I’ve found myself on both sides, and it’s not easy to balance it with the larger truth of life.

After the three of us got our wristbands and settled our ticket admissions, we made our way to the workshops housed in another building. Although we spend some time amongst the vendors in the middle of the day, it would have been impossible to visit every cramped booth. There were nearly 300 of them, and it was enough of a challenge to find the two that housed friends I wanted to make sure I saw.

I attended five workshops on Sunday, and found most of them to be, at least in part, strangely depressing. Halfway through one, I left because I could no longer subject myself to the presenter’s aggression. Instead of a heart-felt passion, ego reigned through his voice with the tone of reprimand and anger. Ironically, the presenter was talking about water, using Dr. Emoto’s work for some examples. I was left wondering if he was aware that his own words and tones were most likely distorting the water in his body more than the water he was so worried about drinking. It was, if nothing else, a reminder to check in with my own thoughts and emotions, which were tipping toward unease and irritation the longer I lingered in the room.

In another room, I listened to a healer I really, really wanted to admire because he seemed to have an access to the mysteries of Egypt that have always intrigued me. Instead, I found myself leaving the room after the workshop had ended wondering if I had just sat through a marketing promotion. It felt uncomfortably akin to a timeshare presentation I once found myself roped into. I did’t bother to count the number of times we were told, with various words and demonstrations, how much greater his healing methods were than your average because of the “codes” he had created. There was a price tag, of course, if you wanted to discover the power of the codes for yourself.

Once again, I was left feeling frustrated by the ego’s tainting of something that should have been beautiful. Although I don’t have a problem with people making a living, we all need to, a system of internal checks-and-balances is often needed, especially when it comes to the business of selling spirituality.

And so it was that I found myself at the end of the day feeling more irritated than enlightened. I couldn’t wait to get home to my family and the quiet warmth of my house. I found revival in the “mundane.” Eating the salmon, heated up in our “toxic” microwave that my husband had cooked hours earlier, alongside takeout Chinese food. It’s amazing what gratitude can do for you. I soon felt more revived and nourished than I had from my lunch of delicious Ayurvedic Indian food as I settled onto the couch with the dogs. When I turned on the TV, I show on ancient Egypt just happened to be on.

Later, I found home again inside the pages of The Sun and the Serpent and thought about how grateful I was to have found this book through Sue and Stuart’s writing. And I thought about how much more comfortable I am roaming the ancient landscape of England, or the quiet landscape of the inner self, rather than the frenetic energies of a fair.

Fooling ourselves…

The Silent Eye

As soon as you start to mention the whole mind over matter thing, scepticism immediately cuts in like an automatic safety mechanism to keep you on the right side of reality and sanity. Vague visions of objects floating across a room by the use of telekinetic powers are accompanied by the eerie strains of 70s sci-fi TV and straight away, you are unconsciously looking for the wires.

As an idea, it isn’t quite so far-fetched though. There are good reasons to believe that the mind can influence matter and that the body can influence the mind.

Smiling is a good example. We smile when we feel happy, yet it is equally true that we feel happy when we smile. Even if it is a forced smile, by activating the muscles around the mouth and eyes in imitation of a smile, the brain is fooled into thinking we must have something

View original post 915 more words

An Interview with Children’s Author & Illustrator Andrea Torrey Balsara on “A Better World of Books”

UnknownAndrea Torrey Balsara is an author and illustrator who believes in the goodness in people, especially children. Her stories and art reflect her belief that we are all one, and that no matter where we’ve come from, we’re all linked together.  

 

Andrea, thank you so much for being a guest on “A Better World of Books!” I think we met some time ago through that amorphous world of social media. Although we’ve never actually “met” each other in-person, I believe we share a love for writing and helping children of all ages discover and embrace their true selves. Can you share a bit of your story of how you began to write and illustrate books for kids and teens?

When I was around 6 years-old, I remember holding a beautifully illustrated picture book and a yearning welled up within me. I wanted to make pictures like those so badly. I forgot about that dream the older I got. Later, when other things fell away, that old dream came back. I started out knowing nothing, and burned through many years learning the hard way what not to do. I had never thought about becoming a writer until my sister, Michele Torrey who is herself an author,  encouraged me to learn writing. To my surprise, I love writing as much as illustrating. I love sculpting words and images from nothing. 

You write on your website that all the characters in your stories go through their individual journeys to discover that “Life is good.” Can you give us an example or two of how your characters arrive at such an optimistic outlook?

For me, hope is essential for a story that inspires. My young adult book, The Great & the Small, deals with some dark themes but overall there is a feeling of the triumph of the human spirit. Hope isn’t a weak emotion, or a naïve turning away from the truth. It takes courage to see past the current state of things to what could be. The main characters in The Great & the Small, are deeply flawed and, as is human nature, run from truth and from pain until they are forced to stop and face their own frailty and fear. Hope springs from that courage. We all have deep sources of hope and courage within us, if we choose action instead of apathy.

