Monday, January 27, 2014

Circles for Self Awareness Advancement

Bee Happy from the Inside Out

The bees were out the other day. The weather was warm enough.
Today's a little too cold out there for bees to be out and about.

I wonder what that's like for them. To be frolicking in flight sipping the sweets of nature one day, and the next being held captive inside from an inhospitable environment.

How do we experience the same? Do we feel on top of the world when things go well in our life, and then turn inwards, feel insecure and out of sync when things do not? Is our way of bee-ing affected so much by the environment around us?  Possible. Maybe a little for some, and too much for others. Sometimes I too can forget my umbrella of self-awareness that shields out the rain.

If the environment (what happens on the outside of who we are), changes so much around us, why make 'happiness' reliant on it?  Is it not better to pivot around one's center of self-awareness, that sense of self that is connected to the source?

I don't believe the weather puts a halt on the work that bees need to get done for colony sustainability and well-being. There's cells to clean, honey to cap, brood to nurse and other to keep busy at on an 'indoor day'.

So here is what I propose: On the days where the world around us seems to be caught in a storm - look at them as "indoor play dates". Kinda like indoor recesses and lunches play time - once upon an elementary school time.... We can look at those inhospitable days as a 'play date with self', that is, a time of self-reflection, creativity, and self-awareness advancement - so that we can maintain that high frequency humming buzz within always enjoying the 'nectar' and sweetness of life.

Here's one way to practice an 'indoor me day':


And here's one way how-to:

1.  Create a ‘contained space’ in which you will communicate from the heart through creative artwork.  Find a piece of paper or another kind of blank canvass on which you will draw, trace or cut out a Circle - in which you will create your Mandala masterpiece.
2.  Choose your medium of choice. It doesn’t matter what you use to draw/paint with – go with whatever you feel like – this may change from creation to creation. Mix it up. Be color coordinated or chaotic – use one or a variety of mediums - it doesn’t matter.
3.  Let whatever surfaces manifest in art form. When you speak from the heart you are not thinking from the head – nor should you critic or judge what you are creating – it is what it is. Go with the flow, trust in what surfaces, allow it to manifest in creative form, don’t judge the finished product.
4.  Learn from the process. Learning is not so much from creating a finished product, rather it is in the process of creating itself, the thoughts and feelings that move through you as you create. Also, you may have no idea what it is your heart is saying until you reflect more deeply on the process, and on what you created.
5.  Believe that Mandalas are all about heart.  Some people think that Mandalas should be symmetrical in design, with repeated shapes & colors throughout the circumference of the art form to be considered a Mandala. This is not true, although there are many beautiful Mandalas that are like this. Open up to what your heart is saying and allow whatever shape, design, color that manifest within the circle canvass space. Creating Mandalas are about moving out of the head and into 'heart' space - a meaningful meditative creative expression of sorts.
6.  Enjoy the creative process. It is far easier to get the creative juices flowing, to undertake a creative task, etc. when one is "in joy" ("enjoy"), that is, when you engage in what it is you do from a place of joy and gratitude. Creativity and joy flow from the same place - the heart.
7. Reflect on the process. Opportunity to gain more insight and learning can be found when you take time to reflect more deeply on your work through creative writing (journal, freestyle, poems, etc.). Start with giving your Mandala a "title" and go from there.

Mandala Instructions from 2011 POST:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Who knew Bee Poop could be BEE-autiful ?!

As the harshness of winter comes to an end, one of the first things we can witness with honeybees is their emergence from their winter huddle on their first 'cleansing flight'.  (Picture above: a honeybee sunbathing after its first cleansing flight).

Bees when healthy will not poop inside their hive, so over winter they hold in their excretory waste until the weather warms enough to safely exit the hive to relieve themselves. When that first warm day comes after the winter cold, we can see dopey little bees hovering around, sunbathing, and 'pooping' here there and everywhere. It can be a glorious thing to see. Just imagine poop a glorious thing!?  Bee poop is also an indicator of a colony's healthy & well-being. (Picture below: Healthy bee poop.)

If we are lucky, we get to witness the bee's first cleansing flight.  If we miss it, we can still examine the poop patterns left behind to asses bee health. The color and patterns will point to signs of disease like nosema or dysentery, or health. For example, we will notice brown water splashes, small round drop shapes, or worse, drops that run down outside the hive; where as, healthy poop is firm in shape, like firm strips or squiggly lines, or firm round spots.

Poop & bee health is really quite simple to grasp if you think about it. How healthy is a bee colony before it bunkers down into its winter huddle? If bee bodies are holding on to impurities within for some time it makes sense then that those impurities will 'run them down'. Alike bees, we humans share this experience when we hold on to negativity & impurities, and let them stew within over time - this can not only manifest in mental or emotional ill-being, but can take the physical form of disease, or physical disability. (Picture below: More healthy bee poop!)

As the new year dawns, I am thinking about my bees and wondering when they will take their first 'cleansing flight'. Last year it happened on January 19th, which I had the honor of witnessing and snapped a couple photos as you can see posted here.  I am also thinking about my own personal detoxification as the new year dawns - which brings me to today's challenge: 
Take some time to answer the questions highlighted in blue. Make a list and an action plan that will help you return to or reach optimal health. And if you feel yourself already standing there, take time to acknowledge this in gratitude and to celebrate "you"!

