Adventure

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Me with two cobra friends at Kom Ombo, Egypt in 2012

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing,”  Helen Keller

This October I will embark upon my thirteenth trip to Egypt with a dozen other intrepid travelers. It’s remarkable really as I never expected to go even once. But I have always been deeply called to do so. My parents told me I was fascinated with Egypt from the age of three. They would find me asleep on open pages of my uncle’s National Geographic magazines, dreaming of pyramids, temples, and fabulous jewelry no doubt.

My affinity with ancient Egypt has been an enduring feature of my life, and given my interests and proclivities, I feel certain that the waters of the great Nile have flowed through my veins for millennia. We are so accustomed to short life spans, and a disbelief in superluminal travel, that we can scarcely imagine how vast and limitless the Cosmos is. I have come to understand that my soul has worked for lifetimes to heal and integrate experiences from ancient Egypt, especially at Abydos during the time of Ramses II and his beloved wife Nefertari 3,300 years ago. I have come to understand that I was born into this lifetime with unfinished business that is long overdue to complete. And so I return, and each time I dig deeper.

Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart have always been major she-roes. Another is Beryl Markham, who was a pilot and horse trainer in South Africa during the “Out of Africa” times. Author Ernest Hemingway praised her work and said it made him ashamed to call himself a writer. I think of those women, and other profoundly courageous souls I have known, in moments of fear and doubt.

Moving out of our steady states of comfort and the illusion of safety causes us to grow, to widen our horizons, and to experience more of the world. Unless we are narrow and spiteful by nature, we are better for it. We all face choices in life about how we respond, and some of them are profoundly difficult. Some of us wait for the verdict of a test that could yield a terminal diagnosis, or learn to walk again after a debilitating injury. Others pick through the rubble of what was once a treasured home after the ravages of a storm or fire. How do we move on? How do we face loss and uncertainty?

Death is certain, only the timing is unknown.  It seems richer to embrace the unknown and cultivate a sense of adventure, grabbing onto life for all its worth, the joy and the sorrow, and the surprises that come when least expected.

Let me know if you feel called to Return to the Nile with me this fall.

Shambhala Prophecy – Return of the Spiritual Warriors

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Kalki, the last incarnation of Vishnu —  Image credit — Jose-Patricio Aguirre (Chile)

The Shambhala Prophecy

as told by Joanna Macy

“I often tell this story in workshops, for it describes the work we aim to do, and the training we engage in. It is about the coming of the Kingdom of Shambhala, and it is about you, and me.”      Joanna Macy

(Joanna Rogers Macy, is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books). I share this piece of her writing with the greatest of respect. It a Buddhist prophecy that calls us to “war.”

“Coming to us across twelve centuries, the Shambhala prophecy comes from ancient Tibetan Buddhism. The prophecy foretells of a time when all life on Earth is in danger. Great barbarian powers have arisen. Although these powers spend much of their wealth in preparations to annihilate each other, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable destructive power, and technologies that lay waste our world. In this era, when the future of sentient life hangs by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala emerges.

You cannot go there, for it is not a place; it is not a geopolitical entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors. That is the term the prophecy used – “warriors.” You cannot recognize the Shambhala warrior when you see him or her, for they wear no uniforms or insignia, and they carry no specific banners. They have no barricades on which to climb or threaten the enemy, or behind which they can hide to rest or regroup. They do not even have any home turf. Always they must move on the terrain of the barbarians themselves.

Now the time comes when great courage – moral and physical courage – is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept, to dismantle them. To dismantle weapons, in every sense of the word, they must go into the corridors of power where decisions are made.

The Shambhala warriors have the courage to do this because they know that these weapons are “manomaya.” They are mind made. Made by the human mind, they can be unmade by the human mind. The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers threatening life on Earth are not visited on us by any extraterrestrial power, satanic deities, or pre-ordained evil fate. They arise from our own decisions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.

So in this time, the Shambhala warriors go into training in the use of two weapons. The weapons are compassion and insight. Both are necessary, the prophecy foretells. The Shambhalla warriors must have compassion because it gives the juice, the power, the passion to move. It means not to be afraid of the pain of the world. Then you can open to it, step forward, act.

But that weapon by itself is not enough. It can burn you out, so you need the other – you need insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena. With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between “good guys” and “bad guys,” because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart. With insight into our profound inter-relatedness, you know that actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern. By itself, that insight may appear too cool, conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so you need the heat of compassion.

Together these two can sustain us as agents of wholesome change. They are gifts for us to claim now in the healing of our world. Many in the Tibetan lineage believe that this is the time of this ancient prophecy. If so, perhaps we are among the Shambhala warriors.”

