Light Up the Dark of Winter

Yes, it’s that time of year again . . . holiday chaos during the spirit-nourishing dark of winter. You may be feeling a little torn between spending days to get the best shopping deals or spending more time in meditation, prayer, and ritual. As a spiritual teacher, you know what I’m most interested in!

Winter brings many opportunities to go more deeply into your spiritual practice. There are many more hours of darkness, and you’ll have less time to engage in outdoor activities. Think about turning off the TV/computer/tablet/phone each evening and surfing your inner being for a while instead of cruising websites for the best Cyber deal. If you get stuck in the house due to stormy weather, seize the moment and create a ritual that will advance your energy healing.

For example, tune in to the transformational properties of the element of fire. Watch the dancing flames in a fireplace as wood turns to smoke and ash, and feel your impurities burning away, sweeping clean the inner space for Source to manifest more clearly. Or light seven candles—one for each of your main chakras—and take the time to sit in each chakra, communing with the flame of that candle as you experience the places you are still stuck as well as the energy centers that are humming along for you. At this time of year, think of starting at the crown chakra and bringing the energy down through the remaining chakras—the way spirit manifests through thicker layers of physicality as it descends from the higher realms into the earth, birthing your own Christ consciousness in your body.

Even though the holiday lights may be sparkling brightly everywhere you look, you may be going through a difficult time. The holidays bring up all sorts of emotional stickiness. Did you have someplace to go for Thanksgiving dinner, or were you home alone and unhappy about your solitude? Did you have a large family gathering where you spent all day avoiding Uncle Harry, the one who fondled you as a teen, or your alcoholic sister-in-law, who hasn’t spoken to you since you suggested she go to AA? Do you have family plans for Christmas or Hanukkah? What about New Year’s Eve—the bellwether of your social life?

Use this emotional stew to clear up some old patterns in how you relate to others, especially family. As one sage has said: if you think you’re enlightened, go home for Christmas and see how long your enlightenment lasts! If you feel hopeless about doing this deep emotional work yourself, sign up for healing courses in energy medicine so you start the new year with a commitment to become the new you. Energy medicine clears out the old toxic emotions.

The approach of the new year and the annual “return of the light” awaits. Now is the time to prepare to let your spirit soar! Maybe this is the year you will expand your horizons, both inner and outer. Maybe this is the year you will learn to use your spiritual gifts.

Let’s go back for a moment to the image of sitting in front of a candle. There is a spiritual practice called tratak that involves lighting a candle so the flame is at eye level. Sit quietly and look through your eyes, not with them. Let your spirit dance with the flame. Envision your own aura as you watch the circle of light that surrounds the flame. Relax deeply, and you might just find yourself heading down a dark tunnel and out into an experience of astral travel. Or you can pull the light of the flame into your heart chakra, illuminating the blaze of love in your heart.

Most of all, in the depths of winter darkness, go deep inside to listen to your intuition—the “gut feeling” that always knows best. If everything in you wants to blast old rock ‘n roll songs and dance till you drop instead of sitting cross-legged and staring at a candle flame, by all means, sing along and shake that booty. Dancing and singing are two wonderful ways to release negative states.

There are really no rules for what you may need at any given moment in time in order to release old constricted energy and open up new vistas in which Spirit can shine. You, and your Higher Self, know what you need. Listen to that inner voice!

Give Gratitude

Kick off the Season with a Big Helping of Gratitude!

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”  ~Meister Eckhart (13th century mystic)

For me, Thanksgiving has always signaled the official start of the holiday season. The holidays can be busy and stressful, but the spirit of Thanksgiving holds the key to getting them off to a serene and joyous start—and that key is gratitude! This year, I encourage you to take a deep breath before diving into the festive chaos to reflect and give thanks for the blessings in your life. Don’t stop when the pies have been eaten and the turkey dishes washed and put away. I challenge you to foster the habit of gratitude throughout the season – and resolve to keep it alive through the New Year! 

Why is gratitude so important at this time of year?

Gratitude is all about expressing appreciation for what you have, instead of focusing on what you want or think that you need. During the holidays it’s easy to get sucked into the consumer frenzy. Frequently pausing to acknowledge the blessings in your life will help you put things in perspective and enjoy the spirit of the season!

Gratitude is good for the mind, body and spirit!

Gratitude increases your levels of happiness and optimism, and improves your relationships with others. Studies have shown that gratitude makes you healthier too! Keeping a gratitude journal and verbally expressing thanks allows people suffering from emotional or physical problems to reduce the severity of their symptoms, sleep better, and improve their overall quality of life.

Would you like to be happier every day? Regularly expressing gratitude can help you improve your “set point” for happiness. The idea of a set point comes from research showing that people return to their characteristic level of happiness a short time after experiencing unusually good and unusually bad events. The research on gratitude, however, suggests that by embracing gratitude people can move their happiness set point up – resulting in more optimism, joy and good health!

How can you cultivate the “gratitude habit?”