I am wondering if your own characters and their journeys are at least in part inspired by your personal experiences. If so, can you tell us how you found and embraced the sunny side of life?

I struggled with depression and undiagnosed PTSD all through my school years, and it was hope that kept me going. Sometimes there was only a sliver of hope, but even that sliver of light can cut through the darkness. Somehow, step by step, I made it to a place of wellness. Now, I don’t see suffering as a curse, but rather as a teacher. Suffering teaches us strength, courage, and resilience. Then, once we move past suffering, we embrace joy. One of the presentations I do is entitled, “The Hero’s Journey.” We are all everyday heroes when we keep moving forward, learning, and growing.

Your book, The Nightingale’s Song was inspired by a dream you had. Can you tell us about the dream and how it bloomed into this award-winning book?

Around 25 years ago I became aware of the concept of Unity in Diversity, the belief that diversity is a strength, instead of something to be feared. I had grown up in predominantly white communities, but hadn’t realized I identified myself as “white.” One night, I dreamed I was walking down a long road lined with trees. I couldn’t see myself, but as I walked down the road, I wondered, “Who am I?” I couldn’t remember. Was I white? Brown? Black? Who was I? In my dream, I guessed that my skin was a deep brown. When I woke up, I realized that this dream was the first time since I was little that I was just ME. My outside identity, instead of defining me, had been fluid. It was a powerful shift in understanding. I wrote The Nightingale’s Song based on that dream. It starts out, “Last night, I had a dream that my skin was brown like mahogany…” By the end of the book, the child realizes that no matter what colour their skin is, they are still who they are. Humanity is one, and while we look different from each other, have different languages and different ways of doing things, there is a unity, a common humanity, underlying all of those differences. That is Unity in Diversity.

You’ve written and illustrated, I believe, eight books for children and young adults, two of which, The Great and the Small and The Nightingale’s Song have received awards. Which book, or books, that you have created are closest to your heart and why?

Each book feels like a little spiritual child to me, and you know I can’t choose between my children! Haha! Seriously, each book always requires so much from me and is so much a part of me, that I can’t choose. I will say that The Great & the Small was a book that I HAD to write if I wanted to get any sleep. It nagged at me until it was done. In some ways, The Nightingale’s Song is the same, although they are VERY different books. All of my books are my “heart-songs,” expressions of my heart, and so while they are different, they are the same. There’s that Unity in Diversity, again!!

Andrea, you don’t simply perform readings of your books for your audiences, you also offer empowerment workshops. Can you tell us a bit about how your book The Great and the Small is used as a guide for youth to “unlock their true potential?”

I wrote The Great & the Small as a response to an experience that I had when I was 10. My family lived in Germany, and we went to the museum at Dachau, which had been a concentration camp responsible for killing thousands and thousands of innocent people. The experience was deeply disturbing, and from that moment on, I was consumed with the question of good and evil. Many people believe that some children are born as “bad seeds.” I completely, TOTALLY, reject that idea. It lets us off the hook for being accountable for our actions if we are “born bad.” I believe we are born with the capacity for both good, and evil. So, I wondered, why did the baby who was Hitler, grow into the monster he became. Conversely, why did Nelson Mandela grow into a saintly, transcendent person, in spite of the injustices he endured? What choices did they each make along their paths? The Great & the Small is about how we each can fall into darkness, or can rise above. Both choices are within our grasp. Many young people feel helpless, and often feel that they have no control over their own lives. I want to change that narrative. I want to help empower them to see that whether they are famous, whether they are “successful” in the eyes of the world, that the CHOICES they make are what defines them. And that when they fail (and we all fail sometimes) they can CHOOSE to keep going, to keep learning, to keep rising above. We are not locked into a destiny as if we are railroad cars on a track. We, out of all living creatures, can choose for ourselves our path and can rise above even the gravest circumstances. But first, we must know that we have a choice.

If there was one “super power” that you could endow upon each child at birth, what would it be?

The power to think for themselves.

Can you tell us about any projects that you are working on right now?

 I am working on finishing illustrations for my picture book series, Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, a book about a guinea pig with a dream. Haha! I love working on it, as he is such a funny character to me. I am also working with a website developer to sell my artwork and designs on an art website. It will be up and running in a week or so, and the website will be, www.balsaraboutique.com. Come and visit!

And, last but not least, what is the best way for your readers to connect with you? 

