Monday, December 2, 2013

Light and Dark

The Light & The Dark  

There's a foreboding and pervasive feeling of darkness in the land.  Yes, there's a normal increase in darkness during December when the sun is far south in the northern hemisphere. But this ominous shroud of darkness goes way beyond the seasonal change.  Darkness permeates ordinary conversations between friends causing short-tempered or angry responses.  The Light of Respect and Good Manners is depleted as sinister or one-dimensional agendas reign over reasoned discourse that would benefit the whole.  In this darkness, one cannot rationally assess any points of an argument due to the din of many voices speaking over one another.  Dark blame is everywhere and always levied on someone else because "they" are wrong and "we" are right.

But as long as we remain dependent on blaming someone else, or remain entangled in the murky tentacles of right or wrong, the fault is ours alone!  Individuals, seasoned in the work of the Light, have a responsibility to join again in reasoned and wholesome conversation on the issues that divide us.  Or the darkness will obliterate the goodness that we are for another season.  It's difficult to imagine that we've progressed much beyond the words of Thomas Paine in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls."  But he also said if  'sunshine patriots' did not shrink from service they would be deserving of the love and thanks of all men and women.

Lightworkers are the sunshine patriots!  That is the essence of what they are and can be during these dark times that try our souls.  When it appears that the darkness has risen stronger than the light; when it appears that caring for the poor, the elderly, for children, and those in need is a sign of weakness; when it appears that rational thinkers and moderate people have gone mute, then must the 'sunshine patriots' rise up in service.

We have extraordinary ways to turn the Dark Into Light.  Ignore the seductive dark clamor that envelops the airwaves of our daily lives.  Hold tight to the values of compassion and caring for others.  Embrace any ideals that empower you to live your life as a better person.  Summon the support of those who share your views.  And recognize that all people, all places, and all things on this earth have a life cycle of rising up and falling away.  It is a law of nature that declares what is born today must die tomorrow.

December 21st is the longest day of darkness in the year.  Yet, after a few short moments of stillness, the sun begins its migration back to the northern hemisphere and the dark days begin to recede.  Within six months, (not even a nanosecond in Cosmic time,) the opposite occurs.  Just as it feels darkness is forever, light returns.  The pendulum of Light and Dark is always in balance, rising and falling, though we get trapped in believing otherwise.

It's so much easier to live in the balance point of that rising and falling wisdom described by the Buddha.  The 'sunshine patriots' can always endure from a place of Light and Wholesomeness!  That place holds a much gentler feeling to it and creates less disharmony and stress on the being. Without any attachments to the illusions, this work can be done!  For at the end of each season, the Dark must become Light and the Light must become Dark.   Each one rising and falling according to the time allotted.  It is the law and it is in balance.  For in the end, this too shall pass away giving rise to something newer!
Jo Mooy - December 2013

Grandmother Protectors

The Grandmother Protectors 

We'd just returned from a lengthy hike. Sitting down to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, our ears picked up a soft moaning wail. It was a sound that felt strangely misplaced in a California State Park filled with families laughing and happily enjoying summer vacations. We looked around for the source of the sound. Then we saw him.

A little boy with light colored hair stood with the front of his body pressed against a giant Ponderosa pine. The tree dwarfed him. He rubbed his teary eyes through his sobs. My first thought, (rather, it was the one I wanted to believe) was that he was somehow communicating with the tree. We had done the same thing by hugging one of the towering trees earlier on our hike.  But that notion was quickly dispelled. The little boy was being punished. The events that happened over the next thirty minutes not only confirmed it but has left an indelible imprint on my psyche.

His family, a collection of variously aged generations, was eating a well spread out lunch at a picnic table near the tall tree. All of them ignored the child. But we couldn't. After a while his sobs subsided and he began to look around though he never left the tree. Then his mother got up. At last, I thought, she's going to bring him to the picnic table with the rest of the family. But that wasn't her plan. She went to the little boy, slapped him hard across the back, twisted his arm, shoved his face into the tree, and pushed him to his knees. His sobs began again louder than before.

We were stunned by her behavior. But my partner sprang to life, announcing "this is child abuse" and went to get the park ranger. As she strode into the office area the mother went to the restroom near where I was sitting. I decided to confront her when she came out. As I stood in front of her, I noticed her face was splotchy and angry, her hair disheveled, and she seemed tormented. I told her I'd seen how she treated the little boy and surely there must be another way. She replied that she would not tolerate his misbehavior. I asked her what memories she wanted this child to carry into his life - one enjoying a family vacation or the abuse he was suffering at her hands. She stared at me defiantly, assessing how she'd answer. I said "there will come a time when you'll wish to hold this child in your arms instead of smashing him into a tree."

Perhaps realizing there might be trouble brewing, she hurriedly moved away from me. Then I saw the entire family had gathered up their half-eaten lunches and were moving away from the area. Especially now that my partner had arrived with the Park Ranger in tow. Wondering about the little boy, (and secretly hoping they'd left him behind) I noticed his grandmother had retrieved him from the tree and was carrying him away in her arms.

In domestic situations like this something must be done. We confronted the issue by finding the Park Ranger who might be able to help. But there was something more to consider. The mother must have learned that behavior somewhere in her life in order to rain down such punishment on a defenseless child. And sadly, he was going back into that environment no matter what the Park Ranger did.

So we did what we knew to do. Going into the forest, we (two grandmothers) bowed our heads and appealed to the Goddess of the Forest and the Mother Earth Guardian of us all to protect that little boy. We prayed for peacefulness to surround his mother and we asked that his future days be blessed with harmony instead of hatred. We prayed that his own grandmother be there as a safety net while he was growing up.

