Abbey at Villers (Belgium)

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This was a Cistercian abbey founded in 1146 and active until the French revolution. It reached its height and fame in the 13th Century. It’s estimated that as many as one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers lived here. Sleeping and eating accommodations were separate for the two groups. You can walk the tight passageways from the dormitories to the church, visit the rooms where they held meetings and stored holy books and vestments. The church remains a beautiful structure even in ruin.

The Cistercian order was known for its dedication to a life of manual labor and self-sufficiency. Abbeys supported themselves through agriculture and ale-brewing. This abbey had massive land holdings throughout the region.

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MARCH 24th!

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is March For Our Lives!

Join the movement for change in Washington or your local community (or internationally). I will be joining in from Brussels.

Follow the link to find out what your community has planned.

https://marchforourlives.com/

 

 

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Zealot by Reza Aslan

Zealot

This book has been around for a while and got a lot of attention because the author was a Muslim writing about Jesus. The furor took off when Lauren Green of Fox News hosted Aslan in what has been called the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done” (and that’s saying something). Reza Aslan defended himself citing his four degrees as a scholar of religions having studied Christianity for twenty years.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading a book about Jesus then. It seemed ridiculous that the Christian right was so incensed with a religious studies professor writing a book about a subject in his career field. A few years went by and my son suggested that I read this because my view of Jesus the peacemaker was all wrong. He had just finished Aslan’s book.

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Zealot is a fascinating read searching for the historical truth of a man called Jesus. It’s an in-depth examination of the political and social times in which he lived. Jesus lived in a time ripe with Messianic hope and the God Jesus knew was bloody. He had a Jewish mission, telling his disciples to avoid gentiles as much as possible. In its time, “Love thy neighbor” was restricted in meaning to include only Jews. The historical Jesus is not the one of the Gospels. He was a zealot but not a member of the Zealot Party which emerges later. And Aslan talks about the Gospels being a theological argument and not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus brings the promise of a new world order challenging Roman authority. Aslan believes he probably gave himself the title, Son of Man. This title tied him to the Book of Daniel and restoration of Israel, but he fell short of calling himself a messiah and its ensuing obvious danger.

The book often discusses Gospel accounts and how they differ from each other, as well as from historical sources. I won’t go through the vast amount of information presented but will say, it makes very interesting reading especially when you start to get a feel for what’s behind the intention of certain parts of the Gospels.

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The resurrection is central to Christianity but a difficult topic for a historian to cover. The author admits that something must have happened to push Jesus’s followers to continue the movement. Indeed, the resurrection narrative was part of early Christian teaching predating the virgin birth or passion narratives. Evangelicals wrote those narratives later to flesh out the story.

Jesus as a zealot and crucified Jew left behind a movement headed by his brother James (the Just). James was a follower of the law in Jerusalem. But Aslan makes the case that a crucified Messiah was not possible for the Jews and the new message that emerges under Paul finds ground only with more open-minded Diaspora Jews who are Greek speaking and urban. It’s Paul who triumphs bringing in a Jesus who is the end of the Torah. He takes this message to gentiles and succeeds. It is through Paul that the Jesus of the Gospel becomes the Christ- a divine being, the literal son of God.

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The is a well written, easy to read book on a fascinating subject for many of us. It is perfect for the curious and open-minded. It’s one of those books, I’d say will stay with you long after you’ve put it down because of its thought-provoking nature. If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list!

 

 

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3rd Book Under Contract

My big book announcement!! More info coming soon.

ELLIS NELSON BOOKS

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I’m delighted to announce, the novel, Tender Tulips, Dark Diamonds (A Ghost Story) has been signed by Crystal Publishing LLC. The release date is TBD.

What’s this YA title about?

When fifteen-year-old Lydia travels to Amsterdam with her parents, the last thing she expects is the weird incidents that plague her stay. Curtains flutter mysteriously, and unexplained shadows move through the kitchen unnerving her. But Lydia is more concerned with the potential move to upstate New York. She dismisses the odd occurrences blaming them on jet lag and the various symptoms of her migraine disease.

When Lydia’s father lands a new job and the family moves to an area first settled by the Dutch, the bizarre happenings continue. Suffering from migraines has never been easy, but Lydia never thought it might be the way the ghost of a Dutch girl from the days of Tulipmania might hold her captive.

