On the Rebirth of Innocence, A Christmas Meditation

I wrote this last year around this time and was inspired to share it again today.  May it help fill you with hope and joy.

–Joseph


On the Rebirth of Innocence

A Christmas Meditation

by

Joseph Anthony

Everyone has
things happen to them that shouldn’t happen. 
Everyone carries wounds within their very cells.  This being said, everyone also has things happen
to them that should happen.  Everyone carries healing and purity within
their cells. Both leave imprints on the soul and the cells of the body.

Learn to
slowly integrate both into your life.

What?  Integrate pain?  That’s crazy. 
Except that every human life experiences pain—emotional, mental, and
physical.  Of course, it’s good to avoid
the unnecessary manufacture of pain and to not put one’s hand on a hot
stove.  However, we cannot avoid pain completely.  So when it comes, learn, within reason, to
feel it, especially the emotional and mental varieties.  All pain is a messenger.

I was asked
recently how often I moved towards the pain—the emotional pain.  I replied that most days the pain moves
towards me.  It’s safe to do that now.  Once not too long ago the pain wasn’t welcome;
I treated it like a monster, an outcast, a pariah.  Now it knows I will give it a place to spend
the night.  I will listen to it, sit with
it, and move towards it with intent to honor and ultimately transform it
through the very act of listening and embracing it.  It can be itself while knowing, its heart of
heart is love—protection—the desire to be whole.

The same is
true for healing.  It is safe to flow
towards me and from me.  It is welcome in
my heart, body, and soul.  I am learning
to open my arms to healing, to sit with it, listen to it and transform it into
anything it needs to be.  It can be
itself, even as it manifests itself as music, poetry, nature, the touch of a
friend, the smile of a child, you.

How does one
open their heart to healing?  Can
innocence really be reclaimed, reborn, rediscovered?  Is it ever completely lost?  Does it ever completely die?  Can it ever truly be stolen? And if it can be
reborn, how does one make room inside for that to happen? 

Keep in mind
the roots of the word: innocence is
related to the word noxious, and thus
means not-noxious, not harmful, not poison, and not sick (online etymology
dictionary).  This being the case
innocence can certainly be born again in our lives, indeed, it must be.  Our very bodies are equipped with healing
cells.  The same is true for the heart
and the soul.  We are all born with the
white blood cells of spirit and joy.

To be
specific, here, in a nutshell are some suggestions for allowing innocence to be
reborn within you:

Learn to
embrace your sorrow and pain.

Learn to
stop doing things that harm yourself and others.

Learn to
forgive others and yourself.

Learn to
seek forgiveness and repair anything you have broken.

Learn, with the
help and guidance of mentors, trusted friends, and therapists, to find
direction in your life.

Learn to
breathe fully.

Learn to be
in the moment—every moment.

Learn to
love yourself—your body, your own unique ways of thinking and praying and being.

Learn to be open to and to integrate healing modalities such as EFT into your life.

Learn to
play.

Learn to
sing.

There are
other things as well.  And while I think
the ultimate journey towards innocence involves unique moments of pain and
darkness for everyone in one way or another, everyone’s path also involves
unique moments of healing and revelation.

Know that
the worse you feel (even if you feel down and out right now), the more you are able to sit with the pain, the more
your life has been reduced to spiritual poverty, where your animal instincts
are crowding around your life, there is another part of you, a union of quiet
strength and willingness; a union of intuition and openness; a union of dreams
and passion, that is seeking your heart, your very own dingy, broken heart to
give birth to innocence.  It is looking
for a “house of bread.”  And it is guided
by both the star of your dreams and the light of your wounds.  And when you have humbled yourself or life
humbles you, know that innocence will be born again inside you.  It is seeking a place, daily, hourly, ever
more, to find a safe place to be born. And when it finds the manger of your
heart, open the doors, let the night winds swirl and dance, let those same
clumsy animals gather round for the body is beautiful, let those who shepherd innocence come near, and lo, let the Wonder Child be born anew.  Let the gift of the birth of your Divine
Innocence be adored, be praised, be showered
with treasure. Let that innocence rise and celebrate who you really are—your gifts
and talents.  Share them with the world,
help others, inspire others, nourish others with the Bread of Life growing within
you, and you will truly experience the rebirth of innocence–Divine innocence,
Holy innocence.  And your life and the
lives of those around you will truly help save the world.

Happy Holidays

from Joseph Anthony

at

The Wonder Child Blog





Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


I Am Not a Computer, by Joseph Anthony

I Am Not a Computer

By

Joseph Anthony

 

“You must
unlearn what you have been programmed to believe since birth.  That software no longer serves you if you
want to live in a world where all things are possible.”

–Jacqueline
Purcell

Someone
posted this on my timeline recently and with no disrespect intended to its author, I was immediately struck with antipathy
towards it.  As I reflected on why, my
feelings became clearer, as I have had similar thoughts and feelings in the
past about such ideas.  I think I have
them clear enough to share. At least, I’ll try.

