Tuesday, February 17, 2009


World Wildlife Fund

Did you know that in the last century three of the nine tiger species have become extinct, and that almost a quarter of the earth’s mammals face a high risk of extinction within the next 30 years?
These and other facts are made available to us through the research and outreach efforts of the World Wildlife Fund, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization serving environments and communities worldwide.
Since 1961, WWF has worked diligently to save endangered species—polar bears, pandas, tigers, and others—and to preserve the habitats these animals depend on for survival.
In addition to standard cash donations or estate gifting, what I love about WWF is their extraordinary species adoption program. For as little as $50, you can adopt an endangered animal—choosing from more than 90 species—and receive a soft, plush version of your adopted animal, together with an adoption certificate, photograph and fun-fact card about the species and their habitat. Aside from helping WWF with wildlife and environmental conservation, animal adoptions make wonderful gifts for children and adults alike.
To learn more about WWF and the animal adoption program, please visit their web site at http://www.worldwildlife.org/.


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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Only Love Remains

For those who love... time is eternity...
Henry Van Dyke
About a year before my grandfather died, I had a fascinating dream.
He and my grandmother appeared to me as Native American elders, down by the creek in my backyard. They looked nothing like themselves—with long, graying braids and thick, wool blankets draped over their shoulders for warmth—but I knew it was them by the way they walked and talked together . . . I could feel the love between them.
We embraced and talked for a while, and as they turned to leave I said, “Grandma, Grandpa—please take me with you.”
“No, honey, it’s not time for you to go,” my grandfather said. “You have a lot of work to do.”
“But I want to go with you,” I said.
He smiled at me with so much love—I could feel it—then gently touching my cheek he said, “No. It’s not your time. You need to lay off the boys and finish writing that book. That’s your job right now.”
Grandma giggled at his warning.
“Tell me then,” I asked: “What’s the secret to the magic of your relationship? How do you still have so much love for each other after all these years?”
My grandfather looked at her, taking her hand in his, and said, “I have always carried great respect for your grandmother. That’s because she has always respected herself. No matter what happened, no matter what anyone ever said or did to her—or against her—she never let it change the way she viewed herself, her core values or her self-respect. Make sure you find a partner who loves and respects you; but remember, it starts with loving yourself.”
I watched as they walked away from me, hand-in-hand, talking and laughing, and I was filled with exquisite knowing—even in my dream state—that their souls would be together forever; their love was eternal.
I woke up crying.
For the rest of the day, I walked around in a haze. My heart understood the greater truth—the evolution of our souls through time—but I was sad and slightly confused. Was my dream a message of pending death? Had I actually had this conversation with them—soul to soul—somewhere in a parallel universe?
“Sure, kid—that’s me,” my grandfather laughed when I told him about the dream. Then, in his light-hearted way, he rattled off some historical facts about the Native American culture. But small talk aside, I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t be with us much longer.
Then, last summer, the messy truth of congestive heart failure ravaged his body and took with it his will to live. His had not been a protracted illness, thank goodness, but he was tired; ready to go. It was his time. 
Forever the deep thinker—there in his hospice bed—he struggled to share with me one last bit of wisdom. “My sweet child,” he said, “Remember this: We come into this world with a framework for society . . . or at least we think we do . . . there’s the body and the soul . . . but only the soul lives forever.”
The next day he passed quietly, surrounded by his family. We hugged and cried. We ate casseroles and pies delivered by church ladies. We moved gently through funeral arrangements, wakes and eulogies. And we comforted each other with loving memories of our patriarch; a bitter-sweet mixture of joy and pain.
At times, it was hard to tell if my tears came from losing my grandfather, or if they flowed from a heart bursting with love.
For a short time after the funeral, I stayed with my grandmother in their family home. I watched her move from room-to-room, at times seeming lost; other times, finding moments of joy and laughter in the midst of her grief. Her strength inspired me.
After 60 years of life together, everything had changed. What was left of a life well-lived?
Only love remained.
When it comes to love, there’s always a risk—that we’ll get hurt, that we’ll be rejected, that our beloved will leave us behind. But the only way that any of us will ever fully open our hearts to the beauty of Life is by loving. It’s the energy that made us and, I believe, the only thing of value that we have to give.
This is the Law of Love.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Removing the Rust: Purification Made Simple