They are welcome to connect with me on: 

 My Website: www.torreybalsara.com

Green Beard The Pirate Pig

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Are you an author with a vision for a better world? Do you have a published book of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction that uplifts and empowers readers to create a more positive inner and outer environment? If so, I’d love to hear more about it. On a “Better World of Books,” I interview authors and review books of all genres that offer a vision for a better world. If you think your work is a part of this vision, please contact Alethea

Standing on Plastic (1) – EcoBricks and Suburbia

Sun in Gemini

(Above: Standing on a nearly ready EcoBrick)

I’m standing on a plastic bottle, and, for once, I’m not trying to crush it for disposal so that it won’t fill up the bin–or even the recycling box. What I’m doing is testing it for weight-bearing density.

My bottle, which used to contain four pints of milk, is jam-packed with thin pieces of cut-up plastic, such as wrappers, carrier bags, the outer layers of couriered online-order packages… and a thousand other things for which plastic is essential…

But, such plastic in the wrong place is, as we’re all realising, deadly.

Many, larger-scale plastics are recyclable and so can be put into local centres. This milk bottle is, too. But this blog is not about the bottle, it’s about the bottle as container for the compressed contents – three weeks’ worth of non-recyclable plastic wrappings.

Most of our packaging and food wrapping materials…

View original post 1,076 more words

Chaperone…

The Silent Eye

*

“The second stone points to Silbury Hill along the line of the midsummer sunrise.”

“Can that be accidental?”

“It seems unlikely.”

*

… “Would there be a symbolic significance for that?”

“One would expect so.”

“Could we offer an explanation?”

“We would be happy to hazard one.”

“Hazard away…”

*

If Silbury is a ‘Harvest Hill’ and many people believe it to be just that,

then, like as not, the ‘harvest’ was ‘seeded’ from here.

*

Avebury, as much as anything else, is a ‘Temple of Agricultural Man’.

*

Agriculture, like stone, was, and still is, a technology.

*

The former, holds its salient points in tact,

the latter has lost its to mystery.

*

Hidden Avebury: Seeking the Unseen

Avebury, Wiltshire

12th – 14th June, 2020

A Living Land Workshop…

Almost everyone knows of Avebury, the great stone circle within which a village was built. A…

View original post 227 more words

The Upside of Hate

th-1

I got discouraged for a moment. Perhaps it was a long moment, but I didn’t count the seconds.  Fear resided inside the words I read, and festering with that fear was hatred. It has become easy to hate these days in a world that appears to be ripping into shreds of immorality. That’s what we’re shown on the surface where we linger with sensationalism. The media prefers to grasp the hand of the monster that lives both inside and outside of us, holding it like it never wants to let go.

I had been scrolling through Facebook, that skewed version of reality where the darker side of humanity is allowed to run amuck with gleeful abandon. A friend was bemoaning a poll forecasting possible results for the next presidential election here in the U.S. The screen was awash with red. I could have pulled myself into her fear, but I decided I’d be better served to let go the hand that would hold me into the netherworld.

I believe there’s an upside to hatred, if we choose to find it. At the core of hatred is an insidious fear that thrives in its deoxygenated environment. It’s a terrible existence. This choosing to “live” in hatred. The fear of the “other,” and the “unknown,” deprives us of life and the soul withers inside its troubled shell. But hatred tells a story, as does the fear behind it. It tells the story of a history that is ours, but one we don’t have to hold onto.

Hatred is a ruse to lure us backwards into the spiral of the abyss. We can stay stuck there, or we can dig through the ruins and discover why the tower keeps collapsing upon itself.  It is a vulnerable journey, which is why we often choose to linger with the discomfort of fear. It yells a power that has no basis in truth, yet we listen to its words thinking that if we heed them we will survive, forgetting about the countless others that will perish. Forgetting that we too will starve for want of light.

But if we listen, really listen past fear to its origins, we get ever-closer to the true self. The self that wants to be healed. The self that wants to be held. The self that desires love. And, our tower begins to crumble its mighty fortress. The walls that would contain collapse. Smoke billows and the fires rage, until the flames abate. It may take a long time to put them out, but herein lies the beauty of creation. The alchemy of self exists inside ourselves. Collectively and individually.

Beneath the angry red screen that tried predict more hatred across the land, I felt the pulse of the vein of life. Life searching to be reborn. It’s been a long time. A really, really long time, since we’ve known how to live in harmony with the life around us, and that inner life that is the self as a part of the whole. Perhaps we need to give ourselves a little more compassion. When we look at the vast and complex journey of our existence in human form, we see the struggle to survive, but also to thrive. And in the searching and breaking down, we can relearn how to balance upon the thread of light that is joy.

Humanity has reached the stage of existence marked by The Tower card in Tarot. Its number is 16 in the major arcana cycle. Balanced on one side by The Devil, and the other, by The Star, The Tower card is the epitome of upheaval. To get to the light of the star, that inner, true light of the self, the devil within and without must be reckoned with. As much as we may fear the devil outside of us, we must come to realize that he only exits because of what is inside. The chains, as the card reveals, are self-imposed. We can choose to live chained to fear, or we can break the fortress and let the light shine through.

