Spirituality

Animal Totems and Synchronicities

When I thought to myself about how to write a post on indigenous wisdom in our everyday lives and how it applies in my life, I didn’t quite know how to start.  After all, my background is not of native, indigenous culture to the land that I now occupy.  I am Irish American, yet I have found myself drawn to the deep wisdom of Native American cultures and shamanic traditions, particularly in their relationship to nature and animal symbols.

A commonality across most native cultures and shamanic healing traditions is a deep reverence for the Earth and the wildlife that inhabits it.  Animal totems in Native American culture are looked at as spiritual guides or symbols representing a tribe, family or individual.  Often, Native American hunters would ask permission of the spirit of the animal before the hunt and send prayers of gratitude to its spirit after taking its life.  Peruvian shamanism in turn also has great reverence for nature and invokes animal allies, such as the jaquar, the hummingbird, or the eagle, in spiritual ritual to provide healing and guidance to the initiates who call upon them.

Ted Andrews writes, in his book Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small:

There was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself.  Dreaming and waking were inseparable realities; the natural and the supernatural merged and blended.  People used images of nature to express this unity and to instill a transpersonal kind of experience.

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General

Creativity: Finding your Flow

The creative force…it’s the unknown magic behind the world’s greatest art, music, writing, poetry, and dance.  It’s something that has baffled scientists and researchers for many decades.  It’s an intangible quality that resides in some more than others.  Or does it?  What is creativity?  What makes someone creative?  Can it be measured?  Is it quantifiable?

In our never-ending search for mental knowledge and answers as a species we sometimes try to study and define the undefinable.  Researchers throughout the 20th century, such as Robert Sternberg, J.P. Guilford, and Ellis Paul Torrance, among others, have attempted to define, place labels upon, categorize, and develop tests of the elusive quality known as “creativity.”

Modern day researchers have linked creativity to constructs and domains such as giftedness, intelligence, reasoning abilities, and inventiveness.  Creativity has been defined by researchers such as Sternberg as “producing something original and worthwhile” or by Guilford as divergent thinking, the ability to generate a wide variety of possible novel solutions from an initial problem state.  Common Western ideas of creativity have also often traditionally included the idea of imagination or bursts of sudden insight, those “light bulb” moments so commonly talked of and so little often found.

These sorts of peak experiences have also been pinpointed by researchers as being something called a state of “flow.”  Flow is a specific state of consciousness defined as being completely absorbed in a singular activity, focused on a state of pleasurable producing where a sense of time seems to disappear.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a primary happiness researcher, discovered that during these optimal “flow” experiences, people are activating their creative abilities and often feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, un-selfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.”

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Meditation & Mindfulness

Mindful Reboot

I was contemplating the idea of mindfulness the other day, and how it seems to have lately become another victim of our age of pop culture appropriation of trendy, self-help techniques.  I don’t want you to misunderstand, I think the spotlight that has been placed on mindfulness is amazing in many ways, expanding our awareness of techniques emphasizing quieting the mind instead of reaching for our replacement brains: phones, ipads and such.  However, I think mindfulness has become a bit stretched and pulled and battered in our collective understanding of these techniques, how they are used, and how they can help us.

Many view mindfulness through the lens of meditative poses designed to disengage from the world or “shut off” your brain, and I’ve heard from too many that they’ve tried and abandoned the practice because they are simply no good at it, lamenting, “my brain just doesn’t work like that” or “I can’t turn off my thoughts…” Continue reading “Mindful Reboot”

Inspirational Figures, Personal Stories

Lessons from Beyond the Rainbow

Judy GarlandToday, on the anniversary of Judy Garland’s famously attended funeral in New York City, along with the NYC Gay Pride parade this weekend, it seemed like an appropriate time to devote a blog post to this icon.  She is a deeply beloved figure both within the gay community and to children and adults around the world who have landed upon her classic film, the Wizard of Oz.  I was one of those kids, awed and fascinated by the innocent and beautiful Dorothy in the blue dress.  The Wizard of Oz played on repeat in my home, as I fawned over her voice, her sparkly red shoes, and her metaphorical journey back home. 

As beloved and talented as she was, she was also a tragic figure, dying at the early age of 47 from an accidental barbiturate overdose, with a long string of failed marriages behind her and a history of childhood abuse by studio executives.  As loved as she was, she never could quite seem to muster that same love for herself.  She picked herself up by the bootstraps many a time, only to fall back into the same patterns of addiction and difficult men. Continue reading “Lessons from Beyond the Rainbow”