Author Paul Hill kindly hosted me on his blog. Follow the link. I spill the beans on my military background, why I write for kids, and share some curious personal paranormal happenings. Comments welcomed! I’m always here (or there) to chat.
Author Paul Hill kindly hosted me on his blog. Follow the link. I spill the beans on my military background, why I write for kids, and share some curious personal paranormal happenings. Comments welcomed! I’m always here (or there) to chat.
by Rea Nolan Martin
She’s only fifteen. She shouldn’t have to play anesthesia games at all, never mind this often, but whatever. She tries not to waste time feeling sorry for herself. She already knows life isn’t fair. Get over it. If you’re going to survive, you have to turn it into a game you have a chance of winning, a game that makes up for lost time. A game that teaches you how to be awake even when you’re not.
This book has already garnered many positive reviews on Amazon which highlight the author’s skill with characterization, pacing, and the way tense moments are flavored with gentle humor. And I totally agree. Rea Nolan Martin has successfully woven a story around four women facing crisis. We are drawn in and caught up in their lives. Most of us will have faced some part of this story either in our own lives or in the lives of a loved one.
What I want to highlight is that this is a masterful work in the emerging genre of visionary fiction. And here the author shows her talent best. She asks us to dig deep and think about healing. How much do we rely on medical professionals? How much power do we have over our own healing? On the healing of others? The writing here is so compelling that I know Rea Nolan Martin has experienced these questions and wrestled with them in her own life. She is drawing from what she “knows”. Anyone who reads about where science is leading us will also feel a resonance to the ideas of the zero point field. Others will gravitate to the language of interconnectedness. Either way, we have to reexamine our place on earth and in the cosmos.
Few authors can take on these themes and make them accessible. This author can. Grab this one!
March 17th, 2016
THE WINNERS ARE: Congratulations Dawnrigger and Linda Martin! I will be contacting you both to get your email details. Thanks to everyone who participated.
It’s almost spring and international teams will soon meet to begin the 2016 climbing season at Everest. Most of us will never be challenged by a mountain, but we can live vicariously safe at home, book in hand. For all you armchair adventurers, it’s contest time. Two free e-books of INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS will be awarded on Thursday, March 17th. Leave a comment about mountains below to enter. Contest closes 12:00 PM (MTN) on March 17th.
A troubled, 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 off the mountain. Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes. In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.
The Biology of Consciousness- Case Studies in Kundalini- JJ Semple
This book has been on my reading list for a while. Although I’ve read books in the Eastern tradition on energy and Kundalini, I’ve never picked up a practical guide, so to speak. My background on the subject frames the rise of Kundalini energy in esoteric or spiritual terms. JJ Semple wants to get away from the notion of the spiritual and talk in terms of biology and evolution.
For him, a Kundalini awakening is essentially a biological process where consciousness expresses as an evolutionary force whose purpose is to refine and upgrade itself in a single lifetime. But it’s more than that because Semple believes the raising of consciousness can cause significant evolutionary leaps that can be passed on to subsequent generations.
Some esoteric traditions teach there is only one way to raise the serpent coiled at the base of the spine. Others outline a favored approach. This is where Semple’s book can be helpful. He outlines some of the many ways Kundalini can be triggered either intentionally or accidentally (that’s right- you can be minding your own business one minute and then yikes – what the ??). In fact, many people have had just that experience! They didn’t go looking for it, they don’t have an interest in anything spiritual, and yet it happens. Remember, Semple’s theory doesn’t require spirituality. He is talking about fundamental biology. If you are human, the life force waits ready for its opportunity.
Some of the case studies presented involve the raising of Kundalini as a result of meditation, Shaktipat (where energy is transferred from one individual to another), emotional crisis, sexual encounter, or eye gazing. Semple himself has experienced his own biological awakening and has chosen cases illustrating some of the differences and some of the similarities of what people go through. There are no advanced spiritual masters here; these are everyday people going through a life changing process. The book is immediately easy to relate to. Along the way, the reader gets a sense of how the rise of the Kundalini can be lived with and accommodated.
The book spends some time on the God versus no God arguments within society. Although Semple is an atheist, he thinks the argument gets us nowhere. He would like us to view Kundalini in terms of an energy continuum. Religion gets in the way of having this biological process seriously studied by scientists. Real work needs to be done. Real people are awakening all the time and there is a need to be able to guide them through the process.
Semple’s book is an easy read even if you know nothing about Kundalini. I hope it begins to open a dialogue among a wider audience. Highly recommended!
A cautionary note: Many spiritual traditions regard the raising of Kundalini as a dangerous endeavor. It is not viewed as being for everyone. Many have levels of initiation and recognize master teachers.
