Grounding and Shielding

dreamstime_8683396Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world.  Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be.  We must learn to penetrate things and find God there. —Meister Eckhart

Two of the valuable spiritual tools I’ve learned from my Wiccan friends are grounding and shielding.  It’s easy to meditate and feel connected to the Divine when we light some incense, burn a few candles and play soft meditative music.  But what about when we’re in the midst of chaos?  What about when we find ourselves in a tense or potentially hostile situation?  This is where grounding and shielding come in.  You can read about these two meditation techniques in many introductory books on Wicca.

GROUNDING: It’s best to master this technique in solitude first, before you try it in the midst of a difficult situation.  I ground by taking three slow, deep breaths.  With each breath I imagine any negative energy that is in my body being released into the ground.  I also feel my feet growing roots and attaching themselves to the soil.  This visualization can be done while physically touching the ground or even in a seven story building!  Once you feel like all the negative energy has been released (it may take more than three breaths at first), imagine drawing up from the earth its healing green energy.  Let that energy penetrate every cell of your being.

Everyone experiences grounding differently.  I’ve done some work with acupuncture so I know how to open up the energy channels in my feet.  That might sound strange to some but when I am drawing up the green energy from the earth, my feet literally tingle.  They also feel heavier like they are glued to the floor.  I’m curious if anyone else out there experiences anything similar when they ground themselves?

SHIELDING: Shielding is learning how to create a protective sphere of energy around you.  The goal is to block any hostile/negative energies that are coming your way so you can deal with them calmly and effectively.  When I’m going into a potentially hostile/antagonistic situation, I say the following prayer slowly and deliberately.  You can substitute whatever name you use for “God.”  This is called The Protection Prayer:

The Light of God surrounds me.
The Love of God enfolds me.
The Power of God protects me.
The Presence of God watches over me.
Wherever I am, God is.  All is well.

Sometimes I pray this three times until I feel calm and serene.  With practice, you can usually get the result you’re looking for by saying it once.  As I say this prayer, I image a vibrant white light surrounding me in a spherical form.

Another way I shield is by calling on the Guardians of the four directions, whom some see as angels or the Ancient Ones as well as elemental spirits. If it’s possible I face North and draw up a translucent shield of emerald green in front of me that rises to a point over my head.  I then draw up a shield of diamond white to my right which corresponds to the East.  It butts up again the Northern green shield.  Next I imagine a ruby red shield in back of me which corresponds to the South.  And, finally, a sapphire blue shield which corresponds to the West.  Together they form a cone shape that surrounds me with protective energy. With practice, this can be set up quickly and I’ve learned to do it with one sweeping hand motion.

There are many ways to do both grounding and shielding.  The important things is that you experiment and find out what works for you!

Copyright © 2021 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Heilung: Awakening My Viking Soul

So it appears my YouTube account knows me very well! In the right sidebar, it suggested that I listen to Heilung’s LIFA concert from Castlefest 2017. I clicked on the link, but nothing could emotionally and spiritually prepare me for what unfolded before my eyes. At first, I thought “What the hell is this?” But the moment Maria Franz started chanting, it was a done deal! Heilung had gained a new fan.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Heilug is German for “healing.” They describe their music as “amplified history from early medieval Europe,” and indeed it is. Most of their lyrics are based on texts and runic inscriptions from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Viking Age. These are set to everything from Maria’s ethereal chants to Kai Uwe Faust’s Tibetan throat singing growls. Percussion definitely propels many of the tracks and is a mix of electronic and natural beats. Everything is immaculately recorded and mixed by Danish producer Christopher Juul. It is a soundscape that is not to be missed.

On their web site they state “Any attempt to link the band with or bring their music into a modern political or religious context is pointless, since Heilung try to connect their listeners with a time before the coming of Christianity and modern political ideologies.” In other words, Heilug is something to be experienced, not analyzed. I find their music very grounding. It makes me feel deeply connected to my Germanic ancestors. I use it for meditation, general relaxation and while doing magic inside the sacred circle. It’s powerful, transformative stuff!

My favorite album of theirs is definitely FUTHA, which Heilung says channels the feminine energy of “old Icelandic poetry in which holy women chant magic spells and offer their blessings.” In contrast to this, OFNIR is a more masculine album whose lyrics are based on rune inscriptions from ancient weapons and armor. Kai Uwe Faust’s throat singing is prominent throughout.

Hopefully, I’ve peaked your interest in Heilung. It is a unique and transcendent listening experience.

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin , http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Wand of Moses?

