Tag Archives: inspiration

Gifting

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GiftingGifting for me is ideally an organic, spontaneous, spiritual act, initiated as I move through the world and see something that I ~know~ would be cherished by someone I know; I take enormous joy in facilitating that process, in finding the perfect gift for the perfect person, in being a conduit for synchronicity to occur.

I love the gift that comes at the perfect time, the well-placed act of kindness that turns someone’s day around. No special occasion is necessary, except the special inner prompting that identifies a need and see a path to meeting it.  I love responding to a hunch that such a person should have such a thing, and hear the gasp of wonder that comes with a wish made manifest. I love gifting when I give myself over to serving as a conduit for the will of the gods.

I seek those moments; I actively search for opportunities to share the joyous energy that comes to both giver and receiver.  Gifting is an exchange of love, even when the perfect gift is given to a stranger. It is a means of connection, linking hearts in a moment of shared joy.  I have received gifts in my life that I try to pay forward, and I love participating in the energy that is exchanged when we reach out our hands in generous giving.

As a spiritual practice, I cultivate this form of gifting throughout the year, whenever I can. It brings me great joy.  But I find it very hard to engage in this intuitive form of gifting around the holidays. I have to engage with the gifting process on a whole different level that I find quite artificial, forced, and uncomfortable.  There are expectations and obligations to contend with.  There are relationships that vibrate on the tuning fork of holiday gifting. I am forced to change my entire approach to gifting: I have to make lists, figure budgets, and then begin to wrack my right-brain for ideas about what my gift recipients might like. All of it is a strain.

In order to give my intuition room to assist, I sometimes find myself window-shopping for ideas, which means overcoming my overwhelming aversion to crowds. As an introvert, holiday crowds means most shopping centers are gauntlets to run at a high cost in personal energy. I get distraught in large crowds, and retreat from the whole experience. Commercials, normally muted in my household, now get grudging attention as I search for gift inspirations. I wade in the rough surf of commercialism and hope to keep my feet beneath me. But with the sheer volume of gifting that is expected of us at the holidays, I get overwhelmed. I get decision fatigue.  I lose the joy that gifting can bring me.

Each winter, I am given an opportunity to try a different approach, to find joy in holiday gifting.  Yet each season, I feel great relief to put the winter holidays behind me. This year, I am once again earnestly seeking to connect with the joy of gifting in a way that feels more authentic to me.  I will once again seek to balance the conflicts of expectations with the joy of a well-placed gift.  I will resist the urge to avoid the holidays, but to expand my heart large enough to embrace the process,  challenges and all.

Seek joy. Words to live by.

Happy holidays to all, howsoever you celebrate them.

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Blue Moon

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On August 31, 2012, there will be a full moon.  Since it is the second full moon in the calendar month, it is considered a “blue moon”.  Inspired by the occasion, I decided to try and blend an aromatic oil that tapped into the essence of this rare August harvest moon.

With the idea of a blue moon in mind, I started the blend with the beautiful Blue Lotus infusion as the soft floral top note.  I added a wee bit of Clary Sage for the sense of dreamy euphoria it can inspire, then added the herbal notes of Coriander and Palo Santo to remind me of the heady aromas of the herbal harvest.  Finally, I anchored them all with the earthy richness of Vetiver.

It was tricky to find the right balance between these notes.  Clary Sage can be deceptively overpowering in a blend.  It doesn’t strike the nose with force, and yet it can easily take over.  Although the Blue Lotus infusion is the richest Lotus in my collection, I had to tilt the ratio heavily in favor of the Lotus to balance the Clary Sage.

The Coriander and Palo Santo bond in a lovely way.  The coriander is spicy and herbal, which plays well to Palo Santo’s sweeter, more persistent bouquet.  Together, they balance and hold the middle notes of the blend.  I needed a strong base note to anchor the ethereal top notes and the fresh herbal middle notes.  Vetiver pulls them together beautifully, embracing them with its deeply earthy sweetness.

Blue Moon Aromatic
9 Blue Lotus Infusion
1 Clary Sage
2 Palo Santo
1 Coriander
2 Vetiver

Lotus couples a subtle aroma with a powerful emotional and spiritual effect.  It brings serenity and tranquility. Lotus puts the mind in a state of relaxed awareness, as through a veil has been lifted, allowing a deeper understanding, and a brightening of vision.  It helps open the crown and third eye chakras.

