Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Hairdo That Says It All

Namaste, fellow Soul Pilgrims!

I recently got drastic with my hair.  Very drastic.  In fact, you might say it is dreadful, what I did.  And you'd be right!  After research and soul search, I decided to take the plunge - and transform my head of beautiful, long, curly tresses into dreadlocks.  That's right:  DREADLOCKS. Those funky-looking, messy, snake-like twists of hairy strangeness!

Quick - what comes to your mind?  Besides the obvious, that I must have lost mine.  I mean, when you come across people with dreads, what is your immediate thought about them?   I'll tell you what I have always thought when encountering a dreadhead:  That they march to their own drummer, flout convention, and simply do not care what others think of them.  And let's not forget that other small bit about totally telling Fashion Dictators to get stuffed!  I confess to loving all of those notions, but for me there was more to the story.

If you have followed my posts from Day 1, you are familiar with my spiritual odyssey, having left behind my ultra conservative views and embraced a much larger philosophy.  My views on God have expanded, my fears have largely subsided, and my judgments against my fellow man continue to drop away.  I much prefer this open-minded person; this imperfect person who thrives on questioning and seeking, who refuses to ever again be told WHAT or HOW to think.  This is the state I find myself in now, in my early 40s.  And it was with this in mind that I decided to say "Goodbye!" to my crowning glory - at least in conventional terms.  My hair is still all there, but it looks anything but glorious at this point.

Only a month in, my dreads are still considered babies.  They are wild and unruly and thoroughly disobedient.  I chose to do them myself (with the help of a dear friend & my patient family) and have opted to go natural with them:  No wax or products to help them lock up faster or "look neater."  To me, the journey my dreads go through is symbolic of my own journey through this life.  We all start somewhere, and it takes time to grow and mature!  I would never disrespect those who choose to go to a salon and have their dreads professionally done - that is part of their own journey.  For me, however, part of my own journey is letting go of the frantic need to keep up appearances.  The day I did my dreads was the day I took myself out of the rat race of physical beauty.  It seems crazy to me that in my 40s I am expected to try and look like I did in my 20s, etc.  That whole "cougar thing" just was not working for me.  Happily, it would seem that dreading my hair and having it look totally weird, wild, crazy, funky, and messy DOES work for me!  Whodathunkit? 

Kudos go out here to my delightful and exceedingly patient husband, who has put up with so many changes from me over the last 5 years.  When a friend recently asked how he could stand my new hairdo, he simply smiled, shrugged, and replied: "It's Janice!  A month from now she will be doing something else crazy."   After a mere 17 years of marriage, I think he finally understands me!

So I am ending 2011 on a very happy note.  I am pleased with who I am and who I am becoming.  I am thankful for all of the love in my life.  I am grateful for another year of good health for me and my loved ones!  It pleases me that I am able to be more and more myself, and feel so comfortable doing it. 

"We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity, and its first chapter is New Year's Day." 
~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

May 2012 bring you growth, love, triumph, abundance, and inner peace.  Thank you for sharing my journey.

-Rev. Jan

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stress As Teacher

Namaste, fellow Pilgrims.

I live in the Okanagan Valley, which is a beautiful place to be.  At night when I look around me, I see the lights of  thousands of homes twinkling brightly on the hills which surround me, looking like an ethereal fairieland.  Recently, however, the Universe gave me a great reminder:  Every one of those twinkling lights represents a person or family living with stress.  New baby or aging parent.  New job or laid off.  Newly married or newly separated.  The list of possible stressors is pretty much endless.

Whether a joyfully anticipated change or a sudden and unwanted one, change = stress to human beings.  To be alive means to live with stress, particularly in our modern, fast paced Western world.  I can't be the only one who has thought of running away and joining a convent/monastery - without even being Roman Catholic or Buddhist!  It is simply the price we pay for being alive.

The trick is to change the way we view stress.  To be sure, our immediate reaction is generally anxiety.  But if we can manage to take those deep breaths and count to 10 (meditation works wonders, my friends!), we just may learn something from our stressful situation.  Dr. Dean Ornish put it succinctly when he said:  "pain and suffering [a.k.a. stress] can be a powerful doorway for transforming our lives for the better."  Does that sound counter-intuitive?  It's really not.  Let me give an example from my own life.

Recently I was faced with the realization that someone I have felt close to did not seem to return my affections to the same degree.  This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt sad, foolish, and confused.  You might say I felt stressed! I had anticipated this person being an important part of my life for years to come, and suddenly it no longer seemed like that was the case.  While crying in the bathroom, looking at my tear-stained, mascara-streaked face, the Universe once again gave me a much-needed thump on the head:  If this person did not love me, was I therefore unlovable? 