For those experiencing Kundalini rise: www.spiritualcrisisnetwork.org.uk
JJ Semple’s site: http://www.goldenflowermeditation.com/discovering_gfm.html
With Pope Francis visiting the US, it’s time again to reflect on his namesake. This is a reblogged post, so some might remember it.
A couple of years ago I listened to one of those Great Courses lectures on St. Francis of Assisi. I patiently waited through all the talk about his early beginnings, his military experience, his illness, his rejection of society, and his eventual creation of a new order. Most of it was dry and rather matter-of-fact. Where was the meat? Where was the mystical Francis I’d heard about? Where were the stories, the hagiography, that made Francis one of the most loved and recognized saints of all time? I walked away from the lectures shaking my head in disappointment. It wasn’t until later that my reading caught up with the reality. I had been very naïve believing a history and art professor would ever broach the subject of mystical experience. It wasn’t done; even an academic degreed in comparative religion would shy away from this discussion. How sad because isn’t that what many of us hunger for?
Francis has whispered to me from time to time. A statue in someone’s garden, the visit of the Pope this fall to Assisi, a well-known spiritual teacher planning a workshop there, St. Francis hospital visible from my new house. Then recently, Pope Francis was proclaimed Time’s Man of the Year. Francis is present in ways he hasn’t been in a long time. What can a twelfth century saint have to say to the modern world? Maybe a lot.
Let’s dispense with the relevant historical details (and don’t worry it won’t take twelve lectures) to seek out a deeper meaning for Francis in our time. Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone around 1181. Born into a wealthy merchant family, he enjoyed all the advantages of his station and even went off to war fighting for Assisi. Some kind of vision compelled him to return home where he subsequently lost his zeal for the kind of life he’d been previously living and he began to reject it. He left his father’s silk business, took to serving the poor and lepers, and gained a following. Francis eventually went on to found the Order of the Friars Minor, the Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of St. Francis.
It was in San Damiano that Francis had a powerful mystical experience which was to frame his life’s work. While praying before an icon, he had a vision of Jesus who spoke to him and said, “…go and repair My house which, as you can see is falling into ruins.” Francis’ interpretation resulted in him raising money to repair the physical church he was in. Of course, Francis’ mission was not a literal one and called him instead, to restore the institution of the Church.
Although never ordained, Francis’ calling was manifested in a simple life of poverty emulating the life of Christ. His followers were “To follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in his footsteps.” He was devoted to his spiritual practice and at times would withdraw from life to develop it. He had guiding visions throughout his life, was seen levitating, and was the first recorded person to receive the wounds of Christ (stigmata). Francis was a mystic, but he was also a mystic who brought back what he learned and shared it.
Two of the most widely known miracles told about Francis involve his ability to work with animals. In the town of Gubbio, a wolf threatened the townsfolk. Francis intervened and made a pact with the wolf. Thereafter, the wolf remained peacefully near the village and the people fed it. The other story concerns an incident where Francis was trying to preach over the noisy chatter of swallows. He asked the birds to be silent and to the amazement of the crowd, they did. That famous story is the reason why Francis statues and art depictions often have a bird. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
As we draw near to Christmas and many churches display a nativity scene (Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene), I hope you will remember a simple saint who lived an exemplary life devoted to poverty and service. His mystical connection to the Universe (God, if you prefer) was the powerhouse of his practice.
Canticle of the Sun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canticle_of_the_Sun
St. Francis Peace Prayer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis
Book: The Life and Prayers of St. Francis
JOIN MY THUNDERCLAP:
What if your neighbor was a saint? This was the question Rea Nolan Martin asked herself in creating this masterpiece of visionary fiction. Her main character, Vera Wright, qualifies for the senior discount, but is still working as a beautician. She has a grown daughter and a teddy bear of a husband, living a normal life. Then one day, her parish priest asks the congregation to invite God into their lives. Vera does and that’s when everything starts to change.
I was fully caught up in Vera’s reluctant spiritual journey. More than once I wondered how I’d react if some of the things that Vera experienced happened to me. Remember in the stories of saints, the path to enlightenment is not an easy one. Vera is continuously challenged on her road to God. Unexpected twists and turns occur. Vera navigates some of them beautifully and some not. She is after all, human. Vera’s job is to awaken to her inner divinity and that awakening has her question the role of the feminine in Catholicism.
