Saturday, December 11, 2010

There Will Be A Test

Throughout my life, my father would say to me, “Pay attention – there will be a test.” Whether the lesson was how to drive, cook, shoot, change a tire – something I had to learn before I was allowed to drive a car – or the difference between a Philips or standard screwdriver, my father would snag my wandering attention by telling me, “Pay attention, there will be a test.” As someone who took school very seriously (what can I say? I’m a nerd) telling me that there would be a test ensured my complete, albeit anxious, attention.

Around the age of 19 or so, my father and I were in the garage and he was explaining to me how to use something – I honestly can’t remember if it was the air compressor or the welding equipment – and he said, “Pay attention – there will be a test.”

Being a bit of a pain in the butt during my teenage years, I said, “When? When’s the test? You’ve been telling me my whole life that there is going to be a test, but there never is!”

My father looked at me very calmly and said, “Life is the test.”

Then he walked rather smugly into the house.

On September 29, 2010 my father passed from this world into the next. The wonderful members of Soul’s Journey Lightworkers, SIACAP, SIPA, Daughters of the Sacred Torch, and many other loving and kind Reiki practitioners sent Reiki to help with his transition to the next world. My mother, who has worked as a hospice nurse for over 30 years said it was one of the most peaceful passings she had witnessed.

One of the great things about the spiritual community and Reiki community is their willingness to help those in need. The support and love this community has given to me has been immeasurable. I honestly believe that without this support, I would be dwelling on the death of my father instead of celebrating his life.

Going through all of the pictures of my father’s life, I realized how rich his life and ours had been. Trying to list all of the things my father taught me would turn into a book, but I can list some of the experiences I’ve had that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Thanks to my father I’ve water skiied, snow skiied, bungee jumped, seen oceans and mountains, pet sharks, dolphins and many other animals, visited Europe, and much more.

Unlike many of my pagan brethren, I always had a very easy time of being Wiccan with my family, mainly due to my father’s open mind. When I first became Wiccan, he asked a lot of questions and even read several books – I think he was initially worried I’d joined some sort of cult, but he reserved his judgment until he had researched Wicca. After finishing one of the books he remarked on how it was very similar to how he had always believed. My father was very big on understanding what was going on first, then making a judgment call.

Part of why he was so open to my pagan path was his deep love of nature. Every spring, the first sunny and warm day after a rainfall, my family would go morel hunting. My parents would call off work, they would call us in sick for the day, and the whole family would go out into the woods to hunt for morels. It was always a rejuvenating and fun tradition.

Any time there was a turtle in the road, my dad would stop to save it. Something all three of his daughters still do to this day. As a matter of fact, I knew my husband was the man for me when I pulled over to the side of the road to save a turtle and instead of having to explain my actions to him, he just hopped out and escorted the turtle to the other side of a road.

Above all else, my father loved birds, especially birds of prey. He regularly gave donations to Treehouse, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation charity in the River Bend area similar to our local Free Again. One of his favorite birds was the red tailed hawk. We would take various car trips and have contests to see which family member could spot the most hawks.

Lately, the hawks have been saying hello. The number of hawks that have been very conspicuous in my presence has really grown in the weeks since my father died. There was one that

even seemed to be waving at me, but my rational brain would insist that this was just wishful thinking. However, yesterday my younger sister and I were driving when my older sister called. We put her on speakerphone so we could all three talk, and that was when a huge hawk, lit almost golden by the sun, flew by us. In what was mere seconds later, my older sister saw a red tailed hawk fly by as well. This happy coincidence again occurred a few hours later when my older sister called and spoke with us again. My mother and younger sister recently bought a new vehicle and while test driving it together they wondered aloud if my father would like it and a red tailed hawk flew mere feet right over the vehicle, as if in approval. While I already believe quite firmly in the afterlife, the recent behavior of the hawks has really confirmed for me that the spirit does go on and after our loved ones have passed, they do find ways to say hi.

We were all very lucky to have my father in the world. He stopped for people on the side of the road, in winter he would pull cars out of ditches just to be nice, and he saved many, many turtles. He was a force of good in the world that will be sorely missed.

For every house repair, car repair, or other major decision in my life, I would call and talk to my dad. His approval and support, not to mention his vast knowledge, were always a comfort and a help. There have been many times recently where I think I should ask Dad about something, but unfortunately, I can’t. I keep thinking that life without him is really is the biggest test and I am glad that I was paying attention.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Woes of Mercury Retrograde

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seemed to go right? The fax machine didn’t work, your email seems to be sending important messages to your spam filter, traffic seems much worse than it normally does, etc. These type of problems with communication and travel often occur during a Mercury retrograde phase.

