Monday Meditation: Whose purpose is served?

The Eagle and the Jackdaw
Aesop's Fables (Translated by George Fyler Townsend)

An Eagle, flying down from his perch on a lofty rock, seized upon a lamb and carried him aloft in his talons. A Jackdaw, who witnessed the capture of the lamb, was stirred with envy and determined to emulate the strength and flight of the Eagle. He flew around with a great whir of his wings and settled upon a large ram, with the intention of carrying him off, but his claws became entangled in the ram's fleece and he was not able to release himself, although he fluttered with his feathers as much as he could. The shepherd, seeing what had happened, ran up and caught him. He at once clipped the Jackdaw's wings, and taking him home at night, gave him to his children. On their saying, "Father, what kind of bird is it?' he replied, "To my certain knowledge he is a Daw; but he would like you to think an Eagle."

Eagles and Jackdaws both have a purpose in the world, but they have very little in common, other than both being birds. Eagles are large birds of prey that are considered to be apex predators in the world. Jackdaws are small members of the corvid family that feed mostly on invertebrates.

In Aesop's story, the eagle was serving his purpose and intention. The jackdaw, however, found himself in all kinds of trouble by not fulfilling his own.

First, the jackdaw paid too much attention to the eagle. By wasting his own precious time and energy focused on the eagle's activities, he became jealous and wanted to compete with the eagle. He wanted to take that eagle down a notch- prove that this eagle wasn't "all that."

With this kind of intention, the jackdaw immediately set himself on a course of self-destruction. He quickly discovered that he could not beat the eagle by trying to "BE" the eagle. He ended up entangled in a mess, and, to add insult to injury, the eagle wasn't even paying attention to him. The eagle was already long gone.

In the end, the jackdaw lost his freedom both to fly and to live as intended; and he suffered the humiliation of having his true intentions exposed and ridiculed by those around him. How much would you be willing to bet that he blames the eagle for his misfortune, as well?

Had the jackdaw simply focused on his own purpose; had he been content with his unique gifts and talents, how much happier would he have been?

If you are an eagle being hounded by a jackdaw, I highly encourage you to ignore those antics. Focus on your goals, and continue to fulfill your purpose. Soar above it all, and keep being you.

If you've found yourself relating to the jackdaw, take heed of his cautionary tale. Don't  look at someone else's life and envy it. You have no idea what their own challenges entail. One thing is for certain- they are naturally equipped to deal with those. They also don't have the natural ability to handle your challenges like you do. The eagle's beak is hooked. It cannot pick up sticks and use them as tools, but a jackdaw can. The eagle misses its prey more often than a jackdaw misses his.

In petty attempts to "take down" someone else by trying to be better at being them than they are, you only thwart yourself. Eventually, that kind of thinking and behavior will take its toll, and it only ends badly for you, not the other person. Most likely, he/she is not even paying attention to you.

Rather than waste your time, energy and self-esteem on futile attempts to be someone you are not, focus instead on the wonderful gifts that you can share with the world. Take to the skies in your unique flight pattern and fulfill the purpose that only you can. As the adage says, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

Our diversity is what makes life special. The eagle is only better in the eyes of the jealous jackdaw.

It's something to consider...

Monday Meditation: The Ant and the Chrysalis

The Ant and the Chrysalis
from Aesop's Fables

An Ant nimbly running about in the sunshine in search of food came across a Chrysalis that was very near its time of change. The Chrysalis moved its tail, and thus attracted the attention of the Ant, who then saw for the first time that it was alive. "Poor, pitiable animal!" cried the Ant disdainfully. "What a sad fate is yours!

While I can run hither and thither, at my pleasure, and, if I wish, ascend the tallest tree, you lie imprisoned here in your shell, with power only to move a joint or two of your scaly tail."

The Chrysalis heard all this, but did not try to make any reply. A few days after, when the Ant passed that way again, nothing but the shell remained. Wondering what had become of its contents, he felt himself suddenly shaded and fanned by the gorgeous wings of a beautiful Butterfly.

"Behold in me," said the Butterfly, "your much-pitied friend! Boast now of your powers to run and climb as long as you can get me to listen." So saying, the Butterfly rose in the air, and, borne along and aloft on the summer breeze, was soon lost to the sight of the Ant forever.