These are powerful words and a call to action, reaching across time. We must find the strength and courage to arise and be the best we can be at this time of challenge. I stand with you, brave warriors of the heart. May we have courage. 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Harriet

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“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”    Anatole France

It’s taken a few months to feel ready to write this post about my kitty Harriet. On my January birthday in 2004 I went to the Humane Society thrift store to make a donation that resulted from a post-holiday clothes evaluation. I had a single-minded focus and adopting a cat was the last thing on my mind, but close to the entrance was a large wire cage, and inside was a charming grey-brown tabby cat. It hadn’t been too long since I’d lost my beloved dog Baron, and I had resolved not to have any more pets. I had convinced myself that I just couldn’t go through the loss and grief again, but it seems that Harriet and destiny had other plans.

She stood up inside the cage, came to the front, and spoke to me very clearly, “Take me home. I have chosen you.” I was stunned and promptly went into fierce denial. I handled my donation and went straight home. But of course, I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I went back the next day to see if she was still there. Destiny has a mind of its own in such matters, and Harriett became my beloved animal companion until April of 2018.

Harriet was named by the Humane Society when she had been rescued, having been abandoned. I looked up the meaning of the name, which is “ruler of the house,” and laughed; what a perfect name for a cat. Harriet’s sweet nature and companionship helped me through some very difficult times that included a divorce, a move, and essentially starting my life over in 2007. The picture of her in front of the Christmas tree celebrated our first holiday season alone after a painful separation and a wrenching loss of my home. Her presence gave me strength, and caring for her helped me focus on moving forward. It’s impossible to adequately express the gifts and blessings our animal friends bring to our lives. We love them deeply, and the loss is hard to bear when their short lives end.

Although her last months saw a continual decline, she jumped up on the couch on our last night together, and we snuggled. I didn’t know it would be our last night, but I told her she was free to go, and tried to express what she had meant to me. The next day she left her body on her own terms when I ran out for a short errand. She spared us both the trauma of “putting her down,” and when I came home and found her she looked peaceful. I am so grateful for that miracle. Her ashes now rest in my flower garden, and I planted a purple Clematis in her honor.

This brief memorial honors not only Harriett but all of the wonderful animals who have blessed my life, the pets and wild creatures alike. I will be forever grateful for the joy they gave so unselfishly and the richness they added–they teach us so much about unconditional love and letting go. I’m not ready for a new animal companion, but if it’s meant I guess another precious creature will find and choose me.

 

 

Frog Blog: A Jumpin’ Good Time in Frogtown USA

“Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”  Mark Twain

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The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is an 1865 short story by American author and humorist Mark Twain. The story was actually his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention. Something captured America’s attention and remains a compelling influence. Since 1928 an annual event inspired by Twain’s story has been held at the County Fair in Angels Camp in Northern California’s Calaveras County. Similar events are held in Indiana, Ohio, Washington, Maine, Missouri, Louisiana, New York, and also in Manitoba, Canada.

This May I witnessed the qualifying pre-trials from the bleachers as hopeful entrants coached their frogs into top performance. The contest is simple–which frog jumps the farthest in the one-minute time allowed per contestant. The record holder in Calaveras County is Rosie the Ribiter, who jumped 21 feet and 5 3/4 inches in 1986. Frog jockeys can win a $750 prize, or win the grand prize of $5,000 if a competing frog were to break Rosie’s record. It’s not clear what the frogs get out of the experience.

With 4,000 contestants in 2007, the Calaveras County contest imposed strict rules that regulate the frogs’s welfare, including limiting the daily number of a frog’s jumps, and mandating the playing of calming music in the frog’s enclosures. One assumes this is an attempt to reduce pre-game jitters. Because California’s red-legged frog is an endangered species, it’s barred from the competition. It is also forbidden for any competing frog to be weighted down by any means, as the frog in the Twain story was. Hopefully, the frogs don’t suffer too much as I worry about such things. After all, they’ve been captured and removed from their natural habitat and forced to enter into an all too human realm.

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Photo credit  Frank Schulenburg  CC BY-SA 4.0   2016

The frog jumping competition is a generous slice of American Pie. There is a whimsical quality of tradition, innocence, and plain good fun at a time when simple joys like County Fairs seem to be a thing of the past. Some frogs take the leap right away as if everything depends on the result. Others are frozen in place and never budge from the starting circle no matter the “encouragement” from their jockeys. This year’s winner jumped more than nineteen feet, certainly impressive, but not far enough to break Rosie’s record. Was it frog ambition or just sheer terror that fueled Rosie’s tremendous jump back in 1986? All the jumpers since have to go over that bar and perhaps Rosie was a unique frog at a singular moment. Maybe her frog jockey Joe Giudici had so much faith in her that his energy boosted her rockets.

