Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are you afraid of your dark?

The winter solstice is almost here. On this shortest day of the year we traditionally come together to face the darkness and to remind ourselves that the days will get longer, the sun will return. It seems an appropriate time to talk about darkness. Are you afraid of your dark?

Everything in our physical universe comes in balanced pairs. Just as species produce male and female plants and animals so must light always be balanced by an accompanying darkness. It is the perfect time of year to look at ourselves from this perspective. We all spend a great deal of time attempting to embrace the light. We want to find and bring forward all of the good and noble parts of our personalities. What about the less desirable qualities? Do we honour our darkness?

It seems to me that this darkness has its place. We all attempt to shove it down. We may shy away form it . It is there in all of us. This darkness serves to balance the light so that we can be whole. If we only have light we may be blinded, thinking that all of life is perfect. The light can make us complacent. It can also prevent us form seeing the injustice and cruelty in our world and thereby rob us of our desire to correct it. An over-focus on the light can also leave us vulnerable to those who have powerfully embraced the darker side of human nature. Our own dark side comes to the fore when it is time to defend ourselves against an attack. It is one of its most important functions.

So many of the myths that we remember at this time of year speak of epic battles between light and dark. Between good and evil. Perhaps it would serve us better to use this time to see the dark more clearly now that the light doesn’t stand in our way. To look into ourselves and see that in balance the darkness serves us as the light does and brings us to a place of power where both sides are used to forward our growth and express our good character.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Do I have enough?

I recently made a trip to Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in Africa. I can honestly say that anyone reading this has more than enough. In fact, you may have too much. One can’t help noticing the poverty in a country like Tanzania. What also struck me is the peaceful, gentle, nature of the Tanzanians. They seem happy and content even though they have so little. This is perhaps the greatest lesson that Africa can offer us.

Our social programming tells us that we must have more. We are bombarded with marketing that carries the same message. We have been sold on the idea that we can’t be happy with what we have. There is no rest. There is no satisfaction. As soon as we have the new car we think about how we can move up when we get the next one. If it isn’t cars it might be shoes, houses or even pets. Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself if any of these things really made you happy? If so, how long did that happiness last?

To be truly happy we need to be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things, but can our desires rob us of satisfaction and thereby happiness? How long can you remain satisfied until the next best thing comes along? Are you on the “must have it” treadmill?

I invite you to step back and take a look at all the good things in your life. Look at the emotional and spiritual but also look at the material. Evaluate how much it is that you really have. Stuff is great, but, it’s just stuff. Every one of us already has enough to last us a life-time.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

If it's legal it's OK, right?

I was traveling in Tanzania recently. We were at a small regional airport when we saw a couple of tourists led by a hunting guide. They were followed by a porter with several elephant tusks on a cart. There are licensed, private, game reserves there where hunting these beautiful animals is permitted. I was shocked that the Tanzanian government could allow this. But how can one of the poorest countries in the world turn down the money? From the preserve owner’s perspective there is nothing wrong because it is all perfectly legal.

Our obligations to ourselves, our communities, our fellow human beings and the planet, extend beyond law. Acting with good character often requires that we look more deeply and at our actions. We must seek to avoid any harm and hopefully do some good in the world.

These majestic creatures are endangered. The international ban on ivory trade has not prevented elephants from being killed for their tusks.  Killing them only serves greed and ego. Intelligent creatures who may be 70 years old are still being slaughtered. This is not in good character on the part of anyone involved.

Global poverty can be addressed so that these senseless killings can stop. The wealthy West must take a lead in that. Sharing wealth and using limited resources fairly is the only way it can work.  Acting with good character means thinking beyond ourselves. It means working towards a better world. We can create a brighter future for every being living on this planet.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Is it time to revamp your routine?

I’ve been thinking about a challenging couple of weeks I had this summer. We were starting a renovation and so had to move out of our space for a few months. Moving is always stressful. We had several places that things need to be moved to, both temporarily and permanently. That added some additional stress. The renovation is complete and I’ve settled back in at home.

Settling in to a new space is always the hardest part for me. I can handle the physical demands of the move pretty well but being in a new space is very disorienting. My routines get shaken up. Even my walk to work was completely different, adding its own level of challenge to my day.

It really got me thinking about routine and how easy it is for us to get stuck in a rut. As difficult as this transition period was, the challenge allowed me to integrate life in a brand new way. It was an opportunity to clean house. I looked at some things that may not support the bigger picture of my life.