When Mercury is in its retrograde phase, it is more difficult to communicate. Sometimes this is an issue of cell phones dropping calls or texts, or other electronic devices going haywire, sometimes it just means people aren’t listening or are misunderstanding what you are saying. You will see people online often behaving in a much more aggressive fashion during a Mercury retrograde period, as well.

As a tarot reader I tend to get more business during a retrograde phase because people often fight with significant others during this time period, have a difficulty with co-workers, or other problems that occur due to the energy of the retrograde. In addition, the retrograde time period is great for self evaluation and for understanding what is working and what isn’t working in your life, which is perfect for tarot readings.

Even with extra work coming in, I have always dreaded the Mercury retrograde period. I don’t like conflict all that much and it seems that Mercury going retrograde often causes all sorts of little squabbles to arise as people misconstrue or misunderstand what another person is saying. Sometimes though, these squabbles are necessary to clear the air. They help us to find solutions to our problems so that we may avoid future conflict.

One of the sites I frequent spoke of Mercury retrograde being a time to reflect, review, re-evaluate, or anything else that starts with an “re”. Time should be spent reviewing, returning to old issues, re-doing things that aren’t quite right, repairing broken items around the house and basically assimilating what we have learned and experienced since the last retrograde period. Mercury retrograde can be a pain in the neck, as so much of what we do every day involves communication or travel, but many times a little bit of forethought and planning can help to avoid most of these problems.

I’ve often heard it said that you should never start something new during a retrograde phase or that you shouldn’t sign contracts during the three week period of the retrograde. Most of these endeavors will fail to get off the ground. However, it seems to me that I always have great ideas for groups or other new projects that I want to try out during a Mercury retrograde. The ideas happen very fast during a retrograde, but the action has to be slower. Having a phenomenal idea during a retrograde period should be followed with re-evaluation of the idea, review of the plan, and generally should stay in the idea or mental stages. After the three weeks of the retrograde, you may then implement the idea without worrying that it was started during a retrograde phase.

The first weekend of May 2009, there were high winds that ripped through the area, killing thousands of trees, doing enormous amounts of property damage, and in one very memorable case, ripping the roof off of an apartment complex. This was also the first day of the Mercury retrograde. The results of the derecho, or “inland hurricane” as most people are calling it, typify the energies of the Mercury retrograde phase as streets were blocked off everywhere due to trees and downed powerlines, power was off to most homes for days to weeks, cell phones didn’t work right for several hours after the storm, and most people canceled their weekend plans to pick up the resultant mess.

However, while the derecho really was harmful to many of us, many of the trees that were downed had rotted out centers. While quite a few healthy trees perished, quite a few unhealthy trees also went down, clearing the way for new growth. Nature often does this type of clearing out – this time the heavy winds removed the very large but sick trees for the healthy ones to get greater access to sunlight and water.

During this storm, the roof blew off of a friend’s apartment building. She ended up having to move, missing a retreat she had helped organize, and missing days of work. It was a huge hassle as she dealt with her insurance (remember – renter’s insurance really can help you out of tough spot!), moved from her apartment and was briefly having to live with friends or family for a while. However, when she moved into her new apartment, she found that she was happier in the new location and the move itself kick started a period of growth for her that she may not have had otherwise. While she was furious and frustrated at the time, she did say months later that the storm ripping off her apartment building’s roof really did help her out in the long run.

While I still dread the retrograde phase of Mercury, I now see that there is a reason these energies swirl around us three times a year. Sometimes old issues must be cleared out so that we can move forward. I also think that a time of reflection and contemplation is a gift in many ways, if you utilize it properly. That said, I am still going to avoid driving anywhere unnecessary for a while.

After thought: Here is the link for one of my favorite sites about Mercury retrograde. It tells which days fall in the shadow period and which days are going to be the most chaotic. It is a really great guide and where I first read that anything that begins with “re” is what is done during a retrograde.

The year changes as the calendar year does – they will have a corresponding link.

Rev. Jennifer "Jay" Bull

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pursuing Happiness

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!! Happy 4th of July!