Clary Sage enlivens the senses and dispels illusion, restoring clarity.  It’s known for it’s mental-emotional uplift and euphoria.  It helps restore a “felt instinct” for our life’s true purpose.  By restoring lucidity to the instincts, clary sage allows inspiration to flow.

Palo Santo is grounding.  It helps open, align, and connect the chakras.  It is a useful aid to meditation and is used for spiritual cleansing and renewal.

Coriander has a reputation as a euphoric and aphrodisiac.  Combining a warm and woody serenity with peppery stimulation, the oil both calms and uplifts, making it good for worry and anxious overthinking.  It imbues a feeling of security, peace, and earthly permanence.  Yet it couples this with a feeling of spontaneity and passion, and seeks to achieve stability without denying joy.

Vetiver relaxes an overheated, hyperactive mind and nurtures an insecure self-identity. The oil imbues us with the calm, reassuring strength of Mother Earth, and her deep sense of belonging.  Whether mentally exhausted from overwork, or out of touch with our body and its needs, Vetiver sedates and yet restores us – centers and reconnects us – closing the gap between Spirit and matter.

May this full moon offer you a moment of reflection and beauty.  Namaste.

Fire Within

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“Holy Fire” by Alex Grey. This is an excerpt from a larger piece. See the complete work http://alexgrey.com/a-gallery/h-fr.html.

In my ongoing search for enlightenment, I seek balance through aligning  myself to the rhythms of the earth and the natural world around me.  The solstices and equinoxes offer me an excellent opportunity to reflect on the cycles of nature and my place within them.  By tuning into these rhythms of life, I’m more aware of myself as a piece of nature, subject to my own unique cycles and rhythms.  It makes sense to me that my search for harmony and balance must include placing myself in balance with the world around me.

I celebrate the summer solstice for its abundance of sunshine and energy.  Today’s weather certainly cooperated with that ideal.  It was the first real scorcher of summer, and it came right on cue for the summer solstice.  I stood outside in the sunshine this afternoon, eyes closed, palms opened toward the  light.  I bathed in the light, feeling it penetrate my skin, sparkling fragments of light sinking into me and setting each cell of my body alight.  My solar plexus glowed with an inner sun that grew brighter with each breath I took.  I strained every fiber of my being to embrace the light until I glowed.
(Note: I found the accompanying artwork by Alex Grey only after writing this description, but it looks like the artist and I had the same experience.)

I limited this sun bath to about five minutes, for although I’m clearly a sun worshipper, I also have huge respect for how swiftly the sun can harm my fair skin.  This is part of the reason I pay homage to the sun.  We are totally at the mercy of the sun, and utterly dependent upon it as well.  There would be no life as we know it without our sun.  It is of vital importance to our lives.  I try to remember this, but in the day to day bustle of life we sometimes forget fundamental truths, so the summer solstice is the perfect opportunity to remind myself.

As I stood in the sun, I imagined myself on fire.  (It was about 95 F, so the image came to me easily.)  I pictured flames dancing within me.  Everything – heart, lungs, muscles, veins, blood – all on fire.  I was a forest fire, flames consumed all the dead underbrush of my soul, clearing the way for new ways to grow.  I was incandescent.

After my sun meditation was over, I decided to commemorate the solstice by blending a new essential oil perfume for the occasion.  I wanted it to be fiery.  I wanted it to be bright and spicy.  I wanted it to support my confidence as I emerge from a long period of uncertainty.  I pulled out my oil boxes and got busy.

I decided to use seven different essential oils to correspond to the body’s natural energy points known as chakras.  Some oils fit their assigned chakra better than others, energy-wise, but I let the oils choose themselves and just attempted to guide the process.  Here’s how it turned out:

I have over eighty different essential oils to choose from when blending a custom perfume.

Fire Within
1 drop Sage (Crown)
3 drop Hyssop (3rd Eye)
1 drop Holy Basil (throat)
1 drop Clove Bud (Heart)
3 drop Lemon (Solar Plexus)
2 drop Ginger Root (Belly)
2 drop Ylang Ylang (root)
Diluted into 1 oz. fractionated Coconut oil.

