White Smoke: Why the new Pope is significant…

Pope Francis

Today maybe spare a thought and a prayer for what is happening in Rome as the Cardinals go into conclave for the second day. UPDATE The Conclave is over, but the same thought still applies..

Why, you might well ask . What relevance does the Vatican really have to world?

Well the reality is whether a one is a catholic or not, the Catholic church is one of the largest and most powerful “non-political” voices in the world today.

For years the Vatican has been shackled by infighting, corruption and Machiavellian power games and so what could have been a huge force for good in the world instead became a shady question-mark on the world stage.

There was a moment of hope, Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani) a genuinely spiritual and graceful man somehow took the conclave by surprise and came in determined to sweep all the corruption aside. He died the night before he was due to announce his reforms.  He was there for just one month and his death, (or murder? read In God’s Name)  ensured that  the status quo remained unchanged.

Irish seer, St Malachy prophesied only one more pope after Benedict:

In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit.Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremendus judicabit populum suum. Finis.

In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.

The idea of Petrus Romanus is also contained in an ancient prophesy made between 1319-1377 AD, by Blessed Tomasuccio de Foligno, which allegedly details how a future pontiff will heal the Church of schism following a time of turmoil:

“One from beyond the mountains shall become the Vicar Of God. Religious and clerics shall take part in this change. Outside the true path, there will be only disreputable men; I shrug my shoulders when the Bark of Peter is in danger and there is no one to lend it help… The schismatic shall fall into the scorn of the Italian faithful… By about twelve years shall the millennium have passed when the resplendent mantle of legitimate power shall emerge from the shadows where it was being kept by the schism. And beyond harm from the one who is blocking the door of salvation, for his deceitful schism shall have come to an end. And the mass of the faithful shall attach itself to the worthy Shepherd, who shall extricate each one from error and restore to the Church its beauty. He shall renew it.”

Interestingly Benedict XVI announced that his resignation date would be February 28th the feast of St Romanus. What did he mean? Was he telling us that it was time for the schism to end but that he had done all he could and needed to clear the path for a more able shepherd?

There is only one way to remove a whole Curia (Curia = the Vatican Government) and that is for a Pope to die or to resign. If there is a problem of disreputable men who have infiltrated the Vatican Curia, maybe Benedict knew that the only way forward was to resign.

This gives me hope. Imagine a church run by a Dalai Lama type figure, with a genuine spiritual faith and a voice unafraid to speak out on world affairs.

Many think that the church is so lost that no good papal candidates remain. But they do. There are two that come to my mind and I’m sure there are more. If I could wave a magic wand Cardinal Luis Tagle would be Pope and he would choose Cardinal Sean O’Malley as his head of state.

Tagle is one of the most charasmatic and engaging teachers to hit the world in a long time. At just 55 years old he is

Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila after becoming a cardinal in November (CNS/Paul Haring)

very young for the Vatican world and that is a good thing. He speaks of the need for “a church that’s humbler, simpler, and with a greater capacity for silence.”

When he speaks there is usually not a dry eye in the house and yet despite his ability to literally rock the room, he is an extremely humble and gentle man.  As John Allen, a Vatican commentator says:  “if Tagle walks out on that balcony the Church has just got a rock star .”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley is an equally lovely man. A Capuchin monk who prefers to wear his brown cassock and not cardinal attire is older than Tagle but also very committed to walking the walk and living a spiritual but humble life.  He is tough also and known for dealing very firmly with clergy accused of sexual abuse and very compassionately with the victims.

If these two for example could get in there and reform the church, suddenly the world would have a very big voice as Tagle is not slow to speak out on the world we are shaping:

“It is sad that those who worship idols sacrifice other people while preserving themselves and their interests. How many factory workers are being denied the right wages for the god of profit? How many women are being sacrificed to the god of domination? How many children are being sacrificed to the god of lust? How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god of ‘progress’? How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god of greed? How many defenseless people are being sacrificed to the god of national security?”

(Cardinal Tagle speaking at  the 49th International Eucharistic Congress; June 15-22, 2008 in Quebec, Canada)

However we won’t know who it is until the white smoke comes and the new pope steps out on the balcony. There is always hope that the corruption can be reversed, and the hope is that this time good will prevail and whoever it is that emerges will be the one to sweep the house clean, start anew and bring a much needed healing voice to the planet.

