Goodbye 2013 HELLO Year of the Horse!

chinesisches_neujahrsfest_jahr_des_pferds_2014_karte-r0a61ff39ed074ffcb79fb51bba0a85a9_xvuak_8byvr_512“Happiness doesn’t mean that everything is perfect – it means we choose to see beyond the imperfections”.

After what has been a banner year for bad news and catastrophic events both personally and globally, I am feeling a sudden fresh breeze of potentiality rushing around the corner. Today is the day we say goodbye to 2013 and its time for another letting go – a change of tides.  New Years this year for me feels like a fresh start.

Different cultures celebrate the calendar at different times. The Chinese New Year only begins at the end of January, hailing in what will be the Year of the Green Wood Horse.  I am born a fire horse and they say you do best in the year that represents your own birth animal. Since wood helps fire to burn…I am going to ROCK 2014!  This is MY year!  And it’s about bloody time. But I am old enough to know that happiness is not a given – it takes work, commitment, dedication and a plan.  And this is the work I am very willing to do this year – My only resolution is to rediscover JOY. Big happy awesome bountiful JOY. For someone like me – this is can be a tall order full of the necessity of “unlearning” and de-objectifying.

Let’s look at where we live…

North America is the wealthiest continent, most developed, most industrialized modernized and socialized. It also has the highest rate of mental illness.  There is a direct correlation between the wealth of a nation and unhappy people. How is it that the more wealthy we are, the more unhappy we become and yet we still seem to prioritize chasing the almighty dollar in the hopes of finding the elusive happiness chip? We think the next pill, next drug next relationship, next job next paycheck will be our ticket. We medicate away our emotions and have no cultural system in place to teach each other how to deal with the regular changes, ups and downs and emotions of life. We certainly aren’t teaching these important skills to our kids as we seem to be still busy trying reinventing the ancient scholastic “industrial era” three R’s (reading, writing  and ‘rithmetic), we are developing a generation of detached soulless children with an unerring sense of entitlement – but to what?   We are rich materially beyond belief – and we are miserable.  And we are teaching our kids to be just like us while we medicate them as well.

A recent poll by CNN suggests that more than 1/10 people are taking antidepressants in the United States. This means that the rate of depression has increase by nearly 400% since the 1980’s.  And what are we doing about this? Not a thing. We are making money. The multibillion dollar a year pharmaceutical industry knows all about this. There is an unquestionable correlation between the focus we have on material acquisition, gaining security in an insecure ever-changing landscape and how mentally unhappy we are.

prayer11-300x252I was diagnosed with clinical depression many years ago suffering from “post partum” depression with my first child. A doctor began giving me these miraculous little pills that would “even me out” he said. Yup they even’d me out alright. I was SO even, that I didn’t play guitar, sing, paint draw or write for 13 years.  This is a soulful death sentence for someone like me. It is a wonder I never turned to alcohol or drugs addictively. Instead, I became addicted to emotions.  Using drugs or alcohol to manage emotions was actually beyond my reach when I would fall into depression, I could only stand still and be in pain. In time we become habituated to feeling miserable.  It seems like a normal state of being – but this isn’t true.     Over the years when another “symptom” of unhappiness would arise, my doctor would increase or change the medications. Eventually, nothing worked – in fact they began to create the symptoms they were trying to cure.  This went on for nearly 20 years until I was left with only the device of trying to find a way out myself. I am so very lucky to have a supportive and informed tribe and family around me who understands the difference between “a bad day” and depression.  Few people actually take the necessary steps to make changes to the way they make decisions and choices in their lives, so the continuing cycle of hopelessness continues – even on the meds.