Are you taking the time to give thanks every day? If giving thanks isn’t second nature to you, or if you are experiencing a “dark night of the soul” and can’t find much to be grateful for, here are some ways to let the light of gratitude into your life:

  • Schedule time for gratitude! For a few weeks, make a conscious decision to conjure up grateful thoughts before you go to bed, as soon as you wake up, or before meals. Soon you’ll notice that thankful, positive thoughts pop into your head at these times, unbidden, lifting your spirits and taking the place of worry, stress, and fear!
  • Keep a gratitude journal! Take five minutes every day to jot down a few things that you’re grateful for. Put pen to paper and let the words flow! Be creative – you’ll find that you have a lot to be thankful for!
  • Say thanks in the form of a prayer! Give thanks to a higher power when good fortune strikes. When you find a great parking spot, have a pleasant interaction with a stranger, or have a successful day at work, acknowledge the event with a quick prayer of gratitude!
  • Remember people in your past who have made a positive difference. If you can, let them know with a quick note, call or Facebook post. Even if it’s not possible to contact them directly, take the time to remember them, give thanks, and mentally wish them well!
  • Give thanks to the world around you. Beautiful sunsets, a peaceful walk in the woods, or a starry night sky can inspire awe and gratitude. When struck by the beauty of nature, repeat the words of e.e. Cummings, “i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”  It’s a great way to give tribute to the wonders around you!
  • Be thankful for the challenges in your life that have shaped you into the person you are. When you tackle a difficult task or handle a confrontation successfully, give thanks to the people and events that have made you strong in mind, body and spirit.
  • Don’t forget your pets! When your pet greets you at the door or curls up next to you on the couch, take a moment to thank them for the unconditional love and joy that they bring to your life.

It is easy to forget to say thank you when our lives are so busy – but that’s all the more reason to take the time! When you experience a loving moment with a friend, family member or pet, admire a lovely view or savor an accomplishment, make it a point to pause and whisper a quiet word of thanks. It will lock that positive experience in your consciousness, and make you more receptive to recognizing the next lovely moment when it comes along!

As an energy healer and spiritual teacher, I focus on sharing ways to bring more light and joy into your life. I recommend that you practice meditation, journaling and healthy living, as well as cultivate the habits of gratitude and forgiveness. These practices will enlighten your own life, and let you spread your light to everyone around you!

California is burning

California is Burning

California is burning, and it’s all too much. One day a dozen people are gunned down a couple of miles from my home during a college country music night, and the next day fires erupt on both sides of me. Lives and homes are turned to ash while politicians point fingers of blame.

I’m still under a mandatory evacuation order, as the Woolsey Fire rampages through my portion of the California dream. I have heard my house is safe, so far. Fortunately, I have a temporary set-up that’s working as well as possible from the inside of a van. Tiffany, who has worked for the Deborah King Center for a decade, has lost her home. You can help Tiffany get back on her feet here.

My heart bleeds for the sorrow and loss so many are experiencing—sometimes loss upon loss: a loved one murdered while dancing followed by the loss of a roof over your head and all your belongings going up in smoke.

Think for a moment. What would you take given less than five minutes to pack and evacuate before the flames reach you? Without a doubt, after securing “everything with a heartbeat,” your phone and laptop are at the top of your list of inanimate necessities, even before underwear and a toothbrush. But you can’t be too attached to anything or you won’t get away in time.

It’s far too much to think about for being cremated in a car like those poor folks in the Camp Fire in Paradise. Those images will continue to haunt us all.

Fire has to be respected. And so does air—the autumn Santa Ana winds that fan the flames and send sparks and cinders in all directions. And water, that life-saving element that can douse the flames. And earth—the poor scorched landscape that actually needs fire to regenerate. And ether, the most subtle of the elements, the space filled by the other elements. We have lost touch with the elemental parts of our lives.

Each element is vital to our life. When we die, there is a progression of how each element leaves our body until we exhale that very last breath of air.

But what we are seeing these days is “it’s all too much” in terms of the elements. Fire, which gives us energy and transformation, explodes in massive firestorms. Air and water, necessities in life, become deadly hurricanes and widespread flooding. The earth is telling us something, but are we listening? The clock is running down before climate change turns our world yet more inhospitable.

It’s too much really. It’s hard to take it all in: the death from guns, the death from fires, the death of the way in which we used to know our planet.

There is a silver lining, however. When there is a disaster, like the wind-driven blazes we are experiencing here in California, for a moment in time all hearts beat as one. Doors open and strangers are invited in. The ordinary becomes the extraordinary and heroes arise. A drive someone has taken every day of their life suddenly becomes a passage through the inferno of hell, while singing to a child in the back seat to keep her calm, and those who watch the video have to be hard-hearted indeed if tears of compassion don’t well up and spill over.

Does your heart cry out to help those impacted by the fires? Here’s what you can do:

  • Help Tiffany – giving a hand to one person is giving to all.
  • Donate to the Wildfire Relief Fund, a California Community Foundation.
  • If you are in the local area, volunteer to help. Go to ca.gov to learn where your services might be best put to use.
  • If you want to sign up to host emergency shelter in your home, the Airbnb Evacuee Program for the survivors of the fires in Ventura, Butte, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego counties is looking for temporary housing through November 29th.
  • If lost and frightened animals call out to you, the Humane Society of Ventura County needs your support.
  • Don’t forget these valiant firefighters who risk their lives and their health for our safety. Donate to the California Fire Foundation to provide emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters and to victims of the fires. Over 50 firefighters have lost their homes in Butte County, and yet they are still out there battling to save others’ homes. And the Disaster Relief Fund of the International Association of Fire Fighters helps those on the front lines and their families.