The story of Vera’s transformation might be heavy except that the author has interjected copious amounts of humor into the mix. Vera is the saint next door and we are no longer free to relegate holiness to the past. Might we not come across a saint in our own lives? Who is that waiting on us at the Post Office? Who is that old man feeding the ducks at the pond? The child reaching for the cookie? This book is a mind-opening adventure. Don’t miss it!
Interview with Kimberly Harding, PhD- artist, author, and teacher
As the Moon
pulls the Wave,
pulls the Soul.
Welcome, Kim. Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am currently a college professor at a small school in central Colorado. I teach in the science discipline- primarily anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and such. I am not one who always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but when I taught my first college lab, I was hooked. It was only after completing my PhD education and securing my first job that I “let out” my artistic side. I remember a New Year’s Eve in which I stayed home to paint and I realized how much everything had changed for me. I do not know what precipitated my sudden interest in art at that time, but it has been with me ever since.
Currently, you are combining teaching science and creating artwork. Does one support the other? Could you see yourself doing only one?
I think most of my colleagues would be surprised to learn if I had to choose only one- it would be art. However, science and teaching provide a grounding force in my life, which I believe support my artistic side with a sense of security.
Of course, there are points in which the two interests converge. I have written and spoken about the power of the female body. Many of the details arise from my scientific training. When I speak on this topic, though, I always present my artistic images, and I believe those are what remain with the audience the most.
Likewise, when I did a book comprised of artistic images and poems of the heart, many of the ideas I played around with were based on my understanding of the heart from a physical perspective.
It is those who have been
hurt the most,
that understand the best.
And it will be those,
with the Soul’s awareness ground into bone,
that heal this world.
I read that you started creating art when you were thirty. What led you to begin expressing yourself in this way?
I truly do not know that answer. I have never taken an art class in my life and throughout my earlier years I had self-defined to the nth degree that I was a scientist and “very logical”. There is something about touching colors, though ( I work with pastels and move the pigments around with fingers and hands) that speaks to my soul.
How important is creative expression to spiritual growth? Because so much of your work seems to center on the heart and compassion, I wonder how art can aid healing?
I do believe that art can facilitate healing. I recently wrote that “The artist sees before anyone else believes.” When we are in the creative state, our inner artist is able to reveal to us what is has “seen”, usually before we are even willing to be conscious of the experience. My artistic process is very “in the moment”. I used to “receive” images in my mind while falling asleep and I would feel compelled to create them the next day. It was almost a compulsion. Now, I begin with blank page and make a few random lines. I have to sit with the image and see what it wants to become slowly. In the process, there is such an inherent sense of my having to be honest with what is arising. When I try to manipulate, control, and project, the image veers off into something less than profound.
Were you a creative, artistic kid? Did you like art classes or did you gravitate to science very early?
I was not a creative child in any form. My parents are not very well-educated. I saw education as a “way out” and liked the security (and money- sciences tend to be very well-funded) that science education seemed to provide. Early in my life, I would not have risked becoming something as “crazy” and “unstable” as an artist.
stark relief against the
background of any circumstances.
What themes has your art allowed you to explore? How do you see your work developing? What impact would you like your paintings and poetry to have on the world?
That is the gift of art, isn’t it- it gives us the ability to explore. I have explored the power of a woman’s body, as well as the power and strength related to male-ness. I spent one summer in what I refer to as my “phallic phase” as images of penises abounded. I have also done entire series on hearts, birds, symbolic shapes, symbols of union and more.
I am constantly surprised how my work develops. I have to say, and I wonder if this is true for other artists- that I will sometimes want to define myself with limitations, -i.e., I want to be the “heart artist” or whatever idea I am currently playing with at that time. That type of self-definition does not seem to be part of my artistic pathway.
As for the impact of my art and poetry, I want it to be “gentle”. That may be a strange thing to say, but I feel so much in life, including spirituality, is layered and projected upon us. I want my art to simply be a gentle opening for others to realize their own understanding.
Thanks for sharing your work with us!
Kim has two books available which combine her paintings and poetry.
The Heart Within You-
The Spirit Within You-
Watch Kim’s fascinating lecture on Female Embodiment- A Woman’s Place (22 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcKXaq1l1kk
For more information on Kim and her work, please visit her at the following site:
Some years ago while reading about early explorers into Tibet, I came upon a biography about Helena Blavatsky. Madame Blavatsky was involved in early investigations of spiritualism and eventually went on to found the Theosophical Society with others in 1875. The original organization splintered, and Theosophy does not have the following it once enjoyed, but it continues to foster spiritual growth.
The Theosophical Society in America’s website (www.theosophical.org) outlines their vision, mission, and ethic.
The Theosophical Society in America:
“Has a Vision of wholeness that inspires a fellowship united in study, meditation, and service.