From how my clothes are stored to the way I get back and forth from home to office; even having my car stored a long walk way from where I live created shifts in my everyday lifestyle. All of these things shifted the way that I move through the world. I reevaluated things when we moved back home. The old habits were broken and that the fragile new routine disappeared too. The move back was another opportunity to revamp my routine and my experience of day to day life. I’ve moved into a life that more closely reflects who I really am.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Coping with Change

We all know that managing change is a necessary thing in our lives. The pace of change is accelerating. We all need ways to deal with our ever shifting world.

There are many ways to deal with change. For the spiritual person, change is a road-sign on the path. Spiritual traditions around the world have always challenged their members to embrace change. We must face the changes in our lives with grace. Impermanence is part of our journey. Why would we have chosen to come into physical existence unless we needed that lesson? We are here to learn to deal with impermanence, in all its forms, including our mortality.

We are faced with another kind of challenge as we progress spiritually in our modern lives. We must take care not use our need to cope with change as another way to numb ourselves to life. It is easy for us to allow ourselves to become distracted by the next best thing, by the news about escalating political and environmental crises, by the very speed of the shifts that we are going through.

To deal with any unbalancing experience, spirit asks us to slow down. Sit in the midst of the chaos. Allow the winds of change to blow as we observe quietly form the centre of the storm. There is nothing essentially different about the changes that are happening now. They are just happening faster than they have before. We are the first generation to see things spinning this fast. It is important to embrace the lessons these shifts bring. Engage spiritually and find your place in the calm at the centre of the global shifts so that you can clearly see the path you are meant to take in our changing world.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Am I too Serious?

Am I too serious? This is a questions that you may often ask yourself.  It’s one that many of my clients ask me.  It is important to find balance our in order to have happy, fulfilled lives.

For many of us, taking life, and ourselves, too seriously can be a real problem. Focusing on what’s ahead of us or solving problems can rob us of the joy in simply experiencing our lives in the moment.

We all need periods of hard work, serious thought, relaxation and play. Each of these kinds of activities fulfill and enrich our lives. Our basic natures often lead us more in one direction or another. That is the way we are constructed and it is good to embrace our core by expressing it. It is important to recognize when our default behaviours are working against us.

I tend to over-think things and take everything in life very seriously. My readings often challenge me to do rather than think, to allow life to flow, or to embrace joy. My clients who naturally flow through life are sometimes challenged when hard work, or careful thinking, are needed. It is important to recognize when it’s time to push out of your comfort zone.

Here's an exercise try to figure out your default way of moving through life. Are you a thinker or a doer? Do you flow joyfully or rush from one thing to the next like the wind? Do you hunker down and work hard or plan for the most efficient result? Next time you’re struggling with a problem try the opposite approach. You may be amazed at the results you get. Embrace who you are, but, develop flexibility.  Being able to shift style when you need to will support your own happiness and growth.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

How Important is Health?

In the Ifa philosophy, learning, wisdom and knowledge is most important. They are our chosen destiny. The second most important area is health.

Certainly without health it is impossible to fulfill our destiny. So why wouldn’t it come first?  Many of us choose health challenges as part of our learning and growth. The process of becoming ill and then recovering, or not, can be part of our destiny path.

Maintaining glowing health is a priority unless we need the experience of illness. Let’s assume that we are relatively healthy and that any health crisis we face is meant to be resolved. Achieving and maintaining optimum physical health is based on common sense. Eating well  includes large quantities of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and healthy protein sources.

Each Guardian Energy implies a certain approach to diet, exercise and ideal weight. For some, spicy food may be a perfect way to keep the body cleansed and functioning well. For others, these foods cause digestive upset and other issues. When you face a health crisis, review your Life Path and Guardian Energy. Deal with the issue appropriately for your matrix.

We can only deal with emotional or spiritual issues once our bodies have been taken care of. Physical health comes first. Once we are in reasonable physical shape then we can start to deal with emotional and spiritual matters.

Spiritual health and emotional well-being support our growth while keeping us in balance. Dealing with our issues, in a way that is appropriate to our matrix, is the key to emotional health. It also requires us to connect more deeply with spirit. Keeping spirit and body in balance is a big part of the job. Too much of either will throw us off course.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who Are My Ancestors?

Ancestor worship is a strange idea for most Westerners. It can be the most challenging part of Ifa for us. In Ifa, our ancestors are one of the three pillars we stand on. The other two are the eternal energies of the Universe (known as Orisa) and our Ori (our guide for destiny).

