GAIN Resilience and Reduce Stress

By Greg Hammer, MD

Two potent inducers of stress are (1) uncertainty about the future and (2) a world that does not comport with our wants and needs. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brings both conditions and rampant, world-wide stress. Stress causes increases in adrenaline and cortisol in our bodies, increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Acute stress may be adaptive, enabling us, for example, to escape a predator by focusing our attention and directing blood flow to our muscles so we can run faster. When stress lasts for days, weeks, and even months, however, it is maladaptive. Chronic stress has adverse effects on our immune system as well as our heart and blood vessels. Chronic stress also induces changes in our chromosomes akin to aging. We are all better off learning how to reduce such stress by becoming more resilient in the face of adversity, especially during the current global coronavirus crisis.

There are four core pillars of resilience: Gratitude, Acceptance, Intention, and Nonjudgment. Together these principles form the acronym, GAIN. We can practice GAIN beginning with a 3-minute contemplation or meditation each morning; this will prepare us to remind ourselves of these essential elements of resilience throughout our day. Examples of thoughts we might embrace during this time of extraordinary stress:

1. Gratitude: We all have much for which to be grateful. Let’s consider how much better off most of us are than our ancestors were 100 years ago during the influenza pandemic of 1918. During that crisis there was little communication – no internet to keep people updated or able to Facetime with friends and family, poor sanitation, and far too few hospital beds and other essential resources to manage the critically ill. There were not enough ambulances, caskets, or burial sites for those who had succumbed to the virus. Bodies were moved to bedrooms in homes, where they often remained for days or longer. Nowadays we have much improved access to medical care, food, and other necessities. As bad as things are, they could be much worse. We do indeed have reasons to be grateful.
2. Acceptance: As the Serenity Prayer reminds us, we are well served to discern between those things we can and cannot change and accept the latter. During this historically difficult time there is much that we cannot change. Let’s open our hearts to the pain and suffering of others and ourselves and abide there, accepting these feelings. We did not create this pandemic and we cannot cure it. We can only manage to remain safe by practicing social distancing while staying in touch with our loved ones by text, email, Facetime, and other means.
3. Intention: Our brains are wired with a negativity bias. We remember feelings and events that are sad and painful while often losing track of the wonderful moments in life. The good news is that we can use our intention to re-wire our brains. A good example is the “Three Good Things” program initiated at Duke University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ4aT_RVHCs). Simply thinking of three good things that happened during our day as we prepare for bed each evening improves our sleep and happiness. This practice is easy to embrace and requires no time – we simply need to be purposeful and diligent in embracing it regularly. Our brains remain plastic, or changeable, even during adulthood, contrary to what many may believe. We simply need to deploy our intention.
4. Nonjudgment: We tend to continuously compare ourselves to others and form judgments of good or bad. “He is smarter than I am” or “she is not as athletic as I am.” The process of constantly categorizing and judging is exhausting and detracts from our happiness. Unfortunately, we tend to judge ourselves most harshly. Fortunately, there is an alternative – we can simply view the world and ourselves with open minds and hearts and adopt a sort of “benevolent indifference.” This is not to be confused with being jaded or crass, but rather means that we can rest our judging minds and enjoy things just the way they are. Again, we did not create this world and we can do little to change it. Let’s simply accept the way things are without judgment.

The GAIN practice can help us be more present. We tend toward obsession of the past and future in ways that are maladaptive, distracting ourselves from being present. While it is adaptive to savor our past pleasurable memories and learn from our mistakes, it is harmful to be stuck in thoughts of regret and shame. Similarly, with thoughts of the future – it is adaptive to look forward to good times and plan to put food on the table, but maladaptive to ruminate over thoughts that bring fear and anxiety. Due to our negativity bias we tend to catastrophize, meaning that we focus on the worst-case scenario, even though this rarely comes to fruition. Happiness indeed resides in the present moment. Consider your happiest times – laughing with others at a hilarious joke or event, connecting with a friend or lover, enjoying a moving concert or painting. All of these experiences are devoid of thoughts of the past or future. We are “right here right now.” Mindfulness means “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, according to its founder, Jon Kabat-Zinn. By embracing and employing the elements of GAIN, we are more mindful, resilient, and happy.

About Greg Hammer MD:
A pediatric intensive care physician and pediatric anesthesiologist, Dr. Hammer cares for infants and children of all ages as well as their families as they endure very stressful times. Dr. Hammer is the author of the soon-to-be-released books “GAIN Without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Healthcare Professionals”.

A popular guest lecturer, he frequently speaks around the world in order to share his philosophy with physicians and other medical professionals. Dr. Hammer’s clinical focus is in pediatric cardiac anesthesia and pediatric critical care medicine. His research is in developmental pharmacology and immunology, and he has an active laboratory with multiple ongoing studies in these areas.

He has published widely on topics related to pharmacology and perioperative care of children undergoing cardiac and thoracic procedures as well as organ transplantation. Dr. Hammer is a health enthusiast and meditator, utilizing a non-duality and mindfulness-based approach, including the GAIN method.

He is a member of the Stanford WellMD initiative. He is currently the Chair of the Physician Wellness Task Force for the California Society of Anesthesiologists and a member of the Wellness Committee for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He has been a visiting professor and lecturer on Wellness at institutions worldwide.

He teaches GAIN to medical students, residents and fellows at Stanford. Practicing medicine is a privilege. It is immensely rewarding. Yet more and more physicians are suffering from burnout. In order to provide an efficient and effective antidote to burnout, Dr. Hammer created GAIN Without Pain, a four-step process of meditation and mindfulness. GAIN is an acronym for Gratitude, Acceptance, Intention, and Nonjudgment. GAIN practice can substantially reduce stress and increase well-being in as little as three minutes a day.

You can learn more at www.GregHammerMD.com.

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Wearing a Mask is Unmanly….

….and Other Reasons Female World Leaders are Doing a Better Job Beating Coronavirus

By Marian E. Lindberg

What do countries such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan have in common? Aside from having successfully reduced cases of COVID-19, all three have female leaders.

The connection has drawn attention, and is no coincidence. Not simply because these countries’ leaders are women, but because as women they do not carry the baggage that can prevent male leaders such as Donald Trump from taking science-based measures such as setting and respecting national standards for wearing masks. That is, concerns about their manliness.

Current rhetoric in political circles is rife with undertones of manliness. When Jeff Sessions decided to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump disparaged him as “very weak” and not “being a man.” He refers to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as “that woman from Michigan.” Amid the wave of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, he has pushed for governors to “get tough,” telling them, “most of you are weak.”

