Winter Solstice & Gratitude

In the cool darkness of the early morning, my thoughts turn to the billions of people who have come before me. How difficult must their lives have been. I am reminded of the quote from Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), considered to be one of the founders of modern philosophy. Back then, he described human life as ‘nasty, brutish and short,’ which serves to remind us of what a good time and place we were born into.

In spite of my own very human problems, I feel fabulously lucky to have lived the life I have been given. Living in a time with access to nutritional food, heat in our homes, nice clothes, vaccines, comfortable transportation to almost anywhere and access to an excellent education, books, media, wonderful music, we must be some of the most fortunate humans in history! And yet, all we do is complain… We seem to lack perspective.

The Shortest Day

The Winter Solstice in Human History

The winter solstice was a special moment in the annual cycle for most ancient cultures back to the neolithic. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter food reserves. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this.

This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of some ancient archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and ceremonial structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. The primary axis of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at Stonehenge.

To the Ancient ones, the winter solstice was immensely important. They were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months.” In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast, before deep winter began. Most domestic animals were slaughtered because they could not be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready to drink at this time.

I have found this day to be a good time to count my many blessings and perhaps error on the side of the positive. The sun will return to bring spring and summer to warm the earth and make my sky garden bloom again. So yes, we do have much to look forward to. Let us drink and rejoice!

What have I found to be healing?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our use of the word “healing” in normal conversations. There can be no doubt that many who have defined themselves as spiritual healers have plundered this word to gain the trust of those who feel unhealthy, unhappy or incomplete in their lives, but what does it really mean?

Definition of healing: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the process of becoming or making somebody/something healthy again, OR with physical damage or disease suffered by an organism, healing involves the repair of living tissue, organs and the biological system as a whole and resumption of functioning.

I have been incredibly lucky to have experienced mostly good health in my life. Even as I suffered from many emotional challenges, I kept my physical health, mostly. It has only been in the past six years that the physical difficulties arrived. In my past, my struggles have tended towards emotional.

This morning’s sunrise from our home in rural southern Colorado

Emotional Healing

I finally found a truly ‘healing’ therapist in my thirties in Boulder and met with her for over five years. She provided for me my first trustworthy relationship in my life and then proceeded to offer me reframing and reparenting therapy, which showed me why I had suffered so much in my past and how to move forward in a more healthy way. This is why I believe strongly that most could benefit from finding the proper psychotherapist and spending a few years building trust with them. There is no doubt in my mind that this therapist saved my emotional life and set me on a much healthier path towards full-personhood. But this healing therapy required much trust and time to occur. I paid cash for those five years of counseling, and to this day I feel those were the best dollars I ever spent!

Spiritual Healing

In addition to a number of positive counseling relationships with others, I used the skills I gathered from studying counseling at Naropa University for five years, to learn to love and accept my Self, so much so that when I hit a major midlife crisis at age 49, I was properly prepared to change many aspects of my Self. When I got divorced, lost my job and then my career, I found I had the time, the need and energy to spend a year or so alone, deciding what was next for me. That was when I made a conscious decision that my highest priority for the rest of my life was to experience genuine love and loyalty from another person. As soon as that became my most honest and powerful priority, I met someone worthy of my love and trust.

This has been my second most powerful healing experience for the past seventeen years. Learning trust on deeper and deeper levels has made me feel truly safe and happy for the first time ever.

The Healing Power of Nature

My final healing experience might at first appear contradictory. We moved to a rural space in southern Colorado in 2014. At first I was resistant because it was all so foreign to me. I had always lived in cities for my career as a University Librarian. Now I found myself in a bit of a foreign land and it took me a few years to adjust to the peace and beauty of this land…

From the beginning it was the silence that seduced me. Observing sweeping, majestic sunrises and sunsets also gave me a new sense of purpose and peace. I found my city-induced, unconscious level of vigilance slowly melting away as I relaxed into the safety and peace of Mother Earth.

Today I rejoice in the fact that I have found my sacred place to throw my ashes when I die…

In contrast, my health has slowly dwindled by living at 7,000 feet. It took me a long time to accept that I would need supplemental oxygen to continue to live here. Falls and concussions have become more common. No, life is not perfect, but this place still feels like home in the best sense of that word.

When I look out over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains numerous times each day I feel certain I am home…

So, as I look back over my life I see that I needed to learn lessons in loving my Self, loving others and loving the silence and solace of living closer to nature to heal my life. All of these avenues to better health were chosen by me either unconsciously or on a fully conscious level. All I feel is gratitude at this point in my life…

Postscript: After further thought I realized I need to add a few more important avenues to my own healing: pets, art, music, travel, writing, reading, art, color, my still lifes, the weather, photography, gardening, and especially the SUN!

The sunrise west of Walsenburg CO this morning!

I could tell when I first looked east around 6AM this morning that it was going to be a good one! The clouds were lovely…

First I saw the very beginnings of the sunrise…

Then a bit more with sunrays just beginning to show…

Next the early sunrays began to light up the sky!

Spreading colorful light over the Spanish Peaks to the south…

and then BAM, the full light of the sun appeared over the horizon!

