The Missing Puzzle Piece

A few weeks ago an odd thing happened.  I found a single jigsaw puzzle piece on my living room carpet.  This was odd because I have not worked on a jigsaw puzzle for over a year (and I have vacuumed several times since then!); and because the last puzzle I did put together is complete and I have not disassembled it.  No missing pieces.

I showed the puzzle piece to a friend who sometimes works puzzles and has visited at my home, but no, she says it could not be from her either.

The puzzle piece itself is not so extraordinary: a sliver of the top of a white and grey cloud against a line of maybe blue mountain scape on a horizon, against a dark blue background. Let’s say it could symbolize a cloud’s silver lining—then, for me as the finder, what could be its significance?

images are from pixabay.com

Maybe that is just it: my missing piece of the puzzle of life is to find silver linings!  Sometimes I do need to remember that; not to stress out when things go out of kilter a bit, either in everyday life or in the larger scheme of worldly events.  Depending on one’s outlook or one’s position in a situation, there can always be a silver lining discerned: opportunities disguised as setbacks.

Still, this could be but one of my “missing puzzle pieces.”  As a journaling exercise I recommend answering What Is My Missing Puzzle Piece About? Brainstorm several possible answers and then explore or contemplate each response.  For example, for me (I always sample first any better endings journaling tool I offer to others), my brainstorming could include:

My Missing Puzzle Piece Could Be About:

  • Taking more time to investigate a situation before acting
  • Listening with greater, and longer, patience
  • More free time for sheer enjoyment
  • Dropping the mind in contemplation practice
  • More laughter, at myself, and healthy humor generally
  • Ways to arrive at greater clarity and conviction
  • Acceptance, gratitude

And so on…guess I have plenty more Puzzles to solve!

How about You? How might you answer this probe?  What might your puzzle piece look like? What could it represent for you?

The Mirror of Erised: What If?

A fun and effective way to reveal your own better endings desires of the heart is to simply fill in the blank for the following probe:  What If ______?  This is like looking into the Mirror of Erised at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter stories.  You may discover there that which you most deeply desire.

For example, allow me to try this on to sample the approach:

WHAT IF?

What If …  I were to find just the right ‘next move’, at just the right time, and I could easily afford it? {This leads me to contemplate: What am I looking for, next?}

What If …   Better Endings (my new book, launching soon!) will help many readers discover next steps in their own life adventures?

What If?I would practice greater patience with a team-building opportunity?

What If? … I could go forward with my science fiction trilogy project by launching Book 1 on Kindle? {What am I waiting for, and why?}

What If? … Peace in the heart helps bring peace in the world?  {I need to remember to be a vehicle of Light and Love, instead of feeding my own or others’ fear or mere condemnation.}

What If? … I could create a backyard labyrinth at my next home, or find a good one nearby? {This is a call for deeper, more regular contemplation, centering, balance.}

What If?I related to all others as the spirit Lights they are, so they could see that for themselves in my mirror of love?

What If? … I could see through the Illusion of separation; in time, space/geography, and spirit?

What If? … I could harness the insights communicated in my dreams, more and more?

What If? … silence is golden?

I like using at least ten prompts as modeled above, because the repetition compels me to look sometimes at the surface and also to deeper levels within.

images are from pixabay.com

I invite you to try this for yourself!  Make a list of ten or more What Ifs? that come to you as you actively imagine and/or journal in response to this prompt.  I urge you to search for and express positive, better ending sorts of responses.  Does this help reveal to you some of the desires of your heart?  Well, then,
of course:

FOLLOW YOUR HEART!

Live Your Dream

“I dreamed it, man!”
Aaron Donald
LA Rams defensive tackle
(2/13/22, after VLII Superbowl game
)

What a wonderful contemplation seed!

The legendary NFL player, Aaron Donald, was not speaking figuratively after his team’s recent Superbowl win; he really did dream of his game-ending play.  Donald sacked the opposing team’s quarterback in the 4th quarter on 4th down with 1 yard to reach a first down, and with only seconds left to play.  Had the Bengals gained that first down they would have likely at least tied the score and sent this year’s Superbowl game into overtime.  But the lineman who sacked the QB to win the Big Game for his team had “dreamed it!” and so it came to be.

What does it take to synch your inner dream world of goals and ‘can do’ possibilities with your outer world of physical action, resulting in the realization of your deeply cherished ideals?  Here is a better endings question well worth pursuing.

If you can visualize achieving your goal, as successful athletes and stage performers learn well, then you can manifest that vision. You forge a thought mold, and then you fill it. There is nothing mysterious or magical or difficult or forbidden about this process of manifestation. But it takes dedication to a worthy goal, study and practice to achieve the skill necessary to enact the pattern (fill the mold), and strong belief in your own ability or talent.

images are from pixabay.com

Better Endings Story Seed:
Live Your Dream

Have you ever worked so hard at pursuing a goal that you literally dreamed of your success and then found yourself living out that dream in ‘real life’? How can you apply your faculty of creative visualization to realize or bring yourself nearer to fulfilling some worthy goal? Journal in your Better Endings Journal (any loose-leaf paper or blank page book) about a ‘dream’ or goal that you would like to bring into reality. Imagine yourself achieving your goal. What do you see? How DID you do it?

The Secret of Freedom

Schrecksee, Mountain Lake, Allgäu, Alps


I have had a blog post written on this title for nearly two weeks, but I have not felt inspired to share what I had written. Instead, this morning a poetic lyric came back into my mind from a song I wrote many moons ago, around 1978:

Between the inflow
and the outflow,
the inspiration and the letting go,
there are changes;
there are changes in the Wind.