One day I wondered if people in Africa got depression how did they handled it without access to these drugs.  A little research showed me that depression is linked directly to the satisfaction and involvement you have in your own life.  Apparently depression is not a concept much discussed in Africa.  A sense of community, family involvement, and an active healthy spiritual life seem to be the balancing factors.  Having lived in Africa when I was young, all I can recall are hardworking smiling people, who did everything with their families and villages.  They worked ate and slept together. Children were part of everything that went on never pushed aside or made to be “seen and not heard”.  Play in Africa is just as important as work, and generally, in all the parts fo the world I have travelled to, people don’t work to gain unnecessary material wealth for “security”. In most countries, people work for only enough to be able to come back to their families and communities and have a life together.  The focus is much different from we have here. We have too much time to thin about our sad sorry selves here, where ni other countries people are geared towards thinking about the welfare of each other first.

In Costa Rica, I was lucky enough to spend time with native Costa Ricans (affectionately called Tico’s) who invited us into their homes.  Aluminum shanty-shack like houses leaning all up against one another like a house of cards.  Inside, there were several mattresses on the floor, neatly organized and all the beds made.  The man of the house offered us a coke from a small fridge that ran off a generator by the side of the house. He explained that he lived there with his wife, children his mother and sisters ad his nephew. They were 11 in the one bedroom shack.

From my journal…

“Children are playing around an old rusty beached boat beside the house with a one of the local friendly street dogs and outside on the fish-cutters table, a woman is preparing a Grouper while expectant tourists wait for a sandwich fresh from the sea. The children play with a coconut, smiling and rolling it to one another laughing while the dog chases the “ball” and they evade him each time giggling and setting up the next move.

I see many things around me but I see no unhappiness here.  Maybe what I see is different from how we live in Canada, perhaps what we would call “poor” –  but these people seem so happy, even with all the uncertainty.

I am envious of the children’s freedom to laugh and play and run unfettered.  A small boy comes to me and reaches for my hand and asks for some change so he can go get a Popsicle from the man selling them on the beach. I watch as he tears off down the lane calling after his friends to join him.  He never considered keeping it all for himself. Amazing.  Apparently 5 dollars American will buy the whole place Popsicles – I so enjoy watching the kids smiling faces.  I feel very rich.”

I have travelled around the world and have seen poverty such as you could not imagine.  But in truth, no one is poorer than us. We are poor of spirit, poor in community, poor in morals, poor in our connection to each other and most importantly we are bereft of this childlike JOY which seems to exist everywhere where money isn’t.

I have learned allot from books, and people, and school – but none of those things have taught me happiness.

Happiness – Joy – is our natural state of being must occur under all circumstances.  The ONLY way to exist in joy is to be present in this moment and when all you can do is survive one day to the next – the present moment is much more alive.  North American focus on materialism means we live in a constant state of fear about the future.  This is not a life. We take ourselves waaaay too seriously.

2014 is the Year of the Horse – the year of Bountiful Joy!

I wish for each of you that one ay at a time, you find that place inside you where life feels magical and everything seems possible. PLAY MORE!! be silly and have fun – “we’re here for a good time…not a long time”!

I wish for you a year of unexpected treasures, hope, happiness and most of all – I wish for you that you experience all of the blessings your life already has for you in this moment.

~Namaste~

The Show Must Go on…Merry Christmas.

Christmas is different now…

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I had this unshakable reputation when I was young of being OVERLY Christmassy. I made my friends nuts.   I would begin playing carols in October, way before the stores when out would come my old Mahalia Jackson album and the one I bought from the TV one year – Time life Christmas or something. Baking would begin in November, because making everyone’s gifts was so exciting for me.  I would make sweet breads shaped like candy canes, and French Canadian Tourtieres – about 60 of them, dozens and dozens of thumbprint and snowball cookies all wrapped in pretty paper. This was the best part of my life. I have always loved family gathering and the feeling of community at Christmas. Then, later on I had kids and Christmas only got better.  Presents under the tree, scanning toy flyers for months ahead to see all the things I would like to get for them. Christmas eve, waking the kids at midnight to open a few present before sending their flushed happy sleepy faces back to bed to dream of the piles of stuff that Santa had just left for them.  These were cozy warm beautiful loving times. The next day, food food food.  Turkey for diner, and turkey sandwiches for breakfast boxing day morning.