Trump takes us back to an earlier era when accusations of unmanliness in politics were less coded. . In the late 1890’s, when President William McKinley sought to avoid war with Spain over its brutal treatment of Cubans, Theodore Roosevelt, then a Navy bureaucrat, accused McKinley of having “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.” Jingoist newspapers agreed, calling McKinley a “goody-goody man”—or no man at all. The New York Journal published a cartoon depicting McKinley as an elderly woman pushing a broom against the will of Congress and “The People,” represented as menacing ocean waves. The caption read “Another Old Woman Tries to Sweep Back the Sea.”

Roosevelt and other hawks declared that war against Spain would strengthen American men, who had become too “soft” in their view. If men were stronger, the argument went, women would give up their quest for the vote and focus on being wives and mothers, satisfied that the nation was in good, manly hands. As sociologist Michael Kimmel has written, “The story of America [is] a story of proving and testing manhood.”

In the face of the threats we are confronting today, including a pandemic and climate change, it is important to remember that even in the 1890s a large number of men did not support a martial definition of manliness.

Senator David Hill of New York, for example, asserted that whether to fight Spain was not “simply a question as to whether we were brave enough people to enter upon the experiment.” As historian Kristin Hoganson writes, Hill “and like-minded leaders regarded the Cuban issue not as a crusade but as a policy issue to be settled by sober statements and foreign policy authorities. In effect, they contended that the kind of manhood that should govern foreign policy debate was…that of the dispassionate, educated expert, someone who exercised restraint and sober judgment.”

That sounds a lot like the debates over how to respond to Covid-19: medical expertise and the virtues of compassion and restraint versus assertions of individual “freedom” to do as one pleases. And rhetoric around the pandemic is as rife with undertones of manliness (or lack thereof) as our political rhetoric overall. Just look at the signs on highways entering Manhattan that read “Cover Your Face in Public. We are New York Tough.” And at President Trump’s constant scoffing when asked why he doesn’t wear a mask—which he has said would make [him] look ridiculous for prioritizing health over business. How unmanly.

When it comes to Covid-19, unlike manliness, different approaches can be measured objectively by numbers of cases and deaths. By that measure, heads of state in places such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan who imposed isolation measures early and relied on medical experts to inform their policies clearly saved lives. Free from concerns of manliness, they responded to a major problem dispassionately, based on “sober judgment” and without regard to bravado.

It can take more strength to tell people not to act than to encourage their aggressiveness. The leaders who imposed swift quarantines showed such strength. The adverse economic impacts of curbing movement and commerce were easy to anticipate, but the upside was not clear: what if the quarantines did not prove effective in reducing virus transmission and death?

Today, few officials would argue that a course of action is right because it is “manly.” A statement such as “I want American manhood asserted” (Sen. William M. Stewart, R, Nev., speaking in 1897) would be considered as retrograde in 2020 as “men working” signs.

But concerns with manliness persist just below the surface. When Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was willing to die to save the economy, that echoed men such as Stewart and Roosevelt. Faced with an enemy unbeatable through physical force, Patrick turned to dying for his country as a supposedly heroic option.

Yet Covid-19 teaches that strength is not the same as physical power, nor is strength male or female. Those who insist on characterizing Covid-19 as an enemy in a war must accept that in this war, the men and women who made us stand back may have shown the strength we most need.

About Marian E. Lindberg:
Getting to the truth has been the constant in Marian E. Lindberg’s career, first as a
journalist, then as a lawyer, environmentalist, and author. Her new book, Scandal on Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused (East End Press) is the product of extensive research into a 1914 trial and reveals the origins of homophobia as a federal policy.

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Persephone, Seasons & Tarot

From Stacey B. (aka TarotPugs)

Springtime marks the return of Persephone from the Underworld (Hades) when the flowers and trees begin to blossom again and her descent marks the beginning of autumn, but how can we relate this to the tarot?

The minor arcana is associated with the four elements and the four seasons and depending on your practice, it may look like the following below:

• Wands – Spring / Summer
• Cups – Summer / Spring
• Pentacles – Autumn / Winter
• Swords – Winter / Autumn

For the purpose of this post, we’ll use this method:

• Wands – Spring
• Cups – Summer
• Pentacles – Autumn
• Swords – Winter

So how does this all connect with Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld?

Her return to the upper world (Earth) is around the Spring Equinox and her descent beginning around the Autumn Equinox.

However, when we observe the Earth as a whole, Persephone is always in a duality state.

As Persephone rises to be renewed in one hemisphere to mark the beginning of spring known by her name of Kore, she also begins her descent in the other hemisphere to mark the beginning of autumn.

The back and forth of birth and death, spring/renewal, autumn/decay happens twice a year that even in the flourishment of springtime, there is still a hint of Persephone as the Queen of the Underworld.

Persephone, Springtime & Tarot

When working to understand ourselves, our renewal and what we are reawakening after the long sleep of winter, we can turn to the Ace of Wands in the tarot.

The most iconic image of the Ace of Wands in many tarot decks that are based on the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tarot system depict a wand with buds and leaves growing from it and sometimes falling from it.

New life and vitality are being created, rejuvenated as the Earth below begins to thaw and awaken.

We can examine simply by gazing at the Ace of Wands or when we see the Ace of Wands in a tarot reading during the springtime and ask:

What is being reawakened?
• What is giving me new life from deep within the depths of my unconsciousness?
• What seeds have I planted that are ready to grow now?

These questions can be elaborated and carried through as if a string of thought all the way in the remainder of the Wands suit.

Find and name what is being reawakened, stirred and sprouted from your unconsciousness and watch it grow and mature through the rest of the Wands – from the 2 of Wands until the 10 of Wands when you are then overwhelmed by what has been created.

That’s when the Cups (Summer) happens, the Ace of Cups, to remind you that what you have created is a blessing and that even though you may feel overwhelmed by your creation, your cup is over flowing with love and abundance.

Carry this love and abundance of what started as a seed in the springtime from the Ace of Wands, the seed that Persephone had given you from the depths within, and it flourishes and grows.

Persephone starts as Kore in the springtime, flourishes to her bounty, and then in the Autumn returns to the Underworld and depths as a cycle of life.

Persephone, Autumn & Tarot

When autumn soon arrives again after enjoying what we have created, gave birth to and flourished, we realise our mortality, our finality, the physicality of it all, that all eventually returns back to the earth from whence it came.

When examining the Ace of Pentacles, it becomes as if a token to enter the depths below into Hades.

Charon, the ferryman, must be paid to cross the River Styx, the Ace of Pentacles coin grants this favour to begin the journey across.