Becoming, in essence, naked to the true self, is a vulnerable act. It takes trust, courage, and a surrender in the knowing that love is the truth of the self and of Life.  If we reduce The Tower card down to its integral parts, we arrive at card 1, The Magician and card 6, The Lovers, in the major arcana. The Magician possesses the alchemical magic of the self, The Lovers, of the union of the opposing energies; the yin and the yang that exist in the individual self, as well as the self searching for union with another. If we join the 1 to the 6, to complete the reduction, we arrive at the number 7. Card 7 in the Tarot tradition is The Chariot. Here we see the individual reigning over polarity. The yin energies sit one side of the chariot, the yang on the other. The sun and the moon are in balance both within and without. Over the breastplate of the figure that is self, is a square through which the light of the heart is shining through. The light of the star shines on the crown of the head.

 

The Chariot card is card 7, though. It precedes The Devil, The Tower, and The Star in the cycle of life represented in the Tarot. The choice to reign with the force of the ego or with the peace of inner light is still subject to personal will. The number 7 is that magical number that speaks of transformation. Everything is possible, and so there is the promise of union through alchemy.

This breaking down and collapsing that is so prevalent in our time often feels fueled by hatred and the ego’s need for self-preservation at all costs, but when we look closer, as symbolized in the card, we can also find the light of origin. Lightning strikes the crown of power from the top of the tower and opens the pathway to the divine self. Enlightenment can occur through the upheaval, if the self allows it.

Through the rubble of fear and hatred, there exists around us and within us, so many seeds of this light. Stories of courage and truth abound as voices gain strength with the conviction that love is the essence of life. Young women are stepping into the light of the divine feminine energy in a manner the world has not witnessed for a long time. They bring to us the promise of balance as they break fearlessly the barriers of fear. There is a feeling of warrior energy, a warrior energy fed by the light of truth. Their voices are strong and clear, and the are joined by many others, both male and female, in a dance of union.  It’s our choice, collectively, how to collapse the tower and find the balance of life, but it all begins with the self. The self that stays mired in fear, or breaks the fortress to find the light.

 

The Box That Is Not You

businessman-2108029_1280.jpg
Photo Credit: Pixabay 

You are not the box, you are what’s inside of it.

At 46 years old I am feeling more limitless than I ever have before. Even as a young child. You see, I never had the freedom of a child unbounded by constraints. And, that is okay. One cannot change the past, and nor does one have to. The freedom to allow the self to break through the barriers of restrictions is not conditional to time, place, or age.  It is, simply, you allowing yourself to be you. To really get to know the you that resides inside the outer representation of the self, and come home to that realization with joy.

“Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it. You look good. I can tell you feel good,” were the words of a friend of mine as she left my morning yoga class. She also heard my words filled with fear one month ago.

“Do you fly a lot in your dreams?” another friend asked me a few days ago after she heard about my latest flying dream.  There was a wistful note to her words, and I could see the look of longing in her eyes when I told her, “Yes.”

Many adults can remember flying in their dreams at night when they were  children. I don’t. My flying dreams came later, in a steady regularity, after my own children were born. Their births, you could say, birthed my own inner child. But, it’s a been a slow birthing. It has not been smooth and effortless, and it certainly has not happened over night.

I chose the picture I did to introduce this post because to me it is symbolic of the myriad boxes we can choose to carry around in our lives and try to fit ourselves into. There’s not just one, but for most of us there are many. The box of the perfect child. The perfect spouse. The perfect mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, student, athlete, coworker, employer…you get the picture. So many boxes to contain the essence that is you. Shaped not by your own will, but the will you have given away to another.

Yet, we are not meant to live inside the confines of a box, nor are we meant to jump from one box into another depending upon circumstances. Although we reside in a physical body for a limited amount of time, we are limitless beings here to experience the essence of our truths. We are here to grow and evolve into being. To love and to move, ever more freely into the breath of joy.

The boxed self might conform to a specific ideal, but it is never your truth. When we close in the sides and seal the edges, the light inside is trapped. In an effort to constantly please and conform to a false ideal that is not our own, you not only suffer, the world suffers. Herein lies the irony of the “perfect” self. Although we may believe otherwise, no one is served by the confines of limitations. The free soul living in truth shines with a brightness that ripples through time, space, and age. It is never too late to become it. It is never too late to step out of the box and fly.

Go ahead, give it a try. Imagine your self as a limitless being. Feel it, see it, know it. Joy is yours to find. Reach inside and grab ahold of it. Then, let it go. Feel the expansion that is you. Wholly and completely. Let self limiting believes slip away with the breath. Let old restrictions free their tangle until only you remain. Breathe into that light that is you and know it as truth. Take a good look at you and remember who you are, so when you forget, you can bring it back.