We really are all in this together. Today it’s us here in California. Tomorrow it could be your neck of the woods, your loved ones, your home, your life. Give something, do something; be part of the change for the better.

Cats - Royal Meow

The Royal Meow

A German Shepherd, a Doberman, and a cat have died. All three are face to face with God, who wants to know what they believe in.

The German shepherd says: “I believe in discipline, training, and loyalty to my master.”

“Good,” says God, “then sit down on my right side. Doberman, what do you believe in?”

The Doberman answers: “I believe in the love, care, and protection of my master.”

“Aha, “ said God, “you may sit to my left.” Then he looks at the cat and asks: “And what do you believe in?”

The cat answers: “I believe you’re sitting in my seat.”

And that is so accurate! It’s like the saying, “Dogs have masters; cats have slaves.” I know, I’ve been a slave to various felines in my life. If you have ever had the privilege of caring for a cat, you know what I mean.

Cats don’t listen to commands. Just try telling a cat to sit, or come, or speak. Instead of instant obedience, you’ll probably get a disdainful look, as befits the royal majesty. Yes, cats have an ancient royal lineage.

Ancient Egypt was famously devoted to cats. The deities Mafdet, Bastet, and Sekhmet all had the heads of cats. Bastet’s job was the protection of her country as well as of home and hearth; she also protected women’s secrets, guarded against evil spirits, and was, naturally, the goddess of cats. Sekhmet was a lion-headed goddess who had to be appeased or else she would wreak havoc (like those YouTube videos of a cat with a roll of toilet paper).

Since the First Dynasty of Egypt, cats—tamed African wildcats—protected the Pharaoh. Mafdet, a deity with the head of a leopard, was the protector of the Pharaoh’s chambers against not only snakes and scorpions, but also against evil. And then, of course, there’s the Sphinx, with a human head on top of the big cat body, guarding the sacred temples and pyramids. Over 200,000 cats have been found mummified in the tombs and “cat”acombs, with small bowls nearby for their milk in the afterlife.

One reason cats were protectors of the temples, besides getting rid of pesky rodents, was their ability to see beyond the physical plane. Cats, who can see in very low light, also sense what’s going on beyond the visible. I’ve seen my cat sit and stare at a spot in my home, checking out the spiritual presence in the room.

In ancient Japan, cats were charged with protecting Buddhist scriptures that were transported on ships from China, keeping mice and rats away from these sacred documents. This gave the Japanese a revered image of cats, which became the featured stars of folk tales in the 6th century. Today, cats and cat images are still aboard ships around the world.

In an ancient Chinese myth, in the beginning of the world the gods asked cats to oversee their new creation, and granted cats the ability to speak. The cats were more interested in playing and sleeping than with running the world. Eventually the cats said, why not put human beings in that position? So the power of speech was given to humans instead of cats, while cats were entrusted with keeping time. There is a belief in China that you can look into a cat’s eyes to tell the time of day. Today, cats have a well-developed love of routine. If your cat likes to have breakfast promptly at 7 in the morning and you oversleep, kitty will let you know in no uncertain terms that it’s time to wake up and feed me!

In 4th century India, the epic poem the Mahabharata had a cat named Lomasa that teamed up with a mouse to escape death, all the while discussing the philosophy of the balance of power in relationships. Despite their size compared to ours, it’s no question of who holds the power in the cat-human relationship!

Back in ancient Persia, Muhammad outlawed harming or killing cats. Muhammad clearly loved his own pretty kitty, Muezza, so when the call to prayer came, he cut the sleeve off his prayer robe, where the cat was napping, rather than wake her up. Another cat, which belonged to an ally of Muhammad’s, saved Muhammad from a snake attack. While petting the cat afterwards, he granted felines the ability to always land on their feet.

Although cats had high standing at first in ancient Europe, when the Christian Church tried to demonize all the important pagan symbols, they associated cats with evil. Pope Gregory IX denounced cats, especially black cats, as being in league with Satan, and they were regularly killed throughout Europe. This let the mice and rat populations explode, and the fleas from these rodents brought about the Bubonic Plague. It took until the reign of Queen Victoria in Great Britain, who adopted two Blue Persians and treated them like members of her court, that Europeans again started keeping cats.

As strange as it may seem, domestic cats didn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1749 CE, when they were brought on board ships from England to help control the rodent population. By 1895, cats had become so popular that the first cat show filled Madison Square Garden in New York.

Well, time to go feed my cat. She’s old and slow these days, but still communicates her desires with that inborn authority to command. And yes, she can sit and nap wherever her royal majesty desires.

If you want to learn more about cats, other pets, and wild animals check out my Communicating with Pets and Animals course.