Make Room for Something New

As we stand on the cusp of spring—poised to leave the heaviness of winter behind—I have been thinking a lot about growth, and the process by which we prepare ourselves for new life to enter.
The Native American people have long understood the importance of purification as a way of removing the “rust” that can accumulate within us as we move through life. Negative emotions like anger, resentment, hatred, jealousy, envy and greed are likely culprits. So, too, are the host of conflicts, misconceptions and opinions of others that we find ourselves entangled with or subjected to as part of our human condition.
The Ancestors believed that the process of cleansing could be gentle and healing if approached with reverence, and so developed the sacred Sweat Lodge. By joining together in ceremony, the Sweat Lodge gave participants the space to let go of all that wasn’t working in their lives, removing the impurities that had formed in the mind, body and spirit through sauna-like heat, sweat, song and prayer. They believed that purification was necessary for growth and forward movement, as the so-called “rust” tended to dull one’s inner light and keep her disconnected from her highest purpose in life.
Personal experience has taught me well: When we clear away what doesn’t work or support us, we make room for the good stuff to come in. This applies equally to attitudes, habits, patterns, beliefs, and our associations with certain people or things. We must monitor our lives and continue to purge that which doesn’t serve our highest good.
As with the Holy Eucharist, where members of the church eat bread and drink wine as symbols of “the body and blood of Christ,” purification ceremonies are symbolic expressions of our intention to walk consciously through life, with reverence for our Creator.
In my opinion, how you go about it isn’t nearly as important as your sincere desire and intent to do it. The key is to bring your awareness to the truth of what limits your forward movement, as you vow in earnest to deal with it, release it, and move on.

Here’s an idea for creating your own Sacred Sweat Lodge at home. There are many ways that you can prepare your space—light candles, burn sage or incense, put on soft, instrumental music to help with relaxation. Or you can skip all of that and go straight to the tea. Try this homemade recipe:

† Start with a mild spiced or herbal green tea (your choice)
† ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (per cup of tea)
† Fresh cloves (to taste)
† 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
† Fresh lemon juice
† 1 teaspoon honey
† 1 shot of brandy or whiskey (per cup of tea) – optional

Directions: Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan; reduce heat to low / simmer. Add tea, cayenne pepper, cloves, cinnamon, fresh lemon juice and whiskey or brandy (alcohol is optional), and let steep for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into mug and add 1 teaspoon of honey.
While your tea is brewing, pile on the clothes. Wrap yourself up like you’re going out to ski—minus the parka and skis, of course. I recommend thermal underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, extra thick, warm socks and perhaps a wooly cap on your head. Then gather 2-3 warm, snuggly blankets and set them aside until your ceremony begins.
With tea in hand, find a comfortable place to sit with good support for your back. Settle in, wrapping yourself in your pile of blankets, and drink your tea.
Neither chug it nor sip it too slowly, just drink your tea at a steady pace as you consider what you want to release from your life. It can be anything—a resentment, a bad habit, an old thought form that no longer serves you, a self-sabotaging pattern that you can’t seem to break—but the goal is awareness. Likewise, spend some time thinking about what you want to create or bring into your life. You might find it helpful to write down your thoughts, so keep a notebook handy.
When you’ve finished your tea, lay down or recline in a comfortable position—still wrapped in your pile of blankets—and focus your thoughts only on your cleansing. You should be sweating a little (or a lot) by now. That’s good. Visualize your blocks, resentments or negative emotions leaving your body in a trail of sweat. State your intentions as you clear away the old and welcome in the new. Give prayers of thanks.
Immediately after, take a shower and wash those clothes. Now you are ready to begin again.
And remember to check-in with yourself—again and again—as many times as it takes. Regular maintenance works best. In this way, ceremonial purification allows us to stay connected to our Creator, releasing what no longer serves us while making room for new life to enter. For I believe it is through our finely tuned connection with Spirit that we co-create our world.
Now let's get busy—we’ve got some cleansing to do.