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research on social/emotional needs is relatively new, many people grew up in families and schools where aspects of outdated relational practices were still in place.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.

Shop your local indie bookstore <---This is an affiliate link to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use this link to purchase the book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. But wait, there’s even MORE! New World Library is going to send one lucky winner a copy of “Letters to a Dead Friend About Zen”! As usual, we’re doing the Rafflecopter thing, so see the widget below! Contest ends 12/06/2019 at 11:59pm eastern. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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Five Core Beliefs for a More Peaceful and Meaningful Life

By Carly Pollack

The more you control the voice in your head, the easier it will be to allow guidance to come forth from your higher self. If your house is dilapidated and built on a crooked foundation yet located on a beautiful piece of property, do you try to put up new walls, give the house a fresh coat of paint, and hope for the best? No. You tear that sucker to the ground. Strip it of everything, including the foundation, and then start from scratch. We need to break the mind down to its core beliefs, decide how we want to view the world, and then build up from there. This requires a new set of basic beliefs, a new system for you to honor and practice.

During my many years of working with clients and walking my own spiritual path, the following five core beliefs have helped me live in a more peaceful and meaningful way. Whether you love these five or wish to make up your own, I encourage you to print them out and put them in a place that allows you to see them throughout the day.

Five Core Beliefs
1. Everything happens for me, not to me. There is meaning and growth opportunity in this experience.
2. Everything is unfolding perfectly at the exact right time.
3. Out of this, only good will come.
4. The Universe is looking out for me and conspiring in my favor.
5. I am enough, and I am loved.

Let’s examine these one at a time.

1. Everything happens for me, not to me. There is meaning and growth opportunity in this experience. You can’t control what happens in your life. Believe me, I’ve tried this from all angles (and endured a lot of suffering from doing so). You can, however, control what these events mean to you. You have the power to create any story you want. You can say, “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me,” or you can create a more positive and empowering narrative.

2. Everything is unfolding perfectly at the exact right time. We live in a time when the world is at our fingertips. Social media shows us the highlight reel of everyone’s life, not the outtakes. One scroll through your Instagram feed, and you feel behind. “I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend/better job/child/more money/bigger home/bigger career/flatter stomach.” Believing that everything is unfolding perfectly on your life path allows you to take a deep breath and be grateful for the way that your story is unfolding. You must trust that the person you look up to was at one time standing right where you are. There is nothing amiss here. This is your story, and it gets more beautiful once you surrender to it. Fries won’t make you feel better about where you are in your life’s path, but this belief will.

3. Out of this, only good will come. You are most likely in the habit of living your life in hindsight. You experience massive stress and emotional turmoil when something undesirable happens, and then years later you look back and say, “I understand why that happened.” Think about your first heartbreak. Were you completely lovesick, devastated, and hopeless about ever finding love again? How do you feel about it now that some time has passed? Bad things are going to happen. It’s simply the human experience. No one is exempt from the pitfalls of being alive. Imagine being in the moment when the shit hits the fan and telling yourself that only good will come of this. This belief allows you to feel at peace, even while you are in the midst of chaos.

4. The Universe is looking out for me and conspiring in my favor. Whether you call it the Universe, God, Love, and so on, something more significant is guiding you and knows even better than you what you need to experience in your lifetime. Personally, I don’t want to believe that it’s all up to me. That’s just too much pressure! I have peace knowing something greater is working its magic on my behalf.

5. I am enough, and I am loved. You don’t have to be anything other than what you are right now. You don’t have to be richer, thinner, smarter, or more successful. You will feel most fulfilled when you wake up every morning with the desire to be better than who you were the day before. The difference is the energy you bring to this appetite for more. Wanting to evolve as you come from a place of feeling enough has exponentially more power than wanting to be more to prove to yourself that you are enough.

When beginning to take control of the voice in your head, please be patient. Your first reaction will be to go to your default survival mind. Take a little space, and start to do the work. Call on your new belief system, and ask your higher self for guidance. Have compassion for yourself in the process; you are doing the hard work of rewiring yourself from a place of fear and control to one of love and surrender. This requires daily practice but will ultimately give you the clarity you need to take action and live your life’s purpose. This purpose is nothing more than awakening to your gift and sharing it with the world, living in harmony with the flow of life, and enjoying your adventure as it unfolds.