It's been several months since witnessing that event in the state park. But not a day goes by that I don't think of the little boy crying into the tree. The image stays in my memory as a reminder to continue offering prayers not only for him but for all the children who suffer in this heinous way. And during this month of Thanksgiving I am keenly grateful for all the grandmothers who protect their grandchildren somehow, someway, from all who would harm their innocent souls.

Jo Mooy - November 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Walnuts And A Piano

Walnuts and a Piano

There's a rhythm to life. It's a musical quality that asks us to hear the cords and feel the vibration of sound that carry our emotions from the highs through the lows and back again. The recognition of this rhythm allows us to live in balance and to enjoy the music of life. 

This time of year always pulls at my heart and mind with sweet remembrances of the rhythm of childhood. Perhaps it's the blustery feel to the weather, the knowing that winter is soon to come, or a recognition of the gentle turn of the seasonal cycles. Certainly ancient cultures honored this time of year, the time of the thinning veils. The Celts honored it with ritual and the ceremonies of Samhain. This time of year creates an opening that allows for the fine tuning of my inner nature and with it, the ability to appreciate the song that became who I am.

Autumn is a time of preparation for the mysterious and sacred winter-time ahead. In California, where I grew up there wasn't a winter that was severe or dangerous, yet there was still something otherworldly about it.  It was a season of deeper inner silence.  During this time, as we made ready for the shorter days and longer, mysterious nights, we felt closer to something magical.  Of course, much of that magic revolved around that most sacred of children's holidays, Christmas.  Christmas required great preparation and just as the ancient people we had our own rituals that readied us the special time ahead.

One particular autumn shaped my life forever more. Our mom cooked good food that was as delicious as it was nutritious. In fall she prepared for the holidays by baking cookies - lots of them in a great variety of shapes, flavors and textures. Cookies are a treat that nourish us on so many levels. They bring joy to the taste buds, a lightness to the mind and a healing of the soul.

But the kind of baking our mom did required lots of ingredients and some were expensive and hard to come by in those days. So every October our family was packed into the car for an hour drive south of our home in San Jose to a place where the main north south road, highway 101 narrowed to 2 lanes and where towering black walnut trees lines the road. There we'd park the car as each of us were given burlap bags to fill with the green round pods that had dropped from the trees. These pods held the treasured meat that would in December become Russian tea cakes, one of Mom's specialties made only when the weather was cooler. I could almost taste them as I gathered my walnuts in my sack.

I knew the whole procedure by heart. I knew this movement of our life's musical movement well. When we got home my dad would lay 2x4s on the ground and nail them together to make a pen to hold the walnuts while the outer shells dried out in the sun for weeks. When they were ready to be hulled he took his large carpenter's hammer smashing the thick outer shell tossing them onto tin baking pans. Then each evening we'd all dig out the precious tasting walnut meat for the inevitable holiday baking to come. All of this lay in the depths of my psyche as we hunted for the round treasures hidden under the fallen leaves of the great old trees.

That particular year mom needed to use the restroom on our trek home from the walnuts. In that part of the world, on a blustery fall Sunday, there weren't too many options for her. My father found a seedy looking bathroom on the outside of a dilapidated filling station where the gas attendant barely looked up as he pumped gas into our station wagon.  When mom came back to the car she was carrying a big leather purse which she didn't have when she left. She and my dad held a muted conversation but I caught snippets of it. "Someone left their purse..." "I don't feel right leaving it..." "Would you trust..." 

I think there were more walnuts to be had but something had changed and we headed home. The bags of walnuts were piled in the backyard forgotten now as we gathered round as mom and dad opened the purse tentatively. My parents were honest hard-working folks so we could see they felt like sneaks just opening the bag to see if there was some id in it. Even before they'd opened it there was talk of placing ads in the personals to see if the owner could be found. Each article was removed and placed carefully on the kitchen table, some tissue, a wallet, a comb, a huge diamond ring. Even to a kid's eye, you could tell this was very valuable, And then the one thing they had hoped to find, an address book which identified the owner.

They immediately called the number in southern California. The son answered and as soon as Dad told him what they'd found he was jubilant. His parents had called a few hours before, devastated that his mother had lost her purse. They looked everywhere, drove miles back retracing their stops to no avail so were cutting their trip short and coming home. He had no way to reach them until they arrived home as it was well before the time of cell phones. Instead he told my father that the ring was his mother's wedding ring and very valuable. It seemed she usually took it off when in the car as her fingers got swollen when she sat for long periods of time.

Arrangements were made to return the purse and everything in it was packed with great care. The next day it was mailed, insured and sent to a woman we had never met. When it arrived, the lady called, thanking my parents for their honesty and for their kindness. My parents assured them it was no problem, and not to give it a  second thought. I could tell by the smiles on my parent's faces that their reward was the warmth that comes with bringing great joy to someone and in this case someone they would never meet. Then the incident was forgotten and we went back to our rhythm, the walnuts were laid in the sunshine to dry, children went to school, fathers to work and mom kept the home fires burning.

A few days later, a letter arrived in it was a check for $300, a small fortune in 1961. It was a small token of their gratitude from the lady and her husband. The ring had been in the family for a very long time and was irreplaceable. My parents called them saying they couldn't accept it as they had only done what anyone would have, but the lady insisted. She said that many would not have returned it and that they had the money so it would was a pleasure to thank them. It turned out that was the amount of cash the woman had in her wallet when it was lost but my parents had never even looked in the wallet.

Mom wanted to use the money to pay bills and maybe buy nice Christmas gifts, but dad was adamant. "You are going to get something for yourself; something that will make you happy." A few weeks later, a used upright piano arrived. My mother who had learned to play as a child sat down and was in her element.

