Winter Solstice Newsletter
December 2014

Winter Solstice Contemplations


This year we celebrate Winter Solstice on Sunday, December 21 at 6:03 pm on the east coast. We invite you to attune to the energies and hold a vigil with us at this sacred time. Bring these energies to the holy-days you celebrate, knowing that these great rhythms have been with us and have informed our lives for time immemorial.  


The Winter Solstice is the darkest point of the year. The darkness comes early and seeps its quietude into our lives. In the northern latitudes, the earth is asleep. The trees are leafless and there are no  

flowers to brighten our days. It is a time of  

reflection and attunement to the inner Light.  


Rising early, the world is dark and meditation in the surrounding stillness nourishes the inner Light. Now the whole of Nature is breathing in. Through all the activities of the day let us seek to emulate Nature in its time of rest. No need to hurry, no need to do more than is necessary. Reflect on Being. Hibernate. Aspire to remain in a state of utter simplicity. Resist the pull of the world and its materialistic call...its incessant rushing and accumulating tasks and "shoulds."  

It is a time to release and let go of the  

unnecessary and unsustainable.  


Each time we sit in meditation and remember the Truth, we are like squirrels gathering nuts. We are gathering what is our sustaining Light. It does not go out or fade; it is the true eternal Flame. We allow ourselves to feel a sense of deep peace as we carve out the new Life we are committed to live. We celebrate what is Real and move ourselves into the deeper rhythm, in synch with Nature, to commune with the starry worlds and to know the power of outer darkness to bring us inward to the Light.


When snowfall deepens the stillness and that subtle pristine quiescence descends, it is a gift beyond measure. What food for the Soul! What simple joy and sweet delight. The pines sigh with pleasure and the moon shimmers on the white crust, composed of millions and trillions of tiny crystalline stars. Standing as Witness, it is impossible to deny the interconnectedness of all Life.   


The fire on the hearth is akin to that inner flame of our heart. It warms and sustains us through the darkest of times. It is good to draw close to the fire and feel it permeate the cold. Every winter we are prepared, taught, to be in darkness, to experience death, to learn to release and to let go and to  

sustain ourselves with the wellspring of Spirit.


In this barren time we learn that the outer has no true means of nourishing us. It is only the strength and steadfastness that we have come to know within us which will see us through the dark times. All else is temporal and can be taken away. Let us use this dark time, this Winter Solstice, to know the Light which we are. And, in knowing this Light we can shine and give Light to those who are lost in the darkness.   

With the advent of Saturn into Sagittarius on December 23, we have chosen a Sagittarian  

theme for our Winter Solstice newsletter this year.  

Sagittarius is a sign most related to stories and story-telling as a means of accessing truth and wisdom.      


We all have stories. The stories we were told and taught; the stories we keep telling ourselves despite  

a gnawing sense of falsehood, and we also have an archetypal story, a mythical journey, where we are moved and guided by a deep sense of inner knowing; impulsed and informed by something far greater than what our old and limiting stories tell us.  


We have individual, family, and collective stories, but what underlies the happenings of the times is a story that is both unitive and universal. As One Life we are evolving and growing together and we are either expanded or limited by the sub-stories we tell ourselves.


 To paraphrase poet David Whyte, "We are learning to hold a proper internal conversation that is building on something. It's an artform to ask yourself more and more beautiful questions about life instead of allowing the same old stories--the things we keep telling ourselves to imprison us. We are companions along the way with our self; we hold a conversation that leads somewhere: and we learn to think
in a way that is honest, truthful and actually  

good for us."   


May the stories we have chosen to  

share with you nourish and enrich you.  



Winter Solstice Blessings everyone  
and Joy to the World!



Come Healing by Leonard Cohen


Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo

Soul Stories by Gary Zukav

Chicken Soup for the Soul Series

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Small Victories by Anne Lamott


A Great Invitation: The Path of Risk and Revelation by David Whyte

Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.
  --D.T. Suzuki

All that is necessary to awaken to yourself as the radiant emptiness of spirit is to stop seeking something more or better or different, and
to turn your attention inward to the awake silence that you are.


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What you believe about yourself, others, and the world can make  

you sick.  What is true about you can heal everything.

-Byron Katie

Beyond Story: Nondual Awareness and The Role
of Unitive Awareness in the Human Journey 


While some may view the wisdom of non-duality as so esoteric that it is not relevant to society at large, others see this understanding as fundamental to human evolution. Indeed, some of the most esteemed historians and social philosophers of our age see humanity's story as growing toward a unitive awareness. Few persons have studied the long sweep of human history so thoroughly as Arnold Toynbee and Joseph Campbell. Each has concluded in his own way that the perennial wisdom  

is central to understanding the human journey.