About Carly Pollack:
Carly Pollack is the author of Feed Your Soul and is the founder of Nutritional Wisdom, a thriving private practice based in Austin, Texas. A Certified Clinical Nutritionist with a master’s degree in holistic nutrition, Carly has been awarded Best Nutritionist in Austin five years running and has helped over 10,000 people achieve their health and happiness goals. Visit her online at www.carlypollack.com

Excerpted from the book Feed Your Soul. Copyright ©2019 by Carly Pollack. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

How to Create Heart-Centered Relationships

By Deirdre Hade

Love is necessary for a happy life. When we have love, we’re happy. It’s simple; but getting, understanding, and maintaining love tends to be challenging. How do you go about creating a life of love and heart centered relationships?

Creating Heart Centered Relationships

To create heartfelt relationships, the first thing to remember is that, from the broadest of perspectives, everything in life is really the love story of the Universe. Think about that in terms of your life. What if every encounter with a person you desire a heartfelt relationship with was perceived and felt as a love scene? How would you ask for something? What would you say if you were upset or had been wronged? When you approach relationships from the love that resides within you instead of acting from your ego – seeking power, wanting to “win the seat,” or other ego generated dynamics – you will be able to create heart centered relationships.

Slay the Yetzer Hara and the Energy of Confusion

However, part of the human condition is what the Kabbalah calls the energy of the yetzer hara – the energy of confusion. This energy will show itself and arise in the times when we are closest with those we love. So, another key is to be watchful and to be aware that the energy of yetzer hara is going to show up. There’s no way around it. And when it does show up, the secret is to see it for what it is by engaging the “Silent Watcher” within. The Silent Watcher is the first embodiment of having a spiritual practice. It is the ability to impartially observe your internal landscape – your feelings, how your ego processes experiences, what your heart is feeling. When you’re in touch with your Silent Watcher, you can see negativity before it erupts and thus make a conscious choice to not play into the hands of the ego.

Cultivate Gratitude

Another useful practice for creating heart centered relationships is to affirm the love that others have for you. Acknowledge your gratitude for the presence and love that those in your life bring you. It’s especially important to affirm the positive when there is a disturbance in a relationship. You do this by separating the other person’s behavior from who they really are. By staying connected to their true heart and soul and breathing through the difficulties, you will not only stay connected to the people you love; you will give them the spiritual strength to overcome the demons and negativity they are experiencing.

Spend Time in Pure Silence

Remember, also, to spend time in pure silence on a regular basis in your most intimate relationships, such as with your partner, family, and close friends. The soul and heart know love. It’s our mouth, what we say, and our ego mind that sometimes gets in the way. Engage in a practice of spending time together without speaking – simply being and dropping into Presence. Let me give an example from my marriage: Will and I often take hands to simply look at each other and be in love, in silence. Invariably, this incredible presence of love is felt between the two of us. Another example is when my father and I would take silent walks together under the magnolias and the evergreen trees. Holding his hand in silence is one of my most cherished memories. It was worth everything in the world to have those moments of true love, especially now that he is gone.

About the Author:
Deirdre Hade is a mystic, artist and visionary elucidating the spiritual world. You can visit her at www.deirdrehade.com

Newsletter # 4 (1940)

Interesting title, no? The title is the way it is because this is an excerpt from the recently released “The Collected Letters of Alan Watts”. This is a little bit of history because this is from an actual newsletter Watts wrote in 1940! Well I think it’s cool.

Newsletter #4

Once upon a time there was a lunatic who used to pass the time by sitting in a corner and beating himself on the head with a brick. When asked the reason for this interesting behavior he replied, “Well, it feels so pleasant when I stop.” Very often the lunatic is nothing more than a caricature of people supposed to be sane; we call him a lunatic only because he expresses fundamental traits of human nature in the most obvious and concrete manner, whereas sane people carry on the same processes in more veiled and mysterious ways. And the performance of beating oneself on the head with a brick is an exact caricature of man’s chief spiritual problem, for we have to realize that our apparent lack of what Oriental sages call Enlightenment (bodhi) or spiritual freedom (kaivalya) is due to our not having ceased to knock ourselves on the head with a brick. Naturally, the realization of Enlightenment is accompanied by an enormous sense of relief — not because we have acquired something new, but because we have got rid of something old. Enlightenment, wisdom, or a sense of harmony with life and the universe is present within us all the time; it becomes apparent when we cease to use the brick just as the moon becomes visible when the clouds are blown away. But we appreciate the light of the moon more keenly when it emerges from the clouds; if it had been shining openly all the time we should never have experienced the sudden ecstasy of light breaking in upon darkness. And for this sudden ecstasy we have to be thankful for the darkness as much as for the light.