I am not a
machine.  My mind is not a computer.  I much prefer to imagine my mind as a garden,
a vast network of soil, herbs and flowers, whose roots mingle with yours and
with the Divine’s.  A place of beauty and
mystery, wonder and creativity, a rich tapestry of land with golden harvests of
possibilities where the fruits of meditation, discipline, and prayer blossom to
be shared and enjoyed by all.

And that’s
just the beginning, the poetic beginning. 
Every time we compare our minds with a computer we distance ourselves
from ourselves and the natural world around us.  And the space that occupies this distance
devolves into fears, superstitions, and apathy.

My mind is
not a hard drive.  My beliefs are not
software.  My mind is not
programmable.  To keep such analogies in
our mind’s eye makes us look at the world more impersonally, less human, less
feeling.  We are no longer responsible for ourselves.  After all, someone “programmed” us. And since computers can’t program themselves then we wait, victims, until someone solves our bugs.

As a garden,
any unwanted crops may be removed. 
Sometimes weeds need removal. 
Cultivating an inner garden stirs more of a sense of devotion and life
than having to defragment your mind to remove limited beliefs.  Cultivate the flowers you want.  Graft the trees of your imagination’s orchard
with those of like-minded friends.  Grow entirely
new fruits.  The flavors and nutrients of shared ideas are limitless. 

Some might
argue that I am being nitpicky.  Perhaps
I am.  However, I believe we believe what
we say to ourselves all day long.  I
understand computers mean so much to us in today’s world.  I am very grateful for them.  I am not anti-technology.  It’s just that metaphors and analogies are
made up of words and images and these are both living things.  What images and words do you want living in
your head, your heart, and your body?  Are
you a robot?  An automaton?

You might
not think this matters, but look around you. 
Look at people as they walk the streets, ride the bus, sit around tables
at restaurants.  We rarely look at each
other nowadays. We rarely listen.  Our
ears hold ear buds, our gaze is turned downwards at little screens.  This is all due, in part, to identifying
ourselves with these machines.  We always
want to be one with ourselves and those around us.  We instinctively seek union.  And we do that with what we feel drawn, close to,
like.  And if we identify with our minds
as being portable programmable computers and hard drives, then, of course, we
would look away from one another and towards the objects of our imaginations.  

Lastly, these mechanistic images lead us away
from intimacy with the earth.  They
depersonalize us and separate us further from the planet.  And that’s the last thing our dear Mother
Gaia needs.  She needs us touching her,
believing in her, healing her, nurturing her, helping her breathe.

This moment and
this earth are not virtual reality.  This moment
and this earth carry the essence of all that we are.  They are alive.  They are ever pregnant, ever giving birth, ever absorbing the seeds of new
ideas and inspirations. If we think of them as mechanized or computerized, we
will not want to touch them or become intimate with them.  We will move further and further away and
wonder why we are lonely.

So the next
time someone says your mind is like a computer, imagine it instead like a
garden, or an ocean, a lake, a field, or a forest.  Let these images draw you closer to yourself,
to the earth, and to others.  You will be
surprised at the beauty, the fragrance, and the infinite possibilities of
oneness that bloom and spread from such active, living imaginations.

PS: Not
everything we learned as children needs to be unlearned.  The majority of our lessons still benefit us,
even the painful ones.  Plant new
beliefs, cultivate new desires, weed out any that you no longer want, but if
you uprooted them all, well, you’d have an empty garden. 


“Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” 

–Milan Kundera






Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Happy Thanksgiving? A Few Thoughts on What Gratitude Is and What Happens When We Don’t Feel It

Happy Thanksgiving?

A Few Thoughts on What Gratitude Is

And What Happens When We Do Not Feel
It

By

Joseph Anthony

 

Gratitude is
often considered a virtue.  For years I
agreed with this sentiment.  Until, that
is, I looked deeper into the etymology of the word virtue.  Having researched it
a bit, I have come to the conclusion that gratitude is not a virtue at all.  Just what I believe it is will be described
below.  First however, let’s have a quick
look-see at what a virtue is.

According to
the indispensable Online Etymology dictionary, virtue comes from the Latin, virtutem,
which means moral strength, manliness,
valor
.  It comes from the root, vir, meaning “man” from which we get the word virile,
which means, manly or heroic.

You can probably
see from these definitions, why I think gratitude is not a virtue.  Gratitude has nothing whatsoever to do with
“manliness” (whatever that is, really), nor with valor or strength.  It’s not heroic either.  Sure we sometimes have a hard time “feeling”
grateful for one thing (event, situation, person, experience, etc.) or another,
and sometimes we try to force ourselves to feel grateful even when we don’t
feel it, but that doesn’t make it “manly.”