As you go further in the suits of the Pentacles, down into Hades and the world where Persephone rules as Queen, you may ask when you see Pentacles cards in your readings in the autumn:

What do I hope to reap?
• What must I leave behind?
• What will my legacy be?

These questions can be elaborated and carried through as if a string of thought all the way in the remainder of the Pentacles suit.

Find and name what has been manifested, created and matured from the springtime and summer, and observe what will be laid to rest so to give nutrients to what will be recreated in the next springtime.

After this, comes the Swords (Winter) and everything from previously in the year comes to rest and the work is done silently and quietly under the surface.

Reflection on the past, processing thoughts and ideas, coming to terms, even travel in the Underworld until finally reaching the end of the suit of Swords when you can finally release and surrender to all that was and be ready to be renewed again in the springtime.

Seasonal Tarot Journey with Persephone

Working with the minor arcana and Persephone can be done through meditation, ritual or journaling to explore the seasons and your own development through the seasons.

Start with the minor arcana suit that corresponds with the season that you’re in now where you live and begin the journey from the beginning of the suit and ask yourself questions along the way how you feel you’re progressing.

Continue the journey until you reach the next equinox or solstice, then begin the journey again with the next suit corresponding to the season.

To add more spirituality to the process, you can work with Persephone to follow her journey along with the seasons.

“Persephone,
blessed daughter of great Zeus,
sole offspring of Demeter,
come and accept this gracious sacrifice.”

– excerpt from Hymn to Persephone (The Orphic Hymns by Apostolos N. Anthanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, The John Hopkins University Press ©2013)

About TarotPugs:
Stacey B. is a psychic tarot reader, Usui Reiki Master (Distance Healing Specialist), Animal & Pets Reiki practitioner, crystal healer, chakra energy healer and eclectic witch focusing on dark goddess spirituality and features Rocky & Rosie, a.k.a. the Tarot Pugs which can be found at tarotpugs.com.

Cleaning – Magical Style

By Deborah J. “DJ” Martin

Spring has officially sprung in the Northern Hemisphere and for many of us, thoughts are turning to spring cleaning. I wouldn’t advise putting forth that kind of effort just yet. Even here in the southern Appalachians, the pines haven’t finished contributing their sticky yellow pollen to the cause (theirs, not ours).

Whether it’s heavy-duty spring cleaning or just everyday tidying up, add a little magical oomph to it. Make up cleaning solutions the same way you’d do a potion, injecting intent into it. Then clean with purpose, reciting your favorite cleaning chant.

Some ideas for you:

Diluted white vinegar is an all-purpose household cleaner. Lemon is considered a purifying herb, not just magically but in the mundane world, too. You can add a few drops of lemon essential oil to a spray bottle filled half-and-half with water and white vinegar and use that in the kitchen and bath. It also works great on windows. Alternatively, fill a quart jar with half water and half white vinegar, then add the rinds of two lemons. Allow it to infuse a couple of weeks, shaking it once a day. Strain, then pour into your spray bottle.

One of my favorite ways to clean is to make an infusion of rosemary, soak my cleaning rags in it and allow them to air dry overnight before using. Rosemary is also one of those herbs that’s considered purifying both magically and mundanely. (Did you know? Hospital used to smudge sick wards with rosemary even as late as World War I.) I add the rest of that tea to the water I use to wash my floors with.

For carpets or rugs, add about ten drops of essential oil to a cup of baking soda. Shake or stir well to distribute the oil through the soda. If you don’t have the essential oil you want, mix about a quarter cup of dried herbs into a cup of baking soda and allow it to sit for a week or two before using. Sprinkle the soda mixture on your rug or carpet and allow it to sit for twenty to thirty minutes before vacuuming. Hint: you can punch holes in the metal lid of a jar with a big nail. This makes sprinkling much easier and more uniform.

Make an infusion of your favorite cleansing herb and spray it on the bristles of your broom before doing a ritual sweeping.

If you change your linens with the seasons, layer either lavender sprigs or bay leaves between them when in storage. This will not only keep them smelling fresh but deter bugs.

With so many of us stuck inside during these times, even more so than the usual winter hibernation, tensions are probably running a little higher than normal. Lavender, German chamomile, and passionflower are all good herbs to relieve stress and calm the air. You can use those essential oils in oil warmers, put the dried herbs out as bowls of potpourri, or infuse them into a cleaning solution.

Other herbs you may want to consider using: cedar, hyssop, bay, peppermint, or thyme. These all smell divine and are great for purification.

Happy Cleaning!

About Deborah Martin:
Deborah J. “DJ” Martin, whom many call the “Herby Lady”, has a lifelong fascination with plants. A witch and Master Herbalist, she is the author of four books on herbs as well as an urban fantasy series. She lives with her husband and several crazy cats in the southern Appalachian Mountains. You can learn more about her and her work at http://www.authordjmartin.com, and find all of her books here.

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What Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Energy Body

By Lisa Erickson

Interest in the chakras, reiki, and energy healing has exploded in recent years, with many of us turning to these modalities for greater wellness and empowerment. What isn’t as widely covered is how women’s energy bodies differ from men’s. Learn how you can get the most out of working with your feminine energy body – including help for healing from sexual trauma.

Rochelle was a new massage therapist having trouble managing enough clients per day to pay her bills, as she felt drained after just one or two sessions.

Lauren was a health-conscious yoga practitioner who did everything she could to take good care of her mind and body, but suffered such extreme fatigue during her period each month she was effectively sidelined from her life for several days.

Beth was a long-time meditator, but after the birth of her first child found that her usual meditation practices provided no relief from the heaviness and anxiety she was frequently experiencing.

Shari was a 50-year old woman struggling with perimenopausal symptoms, questioning the direction her life was headed, and fearing she was going backwards.

What do all these women have in common? They all were experiencing shifts in their energy bodies but didn’t know how to work with them. While an increasing number of yoga classes and energy body workshops help us connect with our primary energy centers, or chakras, most of the time chakra mappings are presented as the same for men and women. But there are differences in how women’s energy bodies function that any woman can benefit from knowing.

Our energy body serves as the interface between our physical body, our psyche, and our spirit. Chakra mappings in particular developed within both energy medicine and spiritual traditions around the world, and in the 20th century were even viewed by psychologist Carl Jung as a way to map different aspects of our psyche. The chakras offer many doorways into healing and empowerment, and hundreds of different methods for working with them including yoga, breath work, reiki, guided imagery, meditation, mantras, mudras, affirmations, crystals and more.