At the same time, our lack of Enlightenment or freedom is only apparent, for in a special sense “the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” In this sense the darkness is also a manifestation of the light but does not understand it. Therefore as soon as we understand that our very lack of realization is itself an aspect of Enlightenment, our ignorance turns into wisdom. Thus a Buddhist text says, “If the accumulation of false imaginations is cleared away, Enlightenment will appear. But the strange thing is that when people gain Enlightenment they realize that without false imaginations there could be no Enlightenment.” In Vedanta philosophy and Buddhism alike Enlightenment is the nature of the universe; all possible forms and aspects of life are manifestations of Brahman or “Buddha nature” because there is only one ultimate Reality. Thus maya, which in one sense is darkness or illusion, in another sense is the creative power of Brahman. Now Enlightenment is the condition of union with that power, and we realize its freedom in understanding that not even in ignorance or darkness can we be deprived of that union.

There is a Buddhist story of a disciple who asked his teacher, “How can I find liberation?”

The teacher replied, “Who is putting you in bondage?” “Nobody.” “If so, why should you seek liberation?” And for this reason it is often said that Enlightenment cannot be found by doing something about it, for it is always a question of being rather than doing. Hence the saying, “Seek and you will find not; become and you will be.” Become what? Become what you are. Thus the Orient has always sought wisdom in meditation rather than action, but from this it should not be supposed that meditation is a passive way as distinct from an active way. Both activity and passivity are forms of doing; the latter is indirectly doing by not doing. Therefore the West has found it difficult to understand what is really meant by meditation. Meditation is not only sitting still like a Buddha-figure, nor is it thinking about something, for the Upanishads say that the stars, the trees, the rivers, and the mountains are meditating — unconsciously. Conscious meditation is a knack, and as an exercise it is a way of learning that Enlightenment comes to pass in us as much when we are doing nothing to produce it as when we are in the midst of activity. Thus the “sitting-still” meditation of the Orient is so much valued as a way of enlightenment because in it we are able to realize that our spiritual freedom consists not in our manner of doing and thinking, but in the fact of our being.

Enlightenment and realization is the main theme of our informal lectures and discussions at my apartment during the first few months of this year, and future letters will keep those who cannot come acquainted with the course of our work. We shall be studying first the Hindu and Chinese views of Enlightenment and the technique of its realization on the basis of readings from original sources and also from that famous allegory of the “Oxherding Pictures.” We shall then go on to consider the expression of Enlightenment in Chinese art and in the mental and physical culture of the Far East as a whole. Finally we shall compare our findings with Western equivalents of the way to Enlightenment — in particular with Christian mysticism and analytical psychology. This letter is a cordial invitation to those of you who do not already come to join us. Groups are now meeting on Mondays at 8:30, on Wednesdays at 8:30, and on Thursdays at 8:30. The last of these is generally speaking reserved for those who have already some knowledge of these matters and who do not feel the need of any introduction to basic principles. The group which meets on Thursdays at 3:15 has not yet been started again, but will begin as soon as arrangements can be made, and those who would like to come on Thursday afternoons would assist me by letting me know as soon as possible. And may I say again that comments on these letters will always be welcome and will always be answered.

Alan W. Watts, New York City, January 1940

About Alan Watts:
Alan Watts (January 6, 1915 – November 16, 1973) was a British-born American philosopher, writer, speaker, and counterculture hero, best known as an interpreter of Asian philosophies for a Western audience. He wrote over 25 books and numerous articles applying the teachings of Eastern and Western religion and philosophy to our everyday lives.

Excerpted from the book “The Collected Letters of Alan Watts”. Copyright ©2018 by Joan Watts and Anne Watts. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

Witchcraft and Sovereignty

By Christopher Orapello, and Tara-Love Maguire

Witchcraft ties deeply into matters of personal governance and individual control. It addresses, with blood and sweat, the ills of life and society. In the hands of those who won’t sit idle as life just happens to them, it’s a tool for change. It’s about magick and spells, herbs and spirits, flying and divining. It’s about living in the world, for better or worse. It is raw. It is dirty. It is a skillset, a discipline. It is an art. Witchcraft is dwelling in the woods where people rarely go. It can be found right in your yard, in a nearby park, or in an undefiled and wild land. It is resting in forgotten caves and beneath silent trees. It even dwells in the endless bowels of the city, a living entity all its own. It is basking under the moon at night, breathing slowly beneath the silent stars. Witchcraft is all of these things and it has always been there, waiting to be rediscovered. It is a response to the fears lurking in the darkness and a means to deal with them. It is a weapon. It is a talent. It is an instinct.

