The Business of Spirituality and its Slippery Slope

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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.

Looking with New Eyes

Warning, this post contains some disturbing content. 

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What would you like to see on this sign? (photo source: Pixabay)

I was, I believe, about mid-way through my studies with the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Driving in my car, as I so often do, down a road so familiar cellular memory could take over and I could lose myself in my thoughts. How many of us have been down these types of roads? Lost in our own musings and not paying mind to what is happening around us?

That day, though, I was paying attention. I was looking with new eyes at what had become so familiar that, I realized, I had become accustomed to it to the point of acceptance. I was jarred into a reality that I found acutely disturbing. I was looking at the facade of a convenience store. A sight not at all uncommon, which is why I was deeply disturbed. Posters defaced the windows, calling eyes to drink in the alcoholic beverages held inside. Mouths to draw in the cancerous smoke of the tobacco sticks sold behind the counter. Bellies to fill with the carbonation of liquid chemicals laced with artificial sugars. Defile your body and numb your mind, they called out to every onlooker: man, woman, and child.

This is my world, I thought. This is what we have chosen for our life, collectively. I was deeply disturbed. Yet, I had also come to accept this, at least partially, driving along the roads and barely noticing my surroundings. Even, sometimes, stopping inside these stores to purchase a beverage or snack to fill my hungry body. And what about my mind?

Last night, while watching an episode of “The Crown,” which I’ll admit has become a bit of an addiction, I fell into a similar state of disturbance. Once we make the conscious effort to open our eyes to our surroundings, we cannot help but see what is before us. “Hold her still,” the voice of the handler demanded, while a stallion did the deed of impregnating a mare. “Well done,” was the response after the deed was complete, as the satisfied parties left the scene.

I, though, was infuriated and saddened. What of the mare? “Hold her still.” “So,” I declared out loud, “they essentially force rape her.” And, everyone applauds a deed well done. Once again I found myself thinking, And this is the world I live in?

This morning, while going through my email, I found myself clicking through the daily dose of petitions in the hope to instill change. It’s always disturbing, the barrage of cruelty that meets the senses head-on. A macaw shot for fun, a comatose woman raped for pleasure (another rape), but it was the face of a young woman that pulled my eyes into the layers held behind the scene. Her grin, an artificial high of delight, as she held the dog she calls “Momma” with bloodied feet. A thrill-ride of violence. A young woman who had taken her scooter and dragged her pet behind her. “Mission accomplished,” her eyes spoke. “Look what I’ve done!”

And yet, I thought, why should we be surprised? Look at the billboards we feast our eyes on? They come in myriad form. Books filled with glorified rape and violence. Big screens bringing to life pillage, greed, lust and more gloried rape and violence. I have never enjoyed reading horror novels, nor have I ever enjoyed watching their counterparts on the screen, yet so many of us do.  Perhaps, in part, because we can say, “This is not happening to me.” But is it not?

Look around you. What is your world like. Are you okay with it?

When I sent my visionary fantasy novel, The Labyrinth, to a young beta reader, she asked me if anyone was going to die. She expected violence and even murder. Why not? It’s everywhere. Glorified. Accepted. Welcomed into our homes through media, news, and entertainment. What we create becomes our realities. That, in itself, deserves some thought.

 

The Return of the Feathered Seer #setting #writphoto #suevincent

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The Feathered Seer hovers above the stones. Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

Note: I started writing this post and then came across the #writephoto prompt post by Sue Vincent and opened it up to this image. Therefore, the blog post has now become my response to her weekly photo prompt

In April of 2017 I played the role of “The Feathered Seer” during the Silent Eye School of Consciousness’s annual ritual workshop weekend. Although acting is not my element, this role that I was asked to undertake did not feel like acting. It felt like home. Yesterday, I wrote about the concept of home and how I feel most aligned with that state of being when I am in England, walking the ancient lands. I have no doubt I have walked these lands, perhaps many times, in former lives. It’s a knowing so deep it goes beyond the visceral and straight to the heart of the soul.

The Feathered Seer is a part of me, woven into my being. She is my guide, but she is also me. Through the ancient lands she follows me, and I follow her. She takes my hand and leads me so I will remember. And, I believe, so that others will remember too.

In physical form, she adopts the form of the pileated woodpecker. That other-worldly creature who flies through the woods with her red head, calling the soul home to the roots of being, and drumming the language of the ancients back into the heart.

Last night she came to me during dreamtime as I stood atop a sacred Native American hillside. Flying her feathers of darkness before my face to peer into my eyes. Weeks prior, she had arrived in physical form. Flying before my path before the Silent Eye group gathered at Castlerigg.