Arnold Toynbee-As a distinguished historian who made a thorough study of twenty-one civilizations covering the bulk of recorded human history, Arnold Toynbee was unequivocal in describing the relevance of the perennial wisdom to human evolution. He said that the cause of "suffering and sorrow is the separation of sentient beings...from the timeless reality behind the phenomena, and a reunion with this reality is the sole but sovereign cure for our ailing world's ills." Toynbee described the need for "higher religions" that would enable humans "to find a direct personal relation with the transcendent reality in and behind and beyond the Universe..." After reviewing the world's major religions, he concluded they all agree that humanity's goal is "to seek communion with the presence behind the phenomena, and to seek it with the aim of bringing the self into harmony with this absolute spiritual reality."

For Toynbee, the ultimate function of civilizational development was to serve the unfolding of ever deeper spiritual insights and understanding. He said that "civilizations are the handmaids of religion," and that civilizations will have "fulfilled their function when they have brought a mature higher religion to birth." In describing the central role of spiritual growth in the journey to a mature civilization, Toynbee made it clear that he was not forsaking the needs of the world. The goal he said, "is the kingdom of God; and this omnipresent Kingdom calls for service from its citizens on Earth here and now."
Joseph Campbell-As a scholar and teacher, Campbell is recognized around the world for his study of the stories, myths and ideas that have shaped the human interpretation of life. After spending a lifetime looking at the basic stories of humanity throughout history and across cultures, he concluded they all focused on a single, dominant theme: discovery of the underlying ground of being, the perennial wisdom. When asked what was being sought through the vehicle of mythology, Campbell stated,
"I think what we are looking for is a way of experiencing the world that will open to us the transcendent that informs it, and at the same time forms ourselves within it. find [the transcendent] actually in our environment, in our world-to recognize it. To have some kind of instruction that will enable us to experience the divine presence." Understandably, for Campbell, the first function of mythology was to "waken and maintain in the individual a sense of wonder and participation in the mystery of this finally inscrutable universe..."

Some will argue that to align human evolution with the perennial wisdom  

represents a return to an earlier age of superstition and wishful fantasy. In  

the view of respected scholars such as Toynbee and Campbell, this wisdom  

represents our highest knowledge as a human family and is the strongest

foundation we have upon which to build a planetary civilization.  


Fundamental to building a sustainable future is finding a common ground of  

human experience and a shared vision of evolutionary potential that transcends  

the differences that now divide humanity. If we cannot find a universal and familiar ground of experience, we will not be able to develop a vision of healthy social evolution that draws out our energy and enthusiasm. Importantly, the non-dual wisdom affirms that, beyond all of our political, social and cultural differences,  

there is an experience of unity that underlies the world's wisdom traditions  

and transcends all dogma and differences.



Our duty is wakefulness, the fundamental condition of life  
itself. The unseen, the unheard, the untouchable is what  
weaves the fabric of our see-able universe together.
  --Robin Craig Clark, The Garden

Gate A4







Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: "If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately." Well- one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.


An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. "Help," said the flight agent. "Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this."


I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. "Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?" The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, "No, we're fine, you'll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let's call him."


We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.


She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies- little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts- from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo- we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.


Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend- by now we were holding hands- had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.


And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate- once the crying of confusion stopped- seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.


This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.  


I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way,  
that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to
change, taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what's going to happen next. 
--Gilda Radner, Delicious Ambiguity

Why We Shout in Anger  

A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked.

'Why do people shout in anger at each other?'

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, 'Because we lose our calm, we shout.'

'But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner,' said the saint.

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples. Finally the saint explained,

'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small...'

The saint continued, 'When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper'n they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other'n that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.'

He looked at his disciples and said,

'So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.'