I do not know why these lyrics, which have been with me all day today, have resurfaced. If I am correct about when I wrote them initially, that song was written within a year of a huge change in my life, a Big Move from East to West that certainly redirected the trajectory of this lifetime ever since. So why now? I am not planning any major change and have been more in a settling in mode since my third move in as many years now, over a year ago already.

People, Woman, Travel, Adventure, Trek


I feel the answer as to why these lyrics have resurfaced relates to the original title I have planned to write about here: the secret of freedom. This was a topic discussed in a spiritual MeetUp recently that I found motivating. I was going to share about how, for me, cultivating and relying on inner guidance (or inner counsel) is a key to freedom in my life; then I was going to ask you (and will) to reflect about what your own secret to freedom is. But these lyrics speak to the theme quite well, for me. Repeating:

Between the inflow
and the outflow,
the inspiration and the letting go…

So this is where true freedom arises: allowing information or external influences IN, yet then reflecting deeply, exploring the realm of possibilities before: choosing, acting, manifesting–whether that be manifesting change or stability. Right action flows from right discrimination or discernment. I realize for me this is not so much about being Mindful as being “Mind-less”! That is, transcending the mind’s habitual grooves by diving deeply before acting.

Dove, Bird, Freedom, Flying, Pigeon
images are from pixabay.com

The more I contemplate this lyric–between the inflow and the outflow–the more centered I feel and my sense is this is where ‘higher awareness’ itself may be situated or accessible to my human senses. So, take a deep breath when considering a matter: breathe in, rest deeply before breathing out, expressing the next word or action.

******
Better Endings Story Seed:
The Secret of Freedom

What is the secret, for you, of ‘true freedom?’ I invite you to remember and to reflect upon how you have been able to act or think freely in your life. Share with a loved one or write about your thoughts.

Why Are You Here?

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I have always loved the question, and ask it a lot both of myself and of others: “Why Are You Here?”  Recently I have come to a further understanding of how this is a potentially inspiring ‘better endings’ prompt as a journaling or contemplation seed.

“Why are you here?”  carries the double entendre of referring either to the immediate moment or to the ultimate question of what your life purpose is, or your sense of mission.

Why are you here?

WHY ARE YOU HERE?

Either side of this double-faceted query is worth pondering, and it can be illuminating to observe as well how they might converge!

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Recently I have accepted a part-time job working at an academic publishing company in my local home community.  It has been quite an adjustment to be working four days a week (plus continuing online teaching mainly in the evenings for now), around 24 hours per week, after having settled into a rather comfortable semi-retirement lifestyle with a lot of daily flexibility. So, I ask myself, “Why am I here? (at the new job), from both an immediate and a more ultimate spiritual perspective. 

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images are from pixabay.com

Okay, so I am certainly on a learning curve at the new job, learning about the inner workings of a publishing business.  I find myself in a service role there, aiming to help not only by doing the cataloguing work I am assigned to but also helping implement ideas to help the business grow there despite the transition from print to ebooks in the publishing world.  While I also am earning some additional income toward my later years savings goals, the work is fulfilling as a growth opportunity. It requires me to draw on inner creative resources as well as to engage in positive co-workership with the small team that runs the daily operations of the Press.

Knowing how an experience such as a job carries value and contributes to my ultimate spiritual and social goals helps me to frame how this experience can be best integrated into the rest of my life. I do not want to allow this part-time job to prevent me from continuing with teaching—which I find ultimately fulfilling in itself—or to limit my own writing, creative, and spiritual practice activities, or to limit my time with my pets and family and friends!  So, I need to monitor how things are going. I do not want to fit myself to the new job but rather intend to integrate the job into my deeper life as a whole.

******

Better Endings Story Seed:

Why Are You Here?

Ask yourself this question at two different levels: Why are you Here? in your job, social life or location; and WHY ARE YOU HERE? in terms of your spiritual or whole-life goals? Contemplate and/or discuss and journal about this question. I suggest it will take several passes at contemplation and journaling to really sort this out, but as it is a question of defining your life purpose or mission and how your life relates to those, it may be quite worth your while!

Sit Still and DO!

Sheltering in place has its opportunities as well as challenges.  On the down side, over time staying home can seem isolating and lonely.  Then it may feel draining.  Time drones on, days and weeks go by with little advancement but for provisioning and maintaining basic contacts by phone and social media.  But on the up side, there are golden opportunities: for solitude and inner processing, and for Doing.

“Sit still and do something” (Paul Twitchell, Stranger By the River) is a Zenlike koan of sorts: a spiritual nugget or seed.  In that context it can mean to be active even while sitting for deep contemplation. Explore your inner cosmos, reflect on life’s lessons, unfold in wisdom and awareness.  But now this phrase can also mean, for me, stay home and yet find ways to be of service to others and to the Whole.

Many of us are fortunate during the current pandemic to have social media and readily available technology.  With these we can communicate by phone or through our computers and other devices; email, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Google generally and online learning platforms allow us to expand our connections while staying home to provide safety for ourselves and our families.

There is a lot of Doing possible, day by day. For myself I continue to teach online and to write. I attend spiritual discussions online and have learned how to conduct Zoom meetings.    I am helping an elder friend get groceries by adding her items to my Instacart orders. I have also helped send out some positive messages for the general public through placing local Pennysaver ads with my spiritual group that offer online public discussions.

I am finding that, when I can sleep, I am often dreaming deeply, and when I contemplate, that too is  very revealing and helpful. I often go to bed with questions or concerns and wake with answers.

images are from pixabay.com

I do wonder what will result socially after all this staying home and social distancing becomes less necessary.  Are we changing as a society overall to an even more atomistic, socially fragmented population?  Or will we emerge as from a chrysalis, with greater appreciation and gratitude for human and natural connection? Time will tell, but I sense we can benefit greatly if we simply choose to  Sit Still and DO!