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Moses getting water from a rock. Duomo Cathedral, Milan ©2019 by David Taliesin

Before the pandemic, while I was in Milan, a panel on the outside of the Duomo caught my eye. It looked as if the person in the picture was wielding a wand. I captured the image and did some research when I returned home. It is, indeed, the story of Moses striking a rock in the desert from which water miraculously began to flow. This is mentioned in the Torah in Exodus 1:1-7 and Numbers 20:9-11:

So Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. [NRSV]

Now realize the English translation above says it was a “staff.” It’s the same staff that Moses used to perform other miracles while the Israelites were in Egypt. However, the Hebrew word used here can also be understood as a “rod” used for chastising, a “scepter” used by a king or queen, a “lance” that is thrown, or a walking “staff.” It would appear the length varies. Some are short, some are long.

The use of a shorter staff or wand by Moses is not only seen on the Duomo, it appears in other images of Moses as well such as the photo below from the Catacomb of St. Callixtus, Rome:

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This looks more like an elongated wand due to the way he holds it. One would probably wield a staff differently.

Not surprisingly, the wand also appears in ancient Egyptian art as well. We see examples of this in the Tomb of Sennefer in Luxor:

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Priest holding a scepter, Tomb of Sennefer, Luxor

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Priests holding serpent staffs. Tomb of Sennufer. © Scott Noegel

Acts 7:22 says that “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” [NRSV] Perhaps we can infer from this that Moses was taught the spiritual/magical practices of the Egyptian priests. Therefore, a shorter staff is not out of the question.

Now, I know there are some of you out there who probably think I’m crazy for even proposing this idea. But Google “Christ the Magician” and you will see similar wands in the hands of both Jesus and Peter! Early Christians seemed to have no problem with this portrayal of their Biblical heroes. Then why should we?

In my own spiritual practice I don’t often use a wand. But when I do, I understand it to be a focusing device, an extension of my arm through which power flows. I do not believe it has any power on it’s own (forget all the Harry Potter BS you’ve seen in the movies). It is a conduit through which I can direct both Divine and Earth energy toward it’s intended purposes. I can do the same thing with my hands or a crystal but, sometimes, it just feels like the wand is the right tool to get the job done.

So, I have no problem with the notion of Moses using a shorter wand instead of a staff. Some early Christians had no problem with it either. The Torah tells us that Moses understood his staff/wand to be an instrument through which the power of YHWH could be directed. It had no super powers in and of itself, and that really resonates with my understand of this tool’s function.

If your beliefs are different from what I’ve posted, I totally respect that. If you need Moses to yield a staff like Charlton Heston, I’m good with that, too. I share this information as a way to connect some dots that I don’t see to many other people connecting. But that’s my job with Sabbats and Sabbaths, as I explore the connections between Pagan and Judeo-Christian spirituality.

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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St. Brigid’s Cross

IFI love the simple beauty of St. Brigid’s crosses. In Ireland, they are made from rushes and contain a beautiful woven square in the middle with four equidistant arms that are tied at the ends. They make these crosses for the feast day of St. Brigid, February 1st.

Many people believe this cross has pre-Christian origins and I wholeheartedly agree.  The cross reminds me of the spokes of the wheel that the goddess Brigid turns toward spring during the celebration of Imbolc.  The four “spokes” of this cross represent the two solstices and two equinoxes of the year.  With all the connections that can be made between Brigid and St. Brigid, it’s not hard to believe that the cross is a Christian adaptation of the wheel of the year.

Crossed_circleThe earliest origin of St Brigid’s cross may possibly be the “sun cross” or “wheel cross” that dates back to prehistoric times, especially during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.  Wheel crosses appear frequently in artifacts associated with religious rites.  They call to mind the spokes of a chariot wheel.  If this is the case, this cross could have been used in connection with the “sun chariot” the gods rode to carry the sun across the sky.  Whatever the case may be, this is an old symbol that has been connected to spirituality for a very long time. Enjoy!

Copyright 2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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January Full Moon: Wolf Moon

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“Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine. Wolf takes one mate for life and is loyal like a Dog. If you were to keep company with Wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack, as well as a strong individualistic urge.”—Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams & David Carson

January 28th is the full moon that is known as the Wolf Moon. It’s one of my favorites. Using the information from the Native American Medicine Cards as our guide, there are several questions we can meditate on during this full moon:

At the beginning of this new year, what is the undiscovered territory we are exploring? What boundaries are we crossing? What new knowledge are we assimilating?

If we feel more like a gerbil on a wheel instead of a path-finding wolf, what can we do to push us out of our comfort zones? How do we awaken the Wolf Spirit that lies within?

