The End and the Beginning

Don’t you just love Halloween?  This whole time of the year – what with its Harvest Festivals and its Renaissance Festivals; the decorations and costumes and make believe; honestly, I find it refreshing, especially Halloween since in spite of the commercialization, it is still instantly recognizable as the pagan holiday that was celebrated by many of our ancestors for centuries before Christianity was ever introduced.

I find it interesting that in spite of the best attempts of the early Christian Church, the festival of Halloween (or Samhain) was one that has resisted all attempts at Christianization.  They may have replaced Yule with Christmas; they may have reduced the celebration of Imbolc to that of a groundhog predicting the length of winter; they may have been able to replace the Spring Equinox (an important fertility right) with the birth of Christ.  But in spite of everything, Samhain remains easily identifiable as a pagan holiday.  But what is the history of Halloween? Better yet, why is it so important to so many people?  What made it so important that it was able to stand up to everything that was thrown at it?

There really is no point in going into great detail regarding the history of Halloween.  You can find the accounts in hundreds of books and thousands of websites; all variations on a theme.  You’ll read in some places about how originally it was a pagan celebration of the end of the harvest; a celebration of the death of the Horned God (the consort of the Great Goddess) who had to die in order to ensure that the sun would be reborn and would guarantee a new cycle of fertility.  Others will emphasize the fact that it is a day when the veil between the worlds was so thin that spirits and dark creatures were free to mix and mingle with humans. You’ll hear people telling you that it is nothing more than a harvest festival and others who claim that it is a holiday dedicated to the devil himself.

All of these claims have the ring of truth; and equal tones of myth and legend, but what is it really?  Better yet; what does the celebration of Halloween – or Samhain mean for us, today?

One of the reasons that Samhain is still such a touchpoint in our culture is due to the fact that it touches a very deep and primitive nerve.  In ancient times Samhain was a time to celebrate endings.  It marked the end of the Celtic yearly cycle and the beginning of their New Year. Here in the northern hemisphere it marks the end of our growing season which is marked by the bringing in of the harvest and is punctuated by the falling of the leaves; a sure sign of the approach of winter.

But it wasn’t just the ending of the growing season or the ending of the cycle of the leaves, it also came to be associated with the cycle of life and the celebration of how, even though death and loss is part of the cycle of life, so too death and endings mark the begining of a new season; a new cycle; and the promise of new life with special attention beging given to those loved ones who had passed on and the inevitability of the death of all physical things.  But so too was it kept in mind that just as all things end and it may appear that the fields are fallow, the promise of spring and of a whole new season of life lies just under the surface waiting for the warmth of the sun.

Indeed, just as this season once it marked the time to stock up for the winter; to bring in firewood and fill the pantry with supplies for the cold months, even today you see homeowners buttoning up their property; covering rose bushes and making sure their oil tanks are filled.   Today you see many home owners using this time of the year to clear their yards of debris in preparation for winter storms and in making sure that their rain gutters are cleared out and their roof is free of leaks.  You’ll also find that many people use this time of the year to clear out their closets and cupboards of those things that they don’t need in order to make room for those things that they might need for the cold months.

So too this can be a time to prepare for what is yet to come.  And what better way to do that than to rid yourself of all of those things that might be weighing you down and detracting from your peace of mind?

Even if you don’t celebrate the season, there is nothing wrong with using it as a touch point for getting your own house and mind and life both literally and figuratively ready for winter.  Divest yourself of everything that makes you unhappy; let go of those things that weigh down your energy and make you depressed.  No need to head into the long dark months of winter weighed down by baggage that will just make it worse.

Instead, why not clear out all of those spaces?  Clean them out, but resist the urge to fill them up with something; leave them empty; an invitation to the universe that you are ready for something new and exciting to enter your life.  It is an ending, yes, but also a beginning.

Like a fallow field; one that has been divested of its harvest and left empty and bare; you’ll be ready when it is time to plant the seeds of a new crop; one that will make your life richer with more purpose and meaning.

 

 

Drying Out After Sandy

Rediscovering Reality is drying off after having been in the direct path of Hurricane Sandy.   It is inevitable that a storm 900 miles wide would impact nearly the entire eastern coast of the United States and would leave behind a wide swath of mayhem and havoc behind her even after making landfall and my heart goes out to everyone, especially those who have had to deal with worse than power fluctuations, minor flooding and a yard full of debris!

