Archive for the ‘Tales for the Journey’ Category

Your Still Small Voice Within

FocusThat still small voice, the spirits, inner vision, gut feeling, sixth sense, or a hunch in my gut told me to do it.  Regardless of how we refer to this phenomena, it can aid our lives in so many ways.  Nurturing this gift can be very beneficial.

Over the years, I’ve learned that sometimes these feelings or voices can take on different meanings.  Allow me to explain.  Sometimes directions can be quite clear to do this or that and circumstances, people, or nature may confirm the feelings within to be true.  These directions may affirm that we did the right thing.  Often, that feeling, usually emanating from our solar plexus, simply confirms what we did was “right”.  Then there are instances when these feelings may be just tests to see if we are listening to the inner guidance as we should.  At times, we may not even know if we averted a negative experience or mortal danger, to which I would say, does it really matter?      

A July 2014 article in the Stanford Report referenced research conducted by a Stanford anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann, citing some interesting results of a study.  This report explained that “voice-hearing experiences of people with serious psychotic disorders are shaped by local culture – in the United States, the voices are harsh and threatening; in Africa and India, they are more benign and playful.”  The study addressed people who suffer from schizophrenia in the United States, India, and Africa.  The article elaborates that most Americans associate hearing voices as a negative experience or even considered as a symptom of some form of psychosis. Conversely, those from Africa and India experience hearing the voices of their relatives or others actually stimulate positive compassionate enlightenment.

I have experienced similar positive events over the years.  I’ve also noticed when I am most focused on the day to day events, the “voices” are virtually silent.  Monkey MindSome Asian views would suggest that focusing on truly less important day to day events would be listening to the Monkey Mind. When Monkey Mind is silenced, the inner voices, wisdom, even intuition, flow. I would add here that, in my own experience, the voices I hear, never suggest or imply anything that would potentially harm myself or others. I believe the same to be true for others as well.  In fact, they usually encourage, teach, and uplift me. They also keep my inner child in line! 

Speaking of my inner child, I recall an experience that illustrates listening to the still small voice within.  I had simply planned to go see a movie.  No big deal, I don’t go to the theatre as much as I used to, but one had come out that caught my interest.  I was all set to head out when I couldn’t find my keys.  After several minutes of searching, I gave myself a goal. If didn’t find them in a certain amount of time, I would just give up on the plan.  Five minutes before that set time, there they were!  I found them! But then, the gut feeling, the solar plexus squeeze came into play indicating I shouldn’t go.  That’s when the internal dialogue commenced, “Well, I don’t need to go.” Almost immediately came the childlike side’s reply, “But you found them with five minutes left to spare!”  I thought for a second.  “Well, that is true.  I did find them within the prescribed time frame.”  So, off I went to the movies!  “Yay!”  Then the opposing voiced its opposition, a voice I established a relationship with years ago, very specifically stated, “You don’t need to and should not go.”  “Oh boy, I haven’t heard that voice with the associated sense of guidance in a while.”  The dialogue continued for the next several minutes as I continued on toward the theatre.  The uneasy turmoil also continued to roll in my solar plexus during the debate.

Finally, the guiding voice won.  My solar plexus relaxed immediately.  I ran an errand instead while I was out.  On the way back, curiosity kicked in and I wondered if I had done the right thing. 

Red Tailed Hawk in flightA red-tailed hawk flew in front of my car which, for me, was a clear indicator that I had made the right choice.  What’s a red-tailed hawk got to do with this story you ask?  I developed a close spiritual relationship with red-tailed hawks many years before.  I learned through this relationship when circumstances demanded my attention, hawks would come across my path.  When they did, their presence either indicated I needed to pay attention or I had made a proper choice in a given set of choices.  How would I know?  Timing was the indicator for me.  When I made the proper decision, they would present themselves within moments of my query, such was the case this day.  Was a personal disaster avoided?  Did I avoid an accident by listening to the still small voice?  Or, was it just a test of spirit?  For that matter, does it really matter?  No, if I need to know, I’ll find out and that’s okay.

It’s important to listen to the facts, weigh the evidence, and make decisions based sound reasoning and logic. But, sometimes you just need to listen to the voice within.  Go with your “gut” feeling.  The gut decision may or may not involve hearing voices, seeing hawks fly in front of your car, or having someone say just the right thing at just the right time.  Being mindful, is just that, to be filled with awareness, not allowing everyday physical events (The monkey mind) to overshadow the unseen or “unheard” voices of the soul that can prompt and guide our spirits on toward a life in balance.  