That Christmas there was music, real music, not from the radio but from our mother's fingers and from her heart. And much like the home baked cookies the music was sweet and nourished us in unseen ways, body mind and spirit. The piano reset the rhythm in our household and the music in our lives. This fall just like every other fall, I think of walnuts and a piano and how that came to be such an indelible memory in my life.
Patricia Cockerill - October 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Where the Water Meets the Sky

Where The Water Meets The Sky

While in a business meeting fourteen years ago a call came in telling me he was born. Breaking speed limits across three states, the two-hour drive took me to the hospital where I saw him in person for the first time. When his mother was a few months pregnant with him, I'd seen him as a spark of light on my bedroom wall quite a few times. I would hear a delightful humming sound in the wee hours of the night, open my eyes, and see this spark of light dancing on the walls. I knew who he was even before she knew it was a him.  At the hospital, he was wrapped up in a blue and white flannel blanket. I checked his tiny hands, no bigger than my thumb, and wondered what this 'crystal boy,' born in the last year of the 20th century, would create with those hands. What type of person would he become?

Hand in hand in his toddler years, he delighted in telling me stories about butterflies and where they came from. No pupa and larvae science for him. Butterflies came from a forest far away that up in the sky where tiny fairy people lived. In the sweet way he said it I was sure he'd visited that place not that long ago. It was the start of our many unconventional conversations together.

When he was six I watched him standing on the beach. As the waves broke around his ankles his outstretched arms made gentle flying and turning gestures. After fifteen minutes of watching, I came up behind him and said, "It's magic isn't it?" With great solemnity he asked me, "Do you think everything goes away where the water meets the sky?" Knowing he'd probably come from there before his birth I answered, "I think it's where our souls go!" Still standing in place but allowing his hands to fly he said, "Yeah, they do!" I sensed he remembered so I hugged him. Always remember, you're my 'best boy' I told him. "I know." he said.

As he grew older his gentle nature played out. He was always protective of his younger brother. If cookies were being handed out, he always took one for his brother. If a game was planned he made sure both of them were included. The protectiveness extended to his entire family. I played 'Nerf' touch football with him and his brother in the front yard. The younger brother was a competitive natural athlete in many sports so addressed this light game like he would a championship match. That is until he was told "Don't hurt the grannies!"

He's sensitive, caring, and empathic. He's an artist, a writer, and a singer. When he looks at you there's a deep wisdom in one so young. He works quietly by himself or with measured involvement in groups. He talks with few words, but when he has something to say, one listens. He creates magical virtual cities on his laptop, demonstrating concern that water and the air remain pure while describing how neighbors and countries can work easily with one another.

At his middle school graduation in June, the boy I'd last seen at Thanksgiving was now a full head taller than me. His voice had become deeper. But his sweet gentleness was still evident. Instead of running into my arms as he'd done as a little one, he strode towards me with a big welcoming smile and a magical hug. He had become a young man. More so when he kicked off the ceremony by welcoming the parents, visitors and dignitaries on behalf of his graduating class.

From what I've witnessed during his 14 years, he's part of a new generation of gifted souls now on the planet. They're called the Crystal Children. They are highly creative, empathetic, genuinely loving, trusting, and intuitive enough to understand the unconscious motives of others. They stand independently, yet operate in groups towards a goal. They have chosen a difficult yet exciting time to be here. During their cycle on earth they'll set the tone of moderation by neutralizing harsh or radically opposing factions played out in the public arena. And, they will plant the seeds of tolerance in all of humanity. It's what they came to do.

So what will he become or what will he do with his life? It's not yet clear. But this I know. Of all the traits of a Crystal Child he displays that of a 'peacemaker' the most. That quality was brought from the place where the water meets the sky. It's evident in his gentle dealings with others. It's in his presence that takes in his surroundings, without being overbearing. He's gracious and never resorts to anger - all traits that will serve him in this new emerging epoch.

In the sixties the baby boomers sent out a stirring call for peace and universal love. It was heard where the water meets the sky. Then fifty years later these Crystal Children souls began to incarnate with those ideals. They are here now as the grandchildren of the Baby Boomers. Born of our aspirations, they became the ones we wished we had become. And they will set the stage for our return as their great grandchildren, based on the work they do during their time on earth. Stating with us and now them, the cycles continue moving us towards our spiritual destiny.
Jo Mooy - September 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Boot Camp Retreat

A Boot Camp Retreat 
Winter's news was overwhelming.  Newtown and the Boston Bombing gripped the nation.  Then congress and the senate weighed in.  Even after Tucson, Aurora and then Newtown, lawmakers still held that fishing required a license but simplebackground checks for gun purchases did not.  The moral compass of the world felt like it was spiraling out of control.  And so too were my own sensibilities.  I needed a break from the news, from external contact, and away from my normal routine.  But where?

The invitation came.  Spend ten days (twelve if you count arrival and departure days) in a Noble Silent Retreat.  It would be held in the middle of a swamp in Georgia where attendees would remain in silent meditation twelve hours per day starting at 4 am and ending with lights out at 9 pm.  Two vegetarian meals would be served.  A Code of Conduct demanded students abstain from: killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and all intoxicants during the retreat. Reading the invitation I wondered if the Code of Conduct should be a licensing requirement for all government officials to hold office.  Nonetheless, the retreat sounded perfect.

On arrival day, our group of thirty men and thirty women gathered in a room to get our instructions.  Surrender all cell phones, electronics, notebooks and car keys!  Sign the Code of Conduct and get room assignments - men to one dorm, women to the other.  No talking, no sign language, no mixing with the opposite sex, no walkingin other than the approved area!  Meditation was only allowed in your room or the meditation hall! 

Days were strictly structured and disciplined.  A gong sounded at 4 am signaling the start of the first two hour meditation.  Breakfast and showering followed.  Then a three hour meditation until lunch.  After lunch and a period for rest, meditation began again until tea break in the early evening.  After tea there was another group meditation and a discourse on the teachings followed by lights out at 9 pm.  This was the daily schedule for the entire retreat.