Its Mission is to encourage open-minded inquiry into world religions, philosophy, science, and the arts in order to understand the wisdom of the ages, respect the unity of all life, and help people explore spiritual self-transformation.
Its Ethic holds that our every action, feeling, and thought affects all other beings and that each of us is capable of and responsible for contributing to the benefit of the whole.”
March 12, 7:00 p.m. CT
The Buddha and Jesus have been described as enlightened persons who realized their spiritual visions. They gave rise to two of the world’s major religious traditions, and became virtually deified by their followers. But who were they, and what were their spiritual visions? Explore the historical identities of these two spiritual teachers, the nature of their paths to ultimate truth, and consider the similarities and differences of their views of the human condition and subsequent teachings. (George Bond is professor emeritus of Religious Studies and McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University)
March 19, 7:00 p.m. CT
Using the astrological teachings of Dane Rudyar (Rhythm of Wholeness) and Alexander Ruperti (Cycles of Becoming) as resources for understanding psychological spiritual growth, we find they reveal the timing coordination for patterns of growth as we age. Elements of developmental psychology will be explored and sequenced with their astrological triggers. Investigate your own life purpose with regard to these perspectives to find greater clarity of life’s path. (Frank Morales, M.S.Ed. CRADC, MISA II)
March 26, 7:00 p.m. CT
Our thoughts, conceptions, theories, and beliefs often drift into “thickets of views” that can lead to confusion and rigidity. One way to ground ourselves amidst the modern conceptual bombardment is to cultivate mindful inquiry of basic experiential realities: the sense doors, sensory experience, and how they feel. Wisdom can arise when we see these things clearly, and we understand the limitations of all those concepts, theories, and beliefs. (Santikaro is the founder of Liberation Park, a Buddhist retreat center in Wisconsin.)
April 2, 7:00 p.m. CT
Forgiveness is praised more than it’s practiced. Why should we forgive? When? Are there times when it’s not right to forgive? How can you tell forgiving from condoning? Richard Smoley, editor of Quest magazine, offers some insights from his new book The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness. (Richard Smoley is a distinguished authority on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization. Editor of Quest Books.)
April 9, 7:00 p.m. CT
Fire is one of the most sacred symbols used by sages, alchemists and initiates of ancient times. This primordial element of Life still plays a central role in many religious ceremonies and meditations for seekers of Truth throughout the world. We will probe into some of the esoteric meanings attributed to this universal symbol such as reincarnation, spiritual transmutation and Eternity. (Danelys Valcarcel is a Cuban artist and student of Theosophy.)
April 16, 7:00 p.m. CT
It has been said that worrying is like running around in a circle—getting us nowhere. Why do so many of us spend so much time worrying about so many things? Is it possible to live responsible and caring lives without falling victim to anxiety and worry? That a human being can be free of such negative emotions is central to the Buddha’s teaching. However, it is necessary to understanding the nature of the human condition and come to terms with reality in order to free ourselves. (John Cianciosi, ordained Buddhist monk and spiritual director of monasteries in Thailand and Australia.)
April 23, 7:00 p.m. CT
April 30, 7.00 p.m. CT
May 7, 7:00 p.m. CT
Theosophy in India blog post: http://aviott.org/2014/02/19/banyans-cuckoos-cannonballs-and-theosophy/
Years ago when I returned to Buddhism and began meditation, I opened a door which, even after ten years, remains open. We can call them synchronistic events (SEs), meaningful coincidences. They come and ping in my environment especially when I’m working intensely on something. The easiest examples to share have to do with my writing. When I was writing INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS, all manner of Tibetan symbols and objects showed up in my environment. Where before I knew nothing about Tibet, and relatively little about Buddhism, I started to see various things each and every day. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was alarming- what did it mean? Why was it happening? Thankfully, my immediate family was supportive and I explored various ideas before finally embracing the idea that these events were like warm embraces from the universe.
Enter psychologist, Kirby Surprise who has written a book called Synchronicity- The Art of Coincidence, Choice, and Unlocking Your Mind. He was about to challenge my warm, fuzzy world. Has he won or can we come to a… middle way? Some believe these coincidences are tied to archetypes and Jung’s collective unconscious. Others see the hand of God or some unifying force at work. In Surprise’s career, he has seen clients attribute these “signs” to Gods, saviors, demons, devils, nature spirits, people with extraordinary powers, ETs, ghosts, and/or secret agencies or governments. Our psychologist proposes an alternative. We cause our own SEs because the universe mirrors us. Therefore, what we project is what we get. Many mystical traditions (becoming co-creators) and science itself seems to support the idea.
