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The Duality of Me

The Duality of Me

The Duality of Me

“He communicates information and brings people together. That’s why in medical astrology Gemini rules the nervous system; it functions as a network to carry messages from the senses to the brain. In social situations, the Gemini archetype is also the catalyst. This involves two factors of course – positive and negative (dual). In the positive sense, Gemini friends are good at circulating your business card at social events. Give them a stack of cards to add t their gardener’s, hairdresser’s, caterer’s, seamstresses. But, in the negative sense, beware of the gossip tendency.” – Kathleen Burt

I am a Gemini. There was a time when I was ashamed to say that I’m a Gemini.  People would begin to go off about how horrible their entire life experience has been with us Gems.  Really.  And then they’d hurl their judgments of me (cloaked as comparisons of course), by the time they were done, I felt like an inappropriate, over talkative, manipulative ass. I’d try to recover by saying, “I’m gregarious”.  But you wouldn’t even believe the number of people that chose to believe that I’m not a safe person to be around – because I’m a Gemini.  Well let me tell you this: there is a duality about me.  And it’s all good. Sure, I may be Bi-polar.  But that’s all good too.

Some of my friends and family actually enjoy that I’m a Gemini.  My duality.  Yes, there seems to be two of me in many aspects of my life.  But to a degree, it balances me.  I still love myself when I hate myself.  See myself as honest when I’m lying.  See myself as creative when I feel like a slug.  See what I mean?  And you know what?  I am gregarious!  I love people.  Love to hate ’em and love to love ’em.  Sometimes I love too fast.  Sometimes I want all that I cannot have or have.  But overall, I love who I am, and am happy that I’m loved by someone else.


Interpreting the Runes ~ Ehwaz ~ Movement ~ Progress ~ The Horse

Ehwaz is a rune of transit, transition and movement; of physical shifts, new dwelling places, new attitudes or new life. It also signifies movement in the sense of improving or bettering any situation.

With this rune, there is a sense of gradual development and steady progress, with the belief in slow growth through many shifts and changes.  This could apply to the growth of a business or to the development of a new idea. A relationship may need to undergo changes if it is to live and grow. Moral effort and steadfastness are called for when this rune of movement, another of the cycle runes is drawn. Let it be said with this affirmation, “As I cultivate my nature, all else follows.”

This rune Ehwaz is symbolized by the horse, and it signifies the bond between horse and rider. Bronze Age artifacts show a horse drawing the sun across the sky. Here, Ehwaz is saying, you have progressed far enough to fee a measure of safety in your place.

Now is the time to turn again and face the future reassured, ready to share the good fortune that comes your way. The sharing is significant since it relates to the sun’s power to foster life and illuminate all things with its light.

Ehwaz Reversed

Movement that appears to block. Be certain that what you are doing – or not doing – is timely. There are no missed opportunities. You have simply to recognize that not all possibilities are open to you, that not all opportunities are appropriate. The opportunity at hand may be precisely to avoid action. If you are feeling at a loss, unclear about the need to act, consider what is timely to your nature and remember this affirmation, “What is yours will come to you.”

Life Lived Fully

 

 

“What a wonderful life I’ve had!  I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”  — Colette

Colette was a French author whose books give a sense of a life fully lived.  Yet, even she regretted that she hadn’t appreciated her good fortune earlier on.  It was only while writing that she learned to see how lucky and happy she was and to praise life.

I know that I have been tardy in realizing how rich my life has been.  It is often only in retrospect that I can see the beauty and feel the joy.  How beautiful that day was!  How much I was loved! How lucky I was to have such good friends around me!  What a beautiful child!

Why didn’t I see what was happening right before my own eyes? Why couldn’t I seize the moment?  It’s good to remember, but it is amazing to live in the present and to cherish each moment while it is happening.

 


In Memory of My Other Mom, Dorothy

January 23 is the “death day” of my second Mom. Dorothy Eshenbaugh was the step-grandmother of my last partner. I’ve blogged about Dorothy on many occasions. During our brief five years as my “Mother-there-ought-to-be-a-law,” we experienced a lot of life together; there were ups and many downs. But the love between Dorothy and I was always stable. We had a hell of a lot of fun together; we played a lot of Dominoes, laughed our asses off, and cried some too. We’d get mad at one another, like everyone does, but it never lasted for very long. She always knew the easiest way to solve a family argument would be through me and not her step-grandson. Dorothy didn’t like it when we weren’t talking. I remember how she would often hold my hands and those of my partner’s in hers and she’d say; “Now fella’s we have to stick together. We’re all we’ve got as family goes.” You see, Dorothy had a respect for communication between family members. Dorothy was in end stage renal failure, and hadn’t spoken in a few years to her sister, Betty or her mother. But Dorothy and I worked on a beautiful letter that she mailed to her sister so proudly one day. Dorothy was going to put an end to the silence.

