Our spirits need celebration! What feels joyful to us encourages us along the path of personal growth and expansion.
“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” — Michael Pritchard
Play is the exuberant expression of our being, it fuels our joy and wonder. Play provides the energetic space we need to feel alive; it taps into unlimited possibility, inspiring us; it resides at the heart of our creativity and our most carefree moments of devotion. Play is a powerful way to feed our soul.
During a recent visit with my dad in Encinitas, California (Dec 31 – Jan 1) I spent time at the Self-Realization Fellowship and Meditation Garden. This location—founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda—is always included when I visit.
It’s a wonderful place to recharge one’s personal battery; to just sit and drink in the beauty with all of the senses; to meditate, relax, and renew. It was a welcome part of my journey. I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour.
The words “gratitude” and “grace” share a common origin: the Latin word gratus, meaning “pleasing” or “thankful.”
In the monthly copy of the AHP newsletter (Association for Humanistic Psychology) that I receive, a recent article defined gratitude as “orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in the world.”
I won’t argue with that, but I’d like to add a qualifier. I believe that definition describes passive gratitude. If, however, that spark ignites a fire that inspires personal change, that passivity transforms into active gratitude.
It is my perspective that gratitude in action—as a regular practice—has a wide brushstroke of positive effects:
Inward—through appreciation we find contentment.
Outward—it inspires generosity—be it our time, skills, or money—and gifts us with opportunities to serve.
Environmentally—it’s a catalyst for healing our planet through the respect of nature.
For thousands of years gratitude has crossed religious and cultural boundaries not only as a social virtue, but as a theological virtue, but it’s a relatively new subject in the field of scientific research.
The University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons’ research indicates that “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, (and) regular physical examinations.” His research also revealed that grateful people tend to be more optimistic, a characteristic that literally boosts the immune system—a clear physical benefit.
Dr. Alex Wood, a postgraduate researcher in the Department of Psychology, University of Warwick says, “…gratitude is an integral part of well-being;”—a distinct benefit to our mental and emotional faculties.
Gratitude helps to open the heart, the seat of compassion. It helps us to see the good in our experience, regardless. It enhances trust and helps us to forgive—an unarguable benefit to our spiritual aspect.
Better than a multi-vitamin, gratitude is plain good for us!
How do you weave gratitude into your life tapestry?
Metaphorically speaking, a feather is synonymous with the soul. Sacred since the beginning of time, feathers have symbolically represented spiritual evolution, truth, speed, lightness, ascension, and flight—freedom of the human spirit.
Native Americans wore feathers to symbolize their communication with Spirit, and to express their celestial wisdom. They also represented the power of the thunder gods, along with the power of air and wind.
Celtic Druids wore ornate feathered robes in ceremonies to invoke the sky gods and gain knowledge of the celestial realm. They believed the feathered cloak along with the presence of the sky gods allowed them to transcend the earthly plane and enter the ethereal realm.
Egyptians believed that feathers were symbolic of sky gods too. Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of justice, would weigh the hearts of the newly dead in the underworld against the weight of a feather to determine the worthiness of his or her soul.
In Christianity feathers represented virtues—faith, hope, and charity. An image of three feathers were made into signet rings, and then worn as a symbol of a virtuous soul; they were also used as wax seals.
In dreams feathers mean travel or the ability to move more freely in life. White feathers in dreams indicate innocence or a fresh start in a spiritual sense.
The Path of the Feather is the simple practice of going inward and embracing your source of power. It’s a daily journey of spirit that transforms, empowers, and heals. It’s sacred awareness. It’s BEing aware. It’s BEing awake.
Sacred Feathers—The Power of One Feather to Change Your Life by Maril Crabtree is an excellent book. In the introduction she says, “Feathers! Magical, mystical, incredible feathers! Feathers of all shapes, sizes, varieties, and colors. Throughout history, feathers have served as spiritual symbols for shamans and priests, as symbols of royalty for kings and chiefs, as symbols of healing, or a symbol of sacred power for cultures as far back as the ancient Egyptian, Asian, or Celtic eras. These cultures possessed abilities to communicate with nature in ways that have been overlooked or forgotten in our town time.
