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Why Halloween Matters

 

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Bobbing For Apples by Kim Fearheiley 

The pumpkins are cute. Kids are excited, dancing and giggling. The costumes and candy and getting to walk around on a dark night are a break from the usual routine. What’s not to like?

Halloween, however, does have a deeper meaning. All Soul’s Day, Dia de Los Muertos, and Halloween are all holidays that reconnect us to our loved ones and relatives who have gone before.

This weekend, my daughter had a friend over and along with my son, we did all the fun holiday games I grew up with. We bobbed for apples, carved pumpkins, even made caramel apples. Instead of the orange popcorn balls, my mom always made, we opted for rice crispy squares. Lucky with mild weather, we ended up soaked from the shoulders up as we attempted to pick an apple out of the tub using only our teeth.

While getting the basin set up, direct eye contact was being averted by the kids. They weren’t too sure about the whole head-into-water idea. I went first to show them how it was done. After much laughter at seeing their mom get thoroughly drenched but finally achieving success and reemerging with a shiny, red apple’s stem proudly clamped between my gnashers, they were all keen.

Relieved, I stepped back, apple in one hand and towel in the other, and laughed and cheered three fun souls on as they all, after many attempts, achieved apple victory. Watching, my heart filled with gratitude for relatives who taught me these same fun games, I felt both my mom, who has been gone for over twenty years, and my grandpa stand beside me also laughing and adoring rambunctious children reveling in joy.

Do you want to have a mystical experience? Who doesn’t, right?! If so, today is the day to do so. Whilst watching children having fun, stop and consider your loved who have gone before. Did they share traditions with you that you still embrace and encourage your children to enjoy? Wouldn’t they be proud to see what you have achieved with your own life?  Today is the day to reconnect with your loved and remember the good they brought into your life. Have a wonderful mystical experience and a very Happy Halloween.

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The Gift

When I was young, only in single digits, my mother taught me a valuable lesson. A lesson I hold true and continue to this very day, now well into my double digits.

Strolling past my room, light spilling in from the hallway door, she would look in to see if I was sleeping. Should my toes have rolled free from the bedding, she’d silently slip into the room, lightly tickle my feet just enough to rouse me, then tuck both feet back into the bedding.

Mom has been gone for many years. Still it remains. As I slip off to the land of slumber, I routinely complete a last check to ensure both feet are wrapped up warm and toes are completely covered. Occasionally, not long after my mom had passed, I would awake at night to the feeling of her fingers sweeping over my bare feet and imagine a gentle smile on her face.

A mother myself, it’s my turn to check on sleeping children. An evening look on my daughter brings me sweeping thick hair back and lowering the duvet from her overly warm face. Occasionally this awakens her but most often not.

Late last night, deep in slumber, I became aware of my feet having slipped free from cover. Chill sinking in but not wishing to stir enough to resolve the problem, I slept on. Becoming uncomfortable and about to begrudgingly move my dormant body, my darling turned towards me and covered my cold feet with his silky warm ones. A happy smile spread across my face as I returned to comfort and sleep.

Recently I listened to an old radio broadcast in which a woman, upon entering the gates of heaven, spoke with God. He questioned her “What did you do for the people I sent you? Your Husband? Your children?” After hearing this, the idea rebounded through my mind for days. God sent me these people? Of course. Could I have chosen better companions than these living in my home? Unlikely.

Caring for each other is what we are here for. The greatest gifts we receive are the loved ones in our lives. Our greatest gift to them is the care, support, warmth and love we give. On Christmas morning, when your family is gathered round the tree, take a moment to look closely at them. Visualize them with bows and ribbons and realize these are your treasures, your gifts from God.

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A Chore to Cherish

Probably very much like your’s, in our house, washing clothes is a constant chore. My two children change clothes at least three times each day between pyjamas, school uniforms and regular old play clothes. Throw in gratuitous amounts of underwear and pairs of socks, which become the space filling sand amongst the trouser and top stones, clothing fills and over-spills our haggard laundry hamper.

Two days ago, I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and plopped a basketful of laundry onto my bed and began sorting and folding. As I folded and small piles of tidy, square stacks began to build, our kitten decided to join me. She found a spot in the middle of my bed which was bathed in warm, mid-morning sun. Squinting in the bright light, she glanced up at me and began her own form of housekeeping by self-grooming.

We continued our duties in companionable silence. Folding my last item and placing it upon a nearly toppling, Pisa tower type stack, I carefully lifted the empty basket and placed it upon the bedroom carpet. Moving slowly, not to disturb her, I eased myself down into the sunshine beside Bluebell. Soaking in the sun and listening to her purr, pure content slipped into my being.

