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Week of March 5th, 2020

Let the Truth Be Your Delight

And let the truth be your delight. Proclaim it—but with a certain congeniality.

—St. Catherine of Siena

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Indigenous and ancestral shamans know that we are all connected to the world of the animal powers, and that by recognizing and nurturing our relation with animal spirits, we find and follow the natural path of our energies.

Yet many of us have lost this primal connection, or know it only as a superficial wannabe symbolic thing that we look up in books and medicine cards without feeding and living every day.

—Robert Moss

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According to the indigenous people who lived in the Americas before Europeans arrived, the world is populated with spiritual powers that take the shape of animals and plants and natural forces. In other words, there are many forms of intelligence, not just the kind that reside in human brains.

It's possible to communicate with these other intelligences. We can tune in to their alternate modes of knowing and seeing, thereby expanding our narrow understanding of reality. To do that, however, we can't rely on spoken and written language, but must be receptive to their non-verbal codes.

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Aboriginal creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who had wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path—birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes—and so singing the world into existence. Any species can be a Dreaming. A virus can be a Dreaming. You can have a chickenpox Dreaming, a rain Dreaming, a desert-orange Dreaming, a lice Dreaming.

—Bruce Chatwin

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Aborigines openly and unaffectedly converse with everything in their surroundings—trees, tools, animals, rocks—as if all things have an intelligence deserving of respect. —Robert Lawlor

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New and exciting studies of the brain, evolution, and animal behavior suggest that play may be as important to life—for us and other animals—as sleeping and dreaming. —Stuart L. Brown

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In his book Animals and Psychedelics: The Natural World and the Instinct to Alter Consciousness, ethnobotanist Giorgio Samorini proves that many animals deliberately alter their consciousness. His evidence includes robins that get drunk on holly berries and act "like winged clowns," as well as goats hooked on caffeine and rein­deer that seek out hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Samorini concludes that the desire to get high is a natural drive. Intoxication has served as an evolutionary force for some species, breaking down outworn habits in such a way as to improve long-­term survival.

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You taste delicious
Animals understand you
Your importance is unusual

The funny faces you make are interesting to look at
You fight for power in all the right ways

Ecstatic gratitude is pouring out of you
I see the best in you
Your divine attitude

You have strong feet and a pioneer heart

No one can overflow as well as you can

You are famous with God
You are famous with me
You are famous with the snakes and birds
and roses and pines
and oceans and earth and sky

A lost tribe salutes you from the other side of the veil

You remind me of a star

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Love the earth and the sun and animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and the crazy, devote your income and labors to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency.

—Walt Whitman

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The Yanyuwa Aboriginal people live along the coast of Australia's Northern Territory. Their word for "fat" is nalu-ngiliny. It doesn't merely refer to the greasy stuff that grows naturally under the skin of animal bodies. It's also a metaphysical term for vitality.

Anything that's rich in nalu-ngiliny is healthy. A certain landscape may be considered fat, for instance, which means that it's fertile and sacred. When acacia flowers bloom each year, it's a sign that sea turtles and the marine mammals known as dugongs, favorite foods of the Yanyuwa, are "fat" and ready to be hunted.

I have a dream that you will identify the things in your life that are nalu-ngiliny, and give them the honor and gratitude they deserve.

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Few of us have registered the fact that we're in the midst of the largest mass extinction of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs.

This is the conclusion of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, a professional society of 5,000 scientists.

Think of it: About 40 animal and plant species are dying off every day—a rate unmatched in 65 million years. Shouldn't this be a recurring headline on the front page of every major newspaper?

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If a cow is given a name by her owner, she generates more milk than a cow that's treated as an anonymous member of the herd. That's the conclusion of a study done by researchers at Newcastle University in the UK. "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name," said Dr. Catherine Douglas, "can significantly increase milk ­production."

Building on that principle, I suggest that you give everything in your world names, including (but not limited to) houseplants, insects, cars, appliances, and trees. It will help you get more up-close and personal with all of creation, which is an effective way to cultivate pronoia.

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The Bible says Jehovah gave Adam the job of bestowing names on everything.

In Ursula Le Guin's story "She Unnames Them," Eve decides to reverse her mate's work. She yearns to return to a primordial state when the misunderstandings caused by words no longer stand between her and the rest of creation.

So she unnames all the animals, from the sea otters to the bees. When she's done, she marvels on how they feel "far closer than when their names had stood between myself and them like a clear barrier."