Do not be afraid to see… she tells me

#writephoto

 

 

Castlerigg from a distance #acceptance

 

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Castlerigg at dawn. Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

I went as far as the hills in dreamtime while they gathered to greet the dawn below. Disappointment comes in many forms and sometimes it reaches out to hold the hand of acceptance. I’m not going to lie. This has not been an easy one to come by. The land at Castlerigg calls to me in a language the predates words. It speaks to the very heart of my being and fills me with the irrepressible longing for home. Yet, it is not my time to return here, and I know when it is, this body I wear must accompany my spirit. Sometimes the cells need to remember wholly and completely. And, Casterligg has called my whole being to be present someday. But not yet.

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Photo Credit: Lara Wilson. I love how the blurred image reveals the faces in the stones.

 

I didn’t know you wanted to go so badly, my husband told me afterwards. After he overhear words spoken with my dear friend who was there. I had, though, already chosen the hand of acceptance months ago, although sometimes I held only its finger tips. What do you do for yourself. I mean, only for yourself. You know, just for you? A friend had asked me a week before while the tears called despair rained from my eyes.

England, I told her. I go to England.

Yet, I was born here in New England. A cruel irony it can seem at times when one feels like she belongs in another land. This, though, is where I am, right now, and I have chosen to take that hand called “acceptance,” along with the belief that there is a purpose for me being here, and not there, for most of my time. This past weekend, instead of visiting a landscape that feels like home, I was home with my family. And, that was okay. More than okay. Love is limitless, even when it feels as though it is being pulled apart by longing.

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The season of long shadows. Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

I was here, but also there. You were never not with us, my friend assured me. I called your name as I walked up to the circle, you must have heard me.

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The hills that called me home years ago, still enfold me in wait. Photo credit: Lara Wilson

I was hovering in the hills, though. The stones below obscured by the body of giants. They called me back home before the stones did. Opening the body of the goddess to enfold. I can stay here for awhile longer. I can wait. Even though the head of the dragon beckons in stone.

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There is a deep sense of comfort knowing how much these stones and the land is loved, even though I am pulled with that longing. I read gratitude and love in the face of the stone gazing at Sue Vincent, while the guardian stone reminds me of the slow time of patience. Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

My lower body has been vibrating all week. Kundalini. The roots healing before the rise. We are often called to tend to the roots first. Healing the core of stability. Of origin. Our roots that bind us to one family, before we can return to another.

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Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

Acceptance holds my hand. I have taken her grasp in a firm embrace and she is becoming a part of me. I can wait. You asked for patience, did you not? I am reminded.

How lucky I am, that I can return to this place that feels like home. That I can allow myself to become lost only to become found, over and over again, filling each cell of my being with the memory of home. Until we meet in this lifetime, Castlerigg, I will hold the hand of acceptance.

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Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

A special thanks to Lara Wilson for lending me the use of her gorgeous photographs, and  to her, as well as the others who were at the Silent Eye School of Consciousness event this past weekend for taking me with them in spirit. 

 

#Inspiration #3.2.1 Me Challenge

Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo kindly nominated me for the 3.2.1 Me Challenge, giving me the word “Inspiration” for my topic. Thank you, Sue. Do check out her response to the challenge, “Time.”

 

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The seemingly inert forms of rocks inspire me, even those found in New England. In this photo, taken at Acadia National Park in Maine, I can see dozens of faces, each with a different story to tell.

 

Did you know “inspiration” not only means “that which spurs creativity and action,” but also the “intake of breath?”  I rather like the link between these two definitions. What inspires you to breathe life in? Fully and completely, capturing its essence as you do so? Connecting your life to its life…Your form to another’s…

I think, perhaps, the key is a connection. Finding that which sparks the synapses to fire across the bridge of singularity. That moment when we inspire the breath and say to ourselves, “ah ha, there is a certain something here I need to explore,” and in that exploration don’t we inevitably discover something about ourselves? A deep-seated longing, perhaps, that we now cannot ignore?

While looking up quotes on inspiration, I came across these words attributed to Bob Dylan,”Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it.” I find this rather sad and tend to disagree with it. Are we really that disconnected from life, and, one could extrapolate, the source of the air we breathe?

Mr. Dylan seems to be implying that inspiration is an elusive object, which is hard to obtain. I tend to think of it as just the opposite. Inspiration, I find, is everywhere, waiting for us to take notice. To take in the deep inhale of its life into our cells and allow them to spark fresh awareness. It’s a sad thought to think most of us spend our time breathing stale, shallow breaths without any sense of wonderment, but maybe Bob is onto something here…

While searching for actual quotes on inspiration (rather than “inspiration quotes,” which seem to occur in abundance), I came across this an interview with Ray Bradbury that appeared on Fresh Air, where he stated, “It’s lack that gives us inspiration,” he said. “It’s not fullness. Not ever having driven, I can write better about automobiles than the people who drive them. I have a distance here. … Space travel is another good example. I’m never going to go to Mars but I’ve helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars. So it’s always a lack that causes you to write that type of story.”