We entered the meditation hall for the first time on arrival day where we were given our seat assignments and our first meditation instruction.  Our names were placed on small cushions lined up in rows.  That spot would be our 'home' for meditation during the remainder of the retreat.  And it did become a 'home' in a way because if someone overslept or was missing in action everyone knew immediately and the proctor would respond.

Every serious meditation instruction teaches how to watch the breath.  But this "Boot Camp" meditation training took it to a much deeper level. When you focus on watching the breath touch the edges of the nostrils for twelve hours, a shift in yourreality occurs.  The breath becomes a living entity.  It can be hot or cold, moist or dry, rapid or slow.  It can go in one nostril or both. And during each sit, the experience is different because each breath is different.
It was like meeting a new friend.

The daily training builds on the previous day's instruction.  For 3 days all we did was focus on the breath, so when Day 3 was over, your mind, which had been occupied with watching the breath, convinces you, "Peace of cake!  I've got it now!" Nay Nay!  For when the training changes on Day 4 to body sensations you feel you're back to ground zero.  The mind, held captive for three days with  breathing instruction, now had to do something different and it balked.  Old head games and wild thoughts began.  I need to get out of here; I can't do this for six more days; This is a cult; This is a crock; Who do I have to see to get my car keys?  The thoughts were relentless and I was ready to succumb to them.

Then I remembered I'd come with someone and realized she might be having a wondrous experience so it was wrong to interrupt that for her.  I fought the urge to bolt and reluctantly stayed the course.  Day 5 was a horror of experiences but on Day 6 without any conscious effort on my part, something shifted inside.  I'd wanted to get far away from news and my normal routine.  That was happening.  But more importantly I began to feel different, more connected and more peaceful about everything.  A large scorpion with stingers erect sitting near my feet did not botherme or I it.  I simply watched it, following my breath, aware of the sensations of fear give way to acceptance coursing through my body.  Then the scorpion moved on.  I also wanted to experience the magic that they promised would occur on Day 10.

I'm glad I stayed because the promise was kept.  Every person experiences Day 10 differently and I don't want to spoil it for anyone reading this.  But I can say it was worth the wait.  I'd spent 12 days with 30 women I didn't know, yet I realized I'd kindled a relationship with them as important as the relationships with people I'd known my whole life.  I'd been through the  "mind-wars" with them and 29 of us survived.  (One did not make it to the end; she left on Day 9.)  Without talking or making eye-contact we got to know each other solely through our shared experiences and the energy we created through our unconscious mannerisms and behavior.  And on Day 10 we laughed, talked, and shared what we'd experienced with each other during the silent time.

I'd learned detachment through the training of the senses in this retreat.  But that training took me to a place of wisdom and inner knowing that detachment did not mean disengagement.  I experienced the intrinsic meaning of the coming into and out of existence in all our life cycles, whether it was thoughts, feelings, sensations, seasons, or actual events.  I developed a kinship and connection with the visible and invisible worlds that had become instinctual.  I returned to the world I'd left  behind with a much better understanding and knowing that whatever was in front of me, "it too shall pass."  And I realized what the training taught me about myself - that I could endure and withstand anything!  So much so, I'll be going back again next year.

Jo Mooy - August 2013   

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zen of an Illness

Zen of an Illness  
The virus hit without warning.  Fever, razor blades in the throat, severe coughingspasms, muscular aches and pains, chills, and total exhaustion.  Walking fifty feet to the mailbox was like running a marathon requiring hours of rest.  The doctor confirmed my immune system was compromised from a similar virus I'd contracted in India.  He prescribed rest while monitoring it for pneumonia or bronchitis.

Because I was so ill I tried to figure out metaphysically, why the virus had returned.  Louise Hay's book, "Heal Your Body" said it was "the desire to retreat" and "too much going on at once."  Both assessments were a spot on diagnosis.   Too much had been going on in my life since January of 2012 and I desperately desired time off or to go away on a retreat.  I'd made plans to go on retreat in the summer, but my body decided it wanted a retreat now.  It reactivated the virus from India and exiled me from my normal daily routine for four weeks.

I've never sat around idle all day, but there was nothing else I could do.  The energyrequired to do anything was non-existent.  I couldn't do my daily meditation practices because I couldn't breathe and the coughing was constant.  In fact, all I could do was sleep, stare out the window, sleep, watch TV, and sleep some more.  It turned out to be a preordained retreat in its own way.

My life before the virus was active, scheduled, and focused.  After morning meditation, I researched or wrote spiritual articles, prepared seminars or retreats and planned the monthly moon meditations.  There was never time to do the ordinary or spontaneous things that most people do in their lives.  But with the virus controlling my days, I was now a passive and unfocused hostage.  There was nothing to think about, nothing to do, nowhere to go, no energy to read, no calls to make and no one to see.  My world was now focused on coughing, aches and pains, and endless exhaustion.

Molting on the sofa, I channel-surfed for hours.  I discovered a  TV show about How Things Are Made.  Apparently there's a global audience interested in how toothpicks, chewing gum, flutes, crayons, and frozen pancakes are made.  I wasn't planning to renovate anything but watched marathon shows on renovating houses, yards,kitchens and bathrooms.  With my previous life immersed in daily spiritual pursuits, mindlessly watching TV was a radical behavioral change.  But something else was occurring.

I started to intently observe what I was doing.  Zen teaches us to live fully in the moment making each instant a peak experience.  If that can be done clarity would result.  When fits of coughing erupted, I was consumed by the act of coughing.  When robotic arms created toothpicks from specialized woods, I was awed by the magnificence of splintering timber rendered small.  As old beams were torn down in renovated houses, I mourned the destruction of character and charm.  When rain fell against my window, I felt the skies weeping.  When a motionless white egret caught a gecko in a flash of its extended neck, I understood living and dying.