Life is a constant state of flux. . We adapt and change from the moment we are born. As children, we cannot see our daily microscopic growth. It is usually much more pronounced to someone who hasn't seen us in a few weeks, months, etc...  and, as we come to discover later on, those who saw us and judged us from the outside perspective, had no idea who we were going to become later on.

So it is in the spiritual world. Most of us on a spiritual path find ourselves in that state of  change. What I believe and understand today is not the same thing I believed and understood 10 years ago, or 20, or 30. As more information is presented to me, my perspective changes. As I learn more and see things from different angles, I begin to understand that what I thought I knew was the view from one vantage point. I hope that I am growing and changing into something more wise and grounded and authentic each day. I hope the same for you as well.

When others look at us from one small perspective and from one touch-point in a shared span of time, their beliefs about who/what we are have no bearing. Compliment or insult, it does not matter. It is a skewed concept derived from limited information and tainted by their own experiences as well.

What they think of you is none of your business. Whether you like what 'they' are saying or not, it is not a reflection of who you are or what you will be in a moment, a day or a year from now. What matters is that you focus on your purpose, your transformation, and writing your own story-line. How others read it is completely on them.

Aesop's moral: "Appearances are deceptive."  Don't allow others to write your story with their perceptions. Only you know who you are and want to be; and, that's all that matters.

Keep growing :)


Thursday's Child: Dismal Days in Autumn

It's a deliciously dim, gray, rainy day here where I live. It's on days like this that I want to curl up in front of a fireplace with a cup of something hot and delectable and stare out into my back yard forest.

Rainy, foggy, and snowy days all tend to give me a safe, blanketed, cocooning kind of feeling. I need those on more than one occasion, perhaps because of my introversion. It's as if the earth is sharing a special secret with me. It's a lot like being in a large family, and finally getting time with mom all to yourself.

How about you? Are you a fan of "dreary" days or do you need sunshine all the time?

Witchy Wednesday: Make your own paper mache offering bowls

Paper Mache Offering Bowls
 This recipe comes from my personal BoS. If you click on the link under the photo, it'll take you to Lynn Harriet's Pinterest board. She does amazing things with paper mache. Definitely check her out!

Bowls by Lynn Harriet

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
Newspaper or grocery bag strips (1 inch by 3 inches)
Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) [plastic wrap works instead]
A Bowl of the size you wish to copy
Acrylic paints
Acrylic gloss finish *optional*

1.Tear paper into strips
2. Take a small, rounded bowl, set upside down, and cover it with petroleum jelly or plastic wrap if you don't want to use the petroleum jelly.
3. Mix equal parts of flour and water. A half cup of each is enough for two small bowls.
4. Dip each strip into the paste and apply the first layer of strips vertically , covering the bowls surface. Don't worry about it being uneven or jagged. It can be easily trimmed with scissors after it is dried. Apply the second layer of strips horizontally and so on until you have 5 layers.
5. Allow to dry. This takes about one full day.
6. Separate the paper-mache from the bowl. Use the tip of a butter knife to separate the two. If the inside is not completely dry, allow to dry for another day.
7. Once completely dry, trim the edges with scissors.
8. Paint with acrylics. Add symbols or sponge. Use your imagination!
9. Allow to dry and then cover with the acrylic gloss finish *optional*.

The bowl you've created can be used on your altar to hold herbs, potpourri or shell/stones, etc. It can be gently wiped out but don't wash it with water or use it to hold liquids of any kind.

***Note*** The finer the paper and smaller the strips that you use the smoother the bowl will come out.

Want some more ideas for paper mache? Check out this Pinterest board:

Monday Meditation: Our Tragic Response

In light of the tragedies over this past weekend, meditation is even more important than usual. When violence is perpetrated on any community, it affects everyone. The responses via social media have ranged from poignant to repugnant. While each person has a different way of processing reactions and feelings, when do they cross the line into exploitation?

Most people would agree that the media hypes a story because it's trying to garner viewership for ratings, and therefore, advertising dollars. Reporters will use body language, tone of voice, and inflammatory wording to pluck the emotional strings of those who are watching. Many will lament this behavior, yet they are riveted to the channel, and won't turn it off.