How well are we balancing the needs of family and friends vs. our own individual needs? Do we need to strengthen our ties with those we love or do we need to learn a little self-care?

A simple ritual for this night would be to light a white candle and place a picture or statue of a wolf in front of it. Use this as a meditative image as we reflect on one of the questions I asked above.

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Brigid Discernment Ritual

This was the closing ritual for last year’s Welcoming Circle (Thanks to the ‘rona, we’ve not met since we did this ritual.) It can be adapted for solitary practitioners. Images are from the Builders of the Adytum Tarot. I thought you might like to see it as we prepare for the celebration of Imbolc.

Here is the Brigid handout I gave to those who attended. Click Brigid Handout.

BRIGID DISCERNMENT RITUAL

ANOINTING WITH BRIGID OIL—David Taliesin
[Recipe for Brigid Oil is found in Cunningham’s Incense, Oils and Brews]

May Brigid, Keeper of the Sacred Flame,
Give you wisdom and illumination tonight.

CANDLE LIGHTING—Traditional Gaelic. Light a white altar candle and say the following:

Brigid, Sublime Woman, Quick flame,
Long may you burn bright!
 You give us the invitation to life everlasting.

CALLING THE QUARTERS—from Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, Imbolc: Rituals Recipes and Lore for Brigid’s Day + Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

I summon the Powers of East—
Brigid’s bright powers of Dawn!
As you bring light to the Spring,
Bring light to our work.
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the Powers of South—
The blazing fires of Brigid’s Forge!
Shed all that does not aid our work!
Fortify our work! Let it change the world!
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the Powers of West—
The healing powers of the Well!
May our work flow and grow!
May it stir and summon the depths of possibilities!
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the powers of North—
The strength of the Cold Mountains!
Freeze all adversaries! Solidify our desires
With the weight of frozen rock!
Hail and Welcome!

Reach to the sky: By the Powers of the Fiery Arrows!

Reach to the ground: By the Powers of the Green Earth!

Extend your arms to your sides: Goddess Brigid, Goddess of Fire and Water,
We call you and invite you to the circle we have cast this night.

Goddess of the Sacred Well and Keeper of the Flame,
We ask that you bring your power and wisdom to this circle tonight.

Brigid, Goddess of the Forge, we honor you
And ask for your help and enlightenment in our work tonight.
Hail and welcome!

DISCERNMENT RITUAL—David Taliesin

Ground and center.

Connect with both the earth energy below and the Divine energy above. Let it fill your whole being until you feel like your body is full of light.

When you feel peaceful and focused, look at the Tarot Card image in front of you. Use it as an icon to center your thoughts and think about the work the Divine has called you to do. Record any thought that come to mind during this time of meditation. [I chose several images for participants to use from the wonderful black and white Builders of the Adytum Tarot. I offered the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, The Moon and Strength/Courage.]

When you are finished writing, take a tea candle and light it from the center pillar, and set it on the altar. Watch the flames of illumination grow as each person adds their candle to the altar.

Take a candle with you tonight, along with the image you selected. Use it in the coming weeks to further reflect on your calling/vocation.

BRIGID BLESSING
May my words be as considered as poetry,
May I reflect on all I do or say,
May I meditate on those things important spiritually
May I seek to know more of the lore
May I research what I am curious about
and what will enable me to grow
May I seek to know great knowledge,
May I acknowledge the intelligence of others
May I comprehend what I seek to learn and apply those lessons
May I know that seeking wisdom is not the same as being wise.
May I be a child of Brigid.
by https://elfkat.wordpress.com, Used by permission of the author.

DISMISSING THE CIRCLE—adapted from Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, Imbolc: Rituals Recipes and Lore for Brigid’s Day + Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

Great Brigid, Goddess of the Flame and Goddess of the Well,
We thank you for joining our magic circle tonight
And for the energy and wisdom you have bestowed upon us.
You will remain forever in our hearts!
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of North—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave strength in our work.
Keep our adversaries in your icy grasp!
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of West—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave your misty whispers on our work.
Wash away the obstacles to our manifestations!
We bid you Farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of South—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave your sparks of manifestation.
Allow the embers of our work to grow.
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of East—
As you came in peace, now go in peace.
Though the day passes, the work of the sun remains.
Remain also with our work.
We bid you farewell!