Miracles: More than Magical Thinking

A waking dream about my monthly question of ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ comes from watching a Saturday television documentary on a channel I have never watched before. This was a biographical story about a farmer named Jason which got me thinking about the difference or the relationship as well between miracles and magical thinking.

Jason had been a professional football player, a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. You might think this was his dream come true, but no; Jason’s ‘better endings’ story came from asking inwardly for guidance to find his real calling. The answer to his prayerful question was that he should become a farmer. A man of deep spiritual faith, Jason quit his day job and found the farm of his dreams to which to move his family. Having made this choice, a long sequence of miraculous seeming opportunities unfolded, which Jason regards as acts of divine intervention.

The farm Jason ended up buying was not even on sale when he saw it first, but in an indirect way he was redirected to ask and the owners agreed to sell. Jason named his farm “First Fruits,” gifting not just the first season’s crops but indeed all crops for the next several years to anybody in his community in need of produce or food donations. Gratitude poured back from all directions; farmhands, a new tractor, roosters that appeared by a roadside when he was thinking about wanting to find some roosters, and even a donkey that was gifted exactly when he was worried about how to protect some goats against predator coyotes: all were gifted just as the need arose.

images are from pixabay.com

Jason’s story reminds me of a similar sort of autobiographical story described in the interesting book, Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered. There, too, Machaelle Wright tells how she followed her inner guidance despite in her case drastic abuses and obstacles, emerging with an uncanny ability to conjure forth the slightest need–such as manifesting physical tools in her hands during contemplations–to aid her very positive farming enterprise.

So what is the difference or the relationship between miracles and magical thinking? The latter is generally regarded as a matter of frivolous or selfish, wishful thinking; that one should be able, figuratively speaking, to twitch their nose or wave a magic wand to satisfy their or others’ material needs. Some prayer, I would aver, is really a matter of magical thinking being projected onto a concept of divinity in service to selfish desires. As if divinity or the universal good–however you might comprehend that–doesn’t know what one ‘needs’ until It is petitioned, or doesn’t know as well as some mere human what is needed or most beneficial to the highest good or needs of all concerned.

I find in my own practice that true prayer–which I would relabel as contemplative communication with Spirit or the universal good–involves listening TO and FOR the divine principle and being receptive to ITS moment to moment guidance, which can lead to definitely ‘miraculous’ daily events! I comprehend this as enjoining a TANDEM relationship with spiritual guidance and oversight, as it were. It is like riding a two-seated bicycle with Spirit, sometimes on the front driver’s seat and sometimes taking up the rear to allow the guiding wisdom of Spirit to lead the way toward well considered, worthy aims or solutions.

What Difference Does It Make?  The reality of  a positive, tandem relationship with Spirit or the Universe proves in every daily miracle acknowledged or acted upon that the smallest pursuit DOES matter, CAN matter for fulfilling “the greatest interests of all concerned,” so long as that is the intended result of one’s most humble inner quest.

I welcome YOUR story and Comments!

The Sacred Marriage

 

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This month let’s focus on the stage of the Hero’s Cycle known as the Sacred Marriage.    To Joseph Campbell, drawing from Jung, this is that stage by which the masculine and feminine energies of the Hero are merged, allowing the Hero to go forth as a more integrated Whole Self as s/he continues to pursue their Quest.

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To Jung more directly, this is a union of the Animus and Anima and brings about a major transformation of character.  If it represents the actual goal of the individual, it can even be seen as an alchemical achievement of the highest magnitude: Mysterium Conjunctionus!   Masculine + feminine (both energies coexisting within both men and women), or Soul + Spirit, or even Earth + Heaven/ Human + Divine: this is the apex of integrated unity, gold out of lead.

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While the Sacred Marriage is often depicted via an actual Marriage of two characters, ultimately it is an internal achievement, as the individual attains a balance within of their animus and anima traits. Because of this, it can occur within anyone as a solo accomplishment or it could manifest as a relationship union.

Integration or even fusion as the Sacred Marriage represents is a significant spiritual development for it allows the Self to emerge as fully formed, as an expression of Soul.

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images are from pixabay.com

A CONTEMPLATION AND JOURNALING PROMPT:

Can you relate to the topic of the Sacred Marriage?

Do you feel you have achieved this INTERNALLY, whether or not you are partnered with your spouse or a significant other?

If so, what does this open up for you in terms of pursuing your greater goals? If not, how shall you achieve this; again, internally?

I welcome your Comments and Stories!

Making a True Departure / Shifting to Here-Now

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I recognize a distinction between the Present as a current moment in time-space and the Here-Now as a spiritual focus. The NOW experienced in contemplative spiritual practice is a liberating orientation while the notion of Present from a time-space frame of reference is artificial and can be self-limiting. It is a matter of perspective or more accurately it depends upon where you place your attention. If we accept, as I do, that time is an illusion or an artifice of context, then as we shift our focus of attention such as to look ahead with creative visualization or to re-envision a former state of being by reactivating a stored memory, we can focus our consciousness in such a manner as to alter our Present reality. From this angle, the Past is NOW, the Present is NOW, and the Future is also available NOW.

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When I was first in college in Buffalo, New York, I had a friend Ann who was an artist specializing in sculpture. Ann created this amazing piece of conceptual art which was comprised of a five foot tall vertical array of multicolored fabric cords with simply a one foot tall plexiglass tube around them. The art was interactive so it invited you to change the position of the tube up or down along the colored cords, slightly compressing the bundle of colors as you would shift the transparent tube. To me this has always been an excellent metaphor for the practice of contemplation or active imagination. We simply shift our consciousness from Here-Now to another Here-Now to OBSERVE; we focus our locus of attention as we choose. We thus can place and activate our consciousness in any dimension of Nowness at will.