As I pondered my reflection, I already knew the answer:  What's not to love?  I have not changed simply because another person does not want to be with me any longer.   It is a part of their own journey to determine whom to welcome or dismiss from their life.  If I choose to hold onto my stress and grief over the seeming loss of any relationship, it is to my own detriment.  I gave thanks and dried my eyes, getting on with the rest of my day.

The blessed irony of my own situation is that, within 24 hours of releasing my "need" for this person, they popped back up on the radar, reaffirmed their enjoyment of our relationship, and all was right in the world!  Well, at least where this person is concerned.  The lesson learned, however, remains a significant one for me. 

In general, stressful situations are temporary.  We are not designed to live with chronic, dangerous levels of stress.  It is to come and go, propelling us to grow, let go, learn, and move on.   We all grieve losses and fear change to some degree, but we must not get trapped in that place.  Stress will always be with us, because change is part of life.  The sooner we learn to view it as a doorway to transition, the better it will serve us. 

"Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension."  ~Joshua L. Liebman

I know that there is One Intelligence.  It is perfect, whole, complete, and harmonious. There is One life:  That Life is God, that Life is perfect, that Life is my life, now.  I know that Divine Intelligence now guides and directs my every thought and action.  I know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  I am open to receive loving instruction through my life situations, and to learn from each one.  I now embrace today's lesson:  I receive it, understand it, and apply my new-found knowledge to help me grow in this life, and pass on my knowledge so that others may benefit from it.  For this knowledge, for this understanding, I am grateful. I give thanks that all this is so. And So It Is.

With a thankful heart,
Rev. Jan

Monday, March 7, 2011

Greener Grass, or Just Stronger Fertilizer?

Lately much of my time has been consumed by pondering The Grass.  You know which grass I mean - that which is always greener, just on the other side of the fence.  As the good Dr. Phil has been heard to say, "The grass may be greener on the other side - but you still have to mow it!"

There comes a time in life (okay, it is generally between the ages of 35-45) when human beings experience a wake-up call.  I refuse to call it a "mid-life crisis" because that sounds so negative.  This is usually after several years of marriage, when the children are becoming more independent, and Mom and Dad actually get some breathing space.  There is a certain dissatisfaction that can creep up on us, a gnawing sensation something like:
OMYGOD!  MY LIFE IS HALF OVER AND IT IS NOT WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!!!  The dissatisfaction quickly gives way to panic, and much time is spent mulling over what to do.  Why I am I so unhappy?  Why did I marry this idiot?  Who carved these wrinkles and injected my arse with fat?! etc., etc..  The amount of time one spends trapped in this cycle of unhappiness varies, and also yields differing results according to the user.

Considering most of us marry when we are too young even to know when to come in from the rain, that is often a very handy excuse for the dissatisfaction.  Considering marriage nowadays generally does not seem to have a shelf-life greater than 20 years also gives an excuse: NO ONE could possibly remain married, it is unnatural, etc.  Yet this is a shift which has only come about in the last 35 yrs or so.  Speaking as one who has struggled with the notion of "til death do us part," (or at least considered speeding things along by way of a cast-iron frying pan to the head), I certainly understand the tedium, frustration, and anxiety inspired by marriage!

So what to do when "TGIAG" (The Grass Is Always Greener) syndrome strikes?  Firstly, recognize it as normal!  Dismiss any useless guilt that may crop up over such musings.  In the wise words of the late Albert Einstein, Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  It is your right, even your duty, to question your own life:  how you got to this point, and whether it is in your own best interest to continue in your current direction.  You have infinitely more power than you think you do!  We all possess the power to improve our life; the question is whether or not we possess the courage to do so.  Without meaning to sound trite, it takes courage both to stay the course (when dissatisfied) and it also takes courage to abandon ship!  

My advice to you this day is not to rush into life-changing decisions.  Do your research, whether contemplating a career change or a relationship change.  There is no one more qualified to make your decision than you, as you alone know all of the ins and outs of your own life to this point.  You alone can decide what steps to take to improve your situation.  However, as my infinitely wise and equally annoying husband has been fond of telling me, dissatisfaction tends to follow us.  I believe what he is implying is that satisfaction basically must be manufactured from the inside out, rather than a simple change of circumstance (and when I say "circumstance," I also mean "partner!").  

There you have it - my deep thoughts on a fine March day, when the world is starting to awaken, albeit slowly, from the long grey slumber of winter.  This may be the season that you, too, start to awaken, and question all that you thought you knew!  Take it slowly, my friend.  Read, ponder, ask, and listen.  Be honest with yourself, if nothing else.  

Rev. Jan

My mind is part of the Infinite Mind.  I now receive the collective wisdom of all who have been and ever will be, giving me peace and directing my steps.  The wisdom of the ruling power of the Universe flows through me, and I easily receive proper direction in every area of my life.  I am open to receive all that is best for me, with sincere gratitude.  And so it is!