There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of writing my blog, and working on my YouTube videos, but I have learned a lot, and I have found creating this content to be very rewarding. Sometimes I get a bit of anxiety, but once I sit down and begin the process, that eases significantly. I say this because maybe someone out there who has something in mind—maybe there is something that you want to create. I say that you can and you should do it. Create an action plan for your dream, and then do it. Do it with your hands shaking, do it with your heart beating fast, but just do it. You must remember that when you get a vision, that it is yours and yours alone. You have that particular gift within you, a treasure if you may, and you simply do not know how it could change the world—your world, or the greater world, or help make your life one that feels more purpose filled. Plus, it is fun! See this week’s YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/OrvVPZkuJbw
And maybe that’s not your jam, maybe life is as good as it could be for you… but maybe you enjoy partaking in what others have created. Well, that is necessary and appreciated as well. And if you have started something, write the words “consistency” down somewhere so that you can see it frequently. I have attended lots of talks with “authors/writers” and other content creators, and they always get the question. How do you do x thing? The response is usually the same. They just sat down and did it, even when it was hard, even when they did not feel inspired, especially when they did not feel inspired, and even when they had a bunch of other things to do. My own commitment to this channel is to do it, even on the hard days.
So what we are actually talking about this week, is I guess two fold. This is Halloween weekend, All Hallows Eve. Jessica Flammang, phrased it perfectly when she said, “Around this time of year, legend has it that the veil between the earthly plane and the spiritual world is thin, meaning the two realms collide, and it is easier for spirits to cross over and walk among the living, and vice versa — souls ready to move on are prepped for an exit.” This time of year coincides perfectly in this hemisphere with the transition between fall and winter. The days are darker, colder, and it is easier to sense that maybe there is something present in the unseen.
In some parts of the world like Mexico, there are cultural celebrations (with their own complex history). The ancient Gaelic festival, Samhain, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker half of the year. Samhain (pronounced more like, “Sow-win”) is also considered the Celtic festival of the dead. There is some debate that it is also a time of new beginnings, and the ancient Celtic new year. So happy new year!
In Mexico, it is the weekend for Dia de los Muertos—or Day of the Dead. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning. A lot of these cultural practices were Christianized and rebranded as “All Souls Day. All Soul’s Day is also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. To Christians who celebrate this day, it is one of prayer and remembrance for the souls of those who have died.
In my opinion, Dia de los Muertos is one of the most beautiful celebrations in the world. The celebrations are planned during the year, and on the holiday, people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed. Families and friends build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. There are so many cultures throughout the world that honor their deceased, and that honor their ancestors. You may be part of a culture, religion, or spiritual practice that sees this weekend, and this time as sacred. This year because of the global pandemic among other things, many people have lost their lives. Some have lost their way of live, and that too can feel like death. Just taking a quick moment of silence now for the people who we love who have lost their lives this year. What is remembered lives on…
I also want to add this quote from Cynthia Vidaurri, a folklorist at the Smithsonian. She said, “Culture is a set of tools created and used by humans to meet life’s challenges. A fundamental truth about culture is that it is complicated. In order for culture to serve its purpose, it must be able to adapt to the needs of the user. Individual elements of a tradition can be discarded and new elements can be incorporated. New materials can be added if they meet the aesthetic and practical needs of the expression. Rituals from other communities are accepted if they are meaningful for community. Some aspects of culture can take many years to evolve and yet others can change very quickly. When a cultural expression no longer serves a function, it can simply cease to exist.”
I include that quote here because so many different cultural practices have had to adapt to continue to exist. We have also had to be adaptable to the changing nature of life. If you feel called to a particular tradition or practice, it may be worth doing research to see if it is something that you can work with (properly), and without improper appropriation. On this weekend, I will take a few moments to remember my own ancestors. I will remember the lessons that I learned from them not only when they were alive, but also what I know from learning about their lives. They were people too, going through the daily struggles and joys that we balance constantly.
In this next week, the United States will have a major election. I have personally felt the emotions and anxieties of others running high, and my own emotions are also present, and fluctuating on the table. I encourage everyone to do what you need to do to take care of your mental health, and your overall wellbeing no matter the outcome of this election. The reason, I bring up ancestors, is that when we can remember what our own ancestors have gone through—and I don’t mean just blood relatives, but maybe people who cared and nurtured you—when you can remember that they lived and went through their own struggles, and survived, and thrived, then hopefully you will feel an infusion of strength to go through your own struggles. Why? Because you know that they survived, and you know that you can too.