However, most chakra mappings and tools don’t account for the differences in how men’s and women’s chakras function. While at the spiritual level the energy moving through the chakras is ungendered, at the interface level between the chakras and the body, there are differences that mirror the physical differences between men and women. Trans and pan gender individuals will often experience the chakra patterns associated with the gender they most strongly identify with, or aspects of both. While male-female energy body patterns exist on a spectrum, rather than simply being binary, knowing about these differences can really help finetune chakra work.
The most important difference is that women’s energy bodies tend to be anchored in their second chakra, located in the pelvis, while men’s tend to be anchored in their first, or root chakra, associated with the tailbone, legs and feet. These two chakras serve as the foundation for everyone’s energy body, and so we all need to work to heal and strengthen both, but the differences in anchoring have real-world implications for women and those who identify as female.

The primary difference is that women’s energy bodies are more centripetal and tend to pull in and absorb other’s energies. While anyone can be empathic, women by default tend to be more this way. This is because the second chakra is receptive and ‘yin’ in nature, and so having their energy bodies anchored here means women’s energy bodies are more receptive in general. It also means women’s energy bodies are more adaptable and fluid, which can be a good thing when in a positive environment. But it means women need to pay more attention to energetic boundaries in daily life – something most women resonate with as soon as they learn of it.

Take the example of the masseuse Rochelle from above. She couldn’t understand why she felt so drained after just a couple of clients, when physically she still felt strong. The issue was energetic, not physical – she was unconsciously taking on energy from her clients. The reason was partly technical, based on this tendency of the feminine energy body, but also based in personal conditioning – like many women, Rochelle had patterns of people-pleasing that caused her to open up her energy body to others in a way she didn’t need to give a good massage. After learning to work with her root and navel chakras to create a simple, but effective energetic boundary, Rochelle was able to change this tendency, and work with clients successfully without draining herself.

Women’s energy bodies also experience cycles and phases in sync with their physical reproductive cycles and phases. While we now know that both men and women experience hormonal cycles and shifts, for women it is much more pronounced, in the form of menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. Each of these life events comes with its own energetic shifts, and learning to work with them can be key. For example, a woman’s sacral chakra waxes and wanes with her monthly cycle, at its strongest and most emanating at the peak of ovulation, and at its most sensitive and inward-facing during menstruation. While most women can’t organize their lives around their cycle, making even small accommodations can be helpful. For Lauren, the yoga practitioner who experienced extreme fatigue, allowing herself extra rest time and additional focus on her navel chakra during menstruation helped her to reduce the fatigue – and enabled her to tap into the deep contemplative energies available to her during this time.

Post-partum is another life phase in which women can benefit from understanding the energetic shifts occurring. Like Beth, mentioned above, even women with good support and self-care routines can find themselves struggling after birth. Not only is a woman dealing with physical fatigue and hormonal shifts, her energy body is adjusting to an additional energy line in the form of the mother-child bond. While a beautiful form of connection, if a woman leaves this line open all of the time, never learning to close it when she can to experience her energy body’s singular power and integrity, she will often feel ungrounded or uncentered in addition to fatigued. Because the sacral chakra is a woman’s energy body anchor and mother-child lines are centered there, post-partum a woman may also feel as if she can’t access the energies or functions of her upper chakras, with all of her energy pooled downward. Tools to help close the mother-child line when needed, while still maintaining a healthy loving parental bond, are key to a woman’s post-partum physical and mental well-being.

Perimenopause and menopause too are opportunities for energetic and spiritual growth, but are often not recognized as such. We tend to view them as medical events, or as endings. But perimenopause – the years preceding menopause when a women’s body and energy body are beginning to transition – are characterized by surges through the chakras linked to personal growth. Each chakra has particular ‘lessons’ and themes associated with it, and depending on where a women’s greatest obstructions to owning her power lies, she may experience discomfort in her body or psyche as these obstructions attempt to clear. If a woman can stabilize her energy body at this time and engage with energy healing and personal growth modalities, she can enter menopause truly feeling like she is coming into her most powerful and fulfilling time.

For example, Shari from the intro found herself feeling adrift and unfulfilled in her career, in addition to experiencing insomnia and nightly hot flashes. Once she was able to identify her feelings and stabilize her energy body, she began to feel much better. She also began a chakra meditation practice that helped her to smooth the shifts in her energy body as they were occurring. As this unfolded she found herself contemplating a shift in career that felt positive and empowering, and realized it had been coming for a long time. Her shift into menopause from that point was physically and psychologically smooth.

Chakra work should never replace medical and holistic healing advice, but it can play an important role in a woman’s healing and growth. Sexual trauma healing is another area where this is especially the case. Because the second chakra is linked to sexual energy and is also the anchor for a woman’s energy body, sexual abuse and assault can have a particularly damaging impact to a woman’s sense of her own power, and all of her chakra functions. Working gently at this level to clear shame, fear, patterns of hypervigilance and disassociation can be an excellent modality for sexual trauma survivors who are intimidated by the idea of physical body work, or of talk therapy. In other cases, chakra work can be a complementary method to these modalities. For a woman, healing and empowering her second chakra is instrumental to full body, and full psyche, healing.

The wonderful thing about chakra work is that anyone can engage in it, and there are multiple access points. Some people relate more to visualization, some to physical triggers like sound, others to affirmations or emotional memory. Everyone can find a connection point with their chakras, and once they do, can work with them anywhere, anytime. For women, understanding these differences in their chakras and energy body functioning in daily life can help unlock the full potential of their self-healing and manifesting abilities.

About Lisa Erickson:
Lisa Erickson is an energy worker specializing in women’s energetics and sexual trauma healing and author of Chakra Empowerment for Women: Self-Guided Techniques for Healing Trauma, Owning Your Power & Finding Overall Wellness from Llewellyn Publishing.

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Reconciliation of the Heart

By Patti Ashley, Ph.D.

Current research has discovered that the heart is the regulatory organ, not the brain. In order to feel safe and secure, the head and the heart have to be in coherence. Stressful emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety create irregular and erratic heart beats, or what is known as an incoherent heart rhythm pattern, while positive emotions such as appreciation, care, joy, and love create highly ordered, smooth and harmonious heart beats, known as a coherent heart rhythm.

Paying attention to the heart is crucial to overall wellness. Current stressful lifestyles can leave your heart in an incoherent state. Reconciliation of the heart requires an honest inventory of your inner and outer life and a willingness to look at what might be hidden in the shadow. Psychologist Carl Jung defined the shadow as the place in the unconscious where you hide parts of yourself that appear negative to your conscious mind, fearing they may be evil or bad. When you fail to recognize these shadow aspects, they may cause you to feel and/or act in ways you don’t consciously understand.