Current theories of quantum physics play with the idea that the universe has 11 dimensions. In N Space, there are an infinite number of parallel universes. And then there is M Space which has probable universes. Brain activity as thoughts and powered by emotion, move across these spaces creating change. In a sense, we exist in in infinite number of alternative and probable universes all at the same time. The changes we create in these universes ripple back to us as SEs. We are indeed very powerful- but limited according to Surprise, because we can only travel so far. Rhine’s early parapsychology experiments at Duke University seem to suggest we influence our world by 3-5% and that may reflect a typical SE. However, there are exceptional cases of SE which are life changing and may be more in line with a 60-90% change.
All well and good. So what can we do with SEs? Why are they important? SEs give us insight into who we are and how the world functions. For those attuned to SEs, they shake up our world and force us to look at the big questions- who are we, what is the nature of reality? Surprise cautions us here because whatever our belief structure is, meaningful coincidences will conspire to confirm it. Believe a loving, powerful God underlies everything, he shows up. Believe the devil is at the heart of your misery, he’s there too. How about a shadow government conspiring with aliens to take over the world? Suddenly, conspiracy theories are everywhere and intruding into your daily life. While SEs are often fun and exciting, they can also be scary and throw your world into chaos. The trick here is to maintain a sense of humor without believing everything we are being shown. We are the actor on the stage as well as the playwright.
Not that everyone is happy with the book. Surprise does explore the idea that SEs point to deep connectedness, but he is pretty tough on organized religions sometimes putting it on the level of his patient’s other delusions. And while he does admit that SEs can be powerful at times, he tends to dismiss their overall importance. I think he’s done a good job in opening up some speculation on how the mechanics of SEs work, but he may have only part of the story. We need magic and mystery.
Surprise’s book gives some exercises to try so that you can create thoughtforms and see what happens. He goes to great length stressing that everyone has this ability, but many aren’t aware of it. You can live a full life and never recognize SEs- but for those of us who do, it will permanently shift your frame of reference. All spiritual paths tell us this, once you open the door and step through, you can never go back. Some are not up to the journey.
Bradford Keeney’s book, Shaking Medicine, takes us into the heart of healing with ecstatic movement. While the East and West delights in powerful, relaxing healing modalities of meditation and acupuncture, Keeney bravely asserts we are missing the other half of healing medicine- the shaking forms of arousal from Africa and other cultures. Mostly absent from our culture are the healing techniques of The Shake and it’s time we got over our prejudice. Keeney believes that it is only when we fully cycle through being hyper-aroused and then deeply relaxed, can we powerfully realign and evolve in a pattern consistent with holistic medicine. Fifty years ago or so, meditation was new and seen as a fringe movement and now it is so accepted and commonplace, doctors recommend it. Keeney predicts Shaking Medicine is coming west and it’s healing benefits will be open to all. At first I wondered about that, but my latest foray into my local meetup groups, revealed that there is a group dedicated to ecstatic dance.
Of course, some of the hurdles for society to overcome are the immediate associations we have for those shaking. Historically scholars (and the general public) have associated ecstatic movement with mental or neurological disease. Some would even go so far as to say evil or satanic, but most of that is either blatant prejudice or cultural ignorance. There is also a fear of being out of control that western cultures so value. Conformity and predictability are pillars of our society, what would happen if everyone shook? Would we….lose it? And those still prevalent fears have led Keeney to call shaking The Last Great Taboo.
So what is shaking all about? Simply put it’s an experience, a journey into the ecstatic state brought forth by trembling joy. You tremble, quake, and shake losing control and entering into healing and transformation. Like other mystical practices, you surrender to higher authority and wisdom. For Keeney, it’s the thing most missing from our spiritual table in the West. Cultures who practice it value it for its ability to renew and restore vitality. It takes us into the unknown and connects us to life in all its forms.
This is a book I truly loved. I knew nothing about the subject and enjoyed visiting the diverse cultures Keeney portrays. Lest you think shaking is confined to the African continent, Keeney starts out with a tale about settlers in the Pacific Northwest and later the Quakers and Shakers all of whom participated in ecstatic movement in pursuit of spiritual growth. Keeney has strong ties to the Kalahari bushmen earning the title of Heart of Spears, a title of respect acquired by learning and experiencing their shaking medicine. Some of the other cultures explored in the fascinating book include the: Spiritual Baptists of St. Vincent (Caribbean), African American Church, Seiki Jutsu (Japan), and Hindu/Buddhist traditions (India). The book comes with a CD and instructions to begin your own journey of discovery. Highly recommended!