Again, I find myself in partial agreement. Lack of oxygen quite literally causes us to inspire, adding more air to our lungs. Bradbury, though, seems to be talking about what spurs creative inspiration. The lack of knowledge, causing us to seek. I suppose if we were full of all life, of all the answers to each and every question out there, there may, in fact, be nothing to inspire us. Why draw the breath in if the lungs are already full?

A full brain has nothing else to learn, but really, is that ever really possible? I may think I know the mechanics of driving, having driven for nearly 3 decades, multiple vehicles, with automatic and standard transmissions, yet I was still inspired to drive recently in England and found there was much to be discovered in this adventure of driving on the wrong left side of unfamiliar roads.

The ordinary became extraordinary, as I pushed past fears to find wonderment. Yet one need not, I believe, try driving on the opposite side of the road in a foreign land to find inspiration, one need only look with a little more depth at familiar surroundings, or breath in a little more air.

I often say I travel to England to find magic. In this ancient landscape, there is much that inspires me. It’s virtually effortless to find inspiration there, for me. Yet, here in New England, I find it is easy to fall victim to the mundane, or the Bob Dylan syndrome if you will. Yet, I realize, that is my fault, and not that of the landscape. There is magic in each blade of grass if you are willing to look at it more closely and marvel at the intricacy of its creation. Even the rocks here have much to offer, even those not aligned to the stars.

The key lies in the word itself. Allowing myself to inspire life, and breath deep its essence, even if that life is seemingly inert, there is always something new to take in and discover. Endless layers…endless molecules of air. The lungs always seeking more breath after exhaling that which has not been absorbed by the body.

While writing this post, a male cardinal appeared outside in my Rose of Sharon bush. It created quite a scene, as it flew in and out of the blooms and around the nearby foliage, as though it was trying to get my attention. Later, I thought about the cardinal feather I found years ago and had studied closely in a meditative state as part of a lesson with the Silent Eye School, discovering the feather was not merely red-orange, but filled with all the colors of the rainbow. “Now that’s something to write about,” Sue replied to my discovery.

One might say it was a joy to discover the rainbow in the red feather, and so I’ll leave the post with this word, “joy,” as the next challenge for three nominated bloggers if they choose to accept: Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate Julianne Victoria of Through the Peacock’s Eyes, and Colleen Briggs of Fragments of Light. Please write a post about “Joy,” including two quotes on the subject and nominate three other bloggers to blog about a word of your choosing.

Thank you again, Sue, for the “inspiration!”

 

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We receive the gift of a bat while watching Victoria & Abdul

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Night visitor. Photo Credit Pixabay

It was approximately 9:30pm, my husband and I seated on the sofa downstairs watching Victoria and Abdul, a bowl of popped buttered corn between us. Our son upstairs behind shut doors, our daughter and her friend taking a night dip in the pool after their evening run. The door dividing the screened porch open to the elements but screened from the bugs.  Or so we thought.

“How did it get in here,” my daughter later asked.

“Maybe it was following a moth. They eat moths, don’t they?” someone offered in reply.

We can’t say for sure what drew it in. It had never entered our house before, nor had any of its kind. It seemed to be in a hurry though, it’s beautiful, silent body flying soundlessly through the opened doors of the porch, past the mess screen to dance a circle around our heads in pursuit of an unidentified prey.

“There’s a bat in our house.” I don’t know who said it first. More husband or I. We were both equally startled. We’ve had uninvited visitors before, mostly courtesy of the cats, but no cat had invited the bat in. Nor had the dogs, which remained, somehow, blissfully unaware of our visitor for the 30-45 minutes it was with us.

And so began the pursuit of our graceful guest. How does one catch a bat? I am not sure. I got a net from the pool box used for retrieving frogs and the hapless rodents who have ventured over the edge. My husband, a pair of leather gloves from the basement. Thinking that the net might not be enough, I grabbed a thick cotton blanket from the closet and began to search the rooms with my husband.

Here’s the thing about bats. They are not only silent and swift, most of them, like this nocturnal flyer, rely upon echolocation for their sight. They are much better at navigating space than we are. It was a comical chase, to be sure, but we really didn’t think so at the time, well not all of us. Bats have a way of opening our fears, as well as our sense of wonder. I realized in those 45 minutes, what our unexpected visitors was triggering in each of us.