I went to a retreat once, and one of the speakers, a brilliant mythologist among other things, made us do an exercise. In it, we closed our eyes and imagined ourselves stepping back four generations. I stepped back into imagining my mother at my age, what was she dealing with? What was the world like? What was the economy and the society like? What were some of the struggles that she had to overcome? What would be her hope for me? I also had to do this with my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Even if I didn’t know them well, you can still imagine some of what they went through? You can imagine that you are their dreams manifest. The things that you have been alive to experience and see? And maybe one day someone will do this and you will be the person they step back to.
Our ancestors have gone through difficulties, through wars, through pandemics, through economic decline. My ancestors dealt with classism, racism, and so much more, and yet through it all, they also cultivated spaces for love, for joy, for hope, and for the belief that after the darkest night, dawn would come again. I am trusting that no matter what happens on the path before me, that as long as I am alive, that there will be a dawn. I am trusting in the dawn. Florence Scovel Shinn said, “It is dark before the dawn, but the dawn never fails. Trust in the dawn.”
Despite looking ahead to the dawn, I am also feeling gratitude for what we learn in the darker half of the year. I am also in reverence of what we learn in the darkness. This is the other part of this week’s discussion. We have become a society obsessed with the light. I am guilty of this too, and I should write here that optimism and a positive nature, should not be mistaken for an inability to revel in the wide spectrum of experiences and emotions that we go through as humans. The “darkness” gets a bad rap. Part of that is what we have been trained to associate with the word itself. We have been conditioned to believe that the word “dark” is bad and associated with scary and less valuable things. In a world, where bleaching creams are a thing, and people who have dark skin, have been forced to hear that their complexion is not the standard of beauty to which people should aspire to, and forced to see opportunities diminish because of their skin color, we must retrain ourselves on word usage. And yet, dark skin is so amazingly beautiful. Have you ever seen melanin under the bright light of the sun? Breathtaking.
Taking away some of the improper uses of the word “darkness,” I want you to imagine for a moment. You are awake in the night, maybe you are standing outside, everything is still, quiet, and eternally peaceful. You look up, and see the most amazing stars. It is the Milky Way, and you are blown away by the sheer radiance of the beauty swirling above your head. In this moment, you can think clearly, and you feel present in the stillness of the night. Our world needs the “darkness.” There are animals, like turtles for example who need that darkness to navigate to where they lay their eggs. Our bodies use the cues of the light of the day to help structure our circadian cycle. In the darkness we learn how to use all of our senses. We might not be able to see as well, but we can hear, touch, and feel. Seeds planted in the ground, need the cool and dark place so that they can begin the process of transformation from seed to plant. When the world starts to get colder and darker, it is also a cue for us to turn inward, to rest more, to care for ourselves, to heal, and to have a certain level of downtime that we do not get in the daytime or in spring and summer. I also believe that in the darkest of times, we also realize how powerful the light is. The light needs the dark to reflect. So what does all of this mean for these times, and for the week ahead?
I am asking you in the week ahead to do several things if you are so inclined. First, take a few quiet moments to reflect on your own ancestry. What were the strengths that those who came before you exhibited? What did they survive? A simple way to honor your ancestors at this time, is to put a picture on a small table or atop a dresser. Maybe put a flower or something that they liked next to it. Think of your favorite memory with them, and offer gratitude that their strength runs through you, whether physically or spiritually.
As the week progresses, I also want you to focus on your own self-care. I don’t mean just bubble baths, and lighting sweet smelling candles. I mean, I really want you to prioritize your care. Stop “doom scrolling.” Don’t get caught up in the fear, or with things that you can’t control. If there is something you can do, then do it, but if not, then do not allow worry about that thing to consume you. Rest when you can. Talk to people who lift your spirits. Spend some time in nature. Practice gratitude for the things that are still going well. And if you feel overwhelmed and overcome by some sadness or strong emotion, feel it, and remember that we can only see the stars in the darkness, but we know the dawn is coming.
When the dawn does arrive, you will be stronger and wiser than before. You will realize that in your life, many things will happen—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly—and most of what transpires will be out of your control. You will experience the entire gambit of emotions—everything from love to anger, and all that is in between. The darkness will teach you that no matter what happens, change comes, and you have the ability to react in the positive or the negative to anything that you face. Whatever happens, never give up! Look to the sky and remember that the dawn is coming, and with it, more joy. May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be a good one, May you take good care of yourself, and remember that no matter what happens, you have the strength to survive it.