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OPPORTUNITY- A FEW GREAT BOOKS

FOR YA/MG AUTHORS: Promotion opportunity on the Ellis Nelson Books blog (https://ellisnelsonbooks.wordpress.com).

ELLIS NELSON BOOKS

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One of the things I’d really like to do in 2018 is to reach out and partner with other authors who are writing books for kids similar to my own. In general, I’m looking for writers who are creating in the newly emerging genre called visionary fiction.

Does your book involve any of these?

* spiritual/esoteric wisdom relevant to life today

* evolved consciousness

* ghost stories, NDEs, dreams/visions, psychic abilities, healing, etc (all pointing to a

bigger  understanding of our reality)

* reincarnation

* spiritual evolution, the rise of Kundalini

If so, I’d be interested in hearing about you and your book(s), and to perhaps do an interview on this blog. Please send me an email at: himalayaspencerellis AT yahoo.com and tell me about your work.

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Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

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I’ve always hated my birthday. December 21 falls too close to Christmas for it ever to have been celebrated like a normal birthday. As a child I can remember (and remember vividly) the one and only birthday party where I had neighbor kids over. The rest of the time, birthdays were small family events squeezed in among the hubbub of Christmas. Not fun and not special. That coupled with the yearly reminder from my mother that I was born on the darkest day of the year did much to cement my feelings of apathy about my solar return. For a few years, I moved the event to January hoping for a better outcome. But there was no escaping it.

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2017 turned out to be quite an eye-opening experience living abroad, and in an attempt to take advantage of some once in a life-time opportunities, I thought maybe this year marking my birthday with the rising sun of solstice at Stonehenge would make a memorable birthday. It was!

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The tour bus left London in complete darkness at 4:20 AM and we made our way to the plains of Salisbury where we picked up some light rain. We were given the option of walking 50 minutes to the site or waiting for a shuttle bus. Luckily, the English Heritage organization that controls access to Stonehenge has done this for years and there were plenty of shuttle buses, so we boarded the bus and rode. We were dropped off, in the misty blackness at the edge of a parking lot with hundreds of others. All along the way, my husband and I were looking for the famous stones to orient ourselves but even standing with the crowd, we had no idea in which direction we’d eventually be led.

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Finally, someone from English Heritage ventured by with a flashlight to tell us that they were waiting for some light before they’d open the field for us to go up to the site. When someone asked her where, she gestured to the left behind a wire fence where again we saw nothing. The crowd was animated. In the distance and to the left, drums beat, and a lone bagpipe played. More shuttle buses came and left, and we waited.

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Not long after, the stones were lit on the hill above us and the pasture fence dropped. Stonehenge emerged from the black night on the first morning of winter. Druid drums beat a rhythm as the crowd and I were led through the marshy pasture and up to the historic site. I felt very emotional going up the hill and had to focus on my breathing to circulate the energy. Whether this was a reaction to ley lines, the crowd’s festive spirit, or my own internal work I don’t know, but it was powerful and deep (and Scorpionic?). There was a sense of rightness in this crowd moving up to take back this site.

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By the time I reached the stones, several hundred people were already massed in and around the site. Stonehenge is a relatively small area. The center was held by Druids and pagans who had begun their ceremonies. Eager to join in, my husband and I moved in as close as we could. Our initial position was just outside the center ring. Gradually things began to lighten. We honored the four directions and offered prayers of peace being led by, I believe, a Druid priest. We chanted, sang songs, and summoned the ancestors. It was a festive, lively, and inclusive ceremony. The official sunrise came without notice as the clouds never permitted the sun to shine. Once the ritual part of the gathering had concluded, a group of pagan singers dressed in red streamed into the center of the stones and led the crowd in more songs. After a while, it felt like time to leave and my husband and I walked around the circle. I had a chance to touch some of the stones and walk the grounds of the site.

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One of the most important reasons to visit Stonehenge at one of the solstices is that people are allowed in among the stones and on the grounds. During the rest of the year, tourists are allowed only to walk a paved path behind a barrier around the site. Those restrictions have been in place for some years now to protect the site. Only on limited rare occasions can visitors access and touch the stones (although technically you’re not supposed to, but everyone does).