We need all the help we can get to bring peace to the world. There is change in the air and we can always hope that even if the sea ahead is rough, that the tide is turning for the good…

Update: Pope Francis is the new Pope

Very close to Tagle and O’Malley in philosophy and way of life so change might indeed be on the way.

Read more about him here  and here Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday Reflection: Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

If the Earth could speak, maybe she would tell us of her dreams.

Her dreams of peace, of balance and harmony and of souls inspired and aware all is one.

Of unpolluted rivers and seas.

Of forests unbounded

Of clear skies and air.

Of children dancing in the meadows and celebrating the gift of life.

Of people united in love and care.

Of stories woven from age old truths.

Maybe she would sing in the voice of WB Yeats as she dreams of a life imagined:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Or maybe she would just sing …. Earthsong by Michael Jackson

What we think about and imagine we create. Are we treading softly? Or are we storming though, careless to the effects of our actions on the world around us? We are all co-creators. Can we pull together and create a dream? Or will we tumble unthinking towards a nightmare? It is our choice….but only 100% of the time…

Sunday Story – Creating Altars and Sacred Spaces

I thought I’d talk a little today about altars and sacred spaces. What brought this topic to mind is the unfortunate state of the weather! We are having a lot of rain at the moment which is keeping us indoors more than usual.

Nature is my favourite natural altar, but now that I am inside a little bit more, I am appreciating my home altars and sacred spaces as they provide little oases of calm and serenity.

So what is an altar?

Well for me it’s where I place images or items of any person, place or thing, which remind me to say Thank you as I pass. What I consider my main ‘altar’ area is actually on a wall-shelf on my stairs so that I pass it often and therefore am reminded often.

Included here is a collage I made of St Therese of the Little Flower on a backdrop of mainly a Joan Miro painting. St Therese I feel an affinity for because she had a very strong connection to the wider world, what I see as the multidimensional reality that is around us at all times, but of which we are not always so aware.The Miro background is an acknowledgment that my way might not be traditional or of a specific faith but that I can recognise the good in all faiths.

St Therese had a message that once gone from the body she would send a rose as a message to anyone who requested prayer through her and which she felt could be answered. Many people from all over the world say they receive roses and I am one of them! It’s not like they drop out of the sky but more that you get one within the time frame of the prayer and unexpectedly. In my case I had been handing over three issues to St Therese, many years ago now and out of the blue my father arrived with three red roses that he just felt the urge to buy for me! A lovely example also of him listening to the promptings sent to him requesting on a soul level that he be the conduit of my reply. I was delighted. The roses never disintegrated and so I have one of them also on my altar area to remind me that the world is indeed so much wider than we can ever fully know.

Also on my altar are carvings of the Hindu Ganesha. As the remover of obstacles and the one who sometimes places obstacles to instruct, he is a good reminder of the dual functions of trust and acceptance. Also as an animal he is a personal symbol of my love of animals, and his appearance is also for me a nod to the strange and interesting history of our planet and some of the hidden histories that are not often explored. So for that reason Ganesha also serves as a reminder to keep me open.

Included also are carvings of Mary and Jesus (as the Infant de Prague just because I like that statue). The energy of the Christ consciousness is very significant for me. Jesus was of course the ultimate healer and Madonna blue is my personal healing signature so I have a very strong connection and devotion to both Jesus and Mary.

The Thai Buddha is there not just because I love Buddha statues and the gentle calm that Buddha represents, but also because it represents my daily practice of the techniques of Knowledge and my deep bond to my teacher Maharaji, and my gratitude to him for teaching me such a powerful practice and continuing to provide such an inspiring and cleansing teaching.

The oil and diffuser sticks are symbols of my healing practice and the beautiful oils I use to cleanse the area. As much as I have learned many wonderful healing techniques over the years, I am also acutely aware that I have been given a natural gift that I must protect and treasure and the very simple clarity of the oil image reminds me to be grateful for this.

Finally I include the non specific artifacts to include all the natural traditions of healing, faith, medicine, folklore, history, and the magic of the earth herself.

This is just one altar of course. I have many sacred spaces in my house and many beautiful crystals and natural stones that hold the energy and bring the wisdom and beauty of the earth and nature inside.