Dorothy hardly gave the envelope enough time to get through her own post office before she started checking her mail for a response from her Betty or mother. Then, weeks went by and then months. Dorothy’s sad attitude gradually lifted and she shrugged it off and said, “Wasn’t meant to be I guess.”

Dorothy died on January 23, 2008 of end stage renal failure. I often feared that when the end would come for her that she’d be alone; I knew that was one of her biggest fears as well. When she transitioned from our earth, her beloved companion Rascal was at her side. Dorothy joked that Rascal in a strange way looked a bit like her deceased husband, Robert, who was the love of Dorothy’s life! You know, I never could really disagree with her! I think somehow Robert reincarnated into that dog!

My former partner and I knew that Dorothy’s prognosis didn’t assure us any real definitive time with her before the end would come. So, we made every birthday and holiday as special as we could for her. In the five years that Dorothy was in my life, she lived life. She went to church every Sunday and put in a prayer request for my ex and me every Sunday as well. Dorothy was a good mother to me, at a time when I didn’t have one. My own mother died many years before I met Dorothy. When Dorothy learned my mother was deceased, I could see how she put herself in that role for me. I never complained one bit. It felt nice to be loved again in that way that only a mother can.

I know Dorothy is at rest and still living fully in another plane of existence with her beloved Robert. These beautiful memories I hold of our time together and knowing that Dorothy is once again reunited with her husband who she loved so much, make it easier each day to feel a little less pain about the loss and the feeling of that space filled by joy and happiness that things are as they should be.

Dorothy’s mother and sister eventually learned of her death. I always knew and felt so strongly that someday, even though my former partner and I were no longer together, that I would, in some way shoulder the responsibility of informing them of  the details of their family member’s demise.  The situation did unfold that way as my ex-partner never told them. When Betty reached me and I had given some of the details of Dorothy’s life those last few years, I inquired about that damn letter, which, they never received. Dorothy’s sister Betty and I have, through this odd process, become a unique pair of friends. Good friends in fact. We’ve never met in person (at least not yet anyway) and most of our communication is through email. Betty and I have a connection though. I have made a personal commitment to myself that this summer, I am going to make a trip to the small Texas town Betty and her family lives in, and have an opportunity to meet them all. In a strange way, they already feel like family to me. I almost found myself writing to Betty the other day, “We’ve got to stick together Betty, we’re all we’ve got you know…”  I know Dorothy is smiling as she’s standing next to her Robert, as she watches the friendship form between us.

To Dorothy, I send wishes of eternal peace, love and happiness, and all the “Robert time” possible.  Before you know it Mom, someday you’re going to realize I’m there with you too, and then you better get out a good set of Dominoes, OK?  Love you so much, Mom.

Your son,

Mark.

 

You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

Embracing the New ~ Imbolc

 

“An old error is always more popular than a new truth.” — German Proverb

The Wiccan celebration and ritual for Imbolc is fast approaching February 2nd. Imbolc brings the end of winter and of course a time of great change toward spring. Spring, even here in the desert southwest means new, rebirth, regeneration. I find that I often feel uncomfortable with the new because it causes me to reach out and expand my vision.  This may be painful and I don’t like the pain that comes with change.

My life at times is cozy and gives me a curious kind of comfort and reassurance.  When lonely or anxious or hopeless, I have at times turned toward unhealthy behaviors.  I am used to it and don’t need to do much to keep on going in the same old way.

Suddenly, I have seen the error of my ways.  Discovery, disgrace, legal issues, isolation, despair, the loss of a partner, the contempt of friends – all possible consequences of that cozy, complacent turn to my old behavior.  Yes, I may have awakened one day to find that my old behavior ruined my life!  This awareness has caused me to begin reaching out for the hard process of change.

Making difficult change is painful, but that pain is preferable to the agony caused by the inevitable outcome of unhealthy behaviors.


I am a Unitarian Universalist

 

Spirit of Life

“Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”

Singing the Living Tradition Hymn #123

 

I consider myself to be a part of one of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations here in Phoenix, Arizona and plan to become more involved on a regular basis after I get settled in Tucson, Arizona when I move there this March. When I make mention to people inquiring what “church” I attend, and tell them I am a UU, the response is most often, “Oh yeah, sure; I’ve been to a Unity church before.”  Unity and Unitarian Universalism are not the same at all.