Witchcraft is not simply about magick; that is why there are sorcerers. Witchcraft is not just about herbs; that is why there are herbalists. Witchcraft is not only about divination or contacting spirits; that is why there are psychics and mediums. Witchcraft is something wholly, entirely different. It is a lifestyle, a vocation, a liminal space defined by experience. It is a virtual crossroads where several paths meet and create their own space by virtue of their intersection.

Witchcraft is a methodology. It is a multifaceted practice that combines several skills and avenues of knowledge. The paths that comprise it sit squarely upon the landscape of history and folklore, individually distinguishable as magick, divination, and herbalism.

Magick leads to spells and exerting your will upon the cosmos to influence desired changes and effects. Divination is the act and process of divine seeing or foretelling the future. Herbalism is the knowledge and application of herbs for medicinal, culinary, and ritual use. The combination and interplay of these three streams of knowledge enable other practices like seership, soul flight, and necromancy to take shape. It is only when these various practices are blended together that witchcraft emerges as a distinct practice that uniquely combines history and folklore, magick, divination, herbalism, hedgewitchery, and necromancy into a unifying system that we refer to collectively as the Six-Fold Path.

Magick, divining, working with and growing herbs, having visions, flying out of the body, and consorting with ghosts of the dead. Witchcraft is all of these things. It consists of no religion or dogma. It has no need for clergy. It worships no deities. It celebrates no intrinsically holy days. Witchcraft is a practice that is focused on successful function, rather than being beholden to the aesthetics, symbols, and affectations of 19th-century occultism.

Witchcraft is secular and filthy—dirty, figuratively and literally. There will be times when you walk through your everyday life bearing the stains of some working you’ve performed. The evidence may be anything—the faint scent of scrying incense in your hair, a smudge of charcoal on your cheek, dirt under your fingernails. You will look at these traces of your craft and only you will know what they represent. And that knowledge will give you strength, a secret shield. You will look at them and think to yourself: I did that. And your face will flush briefly from the power of that knowledge. Your power.

About the Authors:
Christopher Orapello is an artist, witch, and animist with a background in Western occultism, ceremonial magick, and Freemasonry and has been on his journey for over 20 years. He cohosts the podcast Down at the Crossroads with his partner, Tara Maguire, and is a signature artist with Sacred Source, a leading producer and distributor of ancient deity images in North America. After a growing desire for a more locally based form of witchcraft, he and Tara founded the Blacktree Coven in 2014 and set out to forge a modern approach to traditional witchcraft for a new era of praxis.

Tara-Love Maguire has been a practicing witch for over 30 years. Her path has been crookedly influenced by Isobel Gowdie, Marie Laveau, and William S. Burroughs (among others). Growing up in and around the New Jersey Pine Barrens, she found witchcraft within the tales and shadows of that folkloric landscape. She cohosts the podcast Down at the Crossroads with Christopher Orapello and is one of the founders of the Blacktree Coven, which exists in the heart of southern New Jersey.

Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, BESOM, STANG & SWORD by Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.

The Gifts of Bum-Bum-Biting Moments

By Alexia Vernon

Resilience is defined both as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” and as “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.” While I know through firsthand and client experience that you can be resilient even if you don’t “recover quickly”— and actually, from a moxie perspective, I would measure success more by your ability to heal and expand in the face of difficulties than by the speed with which you can again pass as your normal self — I’m particularly fond of the second definition. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t default to thinking about tough times as an inherent springboard back to my best self. Yet opportunities that cultivate our resilience can be such springboards for us — for you.

That is why embracing (versus taking cover from or bearing down on) your bum-bum-biting moments is one of your most direct pathways to stepping into your moxie. Because moxie is choosing to be brave, speaking up, and disrupting the status quo, I believe you actually need your bum-bum-biting moments to automatically (or at least, more frequently) choose moxie in the pedestrian moments that define your day-to-day. That bears repeating, so I’ll say it again. You actually need bum-bum-biting moments in order to step into the fullest expression of your moxie. Here are some of the specific gifts you unwrap when you choose moxie during these episodes in your life.