The circle is open but never unbroken
Because it is a circle woven in love.
Whatever energy is left in this space
We return to the earth with a spirit of gratitude.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

As noted, portions of this ritual were written by David Taliesin, ©2021, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Brigid: The Goddess Behind the Saint

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St. Brigid from wikkicommons

St. Brigid is both historical figure and character of folklore and shared more than a name with her Pagan Goddess counterpart. It is through St. Brigid that the clearest glimpse into Brigid the Goddess can be found.—Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, Courtney Weber

If you spend any time researching the subject, there are numerous theories that describe how the Saint and Goddess are connected. The one that resonates with me most strongly these days comes from the excellent research done by Courtney Weber in Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magic of the Celtic Goddess. According to Weber, one of the commonalities between various Celtic cultural traditions was a term for an exalted being: Brig or Brid. It was applied to more than the Goddess, and was also used to refer to women in positions of power in society. One example is a first century Irish lawyer called Brigh which was probably not her name but was a reference to her occupation as a female judge.

When nuns take their vows, they leave their secular name behind and choose a new one. Based on Weber’s work it is possible that the nun in question chose the name Brigid which was quite fitting since she held a powerful position as the founder of the cathedral in Kildare (which was built on top of a Pagan shrine) and abbess of a monastery. She also had a reputation for being generous to the poor and was known for healing miracles and compassionate care for animals.

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Cross from St. Brigid’s Cathedral

When Brigid died and was declared a saint, there is no doubt the folklore surrounding her continued to grow. It’s my theory that many of the qualities that were once attributed to the Goddess Brigid became attached to St. Brigid since the worship of the Goddess remained strong in Ireland in spite of Christian attempts to eliminate it.  This way, the Celts could have their Goddess in the guise of saint’s clothing.  It was a win/win for both sides!

There are others beside myself who believe in this theory. Robert Ellsberg in All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses For Our Time, says “It has been noted that in ancient times Brigid was, in fact, the name of the Celtic sun goddess. This has given rise to the suggestion that in St. Brigid, a nun and abbess of the fifth century, we find the repository of primeval religious memories and traditions. In any case, it seems that with the cult of St. Brigid the Irish people maintained an image of the maternal face of God with which to compliment the more patriarchal religion of St. Patrick and subsequent missionaries.”

Edward C. Sellner in Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, says “These attributes (of the goddess) were eventually identified with Brigit, the saint, whose feast day, February 1, came to be celebrated on the same day as that of the Pagan goddess. Early hagiographers also portray crucial turning points in Brigit’s life and ministry as touched with fire. It is clear that St. Brigit stands on the boundary between Pagan mythology and Christian spirituality.”

In my own personal spiritual practice, Brigid plays a big part as my “go-to” Goddess. I have an icon of her above my altar in the form of St. Brigid to remind me of the connection between my Christian and Pagan paths. For me she is a bridge-builder and reconciler whose healing power might help to bring us all closer together!  Hail Brigid, and I wish you all a blessed celebration of Imbolc!

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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La Befana: Ancient Goddess, Santa’s Precursor, or Christmas Witch?

I was hooked the first time I heard about her: La Befana, the “Christmas Witch.” The first figure I saw of her while traveling in Italy was an elderly “nonna” (grandmother) who was dressed in peasant clothing with a kerchief around her head. She was riding a broom and had a bag of goodies. What’s not to like about THAT? A friend of mine recently brought me one from Italy that looked like a leftover Halloween witch. She even wore an orange skirt and a pointy hat.

Needless to say, there are many layers of tradition and stories that go into the creation of La Befana. The earliest layer is that some believe she is descended from the Sabine/Roman Goddess Strenia (Strenua), the goddess of the new year year, purification and well-being. She name appears to be the origin of strenae, the gifts Romans exchanged at the beginning of the year as good omens for the coming year. These gifts often included figs, dates and honey. Not surprisingly, several sources say that La Befana brought these same gifts to Italian children in her earliest incarnation. Thus, the tie between the two is rather convincing.

The next layer of La Befana occurs around the 8th century when she began to appear in Italian folklore in connection with the celebration of Epiphany. In fact, her name, most likely comes from the Italian word for Epiphany, “epifania.” If you’ve read my blog you know that the goddess often got adapted and incorporated into Christian theology and practice. (Brigid is the best example.) So it’s not surprising that this most likely occurred here as well.

The story that is told about her is a really weird but delightful one. Here’s one version of the legend:

La Befana lived alone in a house in the hills of Italy. She spent her days cooking and cleaning like all good nonnas do! One night she noticed a bright light in the sky. After some thought, La Befana decided to ignore the light and go back to sleep.
A few days later, a caravan led by Three Wise Men stopped at La Befana’s house to ask for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana offered them hospitality. In return, the Wise Men invited her to come with them to visit Baby Jesus. She declined, saying she had too much work to do. But later she changed her mind.
She then packed a basket with baked goods and gifts for the newborn child. She grabbed her broom (because the new mother would certainly need help cleaning), and tried to catch up with the Wise Men.
After she had walked a long distance angels appeared to her and gave her the gift of flight. So she hopped on her broom and continued to search for the Christ Child. She is still searching to this very day, and every Epiphany, she visits homes throughout Italy, giving gifts to every child she finds along the way. Over time, she has come to realize that the Christ Child can be found in all children, so her search is not in vain.

