Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: Just a Specter of Samhain

In the U.S., Halloween is all about costumes, trick-or-treating, candy and, occasionally, mischief. Few people realize the date also marks a sacred day on the Celtic calendar, Samhain, ushering in the dark half of the year. October 31st precedes Day of the Dead/All Soul's Day, which takes place November 1-2, honoring those who have crossed over. Clearly, the dark side — what remains hidden from view — is calling.

As mythologist Kathleen Jenks writes on Myth*ing Links, this is an excellent time to explore what is ending, or "dying", within our own beings. What do you need to release in order to move forward in your life? Now, when the veils between worlds are thin, is a ripe moment to embrace transformation.

The souls of those who have transitioned can share their wisdom with us still, if we request their collaboration. Visionary activist astrologer Caroline Casey likes to say, "We cannot live through the dead, but we can invite the dead to live through us." What gifts are asking, aching to be brought forth in you?

The real treat of Samhain is the opportunity for quantum growth, on both personal and planetary levels. And the trick, perhaps, would be turning your back on those inner voices begging you to shine your brilliance and step fully into your aliveness, purpose and service.

So by all means, enjoy the outlandish get-ups and fun. Try not to ingest all the candy at once. And remember to remove your mask when trick-or-treat time is over, so that you can fully become who you came here to be. Blessings!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Taking It Personally

Recently I suggested to a new, local editor that we meet in person to discuss some story assignments. She acquiesced, though I sensed she found it an unusual request.

Today I called a business prospect who responded to my initial email with an email asking several involved questions, and wanting a rate quote. Since he'd included a toll-free telephone number, thinking to connect as well as expedite the process, I phoned this morning.

He sounded nonplussed when I identified myself, saying, "I'd prefer to communicate by email if you don't mind. I'm interviewing a number of candidates." I felt like part of an assembly line, and dismissed — not to mention a lot less inclined to continue this potential "relationship".

Yet truth be told (because I always strive to share the complete story), I didn't accord his online post any more importance initially than any of the other ads I receive daily as a member of a freelance writers' network. With these sites, I troll for new business by sending out fairly generic letters, customized as the posting warrants.

Does the fact that he knew who I was make a difference, assuming he received numerous replies?

I can appreciate both perspectives. I opt for going the extra step and connecting via phone or even face-to-face when possible — especially if we're going to work together. Yet I've also enjoyed working virtually with many individuals and businesses around the world for many years. I see it as a question of balance.

How personally should we take or make our virtual connections? Your thoughts?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Can't Get No … Satisfaction — Or Can I?

Gretchen Rubin wanted to discover the secret to happiness, so she spent a year "test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy — from Aristotle to Martin Seligman to Thoreau to Oprah."

She began blogging about her experiences and discoveries, convinced no one but herself would ever read it. Famous last words. Four years on, several hundred thousand people look forward to her daily musings, and her book, The Happiness Project, is a #1 New York Times bestseller. One reviewer calls it, "A cross between the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love."

I first wrote about Gretchen's work in March 2008 in my inspirational enewsletter, What Shines. (This article, A Big Tank of Pink Liquid is now part of my eBook, What Shines: Practical Wisdom for Unleashing Your Inner Brilliance/Volume 3). Today I listened to her share some of her wisdom in a telecast:

How can you increase your happiness every day?

#1: Get enough sleep!
#2: Novelty and challenge bring happiness, but not right away. First you'll feel insecure, incompetent, and frustrated — push through to mastery.
#3 Strong relationships. Increase your contacts with others, including social media — but don't overdo it!

Gretchen blogs six days a week, and encourages people who are having trouble blogging regularly to actually increase the amount they blog. It's counterintuitive, yet, she says, when you know you have to do something daily, it becomes part of your routine.

She also recommends adding structure to your blog. She has specific categories: video, tips, quizzes, quotes, interviews — which makes it easier to frame what she wants to share. People learn differently, so offering various formats allows more people to resonate with what you have to offer.

Finally, she says, don't be concerned if some visitors don't agree with what you post. A strong brand will repel as well as attract. While it's painful to have someone attack you in their comments, it also provides an opportunity for you to learn from them, expand your growth by not reacting in kind, and engage more readers through the discussion.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Your Battery Corroded?

Last evening I stopped to put gas into my trusty Toyota, which is now old enough to graduate from high school. When I turned the key afterwards: nada, zip, no reaction. I popped the hood, and sure enough, the battery (barely a toddler) was laced with corrosion.

What ensued is comical this morning, not so much last night. The first AAA driver I called gave me a jumpstart, but said he was a tow truck and therefore had no tools to clean the battery. He sent me sputtering down the road to a nearby Kragen's Auto Supply. The Kragen employee helpfully cleaned the battery terminals while the battery was recharging in the store. We then asked another customer if he'd please help me with a second jumpstart, and, although at first nothing happened (tension!) at last the car sprang to life.

I thanked both Samaritans profusely, backed up, and — it died completely.

This time when I called Triple A, I did request a tow truck. When Dave arrived, he asked what the problem was, and I recounted the evening's events. But instead of hooking me up for a tow, as I expected, he asked me to pop the hood again, and expertly found quite a lot of additional corrosion under two of the bolts, that the Kragen's employee had missed in the dark. After this, the car started up just fine, and I drove home.

Since my car has often symbolized my body and/or my life, I immediately began to identify areas where my "battery" (life force energy) might be corroded. Even when we think we're in great shape, having done a lot of work on ourselves and transmuted dross to light, there can still be a bit of corrosion hiding in the corners of our mind, sapping our power, creating "terminal illness" on many levels. Our battery isn't dead; it just can't fire because of the insidious slime gnawing through our façade, encroaching on the cables to make a clear connection impossible.

The solution, with cars, with our bodies, and with Life in general, is to alkalize: get the acid waste (rage, frustration, disgust, hatred, fear, despair …) out of your system through the powers of love, appreciation, enthusiasm, self-worth, service, joy … and your battery will continue to serve you faithfully for many years to come.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Context: The Sequel

The "Tao of Now" for my October What Shines newsletter is Context, and how, as Anais Nin observed, we see things not as they are, but as we are. Today I experienced another, literal, "frame of reference":

I'd wandered into a local art gallery, in part because a new client had mentioned his photography was being exhibited there. After finding his work, I continued to enjoy the other artists' creations ~ until I came to a canvas that appeared to have crumbling strips of white plaster pasted on a background, with a little blob of red in one corner. The price was $1350, and I shook my head in amazement. While I aim never to criticize art, as it's the epitome of personal preference, this looked like something a child might have done when bored.

I strolled to the entrance and saw a fellow I've seen here before; one of the exhibiting artists. We struck up a conversation, and I mentioned that, as usual, I loved seeing the new works on display, although there was one that I didn't understand. Something kept me from saying anything more judgmental. I was glad I'd obeyed my intuition when Bob revealed himself as the creator of the piece.

A recent transplant from Taos, New Mexico (a noted art colony) he explained that the white strips represent the dominant Caucasian culture — which is crumbling — and the red dot, Native Americans, whom we've dominated. All at once, like a trick cube, his work appeared brilliant, and I asked why he didn't include a brief Artist's Statement with the piece to help people understand his intent — even something as simple as "Anglo / Native American". But he wants it without training wheels, so to speak. Enigmatic, though quite powerful, once I had a context.

Where are you making assumptions because you're missing the proper context? It's a potent exercise for us to practice every day: staying open to new information that could completely shift our interpretation of what we think we see.