Once the cleanup is over I’ll be back to posting on a regular schedule.  Thank you so much to everyone who sent us well-wishes and positive thoughts, they were much appreciated!

Remember, you can follow us too on Facebook by clicking HERE.

Too Much Love and Not Enough

“I can only Love. That is all I can do. That is all I can be because that is what I am.  I AM Love.  I am what encompasses you; moves through you and allows you to be everything and experience everything that makes you who and what you are; everything.  No exceptions.  It’s all here; all a part of the totality that makes up existence; that makes up life.  It all exists inside of Love.  And all of Love exists inside of Me.”

~ SSHenry

Does that sound like something out of a new age self-help book?  Does that sound like some sort of sentimental clap-trap? Perhaps it does, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Before you throw up your hands in frustration and decide that I have indeed gone over to the dark side, let me get one thing straight here.  I’m not talking about generalized love; you know the kind of love that a person refers to when they are talking about “loving” a certain kind of soda or brand of clothes or sports team.  That is such a watered down and punk-ass version of the real thing that it really doesn’t deserve to have the same word applied to it.  Come to think of it, we do use that word an awfully lot, don’t we?

Forget just the generalized over-use of the word “love” in general conversation.  There are so many other uses for the word that it is no wonder that sometimes it feels as if it has been spread way too thin.

We use the word “love” not just to express intense like in an object or for an experience, we also use the word as a way to describe everything from intense romantic desire (falling in love) to the sexual act (making love) to the intensely deep and protective feelings for a child (paternal love) the abiding camaraderie of friends (platonic love) and even the all-encompassing acceptance/salvation/forgiveness attributed to God in whatever way you define him (divine love).

And any way we slice it, the word “love” has come to be associated with certain expectations.  Think about it.  When we talk about “loving” a product or an experience, that ‘love’ depends on the product or experience continuing to produce the same feelings in us as it always has or by producing the same result that we find so awesome.

When we talk about romantic love, falling in love or making love we assume that the other person in the scenario is going to return our feelings or that we are at least going to get some sort of physical satisfaction out of it.  The same concept holds true for parental love, filial love, the love of friends and any other sort of love that you want to define.  There is always some sort of expectation; always something that you get in return.  Even divine love has its expectations.

Yes, in spite of those who claim that “God is love” and that is his love is unconditional, there is still the problem of why it is that the rewards of his love (eternal life) are dependent on the one receiving his love accepting and returning it or showing their appreciation for it in an appropriate manner, otherwise you don’t benefit from the love (at least not in the long term).  I hate to say it, but that is not unconditional love.

True unconditional love knows no limitations and has no expectations.  It not only loves everyone unconditionally, it also bestows the benefits of that love on everyone regardless of whether that love is appreciated, returned or even acknowledged – ever.

There is no differentiating those who accept the love from those who do not.  There are no special rewards for those who acknowledge or return the love as opposed to those who do not.  One simply LOVES.  Not because there is anything in it for you, not because you are obsessed with the people or things that you love, but because you have no other choice.  It is simply who and what you are.  It is what you do.  You get to the point where you cannot NOT love even if the people do not appreciate, return or even acknowledge the love that you give them.

It may seem as if it happened over night.  In fact, you may wake up one morning with this love in your heart and wonder how the devil it happened.  But chances are if you look back at your life, you’ll be able to see its progression; how opening and re-opening yourself up to love (in spite of the pain of rejection), how focusing on the positive even when it seemed that the negativity was suffocating, how reminding yourself over and over again not to become attached to people and outcomes all paid off.

But let me tell you something; in spite of the fact that when you get to this point; when you find that you cannot NOT love the people around you (regardless of how stupid they behave or even if they ignore you completely); that you want the best for everyone (even those who have hurt you), it can almost be lonelier than it was when you could compartmentalize; when you could put people into categories of those you loved, tolerated, ignored or hated.  Because in order to love at this level; in order to love at all, you have to open yourself up to that love; including being loved (or not) in return, even if the amount of love you receive is not equal to that which you are giving out.  And there WILL be those who love you in return, even if it is not with an unconditional love. On some levels, that can be the scariest thing of all.