Opening my eyes, it occurred to me that I have never before noticed that she purrs as she grooms. I watched her lick her right paw and swipe it over her ear, head, then face and repeat. With each pass, she moved about a centimetre closer to her nose. After completing rows to her nose, that side of her face was clean. She then swapped paws and started to clean the left side of her face, purring and licking and swiping.

In the last few years, my daily routine has changed immensely. I often talk to students and clients about the importance of having a daily routine including self-care.  Meditation and exercise are basic essentials then building up by adding in practices including mindful eating and body brushing. Routines commence and with repetition, these practices become so natural and ingrained, it is merely part of getting on with being human.

In order to have our fullest possible experience of life, maintaining this vehicle,  which so wonderfully transports us about and senses our environment, is fundamental. How many of you know people who are more careful and considerate in preserving their car then of their very own bodies? Every year my car has an MOT and if it requires repair or parts need replaced, it happens without second thought. For me, going to the gym and exercising outdoors is on-going maintenance to this physical machine that is so much more precious than the car sitting in my drive.

As Bluebell cleaned her body, purring and being diligent to address every area, she was happy. To her, taking care of her sun drenched, silky-furred body was enjoyable. As humans, we too should delight in caring for bodies. Taking the time and making effort to keep our bodies healthy, strong, and happy is a pleasure rather than a chore.

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Photo courtesy of isobelandcat.wordpress.com

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Get Your Labels off the Table, Mable

It happened to me the other the day. There I was, calmly enjoying a quiet lunch in a small cafe with a dear friend when someone walked  in and loudly introduced me to her companion as “a member of the spiritual community“. Labeled and identified. Like a butterfly pinned in a glass case, my existence neatly narrowed down to a few short words. It felt very limiting really.

There are a plethora of words I use to describe myself. I am a mother, sister, aunt, niece, friend, colleague, writer, gardener, a keen baker, and an avid book reader. Putting all these attributes together only just begins to scratch the surface of who I am. I am absolutely sure the same holds true for you. Upon absorbing the comment, a tiny storm began to take shape in the deep recesses of my mind. Attempting mindfulness, it was quickly tamed to a mere tropical inversion.

You see, I have a thing about being labelled. What does it mean to be identified as part of the “spiritual community”? Does it mean anyone in the café who perhaps doesn’t consider themselves spiritual is less worthy of inclusion? Truly, isn’t anyone with any beliefs (Buddhist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan) spiritual? Could you call an atheist, who doesn’t believe in God in any shape or form, spiritual? I mean, hell, atheists do take the time to stop and consider their beliefs regarding what is or is not beyond. The very act of being a living, breathing human being is surely grounds for admittance to the “spriritual community”. In essence, we all belong.

Having lived in Scotland for nearly nine years, I have found many things to love about this country. Because I have moved around and have studied a couple different languages, I feel one of the greatest ways to learn about any culture is to learn their language. Or in this case, dialect. There are a few great Scottish quips I have adopted. One clear favorites is “Take them as you find them”. I first heard this when a person with a grudge was warning a colleague about a certain shopkeeper.  My colleague took the hearsay in stride and replied, “Right, well, I shall take ’em as I find ’em”.

I love this succinct and supremely thorough saying. In taking someone as you find them, you put all reports, gossip, and labels aside. You simply evaluate the person on how they respond and present themselves to you at any given moment on any given day. By showing up without any preconceived expectations of how you will be treated you, your approach is open, honest and sincere; essentially a blank canvas. Quite right as we all have bad days and may respond to someone irritably and regret it later. By taking a person as they present themselves, you allow them the chance to recover from a previous unpleasant experience. You allow their best possible personality to unfold. This is one of the greatest benefits we have of being conscious beings. We get to choose how to act as well as how we feel and respond.

In this small village, as a somewhat settled-in outsider, I have been called many things; foreigner, immigrant, and yes, even Yank. To be sure, one of my preferred identifiers is “Daniel and Samantha’s Mum”.  However, instead of labelling me as one small section of my many parts, call me who I am, Teresa. Please, take me as you find me and I will do the same.

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Starshine

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What a gorgeous night sky we are lucky to behold just now. With daylight slowly stretching its arm-like rays and once again embracing our northern position, clear winter nights gracefully verge into spring. Thankfully warming the air just enough to deter the bitter wind and allow us to gaze just that wee bit longer. Multiple planets hover near, outshining distant stars and gently reminding us of our home’s location in our solar system.