Throughout all those years of kids and Christmas, my mom was there.  We had an interesting relationship, because she was my birth mother and never got to raise me, she was very involved in my kids live’s (I called her my parenting partner…:)) and was (understatement) the best possible grandmother on earth.  I never had very much money, but we would pool our resources and become an unbeatable team.  Dollar stores rejoiced at our arrival, and we would make something wonderful out of not very much.

Christmas day we had down to an art.  I would make the turkey andIMG-20111225-00039 she would make the corn fritters.  She would arrive late in the afternoon, and even if I didn’t ahve allot of money to fill the tree, inevitably she would arrive with armful of every present for every person, and my yearly tree decoration. We would put on music, do the potatoes together, everyone would arrive, and the eating, presents and fun would begin.  We both loved creating traditions, and every year we really focused on passing those along to “our” kids.  It never felt like “work” – and we always said after it was the best Christmas ever.

The past few years have not been so easy for Christmas with my mom. She was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, so the past two in particular have been “possibly the last” ones.

They were hard to prepare for, but it was somehow ok, because she was still on the other end of the phone. She would give me a list of things and I’d go alone. We figured it out.

But it wasn’t always easy.  As the youngest of my family (and her only child) It was never my “role” to hold up the family traditions, like Christmas and such. That  belonged to my parents (also her parents…long story) and my older siblings (or aunts and uncles depending on your side of things…) Sometimes, I would became completely overwhelmed.  Two years ago, I was in such a twist I picked up the picture of my father and said qu112_10306035229_9296_nite loudly to it

“YOU deal with this! I don’t know how!”.

Next thing I knew, about 15 minutes later, I got a phone call from some members of his side of the family I hadn’t seen in 25 years.  Their Christmas dinner had cancelled and they wondered if they could come down and say hi to everyone.  Perfect.  My mother’s cousins and people she grew up with all around her. It was a sad/happy miracle-like event.

Then last year we made as merry as we could, but the cancer had tired her and she had a very small window of being energetic enough to deal withal the revelry.  We got her a beautiful eternity necklace with diamonds last year and she cried.  Well – we all cried.

And now we are at “this year” – the year I dreaded.  The year where she isn’t here anymore.

285612_10151470629868633_928841401_nWe all suffer from this los, but perhaps no one more than her identical twin – my “sister/aunt”.  I can’t imagine how this must feel for her. So, as she would have done – Christmas must go on.

I’d like to tell you something hopeful – like some great Christmas miracle – a warm rush of love or awareness or a flicking candle or anything – but I got nothing.    Christmas makes everything more – more joy, more food, more laughter, more music, more presents more family and friends. It also makes difficult stuff MORE – more grief, MORE loneliness, MORE tears, MORE exhaustion.  Where did I put my Christmas spirit? It only seems now that it can make the things that are hard to do MORE hard.  Like letting go, remaking family traditions, starting new, waking up in the morning.  All MORE hard. But as my mother would say – THIS TOO shall pass.

She would have wanted me to write…

2012-04-08 19.17.15But, I wasn’t going to write anything – I really have not much to say. but I know there are others out there who are  having a difficult experience and she would want me to share this experience.

It’s one thing to write when you are feeling all puffed up with wisdom and emotional on your game. It’s totally another thing when you are feeling broken and terribly vulnerable.  I knew I had reached a particularly epic low point when yesterday on the eve of Christmas eve and I had such bad writer’s block I couldn’t even write a Christmas card.  This was pathetic enough to be funny.

My family and friends are distressed. They don’t know what to do with this sour version of Mrs. Claus.

People that now me less than they do like to give me advice or their opinion when the see my eyes so sad.  Things like:

~”Think of the happy times” (I am…that’s why I’m so sad)

~ “She is always with you” (really…where??)

~ “You’re lucky to have had a mother like that. You should be grateful not sad…” (No idea how to respond to this one…I still can’t believe someone would say that)

So, advice to the grieving…get through it without causing any permanent damage to yourself or others.  You can celebrate Christmas next year when the pain isn’t so fresh. Try to be nice to people, and if you need to freak out go to the bathroom and don’t bring the whole party down. Breath –  Don’t forget to breath.