A lot is said
and written about gratitude.  From Oprah
to nearly every other self-help, spiritual, psychological writer or speaker,
everyone extols the benefits of feeling, practicing, and expressing gratitude.  And underneath many of these experts of
gratitude runs a thin (and sometimes wide) stream of guilt and shame for those
who don’t get it or feel it.  I think
this is partially because most people confuse gratitude, the action, with
gratitude, the feeling.

What is
gratitude if it isn’t a virtue?  And what
do we do if we don’t feel it sometimes, especially on days like today,
Thanksgiving?

Gratitude is
related to the word grace (ibid) and
means good will, elegance, to sing, to
praise, to give thanks
.  These are
actions, not feelings. When I am living my truth—my dreams and desires, or
working towards them, then I will automatically express gratitude in how I
live; how I take care of my life; how I treat myself and those around me; how I
speak, how I act, regardless of how I’m feeling.  When I am in a healthy place of self-love and
loving you then my movements towards myself and you will be graceful, elegant,
like little dances; they will be full of praise for you and me, and the sky,
the trees, the ocean; I will naturally be polite, express manners towards you
and myself—basic, human decencies will be there just as my heartbeat is there.  And this way of being can happen regardless
of circumstances or environment because it isn’t a feeling.

But what
about gratitude, the feeling?  What
happens when we take grateful actions but still don’t feel very grateful? 

We are
trained in society to think there is a problem when we’re not feeling grateful.  We feel guilty, less than, like we’re doing
something wrong by not feeling something others, or our high-perfectionistic-standards
think we should be. 

Yet to feel
grateful all the time is as unrealistic as feeling sad all the time, angry all
the time, happy, ashamed, joyful, silly, guilty, etc.  Feelings were not built to last.  They come in waves. Of course we can seek out
experiences, songs, people, art, and so on, which help us feel more of the
feelings we like and, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that–if
however we do not consider it a moral failing for not feeling something we
think we should be feeling.  I guess
that’s where gratitude has come to be referred to as a virtue—a manly
thing.  We are supposed to feel it and if
we don’t work hard to feel it—just like the outdated and potentially dangerous
“male” work ethic; the one that says “never stay in your comfort zone (more on
that in another post).”  But we can no
more practice feeling the emotion of gratitude than we can practice feeling sad.  We can practice taking actions of gratitude however. 
We can practice what to do (and not do) once we’re feeling a certain
emotion, but feelings cannot be made to manifest on order.  We can invite them in, but they are like
spirits, they come and go as they will.

But Joseph,
you say, it’s Thanksgiving.  We’re
supposed to feel grateful.  Are you suggesting we shouldn’t feel grateful
or express our thanks for our many blessings?

Of course
not, what I am saying is we can express our thanks by how we live and treat
ourselves and those around us on a day to day basis.  When we treat ourselves and others with
class, love, respect, kindness, manners, dignity, grace, humor, mercy,
sweetness, strength, empathy, and so on—not just with a card and a turkey
dinner, we are expressing gratitude regardless of how it feels.  Live from a place of grace.  Live from a place of self-love and of living
your dreams.  Gratitude, the action, is
about learning to gracefully give and gracefully receive blessings. And
gratitude, the feeling, will come when it will, and, in my experience it does
come, and yes, it goes too.  I have
learned not to be too excited when it arrives nor too concerned when it
leaves.  Perhaps it’s simply sharing
itself with someone else after having been touched by the hospitality of your
heart. 

To close, gratitude
is both a way of artful living and a feeling. 
Gratitude, the action, manifests when we are responsible for our own
lives and thus, when we are able to both give the gifts of ourselves and receive
the gifts of, and from, others.  It
manifests because we create it with our actions.  Gratitude, the feeling, is wonderful, and yet,
will come and go like all other feelings. 
The trick is not to panic when it isn’t being felt as warm and fuzzily
(is that a word?) as we’d like and to keep taking grateful actions even if the feeling isn’t there.

This
Thanksgiving, let there be no shame in feeling or not feeling any human
emotions. Let us simply be who we are: human beings trying to live as best we
can.  Let us give and receive the
blessings of who we are and let the grace of the One flow through us all.






Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Dancing Through the Storm: Some Thoughts on Anger

Dancing Through the
Storm:

Some Thoughts on Anger


 

 

Don’t let
spiritual traditions or religions shame you. 
Some traditions do this subtly and not so subtly.  They hold frighteningly high perfectionistic
standards for both our thoughts and behaviors. 
One of the things many spiritual traditions preach and teach is “bad,”
is anger.  It is often considered a
destructive emotion, a weakness, a fire from the hells.  Of course there are spiritual traditions that honor this force and give it names and transformative powers (think Kali).  However, if the Divine gets to feel it (which he/she does in all major religious sacred texts), why not us?