Silent Walking



It all comes down to this, walk aware.  Walk in such a way that you are aware of not only the elements present in your physical surroundings, but also the non-physical world around you.  So, walk aware, feel your gut, reconnect with your inner self, and listen, listen to your still small voice within.


Tales for the Journey – The Calling Crows


Photo 1 By Roger Bunting

The American Crow may be found throughout North America.  They can be found cawing their hearts out from California to the Carolinas and Maine to Florida year round while it’s not unusual to find them in most of Canada during the summer.  These very intelligent birds are common sights perched in both bare and foliage filled treetops, gathered in fields, and wandering roadsides.  They can outwit most birds, animals, and even many of us humans.  It adapts to its environment.  They aren’t particular at all about their habitats ranging from empty beach-sides and open woods to the center of towns and local neighborhoods.  They’ll consume most anything as ground feeders especially earthworms, small animals, insects, seeds, fruit, plus garbage, carrion, and even some chicks they rob from other nesting birds.


Photo 2 By Hornet Photography

In the winter months of Maine, there aren’t many species of birds that tough out the winters.  Crows, among a few others, do.  As I walk a nearby nature trail, I see and hear them as they make their daily rounds wether perched, wandering, or on the wing in their methodical flapping with very little gliding.  They always seem to be up to something.  Their activities don’t appear haphazard, but rather calculated or coordinated  with a planned creative purpose.

Though the typical “caw” identifies that bird as a crow, I’ve noticed slight differences between the cawing voices of northern versus southern crows.  One seems quite magical while the other seems static.  One is multidimensional… the other myopic, but it’s still a familiar “caw” that catches your ear.  They actually do have a language that sounds… magical.

It’s a privilege to hear all our winged friends talking to each other as the day begins.  The deep blackness of the crow ushers in the brightness of the new day almost like its caws give birth to the new day.  Native American elders have shared that the conversations of birds are very complex.  Crows (along with many other birds) greet the new day and tell the other “winged ones” and forest inhabitants the news throughout the day.  To the animal kingdom, they’re the original morning news team without the necessity of television, radio, or print.  Their watchfulness tells every creature about their discoveries, current events, where some of the other inhabitants, including predators, may be, locations for the best food for the day, or simply telling everyone, “Wake up. Wake up it’s time to greet the beauty of the new day”.

Watching crows will show them as very organized.  They post sentinels to keep a watchful eye over the area.  Nesting high in the treetops is common for a good view over where they feed and live.  They communicate with each other to work together.  Like many animals, crows have been known to predict tornadoes, rain, and other weather patterns by the way they fly.  They help all those around them in addition to those closest to them.  They really are quite magical in deed.

Cultures throughout the world teach that people should look at the natural life around them because it will help teach life lessons in order to live better lives.  The longer we listen and the more time we devote to listen and observe, the more often truths are recognized and their language can be understood by us, who are also part of that same creation.


Photo 3 By Donald Portlandia

What can be learned from crow?  Though a great deal may be learned from the stories and legends of crow’s wonder, uniqueness, and even magic from Greek and Roman mythology to the ancestral words of the Native Americans, there are few basic truths that may help us in our daily lives for today.  Crows have been associated with creation and solitude in various cultures of the world.  Typically they not only symbolize creation, but spiritual strength as well.  Illustrating these various qualities they encourage us, “caw” to us, to maintain that same creative awareness and spirit that embraces our being, never losing sight of the magic that surrounds our life while maintaining our spiritual strength gained through our solitude.  Think on these qualities the next time you see or hear a crow “caw”.

Tales for the Journey – Live Your Dream

Girl DreamingThe French romantic, poet, novelist, and dramatist, Victor Hugo said, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future”. Humphrey Bogart, as Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon, made the statement, “the stuff that dreams are made of” referring to the Maltese Falcon like a tangible “dream”.  Finally, to round out purely arbitrary sources of references to dreams, Carly Simon wrote a song “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of”.  The focus of this dream reference points to maintaining a relationship.  The refrain reads,


“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s the slow and steady fire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of
It’s your heart and soul’s desire
It’s the stuff that dreams are made of”

Dreams may create the future.  They sometimes unveil one’s hopes and desires.  Dreams may also be the fuel to keep one in pursuit of a task after others have quit.  The most important question: “What is your dream?”

There are several definitions of the dream.  One describes the dream as a series images, sensations, and thoughts that usually take place during sleep.  Another speaks of a dream as a cherished ambition, ideal, or aspiration.  Then there’s the one shadowed in disbelief as a self-deceiving and unrealistic fantasy which, given the proper circumstances, quenches the fire of nearly any dream.  How strong is your dream?  Is it strong enough to stand against its arch enemies, fear, ridicule, and doubt?