I was raised as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and in 1979 when I came out to family, friends and my church community, it was made very clear that I was no longer welcome “In God’s house” by my minister.  Thus began a spiritual drought for me which lasted until 1984.  That is, until one of my employees and I became close; close enough to discuss religious affiliations and beliefs.  Upon sharing my experience with the Lutheran church, she said to me, “You need to check out one of the Unitarian Universalist churches.”  I did attend a UU congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  I was impressed by the sermon challenging the reality of the resurrection.  I have felt truly “at home” in any Unitarian Universalist Association congregation I have attended in the country.

The Unitarian Universalist Association


For many, it is helpful to understand that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a religious organization that combines two traditions: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961.

The UUA roots in North America go back to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that made a covenant to help one another in times of need. In Europe, the UU heritage reaches back to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to give a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Use of “Universe” is seen as a non-judgmental, inclusive term; respecting the choice everyone makes as to his/her higher power.

UU Principles

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in UU congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within UU congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to face powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires one’s ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Welcoming Congregation

As a gay man, one of the most important components of the UU congregation for me is the “Welcoming Congregation” program.  In 1987 the UUA established the Common Vision Planning Committee. This committee found many negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, which resulted in the exclusion of bisexual, gay, and lesbian people from their churches.  As a result, the Welcoming Congregation program was created to educate its members. Each congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to people and congregations.

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a completely volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. It consists of a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops is to cut prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles include: How Homophobia Hurts Heterosexuals; Connections to Other Forms of Oppression; Gender Socialization and Homophobia; and Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Many congregations offer the workshop series several consecutive times as an adult religious education curriculum open to all members and friends. In some congregations the workshop series (and later the entire program) is sponsored by a Welcoming Congregation Task Force/Committee created for just this purpose, while other congregations sponsor the workshop series through their Interweave chapters.

What it means to be a Welcoming Congregation

Congregations who publicly and successfully welcome bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people have the following qualities:

Includes and address the needs of b/g/l/t persons at every level of congregational life—in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage—welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.

Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.

Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.

Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in UU by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.

Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.

Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons and for celebrations of…family definitions.

Celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affections without regard to sexual orientation.

Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.

Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.

Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.

Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.

Speaks out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.

Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Confronting prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows the exploration of their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity.

The Flaming Chalice


A flame within a chalice (a wide-lipped stemmed cup), like that which you can see at the top of this blog, is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.  At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of the denomination. It unites its members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of their work.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II.   To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.  Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image. To many, the cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more.

The flaming chalice image has changed many times over the past 65 years.  There is no single interpretation of today’s flaming chalice symbol.  Modern chalice designs often join two overlapping circles which, for many people, represent our Unitarian and Universalist heritages.  Other images include added elements, some of which are merely decorative and others which are very meaningful.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the chalice in UU congregations please visit http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/2442.shtml

Spiritual Life

I began this blog with my favorite UU hymn, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  It is UU Doxology, or perhaps the UU “Amazing Grace.” Many congregations sing it every Sunday, or at least enough to know the words by heart. Sermons have been devoted to this one song.

In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central to our faith—compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

 

Interpreting the Runes ~ Berkana ~ Beorch ~ Birch Tree

“The Birch, though fruitless sends out countless shoots; leafy branches, high-crowned, reach to the sky.” — Old English Rune Poem

This rune is a fertility symbol, drawn to resemble a woman’s breasts.  In ancient Viking times, the birch was regarded as the tree of fertility and the act of being lightly whipped with birch twigs was supposed to promulgate vigor and vitality!  The people of Scandinavia still hold this belief; after a sauna people are encouraged to roll around in the snow and then made to endure a lashing with a bundle of birch twigs. The Phallic maypole that was traditionally danced around, heralding in Spring and new life, was usually made from birch. The appearance of Berkana in a reading clearly points toward inception; whether of a child, a project or perhaps a new idea.

Berkana is rather auspicious. Yet  because it represents the mother, and by implication the child, there is an element of “nourishment” associated with it.  Even if the rune is essentially beneficial the new project will need the same kind of feeding or succour as an infant would. Success will not come on its own without some nurturing; effort and attention will be required.  This may explain the duality associated with the birch tree, the “fruitless tree,” implying that all is not as it seems and that success will be achieved only through authentic and genuine application.