In the fog of fever and coughing I realized I was out of balance.  While working non-stop I had not allowed myself any time to molt, observe life, or do the things I wanted to do.  Six months ago I wrote an article called "Now What?"  The article talked of the transitory nature of life amid the dramas we create.  It told of things continually rising and falling in and out of existence.  It suggested that we just live our lives in the present and to the best of our abilities.  But along the way I forgot what I'd written.  It took a Zen virus to remind me.  

I looked up molting in the dictionary.  It means to cast off or shed skin, feathers and the like that will be replaced with new growth.  The Zen virus had become my guide.  It taught me to take time for trivial pursuits.  It gave me permission to do nothing if I wanted to. It showed me how to be quietly observant.  It held no judgments.  It allowed me to be present moment by moment.  And it reminded me that it would lurk in the cells of my body in case I forgot the lessons. 

After enduring the virus for four weeks the Zen of this illness had become the most blessed of retreats! 

Jo Mooy - July 2013   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Best and Worst of Times

Best and Worst of Times
Months before the Boston Marathon Bombing, the words of Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" had been occupying my thoughts.  The "high" of the Mayan new beginnings calendar on December 21, 2012, when the world seemed to be filled with hope and expectation, felt like a dim memory.  Instead, a daily dose of negative news and unpleasant events spoiled the atmosphere.  As if that weren't enough, I watched a couple incidents unfold recently that made me question the behavior of some individuals for whom I had great respect.  That was a particularly difficult experience.

So with thoughts of "the best of times and the worst of times" stirring in the background, the Boston Marathon Bombing happened.  It brought up deeply etched memories of the World Trade Towers and of Newtown, still so raw in the ether.  I was talking to an Israeli friend about the bombing.  He looked so complacent as I expressed outrage about the brutality of humans.  I inquired why he was so disinterested.  He said, "This is something we live with every day in Israel.  Your country is new to bombings!"

His words made me wonder about all the bombings or shootings we've witnessed.  Which event was the worst one?  Or are they cumulative in the course of the human journey.  If cumulative, do we, like the Israelis, (or the Iraqis or Afghans) get used to it?  And if we do become complacent, what does that say about our own humanity?

Human atrocities have been recorded endlessly.  Which was the worst one?  Every generation can point to an event as the worst of times.   For some it was the World Wars, not just in the 20th  century but in previous ones where hundreds of thousands were killed or maimed.  Others say the worst of times was the Holocaust or during other ethnic cleansing.  Was the worst of times when the bubonic plague killed 50% of Europe's population or when the flu pandemic of 1918 killed 5% of the world's population?  The worst of times is what each individual is living through and experiencing in a negative way at any given moment.

So what's the best of times?  Probably the same thing except change the word negative to positive.  The bombings will occur, whether in this country or another country.  The trick is not to become complacent about the horror of the acts.  The bombings represent humanity's savage nature.  But the bombings also reveal the best of times in humanity's journey.  Not knowing if other bombs would go off, many rushed to help the wounded victims.  Others opened their homes to runners.  A restaurant brought out food and water.  Those helpers who gave of themselves represent the best of times in all of us.

Are we in the best of times or the worst of times?  It all depends on your perspective and how you deal with the events presented.  If "they" bomb, help the injured and rebuild.  When "they" engage in hate filled words, hold the high ground.  When "they" disappoint with poor behavior, forgive and move on.  When good people commit to doing something to better the plight of their fellow humans only then do the worst of times become the best of times!
Jo Mooy - June 2013   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Manners As A Spiritual Practice

Manners As A Spiritual Practice 
There are marvelous benefits of the digital world, like instantaneous communication and information at the finger-tips.  But the fast-paced usage of smart devices has caused a huge gap in our ability to be aware of others.  As individuals become addicted to devices which foster self-absorbing behavior, good manners and etiquette have gone by the wayside.
We've all seen the effects of poor manners.  Instead of making eye contact with others, heads are bowed over a hand-held devices.  In restaurants it's more important to check emails and texts than it is to interact with those you came to dine with.  If a car is going slow or weaving in your lane it's a pretty good bet the driver is texting or reading emails. On Easter Sunday I watched a little girl about 3 years of age drawing pictures on a sidewalk. She eagerly tried to get her father's attention to see her creation.  But he was too busy talking on a cell phone while simultaneously tapping on his Ipad.  A treasured moment of encouragement with a little girl lost forever.
But sadly, the deterioration of manners goes beyond the usage of electronic devices.  It extends  to those who should "know better" and who disappoint us by disregarding common courtesy.  For example, how often is a meaningful 'thank-you' or a few well-chosen words of appreciation extended to the volunteers who serve?
How often is gratitude part of the teaching of an organization?  Or respect and good manners part of the practices of those on a consciousness raising path?
There's a generation of people alive who were brought up to respect others, hold the door open for another person, give up a seat to their elders, and to say please and thank you.  Through that courteous behavior, those individuals put the needs of others ahead of their own.  That  mindfulness displays a much higher level of consciousness.  It's a behavior which also serves as a guide to others.  And it's what prompted this article.
Good manners IS a spiritual practice!  Acts of kindness or respect offered to another lifts personal behavior to a higher plane of understanding and expands universal connection.  It creates genuine human connections, the recognition of which touches and changes the character of the person.  The individuals who behave in this manner generally follow an enlightened lifestyle.  Kindness is a hallmark of their lives.  They take the high road in disputes, and are more likely to treat others as they would like to be treated.
There's a meditation practice called Mindfulness.  It directly influences the human experience and determines how we interact with others.  In the exacting practice of Mindfulness, it is impossible to be so self-absorbed that we disregard others.  Instead, you become present to what is occurring around you and sensitive to the stories happening in the moment. You become an active part of the reality that is unfolding in front of you instead of the artificial reality playing out on a digital screen or in one's imagination.  Freed from electronic habits or ungracious behavior you can more easily respond to events as they unfold in the present.  Thus Mindfulness becomes a beneficial spiritual practice for developing good manners and conduct.
But remembering to do the practice is the hardest part. Human selfishness causes us to be distracted or to become preoccupied with unimportant interruptions.  It will derail the best intentions and cause an easy  return to the state of carelessness.  Human Self-Mastery on the other hand suggests that Mindfulness can be developed as a permanent state.  The more consciously mindful one is of other people, the more that awareness is woven into the habitual fabric of an individual.
Conscious Mindfulness can be started with small acts of kindness or respect for another.  It can begin by focusing the attention on someone other than yourself.  When you're with them, let your full attention be on nothing else but them.  When in the car, be mindful and aware of every other car around you.  If someone has extended themselves on your behalf, please take the time to offer a meaningful 'thank you.'  Above all, be courteous and respectful.  It is a responsibility and a duty we accept for it is the price we must pay on this journey towards Self-Mastery and enlightenment. 
Remember, the best gift we can bestow on someone is the gift of ourselves - our time, our interest, and our full attention.  The results of that gift will speak spiritual volumes.
Jo Mooy - May 2013   