“Yet feathers are more than history. For many, they are mystical signs, messages, or opportunities. They are scraps of synchronicity in the flowing patchwork of universal meanings. Feathers appear in unlikely places as assurances of well being, as a comforting sign of abundance in the universe, and as unmistakable messengers of hope and encouragement. Their ephemeral grace makes them the perfect emissaries of spiritual and emotional freedom.”
I happen upon feathers all the time—they seem to throw themselves at me out of the clear blue sky. Have you ever happened on a feather, or has a feather ever happened upon you?
Important Note: Under the current language of the eagle feather law, only individuals of certifiable Native American ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle feathers. Unauthorized persons found with an eagle or its parts in their possession can be fined up to $25,000. The eagle feather law allows for individuals who are adopted members of federally recognized tribes to obtain eagle feathers and eagle feather permits.
Additionally, most migratory birds found in the United States are protected by international treaties as well as U.S. laws. No part of protected birds, live or dead, including feathers, claws, bones, skins, or taxidermy-mounted birds can be possessed without an appropriate permit, which is exceptionally hard to obtain even for legally acquired birds or bird parts.
Be a star.
Be young at heart.
Be in the moment.
Be the change.
“I am training to be a therapist at the moment. This week I had an epiphany! I can’t fix anyone; I can only help them to help themselves. I can’t DO anything for them, but there is something I can BE. A listener…
One of my clients brought me a delightful gift of blooming flower tea from a recent trip overseas. It was a pleasure this morning to sit quietly and watch the leaves gently unfurl. For the occasion—truly enjoying a cuppa tea is an occasion—I delved into the pages of one of my favorite tea books: Tea Here Now: Rituals, Remedies, and Meditations by Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer.
While I’m enjoying this delicious morning cuppa blooming flower tea, I’d like to share with you a small passage from page 142 in their book:
“Tea has enhanced our own lives in many ways. It has refined our way of moving, teaching us to carry ourselves with grace, dignity, and precision—helping us to develop a newfound sense of our bodies. We tread gently, aware of our personal impact upon the world and respectful of all that we encounter along the way. Learning to make tea becomes an exquisite and personal art.
It’s also a way of being and doing that can inform our entire lifestyle. It allows us to do whatever we do well, take time to pause and reflect, and contemplate our actions deeply. Tea does not tell us what do, or what to reflect on, or what actions to take. It only encourages us to pursue our endeavors mindfully, thoughtfully, with integrity and consideration—all the qualities that we learned through making a cup of tea wellapply to doing anything well. The spirit of tea invokes a sense of caring and attention, a feeling for excellence that can have a positive influence in every part of our lives.”
And while sex doesn’t technically fall into the category of an energy-based modality, it does generate a lot of energy, and it’s extremely healthy. With that in mind, here is the twelfth and final “energy-based modality” – Sex. Following, is a reprint of an article I wrote for the February 2010 edition of Mindful Metropolis magazine, Have Sex for Better Health – enjoy!
Many of us in today’s world dance a wicked two-step with a very ungracious partner named stress. Stress flings us through our days and muddles up our mind with lists of things to do, worries about the bills, potential layoffs, and the list goes on.
Countless people in relationships are stressed to the point that their times of intimacy occur much less frequently. Stress is a killer. However, it can destroy more than the body. That’s why it’s a priority to reduce stress. One of the many health benefits of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction.
Our desire for pleasure and gratification is governed by an energy center in the body known as the sacral chakra. This desire often translates to food and intimacy—specifically sex. When you’re feeling romantic, it’s a sure bet that the last thing on your mind is boosting your immune system. But having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which protects you from getting colds and other infections.
Sensuality and sexuality are both part of pleasure and gratification. Many people use the terms synonymously. And while there are areas of overlap, sexuality is not the only arena for sensual expression. Sensuality is something much broader; it’s how in tune we are with our senses. Sensual perception includes the appreciation of beauty and refinement; of simplicity and the remarkable gifts of nature; the passion in creative inspiration, and the deep connection to self and others.