Social media isn't much different. The last few days have proven this to be true. "Pray for the people of ____"; "Don't pray for the people of ______, religion is evil"; "Change your profile to show your support of ___"; "Don't change your profile for this tragedy because that means you don't care about this other tragedy"...

Rather than promote awareness, show solidarity, promote peace, etc..., each of these draws attention away from those who experienced the tragedy, and toward the creator or perpetuator of the meme. Personal, political and religious/anti-religious agendas shouldn't be at the forefront of this aftermath. This isn't a contest to see who is more supportive or who is more intellectual. It's about processing what's happened; finding a way to both comfort those who are hurting, and deal with the ones who are perpetrating the pain.

Terrorism is about inflicting panic and dread. When the people of Paris were attacked, they stood together in solidarity to say, "We are not afraid".  Those who were not there but wanted to show support found ways to do so, even though they knew it was simply a symbolic gesture. They felt helpless to do anything more, and the world is grieving for them, for those in Beirut, and those Syrian refugees who are fleeing from those same terrorists.

Rather than bullying each other into a set way of thinking, let's find ways to lend help and support. By operating from fear, poor choices are made- choices that affect the entire world. We are all connected, and what happens to one of us happens to all. We won't find easy answers to these problems. Right now, let us simply be kind to one another.

It's something to consider...

Thursday's Child: Starbucks and the War on Christmas

By now, everyone I know is aware of the controversy stirred up by some Christians about the new Starbucks holiday cups. If it's somehow slipped your attention, then you must have a life or something. Here's the bottom line. Starting in the 1970's, Starbucks began putting out a festive "holiday cup design" with ornaments and snowflakes, etc... on a red cup, soon after Halloween ended.

This year, according to their press release on November 1:

“Creating a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity is one of the core values of Starbucks, and each year during the holidays the company aims to bring customers an experience that inspires the spirit of the season. Starbucks will continue to embrace and welcome customers from all backgrounds and religions in our stores around the world."
  In case you haven't seen the difference, here's a quick comparison:
2015 versus 2013 versions

The uproar is centered around a group of Christians who, in their ever-growing sense of entitlement and privilege, have determined that this is a signal that Starbucks hates Christianity. (see video here)

In a statement to The Washington Post, Joshua Feuerstein writes that,
"The cup is symbolic of a larger war against Christianity in this country. The policemen of political correctness have demanded that the silent majority bend its knee to a vocal minority." He adds: "Starbucks and others know that Americans are drawing a line in the sand and refusing to remain silent any longer."
While most of you are shaking your heads, laughing and wondering when the men in white coats are coming for him, I'm going to share some food for thought, while sipping on my Starbucks French Roast that I brew at home from the succulent whole beans that they so graciously provide for me at point of sale (no red cup needed).

1. Snowflakes and ornaments are in no way a symbol of Christianity. 

In fact, Jeremiah 10: 1-5 specifically addresses a tree decked with silver and gold as a Pagan thing that should not be practiced by followers of this god.

2. Jesus (if he indeed existed) would never have celebrated Christmas. 

He would have been Jewish, and at that time (and today in most of the Conservative and Orthodox/Ultra Orthodox sects of Judaism), Jews did not celebrate birthdays. Why? Because only their god can declare a day holy. There is nothing in the bible where God declared that day a holy day of remembrance for people to follow, and in fact, the New Testament specifically says that they are not to esteem one day over another (See Romans 14: 5,6)


3. Jesus would not have been born in the winter, anyway. 

Believe it or not, Israel gets snow. It gets cold there. In the birth stories of the Jesus, it discusses shepherds having their flocks in the field. That isn't going to happen in December. Some folks will claim it happened in the spring, but all the stories point to it taking place during the Jewish festival of Sukkot. This is a time when they all must leave their homes and build temporary shelters and stay in them for 7 days. This commemorates the time when they were out in the desert wandering around for 40 years (according to their bible). It got anglicized to "The Feast of Tabernacles", but it more accurately translates to "The Feast of Booths". Since there is absolutely no evidence that a census was called for by Rome (which is the reason the new testament claims that Joseph took his pregnant/ready-to-deliver wife and forced her to travel to Bethlehem), it makes more sense that they went "home" to celebrate Sukkot with friends and family. Jesus wouldn't have been born in a manger. He would have been born in a Sukkah. That takes place in the September-October time frame (Tishri 15 in the Jewish calendar).