Sage  is one of the sacred herbs associated with wisdom and longevity, and warding against evil. It is renowned for its spiritual cleansing and purification properties, dispelling negativity and cleansing the aura.  Its aroma is herbaceous, sharp, and bright.

Hyssop is an invigorating oil, recommended for melancholy and pessimism.  Its strong, pungent aroma opens the chest and helps us to face the world, counteracting the urge to withdraw. It can strengthen one’s sense of personal boundaries, and defends the individual from negative influences. It can sharpen awareness and consolidate the aura. Its aroma is sweet, warm, and bright.

Holy Basil may aid with anxiety, hysteria and nervous depression. It is a stress reducer without being a sedative. Some sources indicate that, like other basils, it enhances clarity of thought and aid memory retention.  It is sweet and spicy in aroma.

Clove Bud: This herb has been used in various ways, including protection and purification. This Sun scent can help create a feeling of safe warmth and thus a sanctuary in which to do inner work. Clove’s Elemental Fire aspect encourages action and achievement. This botanical fragrance is good for building confidence and unlocking the chains of old ways of thinking. The oil of clove smells just like the cooking variety, sharp and spicy.

Lemon has a clearing, refreshing effect and is particularly useful in the aftermath of emotional storms.  It brightens the mood and helps to restore a sense of optimism and good cheer.  It smells sweet, bright, and citrusy tart.

Ginger root oil is warming and invigorating. It activates will-power, stimulates initiative, and restores determination.  In addition, it can help to boost confidence and morale, making it the ideal catalyst of the Will.  Invoking and enhancing the vital fire, ginger can restore the exhilaration of achievement.  Its aroma is spicy, pungent, warm, sweet and woody.

Ylang Ylang has a calming action on the heart.  It harmonizes the mind while calming the nervous system.  The oil relaxes, uplifts, and helps to reunite our emotional and sensual natures.  It soothes and entices, opens and centers us.  It allows us to inwardly unify and so outwardly merge.  I especially chose the heavy sweetness of ylang ylang to balance the spicy heat of the other oils.  The intensely sweet perfume reminds me of tropical flowers that bloom in the heat of midsummer.

This blend could carry one less drop of lemon, but an extra drop slipped into the bottle in spite of my plan. I always allow for serendipity in my blends. After blending this oil, I immediately tried it out, even though it can often take a day or several for the oils to fully integrate in a blend.  The first scents that are revealed in this blend are the sweet lemony top notes.  As it dries down, the spicier notes are revealed. It felt warming and energizing, exactly as I had hoped. It is my intention that this oil blend will help me in situations when I need to feel my connection to the summer sun, shining brightly in my heart.


Note
: My oil descriptions come from the notes I’ve taken as I’ve studied essential oils over the years.  My notes often synthesize the information I got from several sources, and although I tried to make note of where I learned what, my notes are not complete in that regard.  Still, much of the information on how essential oils can be used spiritually come from Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance Through Essential Oils by Gabriel Mojay. http://www.amazon.com/Aromatherapy-Healing-Spirit-Restoring-Emotional/dp/0892818875

Affirmations: Programming Language for the Brain

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I’m old enough that when I think of affirmations, I think of Al Franken’s character of Stuart Smalley in Saturday Night Live, and I laugh. With a big dopey grin, he affirms, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me!”

And yet, I know from personal experience just how powerful and transformative affirmations can be. Our brains are a bit like computers, and our thoughts, shaped by language, does the programming. With a steady application of affirmations, you can reprogram negative thought patterns that are holding you back, and even manifest into your life things that will bring you greater joy. Affirmations are a powerful tool that are often underestimated.

Affirmations can be used in the context of a wide variety of issues. Got love problems? Try affirmations. Battling depression? Try affirmations. Trying to find a job? Try affirmations. Want to lose weight? Be more peaceful? Want to lucid dream? Meet your spirit guides? Be less shy around people? All these kinds of things, and more, are suitable subjects for work through affirmations.