Creativity
One of the top ways that resilience strengthens your moxie is by forcing you to tap into your creativity. For whatever has gotten you through similar episodes in your past is often not what gets you through your current situation. And that is precisely why the situation has shown up — for your evolution. Navigating through a bum-bum-biting moment can be a creative process, if you let it. Creativity can be finding that new, renegade way to solve your crisis, or it can be patching together resources when, at first glance, you deem them in short supply. You can also cultivate creativity by choosing to narrate your experience as a chapter about your highest learning and growth — rather than one about loss or failure.

Empathy
When you choose resilience and, as a by-product, moxie, you are also by default growing your capacity to empathize, which is a superpower when it comes to connecting with others, positioning yourself as someone who is relatable and trustworthy, and empowering other people to heal from their pain and be their best selves. When I read testimonials from my coaching program participants, I’m grateful to discover that many have commented on my ability to really see and be in their experiences with them. Now, if you are a therapist, undoubtedly that makes you want to cringe. And I assure you, I do not take on anybody else’s “stuff” as my own — at least, not anymore. (Okay, sometimes I still do, but so much less than I used to.) For when you’ve lived through your own fair share of bum-bum-biting moments, it does grow your ability to empathize with others through their painful episodes and to more adeptly hold space for them as a result.

Transparency
Some people choose to be private about their bum-bum-biting moments, a practice that unfortunately usually breeds both secrecy and additional suffering for the bite-ee. However, those on the moxie path allow setbacks (irrespective of their magnitude) to heighten their truth telling — to themselves, first and foremost, and to others — professionally and personally. You cultivate transparency when you are honest about where and how you are hurting (especially when you aren’t asking people to fix you and want them simply to hold space for your experience). And when you admit that you aren’t perfect, that you don’t have it all together, you also fortify yourself against perfectionism — and perfectionism must be slayed in order for moxie to thrive.

Receiving
When you unapologetically own that you cannot and therefore won’t attempt to power through difficult times alone, you open yourself up to receive support — something that is hard for a lot of women to do (including the one who is typing this out for you). While many women may feel, and at times complain, that nobody takes care of us, the truth is that most of us aren’t asking for the support we need on a regular basis. As a consequence, we are getting in the way of attracting, and when it’s offered, accepting, other people’s help. (Remember our discussion in the last chapter on articulating and upholding boundaries?) Bum-bum-biting moments are fertile ground for strengthening your capacity to ask for and receive support from the people in your life — mates, children, extended family, friends, colleagues, community members. And, when you practice asking the question, “What am I supposed to learn?” without secretly wishing for a quick answer, you also enhance your ability to receive divine guidance, which is, in my humble opinion, the greatest gift we can invite and accept into our lives.

Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the ability to see the truth of ourselves — the good, the bad, and the truly baffling — with compassionate clarity. When you are self-aware, you squelch any and all desire to critique yourself for who you are (and who you are not…yet) and instead, you simply observe and appreciate who you are in the present moment. Resilience does this to you, for you. Because at its core, resilience, like forgiveness, is about making peace with what is rather than holding on to the hope of who you, others, or a situation could have been. As a by-product of resilience, self-awareness activates the fullest expression of your moxie. For when you learn to speak to yourself and others as you/they are, from a feeling of enoughness, your communication will flow clearly, easily, and compassionately.

Over the years some of my greatest discoveries about how to navigate through tough times have come from my clients — people, usually women, who find me because they want to turn their heartbreak into a harrowing, tour-de-force keynote or inspirational talk for others. Often these are women who have lost
children or partners, or have suffered unspeakable abuse (often at the hands of those closest to them).

A huge part of resilience for these women was realizing that their survival and the lessons they have learned must be shared. This is a discovery I suspect you may have had as well — that what you have survived can provide inspiration, insight, and healing for others.

About Alexia Vernon:
Alexia Vernon is the author of Step into Your Moxie. Branded a “Moxie Maven” by President Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement, she is a sought-after speaking and leadership coach who delivers transformational keynotes and corporate trainings for Fortune 500 companies and other professional groups and organizations, including the United Nations and TEDx. Visit her online at www.alexiavernon.com.

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.