I reflected on what it is that propels us to our greatest accomplishments and how can we learn to harness that propulsion at will?  Do we make quantum leaps in our own lives through grit and will, or is there something else that moves us to peak moments of achievement? We can’t always choose the arenas of tests and trials that present themselves, but we always have the choice of how we show up to meet the contests.  As we meet the challenges in our lives I believe it makes a difference if we call forth our best effort rather than refusing to try because we’re afraid we’ll miss the mark. Until we try we can’t know how we might be changed by taking the leap. And maybe we also have unseen cheerleaders whose faith in us lifts us to greater heights and longer distances once we jump. We can stay safe in the pond, or maybe become a champion–the attempt is up to us.

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Perspective – Inner and Outer Change

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 “I see myself by the light of my becoming.”      
                       Egyptian Book of Coming Forth into Day

I’m just back from my twelfth trip to Egypt since 1995. As always the experience was profound and heart opening. I took this picture of the Full Moon as our group was about to enter the Great Pyramid for two hours of private time.

Once this monumental structure was covered with white Tura limestone casing stones and crowned with a golden capstone. Even in historical times we are told it shone like a brilliant beacon in the distance. Today the exterior of the Great Pyramid is a skeleton of its former grandeur, but this last remaining wonder of the ancient world still vibrates with power and has the capacity to transform.

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I have been called back to Egypt many times, seeking answers to a lifelong pull this ancient land has tugged on my heart. The visions and memories that haunt me from former lives are in stark contrast to the Egypt of today. I have visions of glorious temples where ritual and ceremony connected with the deepest parts of my soul. I sense that my life had meaning and purpose then and that I have been searching for that kind of fulfillment ever since.

This time my transforming experience was completely unexpected. I’ve seen changes in twenty-three years–more women are working and technology has changed lives. On my early trips all the flight attendants on Egypt Air were men; likewise those who cleaned the rooms in hotels and acted as servers in restaurants were men. That has changed dramatically. This time the person who cleaned our room at the Mena House was a beautiful young Egyptian woman.

It happened that one afternoon I returned to the room and discovered her as she was working. I was transfixed as I realized she had just finished and was looking around the room inspecting her work. Her sense of pride was palpable. She turned, saw me, and her face blossomed with a radiant smile. We connected in that moment in a silent accord as she had the chance to silently share what she had done. I nearly wept. Her satisfaction at a job well done hit me like a bolt of lightening. I felt a kinship with this woman that she had found the freedom to work and a measure of independence. Our connection was silent, but it was a bond between women that is timeless–our struggle to learn who we are and what we are capable of. I won’t forget her or the brilliance of her smile and what that brief link meant to both of us.

I’ll close with a poem written by Bob Ransome, a member of our group, as it captures the spirit of our time in the pyramid.

STARING AT STONE
Staring at Stone
          Shaped by unknown hands
brings to mind possibilities
          Of what began
in ages past
           Creating a story
of lost civilizations
            Bathed in the glory
of a universe bigger
            than the mind can conceive
are we more than dust
            Created to believe
that mysteries exist
             So answers can be found?
above, below and within
              Eternal, sacred ground

 

Timeless blessings,

Julie

http://www.JulieLoar.com

 

Trusting

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   “Trust in dreams, for in them is the hidden gate to eternity.”  

Khalil Gibran

An intrinsic wisdom lives inside a seed. The small miracle trusts that if planted in rich soil, watered by rain, and warmed by sunlight, the seed will break out of its shell, sprout, and grow according to its template of hidden potential. Perhaps that potential will yield a fragrant lily or a mighty oak. The seed doesn’t doubt its future, and it unfolds and grows according to an inherent destiny.

Perhaps it is only humans who fear what is contained within our potential. For many reasons we lack the will or heart to follow the path of our own becoming. We hold back, doubting our gifts and our deep longings. Maybe we define success in the wrong way, believing we need fame and fortune, rather than joy and fulfillment, as indicators that we’ve “made it.”

I have come to believe the key to the dilemma lies in our inability to perceive the nature of our unique and individual templates. Because we don’t really know ourselves, we don’t know the nature of our “seed self.”  Therefore, we can’t comprehend the vision of our expanded expression, and we remain blind to what is possible. Or, we try very hard to become a pine tree when we are meant to be a lilac.

A teacher of mine once shared a humorous anecdote to illustrate our reluctance. A caterpillar once gazed up at a butterfly and proclaimed, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things.”  And so, rejecting the metamorphosis of the cocoon, and the exquisite creature he could become, the caterpillar continued to crawl on the ground. Sadly, the caterpillar never tasted flight or grew glorious wings. That is a loss for all of us.

What does it take to reach out of our own element and sense of safety and trust? What can be gained by risking? Sometimes, after a risk, life is never the same. Maybe we experience a loss as a result, but we are deeper, wiser, and hopefully more compassionate. Maybe the risk brings great joy. Either way we learn what we’re made of by taking the leap and seeing where we land. It’s often been said to watch where we light up, know what excites us, and when we lose a sense of time when doing something we love. This knowledge is precious.