Why?  Because when a person returns your love; when they acknowledge the unconditional love that you are sending them and reflect it back to you, it can be so delicious that it can be addictive.  And you will be tempted to become attached to what it is that they are offering; to feel as if they are supplying you with that love when in truth it is only a reflection of what is there in your own heart.  If you can remember that; that there is nothing they are giving you that you do not have access to yourself, then you will be okay even if they decide for whatever reason that they no longer love you.  If you can’t remember that, you are opening yourself up to a world full of hurt as you slip back into the addictive and painful world of love that is wrapped up in attachment and expectation.

But if you can resist the urge of attachment; of looking to one person or experience that you crave; you will have found that in every person; even those who do not acknowledge or return the love that you give out without question; that there is a reflection of the love that you give out without prompting; a love that is then reflected back to yourself threefold enabling you to become even more than you already were.

Indeed, loving unconditionally will not only be your biggest challenge, but its own tremendous reward.  And even though this may not make complete and total sense to you now, it will.  Oh yes, in time it will.

Always In Joy

Do you remember when you were a teenager; when there was a guy (or girl) that you really liked and who you wanted to notice you. Do you remember how you reacted?  Do you remember what you did?  Do you remember finding out everything you could about them and then getting interested in it yourself?  Sometimes you’d give up your own interests in order to pursue theirs in the hopes that by insinuating yourself into their world; by showing an interest in their interests, they’d be more likely to notice you.

Maybe it even worked.  Maybe they did notice you.  Maybe you hooked up and had an awesome time of it.  Perhaps for a while you felt like true soul mates; perfect for each other in every way.  But chances are that somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong.  There came a point when you realized that it was all about them.  Everything was about them; all of it; everything that you did together; everything that you talk about; everything that you ‘share’ is really all about them.  Well, of course it is.  You created it that way.   And chances are that you started to feel shorted; slighted even.  You may have even attempted to start introducing your own interests into the relationship in the hopes to correct the imbalance.

Then of course there were probably misunderstandings and miscommunications due to the fact that the other person simply could not comprehend what was happening.  Weren’t the pair of you happy?  Didn’t you both enjoy the same things; enjoy talking about them and spending time together doing them?  Weren’t they the same as they had always been?  Why was it suddenly that what they were giving you was no longer enough?  Why have you suddenly become so demanding and dissatisfied?

And that of course made things worse didn’t it?  Because how do you tell someone that your entire relationship was based on your desire to get them into your life in whatever way possible?  How do you explain that you were never entirely open with them; that when you met it wasn’t on equal terms because you didn’t want them to get scared off or to lose interest?  How do you explain that what you really wanted, more than anything – what you still want – was and is to have a relationship of equals; where both of you were interested in what made the other person tick, even if you didn’t necessarily share all of the same interests?

I know, I know, it seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.  After all, how could you possibly have known that you were selling yourself short in order to get their attention and bring them into your life?  It’s a very easy trap to slip into.  In fact, it’s so easy that chances are, if you stop and take a good hard look at your life right now and at the people in it, you will find that one or more of the relationships that you are currently in are based on the exact same principles as those high school relationships.

It doesn’t matter which side of the equation that you are on; whether you are one of those people who gave up their own interests in order to capture the attention of another person, or whether you were the one who was enamored by the person who seemed to fit your life so perfectly in every way.  Be honest with yourself – is this truly a relationship of equals?  Is it?  Because if it is not, a relationship of equals you need to brace yourself; you see, there will come a time when one or both of you will realize that the relationship is lopsided and will want to correct that imbalance.

Better to take the time now to find out what makes the other person tick; to make sure that you are giving – and receiving – equally then to wait for things to fall apart.  Hopefully you will find that openness and honesty with your partner are enough to clear things up and to recreate your relationship as a partnership of equals; individuals who are truly interested in each other and in where your personal and spiritual journeys are taking you.  If not, well, it is never too late to become the person that you were always meant to be; to take the steps you need to put yourself firmly on your own path to authenticity.

If your significant other chooses to join you, or at least support you in becoming that authentic self, fine and good, you have nothing to worry about and the journey will be a joyful one because you will have the support and company of the one with which you share your life; a choice that true soul mates (or soul mates destined to work together for long periods of time) will do.

If they are not interested in joining or supporting you, do not allow their incredulity or anger with the changes in you to halt your own development.  Do not force them.  Do not feel that you have to hold onto them.  If it makes them too uncomfortable, they will leave (physically or emotionally).  This is not a reflection on you, and it is not your fault if the relationship disintegrates.  It is their decision whether or not they wish to include the person you are becoming;  your authentic self;  in their own view of reality.