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Stonehenge is positioned on the top of a gentle hill with a panoramic view of surrounding fields. It’s isolated and unexpected, retaining its mystery. I settled on a fallen stone with some others. Revelers in the distance kept up the party atmosphere as I dropped into a healing mediation with the aid of the beat of a steady drum. It was easy to ground and go deep. I emerged sometime later, cold and stiff. It was time to leave.

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The visit had been characterized by three different phases. First, there had been the emotional climb to the site. The stones themselves and the experience of greeting the solstice was joyous and a shared one. The final phase was solitary, deep, and healing. No bolts of lightening but more a gladness that I’d been there. That this birthday was memorable and special.

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I was surprised that I had not felt more in the way of energy at the site, but then I had done some shielding ahead of our arrival. An unexpected thing happened the next day in London though. While we were waiting to get the underground, I suddenly started running energy that intensified in my palms. This lasted for some time and I think was connected to the previous day’s work. So, I’m keeping an open mind and we’ll see where this goes. Maybe a blog in the future.

 

 

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GRAB THIS!

From now until Jan. 2, INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS (Kindle edition) is discounted to 99 cents on Amazon.

Sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father. When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake away. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey that will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

Get it here: goo.gl/U12pqh

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Synchronicity (yes! again)

Super Synchronicity: Where Science and Spirit Meet by Gary E. Schwartz

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As soon as this book came out, I knew I had to read it and I’m glad I did. I’ve written about synchronicities before and they are sometimes very active in my life, and at other times- not so much. But always, there is this curiosity. After years of shaking my head (wondering if I was crazy), all the time my close family members laughing and rolling with it far easier than I did, I’ve come to accept them. I value the experiences, I laugh with the Universe (and the Universe has a glorious sense of humor), and I miss those coincidences when they lapse (do they lapse, or am I not observant enough?).

Along comes Harvard educated scientist Gary E. Schwartz, author and professor at the University of Arizona and the Director of its Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health to write a book on his personal experience with synchronicity and start to ask the tough scientific questions.

A huge proportion of the book is devoted to examples of what Schwartz calls supersynchronicities. So, while a rather mundane synchronicity involves the occurrence of two or more events happening close together that don’t seem to have a causal connection but are meaningful to the individual, these super events must be linked six or more times. Most of us have had instances of the lower order and some of us (if we’re observant and lucky?) might have experienced a supersynchronity. Schwartz has had many and has become a sort of expert at spotting them. Chapter upon chapter of delightful tales involving dogs, ravens, movies, bears, and emeralds have us explore the wonderful and wacky ways these synchronicities unfold. Many are captivating, a few pull at the heartstrings, all test our notion of reality and all cry out for an understanding of deeper meaning.

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from: Moscow Art

While being immersed in this world, I realized I view synchronicities as personal experiences. So much so, that when people in my life report MY synchronicities showing up in THEIR lives, I get irritated and dismiss it. From a supersynchronicity point of view, these instances have to be counted and seen in the bigger perspective of our reality. This was my biggest lesson drawn from reading this book. The Universe is not just talking to me (well, maybe sometimes).

Schwarz spends a chapter on the scientific process of running synchronicities through a hierarchical list of explanations. Everything from self-deception to the collective consciousness is briefly examined. He uses a fascinating analogy of a jazz super orchestra to hint at how the universe might operate with billions of people. How would the universe create a meta-score uniting everyone and still allowing individual expression? How, indeed! How do these synchronicities point at our underlying interconnectedness? Again, what does it mean…?

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photo: yumikrum

The book ends in an unsatisfying way for those looking for a better understanding of meaning. Perhaps, Schwartz’s next book will grapple with the new science (quantum synchronicity theory) he proposes. In the meantime, he encourages us to become active in becoming more aware of these instances in our own lives and start chronicling them. Remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the process.

 

 

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ESCORTING THE DEAD

AN INTERVIEW WITH TA SULLIVAN

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One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison (1947). In it, the ghost of a sea captain comes back for Lucy when she’s ready to pass. I always loved that he came back for her when it was time. Many of us will have heard stories about people getting close to death who see their loved ones, or sometimes angels. Beautiful, satisfying stories. But what if they’re not stories? What if that’s precisely what happens for many of us?