List upon list can be produced identifying those who never gave up on their dream, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Mary Anderson are some.  Who’s Mary Anderson you say?  She may be little known, you can thank her for your windshield wipers the next time it rains… or snows, when you’re in your car.  That’s right while some were leery of her bogus idea of the windshield wiper in 1903, she followed her dream and saw it through to a reality.

Our dreams, while we sleep, can often open doorways to a new future, a better life, a key to overcoming an addiction, a new concept for a book or song, or even an invention.  Some dreams remind us of events from our past that need to be addressed, so we can move forward with our life.  Some also sense or see something or an event yet to take place.  Then the daydreams we muse over like that new career, the new home, our soul mate, or furthering our education.  How do these come into reality?  This subject has also been addressed from authors, to psychologists, teachers, and seers.  The consensus among many of these would say that we create our reality (our dreams) through manifestation and putting the laws of attraction into practice, which is entirely another subject.

The focus of this writing is to instill within the desire to follow your dreams.  Don’t lose sight of them for a moment.  Pursue them until you see the dream become the future you seek or until they lead you to the real dream that will change your life.  Dreams are not objects to pursue until the journey becomes to difficult to follow, and then we give up.  Dreams give us purpose.  Dreams create destinies.  Dreams offer us a zeal and zest for life’s pursuits.dreaming

So, what is your dream?  How strong is your dream?  Will your dream continue despite opposition and doubt?  Our dreams should be sown with high ideals, watered with ambition, and fertilized with aspiration until we harvest the fruit of our labors… when our dream comes true.  That’s the mark of a true human being, one who believes enough in themselves and their dreams, so much so, that nothing and no one can stand in the way of their future, their life, and the desire to help one another.

Live your dream!  

Be A Tree

DSCN0310Joyce Kilmer penned the inspirational words, “I think I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” Trees have captivated me as long as I remember.

As a boy of five or six, I remember climbing a tree at my auntʼs and uncleʼs home in southwest Michigan. I loved the smell. Too young to know tree families like conifers or deciduous at the time, I only knew the aroma was intoxicating as it is to this day. I suspect now it was a spruce of some sort. The moment I reached the peak, I was on top of the world! I was taller than anyone or nearly anything within sight, except the house.  I made myself comfortable standing on its limbs.  The tree and I were one!  I was the tree, as I felt myself move in unison swaying on top of the world with the breeze. I also recall my mother’s displeasure with the sap on me and my clothes when I came back down to join others on the ground.

To this day, though in my 60’s, I still love climbing trees; not so much for the sense of being on top of the world, but rather feeling closer to the tree that I choose to scale.  The understanding of being conjoined with a tree embraces my being whether I climb or merely embrace a tree as it calls to my soul. 

Trees captivate and renew my soul, no matter how weary it may be from the inundation of the world around me.  It’s not just the striking beauty of fall colors, spring budding, or full flourishing greens of summer that claim my being.  It’s more the ethereal quality of a tree’s spirit emerging from its very essence that transforms the fatigued soul to a state of utter bliss.

Physicists explain that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed in state. That being said, my spirit, at death, will fly free. But my ashes, molecules, my soul, in the end, will recombine with the earth to nourish a tree. At least I hope so.

Native Americans say the turkey epitomizes the truth of giving proclaiming the spirit of the “give-away.” That may be so, but trees personify a giving spirit too; giving its leaves to nourish and rebuild the earth, holding precious water so it may be sipped as nectar by nearby plants, offering fruit to sustain the squirrels, sequesters carbon dioxide to detoxify the atmosphere, and emits oxygen so humans may breathe. And, what does the tree ask in return? The solitary ancient one never asks for anything in return.

DSCN0068.jpegI wish to embrace the soul of the tree. May I energetically nourish the earth as I walk upon her and may the cells and molecules of my body do the same when this body is finished. May I support those around me as I can. May I do my part to help sustain the life around me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Trees are the magnets of the natural world that draw me in. The smell of pine, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet in the fall, the squeak of snow in the forests of winter, the smell of earth and new tree buds in the spring, and the burst of leaves in the summer, all declare their abundant joy and thankfulness for life itself. Trees embrace my very essence of being.

With a tribute to Joyce Kilmer, “Prose is written by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

Seeing With Our Heart

There was once a young man who lived his life simply without following the crowd by keeping up with the latest clothing styles, electronic gadgetry, and other external expressions until one day when things began to change.  It was a beautiful spring day.  The young man was struck by the beauty of the young woman in class.  There was just something about her.  She wasn’t flashy nor was she plain.  He couldn’t figure out what made her so beautiful.