We may not like experiencing anger, but to
deny its existence, or to work against it, or to label it as bad, is to believe
we are somehow bad for getting mad.  This
is like believing that thunderstorms have no value or are inherently bad.  Yet lightening nourishes the earth with
nitrogen.  And thunder can be one of the
most magical, comforting sounds the summer has to offer.  So too anger, when used constructively to
empower a commitment to a dream, or to help some injustice, can feed the soil
of our hearts.  And listening to someone
who has learned to transform anger into passion (like Martin Luther King Jr.)
is like listening to verbal thunder that shakes the very foundations of our
paradigms.  It is the sound of someone
who cares deeply.

Every
emotion can be destructive, just as every emotion can be healing.  No emotion is bad in and of itself.  They are just like weather over a pond.  They come and they go.  The pond remains.  Your heart is the pond.  Of course, storms can be quite destructive,
and scary, but in the Divine scheme, they have their place, else they wouldn’t
exist.  And of course, undisciplined
anger expressed in any impulsive ways one feels like expressing it can also be
destructive. Transform and channel anger from pure selfish (fear-based) rage to
powerful passion for a purpose.  (Rage,
by the way, is the experience most people think of when they think of
anger.  Most people stuff their anger
until it becomes rage, or have, sadly been the victims of someone else’s
untransformed anger.)   There is nothing
wrong with going out into the woods and smashing up a pile of sticks, or
swatting your bed with a tennis racket, or twisting a towel, writing (or
singing) a punk-rock song or a long, rambling poem, or going for a run, and so
on.  Use the energy instead of denying
it’s there and trying to stuff it away.  Learn
to talk about it with people who will be able to hear you. 

The end
result of trying to deny some part of myself is shame and a judging spirit for
those I believe act in ways they shouldn’t. 
In addition, the more I believe I shouldn’t be feeling something and
keep labeling that feeling as “bad” the more I stuff it down and trap it
within.  The more this happens the more
likely I am to unleash a tantrum when something trivial doesn’t go my way; the
more likely I am to be passive aggressive, or to rage in my car while driving,
or to be sarcastic and demand perfection from others. The other result of
stuffing anger is that it teaches the children around us that part of their
human-make-up is somehow wrong.  And then,
because most of us stumble our way through and end up getting angry from time
to time, we sometimes give the message to children that they’re not allowed to
feel angry—only adults can feel angry. 
But that’s another post. 

Lastly there
are physical ramifications for stuffing our anger.  We suffer a myriad of chronic aches and pains
and indeed even serious illnesses that can at least partially be attributed to
repressed/suppressed/unexpressed anger, resentment, and rage.  Many people in the medical fields even link
some forms of cancer with the holding of deep resentments.  You know what happens when you don’t let the
steam off when cooking something—it burns, bursts, and froths.  Same with the body.  It must have healthy, constructive, and
creative ways of expressing intense emotions like anger.  I have found EFT and music to be my best
transformers of my anger.  The EFT helps
me move through it and accept it on a physical level thus transforming it into
passion.  This, in turn, is translated
into my music, my teaching, my writing—a fiery passion for life.

To sum this
one up:  Anger is a part of life, just
like storms are a part of the weather. 
If we can simply learn to feel
anger, to breathe through and with anger, to channel anger; to learn healthy ways of expressing it, then we can
walk just a little more freely as human beings, created in the image and
likeness of the Divine.






Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


You Are Not the Enemy, A Little Memoir, by Joseph Anthony

You Are Not the Enemy

A Little Memoir

By

Joseph Anthony


 

In the path
I was initiated in 25 years ago you were considered the enemy.  You and everyone else I loved or who loved
me.  You were part of the reason I was
stuck in this wheel of creation, and the more intertwined our connections, the
closer our relationships, the more destructive you were to my spiritual walk.  This world was an evil place.  This body just a bag carrying a soul.  Everything and everyone was a piece of Kal’s
(their word for devil) handiwork meant to keep me trapped in this world of
endless suffering and rebirth.

When I first
began studying this path I was 15.  Back
then it made perfect sense.  The world
was a horrible place.  I had already lived
through abuse.  I felt no love for
anyone. Everything only and always and everywhere ended up in misery and death,
so why not take active steps to get out of here?  I applied for early initiation and was
refused with a personal letter from the guru. 
“You are too young, but take heart, the Lord never forsakes his sheep.”  Disappointed as I was, I had hope that when I
turned 21 (the appointed time one could be initiated) I would be accepted into
the fold.

My hopes proved
true as I mentioned above.  I drove to a
YMCA in Chicago where one of the Master’s North American representatives was to
appear, and I learned the secret form of meditation.  I learned the secret mantra and the secret
meditation position.  I also learned
meditation was a rehearsal for death.  “Die
daily,” they said, “so when you really do die, it will be just like removing a
jacket and putting on another.”  Every time
I sat in meditation, I was readying myself to die.  In fact, not only was I like a spiritual
end-of-the-world-prepper, every time I settled into meditation, I was hoping
the chord to this earthly body would be severed as I repeated the holy
words.  I literally hoped I would die.  My meditation was a sanctioned form of suicide.