Monday, April 1, 2013

Seeing the Soul

There's a traditional view of reincarnation that most of us subscribe to.  We're born as a baby, go through life, get old and then die.  Then after death we're told our soul goes somewhere.  The "somewhere" depends on the religion or belief system we were born into.  After a period of time, we come back or reincarnate into another body and do the same thing all over again.

But what exactly comes back into incarnation each time?  That question was the focus of  my esoteric studies for many years.  Reincarnation is a key tenet in many Eastern religions.  The Gnostic scrolls, unearthed in the last 60 years, point to the unmistakable teachings of reincarnation that were taught by Jesus.  It's clear in the scrolls that one's fate is determined by one's current life.  But what about the soul?  Where does it go?  What does it look like?  Does it come back?

Reincarnation has become part of the mass consciousness in the last 50 years.  Highly regarded researchers like Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia used scientific protocols to exhaustively research over 3,000 cases of children worldwide who claim to have reincarnated.  But another phenomenon causing scientific interest is called Near-Death Experiences or NDEs.

Dr. Kenneth Ring is Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut and one of the leading scholars on NDEs.  In one of his documented cases a girl who nearly drowned at the age of 7 reported seeing two adults "waiting to be born."  In another case, an individual stated she got information from a group milling around as "they were all waiting for reincarnation."  Again the questions came - who or what was waiting to be born.

My own research took me to the most ancient religious writings of India.  The Hindu Vedas said the soul reincarnated.  The Yoga Sutras say the same thing.  The Buddhist teachings state the "soul is reborn."  That sounded good enough.  The NDEs said people were waiting to be born, but what did the soul look like?

I turned again to the individual stories of those who had Near-Death Experiences.  One said, "I became a ball of light."  Another said, "spiritual beings were observing me inside a crystal sphere."  A young man described "A shimmering, luminescent sphere enveloped me, making me feel as if I had stepped into a crystal globe."  And in a well documented case, a young woman said, "I was there with this glowing orb."

Looking to back up the NDEs with the teachings of the mystics, I went to the Eastern texts.  The Hindu Vedas describe the soul as a "gossamer light" and more telling,  "a bubble of light."  The Sufi mystic teacher Inayat Khan said the soul was "a sphere of light."  With those definitions, the connection was instantaneous.  Orbs are images of the soul or spirits.

With the advent of digital photography a phenomenon called Orbs began to appear in photographs.  Orbs are spherical and transparent bodies of light that superimpose themselves in the photo.  Orbs appear most frequently in nature photos or during highly charged emotional events like parties, funerals, or children playing.  Sometimes the Orbs are stationary, other times they're in motion, leaving a trail of light behind them like a comet. 

Some claim that orbs are simply dust, pollen, or atmospheric conditions that occur due to the reflection of light in the camera.  Others dispute that theory as do I.  Why?  Because, though I've seen Orbs in my photographs since 2003, I've also seen Orbs without a camera and witnessed them "powering up" when spoken to.  The most remarkable occurrence was two days after the death of my neighbor.  The lights in my house began to flicker on and off.  When I ventured into the living room I saw two very large Orbs near the ceiling.  Realizing Kathy had just passed I asked, "Is that you, Kathy?"  At that moment, one of the Orbs powered up brightly and stayed that way for about ten seconds.  Knowing Kathy wanted to be with her mother who had previously passed over, I asked "Is that your mother with you?"  And the second Orb powered up.  Eventually, they both faded from view, but not before being documented by two people in the house.

The mystical interpretations offered by the Hindu Vedas, Inayat Khan, Edgar Cayce  and the many Near-Death Experiencers do point to a common definition of what the soul looks like.  The soul is an Orb or an iridescent Sphere of Light.  And now the technology is available to see the soul with our digital cameras.  And yes, we can even communicate with it.  The next time you photograph an event, look for the Orbs in the viewfinder.  If you don't see them, feel them.  If you can't feel them, speak to them and invite them to appear.  They will!
  I've done it for ten years.