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pictures are frompixabay.com

Locked within a Time orientation, the Present is a bubble from which we never seem able to escape. The freedom to Act is in the Now. To bring about a true change of life conditions as in realizing a desired future that is a true departure from present conditions requires only a subtle shifting of your attention to a Now of your imagining.

See?

I welcome your comments and viewpoint.

Prepare Well for Your Departure

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Every one of the incremental phases of a Hero’s Adventure (click here for the Monthly Topics tab) holds an archetypal Frame of its own, meaning it is embued with a special power by its categorical/ culturally patterned nature. Departure is a ‘thing’ as well as part of the longer process it initiates. So let’s consider here how does one successfully Depart?  I would say from experience that a good Departure requires a mindful, spiritually and psychologically deep approach in order to facilitate a highly successful Adventure.

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Some 39 years ago in 1978 I initiated a Departure from everything I had known. I would take a leap into the Unknown by moving West, from Buffalo, New York to Tempe, Arizona to enter graduate school.  I was leaving so I could study Native American languages and cultures in the Southwest setting so appropriate to that objective. I was to leave family, friends, and all my familiar Eastern environments and weather to go to the Desert and start anew.

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The preparation for departure was quite a long process of nearly two years.  I first took a cross-country bus trip with a dear spiritual friend, Grace. And such an adventure that trip became!  The bus broke down so we were rerouted through Sedona, a mecca of sorts for me at the time as my spiritual group had land there we got to visit.  Plus I met new friends and together we faced the possibility of there being a murderer(signaled by a police woman’s warning) who boarded in Albuquerque, causing me to sink into one of the deepest contemplations of my life—altering my consciousness altogether by the time we arrived in Sedona. (He got off in Flagstaff with his traveling partner, saying: “Goodbye, New Mexico, forever!” To me, when I addressed him after spreading the rumor around the bus as to whom he might be, he had said: “So, how do you feel about YOUR life?”)

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This trip primed me for a love of the Southwest, and I spent the next year in Buffalo preparing for the Big Adventure. I plastered beautiful photographs from Sedona Life magazine all over my office wall.  I asked questions of my Inner Guide nightly in contemplations, e.g.: “Should I really make such a big move?” “Will I be okay?”

Every night then I would dream and in the dream I would be shown an answer to my question. For example one night I asked, “But what about Chela (my beloved Cat companion)? How can she make such a long trip in an overcrowded car with me?”  That night I dreamed I was driving a van across country to Arizona, and in the back, stretched out contentedly on a blanket covering a Player Piano that was musically soothing her, was Chela.

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One morning about six months prior to my departure to the Southwest, I woke with a musical ditty on my mind:

I’m leaving

But there are a few doors left to close

Before I get over there.

For the next six months, that lyric and melody became a daily mantra for me. I came to realize I needed to smooth out some rough edges in my relationships, for instance, and this ditty helped me do that mindfully and with clear intent.

The time came. I packed up my ’66 red convertible Buick Special that my father had gifted me, packed with all the belongings I would carry, and my dear Chela. A friend, Cathy, accompanied us, as she had friends in Mesa, Arizona I would stay with temporarily until I could get situated near the campus at Arizona State University.  We only made one stop along the way, in Colorado Springs at the Garden of the Gods, where I walked Chela and admired the red rocks there which are so similar to the red rocks of Sedona. (Fourteen years later, guess where I moved to teach after graduating with my doctorate? Yes, Colorado Springs, where I have remained ever since.)

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The move to Arizona went exceedingly well. I cried one torrential outpour of tears about two days after reaching there, releasing my pain and fear and grief over leaving everything and everyone familiar to me up til then. But then I met new friends—several of whom I had been shown in those premonition dreams back in Buffalo—and I embarked upon my studies that helped me eventually build a successful, exciting career as an anthropologist.

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images are from pixabay.com

So consider, how shall you PREPARE for your DEPARTURE?  Give this pregnant phase of your Adventure all the loving attention and all the time and dreaming you can invest.  Contemplate where your departure can take you. Prepare for the life you are creating for yourself with this golden opportunity.

Then, Go with Spirit, my friends!  Enjoy your most beautiful Adventure!

Walking the Labyrinth: A Healing Journey

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Lately I have been taken to Walk the Labyrinth, often. I find it to be a superb physical template for the spiritual journey of supplication and immersion that can lead to greater Clarity and Wholeness.

Wholeness is one of the key motifs of the labyrinth path. It is thus a healing journey, a winding, twisting, road that leads one into the Center for a period of contemplative repose, then back out to bring one’s awareness from the inner guidance there received back to one’s daily life.

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When I walk a labyrinth I experience an unwinding and a rewinding of newly harvested potentials.  On the way in, I am winnowing through the concerns of the present, sorting to extract the essential core of the questions or situations I wish to draw attention to spiritually. I am preparing the ground, planting the seeds for deep contemplation at the Center. I am also opening myself to the Presence of Spirit in my own way.

Having arrived at the Center, I feel fully exposed to Spirit and the Divine. I surrender my cares and am the supplicant, asking for inner guidance or resolve, but mainly seeking clarity about the situation being reflected upon. How shall I manage or approach the situation? How can I improve my relationship with all of life inwardly and outwardly in relation to this? I become silent, I go within and actively contemplate, in a state of utter repose and surrender.

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When I feel ready to leave the Center, I re-emerge from the inner focus. I gather my insights, look to see if there is any one idea I am bringing back from the contemplation that can help me to advance with the situation I have been focusing upon. Sometimes there is a new sense of alignment with Spirit in relation to this situation, other times I just feel more integrated, supported, and ready to return to my daily life knowing I will know what to do when the situation calls for action or further reflection.