Her final layer is the more modern folklore tradition that may be somewhat freed of its Christian adaptation. La Befana visits all the children of Italy on Epiphany Eve (January 5) by magically sliding down the chimney on her broom. She leaves candy, treats and presents if you’re good, and a lump of coal or black candy if you’re bad. Yeah, I know, that sounds a lot like Santa Claus so she may also be the precursor to the legends surrounding the jolly old man himself! Another tradition is that La Befana also sweeps the floor before she leaves since she is such a good housekeeper.

My “Befana” figure purchased in Italy

The final piece of the puzzle is her reputation as the Christmas “witch.” I see no evidence of her being a “Strega” (Italian witch) but am open to any information you have to share. It seems to me that since she rode a broom in early folkloric traditions and has the magical power to slide down a chimney, it’s not surprising that her kerchief became replaced with a pointy witches hat and her face grew more haggardly over time with a big pointy nose. It was born to happen, but I think this does her a great injustice. It may make sense for retailers to pawn off their Halloween witches as La Befana, but this cheapens her legend and legacy.

I still need to do more research on this topic but you must admit that La Befana is an intriguing woman whose legend is surround by magic and mystery. I don’t think she would have it any other way!

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Magi’s Blessing: Chalking the Door

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I came across a wonderful tradition which I will have to research further to learn a little more about it’s origins. According to Pagan Christmas, “Even today, priests go from house to house in the Black Forest on January 6, smudging them for protection from evil influences. With chalk sanctified with blessed salt, they write the letters C, M, and B, plus the year, over house and stable doors.”

This ritual is called “chalking the door” and the markings for this year look like this:

20 + C + M + B +21

The C, M and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, ad Balthazar), but they are also an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” You can find various liturgies on line for this ritual.

On January 6th my plan is to go outside, read the story of the Magi from the gospel of Mathew, smudge the entrance to my house and mark the lintel with chalk. One article I read suggested that this ritual could be used any time during the Christmas and Epiphany season with other suggested uses such as blessing a room in a nursing home or hospital (get permission first!) or to set aside a Bible study meeting place, choir practice room, nursery, or youth area at church. This would be a fun activity that even the youngest members of your household could participate in and enjoy. Happy Epiphany!

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Making Resolutions During a Pandemic

As we find ourselves riding the wave of the highest infection rate of COVID-19 since this pandemic began, the usual New Year’s resolutions we make are pointless. Honestly, who gives a crap if anyone looses weight or works out more. We have bigger demons to slay. With this in mind, here is my short list of intentions for 2021. Perhaps you’ll find a few of them helpful as you think about your own intentions for 2021.

I will survive this virus. I will continue to follow all the standard protocols for reducing my chance of getting the ‘rona. Yes, it’s been 10 months of mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. Yes, we’re all tired of being careful. But I will not let my guard down for the sake of my family and the faith community I serve. I have a deep personal conviction that my obligation to love and serve others and the planet takes resident over my perceived individual “rights.” If more people acted this way, we wouldn’t be in the precarious situation we’re in now.

I will strive to be a kinder and more empathetic person. We will never heal our nation if all we do is fight each other. Telling others how stupid they are for believing what they believe only deepens the divide. There is a difference between standing firm in our convictions and beating someone over the head with them. Some of these conspiracy theories will play out and be exposed for the the untruths they are. When our neighbors and friends come to their senses “I told you so” is not the right response. “Welcome home” is the better option.

I pledge to narrow my focus in 2021. Being outraged all the time over what’s happening in our nation has left me feeling exhausted and powerless to do anything about it. I have discovered that I feel more energized and hopeful if I focus on making a difference in the community where I live. I plan on continuing to support local charities in my area who are doing heroic work during this pandemic. I will also continue to check in with my neighbors and those who are a part of my faith community to see how they are doing. We can all make a difference in the life of at least one other person, so let’s do it!

Well, that’s my short list. Along the way I’m working on a few new projects including a book I started a few years ago and never finished. For whatever reason, the Universal Spirit has told me to get my butt in gear and finish it, so finish it I shall!

I wish all of you good health and happiness in the New Year. Thank you for your support of my blog. I hope it has been, and will continue to be, helpful to you on your spiritual journey. Blessed be!

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