The Fire Monkey’s Sermon


There is no cost to kindness.

There is no calculable worth to forgiveness.

There is no equivalent weight to love.

There is no purchasable happiness.

All of these are free for the taking, but are unattainable to us while we find ourselves unworthy.

2016 has been a trying year, but for me it has been one of tremendous awakening and transformation. The year of the Fire Monkey, in the Chinese Zodiac has been the year in which I finally emerged from my chrysalis and am striving toward the mountain with new, powerful wings and a joy in my heart that resounds like great drums.

One hears so much talk about mindfulness, meditation, living in the present and so many other wellness clichés that it becomes like snow, like background noise, present but meaningless.

Sure, once in a while a particularly stunning image in a meme will brings us to a halt long enough to digest the message that comes with it, and even more rarely that message resonates on the frequency where we feel things, where we truly experience things and then, for a moment, or an hour, or perhaps a day, we change. And if feels good, and we wonder how we can make sure that we feel this way all the time.

Then the feeling fades. We do not pursue it. We flirt around with the edges of it, but gradually it lessens in its impact, and then poof, it is gone.

That is not happening with me anymore. The feeling doesn’t fade, I have been living on this level of passionate intensity for about ten months now and if anything, it is gradually increasing.

I have a certain primal excitement within me that makes me feel like a child, but with an adult’s awareness. Each day holds some raw fascination, each thing that comes along is an invitation to adventure. I do not see warnings about winter storms as things to dread, instead, I curl up to watch, to experience, to immerse myself in what might be.

What changed?

I committed to an attempt at genuine mindfulness. I tried to slow down, actually read the memes, listen to the talks, examine the paths, and to listen to what others said, not so that I could respond, but to truly hear what they had to say.

I attempted to live in the moment as much as possible. I immersed myself in experiences, some as simple and small as a warm breeze on a chilly spring day, others more intense like the rolling, post storm surf under a cloudy sky in North Carolina.

I took time to breathe when people cut me off in traffic, I stopped to sit on the ground and pet the dogs and cats that crossed my path, I watched hawks and vultures soar and circle in the summer thermals and listened to the sparrows titter to one another at first light.

I lit candles around the house, as often as I could and burned good incense when the mood struck me. I meditated. Sometimes for thirty or forty minutes a day, sometimes guided and sometimes just sitting with my back to a tree, or the bricks of a building and let the world fuse into watercolors around me.

I loved with all that I have, I forgave old grudges, even ones against myself and I reached out and am still reaching out to old friends. I visited memories and examined them with a Sage’s eye and learned from them more about who I am. I visited places that I thought were lost to me and found pieces of myself there as well.

Gypsy and I began to re-follow old family traditions, we celebrated birthdays with the importance that they deserved and we let whimsy lead us to some breathtaking places, and gods, we laughed a lot this year.

We began to eat at home more, we grew herbs and vegetables in buckets on our back deck, we ate what we grew and we grew spiritually from our connection to the earth. We spent the second half of the summer and well into fall obsessed with a single beautiful Zinnia plant that arrived next to our parking space without human intervention. It sprang up from the mulch by the parking lot and over the course of four months, it gave us 16 blossoms, huge, beautiful and unexpected in its gift.

Gypsy too went and is continuing to go through her own awakening. Her photography has grown from brilliant to breathtaking in the year of the Fire Monkey and she had changed people’s lives with it, at least their perceptions of their own beauty. (Isn’t it odd, yet wonderful how sometimes it takes someone else showing it to us for us to see our own beauty?)

We stopped fearing the future, we stopped asking, “What are we going to do?” and started being excited about it and declaring, “This, this is what we are going to do.”

We joined an orchid society and immerse ourselves in the beauty of that once a month. We welcomed a handful of rescue animals into our lives and gave them the care, love and compassion that they needed and in return, they thrived for us and have become members of the family, or have moved on to brighten the lives of others.

We traveled as often as we could afford to, and sometimes traveled when we could not afford it, because we needed the road more than we needed other things. We visited her family, we visited our family and we gained new family as they months progressed and I never cease to be amazed how wonderful and kind some people can be. But that is, after all, the key to what I am talking about here. We all have the potential to be beautiful, kind, mindful, loving and loved.

But you cannot alter the world, except by altering yourself.

This year was far from perfect and we fell. We lamented. We lost. We cried. We raged. We felt unworthy and we lost our way more times than I can count. We struggled, I struggled and am struggling still but I am also hopeful, grateful and at peace with the process.

As each day passes, I pause as I walk through our home and I offer gratitude and honor to the gods that populate our space. I pause before the Morrigan, strong and fearless, and I offer her a candle and I stand a little straighter, knowing that she has prepared me to protect my family. I cradle the tiny white Mother Goddess in my hands and thank her for all that she has given me over the decades of my life. I give a nod and a smile to Sun Wukong, the monkey King, Equal of Heaven, Great and Holy. I thank him for my sense of humor, my relentless hunger for what is right and my ability to persevere. I give a moment to the Buddhas as they watch from the windowsills and book shelves, always high so that they can be seen and their lessons remembered. And lastly, I give thanks to Ganesha, I tell him of my gratitude for his help in bringing down the barriers that for so long held me in stasis.

Find someone, something to lean on, until you can rely on yourself. If I, who for so long lived in doubt, rage and suspicion can make this progression and transformation, then you have the potential. I promise you, it is better on this side.

I am by no means a guru, or a sage or a Buddhist master, but what I am is in love with the beautiful kaleidoscope of life and I am willing to help. I cannot ferry you over the river that lies in your path, but perhaps, if you are wanting and willing, I can help you learn to swim.


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