About 20 years ago I was in a professional development workshop through my job, and the workshop presenter offered a method of applying affirmations by using index cards. I used his method daily for about a year, tweaking the instructions until I found a method that really worked for me. That was a year of tremendous growth for me, with deep-seated issues that came unstuck for the first time in my life. I saw first hand the power that affirmations can have, and have been a devoted follower of this method ever since. The affirmation cards were an important tool for helping me reset my thinking into more healthy channels. It’s a great tool for manifestation as well. I have used affirmations ever since. I offer this method below:

The deck of affirmation cards I used are easy and fun to make, and very simple to use. I used a package of regular 3×5 index cards for my deck. (I later used unlined cards and a printer to make them even more colorful, but you can make these by hand as well.) Each card will contain an affirmation of a new reality you want to manifest in your life. Nothing is too big or too small to be worked on through affirmations. Emotions like anxiety, fear, depression, anger, loneliness, etc. are all excellent fodder for this tool. So are more tangible goals like career, family, finances, home, car, etc. And before you pooh-pooh the idea of affirmations like I did, give it a shot for a few weeks. This is a powerful tool that did really deep transformative work on areas that I had been stuck on for years.

So, put one affirmation per card. Use colors and/or images if you like, but the words you choose are important. Each affirmation needs to be phrased in the positive. Our subconscious brains are very literal and latch onto action words, not the smaller parts of speech. For example, if you want to work on anxiety, don’t say “Don’t Panic” because the subconscious will focus on the word “panic” – that’s counter-productive. Instead, use a phrase like “Stay Calm” which gives the subconscious an action that it can work on. Focus on the present tense – the subconscious mind operates in the eternal now; instead of saying “the perfect job for me is coming” (which keeps this perfect job somewhere in the unreachable future) say “I am ready for my perfect job”.   I’ve found that inspirational quotes can also make effective affirmation cards.

Create as many or as few cards as you like. Once you have a “deck” of cards, you can also add more or take away cards that are no longer as relevant. Once you have your deck, simply flip through them and read them once a day. (Or more often if you like, but once daily worked for me.) You can do this at any time, any place. I often flip through my affirmation cards while waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store. That’s it. Just read your affirmations to yourself daily. It usually only takes 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to meditate on them (although focusing on your affirmations in a meditative state is another very powerful technique.) You don’t need to particularly “work on” these things. The daily read-through is the work. The brain is like a computer and will program itself with whatever instructions it receives. Your affirmation cards are the programming instructions. Input daily for best results.

Here’s a partial list of affirmations that I use or have used in the past:

¯ Expect joy
¯ I am guided from within.
¯ My spirit shines brightly
¯ I am open to receive
¯ I have the strength I need.
¯ I radiate peace.
¯ Laugh daily.
¯ Listen within.
¯ With one deep breath – let it go.
¯ Pay attention.
¯ Play with abandon.
¯ Practice wellness.
¯ Seek peace.
¯ I love going to work.
¯ Stay calm.
¯ My heart is filled with love.
¯ There is always a reason. Each result serves me in a useful way.
¯ There is perfect abundance.
¯ Trust the process.
¯ I see the next step.
¯ My memory improves with each passing day.
¯ I am stronger than my temporary cravings.
¯ I can easily resist temptations.
¯ “Expect your every need to be met, Expect the answer to every problem, Expect abundance on every level, Expect to grow spiritually” -Eileen Caddy
¯ I am motivated to accomplish all that I have to do.
¯ At all times, I have unlimited access to my Inner Wisdom.
¯ I look forward to the challenges each day brings
¯ I say YES to opportunities
¯ I deserve to be successful
¯ My joy in life is clearly apparent for all to see
¯ I express myself freely and easily
¯ I am confident of my abilities
¯ I am good at saving money
¯ I love vegetables.*

*My favorite example of an affirmation that worked for me is the one that says “I love vegetables”. This was never true for me. As a kid, I avoided anything that resembled a vegetable with very few exceptions. Lettuce and corn were about it. As an adult, I learned to eat at least a limited few vegetables, but I still didn’t like them. I wanted to love vegetables, but… ick. So I put this issue into an affirmation card and worked on it. Every time this card came up, I chuckled with dubious amusement. After all, affirmations are good for some things, but this? Ha ha. But I kept the card in the deck. Month after month I laughed at my “vegetable affirmation.” It took about a year or so before I noticed that I had gradually begun adding more and more vegetables to my diet in ways that I hadn’t been conscious of. I’d go to a restaurant with a salad bar, and instead of lettuce and a few pieces of shredded carrots, I’d come back with my plate loaded with all sorts of things that just sort of “looked good” to me at the time. I gradually became aware that I was looking forward to such voyages into veggie-land. That was a long time ago, and now I can say without a hint of my former reservations that I really do love vegetables. A lifetime of revulsion was transformed into a much healthier attitude.  Go figure.  My silly “veggie affirmation” worked.