Do you like to create sacred spaces?

Sunday Story – A Reflection on Mindful v Heartful

Artwork: Daniel B. Holeman

This Sunday I’m writing a reflection rather than a story as this week I had some interesting discussions with a client who is battling with various issues. Her big concern was that she didn’t know how to practice ‘mindfulness’ and this was bothering her as learning how to stay calm and centered is vital for her well being.

Straight away I felt a little internal resistance as mindfulness is always a word that bothers me. I tend to think visually and to also feel concepts, so the word mindfulness hits me like a wrong note and throws the balance off from the centre and up to the head.

“What is it you want to achieve?” I asked.

“This calm, this deep peace I get when I’m here having a healing session,” was the reply.

“Do you ever feel this at any other time?”

“Well yes when I’m talking a walk, or doing something that absorbs me.”

“So what changes when you try to practice what you believe to be mindfulness?”

“Well I sit there I don’t know what is supposed to happen. I’m not sure what it means to be mindful and then the whole thing makes me feel stressed!”

“Aha..” I said. “There we have it.

The discussion and session that followed cleared things up for my client but got me thinking about the words we use to describe spiritual practices and how they can cause confusion.

The word centered is used for a reason as the feeling you want is exactly that, a grounded, connected feeling, not a thought. Feeling is from the heart, not the mind. It is the mind’s nature to think. That’s its job. To try to get it to stop is impossible and as Byron Katie would exclaim – ‘Hopeless!”

The real point of  mindfulness is really heartfulness. It is why the old wisdom saying of: Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water was used by the Zen masters to get their students to become absorbed in feeling the ‘now’ of the action and the need for continual practice.

It wasn’t to learn a method of mind control, it was to learn how to slip gently away from the mind, to let it do what it does while tip-toeing off to find a quiet place in the heart that is unswayed by the incessant flow of thought. They may have called it mindfulness, but really they are referring to an experience that can only come from heartfulness. In this quiet place of the heart a connection is made between the finite self and the infinite and in that connection the self is at once self and other, being and universe, breath and breather.

Prem Rawat Maharaji teaches that just one second in this space can literally save the entire day ahead as the power of one moment of complete fusion of the self with the infinite resets us on such a deep level that profound change can occur. I see this every day in healing as the whole aim of what I do is to get the person to feel this place so that their own ability to find their way there and to heal and reset can kick in.

And this is the essence of conscious living, because it is ultimately heartful living. I prefer the word conscious to mindful as it is a much bigger word. To awaken into the consciousness of a heart centered connection brings the awareness that we are much more than mind, that we can choose not to be swept along or away by our thoughts.  But we make a big mistake if we think we can control thought. Thoughts will bubble along all the time.

The real strength in heartful connection is that it strengthens our whole being to know what we truly are, how we feel, what we feel and what feels true for us. From this place we have the clarity and strength of feeling to question thoughts and change faulty thought patterns. But just like weeding the garden, heart connection has to be experienced regularly to prevent the pesky thoughts, the ones that cause us pain, from growing back.

This is why any daily centering practice is so good for us.  And the words we choose to describe it are just words after all, as at the end of the day it’s almost impossible to describe a feeling. I just know that sometimes words can get in the way and I can’t do the word mindful, it’s too full of mind for me. Too confusing and just a little too far from the heart.

What do you think or feel?

10 Ways to Manifest Change – What we practice we get good at…

What we practice we get good at, so what are we practicing? Peace or war? Love or fear? Judgement or compassion?

 

There is certainly a sense of change growing on the Earth and even more so, there seems to be a real desire for positive change. We can choose to focus collectively on positive change. So how do we do this? Mainly by letting go of fear.

“But this is a scary time!” some people will argue. Yes it is. I am certainly not downplaying the real issues that are bubbling on this planet of ours. As global financial structures collapse and with them all the livelihoods and ideas of what a secure life and a secure future should look like, then of course fear can get a toehold on the collective consciousness. Change brings with it a feeling of uncertainty and if uncertainty is not managed then fear can and will creep in.

But we have to be realistic about change. The clue is in the word and change really does mean change. Even when the change is for the good the process that nudges this new way of experiencing the world can be uncomfortable and unsettling.

