Category: Ceremonies

Embrace it Like the Very Last Christmas

No Comments

Written Malayna Dawn for Unity Community Church where she poses as web-"mistress".

MayanSanta

If the Mayan calendar is right, and the world is ending on December 21 2012, (my birthday) or even transforming dramatically, this could be the last Christmas* and the last New Year.  At least, the last one we might recognize. 

Kinda a bummer, I know. But we Unitics (AKA Truth students, positive thinkers, Pollyannas) can make it work for us.

 Last year, we thought it might be the last holiday we could spend in our family home, so we did it UP!

We infused every aspect with appreciation and love, and lived it consciously and meaningfully

(P.S.–Thanks to the law of attraction and our attitude of gratitude, we didn’t lose the house!)

Let’s treat this holiday season the same way. Deck the heck out of those halls, and trim those trees to teetering!  Be good to yourself, and give to others from the heart.

If anything can stop the end of the world, it would be unfettered, unadulterated LOVE.  And if it can’t be stopped, we may as well enjoy it to the fullest, live in the moment and have no regrets.

Make the most of the Mayan prophecy and make this holiday season the best EVAH!

(And if it turns out NOT to be the end of the world, we can top ourselves next holiday season while we giggle.)

Love, Laugh, and Live it UP!

Also check out last year's Christmas cogitation: Symbolic Wishes for a Metaphysical Christmas

Mayan Santa image combines an image from the Dimension of Power blog and a Santa hat icon from Icon Archive.com.

* We'll probably get to squeeze out one more Hannukah. No Kwanzaa though. 

Being a Shaman – for self and others

1 Comment

Devil-dancers-sri-lanka-435x279 
Image from Lankapura.com

The word “shaman” may bring to your mind images of medicine men in colorful outfits, dancing around a fire to the beat of tribal drums, much like the image of Sri Lankan devil mask dancers, above.  And you’d be right, though you’d be getting only part of the picture.

The REASON they do all of that is to get past our attachment to the “real” world and connect to our inner workings–to help us travel the landscape of our hearts and souls and make us whole in mind, body and spirit

Now for you and me, their performance probably would not work. This is because they’re not speaking our cultural or symbolic language.  To do that, they’d have to tap into our religious and spiritual beliefs, our cultural upbringing and the images we see in our dreams. 

Wikipedia describes shaman as “intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds… Shamans are said to treat illness by mending the soul…[which] restores the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness.” They also said “Cultural anthropology approaches shamanism as an integral part of the study of culture, belief, and practice.”

So who are the shaman of our modern Western culture?  Who guides us through the realm of dreams, symbols, metaphor and stories to help us make choices in our lives?  Joseph Campbell said it’s the artists—painters, poets, singers, dancers, actors, directors, comedians, etc.  They take inspiration, which is a message from the spirit world, and communicate it in a language we understand.  And when they really get it right, it not only entertains, but touches our hearts and inspires us.  (Of course, that’s not always their goal.)

 Joseph-campbellHeroes-CmyssArchetypes

Joseph Campbell and Caroline Myss both have said that in today’s world, it is up to us to find our own way through our spiritual landscape.  We have to be responsible for the well-being of our own souls. In other words, we need to become our own shaman.

Read More

AlternaWeddings Go Global

No Comments

I have had the honor of marrying people to each other—close friends and friends of friends—in a handful of weddings that have taken place in various settings, states and countries*. But I think everyone deserves a chance to be the center of attention and the object of adoration for a day, even if they’re not getting married.

Reuters picked up a story from China about a woman who decided to throw herself a wedding. She didn’t have a groom, but she had the money to get herself a wedding dress, rent a venue, hire a wedding planner and photographer, and invite 30 friends. She even had enough for a honeymoon in Australia! Chen Wei-yih, I salute you!

 

Photo credit: Zimbio.com

Plus I love this quote: "I was just hoping that more people would love themselves."

Read More

The Words of Inauguration Day – Poetry

No Comments

The power of words and of music, of culture, of prayer, and of history were felt today. President Obama's speech is available online, but I couldn't find Elizabeth Alexander's poem, or the Benediction Prayer, so here they are, transcribed by me, to the best of my ability!

Only the coolest presidents had poets…

Alexander will be only the fourth poet to read at a presidential swearing in. Robert Frost read for President John F. Kennedy, and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams read at President Clinton's inaugurations.”

(According to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/20/DD0C14R9NL.DTL&feed=rss.entertainment)

Elizabeth Alexander’s

Praise song for the day

Each day we go about our business and pass each other

Catching each other’s eyes or not,

About to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise.

All about is noise and bramble, thorn and din.

Each one of our ancestors on our tongues.

 

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

Repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, with cello, boombox, harmonica, voice.

 

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says “take out your pencils, begin”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed

Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone

and then others who said "I need to see whats on the other side,"

"I know there’s something better down the road,"

"We need to find a place where we are safe"

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

 

Say it plain, that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

Who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

Picked the cotton and the lettuce,

built brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle

Praise song for the day

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign

The figuring it out at the kitchen tables

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thyself"

Others by "First do no harm" or

"Take no more than you need".

What if the mightiest word is "love"?
Love beyond marital, filial, national.

Love that casts a widening pool of light

Love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

 

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air

Anything can be made.

Any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.

Praise song for walking forward in that light.