Ifa has a very strict definition of ancestor. An ancestor is a blood relative who has died. No exceptions. I am adopted. After my grandfather’s death I had a crisis. The idea that he was not my ancestor made me very uncomfortable.

I had a very deep ancestor connection one day.  I felt my grandparents’ presence. It created a powerful connection to my own ancestors. As I listened they explained the Ifa rules to me. I can communicate with, remember and honour my grandparents. They are still interested in my wellbeing. My grandparents have work to do with their own blood-lines. My ancestors are there to play that role for me. I didn’t fully understand, but, I was willing to accept what they were telling me.

I felt powerful emotions coming from my ancestors. I still get goose-bumps when I think about it. It is as if all of my ancestors reached out to my adoptive family with love and gratitude. It was beautiful and overwhelming. I realized that adoption has a profound effect on the ancestral realm. It is as if all the blood-lines have been linked through that love and gratitude.

My ancestors are grateful for my family having taken me in, loved me and supported me. My family and I share a piece of each others' journeys.  Adoptees have a unique perspective on another family. I wonder what that means as new generations of the families are born.

The experience has allowed me to make peace with my dead. I now have a more open connection to my ancestors. They have become an important source of spiritual support in my life.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

How Well Are You Getting Older?

I turned fifty recently. Even when you plan on living to a hundred and five this is middle age. I have been pondering what fifty means to me and here are a few of the thoughts.

Fifty is a critical age where fashion or hairstyles more suited to twenty-somethings look completely ridiculous. I’ve said goodbye to short shorts, speedos and magazine hair forever.

On a more serious note, it has occurred to me over the last several years that my body now demands a gentler and more consistent approach to exercise. I love to run and have had to really pull back on both my speed and time in order to prevent injuries. It is a matter of wanting to run for the rest of my life. Pushing hard now will severely limit the likelihood of that. I have also opted to replace my gym workouts with daily yoga. My body is feeling better than it has in a very long time and I’ve noticed that it seems to be staying relatively tight and fit looking without pushing weights around. I have enough lean muscle mass so building muscle is not a priority, but, flexibility and a healthy spine are.

The last thing I’ve been thinking about is attitude. I’m not upset by birthdays. Even this milestone is just fine. I think it’s important to be realistic about what we can and can’t accomplish given our age, experience, fitness level etc. The real key to staying healthy and happy is to keep growing and moving at whatever age. Beware getting stuck in a rut or wanting things to stay exactly as they are. I will continue to explore my world, myself and all of the wonderful things that they both have to offer until my journey here is done. How can anyone do anything else?

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To Tribe or not to Tribe?

It seems you can’t walk through a bookstore without running into a hundred titles that deal with tribal culture. I’d like to share some thoughts on why that might be true.

In our busy lives we are looking for a smaller group of like minded people to spend time with. We are looking for a deeper kind of adult connection that fosters support and growth while allowing us to contribute. The essence of our attraction to tribal cultures is our desire for community.

Much of the literature exploring this topic idealizes traditional societies. I don’t really have an issue with that. After all, we’re not trying to run off to the jungle to hunt and gather. Well, at least I’m not. We’re trying to learn from the good things that these societies create and to incorporate them in a new way into our modern lives.

The tribe has a deep understanding of its need for every member. Tribes accept diversity within the context of shared values. The flip side of this coin is that the individual learns to understand their part in the larger whole and begins to consider the tribe as they make decisions about their own lives. The individual needs the tribe and is willing to contribute in their unique way.

We are not born into our tribes. We come together based on shared values. What better reason to form a  tribe than to be with people who are like you? Experiencing the way in which our core values play out in other people’s lives gives us a broader understanding of what’s important to us. Understanding and accepting others keeps the tribe open to growth. Your tribe must support growth and development and not force you to conform to a rigid ideal.

The best tribes give us safety, acceptance and challenge us to be better people. They allow us to see the larger picture and to understand our role in it. Do you have a strong circle of close friends? Perhaps you are already a member of a tribe.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Are You Getting the Most out of Your Readings?

Ifa divination doesn’t attempt to predict the future. We believe that every human being has chosen their destiny. We discover our destiny as we go through life. The role of divination is to help us stay in the flow of the energy around us.

Offerings help us to benefit from divination. They allow us to find balance with the natural energies around us when we need to. Offerings can be just about anything that resonates with the person making them. I’d like to use coffee as an example. It is a favourite offering of mine.