We can make change easier by flowing with it, staying in trust, reaching out to help each other and opening our minds to new ways of seeing and experiencing our daily lives. Or we can make it difficult by resisting, grumbling, wallowing in fear based thinking and walling ourselves away from our true selves and from each other.

This is where our collective thinking can make a difference. If we expect the best, then perhaps we can nudge our collective destiny onto a smoother path that doesn’t have to create too much discomfort.

 Here are ten practical ways to create positive intention and vibration:

 

  • Stop feeding your mind with negative outcomes. That means be very discerning about watching news or reading newspapers. Either stop or at least be aware that for every bad story going on there are hundreds of good things happening that are never reported.

 

  • Find a positive angle in everything that you hear and actively look for positive stories.

 

  • Use vision boards and positive words to dream yourself happy and to include beautiful earth images so that a healthy, happy planet is always included in what you imagine.

 

  • Connect with animals and nature.

 

  • Pass on positive stories to others. Don’t pass on bad news, scare stories or engage in pessimistic conversations.

 

  • If your thoughts are stressing you, depressing you or making you sad then ask for help. There are hundreds of wonderful teachers and methods out there that can help, so have a look around and work with whatever system appeals to you.

 

  • If you hit a bad patch, stay in the moment. Imagining a stressful future or wallowing in the past is just a way of living in a world that doesn’t exist.

 

  • Find a meditation practice that works for you. Learning to be with yourself in silence opens you to the much bigger you that lives within you…

 

  • Don’t listen to people who say that it’s so hard to become enlightened and all that sort of separatist thinking. That’s just another negative thought-form disguised as a philosophy. A happy human being at peace with themselves and the world around them, doing his or her very best to consciously create a happier, healthier world is an enlightened human being. That’s all. It’s no big mystery and if you’re not feeling like that right in this moment you’re only a thought away from it!

 

  • Smile! Even if you don’t feel like it just smile. It’s now known that making the facial muscles form a smile release happy endorphins.

 

The key to all of this is to be conscious. To live consciously and to remember that our time here is meant to be a joyful and fun experience. Remember that the news reports just give one side of the story. There have never been so many great teachers on the planet, so many people waking up and choosing to live consciously and so many ways in which to learn and experience conscious living. And what does it even mean to be conscious? In essence it’s a way of simply living from the heart.

 

A nice example of visioning from http://www.squidoo.com/my-vision-board

People of the Story

For some people life is a poem, for others it’s a song, and there are those for whom it’s a tragedy, or a black comedy or a giant, epic fantasy! Regardless of what way the story unfolds, the one guarantee is that a story is being written, one breath at a time.

We are ultimately the people of the story.

We have a constant need for stories. We like stories about the world around us (the “News”). As we  grow up our stories evolve from picture books, cartoons and comics to full blown movies, novels and TV soaps.  Such is our appetite for a story we don’t seem to care whether the story is real or not and more and more we give equal weight to stories about celebrities and to Reality TV show stories featuring ordinary people.

If an alien civilization somewhere out there happened upon earth and began to observe us, they would probably say that this is a world of stories. To them, we might appear to be a young species of some kind who sit mesmerized as a giant story telling machine weaves its spell and enthralls us in its neverending supply of stories.

A story is of course a great learning tool, as long as you are aware that it is a story. It’s when we are in the story and forget that it is a story that problems arise. We begin to believe the story that we are being told and that we are telling ourselves. We forget that as creative beings we have the power to co-create the story and to change its direction. Worst of all, we can become so entrenched in a version of a story that we fight anyone who is equally entrenched in another version.  And so we have wars and conspiracies, financial meltdowns and power games.

More importantly, in the forgetting that it is all a story in the first place we can be manipulated by those who control the mass story telling machines. As the media industries of news, film and music become more and more amalgamated into large corporations they have the power to pump out a stories that can influence what we believe.

Right now we have a music industry that has become overwhelmingly mass produced, one dimensional and more like a giant porn and freak show. It is no surprise that the children incessantly being fed this one storyline are becoming confused, unhappy and angry. And the adults fare no better as the mass media is feeding us on a diet of war, fear and insecurity amidst channels full of largely meaningless programming.