I did this
for years.  For years I consciously
decided I could not get close to people. 
The closer I got the worse our karmic entanglements, the more lifetimes
I would have to suffer.  So I stayed
distant.  I fulfilled my worldly
obligations with as much grace as I could muster.  That’s what you were: you were a karmic
obligation of which I should remain as unattached to as possible.  You were my duty.  And if I became too involved with you and our
relationship began to interfere with my meditation, the Master would take you
away.  I was assured one satsang that
Master would “destroy my life to get me to meditate.”

That’s the
way it was.  And yet somewhere inside I
rebelled against their beliefs.  I loved
the Master with a deep and unexplainable sense of devotion, but their system of
beliefs began to make less and less sense to me, and I strayed farther and
farther away from them.

So here I am
today—kirtan leader, EFT practitioner, writer, teacher.  I have many wonderful connections with many
wonderful people all over the world, including you.  I love my family and friends.  I love my body and I love this life.  And yet when the darkness comes—the depression
and the doubts creep in about my dreams, I feel a sickening pull to pick up
those old books from that old religion and lose myself in them.  I find the mantra swimming around in my head
and on my lips.  “They were right,” I
sigh, and prepare to meditate.  There is
a perverse comfort there, like an old, worn out drug that I know will still
work if I just tried it one last time. 

Then I
remember you.  I remember the songs that
flow through me.  I remember the joy I
receive from singing, writing, teaching, helping others, and damned if I don’t
sell my soul again.  I jump freely into
the web and with wild abandon allow myself to get all tangled up in you, in the
beauty, in the hope, in the desire to sing for millions.

Over the
years I have needed therapy to get the hooks of that old path out of my system,
and I see today, that it hasn’t fully been removed.  Its oppressive weight has been lifted, as
evidenced by how I live my life, but inside, it lurks in the shadows, as the
grief and torment from the childhood abuse does, like a hungry animal.   

People
sometimes chuckle when they hear I do all this music, EFT, self-helpy,
inspirational stuff to keep myself going, to help myself heal.  But that’s the truth.  My depression and psycho-emotional DNA are
steeped in darkness and a gnawing compulsion to be alone.  Yet I have found ways that I love to keep
myself going that also inspire, entertain, and uplift others.  As I heal, you heal.  As you heal, I heal.  It is not so much a web as a tapestry woven
with golden threads, a song knitted together with notes of silver harmony, a
vast network of hands all joined to help carry the other.

So here I
am, fresh off a bout of the flu and a bout of the darkness.  And I will not, no matter how strong the doubts
or how great the pain, stop singing. 

 





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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Happy Michaelmas, Walk With an Angel and a Dragon Today

A Michaelmas
Message

From Joseph Anthony

 

Happy Michaelmas, the
Feast of the Archangel Michael.  St. Michael
helps bring in the harvest of the fruits of your labors–spiritual harvest–the
many ways you have grown this year. In the old legends he slays the dragon.
Some need that image of permanently conquering a foe. Others prefer new legends
in which the dragon is befriended, the destructive energy transformed into
healing, the power of fire channeled to help change the world. So instead of
battling the dragon–dance with the dragon, sing with the dragon, look into its
eyes and see yourself, and then use its gifts to help you grow in this time of
changing colors and crisp, bright blue skies, this time of endings and the
beginning of the coming of winter. What dragons in your life need attention
from an angel? Let your every step be a prayer so that you may walk side by
side with a winged fire bearer and Michael, both dragons, both angels, both
there for your spiritual harvest.

Peace, Joseph

PS: The regularly scheduled, Laura E.
Richards Story Video, will appear later this afternoon. 






Help keep the Wonder Child Blog going.  Donate today.  Thank you.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


On the Building and Tearing Down of Walls, Part Two of Two, By Joseph Anthony

On the Building and Tearing Down of Walls

Part Two of Two

By

Joseph Anthony

 

 

We talked
last time on building and tearing down inner walls.  We spoke of these walls as stemming from the
wisdom and creativity of children.  What
happens though when we feel like we’re too cramped or need to make some sort of
change?  Here is one way of transforming,
coming out of, and inviting others into your inner paradise.

Gradually.  Begin by clearing out the space of unwanted
and unhealthy clutter: thoughts of self-hatred, shame, arrogance; and start
bringing in thoughts you want to live with: joy, gratitude, generosity,
love.  Add a window or two.  Open them. 
Let the fresh air and light in from mentors and friends.  Build a door—a beautiful, hand carved,
wood-hewn door—perhaps a non-traditional—round-Hobbit door; maybe a triangular
door, or one shaped like a star.  You
pick.  Whatever shape you pick, remember
this: these door opens from the inside. 