I recently finished “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp” by TA Sullivan. It’s a fascinating read about her experience as a death escort for the recently departed. As a child she was sensitive, but it wasn’t until she had her own near-death experience (NDE) that her life took a turn and she started to train as a guide for the dead.

Please welcome author and photographer, TA Sullivan. Thank you for agreeing to talk about what is a difficult subject for many.

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Can you briefly describe your NDE when you were hit by a van? How old were you then?

What I remember most about the NDE are the emotions—the feelings of loving acceptance and joy that surrounded me like a warm comforter on a cold day. But what stayed with me the most, was the feeling that I was finally at home.

As for my age…well, I was old enough to know better, yet young enough to ignore my own advice. I’d just hit my mid-forties and had no idea what a crazy ride life had in store for me on the other side of that mid-point.

At the time of the accident, had you been exploring any deep philosophical questions or were you at a turning point in your life?

At the time of the accident, my life was in a bit of a turmoil. My mother had just died, my spouse and I had just relocated (changing states and jobs), and one of my close friends had just been diagnosed with cancer.

With everything that was going on in my life, I was feeling somewhat uncentered and scattered. The accident and accompanying experience, actually helped me put things back in perspective. It made me realize just what was important and what wasn’t.

What is the basic role of a psychopomp?

We ensure that the death experience is what the soul (person) wants.

Think of your life as a movie extravaganza, where you are the director and star. The psychopomp would then be the set designer, prop master, and extra in your death scene.

Can anyone take on the role of psychopomp or must a contract be in place prior to an incarnation?

Anyone can function as a psychopomp at any point during their lifetime without making it a full-time commitment, such as I have done. Someone can ask you (at a soul level) if you would be there for them when they die. Often, it is referred to it as a shared death experience. Whatever name you give it doesn’t really matter though, as much as your being there for someone who needs you and your support during that transitional period.

What have you learned as an escort that could help alleviate people’s crippling fear of death?

That life is eternal. It doesn’t stop just because the body dies.

This isn’t some abstract belief based on religious teachings. It’s a belief born of experience. I’ve been there (multiple times), and so have you…you have simply forgotten. Let yourself remember. Remember the encompassing feelings of love and compassion; remember the feelings of acceptance and peace; and remember the feelings of belonging.

If you want to help someone overcome their fear, just give them love. John Lennon said it best, all you need is love. Believe in the love, and the fear will disappear.

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photo:  Gyulfox

What are some healthy ways to communicate with loved ones who have died that won’t create the negative energetic cords you caution against?

Communicate, but don’t cling.

Love them, but without strings.

In other words, accept that they are physically dead and not a part of your reality anymore.

Speak to them, if it helps you. But don’t cling to expectations of getting a response or seeing a ‘sign.’ You all have to move on. After all, some souls may wait for you (as depicted in the movie ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’—one of my all-time favorites, also), but others may move on to take on new lives and new families. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you; it only means that things need to change.

Also, don’t expect literal responses to your communications. After all, once released from the physical constraints of our world, most souls aren’t all that concerned with where they stored insurance policy you can’t find or where they hid that winning lottery ticket.

What is the most satisfying aspect of acting as a psychopomp? What is the most challenging?

The most satisfying part of being a psychopomp is seeing a transitioned soul awaken. It’s the moment that a transitioned soul realizes that he/she isn’t confined by who or what he/she was on Earth. It’s when the soul suddenly recognizes that he/she is more than just Billy Ray, husband and father, or Mary Francis, business woman and wife. When they see the bigger picture, the awe and wonder expressed by them is wondrous. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

The most challenging part of being a death escort is not interfering. I mean, it’s human nature to want to help; yet, if someone wants to believe that they are completely alone when they die, then we have to remain hidden. Or if someone wants to experience excruciating pain (emotional, mental, or physical); then we have to let them, even though we know we could help them alleviate or overcome it.

Is the work energetically draining? Do you wake up exhausted?

There are times when I’m so drained by an experience that I just want to spend the next day in bed or simply lazing around the house. But there are other times, times such as when you get to see and share that awe of awakening with a soul, that it energizes and elevates you. Then the next day seems brighter and nicer, and I feel more energetic and full of hope and joy.

How do you protect yourself emotionally in difficult cases (i.e. deaths of children, murders, accidents, etc.)?