Who knows, your authentic self, your path, may not be the one that is right for them and they may feel that to join you or even support you is undermining their own integrity.  Do not fight this if it happens, and do not allow it to influence your own becoming.  If another person’s path leads them in a way that does not bring you joy you do not have to follow out of loyalty for the joy and purpose that you once shared.

Move forward in joy.  Always in joy, and always in the direction that makes your heart smile.

A Perspective of Stars

How often have you stood there, out in the frosty air of an early autumn morning when the sun has not quite yet breached the horizon, and found your breath catch in your chest at the crisp clarity of the stars?

Maybe it’s just me, but they seem to hang lower in the cold air; shine brighter. They pull me in and make my head spin as I feel my perspective start to shift. Slowly it as if the world takes on its proper shape around me. The ground beneath my feet becomes a planet (not the grass of my front yard) even if I can’t see it I start to feel the curve of the sky as it wraps around the earth. It is then that everything shifts into place; planet, space, stars. The Earth finally slips into its niche in the nighttime sky; a sky that is suddenly more than just pretty pinpricks of light and becomes a vast web of life and possibilities.

Yes, I know, I wasn’t on some sort of cosmic quest when I stepped outside this morning. I wasn’t even in a philosophical let alone cosmic kind of mood. Heck, I hadn’t even had my first coffee of the day. I was just taking out the trash, but OH what an incredible feeling!

I’ve had friends, family members even who say that while they’ve had this sort of perspective shift that it depresses them instead of filling them with wonder. “It makes me feel insignificant” one told me. He said that it depressed him because it pulled him out of his place at the center of things and showed him just how little he really mattered in the grand scheme of things. But you know what? He couldn’t have been more wrong.

It isn’t that you are no longer at the center of your universe (you will always be at the center of your own universe; of your own perspective on the world), it is that you finally realize just how big of a part you DO play in the grand scheme of things. Because you see, there is no center to the universe. Are there centers of solar systems? Most certainly there are. Are there centers to galaxies? Of course there are. But the universe – being immeasurable – has no verifiable center. It is reliant instead on the interconnectedness of all of the systems – on each galaxy and solar system and planet and comet; every black hole and white hole and wormhole being precisely what it is and precisely where it is in order for the universe to be what it is.

So too are we a part of all that is. By being precisely who and what we are we become a part of the interconnected web that weaves the entire universe together; and without you in it the universe would be a different place entirely.

Yes, I understand that people and animals and plants and birds die every day and that the universe continues to exist. But we’re not just talking about physical bodies now are we? We’re talking about the energy that is YOU. No matter what shape you take – no matter what side of Einstein’s E=Mc2 you fall on, YOU are still a part of this universe and your place and importance in it are assured.

So don’t be intimidated by the stars. Don’t let societal expectations and definitions determine how significant (or insignificant) you think you are. Go ahead, walk outside tomorrow morning and let yourself fall into the stars; feel your perspective shift as everything falls into place and feel where you truly belong in the grand scheme of things. You may want to hold onto something though, because the shift in focus can make you dizzy with possibility.

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Redefining Reality Now On Facebook!

Yes, I’ve gone to the dark side. Redefining Reality now has a Facebook page.

I’ve had enough people say that they wished they could have more of what Redefining Reality has to offer, only in multiple daily manageable bites. So I’ve created a Facebook page that reflects this. You’ll find links to some of the blogs entries from here, yes, but mostly inspirational bits and pieces; quotes, reflections, pictures and words of wisdom to make you smile and maybe give you something to think about during the workday.

So come on in, visit our Facebook page at: Thoughtful Reality  LIKE it (but only if you really do!) or comment on a post to start a discussion. See you there!

I Surrender to Me

“The concept of surrender is foreign to me.  The idea of giving up control, of ceasing to be myself; of turning my autonomy over to someone else – regardless of how wise or powerful is anathema.  It is only when I remember who and what I really am that I realize that there is only one person to whom I ever need surrender, and that is myself.”  ~ SSHenry

If you are anything like me the idea of surrender; of surrendering control of your decisions or your life to anyone or anything else is intolerable.  Seriously, you can quote Bible verses at me until you turn blue in the face, but the fact remains that the majority of us will cringe and squirm every time that the word is used.