Built upon memories of siblings as comrades, my love of the sky was sealed early on. I grew up in a very warm, dry, and rural area and so as a child, spent many summer nights camped out under the stars. Surrounded by brothers and sisters, we would stare up and ponder the bright points. Warmly snuggled in an old cotton sleeping bag and listening to crickets sing, I dozed off as my older brothers simultaneously discussed Apollo missions and the possibility of alien life.

Over the years, I have heard commentators explain the vastness of universe by contrasting it with our nearly non-existent size. How we mere humans live on a minuscule planet. This small blue dot, orbiting a tiny, unassuming solar system. Anchored in the Milky Way, on the edge of our galaxy, completely dwarfed by the ever extending universe that surrounds us. As if we are nought but a drifting dust particle. Although scientifically relevant, it seems rather bleak. Who wants to feel so isolated, so small, so insignificant? Perhaps this goes a little way to explain our negligence with light pollution. People often avert their eyes from things they are unsure of, choosing ignorance and the path of least resistance over exploration. By flooding our night sky with excess, wasted light, we effectively block out those daunting sights, those vast distance, and the unfathomable sizes most of us find so very difficult to grasp.

Earth feels pretty big to me. I can appreciate the size of our home planet whilst also appreciating the glory of the night sky. It’s easy to feel comfortable existing on our green-blue gem without having to minimize it in face of the deep blue heaven around. As eyes are the windows to our soul, what we take in, what we see, feeds and nourishes us. Look upon any admired artwork or photo of your precious children and feel your spirit swell.

When I look up at the heavens, I am amazed by the beauty. I can’t help but feel proud to be a part of it. I feel both connected and tiny bit of ownership, like it is mine. It is all of ours really. Our birthright as humans to revel and adore the gorgeous sky surrounding us.

Last night, a quick dash to take out recycling after supper revealed a huge, silvery moon. I called my children to the door and we three ooh-ed and ah-ed and amazed at how close it seemed. Although we rarely get to camp out, I intentionally take every opportunity to instil my love of the sky into the future.  Tummies fed, spirits fed, and imaginations rocketing, our day was complete.

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I’m Expecting

I am reading an excellent book and have discovered a chapter I would love to share:

“Basically you create your experience through your beliefs about yourself and the nature of reality. Another way to understand this is to realize you create your experiences through your expectations. Your feeling-tones are your emotional attitudes toward yourself and life in general, and these generally govern the large areas of experience.” The Nature of Personal Reality by Jane Roberts

I particularly love the part about expectations. Many years ago, a high school friend and I were sharing thoughts on college and he revealed to me that it was never really an option for him not to go. From very early on, his parents explained to him this is simply how education works. You go to elementary school, high school, then college. The way I understood his explanation was this; its fundamental, you walk, you potty train and soon enough you are feeding yourself. His parents weren’t controlling or cruel, rather very loving and supportive as they warmly explained this is the way it works. It was their expectation and it translated into his expectation. I might add that in the end, he did his parents great justice by spending many more years in higher education than they probably believed reasonable.

His explanation profoundly changed my perspective. This was an amazing concept to me as I was raised by folks who didn’t pursue or support goals of higher education. I now have young children and although my nine year old is pretty sure he wants to be a race car driver when he grows up, I continually say, “That’s great. Do what you dream…but study something fun while your training.” In the model of my friend’s parents, I too regularly discuss education with my kids. It is my hope that instead of growing up with a slight fear of the challenges of university, that they understand it is just like primary school. Each year you go on to the next level and learn things just a step beyond the previous year. Simples. We attend shows and events on college/university campuses so they can see these are normal school grounds only in a different location. If, as adults, they choose not to go to college, fair enough, but it won’t be from fear of the unknown or lack of exposure.

As our expectations guide our actions, it is pretty important to stop and think about our beliefs. Also, to do so fairly regularly, because hopefully, if you are in fact alive and breathing, you will have new experiences every day that will reveal or create new ideas. So if you haven’t done so in the last week, please take a few minutes now, grab a napkin, piece of paper, or notebook and pen or pencil that feels good to write with and pen this…”What do I believe about me?” Write it down and then take a few minutes to think about it. If you are not interested in yourself or ambitious enough to do a little self discovery, at the very least, you have dropped the idea into your subconscious where it is bound to rebound and maybe niggle you now and then. (You can thank me later.)  If you are up for the challenge, another important question to gift yourself with is “What are my expectations for myself?” Is it to drink as much beer as physically possible between 7-9pm? To run a 5K? To own your own business?