Affirmations can be created around any issue you want transformed. Just read through your cards daily, and, as one of my affirmations reminds me, “trust the process.”

Drum Therapy

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LATE BREAKING NEWS: Drum Circles Cure Common Cold!

These are some of the drums I bring to my monthly drum circle.

But like any miraculous headline, there’s a catch.  In my case, the effect lasted only so long as I was actually drumming.  Once the drum circle ended and I was packing up the drums to go home, all of the symptoms of my heavy head cold returned.  But while we were playing last night, it was a surprising miracle.  It was such a noticeable difference that the other members of the group remarked on the change in me. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised.  Research supports the idea that drumming truly is a healing art.

Mostly I drum for the sheer joy it brings me.  Rhythm touches something deep inside of me, and affects me in ways not usually so dramatically noticeable.  Drumming relieves tension, stress, anxiety, fear, anger – the entire range of emotional states that leaves people tied in knots.  For me, at least, it’s impossible to hold onto these states while drumming.  I may start drumming from that place, but the rhythm lifts me out of that emotional state and transports me to a stronger, calmer, more genuine state of relaxation.  Relaxation doesn’t always mean calm – I’m usually energized by the practice, but it relaxes and unwinds all of the emotions that have me wound up.  And when you clear that away, what is left is a natural feeling of well-being and joy.

Necessary Context: I’m something of a science geek.  I enjoy reading the latest research findings from a diverse range of fields of study.  I like looking for connections between these domains, in search of my own unified theory of the universe. A lofty ambition perhaps, but really, aren’t we all in search of greater understanding and unity of meaning?  So I subscribe to science newsletters, and try to give attention to the front lines of research.  I’m no expert, but I try to stay informed.

Scientists have been studying the healing effects of drumming from a number of different angles.  One of the most interesting to me are the effects that drumming has on the brain.  As you may be aware, the activity of our brains can be measured in brain waves with devices such as an EEG (Electroencephalography).  Electrodes are attached to the scalp which measure the electrical activity of the neurons firing in the brain.

(Aside:  isn’t that COOL?)

Through EEG studies, we learn that there are different brain wave patterns associated with different states of consciousness, both awake and sleeping, and the stages in between.  When we are awake and focusing our attention, our brains produce beta waves.  By immersing ourselves in highly structured rhythmic environments such as drum circles, our brain waves begin to align with the rhythms in a process known as entrainment, which alters brain waves in measurable ways.

(Again, COOL!)

Alpha waves bring us to a state of deep relaxation, where creativity is unleashed.  This state can be achieved in the brains of drummers fairly easily and quickly.  It produces feelings of euphoria and well-being.  As the drumming persists, the brain can shift gears again, and produce theta waves.  Theta waves are associated with a deep meditative trance state where a doorway to the dreaming mind is opened. Insight and inspiration are often found in this state of mind.  Drumming is a key that opens the door to these states of consciousness.

But wait!  There’s more! (I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation marks, but I really find it quite difficult to curb my enthusiasm when it comes to this subject.)

The effects of drumming extend beyond their influence on brain waves.  In addition to producing a measurable relaxation effect, drumming also releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that act as natural opiates which relieve pain and produce natural feelings of euphoria.  Recent promising research also shows that drumming boosts the immune system, helping the body produce more killer cells that work to combat everything from viruses to serious illnesses such as cancer.  Cortisol, the stress hormone suspected as the root cause of many diseases, also decreases measurably while drumming.  Our entire biological response seems to get a tune-up when we immerse ourselves in highly rhythmic environments.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I should feel so fantastic while I was drumming last night.  I went to the drum circle feeling generally miserable, chained to my box of tissues, and desiring little more than to crawl into bed.  But drumming lifted me out of that entirely, creating a state of energy, joy, and euphoria that lasted even after the drumming stopped and my nose resumed it’s dripping.  It’s no wonder why I’m such an enthusiastic ambassador for the drum.  Next time, come join me.

