Thursday, December 12, 2002

The Year of the Horse & Self Help

essay from Newsletter - not archived:


Many of the books I’ve just mentioned in this newsletter fall under the category of “Self Help”. This category is something some people like to laugh at. Perhaps it’s because they lack the courage to try and improve their lives.

Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living”. He liked to sit with his young student, Plato, and their other friends and discuss the nature of truth and reality. They tried to live in the ways that seemed best to them and to follow the precepts of their teacher who also advised them to “Be what it is that you wish to seem”. These men were citizens and soldiers as well as philosophers and their ideas were based on the hard realities they saw around them.

But to know yourself, as the Greeks tried to do, and to tell the truth takes courage. Socrates was executed by the state for his beliefs and Plato risked death several times for telling the truth to tyrants. So let’s not worry about those few folks who snigger at books. We know that it takes a great deal of courage to take an honest look at our lives and make the changes we might need to make. When people choose hope over illusion they are choosing to be self actualized human beings:
And this can be a source of great blessing in their lives.

Having said that, I know that most people don’t tend to get a lot of support when they choose to change. I believe that this is because their personal changes mess with the status quo, something other people are greatly invested in. I still remember all the flak that Gloria Steinem took several years ago when she choose to write a book titled “Revolution from Within”.

“Revolution from Within” focused on self actualization rather then her usual and “more serious” subject matter: politics. That just goes to show that people weren’t paying attention when feminists made the (still relevant) statement in 1972 that “The personal is political.” So this newsletter for you crazy radicals out there who think that your personal lives have an impact on the greater good.

Pagans know that wisdom brings us closer to a connection with the earth and her creatures and that the changes our practice brings within us effect the world around us. In his book, “Towards Wisdom”, Copthorne Macdonald writes:

Wise people live their daily lives in accord with wise perspectives and wise values. As a result, their actions make the world around them a better place. They help others to grow. They live compassionately. They resolve conflicts and in other ways maximize harmony and general well-being. If their own growth in wisdom is carried to the point where identification with Being takes place, they stop differentiating between themselves, the universe, and what needs to be done. At that point they see themselves and the rest of humanity as Being itself — evolving, and living progressively higher values.

We could say, for example, that wisdom involves:
· seeing things clearly; seeing things as they are
· acting in prudent and effective ways
· acting with the well-being of the whole in mind
· deeply understanding the human/cosmic situation
· knowing when to act and when not to act
· being able to handle whatever arises with peace of mind and an effective, compassionate, holistic response
· being able to anticipate potential problems and avoid them

Each statement helps clarify some aspect of wisdom, but none tells the whole story……

And later he writes:

"Why do my relationships fall apart?" "Why do I keep getting myself into this kind of mess?" "What is reality telling me?" "What is the lesson in this?" "Is there a general rule of the Game that I've missed up to now?" Wise people ask themselves these kinds of questions, and when they do, the answers come. Wise people are attentive people, and their attention to what is not working well eventually leads to greater harmony. They know that the solution to a problem almost always lies in a clear understanding of the problem itself.
Staying open is often uncomfortable. The pain of uncertainty, of growing, comes with the territory of human existence. A certain directivity toward perfection may well be built into the cosmic process and, as Maslow's research indicated, into each person. But the means to actualize perfection are not ideal. Some degree of discomfort appears to be the price of continual transcendence, continual replacement of old ways of seeing with new ways. "

For more information on this Santa Cruz writer and his work visit:

I hope this month’s newsletter will support your efforts to make this year a better one, both for you and for your families, in whatever way is wise and right for you.

And while we’re on the subject of this year, I would like to remind everyone that Feb. 11th marks the ending of the Year of the Snake (thank goodness!) and begins the Year of the Horse. I plan to pay attention to that totem and I am using it in my meditations and in my journal work to see what it has to say to me. Each person’s experience with this symbol will be a bit different and yet there are things about the horse that speak to all of us, as well.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a very powerful year. Something tells me that the people who focus on their goals and on their boundaries this year will have a great year, especially if they get their boundaries in place in January and February and keep them in place throughout the year. My own work tells me that if these things are not attended to, consciously and with integrity, then I could easily end up battling some of the same demons I battled last year. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m not about to go through another year like 2001. In the words of my idol, Granny Weatherwax, “I’m not having it.”

So I’ve given myself homework for 2002, which is to set my goals and boundaries as clearly as I can. I am writing these, speaking these and using these in ritual. It’s the Year of the Horse, I tell myself; ride it or be ridden by it.

Here is some of what my WeMoon calendar says about this year:

…”Powerful Horse has magical qualities, including the ability to fly. A white celestial cloud Horse was sacred to the compassionate Goddess Kwan Yin. Kwan Yin’s white Horse flies through the heavens, bringing peace and blessings.
Horse year is a time of victory, adventure, exciting activities, surprising romances and fun. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings success. Energy is high and production is rewarded.”
(by Susan Levitt)

I leave you with three thoughts to take with you into the Chinese New Year:

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult – Seneca

Let the beauty we love be what we do” Rumi

And my personal favorite:

“Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

Wishing you laughter, beauty and courage in 2002.


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