Walking out from the labyrinth I am “stepping down” with the awareness received, bringing the clarity or sense of love and resolve within me, carrying this like a newborn babe.

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After walking the labyrinth three times over the past week and a half, yesterday I was walking in a shopping mall, partly for a necessary purpose and partly just to walk for exercise. I realized I could still walk a labyrinth there; anywhere you go if you go mindfully and with deep intention to focus your attention in a grounded, holistic way, you are essentially walking Your labyrinth, your path of life, winding and unwinding, attaining a Center and opening, surrendering, accepting with gratitude the vision or lesson received, and bringing that back into your outer, daily life.

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images are from pixabay.com

I welcome your comments and stories!

On a Clear Day…The Future is NOW

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We are exploring the MYSTIC Archetype throughout this month of March.  The Mystic, including your own unconscious persona Mystic archetype Ally within what I refer to as your Ensemble Cast of Mythic Archetype Allies, is capable of serving as a Seer, able to foresee future potentials and probabilities.

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Time is an illusion, as spiritual teachers and more recently modern physicists have emphasized. I have always found a paradox in the spiritual invocation to “Live only in the Present Moment; all exists only Now!” and the notion that NOWNESS in this spiritual sense is not coterminous with the Present tense such as is imaginally constructed in English or other Indo-European languages and cultures.

Spiritual sciences (e.g. Eckankar, my own path of forty plus years) speak of the “spacetime continuum,” as would Einstein, who recognized the inseparability of time-space values.  Physicist Brian Green, in THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE, has demonstrated that the Present on Earth may be Past or Future to some alien being within our own galaxy but on a distant planet (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/fabric-of-cosmos.html). Physicists including Green have also recently claimed that the Future sends information to the Present (or past, backwards in ‘time’) just as we also “look back” on the timetrack when we apply our faculties of memory and reflection.

Future prospection is a very appealing notion to me. We use it whenever we anticipate or wonder about or even ‘daydream’ about “the Future.” So, folks, I invite you to wrap your thoughts around this newsflash:

THE  FUTURE  IS  NOW!

Where/when you place the spotlight of your aware attention is Here-Now! The Present moment is a bubble of awareness along the spacetime-track of your conscious attention, like the floating air bubble in a leveling tool. Now consider that you can shift your attention along this track as easily as you might tilt the leveling tool, to focus on a past or future scenario.

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You do need to be open to this possibility; to accept your own capacity to perceive a wider spectrum of the spacetime continuum.  I have had definite prophetic dreams which later manifested very directly as perceived in the dream, and I often revisit past moments in contemplative inner journeys.  As I prepare for retiring in a little over two years, I often imagine my future scenario living near a lake in Western New York.

What many call “daydreaming” is a great tool for future prospection. It s so simple: close your outer eyes, open your inner awareness, and Be-Here-Now!

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images gratefully from pixabay.com

For example:  In a future within my expanded NOW awareness, I see the mist of the Falls (Niagara Falls) downriver from where Sophie (my dog) and I are standing on the Four Sisters Islands, just upstream from the mighty cascade. It is a Spring day, one of the first since the snow has melted from the winter season. It is around 3 PM on a weekday, with only a few cars parked behind us in the parking area behind the footbridge we have crossed to be here. In this future outlook I recall a distant past of visiting near this same spot but from a different vantage point as a teenager. Some things have changed.  The mist rising from the Falls appears a little closer; can that be in forty years or is that a function of changes in my own perception? The city is much more built up all around, though the tourist sites are much as I remember and the traffic feels as busy but less chaotic. My thoughts now are thoughts of a big move to come; am I making the right choices? Will I meet new friends after I move? I do not wish to be a burden on my sister’s circle of relations, as she has a well-established family of her own friends from her forty years of living where she is. I am looking for a sign as I sit by the rushing waters, Sophie safely on a tie out within reach.  A leaf floats into a little pool formed by a cluster of rounded rocks at the edge of the island. It hovers within this little pool, as if lodged in a suspended animation of placid calm in the midst of the greater turbulence just outside this little enclave. That is my sign then! (“And I shall have some peace there; for peace comes dropping slow…” [W.B. Yeats, Lake Isle of Innisfree])

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Please use this yourself! It is simple and profound. Just close your outer eyes, open your inner awareness, and shift your attention to Be-Here-Now!

I invite and always welcome your Comments, Insights and Stories.

 

 

May the Balance of the Force Be With You

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When Star Wars first emerged in 1977, I was there. I crossed the city of Buffalo twelve times on my little yellow Puch moped to see that first installment. I could very much relate to the idea of the Force as Spirit then, and I still do. The continuing saga of Star Wars including Episode VII, which I saw in 3D at an IMAX theatre on the first day it came out last week, continues to develop the theme of the Force but they have emphasized the notion of “bringing balance to the Force” with the characters of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) and now his dark, worrisome grandson, Kylo Ren. Thus the story continually pits the Light Side against the Dark Side of the Force, as if this dualistic jostling can ever bring true Balance or peace. No, they cancel each other out but they can never bring a genuine, lasting Balance. So, what does?

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Note the resemblance to Jedi Master Yoda!

I want to say here that the Force as I know it, and as many of you do who practice active contemplation, prayer or deep meditation, is not inherently dualistic. We can understand It as trinary: embodying the Light, the Dark, and the NEUTRAL force emanations of Spirit. The Light and Dark are only energetic expressions of that Neutral force operating within the limited worlds of Duality.

To answer power with power,

the Jedi way this is not.