Think of this simple little exercise as fun. If you do write it down (congratulations for doing so) and in reviewing, see that  your answers are pretty basic, kick it up a notch! It’s your life so unless you enjoy being a tiny boat adrift in a large ocean, grab the steering wheel and create how your experience unfolds. As Aristotle so wisely said “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being. (ho de anexetastos bios ou biôtos anthrôpôi — ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ)” Thanks to the wisdom and contagious expectations shared from my friends’ folks, I can happily read the second bit. Sure, it doesn’t pay for groceries but to me, the letters sure are pretty, its a celebrated achievement and even a wee bit fun.

As for me, I’m expecting great things.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Intuition 101: A Mother’s Perspective

Deep into the dark night, as I rolled over in my bed, a thought popped into my head.  You better get up and take Sam to the toilet”.  It was as if an old friend was very gently, matter of factly, and casually mentioning that a peeing incident was imminent. My first thought was “Yep, better get her to the bathroom”.  But then, lingering too long in my beautiful, cosy bed, laziness kicked in. The dreaded laziness.

Laziness is intuition’s foremost foe. Laziness issues an order to our brains to begin logically problem solving why I don’t need to follow through on action X because of reasons Y. My brain’s wheels cluttered around and quickly came up with “she hasn’t had an accident in a while” and then “perhaps she’s outgrown it”. Sensing the down duvet’s warmth and my pillows curved perfectly into my neck and shoulder, I finally groggily decided “I am sure she will be fine”.  Getting settled and back to sleep, that friendly voice says “OK, but remember, she did have those two small glasses of juice before bedtime”.  With that, my friend left the decision up to me on how to proceed and me, great lover of warmth and comfort, snuggled back into bed and welcomed sleeps kind embrace.

Half an hour later, a small, raspy “Mom…Mom……..MOM!” comes echoing down the hall and through my door. Raising from bed and willing my body to remain vertical, I made my way to my daughter’s room. Opening her pink stocking decored-door, I peered into the dark. Slowly, she raises her head to meet my eyes with her gorgeous, sweet, angelic face and flatly claims, “I peed myself and my nose is really bugary”.  I looked at her, her wet bedding, and turned my eyes to the heavens (in this case, a bedroom ceiling) and gently whispered a chagrined thank you for my ignored warning and then began the all too familiar motherly midnight job of bed-stripping, bathroom-tripping, and small child body-washing.  New pj’s on, bed freshly made, a smooch goodnight on the lips and back to bed for both she and I.

My intuition knows me well.  It knows I am a reasonable mom and that when unpleasantries arise, I can usually deftly manage them.  My intuition also knows that I find keeping on top of laundry a real chore.  Being American, I come from the land of huge washing machines and even bigger tumble driers.  But, I live in Scotland, where washing machines are for the most part small and generally stashed in a not much larger kitchen. Due to locality, any dirty wash litters said tiny kitchen floor until finished.  As our kitchen is a beehive of activity, the intruding laundry makes for a major tripping hazard and space invader.  As for driers, many people (including myself) here don’t have them, opting instead to hang clothes to dry on lines in often perilous weather conditions.  Hanging out “yer washin’” in Scotland could later mean tracking down wind-blown items from understanding neighbors backyards.  Or upon retrieving laundry, surprisingly still where you actually pinned it, discovering it has been frozen stiff.  

Although I may hail from “give it to me now, instant gratification” America, living here these past eight years has slowed me down. Coupled with being a bit of an eco-girl, I have weekly resisted the urge to purchase Whirlpool’s top of the line drier, enabling me to produce gorgeous, warm, fluffy towels to tantalize my weather harassed skin.  All in all, one bed wetting incident produces a tiny, pink nightgown and flood of bedclothes including a sheet, a pillowcase, a mattress liner, a duvet, a fleece blankie and a duvet cover. These items all may come from a child’s single bed but there is no way they will amount to less than three loads of washing. When the washing is at long last complete, my house will sport many large, damp items in varying shades of pink with flowers, stripes and bows handsomely draped over banisters and doors. You may ask, well, why not just hang them over your drying rack? Which in truth makes sense, but in this house, that is where you will find the normal clothes wash from earlier in the day, still tediously and amazingly slowly drying. Like I said, laundry is a real chore.

Ultimately, had I resisted laziness and been wise enough to listen to my friendly intuitive guidance, it would have taken a mere five minutes to waken my angel, get her to the bathroom for a potty trip, then gently tuck her back into bed.  Because I opted for laziness, I will spend approximately three hours today waiting for a machine to complete its sudsy revolutions and listen to it aggressively spin out any remaining water. This is the way intuition works.  When we heed this internal advice, we prevent ourselves from dealing with huge delays and piles of extra work. Weighing it up, five minutes versus three hours, it’s a no-brainer.  Next time I will listen and act upon intuition’s good advice and leave logic to our world’s bankers, because they seem to be doing such a brilliant job with it.