Begin adding
art work—beautiful visions and pictures of your dreams and aspirations; vision boards; scenes
of nature, mornings, mountains, trees.  Keep
happy memories tucked away in special places. 
Add a few knick-knack—curious, quirky things that will become your
unique personality traits.  Have a few,
well-chosen books (everyone has at least one book in them).  Bring in some candles or beautiful lamps,
soft blankets, clean bed sheets, flowers, healthy food, clean water.  You decide what these symbolize for you.  I like to think of the healthy food as
positive affirmations, the clean water as living and bathing in the truth, and
so on.

When you’re
ready, open the windows and let the light in; or open the windows at night and
let the fireflies in and the soft gaze of the moon.  Either way, let the fresh air of new ideas in.
Lean on the sill and breathe, gazing at the beauty—imagining the possibilities. 

And when you’re
ready, open the door.  Stand at the
threshold for as long as you need to, and then step out.  When you’re ready invite safe, friendly
people inside to talk with (living or dead), host dinner parties, sing-alongs, or
reading groups.  You get to decide who
and when and how.  You might even invite
people in to make love with.

And yes, you
might get hurt.  You might open the door,
come dancing out, and stub your toe on something someone left lying around
outside—a worn-out  limited belief or a
rusty, old idea.  Some one might say
something mean, break a promise, and so on. 
It is difficult to shield ourselves from all pain. 

When we get
hurt however, we have a safe, healthy, clean, and holy place to go.  We will have a well-stocked medicine cabinet
filled with the healing balms of mantras, prayers, and songs; we will have
ready the elixirs of positive affirmations and creative pursuits; we will have
the healing cures of physical movement—tapping, walking, drumming.  We will have the secret remedies of the prayers
of other people—keep a stash of these treasured somewhere in your space and
replenish them often.  Keep a supply of
the antidote for fear: actions.  Feel the fear and keep moving.  Feel all of your feelings, honor the pain and
its messages of healing; honor your feelings by simply knowing them to be what
they are—feelings—neither mysterious
nor the end all and be all of who you are.

So build
your walls, create fragrant, holy, beautiful spaces—temples of wisdom and love.  Tend the gardens of your body, mind, heart,
and soul.  Know that you can use any of
these as safe places.  Each is inherently
and irrevocably a paradise.  Know too
that you get to choose who comes in.  You
get to open the door.  Lots of people
might come knocking, but only you have the power of opening the door.  And you can stay outside or inside for as
long as you like.

One last
thing: remember to honor your inner child for starting the process of building
a wall in the first place—a process
inspired by play
.  All wisdom is
play, and all play is wisdom.  Connect
with that child with gratitude, express that appreciation by affirming him or
her; and you can express that appreciation for your inner child (or children)
too by appreciating and honoring the children you see around you—your own
children, your students, your nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or the children
in your neighborhood or on the train.  Take
a cue from these children: learn to have fun inside and out, and come out and
go in when you see fit.  Learn that
whatever else this wild, complicated life is, it is play—serious sometimes
perhaps, tragic, but it is play.  It is a
dance of wonder and of discovery.  It is
the play of becoming who you are.

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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


On the Building and Tearing Down of Walls, Part One of Two, By Joseph Anthony

On the Building and Tearing Down of Walls

Part One of Two

By

Joseph Anthony

 

People build
walls when they need a safe place to live. 
Animals build shelters for the same reason.  Some say we build psychological/spiritual
walls after we’ve been hurt or betrayed. 
Some say the thing to do once we’re emotionally and spiritually mature
is to tear down these walls.  Some people
believe they build walls and never come out, they’re too afraid; they always
stay in. 

My take on
walls is different.  I believe building
walls is wisdom in action.  I believe we
build walls when we’re children not because we’ve been hurt, we build them
before we’re hurt—we build them out of play
Give a child a cloth, a bed sheet, a large piece of silk and watch them almost
instantly build a fort or wrap it around themselves.  Watch them transform the space underneath a
table or in a closet, in a tree—almost anywhere—into a safe, magical
place.  Teens even love their own
space. 

In other
words I believe building walls is natural, creative, holy, and necessary.  Inner stress comes when we go inside and have
trouble coming back out, or when we are unable to invite people in, or when we
outgrow the space and don’t make proper renovations, or we don’t tend the space
and it becomes cramped, isolated, filled with shadows.  As this happens over time, our inner space can become unhealthy and we in fact do need to come out
or let people in to help us clean. 
Perhaps we sense our inner space has become too confining, restricted, or
narrow.  It’s now that someone might
suggest to us that it’s time to tear the walls down.  And there are some of us who need that type
of violent gesture to free ourselves and feel empowered.  That’s OK. The walls came tumbling down in
Jericho after all (with the power of commitment and music, no less).