In this war, a danger there is,

of losing who we are. Yoda

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Note the difference between Jedi Knights and Jedi Masters.  Jedi Knights “fight for the Good;” they serve the Light Side of the Force as versus Siths, who serve the Dark Emperor and their own selfish desires. But true, tempered Jedi Masters generally exhibit Detachment and acceptance in the face of conflict. They might fight if they are called upon to defend some worthy cause in the worlds of duality, but they have their Home in Divine Love or in the Heart of Spirit Itself.

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To connect with Spirit you need only find Your Center and hold your awareness Here. Do not be pulled to the right or to the left, “right” or “wrong,” up or down, or in any Outer direction that is dependent on external pressures. Find your genuine, core spiritual nature within and operate from this Soul perspective. It will not steer you wrong if you Listen closely to what your Heart—which could take the form of an inner or an outer, tried and trusted spiritual Guide—advises, and act accordingly.

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The Jedi Masters represent an Elder Leader archetype form that I wish to celebrate and invite you to cultivate this month. What is your own ELDER LEADER nature? When does it emerge in you in its most balanced form?  Invite your ELDER LEADER to reveal Its WAY to you this month of January, as January is the astrological month associated with Capricorn and the Elder Leader Archetype Ally.

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images from pixabay.com

Remember, the FORCE IS with you, always! May it inform your Way!

Envision Your Dream, Daily

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There’s a principle referred to in many meditative traditions called “Dying Daily.” This means that every day as you practice contemplation or meditation you SURRENDER. In a way you are surrendering your ‘old self’ to be reborn to the ‘new’, daily.

So, here’s a thought. Remember to DREAM daily. By this I mean, envision your Life Dream every day, knowing that your Present exists in relationship with this desired future condition! Then every day you are living INTO your “dream come true.”

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Many years ago I made a huge transition when I moved from Buffalo, New York (a lifelong Easterner til then) to Phoenix, Arizona (Out West). Every night for the year preceding this big move, I contemplated and asked questions inwardly  about this momentous turning point.  I work spiritually as many do with an Inner Guide figure, which helps me to focus on gaining higher awareness.  And every night, my question would be answered in a dream. One night, I woke with an actual song jingle and melody:

“I’m leaving, but there are a few doors left to close before I get over there.”

For the rest of the six months or so before my Great Adventure West, I sang this song frequently every day. Meanwhile I also taped pictures from SEDONA LIFE Magazine, a wonderful photojournalist sort of magazine depicting the amazing red rocks and canyons of Sedona, Arizona onto my office wall.

I was PREPARING, both outwardly and inwardly; orienting toward the new life I was about to assume with this trip upon which I was about to embark. The song lyric helped me realize every day that every action I was taking was movng me in the direction of this transformational life experience.

My move from Buffalo to Phoenix was indeed transformational! I became an anthropologist and experienced the Southwest and Native American cultures like I never could even have imagined as an Easterner.

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So, what is YOUR DREAM around the horizon of some major departure? IMAGINE it daily; place PICTURES of your destination in your mind … and on your walls.  LIVE your dream now, in your imagination. Contemplate it, meditate about it. Surrender to its amazing potentials.

Now as I approach returning ‘back East’ for transitioning into the next stage of my life in 3 years, on my computer desktop I have a sepia postcard of the lake I will relocate near. Along the right of my screen is the lakeside  shoreline, winding up and around toward a clock tower that represents the very town I will be moving to. So, I have copied and pasted a little rowboat icon onto the base of this shoreline. Now every time I take some action in my daily life that moves me somehow closer to realizing this Big Move, I move the rowboat icon up the shoreline just a bit, closer to my Dream destination.

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What are you doing or what might you do to ENVISION your future Dream come true? I welcome your insights and stories!

 

Celebrating St. Francis, A Mystic Healer  

 

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Prayer is in practice a means of seeking Better Endings. Whether in the form of a petition or surrender, asking for Divine intervention or giving love, or receptively by listening to or connecting with attributes of the Divine in meditative or active contemplation, we pray to focus our human consciousness on Higher Wisdom, to give and or to receive Divine (impersonal, detached) love. And this may indeed foster Better Endings for all concerned, even in the mindful experience of an illuminated consciousness itself.  Singing a mantra, practicing true contemplation, outer prayer, or even prayerful artistic engagement such as creating a mandala or Sufi whirling dervish dancing all can create conditions conducive to healing and Higher Awareness and hence may enhance positive health effects such as lower blood pressure, more serenity and lower stress.

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We may not all agree as to the best form of prayer based on our individual preferences and religious traditions, but tuning in to Higher Wisdom, love, protection and awareness is in itself a positive action of the human will and Soul that can bring benefits beyond the seeking of assistance or intervention.

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The prayer-poem famously attributed to Saint Francis is a prayer of exquisite quality that anyone can use as a template or matrix around which to ground and Center their consciousness.  This is a poem that fosters Healing and Better Endings in all respects:

St. Francis’s Prayer

Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace

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This week I invite you to bring St. Francis’s prayer with you in your heart as you go about your day to day affairs. You may wish to print and cut out the prayer poem and place it in visible locations at your office, car or home. At night as you prepare for sleep, you might wish to read the prayer aloud and gently contemplate its relevance to your current life conditions and attitudes.

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Better Endings to You!

I invite your insights and stories.

Desiderata  

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I have contemplated an important truth this past week, for myself at least, about archetypal psychology—my own. The goal is always balance and integration, working collaboratively with pairings or with broader clusters or constellations (as I like to think of them) of persona archetype Allies. When I find myself out of balance, it may be that one of these personae is being too dominant, “sticking out like a sore thumb.” That is not who I am…For example, I am not “Elder Leader” or “Warrior” standing alone.  My Nourisher, Mystic, Idealist and even my Descender Ally facets can bring balance to my approach to an endeavor with which Elder Leader or Warrior might be tasked.