4. Jesus DID celebrate Hanukkah, according to the New Testament (See John 10:22)

Christians should be following in the footsteps of their messiah. The term "Christian" derives from an old Roman insult which translates to "mini-christ". They took ownership of the term and say it means "follower of Christ". Therefore, why is there no uproar over the lack of menorahs on the cups? Why aren't they celebrating Hanukkah?

Jesus's way of life, according to the new testament, was of a Jewish rabbi (teacher) who focused on very Jewish concepts- feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, not being judgmental of others, etc... his focus would never have been on a Starbucks cup, nor on celebrating the Pagan traditions of "Christmas". He was much more interested in reminding the Jewish people of who they were, according to their agreement with God- loving, kind, caring people who had forgotten that in many ways. He lived simply, relying on the kindness of others to care for him and his followers, and he taught very much by example, so those who want to follow him have a clear road map.

Feuerstein, and those who are of his ilk, are attention-seekers. They look for ways to play martyr and victimize themselves so they can pat their own backs, satisfied in their own minds that they are going to get bigtime rewards in heaven for their "long-suffering".

I've already seen Christians trying to distance themselves from him by claiming he isn't a true Christian. The "No True Scotsman" argument fails on so many levels. Most Christians are very much like Feuerstein. They don't read the bible, nor study it against history. They don't study Judaism, which is what Jesus would have taught. They have no understanding of the 613 'commandments'* (not ten) or their application to Jewish life and thought. They don't follow Jesus because they don't have a single clue as to who this person is alleged to have been.

If Feuerstein really wanted to follow Jesus, he'd have picked up a menorah, learned how to play dreidel, and looked up some recipes for sufganiyot (Jewish doughnuts). They go really well with a good cup of coffee ;)

*The term commandments is very misleading. In Hebrew, the word is "Mitzvot". A mitzvah is both a guideline for living, and also a charitable work. Mitzvot is the plural of mitzvah.

Veteran's Day: Thank you and You're Welcome, America

I am a United States Navy Veteran. I joined the military in 1982 at the age of 19. I had just finished my first year of college, and knew I wasn't interested in continuing my studies at the time. I wanted to do something more with my life, something bigger, but I just couldn't decide on what it was I wanted from life- what I wanted to be when I grew up.
As a kid, I wasn't a girly girl. I liked playing football, climbing trees, playing with worms, digging in dirt, anything that allowed me to be outside. I played with GI-Joes and made them all go to war.. Barbies were tied up in the weeping willow tree when they got into my DZ (drop zone). I loved all the same things the boys in my neighborhood did, and my mom (who was a single parent) either didn't really care or just didn't have time to pay attention. I was called a 'tom-boy' by all of her friends and she would laugh about it. I was never discouraged from liking the things I liked, and I just never got into all that frilly girly stuff until I was a teenager, and even then, I just fell in love with makeup.. lol  At one time, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, but girls weren't allowed to do that kind of thing.

So, when I was sitting in a dorm room at the end of my first year of college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, my best friend and I decided to go talk to a recruiter. I had talked to an airforce recruiter a couple of years prior to that. He came to my house to talk to me (I was 17). When he tried hitting on me, I immediately decided that the airforce wasn't my cup of java, and hadn't thought about it since.
So, we went to the local recruiting station. We talked to the Army (although neither of us was really all that interested in it), and of course, the Air Force was out of the question for me, then it was the Marines and finally the Navy.

Afterward, we weighed our options. My best friend and I thought long and hard about which branch of the service to go into- and because one of my friend's dads had served in the Navy (he had the coolest anchor tattoo on his arm, and he had been IN Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack) and because my best friend wanted to be near the beach, we made the decision to go Navy. The Navy recruiter told us we belonged in the Navy because we swore like sailors. Good enough! Sign us up!

It's okay to laugh. We were 19 years old. We wanted out of Charleston, West Virginia. There wasn't much to do there to begin with, and we had the options of college, the state police academy, or the military if we were looking for a career.

So, not a really noble intent there, right?  But wait! There's more to why I joined and served. Don't give up on me yet, America...

I was in love with Ronald Reagan. No, not in that girly, crush-on-the-actor kind of way. I was in love with my President. For all his faults and idiosyncrasies and any other things people want to blame him for, the man was the reason I fell in love with my country.