For those who are awake the cosmos is one. -Heraclitus

Everything is a parable that God is speaking to us...  
the art of life is to get the message.
--Chester Elijah Branch

Angels Explained by Children



I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold. Gregory, 5


Everybody's got it all wrong. Angels don't wear halos anymore. I forget why, but scientists are working on it.   Olive, 9


It's not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, and then there's still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes.  Matthew, 9


Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. Mitchell, 7


My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not much good for science. Henry, 8


Angels don't eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!!!  Jack, 6


Angels talk all the way while they're flying you up to heaven. The main subject is where you went wrong before you got dead.  Daniel, 9


When an angel gets mad, he takes a deep breath and counts to ten. And when he lets out his breath, somewhere there's a tornado.  Reagan, 10


Angels have a lot to do and they keep very busy. If you lose a tooth, an angel comes in through your window and leaves money under your pillow. Then when it gets cold, angels go north for the winter.  Sara, 6


Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who's a very good carpenter. Jared, 8


All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn't go for it. Antonio, 9


My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. Kate Lynn, 9


Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it. Vicki, 8


What I don't get about angels is why, when someone is in love, they shoot arrows at them. Sarah, 7




The Universal Message of Christmas


There is a profound meaning to Christmas and the birth of the Christ-child that is both religious and universal. Christmas celebrates the ageless story of the birth of Christ and it also portrays the birth of divine light and conscious awareness in the heart of every living being. It is a celebratory feast of the interior light, a rekindling of the spiritual spark within us which is central to the fire of all Yule activity: the Christmas lights on trees and houses, the Yule log blazing on the hearth, and candles on the advent wreath. Fire signifies the flame of joy and charity in our hearts and the spiritual fire that has is inherent in all living beings. As stated in the Gospel of  

Thomas, " I have cast fire upon the world, and behold, I  

guard it until the whole world is afire."  


May this sacred season find your hearts aflame with the living, lighted presence of spiritual fire-light, and "May the light that always has been be seen; the love that never ceases  be realized, and the radiance, deep concealed, break forth into Being."
"  --Alice Bailey


Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink
of the Bathroom at Sears
By Mohja Kahf

My grandmother puts her feet in the sink

of the bathroom at Sears

to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,


because she has to pray in the store or miss

the mandatory prayer time for Muslims

She does it with great poise, balancing

herself with one plump matronly arm

against the automated hot-air hand dryer,

after having removed her support knee-highs

and laid them aside, folded in thirds,

and given me her purse and her packages to hold

so she can accomplish this august ritual

and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares


Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown

as they notice what my grandmother is doing,

an affront to American porcelain,

a contamination of American Standards

by something foreign and unhygienic

requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray

They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see

a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom


My grandmother, though she speaks no English,

catches their meaning and her look in the mirror says,

I have washed my feet over Iznik tile in Istanbul

with water from the world's ancient irrigation systems

I have washed my feet in the bathhouses of Damascus

over painted bowls imported from China

among the best families of Aleppo

And if you Americans knew anything

about civilization and cleanliness,

you'd make wider washbins, anyway

My grandmother knows one culture-the right one,


as do these matrons of the Middle West. For them,

my grandmother might as well have been squatting

in the mud over a rusty tin in vaguely tropical squalor,

Mexican or Middle Eastern, it doesn't matter which,

when she lifts her well-groomed foot and puts it over the edge.

"You can't do that," one of the women protests,

turning to me, "Tell her she can't do that."

"We wash our feet five times a day,"

my grandmother declares hotly in Arabic.

"My feet are cleaner than their sink.

Worried about their sink, are they? I

should worry about my feet!"

My grandmother nudges me, "Go on, tell them."


Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see

at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,

all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent

in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum

Even now my grandmother, not to be rushed,

is delicately drying her pumps with tissues from her purse

For my grandmother always wears well-turned pumps

that match her purse, I think in case someone

from one of the best families of Aleppo

should run into her-here, in front of the Kenmore display


I smile at the midwestern women

as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them

and shrug at my grandmother as if they

had just apologized through me

No one is fooled, but I


hold the door open for everyone

and we all emerge on the sales floor

and lose ourselves in the great common ground

of housewares on markdown.


Mohja Kahf, "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" from E-mails from Scheherazad. Copyright � 2003 by Mohja Kahf. 


Source: E-mails from Scheherazad (University Press of Florida, 2003)




 Come Healing


O gather up the brokenness

And bring it to me now

The fragrance of those promises

You never dared to vow


The splinters that you carry

The cross you left behind

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind


And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb


Behold the gates of mercy

In arbitrary space

And none of us deserving

The cruelty or the grace


O solitude of longing

Where love has been confined

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind


O see the darkness yielding

That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason

Come healing of the heart


O troubled dust concealing

An undivided love

The Heart beneath is teaching

To the broken Heart above


O let the heavens falter

And let the earth proclaim:

Come healing of the Altar

Come healing of the Name


O longing of the branches

To lift the little bud

O longing of the arteries

To purify the blood


And let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb


O let the heavens hear it

The penitential hymn

Come healing of the spirit

Come healing of the limb





Solstice Blessings Everyone!