Whew!  I cannot be that which I am not; I am not within my holistic, integrated Self an overly rigid, “intransigent” person. Even in a situation that calls for me to exercise a disciplinary action I must find repose and come from a center of balance. Still, I must at the same time own and exercise authority in its rightful scope… :

 After writing all but the last sentence above, I dreamed a type of dream I thought I had transcended: a dream in which, once again, I run from a magnificently graceful, powerful Anima image: I run from owning my own Power and Grace. This time it is Mountain Lion. I am in a city scape with a same-aged, female friend. We approach and pass a female mountain lion, laying in repose along the sidewalk. I urge my friend to run once we pass Her, sensing she will pursue us, as that is Her nature.  Mountain Lioness leaps and knocks me to the pavement softly in one bound. I wait for further action but She hovers over me as if waiting for me to act. AWAKEN.

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Two weeks ago while I was already laden with this ongoing test of consciousness, I took a walk with Sophia to a St. Francis retreat center, where in a Garden of Peace I walked right up to the poem-prayer Desiderata, which I recognized immediately was a Healing form of waking dream or golden-tongued wisdom for me at this trying time.

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So, I/we all move on, always seeking Balance which must be won and re-won with every unfolding adventure. There is always another layer of life lessons to explore and integrate, as best we can in the Moment.

 

Better Endings to YOU!

I  welcome your insights and stories!

 

 

Walking the Labyrinth Path

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Last weekend a friend came to visit. We reconnected by visiting an area where we once shared a home, and near there we walked an outdoor labyrinth on monastery grounds near our old home. While we sat on a bench waiting for another pair to complete their walk, first my friend found a beautiful red and white spotted feather from a bird (flicker?) that flew overhead; the bird then joined several others in the nearby trees. Then I looked to  the North and watched an amazing, unusual being walk stealthily past: what appeared to me to be a coyote/wolf mix  (or perhaps a stray Russian wolfhound or hybrid)! He turned his head to watch us as he continued along with his own quest.

In Native American “power animal” symbology, sometimes a flicker (woodpecker) can mean a move/ relocation; a coyote/wolf hybrid could mean something that “helps you see your own mistake” (coyote) and “being a Pathfinder” (wolf).

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So then we walked the Labyrinth (a Chartres modelled rose path). The slow winding pathway is so liberating to the mind and heart; with every turn your contemplation deepens. At times when you seem very close to the Center you are actually far away, and when you feel most far away you are but around the bend to Home, the Center that represents Self-Realization or God-Awareness.

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At the Center of this labyrinth someone had created a heart shape made of small reddish rocks, and both my friend and I deposited something meaningful into the heart. Then we walked back out, for myself I would say feeling less encumbered than on the way in.

As if this labyrinth walk were not enough, the very next day my friend took her son and his girlfriend back to that same labyrinth, and I took my dog Sophie on a walk at a Franciscan Retreat Center where—guess what?—I fairly stumbled upon yet another Chartres style outdoor Labyrinth!

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(I found this on Zillow today while surfing online for homes for sale near where I will retire in 3 years.  I actually do intend to have a labyrinth there, so this was such a strong sign of confirmation!)

So again I was able to walk the Labyrinthine path. This is a great way to “center”; to examine and release your thoughts about any situation and symbolically to reconnect with your own inner divinity. At a time in my life when I am facing a difficult ordeal at the workplace, the Labyrinth helps me to “unwind” the  complex weave.

In the Labyrinth nothing external seems too heavy or important.

The Labyrinth Path leads Home!

 

 

Enjoy the Fruit from Your Labors of Love

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Life is a Bowl of Cherries means you get to enjoy the fruits of all the work you have done and the love you have given and shared as you bring about and experience the “manifesting” stages of your life. My 88 year old mother, for example, though suffering from late stage Parkinsons, has her family’s love and support for all she has given us. She has more visitors than many at her nursing home, and this is one of the fruits of her many sacrifices and gifts of being a terrific mother through the years.

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How can you manifest a future wherein you will benefit from the fruits of your own labor and dedication? How will you construct this future as one filled with abundance and vital purpose? As I anticipate retirement in just a few years, I see this not as any form of slowing down or resting but as a graduation from my primary career work into a continuing adventure of service, creative productivity, and giving back to life for all I have received and learned through life experiences.

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A Contemplation and Journaling Seed:

What are to be the fruits of your life’s labor of love? Some you are already enjoying Now; what are these? Others you can yet choose to manifest; what are those? How will you help these fruits to mature?

It always helps to visualize and contemplate your future of abundant growth while appreciating the bounty of the present moment as well.

Tuning In to Your Mystic Awareness

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How can you tune in to your own inner Mystic Guide? Let’s count some of the many ways available to you:

Active imagination

Meditation

Contemplation

Yoga

Dream work

Archetype Dialogue Journaling

Prayer

Mindfulness

Each of these natural modes of accessing your unconscious and/or spiritual awareness offers great potential for engaging your Mystic archetype as an Ally who can help your conscious self by sharing deep insights. Let me describe a few of these methods, then, that you may wish to practice.

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Active imagination:

This is the technique Carl Jung himself used which he wrote about extensively (e.g. see the marvelous new Reader’s Edition of Jung’s The Red Book). It is a mode of creative visualization. You can journal about your inner experience after returning to your normal waking perspective.

Contemplation:

Contemplation is an active, engaged form of meditation. You maintain awareness while asking an inward question for inner guidance, or you can travel, either astrally (in your emotional state of consciousness), mentally, or via soul travel, to explore dimensions of consciousness beyond the Physical realm. With active contemplation you may assume the perspective of being in the state which you wish to observe, and release your conscious mind to allow whatever experience is relevant from that perspective. You may begin with active imagination and then shift into a contemplative experience.