You see, I grew up in the era of the Vietnam Conflict (veterans will understand why I say conflict and not war), and I was 11 years old when Nixon resigned the Presidency due to the Watergate scandal. I also grew up in a time when we had the "Iron Curtain"... the USSR and the United States were the two "super powers" of the world, and there was a constant threat of a nuclear war at any moment.

Americans were disillusioned and apathetic. What's there to love about a country who treats its returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines  like criminals? Who can believe in the office of the Presidency after its been so corrupted? Why bother caring at all? One of these people is going to hit that big red button and it's all going to be over in a split second, anyway. We had 52 of our people held in Iran as hostages and the attempt made to save them resulted in a disaster. Good grief, our own government can't even keep our people safe overseas!

Then, came Ronald Reagan. He made us nationalists again. He made us believe in ourselves. He had the ability to get on camera and excite us about what made this country great. Him being elected put enough fear into those hostage-takers that they released them when he became President. He made me want to give back to all of those people who came before me and worked so hard to give me the freedoms I had.
His birthday was the day before mine, too! A fellow Aquarian! :)

It wouldn't be until much later that I'd understand politics and the impact of his presidency on us and the world. Still, I am grateful for the influence he had on me at the time.

I wanted to serve my country under that President. Because of him, I was willing to give my life and service to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I believed in America.. I sang Lee Greenwood's song from the top of my lungs and with total pride. I teared up when I swore my oath, and I was never more proud than on the day I graduated bootcamp as one of less than 1,000 women serving at the time.

I was yours, America. All yours. I was ready to make sure not one of you lost sleep over your security. I was there and so were my fellow soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors. We'd take care of you. We'd be sure that the Soviets didn't sneak onshore in the middle of the night and take away your freedom. We were there, and we'd be damned if we were going to let anything happen to our fellow Americans.

My time in service taught me so much. One of the most difficult decisions I ever made was to leave the Navy. I surrendered my life and freedoms to the service of my country, and it gave me back a life filled with confidence, leadership skills, decision making abilities, organizational skills, hope and inspiration. It was more than a fair trade. Because of the things I was taught in the Navy, I have been able to survive and thrive as an American civilian.

So, when you see me and you say, "Thank you" and I say, "You're Welcome, America", I mean that with all my heart. It was truly, my privilege and pleasure.

To my fellow veterans: Thank you. Thank you for your service, friendship, camaraderie, and understanding. I am in the best of company.

Happy Veteran's Day!

Monday Meditation: Staycation Relaxation

I was on vacation last week, and used that time in contemplation. My conclusion was that I had too many irons in the online fires.

The Samhain's Sirens project has run its course, so it's been gently laid to rest. I've spent a lot of time serving the online Pagan community between that project and The Sunday Stew, but not enough time in reading, writing, and doing artful things.

This is a flaw of mine; I tend to give back more than I take in for my own growth and edification. I'm learning to change this, and I highly encourage you other overachievers to do the same.

Many people see Samhain as "The Witches' New Year"- I do not. I see it as the beginning of "the time between the times," with Yule as the beginning of the new year. It's okay to see it however you like, this is just my particular bent. So, during this time, I'm planning to do a little "cocooning" and doing more things that are not related to community service. I want to play around with photography, pyrography, drawing, writing and designing a new website.

My "Year of Living Dauntlessly" is quickly coming to a close. I'm pretty proud of the things I've accomplished thus far, most around drawing boundaries and defending them, but also in the areas of doing things my way and in the manner that makes me happy.I've also been reviewing ways of living a more healthy lifestyle.  I'll be spending this time pondering this year, and as the new year approaches, looking for a new theme for next year. I think next year may just be the "Year of Living Artfully" (note to Sharon R: Yep, I'll be ordering a jar here, soon ;) )

It's been a great time off from work, and I did all of the things I wanted to do. I feel relaxed and ready to take on whatever the job has for me in the coming week.

I highly recommend taking some time to contemplate where you are, where you've been this year, and where you want to go. The holidays can be a very stressful, busy time, but they don't have to be that way for you. You can set boundaries and simplify wherever you like. This is your story- don't let anyone else write it for you.

I wish you a peaceful week ahead.

Sláinte! (To your good health!)