Prior to the twentieth century, survival was the key component of daily life. Today lifespans are much longer, and we have many luxuries that our ancestors did not enjoy. With modern technology, education, medical advances, and appliances that have decreased the time needed for basic survival, we can now pay more attention to the deeper aspects of what makes us feel more whole.

Additionally, the pace of life has quickened, and we tend to want everything fast. High-speed internet, fast food, and even faster self-help practices and psychotherapies have been suggested. Faster is better. Reaching out and grasping whatever is quick and easy to fill the void and ease emotional pain is commonplace today. Addiction is rampant in our culture. The opiate epidemic affects far too many of our young adults and is a perfect example of an attempt to find a quick fix for the pain. We fear the shadow, and then we run and hide.

Since research on social/emotional needs is relatively new, many people grew up in families and schools where aspects of outdated relational practices were still in place. These rigid, shame-based patterns often resulted in a sense of inauthenticity, or a false self. Charles Whitfield, a medical doctor specializing in trauma and addiction, described in his book, Healing the Child Within, how a false self develops as a way to coverup fear and doubt, focusing on what others want. It is over-conforming, giving love only conditionally, and often covering up, hiding, and/or denying feelings. On the other hand, in an ideal environment, a child develops a sense of authenticity, separate from the needs and desires of others.

Swiss psychoanalysist Dr. Alice Miller thoroughly studied the long-terms effects of outdated practices on families and individuals and dramatically revealed how rigid rules and unrealistic expectations can create conditions where individuals are unable to develop or express their true feelings. It is eye opening to realize how the old dysfunctional patterns actually did much more harm to human development than we consciously recognize. And it is even more disheartening to know that in this educated country, many people are completely blind to these concepts.

Reconciliation of the heart is all about healing the past, present and future. Studies have shown that we are carrying 14 generations of ancestral trauma in our DNA. This means we have an extra difficult job of reconciling the broken and hidden parts. Reconciliation is defined as the action of making one view or belief compatible with another. In order to do that with your heart, you have to excavate your authentic self and learn to live a more congruent life. This requires three things:

1. Willingness to face the whole self- light and dark- knowing this is the only way to self-love. When you stop running from wounds and self-judgments, you can better acknowledge your willingness to face the shadow and be vulnerable to look at the parts of yourself that have been hidden due to fear and shame.

2. Commitment to stay the course even when it gets hard and seems emotionally intolerable. It is so easy to go back to old patterns. Making a commitment, saying yes to the process, and staying the course even when it gets tough.

3. Tenacity to take your authenticity to the next level of healing. Declaring the past is over and will no longer influence you. Staying and not running away or looking for the quick fix. Taking all the time you need to do the work that will return you to self-love and reconcile your heart.

The heart’s journey is one of reclaiming the gifts that you abandoned in order to fit in and realizing it is okay to live the authentic life you are meant to live. Reconciling what has happened, forgiving yourself and creating a new story helps bring you back to your true self. Keep in mind, this is not an easy task. Healing ancestral trauma, staying present in current emotional awareness, and building a brighter future for generations to come calls for willingness, commitment and tenacity.

Songwriters, poets, authors and other artists express themselves from the heart, often inspiring feelings of awe, curiosity and mystery. Studies have shown that creative expression rewires the brain and helps to calm the nervous system and bring the heart back into coherence. So…find something creative or fun that you love to do, and give yourself permission to explore possibilities of your authenticity and joy. Reconcile your heart, and as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”’

About Dr. Patti Ashley
Dr. Patti Ashley, is about the reconciliation of the heart. This idea is all about healing our past, present and future. Dr. Patti Ashley, PH.D., LPC. is a Psychotherapist, Speaker, Authenticity Architect and Author wanting to share her message with your audiences. She is the author of “Letters to Freedom”.

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My Story is Your Story

An excerpt from The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within.
By Diana Rowan

The creative quest is one of the most thrilling journeys we can take. Yet it can also feel overwhelming at the outset. I understand this because I lost touch with my own creativity for decades.

Adrift starting around the age of ten, I only regained my bearings in my early thirties. Despite years of musical study and accomplishments, I felt as if I was clawing around in darkness for a thread of security. Those nightmarish fears performers have? You’ve already seen that I endured them in public: suffering major memory lapses onstage, throwing up before performances, feeling humiliated as I shook like a leaf in front of hundreds of people, running offstage, refusing to go onstage — among other horrors. Performance anxiety is one of the most traumatic and seemingly mysterious problems artists endure. This fear isn’t just theoretical; it was physically, emotionally, and spiritually crushing.

How did I find myself in such a predicament in the first place? My creative journey started optimistically, as many journeys do. I took up piano at age eight. My delight in playing, practicing, and generally being around the piano as much as possible made it clear right away that I would become a professional musician. Perhaps you have joyful early memories of creative encounters, too? As I entered the magical world of music, everything became hyper-real for me. Regular life seemed less vivid, less true, while the musical world bathed me in something golden, bright, eternal. I was home.

It didn’t take long for this reverie to fade. Yes, I was following my bliss, but the ride got rough, and fast. The pressure of exams, recitals, and competitions crushed the joy out of everything. I started avoiding practice, fearing lessons, agonizing over whether I had the exceptional talent to be a professional musician. Maybe you recognize some of these feelings?

Nonetheless, I persevered. I loved music; surely that was a sign that I’d been chosen as gifted? How impossibly cruel life would be if that were not so! But the fears made me doubt my abilities. Were my fears warning me that I didn’t “have it”?

I hoped the fears would fade with time, but they grew worse. The more I accomplished, the higher the stakes became. The battle was relentless. My performance anxiety infected all areas of my life. My short fuse blew small disagreements into major showdowns. I took offense at even the most innocent comments and interactions. I lost trust in my body’s ability to heal itself, became deaf to its signals, and even began to see it as my enemy. In all areas I tortured myself about the ever-present prospect of making public and private mistakes. If any of this sounds familiar to you, I send you a beam of love to fuel your courage going forward.

Casting about for a lifeline, I grappled for that treasure trove of knowledge others seemed to possess. Those in-crowd people who create and perform with joy — why was I so different from them? I needed to exit this vortex, and fast. Performances cropped up regularly. The next exam was always around the corner. And, ironically, the intensity was only going to increase as I got more accomplished. I needed to show up with confidence and inspiration, not as the pathetic figure of weakness I embodied. My ears rang and my eyes watered. I went from vortex to black hole, endlessly craving and swallowing positive feedback, which vaporized instantly. There was no relief. The pressure kept mounting. Nothing made sense. I felt the greatest of fears: that I was alone.