But we have choice. We do not have to choose these stories. We can move from our hypnotic trance and see that healing ourselves and the planet can start from little steps. One step is to wise up to the story we are being fed and start creating our own. Parents have a responsibility to watch what stories are being pushed on their children and to steer them to more creative and positive ways of seeing the world.

I feel very strongly about this as I see that the root cause of much of the dis-ease that my clients are now presenting with is stemming from a belief that it’s all hopeless and awful out there because that is the story they are seeing and hearing every day.

Yes we are the people of the story. The story has shaped us since we first started to create pictures on the walls of caves. But in truth there are only two operating systems from which everything springs – love or fear. We must start rewriting the story and co-creating the stories of love. We must give attention to the stories that feed and nourish our souls, to the stories that inspire, teach and help us progress.

The other system, the one of fear has no place in our world. However, as long as we give attention and belief to the story machine of fear then we make it real. We give it power and then bring into reality all the things we absolutely don’t want to experience.

If we just become a little more conscious about where we place our attention, we can wake up from the hypnosis and actively imagine a new way forward. Small steps and little choices can help us and those around us to unhook from the drip fed stories of fear. These are ways we can heal and grow.

 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
(Robert Frost from The Road not Taken)

Three Amazing Nature Heros…

I read a really inspiring article about people who devoted their lives to preserving nature on Ian Lawton’s lovely soulseeds.com blogsite.  Wonderful stories showing that we do so much good when we try, and even more importantly, when we are open and able to admit we are wrong we can change and we can redress the balance and put the past behind us..

Aldo Leopold, Paul Watson and Julia Butterfly Hill are three examples of people who became activists after significant experiences with nature.

Aldo Leopold was one of America’s most famous conservationists, but he wasn’t always an environmentalist. He was a hunter before he became he became passionate about conservation and ironically it was through hunting that it happened.  A profound experience up close and personal with nature changed his life, and his motivation.  Aldo was with a group of friends hunting wolves to clear the mountain in order to hunt deer.  Aldo shot one particular wolf. He looked into the eyes of the dying wolf and watched a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  At that moment he realized that something in the mountain, something in him was also dying.  It could not ever be recaptured.  It was after looking at this fierce green fire dying that Aldo Leopold’s life was changed and he went on to become one of the most significant American environmentalists of the twentieth century.

More recently, the activist, Paul Watson had a similar experience. It was in 1975 and he and one other were on a small boat, resting between Russian whalers and a pod of whales. They naively believed that the hunters would not shoot while they were in the firing line. This changed when the captain walked on to the deck, motioned with a thumb as if to slit his throat and shot a harpoon that narrowed passed over their heads and struck a whale behind them, a female. A male whale immediately launched itself at the Russian boat but was harpooned in the head. It fell back in agony. This is when Watson’s life was changed. He caught the eye of the whale just before it fell back on his boat. It would have crushed them. He saw in the whale’s eye what he described as “understanding”. The whale appeared to tense its muscles one last time to avoid landing on their boat, thereby saving their lives.

The experience changed Watson so deeply that he committed his life to saving whales. He continues to do this, despite criticism. The criticism comes from conservatives and it comes from progressives who say that he damages their reputation with his cavalier approach. His answer to that is, “So!” He’s not doing it for them, and he’s not doing it for the organization. The whales are his clients and his concern.

One last example comes from Julia Butterfly Hill who in the late 1990s lived for 738 days inside a 180 foot tall, 1500 year old Redwood tree to stop it from being cut down by loggers. She named the tree that she got up close and personal with “Luna”. The happy ending to this story is that her sit-in at the top of the Redwood worked. Luna lived on, as did other trees in the area.

“Luna” The Redwood Tree Julia Butterfly Hill helped to save

She said: “I wake up in the morning asking myself what can I do today, how can I help the world today. I believe in what I do beyond a shadow of a doubt. I gave my word to this tree and to all the people that my feet would not touch the ground until I had done everything in my power to make the world aware of this problem and to stop the destruction.”

Julia Butterfly Hill on protest!

What an inspiring group of people! As Ian comments: “That’s the sort of commitment we humans need to show. If you’re the sort of person who is motivated by getting up close and personal with nature, then create plenty of opportunities to do that. Remind yourself that your life is dependent on the life of the earth, and your life affects the earth in every moment.”

Read more at www.soulseeds.com