Sensual perception also plays a role in who we find attractive. It may not be their drop-dead smile or dreamy eyes that draw us like a magnet to another person. In his article, The Smell of Love, which appeared in Psychology Today, F. Bryant Furlow states that it is, in fact, human pheromones at work. Pheromones are naturally occurring chemical substances that trigger specific mating responses. And while pheromones have no smell or odor, they are sensed by an organ in the nasal passage—the vomeronasal organ—that sends a message to the hypothalamus and other emotional centers of the brain. These odorless compounds have a profound effect on attraction and the desire for sex.
Mood is demonstrably affected by what our senses experience. That’s why many couples combine the sensual with the sexual experience to enhance their lovemaking. This may include candlelight, a scented bath, the silky feel of satin sheets, and romantic music. Sensuality is a key ingredient for richer sexual expression, pleasure, and gratification.
Sex can enrich cardiovascular health. Whenever we feel sexually aroused, our heart and breathing rates increase. Our body does this to channel more blood to the genitals in preparation for the act of sex. But that’s not the end of it. Our brain sends a message to the adrenal glands telling them to increase the level of adrenaline in the bloodstream. As things progress toward climax, a rush of hormones is released. These include adrenaline, noradrenaline, prolactin, DHEA, and testosterone; most all of which have cardio-protective effects. Research shows that having sex twice or more per week reduces the risk of fatal heart attack in men by half, compared to men who have sex less than once a month.
A side benefit to all this “awakening” of the physical body is that it builds the strength of the heart and circulatory system. Once orgasm is achieved, both men and women release a hormone called oxytocin, appropriately hailed as “The Love Hormone.” That surge of oxytocin has many “anticlimactic” actions, just one of which is lowering blood pressure. Studies found that men in their 20s who have five or more orgasms a week reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer later in life by a third.
Oxytocin encourages the urge to nurture and bond. This may explain why many women feel the desire to cuddle after sex. The more contact there is, the higher the oxytocin levels. This is linked with the feelings of generosity, trust and interestingly, with pain relief. This is because stimulation and orgasm lead to the release of oxytocin, corticosteroids and endorphins that increase our pain thresholds, providing short-term relief with conditions such as migraines, back pain and arthritis.
Sex can improve our mood. The same endorphins that ease pain can make us feel euphoric after having sex. Along with this benefit, the release of oxytocin helps relieve tension. Oxytocin is known to be present when we are in stressful situations. People with higher levels of oxytocin are generally calmer and more relaxed than others. A study done at UCLA shows that estrogen in women enhances the calming effects of oxytocin, while testosterone may counteract it.
Sex provides many of the same benefits of exercise. Just as our body responds to a workout at the gym, sex causes our muscles to contract, our heart rate to increase, and our body to release calories and fat from storage. For many people, sexual expression is a vital piece to their core being; a celebration that oftentimes mirrors the health of their relationship. It can reflect all of the best things you and your partner share; what you enjoy and appreciate most about each other.
Regardless of the religious tradition or spiritual path, at least one basic ingredient is shared; prayer and/or meditation. I’m often asked if prayer and meditation are the same things. In my experience, they’re similar, yet different. I think of prayer as talking with Divine Love and meditation as listening to Divine Love. Most of us have the talking part down pat. Many of us struggle with the listening part. As one of my clients says, “Even though it’s simple, it’s not always easy.” Simple and easy aren’t the same. Simplicity is efficiency, a clearing of clutter—mental or otherwise; while easy is uncomplicated and trouble-free.
Whether we pray out loud or speak from the quietness of our mind, our words and thoughts are things—they have a vibration—which means they’re powerful. In her book The Dynamic Laws of Prayer, Catherine Ponder wrote, “When you pray, you stir into action an atomic force. You release a potent spiritual vibration that can be released in no other way. Through prayer, you unleash a God energy within and around you that gets busy working for you and through you.”
(Photo was taken with self-timer in Ardnamurchan, Scotland)