Finally, during my second semester as a music major at the university, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I quit music cold. I was only eighteen years old and believed the life I had hoped for was already over.

Enter the Allies
Take heart. I discovered that my allies had been gathering around me my entire life, and I’ve found this to be true for almost everyone. You have far more support eagerly waiting in the wings than you know. We’ll be finding out who and what your supports are soon. Who and what were my allies?

My parents were still college students when I was born. I enjoyed being the novelty only child among the young, wild Dublin intellectuals of the ’70s. My father became a diplomat for the Irish government when I was three, giving me the opportunity to grow up all over the world, moving countries every four years or so. I got firsthand experience of the wondrous variety of ways that cultures encourage and interpret human creativity.

This alliance of cultures illuminated new possibilities for me, which I will share with you throughout our journey together. As my creative journey matured, I learned how to incorporate these new perspectives. For example, by moving to California I encountered African music masters who introduced me to a playful freedom where “wrong” notes are understood simply as what chose to show up at that moment. Touring with ban-suri maestro Deepak Ram, I witnessed the unabashedly spiritual foundation of Indian music, where surrender to the divine is second nature. Living in Cyprus and Iraq and traveling all over the Middle East, I participated in the ecstatic communing of that region’s music, where the self, the ego, is not the focus. These were the oases I strung together to form a new continent of creativity. Eventually these diverse influences coalesced into an ethos I could live by. Each of these influences is mighty in its own right; together, they form a lifeline guiding me through today’s labyrinthine world.

Bright Way Activity: Who Supports You?
Just as my many allies have helped me, I hope to be your ally as we traverse this Bright Way together. What other allies have been quietly gathering around you? Take a moment to reflect. Who has been silently supporting you over the years? Even someone who gave you one word of encouragement counts.

When I consider my allies, I realize they all have a common quality: they are purveyors of growth. They believe we can grow and flourish at any time, any place. Limitations, as much as these sage allies acknowledge them, are treated as opportunities for growth, not permanent states or indictments. Who in your life has believed in you and pointed out your constant potential for growth? You may well have a fleet of guardian angels that you never noticed before. Write these names and energies down, for your eyes only.

During the unavoidable challenging moments this school of life throws at us, look at your list of allies and feel heartened. You may even feel inspired to deepen your relationship with them, now that they have emerged from the shadows!

If no one or nothing pops to mind, try this exercise: stand up, close your eyes, and feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Sense each foot in complete contact with the ground. Spread your toes out confidently into the earth. Notice the implicit trust that you’ll stay rooted to the floor rather than fly off. Feel Mother Earth’s unconditional support of you, her gentle presence holding you. You don’t have to grasp for or earn this support. Simply because you are alive, Mother Earth is here as your constant ally. Gather strength from her love.

The Principle of Sacred Reciprocity
Sacred Reciprocity is a South American wisdom philosophy with parallels in most other cultures and eras. In a nutshell, Sacred Reciprocity is the force that seeks balanced relationship in all things so that healthy life can flourish.

Sacred Reciprocity represents an equal exchange of energy that is healthy and helpful for all parties involved. You’ve probably heard the phrase “everything is interconnected.” What does this actually mean? Sacred Reciprocity is an elegant way to grasp and act on the aim of honored interconnection in everyday life. The famous Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” echoes the tenets of Sacred Reciprocity. The more you look, the more you’ll find messages pointing you toward Sacred Reciprocity, hidden in plain sight. Let’s look more closely.

The scope of Sacred Reciprocity, also known as right relationship, allows it to deal in multiple currencies. That is, time and money are not the only ways to get in balance with our creative work — or anything else, for that matter.

For example, if you volunteer at a hospice center, your work benefits the patients, staff, and visitors. You benefit from the love you receive and the opportunity to practice your skill in a low-pressure environment, to name just a few of the possible gifts you receive in turn. Your volunteer work, then, satisfies a core tenet of Sacred Reciprocity, that the exchange be equally valuable to all participants. Only you can determine what equal exchange is for you. We’ll learn more about this when we discuss the practice of honoring your direct experience.

If you have a job you hate, one that drains your soul, no amount of money will make up for this. Why? Because you’re giving away too much of yourself to be in a healthy balance. Further, you’re operating from a place of fear (“What will happen if I give up this soul-crushing job and the steady paycheck that comes with it?”), fear being an additional drain.

There are many permutations of how energy comes into balance. Sacred Reciprocity gives voice to these many dimensions, freeing you up to honor what makes sense for your life both right now and in the long term.

Wisdom traditions of the world have many ways of describing what happens when Sacred Reciprocity is not respected. The original Greek and Hebrew Biblical words for “sin” are amartano and chata, respectively, which also translate as “missing the mark.” In other words, true connection has not been made, and where there is no connection, there is no love. In Hinduism the concept of karma explains how the quality of connection we make leads to either positive or negative outcomes in life. Buddhism takes this perspective: “Every action, good or bad, has an inevitable and automatic effect in a long chain of causes.” Pagan spirituality’s law of return states that what you put out into the world returns to you threefold — emotionally, physically, and spiritually — recognizing many dimensions, Sacred Reciprocity style.

Finally, you don’t have to have a spiritual outlook to live in Sacred Reciprocity: “Humanists believe that this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet.” Sacred Reciprocity applies everywhere, a clear guide for our complex times.

Creativity and Sacred Reciprocity: The Fuel-Fulfillment Loop
When you’re in Sacred Reciprocity, you’re functioning from and sharing your highest self. Your true self comes from a source, however you define that mighty energy, whether as God, spirit, higher power, or life force. Your creativity gives form to this great life spirit. Given the magnitude of this, your creative urge must be fulfilled, and your message must be heard, even if by only you.

A void opens in our hearts when we ignore our creative voice. This hole often gets filled with external activities and expectations misaligned with our true selves. We fall prey to the mercy of goods, substances, and other people, immersed in fearful living. We’ve all been there and will be there again. Yet there are reliable routes out of this dead end. The Bright Way is one of these routes.

Throughout human civilization we have pondered whether the universe is friendly or hostile, or perhaps even indifferent. Living in Sacred Reciprocity, we affirm that the universe is friendly. We know the universe as our beloved collaborator, a perspective that in itself can transform our life for the better. Allow in the positive energy that wants to reach you: lower your shield of fear. Imagine yourself as a solar panel, effortlessly attracting sunny energy. This is available to you right now. We’re in this together. My story is your story. Let’s make our stories shine bright!