"What things might I be holding on to within (and perhaps have been over time for whatever reason) that I need to 'cleanse' (relieve my self from), before & as I fly out to greet the sweetness of the Work in 2014? What is my level of well-being as I enter into the new year? Am I roaring and ready to go - or do I require a little nurturing and down time?

Ideally I want to see my bees pooping glorious firm shapes here there and everywhere - but if this is not the case, I will do what needs to be done to help them return back to optimal health (a.k.a treatment).  And if we find ourselves lacking as well, may we have the courage to do what is necessary to 'fly to great heights' and bee the change we wish to see within.  

And remember Circle can also help us with this - host a Circle to speak & listen from the heart about the question(s) of the day.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Circles for Compassionate Listening

Upon thinking on Crime & Punishment - and Compassion.

There's been a heaviness on my heart these past couple days. The sister (Julie Paskall) of my uncle-in-law was mugged, beaten, and left for dead while waiting to pick up her son from hockey practice in Surrey, B.C. She died on New Year's day. I didn't know her but I am moved all the same because people I know and love, knew and loved her dearly. I am deeply saddened that my family & friends now experience pain & sorrow as the New Year dawns.

I find what evokes a great sadness within me further is the reaction of vengeance & rage by the larger community (locally and across the nation), towards the perpetrator who committed the horrific crime. I can not help to think of how wounded an individual might be to act in such a way as to cause such harm to another individual. Not only do I question where did he/she go wrong - but if it takes a village to raise a child - where did we go wrong? While I can understand rage as one reaction towards this abhorrent act, I find myself thinking, "It's not helpful".  It's not helpful for healing our grief, nor for healing the brokenness in this world including what brings about such acts of social injustice.

I feel strongly that in order to create healthy communities (ideally free from acts alike this), we need to exercise compassion for all no matter the role they play. I do not expect this to be easy especially for those directly affected by such matters - I do believe, however, that CIrcle can help with this.

One aspect that draws me towards Circle is its aspect of "Compassionate Listening". In Circle, everyone gets to have a say, no matter who they are, what they do or have done, or where they come from. Everyone gets to be included.  Imagine inviting this 'perpetrator' to a Circle and listening to their story. Perhaps it may feel similar to inviting your enemy over for tea. But who is the enemy? I have heard it said that an "enemy is simply one whose story we haven't heard". While we might not like what everyone has to say, nor approve of their ideas or behaviours - there needs to be a place for every person to share their story including the people we name outcast, un-loveable or undesirable.  Each person, whether we have an affinity for them or not, is a part of the whole we call "community".

This reminds me of something I learned back in undergraduate university that further demonstrates this idea of compassion for all: (Disclaimer: The following is what I remember (paraphrased) from over 10 years ago - if the details of this are misrepresented, I welcome edification from the first nations peoples identified here. I mean no disrespect). 

There is a dance & ritual that the Kwakiutl first nation peoples in North western B.C. are known for that exemplifies the notion of compassion for the 'worst offender' in the community. It is called the Hamasta dance, a.k.a. the Cannibal dance. The dance involves an initiate who takes on cannibal-like features to portray a way of being imagined to be the worst in the community (one who would eat another). The elders then step in and begin to act out the calming of the beast-like human and reintroducing him back into the community (he is restored to human form). The underlining message of the dance is to signify that there is no act too abhorrent that can not be forgiven by others, and no act likewise that will result in one's exclusion from the community. The overtone of compassion of this ritual has left me asking ever since, "Where is (or what is) the Hamatsa dance for us today in mainstream society?" One answer I have found is this: Circle.  For listening to the stories of others (in the safe social space that Circle allows for where meaningful speaking & respectful listening can happen), has way of evoking empathy within us. And if we are able to empathize, we are able to forgive, and through forgiveness we can heal.

While it's likely not realistic to see those that have harmed us sitting eye-to-eye within Circle with us - nor in some cases would it be safe or possible - we can however imagine what it might be like. Would we be able to listen to their stories, really listen? What might we learn about our selves in the process? Circle is also a process for discovering self.

So here is my challenge: Share your story. Be it about Julie, or another story where you have experienced harm or injustice. Invite others to share their stories too. Call a Circle to speak & listen from the heart about such matters. Find someone to keep the Circle space, or draw upon Circle resources (see list below) to facilitate your own. Hold to the intention and trust in the process.

And finally, for all of you out there who now grief & celebrate the life of Julie Paskall - may you find comfort, light and love in your time of sorrow.  May you never lose your joy for life, your hope for tomorrow, or your love for humankind - and may the peace that passes all understanding rest upon your soul and in your hearts today and always.

* * *

Here are some resources
that deal particularly with restorative justice matters and peace-keeping solutions:

Pranis, Kay, Barry Stuart & Mark Wedge. 2003. Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community. United States: Living Justice Press.

Pranis, Kay. 2005. The Little Book of Circle Processes. United States: Good Books.

Here are some other amazing CIrcle resources including my own (Circlebee):

Baldwin, Christina. 1998. Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell.

Baldwin, Christina & Ann Linnea. 2010. The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair. San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Bolen, Jean. 1999. The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and the World – The Essential Guide to Women’s Circles. York Beach, Maine: Conari Press.

Cameron, Laura. 2013. Circlebee: A book about Circle & bees. Chilliwack, B.C.: Bumblebee Circle Publishing.

Carnes, Robin Deen & Sally Craig. 1998. Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women’s Spirituality Group. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.