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Dream work:

Dreams occur from many different levels of consciousness, so different kinds of dreams reflect these different levels of perception (and action). Lucid dreaming occurs when you become aware within a dream that you are dreaming; achieving lucid dreaming can help you to be more conscious of your ability to control your outer states of consciousness while waking as well as your dream state.  Archetypal dreams—which Jung was interested in—appear with symbolic content that can reflect either universal, collective archetypal imagery (e.g. a snake can refer to transformation, or a circle can refer to completion or wholeness) and also personal unconscious archetypal parts of Self can appear as personas in your nightly dream. Waking dreams may also happen (more so when you pay attention as such), wherein you realize an outer occurrence has a symbolic component or gives you an answer you are seeking in a serendipitous manner. Some mystical philosophers would remind us that the outer life is as much of a dream as a nightly, “inner” dream scenario.’ (A good primer: The Art of Spiritual Dreaming, by Harold Klemp.)

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Archetype Dialogue Journaling:

Using active imagination and contemplation, you can enter into a conversation with your own personal unconscious archetypal ‘parts of Self’. This is the approach I use with the Life Maps Process, and it is the approach Jung used that is described in his The Red Book.  Once you become proficient at invoking and ‘shifting’ between these perspectives, you can journal a dialogue with your varying archetypal personae as it occurs. This can allow you to explore your conflicting attitudes and motivations. These different archetypal perspectives may be identified with “typical situations” in your life; that is, with the distinct ROLES you have established and that you enact daily.

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You can approach your MYSTIC archetype for a direct, dynamic dialogue or within a soul travel type of inner encounter.  Remember, all you have to do inwardly is to ASK! And then, accept what happens with a loving heart, ready to learn, and record your experience so you can interpret and remember the insights gained.

Follow Your Mystic Guide

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This year at Life Paths for Better Endings we are conjoining twelve universal archetypal figures with twelve positive, goal-affirming Life Metaphors. This month we are focusing on The MYSTIC archetype in connection with the metaphor, Life is an Epic Journey. For our third week of the month, we bring these two ideas together, and it is natural to recognize that since life is an Epic Journey, the Mystic serves as a Guide.

I am very familiar with this fortuitous awareness of being able to follow a mystic Guide, as on my own spiritual path I recognize an Inner Master who appears often in my dreams and contemplations to offer his amazing, loving guidance, insight and protection. For me, acceptance of this inner guidance has been a major blessing in my life. I am deeply grateful to have discovered that life is so much more than outer appearances and that there are other-dimensional guides available always, for everyone, at any time.  While I work in a very worldly job outwardly as a professor, I feel extremely fortunate that this sphere has not confined my awareness or limited my perceptions of spiritual realities, and I will not deny nor apologize for my acknowledgement of the wonderful experiences this spiritual awareness has afforded me, time and time again.

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The Mystic Guide—however else it may appear to you—is available as an archetypal persona that is a part of your Self and that you can call upon for clarity and direction whenever you are wondering what your next step could be.  Allow me to share an example.

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When I was an undergrad in college many years ago in Buffalo, New York, I was on a quite successful intercollegiate fencing team. The last college tournament I participated in was a nationals qualifying event during my senior year of college. Our team had placed 9th of over 125 universities (by two touches we would have been 7th) the previous year, but two of that team had graduated, and two less experienced, junior varsity teammates had joined me and my friend Ro (we had been the strongest fencers at that previous nationals, placing highly ourselves as well). Our coach, Denny, became overly aggressive in trying to force our younger teammates to step up beyond their level of skill, and he was also becoming overly forceful and aggressive with these teammates at meets. So at this last event, I did well as did my friend Ro; the rest competed as well as they could yet came up short of our coach’s demands. I found myself at that tournament at Ohio State University cheering on every good ‘touch’, whether by a teammate or by an opponent or by myself. I congratulated if an opponent won a bout as much as if a teammate did. Something was turning in me; my sense of competitiveness shifted to an appreciation of the sheer beauty of fencing as an art and of the endeavors and talents of each individual.

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When we left that event, I sat in the back of the team van for the long ride home to Buffalo from Columbus, Ohio. I had recently discovered the practice of mantra singing, and for nearly the entirety of that road trip, I closed my eyes and chanted a single word: IS.  I sang that word as a mantra over and over: Is-is-is-is-is-is-isssss! I was contemplating existence itself, or ISness. And something amazing happened inwardly: I found myself in a round, high, turret like room with library shelves and books all around me, many stories deep, and a dome at the top. I was seated at a round table in the center, and all I had to do to get a book was to think of that and one of the books would come to me. ALL of the books in that round library were about the same subject: Language. I absorbed book after book, studying the titles, drinking in the immensity of the topic; its breadth and depth. All the while listening inwardly to:  IS-IS-IS-IS-IS-IS…

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When we arrived back at our gym at the university in Buffalo, I approached Denny and announced to him that I was quitting the team from that moment forward. I took my own fencing equipment with me, and left. (My friend Ro did the same some weeks later.) But from the deep contemplation experience, I had found my next step in my own journey. That next week I started studying language intensively at the college library, and the next year I entered a graduate program in Linguistics at SUNY Buffalo; this has been the basis of my career foundation ever since.

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It was something within me which I can now recognize as my inner Mystic Guide that set me to singing IS that day and showed me my inner passion for language that would become central to my life’s journey.  Something shifted inwardly while at the tournament that day, and this subtle shift in consciousness allowed me to be open to the inner direction of this mystical calling.

You and I only need, ever, to be willing to Listen and Learn!