I used to find myself emotionally drained and my aura shredded from all the turmoil that I encountered. However, as I’ve grown into this role, I’ve learned more (and better) techniques for creating safeguards (barriers, cocoons, walls) around myself to keep the backlash of emotions away.

When you touch someone to see what type of experience they want, you need to have a filter, of sorts, in place. This ‘filter’ enables you to keep out the physical and emotional trauma that the person may be going through so that you can focus on what the lesson is the soul is trying to create.

The filter is like any other barrier that many empaths and intuitives instinctively learn to erect around themselves. It allows a limited amount of energy from other people to filter through…just enough so that the empath or intuitive can relate, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed. In the case of death escorts, we must learn to focus these filters so that we can pluck out the information we need without becoming overwhelmed by the situation or the people participating in it.

Do you know anyone else (in person or online) who is doing this work? Is it lonely or isolating?

I met another death escort online a while back. He had shared a comment on an online article, and something about the way he worded things sort of gave me a start. So, I contacted him directly and as we chatted, we recognized the shared connection. It was nice being able to discuss things with someone who understood the ups and downs of this ‘job,’ and who grasped why we wanted to do it, anyway. We also shared some of the ways it brings weirdness into our otherwise mundane lives (getting pulled across in the middle of the day, which might mean telling your boss you’re not feeling well, so you can answer the ‘call,’ that sort of thing).

We continue to communicate once in a while. In fact, he’s even found a couple more like us, so we now have a group of 5 that we can share our triumphs and sorrows with. It’s nice. We were a group of 6 for a very short while; however, TJ died soon after joining our group and my friend had the privilege of escorting him across. Very surreal.

 

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What are you currently working on?

My current writing project is book 2 of my paranormal romance series.

The first book, “The Past Rekindled,” will be coming out this November. “The Past Rekindled” has Terra McGinley dividing her time between writing how-to procedures and escorting visitors to the astral plane. Her new partner is a by-the-book, hard-to-deal-with transitioner with a secret, whom she finds attractive, yet exasperating. But when one of her charges contacts Terra directly for help, she encounters Death, who has his own plans for her. Now she must decide who she can trust with her life and her heart – past love or new partner?

It kind of reflects my own life (but without all the drama), inasmuch as I’m also a techwriter and a death escort, but Terra has a much more twisted sense of humor than I do…

Thanks for joining me today to talk about your role as a psychopomp and your writing! For more about TA Sullivan’s work and books, check out her links below.

My blog, Tas Through the Looking Glass, can be found at https://taslookingglass.wordpress.com/ and contains book reviews, essays on the paranormal, and wanderings of my mind. I also have another blog called Insights and Awareness (https://michaelreadings.wordpress.com/), which is a cosmic Q & A site—I, and other intuitives and psychics try to answer readers’ questions.

Twitter (@tasinator)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tricia.o.sullivan.5)

Amazon (https://amazon.com/author/tasullivan)

 

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OWL KILLERS by Karen Maitland

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During the Middle Ages, a lay group of women dedicated to a life of prayer, hard work, and community service thrived in the Low Countries. Known as the Beguines, Karen Maitland imagines what it might have been like for a group of these women to have struck out on their own to settle in an unwelcoming English town. The atmosphere is tense as the women are seen as outsiders, not part of Mother Church and not part of the resident pagan tradition either. The women bring their ideas of Christian charity to the townsfolk who regard them with suspicion and sometimes open hostility. As the village suffers through a series of disasters, the power of the Church is threatened, dark forces from earlier times reawaken, and the beguines must decide to make a stand or return to the safety of their continental shores.

Karen Maitland novel is well-researched and executed. The story is told from the various viewpoints of the characters in the town of Ulewic. In this way, we learn each of the beguine’s has her own history and her own reasons for joining the group. We understand the struggles of the local priest as he fits into a system that leaves him little room for personal choice. A nobleman’s daughter helps us feel the restrictions of living as a young woman in Medieval society. An array of townsfolk completes the cast. The Owl Killers are a group of masked men who harken back to a day before law and order. They are definitely flesh and blood and do their share of evil, but Maitland has, at times, blurred the line. Although most of the story feels firmly planted in third dimensional reality, there are a few places where things take on an otherworldly creepiness. Man’s ability for cruelty can be disturbing and this book certainly has those moments. The ending may leave you wanting more or maybe something else entirely.

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