Jo Mooy - April 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How Many Marbles

How Many Marbles?
Thirty-five years ago I spent three years with an inspiring teacher. She  taught me about life and valuing the time we've been given on earth. She put it into perspective with a remarkable lesson. She said each person was specifically chosen to come to earth during times of great change with a mission to accomplish. The mission could be discovered by turning to a psychic reader, or a course of study might stir the fires of past-life skills needed now.
She advised "doing the work yourself" by seeking answers through meditation, dreams or journaling. She said be mindful of the time you have on earth and know you've been given a limited amount of it. She said each of us had been given a secret number when we departed the spirit world. It was the number of years we have on earth and it related to our destiny and our mission. She said use the time wisely and with purpose. So I asked her "How do we measure our time left and how do we accomplish our mission?"
She'd heard the question from many students before me so had a prepared answer. She asked me a series of questions: "At the beginning of each day do you set an intention to be better than the day before? How do you spend your time and in what pursuits? Do you respond with kindness and compassion to others? What talents or skills do you generously share with others?  Are you frivolous or thoughtful with the hours of each day? Do you treasure each moment that you've been gifted to be here? At the end of each day are you grateful to Spirit?"
Taking a jar filled with marbles from her altar she said each marble represented a year left in her life. When she was younger, the jar was practically full but in the latter part of her seventh decade, there were only 15 marbles in the jar. Rolling them into her hands the visual made a lasting impression. She explained that when she was a young girl in South America her grandmother taught her the magic and medicine of the earth and how to relate to all species. Her grandmother also taught her about the finite number of years given to each person on earth.
To help her remember the teachings, her mission and her lineage, the grandmother placed 85 stones in a pouch. She said each stone represented her grand-daughter's life expectancy.  On each birthday she was to take a stone out of the pouch and deeply reflect on the year just past. What had she done with the year? How did she spend her time? Was it a year making the world a better place? Or was it squandered? She said at first the bag appeared filled with endless stones. But over time, as the stones began to diminish she realized the value of time and how it was being spent.
The questions always cause sober introspection. But the visual of the glass jar of marbles, diminishing with each passing year, is much more indelible. My teacher is gone now, but the lesson of the jar of marbles remains. Her lesson is use the time wisely! You never know how many marbles you really have left! 
Jo Mooy - March 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ancestors, Reincarnation, Life Continuity

Ancestors, Reincarnation & Life Continuity  
I took an intensive eastern seminar on Reincarnation in the Fall of last year. But the introspection it caused at a family reunion a few months later was unexpected. Reincarnation is the belief that after the death of the body, the soul comes back (or incarnates) into another body or form. It's a key tenet in many Eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jain, and Druze. Though Christianity disdains the concept, Jesus, who studied these teachings in the Far East said, "If you are willing to accept it, he (John the Baptist) is Elijah who is to come." Now, in the last fifty years or so reincarnation has become part of the mass consciousness.   

But whether or not you subscribe to the notion of reincarnation isn't important, because what I experienced recently at our family reunion in the West Indies certainly shined light upon the idea of the continuity of Life. And within that continuity, was the passing forward of ideals along with genetic materials. It makes one ponder if such things as ideas, beliefs and yes, soul preferences, might also be handed down through the DNA along with facial traits, hair color and height. And it makes me wonder at how close my connection still is with ancestors who have long ago passed to the other side even as I formed new bonds with the youngest children of my extended family who are just setting out on their soul's journey in life.

The endless continuity of life became clear as a lineage expanding across four generations unfolded both visibly and ethereally. Two grandparents, born in Antigua in the late 1800's, birthed 8 children and left a family tree numbering more than 120 aunts, uncles, cousins and grandchildren. Only twenty cousins and three surviving children who grew up on the island knew those grandparents. But, we were able to look across the field of generations gathered for a week and identify the stature, characteristics, gait, personalities and familial resemblances embedded in most of their distant offspring.

It began for me as soon as the plane arrived on the island. Leaving customs, a familiar face on the sidewalk outside beamed at me in welcome. I stopped mid-stride because the face belonged to my close cousin Frankie. Except Frankie had died in 2007. With brain cells racing to clarify the impression I watched the family resemblance morph into the face of Brian, Frankie's younger brother. It was not to be the last encounter with long departed relatives.

The esoteric reincarnation seminar taught that life "over there" is not separate from life here on earth. We believe its separate because it cannot be seen. It cannot be seen because the vibrations of those on earth are denser by nature than the vibrations of the spirit realms. The fact is, the soul does not "go anywhere after death" but rather occupies all space. It retains memories, knowledge, impressions, thoughts and vibrations from its life on earth and holds that together in ethereal energy packets. Those packets are picked up and used by both the incoming incarnating souls and the outgoing souls leaving incarnation. The question has to be, does choosing a packet filled with my grandparents energetic materials then draw that new soul into this family and this history?

