Monday Meditation: How to Honor The Fallen

"The brave die never, though they sleep in dust:
Their courage nerves a thousand living men.~Minot J. Savage, Decorating the Soldiers’ Graves

"Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,

The memory shall be ours."~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Decoration Day

Today is the day we Americans have set aside to honor our warriors who have fallen in battle. Since the Vietnam War of the 70's, when America shamed herself by treating her veterans of that conflict poorly, we've swung to the opposite end of the spectrum in trying to out-do one another with expressing love for our military folks, both the living and the dead. 

Many will thank a veteran or military service member today- and I can tell you on behalf of all of us, we don't want you to do that.  This is  NOT our day. This a day to honor those who have fallen in battle, not those of us who lived through the battle, nor those of us who've never seen battle. We appreciate your sentiment, but we do not wish to take from those who gave the sacrifice of their lives here on earth in war.

A lot of folks will post a Facebook meme or say a silent prayer or put out a flag and then race off to their barbecues, picnics, and "unofficial start of summer" celebrations.

So, what do I suggest that you do to honor them?

I can guarantee you that those who fell in battle (and those of us who live) want you to go to those picnics, barbecues, pool parties and the like because those are freedoms you enjoy in America. You can cook and eat what you want here. You can dance and swim and play. Your children can squeal in delight as they run through a sprinkler or jump into a pool. You can choose where you want to celebrate- at the beach, a friend's home, in an American state park.. all of these are things that many in the world cannot do. 

Because they live under tyranny and oppression. They are not able to eat as well as you, nor would their children be safe in a park or in the back yard playing, and a sprinkler or swimming pool would be unheard of where they live. You can pursue your happiness here as a right, not a privilege. 

That's what these brave folks died trying to preserve. Oh, don't get me wrong. Our government has sent people out to wars that were unjust and not truly fighting for "Freedom"; but those who didn't make those decisions and who gave their lives did so for the ideal of freedom and love of this country. They made a conscious choice to serve "We the People" at all costs, including their lives.

I don't ask that you spend the day mourning them, or that you have to be solemn and reverent all day long. The fact that you are exercising your freedoms is what they would want to know you were doing. 

Perhaps though, during the picnic, barbecue or some time during the day, you could toast them with a beverage of choice and just say a simple "Thank you". It's more than they would expect and the very least that they deserve.

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." ~ George S. Patton

Monday Meditation: The Travelers and the Plane-Tree (Aesop's Fables)

The Travelers and the Plane-Tree (Aesop's Fables)

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

TWO TRAVELERS, worn out by the heat of the summer's sun, laid themselves down at noon under the wide-spreading branches of a Plane-Tree.

As they rested under its shade, one of the Travelers said to the other, "What a singularly useless tree is the Plane! It bears no fruit, and is not of the least service to man."

The Plane-Tree, interrupting him, said, "You ungrateful fellows! Do you, while receiving benefits from me and resting under my shade,dare to describe me as useless, and unprofitable?'

Moral:  Some men don't see the value of their very best blessings.

The behavior of the complaining traveler seems to be a prevalent thought-form lately. I've been witnessing it in several people with whom I've been in contact in recent weeks, both professionally and personally.

I have to wonder if sometimes folks don't add to their own challenges by how they view their situations.  Quite a few of my clients keep asking me "How can I get out of my situation? I need specifics. I want to know EXACTLY what do to because I've tried EVERYTHING."

In my readings, I find that Tarot is responding with, "Change your outlook and things will change." Unfortunately, that's not what people want to hear.

Oprah Winfrey once said, "If you look at what you have in life, you'll always have more. If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough."

One of the best  exercises I know to get out of that mindset is to speak 3 things for which you are grateful each day for 21 days. It's not a new concept. Lots of people utilize this. The most successful and happy people in the world are the ones who have an "attitude of gratitude". And, it's difficult when you're in the midst of major challenges to see your blessings.

It's easier to slip into depression and ask questions like "Why me?" or "How am I supposed to be grateful for THIS?"

I get it. I really do. Been there, done that; got the t-shirt for participation and wore it proudly for a long time. But, the thing is, when I started to embrace the process and the situation I was in, and to be thankful for the things that I took for granted, things started to change- and rapidly. It may get to the point where you have to say, "I'm thankful that, for today, I have a roof over my head. I have food I can eat to sustain me. I have clothing on my back."  That roof may not be ideal, the food may be peanut butter sandwiches, and the clothing may have holes in it. But, some people in the world don't have some, or even all of those things today.

There are always things for which you can be grateful. Life is a gift. It isn't fair, and it isn't always pleasant. It isn't always awful, either. Our lives tend to move cyclically, like the turning of the wheel or changing of the seasons. Many times, we're put into similar situations to give us a second chance at learning what we didn't get the first time around (or the third, or fourth). When we learn to embrace and be grateful for this moment and all of the blessings it brings, we find ourselves enjoying the journey, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Why not give it a try? For the next 21 days, write down 3 things for which you are grateful (no repeats!) and speak them out loud. Make them part of your morning or evening routine. It'll take you less than 2 minutes. Is it worth 2 minutes of your day for 3 weeks to possibly radically change your life for the better? If so, let me know your results.