Perhaps the reason that we dislike the word ‘surrender’ so much is because of what it has come to mean in our own culture.  Think about it.  The English word ‘surrender’ has come to be inevitably tied up with phrases of war; with the ideas of admitting defeat, of laying down your weapons.  Even when it is not used in a military reference, we see it as an admission of giving in or giving up and admitting that there was something you could not do or someone who was better than you.

Even the mildest meaning of the word “to submit or yield” puts our teeth on edge.  Why?  Because it by surrendering we let someone else get ahead of us; that we let someone else take the lead; that we weren’t good enough or fast enough or brave enough to remain in the lead.  And that is the real problem, isn’t it? We weren’t enough.

To surrender means admitting that, somehow, we weren’t enough.  We didn’t have what it took to get the job done.

Blame it on the early American settlers if you will; on the spirit of survival that came from knowing that there was no one else that you could depend on; no one to turn to if things went wrong.  Once you landed on these shores, you were on your own. There was no infrastructure or support system to catch you if you fell.  You had to succeed or you died.  Later the pioneers who headed west encountered the same mindset; it was all or nothing.

Maybe it’s ingrained in our DNA or something, but it is definitely ingrained in our culture.  You never admit defeat and you never give up.  This is probably why, even when the term “surrender” is used in a religious context it is viewed with not a little skepticism and definitely some raised eyebrows.  In Judeo/Christian based religions you admit that you are not “good enough” to be saved.  You don’t have what it takes (you CAN’T have what it takes) and so you “surrender” to someone who can make up the difference; someone who can ‘save’ you from your sins; who can serve as the go-between with divinity and plead your case like some sort of cosmic lawyer.

This view, however; this need to ‘surrender’ to a higher power; to admit defeat and to give up control over our own lives and actions to them depends on a person’s believing that ‘God’ as a being that is ‘above and beyond’ so to speak; a completely separate entity from us. But what if you believe that you ARE divinity (or at least a manifestation of divinity here on earth)?

If you believe that you ARE God, or at least a manifestation of God (or your higher self) here on earth; then the concept of surrender becomes something far different than what is traditionally (at least in western traditions) seen as an admission of ‘not being enough.’

I personally stumbled across this not so long ago.  I found myself at an impasse.  I had reached a point where there was nothing else that I could do in a particular situation.  Indeed, I had reached a point where no matter what I did or decided I was simply making the situation worse.  But somehow, the idea of surrender – even to my higher self and my knowledge that she knows exactly what needs to be done in order to bring things back into alignment – still grated on my sensibilities.  “Why should I give up?”  I asked myself – and then sat back and started laughing uncontrollably.

You see, I was attributing the cultural definition of “surrender” to my particular situation.  I was raised in a western society and within a traditional Christian religion within that society, it was only instinctive that my first impulse on hearing the word surrender would be to assume that I had somehow fallen short; that I hadn’t been ‘good enough’ to do it on my own. But that isn’t the case, is it?

You see, I AM good enough.  I am strong enough.  I am powerful enough and wise enough to do anything; to BE anything.  I have the understanding to make anything happen; to bring any set of circumstances into being; to manifest whatever sort of life my heart truly desires.  There is just one problem; I end up getting in my own way.

Yes, while I (my soul – my higher self) may be all powerful; all knowing; all compassionate and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, she’s sort of limited by the fact that she is, at least in this particular physical reality, dealing with (and through) a physical human body with all that entails.

These bodies are not only limited by the laws of physics and biology; by chemical impulses and fight or flight instinct, they are also limited by the overwhelming emotional responses triggered by all of these; responses that can cause us to believe things and do things that interfere with the higher self’s goals and purposes.

And sometimes it takes doing something stupid to remind myself of this. ”  You react or respond in spite of yourself; instinctively as urged by the body; gumming up the works and making things far more complicated than they needed to be. It is then, when I’m standing there feeling ridiculous at how complicated I have just made things or wondering how the devil I got this particular foot all the way up into my mouth, that I remember that the concept of surrender is not as bad as all of that.

You see, when I finally understood that it really is me who is in charge of my own destiny (albeit ‘me’ on a level that I’m usually not actively thinking about) I understand that by surrendering to my higher self I’m not surrendering to someone or something outside of myself at all.   “I” am still in charge, I’m simply getting out of my higher self’s way as an expression of trust that she really does know what she is doing and will do whatever it takes to bring my life and soul purpose into alignment.