When we journey into incarnation we do not journey alone, but rather pick up the vibrations and packets of the family relationships. The familial connection is held intact in soul groups by using the DNA of the family tree to anchor the relationship connections. So, seeing resemblances in multi-generational descendants of family members is not unusual. Rather, its proof of how group souls continue to incarnate in families. But, as each generation processes the energy packets of information and live out the karmic purposes of the group, the family tree begins to branch out from its origins. And as karmic lessons are learned, different packets will then be deposited for the new comers (or returning souls for the reincarnationists) which then further alters the family destiny and forms new purposes.
When families gather for events like a reunion, it's more likely that well-known ancestors, or those recently departed, will make an appearance in one way or another. All of us who knew my grandfather on the island saw him "reborn" in the image of his twenty-first grandchild. We all remarked that Michael not only was the image of our grandfather in stature and mannerism but also carried a strong resemblance to our great-grandmother. The reincarnation seminar taught that the heredity of physical attributes are more easily passed on, and if the grandparent had strong qualities they would more readily appear in a daughter or grandson than in a son. This turned out to be accurate because my grandfather had eight daughters and one son. Each daughter inherited his strength, confidence, steadfastness, creativity, passion for learning and business acumen. In grandson Michael's case those grandfather qualities helped him conquer difficulties in life and be successful in his own family business.
While heredity plays an important part in the family tree, the veils between the dimensions thin out during significant family gatherings. My mother who grew up on Antigua always called it "home." She learned to body-surf as a child at the sometimes treacherous Half Moon Bay, her favorite place on the island. It was also the place the family always met on Sundays. During the reunion it was one of the spots selected for a day-long picnic and swim. I watched my seventy-six year old aunt, the youngest of the eight girls, go out to the towering waves and body surf with her nephews "one last time." Though tossed around by the pounding surf, she gamely took the swells for about twenty minutes. She said it was like surfing with her sisters in the 1940's and 50's.
Very early the following morning while it was still dark outside, I recapped the day at Half Moon Bay and commented how much my mother would have loved to be there. At that instant, two of us witnessed the bathroom door which had been closed all night, open up slowly revealing a ray of light across the hallway floor. After the chills up and down my arms eased I simply said, "Hi mom!" knowing beyond a doubt it was she. It was one of the unusual happenings with the ancestors that many experienced during the reunion.
The reincarnation seminar said these occurrences would happen with regularity, especially when emotional family events were taking place. It was a way for spirits long departed to communicate with empathic family members still living, sending a message that life continues beyond the grave. Some cousins had an affinity for repeat numbers like 11:11 or 12:12 or 3:33.  They may have been sharing a story about their deceased parent and suddenly note that the clock face said 3:33 or 12:12.
The stories by themselves and the unusual experiences do not prove reincarnation but they do reveal a continuity of life and a strong connection within families. When we held a ceremony at the family grave site, unveiling a new headstone marker, it gave all of us pause when a mourning dove, the family's "bird totem," appeared in a tree overhead cooing its mournful sounds. When grandchildren who did not know the ancestors began to cry quietly, a nerve was struck. To all of us present on that January morning, the family members long departed still held silent vigils watching all of us still in human form. We are their continuity of life. 
Jo Mooy - February 2013 

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 - Now What?

2013 - Now What? 
It's January 2013. Millions of apocalyptic entries on Google said the world would end in December of 2012. It didn't happen. I never thought anything catastrophic would occur. Geological changes move at a glacial pace and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn't going to alter that fact. Changes in human consciousness though can come about more frequently. So hedging my bets, I prepared for whatever was going to happen.

I spent most of 2012 reviewing the teachings of the great enlightened souls I'd encountered over the past forty years. Looking for new insights, I re-read some of their most inspirational books. I took several months off for international travel. I went to the Middle East on a peace pilgrimage. There, amid centuries old hatreds between the three major religions on earth and the politics stifling easy discourse, an elderly Rabbi passionately assured me that peace would prevail on earth if there was peace in Jerusalem. I believed him. During a month long visit to India I was uplifted by the people and the spiritual depth of this ancient culture. Inbred into the fabric of their daily lives, it flourished in their beliefs and behavior. Yet, I was stunned at the country's gross ambivalence towards poverty, clean water, and the lack of sanitation.

After all of that it was ten days in solitude in the swamps of southeastern Georgia, that gave me the answers I was looking for. It was the most intense retreat I've ever gone to. The facilities were Spartan. Attendees pledged to a vow of silence, two vegetarian meals per day, not to kill any sentient being, not to steal, and promised not to leave the program before it was over. At 4 am every day a gong woke us for meditation. Other than the two meal breaks and an hour for meetings with the instructor, we sat in meditation twelve hours a day. Lights were turned off at 9 pm. On day four and day six I was ready to leave. But having surrendered all my electronics and the car keys upon arrival, not to mention I'd taken a vow, I determined to stick it out.
This requirement is a wise move on the part of the program. Staying is the best decision. In those ten extraordinary days I learned deep meditation techniques. I mastered the meaning of following the breath for countless hours. I grasped how talking takes one out of the inner world of contemplation. I saw how much mental and physical deprivation I could endure. I realized I could sit for hours without moving. I could even sit next to a scorpion watching dispassionately without flinching.

The most exceptional lesson I brought back from this retreat was an instinctual understanding that change is the nature of all existence. It is the constancy in our existence. It is inherent in our lives. It is in everything we do, and in every situation we encounter. Nothing is permanent in this universe. All things are coming into existence or going out of existence. Everything is birthing and dying, arising and falling, always changing. When that realization sunk in on day seven, it shattered my habitual ways of seeing the world.
Concepts of good and bad, who was right or wrong, disappeared. Thoughts, whether the casual monkey-mind thoughts or intense creative thoughts, come and go. Beliefs and perceptions lessen their grip in the awareness that all that we view as "real" is rising and falling. The transitory nature of the situations and dramas we create in our lives could be governed with the knowing that "this too shall pass." Applying that lesson to Israel, to India, to 2012 and now 2013 made all of those beliefs and experiences, understandable and easier to deal with. It also started the next leg of the journey. Now What?

It's a huge question post-2012. Many are asking the same thing. For me, after forty years of studies, seminars, and training, I ask, Now What? After trekking all over the world, Now What? After absorbing esoteric teachings from countless mystical paths, Now What? If everything is transient how do you live your life? Toss it all overboard or live with conscious purpose? 
The "What" turned out to be fairly easy. It's easier to live in happiness than in sadness, and if it's all arising and falling anyway, why not choose happiness. I heard the Dalai Lama speak about kindness a few years ago. He said, "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is the temple. The philosophy is kindness and compassion." He also said it's easier to sleep with that type of inner peace. So with the Dalai Lama's words echoing I choose to live with that purpose. To be kind and loving; to live with joy; to live with purpose; to live with conscience; and to remember, this too shall pass.  

And while I'm at it, continue daily meditation, do Yoga and eat more broccoli. That's Now What!   
Jo Mooy - January 2013