Yup that’s all I got.

I wish I could say something more deep – philosophical or insightful, but insight (inner vision) can only come with clarity, and right now I am standing in the middle of  a quagmire.

But I’m not counting out the possibility of a Christmas miracle quite yet.  I have seen it before and I know it can happen but frankly I feel a little like George Bailey in need of a Clarence worthy Christmas miracle right now.

I will pray that my mother will be around me so that I can feel it.  I will hold her dear and keep the spirit that she helped me create all these years of beautiful Christmas memories with gratitude and love and a knowing that one day I will see her again. I will feed my fiends and family, we will drink homemade eggnog and play music and laugh.

But quietly in my heart I will say prayers for you – yes YOU.  If you’re heart is hurting, if you are missing someone you love, if you are scared or feeling alone – my candle is lit for you.

Peace

The Little Christmas Spirit

maidenPeople talk about the Christmas Spirit as though she is an inanimate thing, an object – a myth or even possibly a brief state of mind.  But this simply isn’t true.  The Christmas Spirit is very much more than this and I think you should know.

The fact is, The Christmas Spirit was born in a time much before we existed, in a place where everything lived in harmony and peace. And from the very beginning of it all, the Little Spirit loved music.  The galaxy was her playground and her teachers were the stars.  She flitted from one to another happily soaking in the unique song that emanated from each. Some were filled with fire and heat, others were smooth with ice.  Each song told a story; some made her cry and some made her laugh with joy. The Little Spirit loved all the sounds and one after another she came to know the Universe as her school and her family.

But the Little Spirit longed to find her own song and be like the stars which each had their sound so unique that they could burst open the center of the universe and create a fire like they did!

So pondering this question one day in her travels, she came upon a little blue planet spinning lazily around a brightly shining star.  She stopped at it for a while, curious as to why the little planet had so little light coming from it.  Then she realized that for the first time, she had found a place which had no music and seemed like a candle to be extinguishing itself. Curious, the little spirit listened for the sounds that came from this place.  She saw the landscape below thirsty for water and care.  She witnessed the destruction of forests and oceans. She heard the crying of mothers and children as fathers and brothers were sent to war. She heard the angry voices of fear. She had never heard or seen such things.

She watched as things were built, and torn down and as all things came and went. She watched herds and flocks move like beautiful symphonies across the landscape and terrains of the planet – only to come to fateful ends. The beauty she saw made her heart grow strong with her own song and the destruction made her confused and sad.  The Little Spirit watched with rapt attention as the stories of man unfolded and one by one she saw the beauty in the impermanence of everything that was.  She saw how everything unfolded into eternity and came back into being as exactly as it was meant to be, and she heard a song growing inside of her.

Something magical was happening!  With every heartbreak, a new song came forth and now longed to share it.   She began to dance around the people then, her song bursting forth from her heart seeping into the landscape of the earth, but no one heard her little song.  Their hearts were too full of their troubles and they could not hear yet.

Through the summer and the long hot months, the Little spirit continued though, pushing forth on to each person she met, dancing about enticingly, singing her joyful songs of hope and peace brought forth from what she had seen and the teaching of the starts themselves!  But still, no one could hear her.  And so, the Little Spirit decided she would need the help of some great allies to help these beings to hear the music they needed to heal their hearts. She went back out into the stars and one by one she relayed stories of what she had seen on the little planet; people in despair, reaping destruction on their world and each other because of their confusion.  They did not know the love they came from!  They did not know they were the children of the stars their very selves!

And so a great council was called forth for the first time in many aeons.  Around the table sat the greatest of all the Universal Minds. The Little Spirit told her story of concern to the council, urging that something be done before the beings of the little blue planet destroyed themselves and the beauty that existed in that place. The council quickly agreed and so a plan was developed. But they would have to wait until the time was right – when the people would be ready.

Then came the Dark Night – the blackest of all times when the length of night exceeded the day. A time when the light is best seen.