For a well-cited overview of Drum Therapy, see http://healing.about.com/od/drums/a/drumtherapy.htm
Another nice summary can be found at http://www.shamanswell.org/shaman/powerful-healing-benefits-drumming-circle
To find a drum circle near you, visit http://www.drumcircles.net/circlelist.html 

Becoming Buddha

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On the one hand, as a meditation teacher, I have a certain amount of professional interest in staying grounded, focused, and peaceful.  Live your practice, right?  On the other hand, as a human very much involved with living in the world, I often struggle with staying present in the face of challenges.  That’s why we call meditation a “practice”. 

I was extraordinarily fortunate to have been taught meditation techniques as a toddler, so the practice has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I sometimes wonder what I would be like without this experience.  I believe I have a great deal of emotional control, and I credit my meditation practice.  I don’t usually get easily flustered or overwhelmed in crisis situations.  When swept up in an emotional storm, I can find my way to the eye of it fairly quickly and re-establish equilibrium.  I can examine myself and my life situation from a place of compassion.  I forgive easily.  I love widely.

I meditate because I feel better when I do it.  I feel calmer, more grounded, more open to the world and my place in it.  I often get a clearer understanding of my own inner workings, and return from meditation inspired and refreshed.  Seeking that experience had been my only goal for decades, until I learned something that inspired me to greater heights.  As the ultimate meditator, I had always admired and revered Buddha, and so it was a great revelation to learn that Buddha wasn’t his name, but a title.  He wasn’t Mr. Buddha, he was A buddha: THE Buddha.  It was a description, a job title…and that meant I could be a buddha too.  Maybe I don’t need to meditate under a Bodhi Tree for 49 days to achieve this state of enlightenment, but what excited me was the idea that this state of ultimate enlightenment was available to me.  I could be an enlightened buddha.  Me.  Really.  Keep practicing.  So I do.

So I meditate for short-term and long-term results.  In my day-to-day life, it helps to keep the monsters in my closet.  In the long-term, I strive for Samadhi, a state of enlightenment.  I’ve always believed that we were born to this earth to learn and grow.  Meditation allows me to grow toward greater peace and fulfillment.

I keep practicing because I’m not there yet. Life still throws curve balls.  I still get caught up in the barbed nets of fear, anxiety, anger, and frustrations.  But meditation gives me the tools to escape from these nets, however briefly.  Hopefully one day I’ll manage to escape those nets entirely.  That’s the freedom I seek through meditation.

Another new beginning

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Recharging in the spring sunshine

“Wherever you are is the entry point.” -Kabir

This is the entry point where you and I begin.  I have been walking my path for a lifetime, and you have been walking yours.  Here, for a moment in time, our paths converge.

There is no time but the present.  This ever-changing now is all there is.  Thank you for being here with me.

I’ve been a writer since I first learned to clutch a crayon and scrawl my first thoughts upon the page.  I’ve also had an insatiable curiosity about the world, and my place in it.  I’ve always been guided by the core belief that there is some deeper meaning to life that is discoverable to the earnest seeker.  In one form or another, my life has been spent in search of this meaning.

I’ve learned a lot along the way, and a lot of what I’ve learned I’ve been forced to reckon with and discard.  If I’ve learned anything, it’s this:  Don’t believe everything you think.  Dogma closes us off from new ways of viewing the world.  I offer my observations from my perspective – engage with them or dismiss them as you see fit.

I consider myself to be a very practical-minded person, and yet I’ve been known to believe some pretty outlandish things.  That’s because my search along the road less-traveled has led me to conclude that the world is inherently more mysterious than we can ever fully grasp.  I think science is still hard at work explaining the currently unfathomable, and I follow their findings with as much avid respect as I do the teachings of other respected researchers like Buddha and Gandhi.  There are many ways to explain the world, and I’d like to explore them all.

Welcome to my journey.