About Diana Rowan:
Diana Rowan is the author of The Bright Way. She is a professional harpist with an MM in classical piano performance and a PhD in music theory. She is also the founder of Bright Knowledge Guild, an online creative community that offers students around the world access to her Bright Way system. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find out more about her work at www.DianaRowan.com.

Excerpted from the book The Bright Way. Copyright ©2020 by Diana Rowan. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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Using Sacred Smoke for Spiritual Cleansing

By Minerva Siegel

Smoke cleansing is a great way you can use the power of scent to prepare your energy for a tarot reading. Different forms of smoke cleansing have been used in cultures all over the world for centuries. In Catholicism, censers filled with smoking incense are swung back and forth during some liturgical services. Smudging is a practice common in many Indigenous cul¬tures that involves burning plants (commonly sage) in an abalone shell and fanning the smoke with a feather. In recent years, people have often used the term “smudging” incorrectly to refer to the practice of simply burning sage. The actual act of smudging is a sacred Indigenous ritual. If you’re not of a culture that traditionally practices smudging, please use terms like “smoke cleansing” or “aroma cleansing” to refer to your own sacred smoke practice.

Smoke cleansing refreshes both personal energy and the energy of a room. It clears the auric field, and it rids a space of unwanted and/or negative energy.

Spiritual Self-Care Tip: Cleansing Your Tarot Space

It can be difficult to feel relaxed and ready for a tarot ritual in a messy space. When in chaotic, unorganized places, your energy can often reflect that environment. Infusing a cleaning routine with magical intent is a great way to prepare a ritual location for a reading—plus, it’s just good spiritual hygiene. There are many ways to do this. You can:

• Play recordings of crystal singing bowls or other meditative sounds while you clean
• Use sage-infused cleaning products (sage is an energetically cleansing plant)
• Create a floor-washing solution with spiritually purifying essential oils such as lavender
• Burn magically dressed candles that feature uplifting essential oils

Spiritual Self-Care Activity: Smoke Cleanse with Sage

Smoke cleansing can also be used to cleanse residual energy from objects! You can smoke cleanse all second-hand objects that come into your possession to make sure they’re filled with nothing but positive vibes. Use the following guide to smoke cleanse with sage:

Items Needed:

1 small fire-safe container
1 bundle dried sage
A lighter or matches

Instructions:

1. Use light or matches to light one end of the dried sage bundle in fire-safe container.
2. Use lighter or matches to light one end of dried sage bundle in fire-safe container.
3. Blow out the flame after a moment or two, leaving the end smoking steadily.
4. Walk around the room with the container of sage, making sure the smoke wafts into every corner.

You can also say protective prayers or chants while doing this cleanse. Here is one example: “Chase away things that cause fright. Leave only love. Leave only light.” Perform this ritual weekly throughout your home as energetic maintenance. It can also be done when someone in the home is experiencing nightmares, after arguments, and before spiritual activities like reading tarot.

Filling the space with a cleansing aroma will set the perfect tone for reading tea leaves, trying out a new tarot playlist, or performing any other practice you enlist to prepare your energy for a tarot reading. Be sure to explore different scents as you gain experience reading tarot to find out which ones are most helpful to you.

Excerpted from “Tarot for Self-Care” by Minerva Siegel. Copyright © 2019 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used with permission from the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

You can learn more here.

About Minerva Siegel:
Minerva Siegel is a writer, social media influencer, and model. A Sagittarius with a Capricorn moon, she has a deep passion for practicing secular witchcraft, which she considers an essential part of her self-care routine. Over the years, she’s cultivated her practices in the divination arts, such as tarot, reading tea leaves, and astrology, through a transformative and modern lens, while retaining respect and reverence for tradition. She has contributed to the publications “Offbeat Home” and “Offbeat Bride”, and currently writes for “Elite Daily”. Minerva is active with her 64k followers on Instagram, and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband and their rescue dogs. She is the author of Tarot for Self-Care.

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Zen & Enlightenment & Giveaway

If you’ve been a reader of The Magical Buffet for just about any length of time, you know I love me some Brad Warner. I’ve featured nearly every book he has written on my site. So, believe me when I tell you that this may be my FAVORITE Warner book. This is the book I’ve been waiting for and Warner has been putting off writing. Welcome to your Zen Buddhism 101 book with cool professor Warner. In order to pull it off, Warner needed a framing device to make it work for him. He did it in the form of letters to his childhood friend Marky, who passed away shortly before work on the book began. I’m generally not a fan of the letters format, but Warner’s conversational writing works perfectly with it, and honestly, whatever it took for him to finally give me my grand overview of Zen Buddhism is okay with me.
Here’s a 5 minute video where Warner discusses the book:

And New World Library was kind enough to provide an excerpt to share as well….
By Brad Warner

Through sheer dumb luck I happened to encounter Zen Buddhism when I was a teenager. I didn’t go looking for it. It was just there at exactly the time I needed it to be.

I don’t believe in Buddhism either, by the way. It’s not like I heard their fairy tales and figured they were better than anybody else’s stories. The Buddhists have fairy tales too. The difference is that nobody cares if you believe them. They don’t care whether you believe their stories because the very idea of a you who can believe in stories is something they also call into question.

Even so, I’m not all that interested in Buddhism. I’m much more interested in what is true. What I like about Buddhism is that the Buddhists are also interested in what is true. At least, most of them are.

I’m not sure if Zen Buddhism would have helped you or not, Marky. I never tried to sell it to you. You knew I was into it, but you never asked.

I never liked people who tried to sell me their religions. I know you didn’t either, so I wasn’t gonna do that to you. No one ever tried to sell me Zen Buddhism. If they had, I would have regarded them as people who were too insecure to believe in something unless a bunch of other people believed it too. I have no time for that.

But nowadays I’m a minor spiritual celebrity. I’m not as big as Deepak, but I’m big enough to make a living at it. Which was always a source of embarrassment whenever I interacted with you and still embarrasses me when I’m around friends who, like you, knew me long before I started doing what I do now.

I see spiritual celebrities as charlatans, as people who make their living selling empty promises that they themselves don’t even believe. I swear that’s not what I do. But I don’t have anything against anyone who assumes the worst about me in that regard. Because that’s probably what I’d assume about me if I wasn’t me.

Spiritual celebs play the same stupid games as regular celebs. They, or maybe I should say we, validate each other the same way cheap nightclub singers do when they get on TV talk shows.