Monday Meditation: The Cave

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is the foundation for many myths, religious beliefs and stories throughout history. His unique expression of allegory created a timeless classic which is examined by nearly every student of philosophy today. The fable of intellectual or spiritual blindness, seeing the light, ascending to attain knowledge and the obligation to serve others through leadership is now a common theme in humanity’s collective conscious.

If you've never read Plato, or the cave, the synopsis is as follows:
Plato writes the act as a discussion between his mentor, Socrates, and Plato’s older brother, Glaucon. Socrates poses a scenario to Glaucon in which he must imagine that there are human beings who have grown up inside a cave, chained at the neck and legs, facing the cave’s wall. These people have never seen daylight or real objects before. A fire is located behind them, and facilitates shadows cast against the wall by people and animals they cannot see. These people have become so adept at shadow-watching that some are able to predict the movement of the shadows, and others bestow praise upon them for their ability to foretell these events.

Glaucon is then asked to imagine what would happen if a prisoner is released.
“At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows” ( Jowett translation). 

This description is very much like what happens when human beings spend time in the dark and light is suddenly shone in their eyes. The pupils contract suddenly, and sharp pain ensues. Furthermore, there is very little that can be seen until the pupils are able to adjust and begin receiving input again.
Socrates then asks Glaucon to suppose that this person’s eyes had adjusted, and he could begin to see objects as they were, instead of only their shadows.

At first, he would seek out the familiar- the shadows. Then, he would see reflections in the water. After, he would see the objects themselves, and then the heavens. Eventually, he would come to see the sun and surmise that the sun itself was the source of all things, and that it was good.

“He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?” (Jowett translation). 

With this revelation, Socrates proposes, this man would be compelled to share what he has learned with his former companions still trapped in the cave.

As the man re-enters the cave, he attempts to explain the reality of what his friends are viewing, but his eyes are now accustomed to the light and he cannot view the shadows in the same way that he could before his ascent. His associates now see him as a subject of derision.
“Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death” (Jowett translation). 
Socrates then goes on to instruct Glaucon that this man would pity those who were unable to see clearly, just as those in the cave believed it was he who had become a cautionary tale against going to the light.  Socrates now pulls the tale together in summary for Glaucon.

The cave represents reality for the majority of the people. The fire represents the sun, and the ascent of the man is the journey of the soul seeking knowledge of truth. The enlightened are obligated to return to the cave and interact with those who can only see the shadows on the wall, even if it means being ridiculed or imprisoned. To Socrates, this is the task of true leadership.

So many are living in that proverbial cave today. They cannot see the reality of what is going on. They live in  their happy little grottos, passing judgment on those who would attempt to show them that what they see is only a shadow of reality. They ridicule, imprison, and even murder those who are trying to wake them up.

To the rebels, the truth-tellers, the real leaders of this world- this is for you...

The Cave
Mumford and Sons

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

'Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

'Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

*Jowett translation of Plato's Republic can be found here

Monday Meditation: Dirty Secrets

I confess: I did it. I waited as long as possible, but I couldn't hold off any longer. Other wild witches will forgive me, because they understand. There is a need to connect with the land that is almost overwhelming. I had to put my hands in the soil.

I have two flower-box areas that span the front of my home. I moved in here in late autumn, when the time for sowing and reaping was over. The time for frost seems to have passed, and I couldn't wait to get to know this place from a plant-whisperer's perspective. My fingers were itching to put plants in the ground.

I've had some hints as to what I might discover, just from viewing the lay of the land. My house sits below street level, as my front yard slopes down from it. This told me that I'd have to deal with the effects of impervious surface runoff.  The house has forced-air heat, meaning there is a gas tank in the ground, and I noticed that the two trees at the end of my driveway, also sit just above that gas tank who have branches that are rotting.

My landlord's wife mentioned to my son that she wants to spray weed killer on the growing number of dandelions, and said she wanted to talk to me about that. She's a very kind person, so I have to imagine she is ignorant of the reason for their presence.

Red clover is in abundance in the front garden boxes. As I began to pull up some of the weeds, the soil began to speak, and I listened intently.

The soil needs to rest and recover. The run off from the street, the years of chemical weed killers, and mass-planting over the last 20+ have stripped it bare. The red clover is there to help heal it, and the dandelions in the back yard are doing the same. The earth knows what it needs, and my role is to help facilitate it.

I pulled up those plants that were draining nutrients, and left the ones that were supposed to be there. I then went to the local store and bought cedar mulch to cover her and let her rest. I promised the land I'd do what I can to help for as long as I am here.

I remember when I first saw this place- I felt the call of the forest and the soil. I knew I was meant to be here, although I wasn't exactly sure why. Listening, healing, protecting... these are what being a witch is all about.

The earth will share her secrets and desires to a soul who is willing to listen.

Kallan Kennedy is a lifelong free-thinker, truth-seeker, and wild-warrior witch. A military veteran, martial artist, writer, teacher and public speaker; she is a child of The Morrigan, and a tarot/totem intuitive with a degree in Religion and Philosophy. Connect with her via  The Secret Life of the American Witch Facebook page,  or email her here.