She sat near him in three of his classes in school.  Now and then he sensed someone was watching him, so he would look up or around just in time to notice her turning her head as if she had just been looking in her direction.  Convinced that she was, he decided to change his outward appearance, so he could approach her without looking so plain and dull.

He bought clothes that were in style, got himself a cell phone with all the apps and accessories, and even changed his hair style.  He then began looking at her.  Each time he looked, she would look away.  Occasionally, he would look up and around like before only to find her studying, or talking with someone else.  Soon, he got tired of the awesome clothes and stopped using his cell phone anymore and returned to his old ways, his old boring, dull, unappealing ways.  She still looked beautiful though.

Class was ending one day.  As he looked up and around he saw her, looking right at him, and smiling.  She was actually smiling at him.  He couldn’t stand it, “What’s up?  What’s so funny?  What are you looking at?”  He said in a gruff and rude sort of way.  She kept smiling and said, “I’m glad you changed.”  “Changed?  I just went back to being the old me.  You didn’t notice me when I looked cool before.  So, what’s up now?”  “I like the way you are, not the way you aren’t.  I can see the you inside because I see with my heart not just my eyes.  I like the you within.”  The young man suddenly “saw” with his own heart and understood what made her so beautiful… It was her heart.

Society often focuses on the external.  Society teaches the listener and viewer how important it is wear the right clothes, to get rid of gray hair by dying it, and change the way you look.  Take on the appearance of someone we are not by covering and camouflaging the real person within.  Then, society teaches to buy beyond our needs so we can look and act successfully.  Avoid what’s inside.  People don’t look at what’s inside because only what you see matters.  Many choose to change the outside, while avoiding what is within believing it unnecessary.  It’s unseen, unfamiliar, unattractive, unnoticed, therefore, unnecessary

Maybe we could learn something from the young woman.  “I like the way you are, not the way you aren’t.  I can see the you inside because I see with my heart not just my eyes.  I like the you within”

The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  Maybe we should try looking with our heart instead of just our eyes.  We can see true beauty, true wisdom, those things that are right and just, life focused on truth instead of just appearance by seeing with our heart.

Tales for the Journey – The Lazy Smile



     Smiles have enjoyed notoriety through many venues over the years.  A familiar statistic says that it takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 muscles to smile, so we should just smile more.  It takes a lot less effort.  A man pointed out to me years ago that a spiritual person doesn’t smile.  I don’t agree with that concept of spirituality.  There are the smiles that simply paint a picture of false contentment or joy.  You know the ones.  “I’m going to smile if it kills, because that’s what I’m supposed to do now.” 


     Technically a smile is a facial expression that takes place when muscles are flexed usually near the corners of the mouth.  The eyes can smile for that matter right around the edges.  Among us humans, the smile expresses pleasure, joy, happiness, amusement, but it can also be an involuntary expression of anxiety, often referenced as a grimace.  Studies of cultures around the world show smiling as a means of communicating emotions.  The most common cause for the smile is happiness.  Animals share a resemblance to smiling by exposing their teeth when the teeth aren’t a threatening warning snarl or a sign of submission.  Our dog “Khyi” often “smiles” particularly from a gentle tummy scratch.


     What about the practical side for our journey through life?  When a smile indicates happiness some studies show a decrease in heart rate along with an overall sense of relaxation whereas fear and frustration increase the heart rate, raise skin temperature, and cause clenched teeth.


      Given that a true smile, not a smile from anxiety, is usually a sing of happiness and contentment in life, ask yourself these questions, “What makes me smile?”  “What makes me happy?”  Then, the next time we face situations that cause an increased heart rate, clenched teeth, and sadness, revert to a thought of what brings happiness into your life.  Pause a moment and think on those things, activities, other living creatures, or people that bring contentment into your life and Gently SMILE.  


      In a book titled “The Art of Happiness”, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, a Nobel Prize winner, thoughtful speaker, and statesman once said of happiness, “If you desire happiness, you should seek the causes that give rise to it, and if you don’t desire suffering, then what you should do is to ensure that the causes and conditions that would give rise to it no longer arise.  An appreciation of this principle is very important.”  He also stated, “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”   


     So, as adversity, stress, strain, and tension creep into our life pause a moment, think on the people, places, and things that bring us happiness, then put on a simple smile, and find your inner space of harmony and contentment.  Have you smiled today?Well smile… it takes less effort than a frown.