I had a really great weekend over the 4th of July. It was low-key and pleasant throughout the weekend, and I really had a great time visiting with my family. Fireworks were exciting as some of them seemed intent on setting us on fire, but that was fun too, in an adrenaline sort of way! Then, I took Tuesday off of all of my jobs, and Will and I went to the movies.

I *love* going to the movies. I love the theater, I love the whole experience, and I love previews. Overall, it was a really good day.

While out at my parents house, I went swimming with my sister and then my mom. I realized that I need to be out in the sun more. I think that being out in the sun helped make me happier – I have a vitamin D deficiency and when I was swimming my body was just so pleased with the sunlight. I have decided that every Monday when I visit them I am going to swim for at least an hour, out in the sun. It really does recharge my batteries.

Since I have had clinical depression since high school, I tend toward the negative in things, something I have fought hard against with low to middling results, but I get better at it every year. The past two years have been unusually rough ones, yet out of the rough times comes an even greater need to pursue my happiness. Otherwise, I may get lost in the unhappiness, and that would be bad.

Lately, my batteries have been pretty low and so has my mood. I’ve been working a lot – currently I have 4 jobs I am juggling, not counting HPing DST or any of the blogs I keep up with. I think I spent most of May and June just working and sleeping, and I’ve realized that this is no way to live. My epiphany this weekend was that I need to actively pursue my own happiness and I have to have one day off from everything a week.

With the goal of pursuing my own happiness in mind, I’ve decided that on Tuesdays I am going to unplug my phone, hang out with Will, and go to the movies. The movies are fun for me, and I am always disappointed that I don’t see more movies in the theater. Well, that is easy enough to change by simply going more often. Yesterday we went to see the A-Team, which was cheesy good fun just like the tv series and very enjoyable. As Will said, in the previews they showed them flying a tank and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the movie.

It is easy to dwell on the things that make us unhappy, but I think instead we should dwell on the things that make us happy. Active pursuit of happiness in its myriad forms may not be always be easy, and we all feel guilt for doing things just for ourselves, but I think that if you are not pursuing happiness in your life, what’s the point? So I have decided to do the following:

  • Be out in the sun more – it really does give you a boost even when it is miserably hot outside. 20-40 minutes a day, with swimming on Monday should work well for this purpose. Although, I am going to need some sunblock.
  • Movie Tuesday – Every Tuesday I am going to go to the movies with Will. He loves the movies as much as I do, and if I am going, he wants to go, too. I think that going to the movies regularly is going to help us both and it will be a regular date night for us. I like Will and I like doing things with him, so this will be happy making on multiple levels. Also, Will needs one day off a week, too, and my sincere hope is that this will help him be happy as well.
  • Exercise – I really hate this one as I am naturally lazy, but man, exercise really does give you that emotional boost. That said, I think I will stick with my treadmill until it gets a bit cooler. Fall and Spring are great for bike rides, though, so I think I may spend my 20-40 minutes outdoors on my bicycle during the cooler months.
  • Attitude – We worked with Ra for Litha, and one of the things that we were advised to do was throw our problems into the sun. Release the negative to be burned away and keep the positive. Now, this will be the hardest one to follow, but the most important step. For example, say during the implementation of Tuesday Movie Day we get cut off in traffic or something along those lines, instead of focusing on that negative thing, focus on the positive things in the day. Our thoughts do a great deal to manifest things in our lives, so negativity begets negativity but the reverse is also true. Pessimism may be more accurate, but optimists sure seem like happier people, don’t they?
  • Spirituality – Forgive and move on. There are numerous meditations, rituals, and exercises that can help you release the negativity from hurts of the past. Most of them involve forgiving yourself and others for various hurts in your life. Releasing this stored anger is freeing and it helps promote a healthier and happier you. I’ve found that forgiveness work really does help with a variety of things. I’ve made amends where needed for wrongs I’ve committed and I’ve let go of those wrongs committed against me. It was a lot easier than I expected it to be and so much opened up once I did this. You get see the world in a new way when you aren’t carrying around every single hurt from the past. Learn from the past hurts, but release the anger and resentment attached to these lessons. Purging stored negativity from the past is good for the soul!

I think the hardest thing for me has been deciding to put myself first. However, there is no way I can help others if I am a wreck, so the first step is to take care of me, and then take care of others. Too often we get the order confused and try to take care of others when we aren’t really even taking care of ourselves. To quote Buffy, the first rule of slaying is don’t die – and that is a good metaphor to follow.

I’m sure there are many ways to pursue happiness and each of us have different methods. What do you do to actively pursue your own happiness?