Berkana Reversed

Reversed, Berkana becomes a symbol of sterility, implying difficulties and miscommunication, especially on the domestic front. Perhaps a desired pregnancy will prove impossible, or a current pregnancy be terminated. Alternatively, Berkana can point to worries over children, especially in terms of health. The surrounding runes always point to a clearer picture. A reversed Berkana is not particularly malign of itself and requires more ruthless runes to imply any real trouble, while helpful runes definitely reduce the situation.

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An Ox Trying to Foresee a Favorable Time in the Year of the Rabbit

Chinese Astrology

The Ox

The only time I’ve ever paid attention to whether I was born under Chinese Astrology’s Year of the Rat, Year of the Pig, or the Monkey has been while waiting recently for my dinner in a local Chinese restaurant, reading the animal’s names and corresponding New Year dates only to find myself ruminating why my dinner wasn’t served in twenty minutes!

I’m learning only the beginnings of this complex astrology, and so far know that:

There are 12 animal representations, associated with a branch (of which there apparently is no English translation). Each animal and its associated branch are aligned with a New Year date.  As I scan my place mat for my birth year of 1961, I discover I was born in the year of the Ox!  Further reading tells me that we are in the “Year of the Rabbit” until February 3, 2011 after which time it will be the year of the Dragon.

Lately, with my fascination for the Zodiac and my own daily horoscope, I thought I might try expanding beyond and see what my outlook may be like for 2011 according to the Chinese Astrology.

Ox Overview

The Year of the Metal Rabbit should bring progress and expansion. The Metal element exerts a beneficial influence on Water, which is this sign’s element. Last year certainly was a bumpy ride. There may still be a few obstacles in 2011, but there’ll be ten favorable months to look forward to, and only two not-so-favorable months. Being the typical Ox, one needs to work on being more flexible and less stubborn. Compromise is the mentor of teaching how to bend with the wind.  A tough and powerful creature, the Ox might butt heads with others if forceful about being right. Borrow some creativity and gentleness from the Rabbit. Raise expectations, and practice diplomacy to get what the Ox wants.

Ox Relationships

While things should stay steady on the home front, there could be a few challenging moments in the land of love. The Rabbit is strong and stubborn like the Ox, so relationships might feel strained. When dealing with other strong personalities it may be wise to show one’s soft and sensitive side to everyone, including loved ones. Harmony and order will be important this year. Work on communication skills and heal any rifts with estranged friends or family.

Ox Health

A typical Ox might be a bit of a foodie. 2011 is a good time to restore balance to your digestive system and make sure you’re eating healthy. If there are any long-standing health issues, it’s time to discuss them from a holistic approach. A sensible diet is one piece of the puzzle, but consideration of the other factors that encourage balance and wellness. Exercise. Relaxation. Meditation. Laughter. Make sure life holds equal parts of each or the Ox could burn out quickly.

Ox Wealth

As the element of our year, Metal also rules several months in 2011, including the Ox. There will be several Triple Metal days — where the element of the year, month, and day all match — which could make for some incredible luck where money is concerned. Jump at the opportunities in favorable months but exercise caution in the unfavorable ones. More than anything, it is one’s Oxen diligence that will reap the most rewards. Avoid any get-rich-quick schemes and instead just let your talents bring in prosperity.

Today’s Discovery

None of what I’ve discovered so far is really difficult to digest. For me personally, things have gotten out of hand lately and I do need to slow down a bit and check-in on those priorities. That stress level that had a hard time waiting for dinner needs things to be simpler; making sure what’s necessary is getting done without overextending one’s self.

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The Priceless Gift of Personal Growth

“We live each day with special gifts that are a part of our very being, and life is a process of discovering and developing these God-given gifts within each one of us.” – Jeanne Dixon

As I continue along my path of personal growth, I discover ways to share myself with other people. I feel the want to act on things I’ve learned and to apply them in my relationships. This way, I can pass on to others the awareness and knowledge I have been given.

This wonderful urge to take action should be followed, not resisted. A spiritual awakening is just that – an awakening of the spirit, which then seeks to be part of all life itself.

When we discover our talents, whatever they are, we will be true to them and look for opportunities to use them. The challenge of doing this lets such qualities as integrity, courage, self-discipline and compassion to rise to the surface, where they become part of our daily practice. The alignment of who we are on the outside with who we are on the inside is a priceless gift that is received as the result of hard work toward personal growth.

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