It’s like there’s a little Enlightened Beings Club. Here’s how it works. Some guy says he’s got enlightenment. He has a story to back him up about the wonderful day when he finally understood everything about everything. Another guy, his teacher, certified him as a member of the Enlightened Beings Club. And now he’s ready to help you learn to be just like him.

You go to the enlightened guy, and he trains you to imitate the things he says. Or if he’s real clever he teaches you how to rephrase his schtick in your own words. If your imitation meets his criteria, he gives you his seal of approval, and off you go. The industry is self-perpetuating. It’s in your teacher’s best interests to support your claims of enlightenment since you, in turn, are expected to support his. Without such support, the whole thing falls to pieces.

If someone comes along and says, “Ain’t no such thang,” it threatens the whole system since it is built on extremely shaky ground. Unless people believe in enlightenment, enlightenment cannot exist. The enlightenment they sell is nothing more than the belief in enlightenment.

This is the same deal with religions. Believing in God is not like believing in the existence of Mount St. Helens or something tangible like that. The difference is that you can question the existence of Mount St. Helens all you want, but it doesn’t go away. But when someone questions the existence of God, the very existence of God is threatened, because that sort of God is nothing more than the belief in God.

And here’s what’s even weirder.

It turns out that enlightenment actually is real.

God actually does exist.

I don’t know how you feel about my saying that now that you’re dead, Marky. But I know that when you were alive you would have rolled your eyes at me. And I would not have blamed you.

There are a lot of things I wish I’d talked to you about. But I didn’t. And so I’m writing you this letter. Maybe I’ll write you a bunch of letters. There’s a lot to say. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife and you can somehow read these letters, or if there’s reincarnation and you’re still a baby and can’t read them, or if you just stay dead after you die, in which case you’ll never even know of their existence. Maybe I’ll write about that in another letter.

All I know is that whether or not you can receive what I’m saying doesn’t change the fact that there are things I want to say. And so I’m going to say them.

But I’m going to have to say them later because right now there’s nobody else in the Pizza Pazza and the surly guy behind the counter is giving me a funny look. So I’d better scarf down my cold pizza and go.

About Brad Warner:
Brad Warner is the author of “Letters to a Dead Friend about Zen” and numerous other titles including “It Came from Beyond Zen”, “Don’t Be a Jerk”, and “Hardcore Zen”. A Soto Zen teacher, he is also a punk bassist, filmmaker, and popular blogger who leads workshops and retreats around the world. He lives in Los Angeles where he is the founder and lead teacher of the Angel City Zen Center. Visit him online at www.hardcorezen.info.

Excerpted from the book “Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen”. Copyright ©2019 by Brad Warner. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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Are You Willing to Take Up the Shepherd’s Staff — and Help Spread Love & Peace

By James Twyman

Set aside your computer for a moment and see if you can guess who wrote these words: “I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated, but our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. What was really needed…were ten Francis of Assisi’s.”

I love asking this question and I’m not surprised when people give credit to revolutionary characters like Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When I tell them they’re wrong their answers become even more interesting – Napoleon, George Washington, etc. “How about John Lennon?” someone recently asked.

“You’re close,” I said, “but only because their names sound similar. The answer is Lenin, not Lennon – the architect of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.”

Lenin? Is it possible that the communist leader who referred to religion as “medieval mildew” and called the clergy “gendarmes (French policemen) in cassocks” had fallen in love with a twelfth century Italian mystic who gave everything he owned to the poor in order to live the Gospel of Jesus as perfectly as he could? Clearly St. Francis has inspired millions of people for more than eight hundred years, to the point that statues of the saint occupy gardens everywhere you look today, but how did an atheist like Lenin become so enthralled?

Maybe Lenin has something to teach all of us in this regard. The end of the quote is: “What was really needed in Russia were ten Francis of Assisi’s,” but we could just as easily substitute that in our own world today – and it would be just as true.

Does it sound like a ridiculous dream in the world of bullying, fake news and racist attacks? When you know a little about the history of Europe, especially at the time of St. Francis, you realize things weren’t that different – the pope was at odds with the Holy Roman Emperor, city states were constantly at war with other city states, and tension between the very rich and the very poor was at an all-time high.

Which leads to the question Vladimir Lenin seemed to be asking – Are we trying to solve the problems of the world with the same thinking that got us into trouble? If so, maybe ten radical people like St. Francis of Assisi are enough to turn things around.

Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Was Mead’s thinking influenced by St. Francis when he wrote: “Pure, holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world?”

When you examine the current direction of the world — especially politically — it’s easy to agree that the current wisdom isn’t so wise, so maybe thinking outside the box isn’t such a bad idea.

Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has taken considerable heat for challenging the status quo. She encourages us to “love with conviction” and “wage peace,” the same ideas St. Francis would have expressed if he was alive today. But at least she is willing to stand for these ideas on a national stage, inching these concepts forward, planting seeds in the minds of people who may not have viewed the world from this perception.

So I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring, but not as a Presidential candidate. I want to take up the challenge issued by Lenin and become one of the ten St. Francis’s needed to turn the world around.

Here are a few things I’ll need to do if I’m to accomplish my goal: Be willing to give everything for love; think less about my own comfort and more about the wellbeing of others; and finally, challenge my own limiting beliefs and be willing to see everyone through the eyes of love. If I can do that, even in some limited way, maybe others will make a similar decision and step forward in their own way. All I need are nine more.

St. Francis’s example directly challenged the powers that ruled Europe eight hundred years ago, and yet his vision is celebrated today. He lived at the end of what we now call the Dark Ages, but he was also one of the inspirations that initiated the Renaissance, an era of great light and creativity.

Is it possible that hundreds of years from now people will look back at this time in a similar way, calling it another Dark Age? And if they do, will they also celebrate the few dedicated people who stepped forward just as St. Francis did? Are we on the cusp of a New Renaissance?

About James Twyman:
James Twyman, bestselling author of “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”, will bring his stirring new musical on “St. Francis Brother Sun, Sister Moon” to Broadway on February 20-March 1, 2020. And with the beloved saint as his model-he will travel a continent penniless, on foot and with whatever food, housing and further transportation that God will provide to get him there, presenting the play in 10 cities along the way. Twyman is also the NY Times bestselling author of 15 other books including “The Moses Code” and “Emissary of Light”. He has also recorded more than 18 music albums including the Billboard chart bestseller “I AM Wishes Fulfilled” along with Dr. Wayne Dyer; as well as produced or directed seven feature films. For more information on Twyman, and the “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” Musical Tour stops and performances– and “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis”–visit: www.JimmyTwyman.com

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