On this night, world stood still, and the stars saw that they could begin their song. Rising up came a symphony unlike any that been heard before by the stars. It told the stories of people on the little blue planet – of their love and hope and goodness.  It told of all the things that had been seen by the Christmas Spirit.  And as all the parts came together she knew she had found her song and she joined in the chorus.  The song began far out in a place as yet unheard by man but is the foundation of all song. The sound built up one crystal- perfect harmony at a time until everything that existed in all universes began to resonate and dance gleefully with the moving melody.  There was no beginning middle or end to it as it pierced through all of space and time built in a crescendo of extraordinary pure sound until finally reaching the little planet with a resounding wave of hope and light.

The Little Spirit saw what her song was doing and she rejoiced!  Children smiled, mothers sang.  Soldiers put down their guns enemies embraced.  Arguments were put aside and gifts were exchanged.  Babies laughed, families ate meals and took comfort in each other. The song was beautiful.        And on this night the Little Spirit saw a hush come over the land – a reverence for the silence and song of celebration; a putting aside of differences and opinion and an opening of the heart which she had not yet seen before on such a grand scale!  The Little Spirit knew then that she had found her song. Her heart filled with a fullness she had not yet known and she loved the world for this.

The Christmas Spirit continues to travel in and out of homes from one heart to another throughout the year ~ but it is still around the darkest night that she and her universal chorus are best heard. You will know her song has touched your heart in every act of compassion and kindness you perform in each day.  In this way you are joining in on the song of the stars. For the Little Spirit left behind a gift for each person she has touched –  a tiny fragment of her joyful song which in your darkest nights, can be heard when you open your heart and listen to the special  song of the Little Christmas Spirit.

Peace

The Sentence

floating_dream_bridge__by_instant_idiot-d304pnf1.jpgSometimes writing is easy for me, and sometimes it’s not.  And at other times, the only way to begin again is simply to just – begin again. So I tried to inspire myself and find a new method of expression – I came up with an electronic tablet. A curious, fascinating and distracting little toy I decided right away I would begin to learn how to write on. As I was trying to figure out all the options, my original idea of sitting down to write was long gone in the fun of pushing buttons and shifting screens and paying demo videos. All my best intentions lost in a haze of brain numbing technology so I thought to myself – “I wonder what would have happened had the tablet been available to Shakespeare?”  Here’s what I came up with…

 

THE SENTENCE

Falling down into it,

Let the hesitation of thought,

The interruption of the natural curvature of a phrase,

New fangled bedazzled,

Images into taps on a virtual screen

In this nearly real world.

Here I wonder …

”Had been his only option,

Would William have impaled himself so willingly,Image

On his old Quill?

Would Mohammed have been commanded by the angels

To call his Divine Programmer,

And draw his mighty prose?

Sketching it,

Upon something so small and colourless

As Bits and Bytes?

A description of GodImage

In this approximate flowchart of near existence.

I doubt it. Seriously?

But you must admit that

There IS something remarkably mighty

About the electric thought

That thunders from your heart

Cascading though unbidden,

Spilling forth ink on pulp.

 

Here is how we have connected Image

Heart to heart ~ Soul to soul

Throughout all of time!

Perhaps in different ways,

This is just another of the same.

We will always find a way to see

All words are like exquisite trees,

Rooted only in what we see.

 

Hello?

This is the voice of Reason.

Will there be a time?

Where finger’s tip

Replaces pen and ink?

So, What would be lost then?

Are we not more effective with autocorrect? Image

And as for the prime directive?

Why do we even try?

The past is so unreal ~

And the future just flew by.

 

Forgive me if I sound like my parents;

Five miles barefoot ‘n all,

But the future looms dark,

And we are all in for a great fall.

So let brothers be brothers,

And sisters abide.

Wherever you can,

Let your own song take flight.

 

These are the things we are given to learn with, Image

Whether with pen and ink

In the dark as we think.

The day may come

When we will be silenced.

But for now, pen in hand –

We will continue our sentence.

 11/12/13

JB