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I find it helpful to remember that a person can establish or reestablish that primal connection with the plants and animal spirits by just spending mindful time with them. In your backyard or on the sidewalk outside your building. You don't have to find a wilderness or a park.

Nature is always with you. You don't even have to go outdoors if that doesn't work for you. Spend some intentional time sitting next to the plant in the window. Give it a name like the man said. No plant? Good idea to get one then.

—Timothy Cope

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It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack of what is found there.

—William Carlos Williams

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Excerpt of a poem by Tony Hoagland:

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

― Tony Hoagland, "What Narcissism Means to Me"

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I feel like if I were to get another tattoo, it would probably be "stubborn, stubborn, stubborn gladness."

—Elizabeth Gilbert

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Visit my Gift Page — and contribute via the "Friends and Family" option.

No pressure, though! Whether or not you donate, I will continue to give away free stuff. And I understand that some of you don't have enough money yourself, and it wouldn't make sense for you to give some to me.

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My entire book The Televisionary Oracle

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At the end of each year, I write a series of —previews of the issues you'll face and the opportunities coming your way

Here's a list of
all the free stuff I give away

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Free your body. Don't ruminate and agonize about it. Do it simply and easily. LOVE YOUR BODY!

Be brave and forceful, gentle and graceful. Free your sublimely imperfect, riotously intelligent body. Allow it to be itself in all of its mysterious glory. Love your body exactly as it is.

Praise your body. Thank your body. Tell it you adore its uncanny majesty . . . you yearn to learn more of its secrets . . . you promise to treat it as your beloved ally.

Be in love with your body, no shame, no apology. Be in awe of your body's unfathomable power to endlessly carry out the millions of chemical reactions that keep you alive and thriving.

How can you not be overwhelmed with reverence for your hungry, curious, resourceful, unpredictable body?

Study your body's magic. Exult in the blessings it bestows on you. Celebrate and hone its fierce animal elegance.

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My father died recently after a long and successful life. His wife of many decades (my mom), along with his four children and their four daughters, gathered to celebrate his life.

Of the many reasons I am grateful for him: The tender and respectful and generous way he consistently treated my mother—as well as other women—was crucial in influencing me to become a devoted feminist at an early age.

My commitment to healing toxic gender roles and building emotionally intelligent new models of relationship are central to my life, and my dad played a key role in helping me develop that part of my soul's code.

More words and photos about this are here

(In the photo, I'm the one on the far left.)

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Research shows:

1. Exercising compassion stimulates the same pleasure centers associated with the drive for food, water and sex.

2. Practicing compassion with intention has a positive physiological effect on the body. It can lower blood pressure, boost your immune response and increase your calmness.

3. Not only are we hard-wired to be kind, but it is essential for the survival of our species.

4. Recognizing common fears or vulnerabilities rather than differences -- be it with a difficult friend, an abrasive colleague or a noisy neighbor -- calms the nervous system, boosting feelings of contentment and self worth.


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JOYFUL REBELLION. Tending to my sanity and being in service to the world require me to be in a chronic state of rebellion.

But here's an important caveat: While the rebellion can and should be partially fueled by anger at the injustices of misogyny, plutocracy, racism, militarism, jingoism, and transphobia, it must be primarily motivated by love and joy and the desire to bestow blessings.

A healthy proportion, at least for me, seems to be 15% rage, indignation, and complaint, and 85% compassion, celebration, and lust for life.

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Above willow trees healing from false warmth.
under star jelly and floating spiders,
under golden frogs raining from the sky—
who knows how?—
you flash and fly

Amid swollen joys,
exploded hopes,
and night chimes.
amid prayer stones,
amid cloud-scriptures,
with the pregnant mist from the west
and the spree-fucking wind,
you flare and flow

Deeper, older,
between the borrowed morning light
and its protectors,
between the hidden salamanders
that give names to the earth
and the songbirds
that only sing when necessary,
you flicker and flourish

Newer than the bone and sinew
yet to be predicted,
more valuable than the gold
buried too deep to retrieve,
stronger than the blood
that renews itself every winter,
you flower and flex

—by me

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"Having very broad and abstract goals may maintain and exacerbate depression. Goals that are not specific are more ambiguous and, therefore, harder to visualize. If goals are hard to visualize it may result in reduced expectation of realizing them which in turn results in lower motivation to try and achieve them."

- Researchers at the institute of Health, Psychology, and Society


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