What does the thing being offered mean to you. Your relationship to the offering is important.  Coffee makes me alert, its warmth helps to wake me up. I use coffee when I need energy or focus.

The second thing to consider is the appropriateness of the offering. If I am looking to increase my peace and calm, coffee would not be a logical choice. I might choose a relaxing tea or incense to accomplish that. Some energies are naturally out of synch with some offerings. We would not offer Obatala, the energy of clarity, anything that would interfere with clarity.

Your approach to making an offering is just as important. Have fun, enjoy the process, be curious about and open to whatever happens. When making an offering, you link the thing being offered with the energy you are connecting to. Doing it is a skill that requires practice. Be patient with yourself. Developing this skill allows you to benefit more from the energies around you.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Can Setting Goals be Bad for Us?

How can we believe in Ifa and still use personal development tools? Recently I’ve been thinking about goal setting and its relationship to the Ifa world-view.

At the surface it would seem that the very idea of goal setting runs contrary to Ifa. I think that it is our orientation to goal setting that is the problem. There are a couple of very important things that we often forget when we are setting goals.

The first is long-term orientation. Ifa asks us to let go of our need for instant gratification. We need to look at the long-term implications of our actions. We want to build our lives for long-term success and happiness. Short-term goals are fine if they support our longer-term objectives. We need to consider the long-term implications of our goals. It is still probably best to focus more on longer term goals in order to allow ourselves flexibility as we are guided forward.

We must also consider our destiny, as well as our Life Path  and Guardian energies as we set goals. Any goal that we set must be in alignment with our destiny. It must make sense within the context of our Life Path and the Guardian Energy that we chose. We must consider the implications of any goal to the larger whole of our lives. Ifa divination is the best way to determine whether a goal is in our best interest.

Our focus when goal setting is traditionally to think about what we want. A more Ifa aligned approach would be to think about why we’re here and what would forward that mission. The Universe is ready to provide guidance to us. If we listen then goal setting techniques will support us as we grow and move towards our chosen destiny.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Are you prefect the way you are?

   I’ve been thinking a lot about ancient wisdom lately. When taken out of context some basic truths can really get people into trouble. Taking the position that everything is perfect is a fine example of this kind of trap.

   I realize that from the highest spiritual perspective, everything is always exactly as it should be. It is an important life raft when we are in crisis. It can help us to be compassionate towards ourselves, and others, when we are struggling or in conflict. It can also allow us to excuse ourselves from our responsibility to grow and to honour our own experience.

  People seem to think that because everything is perfect they don’t need to do anything. Does that really make any sense? I believe that the perfection of things challenges us to see reality so that we can learn and continue to evolve.

   This bit of wisdom is not a license to bury  your emotions. People hide behind perfection so that they do not have to experience their hurt, sadness or anger. Your emotions are perfect. They act as pointers to growth that you may miss if you bury pain with soothing affirmations.

We all chose this limited, physical existence. If we are still alive then here must be more to learn. Part of the experience is impermanence and all the painful emotions that go with it. Experiencing emotions allows us to grow. We all want to experience peace and glimpse at the perfection of the universe.  We must come by those experiences honestly if they are to have any real value.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome to Living at Choice

Welcome to the inaugural issue of my blog, Living at Choice. It is my belief that we choose this existence and that the way we filter our reality is also a choice. We will explore the idea of being at choice in this blog. I will introduce tools that can get you more in charge of your life.

My primary focus will be on spirituality.  Integrating spirit into our day to day lives helps us see that we are at choice even when life is hard. We can honour our journey and treat everything along the way as a valuable lesson . Each lesson grows our wisdom and knowledge and moves us forward. I will write from the perspective of a fellow traveler, sharing my insights and the insights of those people in my life who inspire me. I hope that this blog will allow you to deepen your experience of life. You may discover new practices that can enrich it.

I am a Life Path Mentor. I teach clients to trust their internal compass, to act on their wisdom and to have confidence in the benevolence of the Universe. All of these ideas are in accordance with my own path, the ancient African philosophy Ifa. This blog is part of fulfilling that mission. Together we can grow a community which respects individual paths. It is diversity that makes us strong. The only thing that is not welcome here is disrespect for any idea or view. I am open to healthy debate in an appropriate context. There may be times that I respectfully ask you to move a conversation elsewhere. This is simply a way of keeping us on topic. Your feedback and wisdom are always welcome as are your suggestions for future posts. Welcome and enjoy.

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