And if you
find yourself telling yourself (and others) that you never come out or you
always stay in your wall and that you can’t come out, know that words like always, never, and can’t, are
simply not true.  If you had never come
out of your wall you wouldn’t know to even want to.  Anytime you genuinely laughed—you were
outside the wall.  Any time you wept in
front of someone you were outside the wall (or you had invited them inside).  So you can
come out.  The way might be cluttered,
but you can, if you choose.

I suggest a
gentle approach to walls—in building and transforming them, and choosing when
to come out or let others in.  It is an
approach infused with the overarching idea that the wall was built in the first
place for a reason, a holy, and healthy reason. 
It was built out of the spirit of play and to keep ourselves safe. Know
that the word paradise means a walled
garden—a safe, beautiful place surrounded by a wall.  Did we use our paradise as a place to hide
and to withdrawal from painful people and situations?  I hope so. 
Did some of us become addicted to the inner space, the isolation?  Did some of us neglect our inner gardens and
let them become over grown with weeds?  Yes.
We all do to one degree or another and at one time or another. But when we know
it’s time to move out or let others in, there is a way to do so that honors
both your wisdom for building it in the first place and the wall itself.  And I will share my thoughts on this process on
Wednesday. 

For now, be
with the idea that inside of you is a paradise.  That’s a wonderful idea indeed.

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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Playing With Words: Grace, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Playing With Words:

Grace,

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

Grace is something we say at meals.  We are saying grace, as in thank youwe praise you, be with us.

We say that dancers or athletes move with grace.

We say we are under God’s grace.

How can this one little word mean so much?

Grace is something we can pause for and say.

May we speak it with everything we do.

We can move in ways that are filled with grace.  We can walk through life’s circumstances with grace.

Grace comes from the Latin and means “favor, esteem, regard, pleasing qualities, good will, and gratitude (Online EtymologyDictionary).”

When we pause to say grace, what are we really saying? Do we favor the food, the cook, the Divine, all of the above?  Do we hold them all in high esteem?  Are we speaking with kind regards and goodwill for their pleasing qualities?  After all, I’m sure the food, the preparer, and of course, the Divine, all possess pleasing qualities.  Are we speaking gratitude for the meal, the cook, the Divine, the fellowship? All of the above?  And more?  What are we saying when we pause to say grace?

How about when we move gracefully through our lives?

May we all figuratively and literally slow-down in such a way as to move with grace in our bodies and thoughts, and spirits.  May we move with
the consciousness of beauty in body, mind, and spirit.  May grace be in our thoughts and hearts; may it spread like the fragrance of honeysuckle into every heart and hand.

Compare the Latin roots with the Sanskrit roots for grace: grnati, which means “to sing, praise, and to announce (ibid).”

When we accept life with grace we are singing praises to the Creator.  When we realize the need for change and move with grace towards achieving those changes, we are singing praises to the
Creator.  When we move with beauty in mind, heart, and body, we are announcing we are part and parcel of the One Great Dance; that we are infused with the same blood as the One Great Dancer.

The Lithuanian roots for grace (giriu) mean “to praise and to celebrate
(ibid).”

When we speak with grace, allowing beauty to be in our words, tone, timber, and intentions, we are praising each other, praising ourselves, praising the Divine Singer of All.  When we esteem one another, assume the goodwill of one another, we are celebrating each other and the One Cosmic Partier.

When we move with grace we are celebrating ourselves, each other, the very ground we move upon, and yes, we are celebrating the One.

Is it true “there but for the grace of God go I?”  Are we held in grace by the Divine in such a way that we only go because of that grace, because of the Divine? Are we woven into some sort of fabric of predestination in which we simply get to move the Creator’s intentions, beautiful though they may be?

Or do we have a say in how me move, where we move, and why we move?  Do we get to pick the colors of the threads and the style of the stitch? Do we get to decide what we make of this intricate tapestry of breath and bone?

I believe we are graced with freedom; freedom to move how, where, and for our own purposes.  The grace that propels us from the Divine to help us move in the world is God’s esteem for us, God’s favor for us, God’s goodwill and kind regards for us; it is the Divine singing praises through, and for, us; it is the Divine celebrating His/Her Life through, and with, us; it is the Divine celebrating you and me for simply being you and me.  It is the Divine’s trust in us; the Divine’s faith in us.

I am a part of grace; you are a part of grace; we are all a part of grace; of the singing, the praise that the Creator announces through our simply being here—here and now.  We live in gratitude for the Creator and the Creator lives in gratitude for us.  It is proper and good, holy and wonderful to love what we create.  How much more so the Divine for us?

May we all realize grace in our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls.  May grace be in our thoughts, feelings, movements, and dreams.  May grace flow with our breath.  May we sing grace throughout the land; announce grace through whispers and shouts; proclaim grace in the touch of our hands; may we celebrate being alive by being grace made flesh; grace
manifested within us, through us, from us, for us, and for all things in heaven and on earth.