My daughter and her friend found amusement, laughing when they discovered what we were dealing with. They were also safely outside. My son seemed satisfied enough to stay behind the closed doors to keep the bat out of the room. Those of us tasked with the challenge of leading the bat back out to where it came from, were not as stable with our emotions. I was fine until it flew by, my husband less so. “I’ve been bitten by animals before,” he reminded me when I told him that our panicking would likely only increase the bat’s panicking.

When we stop to observe and watch ourselves in these moments when our fears are triggered, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Having had more practice in this than my husband, because of my studies with the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, and yoga, I was able to step into that role of observer.

What if you get bit? I asked myself. I thought of rabies and decided I didn’t like that option, but I also thought about the bat as a teacher and as a guest who was there for a purpose that might not be entirely obvious at first. Here before me was this magnificent animal, a mammal like me, but with the ability to fly at will. We were, I realized, both night-flyers. While I released the weight of gravity while I dreamt, this night-flyer was showing me the beautiful blind dance of trust in my waking state. And, I realized, when I took the time to be still and let go my fear of being bit, that before me was a gift.

How remarkably beautiful you are I thought as the bat flew a millimeter in front of me in search of an exit. There were moments, many of them, when I had no idea where our visitor was until it soared past on its silent wings. There was even one moment when I was hunched in the hallway as it flew around me when I thought it had landed on me. It wasn’t, I discovered, an unwelcome thought. I had this crazy notion that if I remained calm and still, it would land on me if it chose to, and we would both be okay.

Or was it so crazy? When we choose to dance beyond our fears into that state of stillness and peace, the world has a way of responding in kind. Those zen-like moments you read or hear about, and maybe even have experienced for yourself, are just that. The letting go of what binds us to our bodies and minds and allowing our cells to dance in unity with all that is around us. It is, in essence, like flying without effort. This bat, I realized while it was with us, had been a welcome visitor after all. I was almost sorry when my husband declared after our second attempt at releasing it (we had at one point thought it had exited an open door only to discover after we had settled back onto the couch and our movie that it had not), that he had, in fact, watched it exit the same porch door from which it came from. It’s job here, it seems, was done.

 

A Briefly Guided Visit to The Spinster’s Rock

After our visit to The Hurlers, Sue and Stuart drove us to our car parked beside Brentor.  “Give our regards to the Spinsters,” Sue said with a mysterious smile before we received hugs and watched our guides return to their car for their long road ahead to Penzance.

As we loaded into our rental, Larissa remarked with astonishment at the generosity of Sue and Stuart for driving us to The Hurlers and back, adding hours to their day which would end at the tip of the Michael Ley line before it enters the sea. One of the many aspects that make the founders (Steve included) of the School so remarkable is their unconditional generosity and genuine desire to share their love and wisdom with others.

The Spinsters is a rather strangely situated dolmen, at least in the modern landscape. One can’t help but wonder what surrounded it thousands of years ago. Now it stands oddly in the middle of farmland, and seemingly out in the middle of no-where. There is no obvious signpost marking its spot, and we nearly passed it by driving the narrow and twisty roads of Devon.

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Spinsters Rock Dolmen

Considering its remote location, and lack of a parking lot — we pulled over into the hedges and hoped for the best — it’s not suprising we were the only visitors there. Or so we thought…

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The stones often have stories to tell, and its worth stopping to “listen”

Years ago, before digital photography, I visited the Poulnabrone dolmen. Arguably the most famous and visited dolmen in Ireland, the Poulnabrone dolmen is awesome to behold. The Spinsters appears lonely in contrast, with its small herd of cattle guarding it. Yet, there is mystery here too, and a bit of magic left in the site. The stones still feel alive and they seem to observe their surroundings with an eye of discernment. The capstone has a particular anthropomorphic quality to it, with its face looking outward as though placing judgement upon those who might wish to pass into its portal. I thought it had both a serpent and whale-like quality to its form, and I had a strange urge to crawl onto its back. It was a little difficult to resist. Perhaps others had also, as the stone has fallen at least once from its perch and had to be replaced.

 

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The sign at the gate to Spinsters Rock

 

Larissa and I spent no more than fifteen minutes at the site among the stones while the disinterested cattle grazed at a distance. As I mentioned above, aside from the cows, we thought we were alone, but as we turned and began walking the short distance back toward the way we came, Larissa and I stopped simultaneously in our tracks.

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The Mysterious Mark

 

The feather, we were both certain, had not been there when we entered the field to visit the dolmen. Yet, there it was, black as night, placed like a flag marking our path as we exited. Another corvid feather from an unseen guide. Too obvious to miss.