Now do you see why I love living here? Magical surprises almost every day!

The advantages of brain injury (Say what?)

Since my fate seems to be living with some fairly serious brain problems, I have been searching lately for the bright side of this apparently grim future I face. Some might find this attitude pathologically optimistic, but what the heck! If you can’t change it, why not go in search of the bright side?

First of all, I feel so just plain lucky to be living in this beautiful place with my loving little family, who understand endlessly my occasional forgetfulness, confusion and regular fatigue. My pup Rasta is especially sympathetic as he’s pushing 13 himself and can’t hear, can barely see or smell. He spends most of his days either sleeping or looking for a warm lap.

I have always run my mind a hundred miles an hour as a general rule, but not now. I tend to get busy early in the morning and wear out around ten or eleven. Then, for a change, I can be patient with myself… sometimes. I can settle down and meditate restfully for a while because I really cannot do anything else. I can now shut off my mind easier and just cruise mentally. I’m slowly learning my limits and now I try to only focus on one thing at a time.

Only so much brain space means less worrying and a lot less fear of death. Why? Because I have experienced hours of unconsciousness at this point and it isn’t such a bad thing. My mind simply shuts down with too much stimulation, and that limit is easy to reach. I have always enjoyed one-on-one conversations in my past, now that’s about all I can tolerate or enjoy. I enjoy focusing fully on others, just for shorter periods of time. After a nice talk with a friend, I love spacing out alone and contemplating our conversation. In fact I enjoy contemplating everything more.

I notice some of my senses are now heightened. My love of music, colors, and tastes are much more intense. I guess this is a function of where my head injuries were. Mine have been equal opportunity injuries both on the back and the sides of my brain.

Again I come back to one of my favorite quotes about the changes we may go through as we age:

“…we all know how this ends, so rushing through life is senseless. As our inner life grows ever more luminous, the chatter of the speed-and-greed world slowly fades, leaving us with greater peace, tranquility, quiet and contentment.” — Arthur Rosenfeld

Early bloomers in my high country garden!

I was astounded to find my tiny high country irises blooming today in my garden at 7,000 feet! Their leaves are only six or seven inches tall, but the flowers are fantastic!

I got these from Perennial Favorites near Rye Colorado a couple years ago. They specialized in offering high country species. So sorry they decided to close and retire, but these are the gift that keeps on giving!

My earliest bloomer is a type of creeping thyme that takes a few years to get going, but then it takes off! It’s been blooming for at least a week now, even through the snow!

Yesterday I got my brother John up here to help me weed and plant some new plants. He loves working outside with his hands. He’s a self-identified “dirt guy.” If you’re nice he might work for you too!

My garden didn’t look like much back in May 2017…

But this year should be GREAT!

I’ll keep you posted on the new flowers in my garden as they bloom!

OH, I forgot to mention…I actually witnessed some Rocky Mountain Bluebird sex yesterday! Babies to follow!

UNBELIEVEABLE! I just caught a hummingbird on a penstemon flower right outside my door!

What does “new age” even mean?

I enjoy listening to a music channel on Direct TV named “New Age.” That got me thinking, what does “new age” even mean? The first person to coin the term was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, cofounder of the Theosophical Society, in the late 19th century. She announced a coming New Age as a form of Western esotericism, but the term “New Age” has antecedents that stretch back to southern Europe in Late Antiquity. Following the Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe, new esoteric ideas developed in response to the development of scientific rationality. What is “esotericism”?

Esotericism is the state or quality of being esoteric—obscure and only understood or intended to be understood by a small number of people with special (and perhaps secret) knowledge.

Skipping forward to the Baby Boomers, the “New Age” burst into public consciousness in a buzz of media attention around crystals, chakras, reincarnation, and channeling in the 1980s, but had its immediate roots in the 1960s counterculture. “New age spirituality” is actually a descriptive category in religious studies, appropriated by practitioners of a kind of spirituality that sprang up in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the USA and Britain.

So then, what is spirituality? One definition is that it involves the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than yourself, something more to being human than pure sensory experience. That greater whole is cosmic or divine in nature. An opening of the heart is an essential aspect of being spiritual.

An open heart is a state of being where you feel open, accepting and expansive. Love flows through you without obstruction. Many long to experience an open heart, but at times we may feel too scared and vulnerable to reveal ourselves in this way, especially to ourselves.

This reminds me of a special meditation taught at Naropa Institute (now University) in Boulder Colorado, where I studied for my masters in Transpersonal Psychology and Counseling. At that time, meditation was an important part of my training, and one meditation was to open your heart to all of the pain in this world at this minute. Quite the challenge. Feeling compassion for the entire world of suffering is life changing, so is feeling complete compassion for your Self in this moment. If you were raised like me, to feel no compassion for your own struggles, but simply demand more from yourself forever, compassion is the medicine you need right now.

To me, New Age means a new way of seeing and experiencing the world in contrast to our parents and grandparents. It is a unique opportunity to see and love the world and your Self wholeheartedly. Your upbringing will determine how difficult that may be for you.

“Here’s what is truly at the heart of WHOLEHEARTEDNESS: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” — Brene Brown