May the grace of the Divine be with us always—how else could it ever be?

 

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Reflections on Hawks and the Sparrows: Lessons on Disciplining Our Thinking

Reflections on Hawks and the Sparrows:

Lessons on Disciplining Our Thinking

By

Joseph Anthony


 

Many of us
have observed hawks being pestered by little sparrows or crows and not fighting
back.  It is a fascinating thing to
watch.  The other day I sat for fifteen
minutes as two sparrows flew around and around a beautiful red-tailed
hawk.  They dove at the hawk, seemingly
pecking at it, and the whole time the hawk either just sat motionless on the
smoke stack it was perched on or it took to the sky and simply flew in great
rising circles.  Never once did the hawk try
to reach out with its razor sharp talons and crush the little nuisances.  I kept wondering why.  Why would a clearly more powerful bird allow
such annoying little birds to mob it so? 
In addition, why would the little sparrows pester such a fierce bird,
knowing that at any second it could turn around and snip their little necks?

Of course a
flying sparrow is hard to catch even for a speedy hawk.  But why else would a hawk ignore such pests?
I like to think the hawks are doing it for wisdom, wisdom that we can learn
from.  And even the sparrows offer lessons. 
Here’s my
take on this strange phenomenon and what it means to our spiritual growth.  

The sparrows are obviously protecting their
interests, a nest perhaps, a territory; and the hawk is a major league
enemy.  One sparrow wouldn’t dream of
attacking a hawk, but two or more would. 
So to keep their flying space safe, they risk all, cast all abandon to the
wind—literally, and swarm a clearly bigger and more powerful predator.  They go together, but their objective is to
defend.

For the hawk’s
part, we need to realize they are extremely economical birds.  They only move when necessary, when food is
available to ambush or when they need to find other hunting grounds.  They do sometimes fly just for the sheer joy
of being swept upwards on rising currents of wind or to surf the breeze,
letting the air sing through their out-curved feathers.  But in general, hawks don’t move much.  They watch, but they do not waste
energy.  So when they’re being pestered
by sparrows, they ignore them.  They don’t
expend valuable time and energy trying to shoo them away or kill them.  They ignore them and, if necessary, move
on.  Of course, if a hawk is the one
protecting a nest no other birds–sparrows or crows, would ever come close to
them. A hawk protecting its eggs or fledglings is a very fierce creature,
and the rest of the bird-world knows that. 
Protecting its own nest aside, hawks don’t fight other birds that pester
them.

What can we learn from all of this?

First of
all, those thoughts that mob our head are actually protecting their own interests.  They’re not there to mock or annoy, even if
it appears that way. They are trying to knock us off course because our course
means (so they think) death to them.  The
sparrows of pestering thoughts want to keep things the way they are; they enjoy
the old ways, the learned helplessness, the familiar territory.  To have the hawk of a new idea gliding
effortlessly around them poses a threat to their way of life. 

Taking a cue
from the hawks we don’t need to spend the time or energy fighting pestering thoughts;  we can simply let them be (what we resist persists).  If we want we can go someplace else (replace
the pestering thoughts with ones we like and invite), or we can simply ignore
them and focus on whatever the task is at hand. 
Hawks can sit for hours watching, letting the wind rustle their feathers
but not their minds.  We can learn to do the
same.  If we are economical with our mental
(and physical) movements and learn to move consciously in the world, consciously fostering thoughts we want to think, then we don’t need to be disturbed when a little mob of pesky
thoughts comes around.  Besides, if we know they are only trying to protect their own, we can even have a little compassion towards them and not seek to destroy them.  We can learn from them.  They understand the power of strength in
numbers.  This is something we can always
keep in mind.  We are not solitary
hawks.  We need each other to help us soar.

Notice too how hawks find thermal currents of air and with only
minimal effort, can be carried upwards to great heights, and swiftly.  Hawks observe little bits of leaves and
sticks that are caught up on those currents and then they simply slip into them
too, letting the warm column of air lift them with a few gentle thrusts of their wings, high into the sky.

We too can
look for warm currents of sunny air, rising columns of positive thoughts from
mentors and inspirational people, artists, writers, musicians, and children
everywhere; and let our thoughts be lifted with them to high places; places we can glide on; places we can soar from and search out new horizons; places we can
scan the world from in search of new opportunities.  We can soar for the sheer joy of being alive.

So there is
much to learn from birds—pesky birds and birds of prey.  In fact, there are object lessons everywhere;
in every leaf and tree; in every feather and beak.  Our job is to watch, listen, and breathe, and then
weave our stories in with Mother Nature’s.  They are after all, one and the same.  And there are treasures everywhere in the infinite folds of her gown waiting
to be discovered.

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Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog