Reading the Tea Leaves (Pay Attention to Your Signs)

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“Not everything has meaning!”
(my college fencing coach Roxanne, en route to a competition in NYC)

Later, to myself: “No, but anything can!”

I am a huge believer in using outer signs for listening to and following inner guidance. I have found through long experience that so long as I reflect deeply and act in a balanced way in response to ‘waking dreams’ that catch my attention while I am mulling over some question or pursuing some meaningful goal, good things follow.

Responding to outer signs can help to keep the flow of communication open between Spirit or the Universe, Inner Guides or whatever you prefer to acknowledge, and your own higher awareness. The more you can progress in tandem with your inner nudges or guidance, the easier it becomes over time to wend your way through challenging situations and key decisions; and, life is more fun!

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So what are your ‘tea leaves’ telling you this month about some meaningful question you are pondering? Pay attention to the slightest waking dreams or outer signs: random seeming thoughts or insights you may have; statements that stand out to you from a passerby or on tv or in your reading; roadside messages on signs that you pass, or even bumper stickers that catch your eye… Any of these or several taken together could offer you a breakthrough insight on your problem or query.

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Some people like to set up an image or a specific object that they will see if their potential decision is correct.

If you want to try this, you can set up a sign of affirmation for your question that would not be common or likely for you to see, and you can set a time frame as well for encountering your sign. When I was working on my final book proposal for Your Life Path (see right panel), I set up the sign of a blue butterfly if I was going to be able to find a publisher. Right around the time my wonderful literary agent began circulating the book proposal, I started seeing blue butterflies everywhere. This encouraged me with every step of the proposal and publishing process. Now I have several items in my home with blue butterflies on them to remind me that this book process has initiated a longterm project, with much yet to come for me to fully realize its potentials in terms of writing and service.

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images are from pixabay.com

What are you asking to better understand or what decision are you weighing? Pay attention to YOUR outer signs; they are all around!

Celebrate Your Everyday Miracles

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“Life is a bowl of cherries” is a metaphor that acknowledges the blessings in our lives every day.

Life in this dualistic universe must always have its Ups and Downs that help us grow and learn–when we choose to–through hardships and problem-solving. Yet I find myself reflecting on this past month’s plus road trip—tonight on my final hotel stop en route back to Colorado—and contemplating about several miracles I have witnessed and been the recipient of over this past five weeks.

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How do you define a miracle? This varies somewhat for each of us but to me a miracle manifests the extraordinary in a manner that protects, or intervenes, or heals such that Divine or spiritual/ universal intervention appears to be fortuitously playing Its hand.

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Miracles might be small or large, life-saving or sometimes even playful. My sister rolling her second all-aces Yahtzee within just a few turns while the lyrics “Do it again!” were playing was enough to capture our attention and for me and two of my sisters to call into question the Law of Probability, especially when just two turns later I also rolled the same all-aces Yahtzee. We wondered if our father, who had always been a gaming sort, was trying to communicate from the Beyond!

Five gold dices isolated on white.

Then there was my dear Mother, who is experiencing late stage Parkinsons disease, sitting up in her wheelchair to eat a hearty, pureed meal at her nursing home on the very same day she was subjected to multiple tests and a procedure to drain fluid from around her lungs at a hospital; this was a miraculous, joyful blessing indeed. I have learned to appreciate from Mom’s patience with her condition how the smallest kindness from others in her physically incapacitated state is itself a blessing of universal, divine love.

But five nights ago, a miracle was needed in a life-threatening emergency, and there it was.  I could have been injured terribly when I stumbled and fell from my sister’s stairway, falling full-body backwards into her dining room furniture, landing on my back. Fortunately—no, in retrospect miraculously, fortuitously—I had set up a stainless steel, 5 foot tall pet gate, wrapped into several overlapping layers, at the base of my sister’s stairs to provide a boundary between house floors for my dog Sophie. When I fell, I landed squarely upon the central gate panels, which crashed down with me into my sister’s dining room. The several overlapping steel gate layers bent from the weight of my fall but cushioned my back and also somehow prevented me from hitting my head. I laid there on my back for several minutes, both me and my horrified sister fearing the worst but then I got up, my back, left ankle and knee sprained a bit but I was not seriously injured at all. A great “energy-healing” massage a couple days later and I am fine, gratefully aware of how this ‘convenient’ gate possibly saved my life or bodily well being.

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Reflecting later on the “anatomy” of this miracle, I realize what a “set up” had occurred in advance. My sister and I had talked at length when I arrived about whether I needed to set this gate up, and overlapping the panels was done in a way that would protect her wooden floor which, in the end, was also miraculously not marred by the crashing fall!

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So I invite you to take some time to reflect and count the everyday miracles in your own life that have helped to put you where you are right now. Even unforeseen difficulties can count as miracles if they lead to greater personal awareness or understanding. I mean, even if my fall would have turned out badly, that could also have had a miraculous element to it if it would have led to later experiences I would grow from.

I believe we are all in the hands of loving care, if only we ask to be and/or if we can remember to recognize the value of even the smallest “set ups” or shifts of conditions in our own and in others’ lives.

So let’s celebrate our tandem connections with Spirit/ the Universe; what Jung would call Synchronicity.

I value and welcome YOUR Comments and Stories.

How Will You Get There?

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This week we are contemplating the ensemble of “Big” life questions: Where are you Now? Where are you going? And for today through Saturday:

HOW WILL YOU GET THERE?

On Thursday I asked ‘What is your Shangri-La?’; that spiritual destination you aim to return to or arrive at in order to best fulfill your sense of personal Mission in this life. Then I had a significant dream Monday night that really supports my motivation to communicate about the principle intrinsic to our question this week:

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I was co-teaching to a large class of students. One woman I had been talking with individually addressed the class with her profound answer to a question we had been discussing. Then I went to address the full class with that same question. But as dreams go, a shift occurred, and as I approached to speak, I saw the students were being assembled by some beings in white coats or uniforms , down and off to the right a ways. They were being assembled in a circular formation around something red in the center. I addressed the class anyway, figuring somehow they would be able to hear and sensing this was a very important question for them. I asked them:

“What is your purpose here? Not ‘What is your purpose HERE’, but ‘What is your PURPOSE Here?”

Now then, that dream became prophetic the next day. I was preparing for a large class I am co-teaching which involves conducting mainly college seniors through a full life mapping rites of passage cycle. I was already going to share the dream, as it is of such obvious relevance!  While prepping for the class, I was reading “Confrontation with the Unconscious” by Carl Jung (in Joan Chodorow’s Jung on Active Imagination), and I was also reading in Jung’s The Red Book, both of which were assigned for the class. You who appreciate Jung will appreciate what happened next as “synchronicity”: The very image from my dream of the students being assembled by white clad agencies in a circular formation around a red center is almost identical to a dream that Carl Jung himself had that revealed to him the importance of the integrated Self as an archetypal CENTER of consciousness! Jung dreamed of a town set up in a circular fashion (with milky white colors) with an island in the middle, and on the island was a magnolia tree with “reddish leaves”!

So in my dream I dreamed Jung’s dream within my wider dream, and it was about helping the students to orient around the concept of the Integrated (both conscious and unconscious, unified) Self/ soul and to answer: “What is your PURPOSE Here?”

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Wow! So now for this blog post, let’s take this one further step to consider how the question being posed in my dream (and Jung’s archetypal image of wholeness at the center of Selfhood) pertains to: “How will you get There?”

Knowing your PURPOSE orients you to your GOAL. The CENTER, which is Self or Soul, IS the Goal.  (as stated in Jung’s words re. his dream: “There is nowhere to go beyond this Center”!

How then will you approach the center of your divine Self? One way or another, it is through integrating outer and inner, conscious and unconscious domains of consciousness.

Through the class I am teaching this semester an image has come through:

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Do you see? This shows our conscious awareness, or the “outer” reality itself, as being like a film AROUND all that which is in the dynamism of the Unconscious, or “inner”. We live outwardly as if this were the sum of reality, but we are only surface dwellers in that light. We must go within, make a Descent, find a way to maintain connection with the content of our unconscious awareness.

That is how we can get There…

I welcome your insights and stories!

Your Pets Lifemap

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For our Better Endings Life Maps Activity this week, you can start by listing all of the pet friends who have shared their life with you. Using your own intuitive guidance, list your pets’ names, the years they have been in your life, and something unique or characteristic about each pet and about the time frames they shared with you. You might use an adjective or a phrase describing each one. Then create a Mapping that shows in a way that is meaningful to you an arrangement of how these pets have ‘patterned’ in your life journey. The Bubbles chart shown here is my own mapping of individual or groups of my pet friends who have been in my life in different time frames. As an example for your own creative mapping–which might take another form for you–let me describe my mapping:

The first time frame shown in the orange bubble to the right represents Special Animal Friends from my Childhood, from about 8 years old til 18. Reviewing the list of some of my favorite animal friends from that time, I see some patterns. I befriended a wide variety of animals, both wild and domestic. I was always bringing animals home: frogs, white mice, a pigeon who flew into my garage and stayed for a year. I rode wild colts with my neighbor friends at local horse farms. I had a parakeet, Petesy, who was a close friend to talk to for many years. There were many cats…most of which I also brought home and only a few of which my father let me keep; and Queenie, a great companion beagle-poodle, who was ubiquitous as my special friend until and even after I left home at 18 for college.  These childhood friends exposed me to my own wildness and unconditional love. Animals were my special family, my Friends.

Reading my Pets Lifemap from East to South to West to North (yes, like a Medicine Wheel!), next came my heart throb of 11 years, my first solo pet away from home in college: Chela. I described her in my pet ‘reincarnation’ story Wednesday. What a great friend and constant companion Chela was. She accompanied me on my Big Move, from East to West; from Buffalo to Phoenix, Arizona. I would say she was a lifeline for me. CONTINUITY has always been one of my most valued and important values in relationships, and Chela was there for me–and I for her–as a thread of continuity linking my Childhood to my later life Journey in graduate school, dissertation research at Zuni,and beyond.

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After Chela left, Ariel, shown here, moved into my Heart.  She was a dear Soul companion (absolutely I believe that Animals are Soul, Too), for 20 years!  Reflecting on her qualities that were a big part of my journey with her and other pets we also had while she was with me, I see attributes of their special characters that mirror archetypal character aspects  of myself: Intelligent/ Artistic Ariel; Freedom loving Skyway (a brindle dog who was an escape artist and loved to run!); Quiet/ Timid Ellie (an orange boxer/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who was Skyway’s life companion and mine but who was very timid; a one person dog); and Expressive Loki (still in my life; a beautiful, all-white cat who is very communicative; he was quite the mischievous kitty and is such a SOLID friend!).

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All but Loki passed–by their own life stories–before the next Ensemble Set arrived. I now live with Loki-Emily-Arthur (3 cats) and Sophia (Sophie, my Shorkie buddie; shown above with my mother, Elizabeth).  All of them are always there and I am there for them. They are my refuge, the Family I return to daily and spend the nights with between having to be out in the world. As a most naturally quiet and introspective sort of person myself, my pets are my touchstones. I am entirely humbled by their magnificent unconditional love and companionship. They are constant and true, whatever hardships or complexities have come into and gone out of my life among other Humans.

So try mapping your animal friends in relation to your life history. When did which of them enter and exit? What QUALITIES did they exhibit for you; what relationships did you learn about through them? People say we tend to resemble our pets. I would say there are no accidents and each of our special friends has had a special affinity with us; an archetypal synchronicity. Take some time if you would then to pause and APPRECIATE the wonderful LIFE GIFTS each of your animal–and human too, of course!–friends have shared!

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I invite you to compose your own Pet Life Mapping. And do feel free to share your insights–or pictures!–with us!

At a Crossroads?

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This week’s Better Endings topic is better choices. Choices are opportunities to steer your ship more consciously in the direction of…your choice! They are crossroads, bridges between one state of affairs and potentially another. Therefore our choices are golden keys we can use to open new doors, to enter new vistas of experience and change; or, not.

I love the final scene of Castaway. (Well, okay, that’s after I got over the fact that Chuck had to let go of Kelly; and that she never finished her Ph.D..) After surviving his 5 year ordeal of being marooned and barely surviving, Chuck is shown to be at a literal crossroads along a dusty Western road. He is free–if not in another sense potentially adrift or stranded again–; free to start a new life in any direction he might choose. But then Spirit or the universe offers a sign: the same picture of angel wings that he had used to make the “sail” by means of which he had escaped his captivity on the island. Chuck senses intuitively that this sign indicates the right direction for him to follow, because it reveals synchronicity, events lining up in an unpredictably ‘connected’ way.

This week’s life mapping activity lines up well with our topic of better choices. Among all of the 12 or so significant life events you wrote down last week (or could this week; see last week’s Life Mapping Activity in the Category archives to catch up), some of these influential, shaping moments were more “critical” than others, right? Your Critical Life Events  (CLE’s) are those that have been so extremely impactful in your life that you might feel you were not quite the same person even, before and after that event or situation occurred. Critical events of that magnitude are your life’s Turning Points. They are real chapter turners.

So this week we will focus on Turning Point sorts of opportunities for making “better choices”. How have you typically approached the major choices and transitions in your life? Have some of the most critical events in your life so far felt like they were beyond your own control? How does choice factor in with those circumstances, in retrospect? How much choice do you have, really, in various kinds of situations, and how can you make the very best choices possible so that, now, if you choose!, you can begin to align your choices with your conscious intention to manifest Better Endings?

Life Path Metaphors We Live By

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This week’s Better Endings Life Mapping activity (#3) is to describe a human life according to a key metaphor or image. Is life like a Journey, a Cycle of Seasons, a Mountain or River? Or, to you lately, is Life more like a Roller Coaster Ride? If you haven’t already done this exercise of the week, take a moment to write down an image of what, to you, a human lifetime is like. And, how/ why? Briefly explain how life fits your current image of it.

[Please complete the above activity before continuing.]

Okay then. Now, ask yourself, “Does this image mirror any pattern in my own life?”  I am going to wager that it does. So, if you like, please take another moment to describe in what ways your life fits the image you just described.

[Pause; you are writing again.]

Very good! So, what’s this all about? I call the the sort of image you have just described a Life Metaphor. You might provide a different image depending on what is current in your life in terms of basic patterns, such as how much your life is feeling stable, dynamic, or in chaos. Today’s image of yours is what I will call an “initial” Life Metaphor; before completing a full Life Mapping process. I expect it will shift for you if you keep up with applying these weekly Life Mapping techniques over the course of this year’s blog. So I encourage you to keep a Life Mapping journal that will develop these ideas over time.

One of my own favorite Life Metaphors, and the reason for my use of Anne Wipf’s wonderful painting that I am using as the header image for this site, is: Life is a Carousel or Merry-Go-Round. Round and round I go with the cycles of time–days, weeks, months, years, decades–Up and Down with the flow of events in my life. And as I cycle along with this merry-go-round adventure, I always seem to be reaching out and striving to catch that elusive “Brass Ring,” every time I come around to it again.

How wonderful that Anne Wipf’s great piece of art that is the focal image for this blog, “Carousel,” shows the horses leaping off from their base platform to freedom! It must get pretty boring, after all, for a carousel pony. It must feel like a cage, or like the mountain that the mythic Sisyphus is bound to, rolling a boulder eternally up, and then back down, over and over again as his punishment from the gods.

I imagine these Anne Wipf “Carousel” horses leaping off from their wooden platforms every night when the amusement parks are closed, teaming off together to some rarified, special place known only to themselves. Then, in my imagining, they willingly hop back onto their platform by morning, humble vehicles of divine love that they are, to bring pleasure to the children and adult children who delight in the brief, musical turn of the ride. Where do they go, do YOU imagine?

There is such serendipity and sychronicity I am discovering while producing this site that develops our year long theme of Better Endings. Last week I watched Mary Poppins and I was taken aback to see Mary Poppins and Burt (Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke) hopping merrily OFF from a carousel on horses that leap joyfully through a technicolor valley. Then on Christmas day I went with a friend to see Saving Mr. Banks and learned, to my delight, that the entire story of Mary Poppins is about creating Better Endings that have the creative power to transform bittersweet memories from childhood. (Go see it!) And there was the carousel, in both P. L. Travers‘ and Walt Disney’s biographical lives as well, and their combined creative genius of allowing the horses to leap out from their ‘cage’ in the film, to transport their riders through a magical kingdom where wrongs are righted and sadness gives way to merriment.

Would you alter your current Life Metaphor at all, if you could? Or, would you rather like it to stay just as it is? I would love to share your insights and Comments. And, of course, if you enjoy this, please Like it and Share it with your friends. To receive Better Endings daily by email, simply enter your email address in the Follow box.

Thanks for being out there, and please do share with your Comments and Better Endings Stories!