. . . take a chance today–it could change your life . . .

Julie

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Winter Solstice

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Kindle Your Inner Fire

Winter Solstice is the rebirth of the Sun and is an important turning point in the year as it marks the longest night. Winter Solstice occurs at a specific time, not on just a certain day. This year on December 21, at 11:29 AM EST and 8:29 AM PST, the Sun will shine directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the southernmost point the Sun reaches in its apparent annual journey, causing colder temperatures and shorter days in the north. In the Southern Hemisphere, days are long and it’s high summer. On December 21, North America will see only nine and a half hours of daylight and fourteen and a half hours of darkness.

After Winter Solstice, the Sun seems to rise and set in the same place in the sky for three days. That’s why December 25 is significant as that’s when the Sun begins its northward motion. Many scholars believe the Christian church selected December 25 as the symbolic date of Jesus’s birth several centuries after his death, mystically linking him to many ancient and powerful solar deities and holidays such as the Roman Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.

Winter Solstice, or Yule, is deeply rooted in the cycle of the year; it is the seed time, the longest night, where the Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. In many cultures Winter Solstice was associated with the birth of a “divine king,” a god of light. Since the Sun is considered to be a male divinity in many traditions, this time is celebrated as the “return of the sun god” as he is born again of the Goddess. At this time of year, the Goddess is in her dark Crone aspect, ‘She who cuts the thread,’ ‘Our Lady in Darkness’, severing the old year and calling back the light. At the same time, she gives birth to the Son who will fertilize the Earth, bringing back light and warmth to the world.

Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winters Solstice can be found throughout the ancient world. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the Winter Solstice. Boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged, and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists held December 25th as sacred to the birth of their Sun God, Mithras, and celebrated it as a victory of light over darkness. In Sweden December 13th was sacred to the Goddess Lucina, “Shining One,” and was a celebration of the return of the light.

On Yule itself, around the 21st, bonfires were lit to honor Odin and Thor. The festival is also associated with the birth of older gods like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus, and even Arthur with a cycle of birth, death and resurrection.

Culturally, we do not allow enough space or value to darkness – the night’s deeps, Winter Solstice, dreaming in a cave, Yin energy, the formless, infinite, indefinable, unknowing realms of unconsciousness and shadow. Yet this is where creativity and energy are born. In a poetic sense it is on this, the longest night, ‘the dark night of our souls’, where a new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, is reborn within.

Take time this December 21 to welcome back the light. Many solstice rituals include lighting candles, incense, and setting intentions for the new year. It’s a perfect time to write down what needs to be released and burn the paper in a fire, releasing the old energy and liberating bound patterns. Meditating at the moment of solstice, settling into the deep and silent darkness, then lighting a single candle with intention, brings in powerful energy as a profound shift to the return of light.

Fan the spark of your inner fire and let it blaze with joy and inspiration. Joyous Solstice!

 

Metamorphosis

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A butterfly emerging from a chrysalis

“We must let go of the life we have planned to be able to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Joseph Campbell

Metamorphosis is a total change of form, or morphology. We are familiar with the caterpillar that spins a cocoon and is completely transformed inside the chrysalis, changing from a crawling creature into a majestic being with glorious wings. In biology the chrysalis is the hardened outer shell that protects the vulnerable caterpillar as it goes through the stages of transformation. Symbolically, the chrysalis has been used to represent a sheltered state or stage of being in which something or someone is utterly transformed.

For those who are committed to spiritual growth, it seems that life is a constant chrysalis. The Buddha taught that life in form is temporary, and if we cling to the form, we suffer. We are constantly challenged to leave the past behind and embark upon an unknown journey.  We are often tested by what life presents, and I believe the measure of our “suffering” is equal to the amount of our resistance and expectation. We have to be willing to surrender in order to be transformed–willingness changes everything.

We live in a time of profound change, even turmoil, and if we are to survive we must also be transformed by the change occurring around us. Joseph Campbell also said, “You enter the forest at the darkest point where there is no path. Where there is a way, it is someone else’s path. If you follow someone else’s way you won’t realize your potential.” I find those words equally thrilling and terrifying. Entering that dark forest takes courage, but our willingness to take the unknown step leads to metamorphosis.

A Chinese proverb states that a  teacher opens a door,  but we must enter by ourselves. Looking back at times of profound change in our lives we can see how our choices made all the difference and where courage changed our lives. As we face the dark forest, or ponder an unknown path, we have a choice. We can cling to the familiar but illusory safety of the ground, or embrace the dissolution of our earthbound consciousness, pass through the open door of transformation, and soar on wings of spirit.

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