The Words of Inauguration Day – Benediction

No Comments

Dr. Joseph E Lawry’s Benediction

 

God of our weary years

God of our silent tears

God who has brought us thus far along the way

Thou who has by thy might led us into the light

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, oh God, where we met thee.

Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand.

True to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we’ve shared this day.

We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant,

Barack Obama the 44th President, of these United States, his family, and his administration.

He has come to this high office in a low moment

in the national and indeed the global fiscal climate.

But because we know you ‘got the whole world in your hands’,

We pray for not only our nation but for the community of nations.

 

Our faith does not shrink, though pressed by the flood of mortal ills,

For we know that Lord you’re able, and willing

to work through faithful leadership to restore stability,

mend our brokenness, heal our wounds,

and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, (or the least of these),

And from favoritism toward the rich, (the elite of these).

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th President,

to inspire our nation to believe that Yes We Can work together

to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed, (the wind of greed) and corruption,

and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption,

we seek forgiveness, and we come to spirit of unity and solidarity to commit

our support to our president

by our willingness to make sacrifices,

we respect your creation to turn to each other and not on each other.

 

And now Lord, in the complex arena of human relations,

help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate,

On the side of inclusion, not exclusion

Tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family.

Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosque, wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, first lady Michele, look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

 

We go now to walk together, children,

Pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficulties ahead.

We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power, and your heart of love.

 

Help us then now Lord to work for that day

when nations shall not lift sword against nation,

When tanks get beaten into tractors,

When every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree

and none shall be afraid

When justice will roll down like water and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labor rest

Joy of a new beginning,

we ask you to help us work for that day when:

Black will not be asked to get back

When brown can stick around

When yellow will be mellow

When the red man can get ahead, man

And white will embrace what is right

Will all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen, say Amen, and Amen.

Time for Global Unity

No Comments

11days-bg_headerMy church, Unity church, has joined with an organization called "We, The World" to promote 11 Days of Global Unity. 

It started on a day the world really needs prayers,  September 11th, which is also Unity's World Day of Prayer and goes unti September 21st, The UN's International Day of Peace.

Unity's site is 11daysofUnity.org, or you can visit We The World's site explaining the history of the event. But here are the basics:

Creating a Culture of Peace
Celebrating a Sustainable Future
 
11 Days of Global Unity Sept. 11-21 is an annual promotion of peace, justice and environmental stewardship that communities and organizations take part in around the world. It culminates on September 21st, the U.N. International Day of Peace.
 
Did you know that September 11th is also the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's first nonviolent peace action? Me neither!

The organization's launch in 2004 included the signing of The Declaration of Interdependence, which includes the following pledge that you can sign too!

 
We, the people of planet Earth,

In recognition of the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of the balance of nature,

Hereby acknowledge our interdependence

And affirm our dedication to

~life-serving environmental stewardship,

~the fulfillment of universal human needs worldwide,

~economic and social well-being,

~and a culture of peace and nonviolence,

To insure a sustainable and harmonious world

For present and future generations.

 

You can join Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra, Jane Goodall & ME by

signing the declaration. Just send an e-mail to declaration@wetheworld.org and include your city & country and a message. It'll be posted on their guestbook.

Monks Amok: Malayna Under Siege…by Buddhist Monks?

No Comments


Until very recently, the site of Buddhist monks and the occasional sound of chanting in the distance was only a reminder of the magic of Sri Lanka.  Here’s proof – a photo I took in May of ’06 with a caption that tells the tale (you can click on it to enlarge it):

 

Monks1

One day we came upon an unexpected and unexplained parade of monks of all sizes, ages, sexes and backgrounds.  It's one of the magical, odd things that occur here.

For more photos of this strange occurence: http://www.malaynadawn.com/May06/page2.html

 

See?  I’m a fan of the monks and Buddhism in general.  But it seems that too much of even a good thing can turn ugly.

How ugly?

I was reminded of the FBI’s strategy at Waco–trying to get people under siege to come running out by blaring loud, annoying music at them for long periods of time.  Yes, it was almost that ugly.

The loud, invasive sound assault began at about 5:30pm and lasted TWELVE HOURS, not stopping until 5:30AM.  There are a few things in common, see?

 

“The FBI brought in loudspeakers, and through the speakers came the high decibel sounds of laughter, birds squawking, sirens, rabbits being slaughtered, rock music, Tibetan chants, and recordings of "negotiation" sessions held between the Branch Davidians and the FBI (Justice Report, pgs.. 69, 73, 79).” http://www.public-action.com/SkyWriter/WacoMuseum/war/page/w_p.html

 

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourselves, “but it’s drums and flutes and Buddhist chants, wasn’t it all just blissful Zen? A chance for deep meditation?”

 

Nuh-uh.

 

For one thing, I must admit I’ve never really enjoyed the traditional music of my people. The drums’ rhythms feel random to me. And I’ve been known to be a musical girl. I was even a music major in college for a year or so after being awarded a music scholarship, but my not-so-highly trained ear can’t identify any pattern.

 

And the flutes are closer to a cross between a recorder and a bagpipe. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I heard a lot of that irritating squeak that makes one cringe when listening to a beginner on a reed instrument. So basically, it sounds like a bunch of impish street urchins have stolen some drums and flutes and are gleefully making a racket to torture all the straights.

 

The innocent beginnings of the siege

I knew something was up when I noticed first thing in the morning that a Buddhist Flag had been strung to hang across the road just in front of our house. It wasn’t tied to anything on our property, so I had no complaint there, and there is a Buddhist temple nearby that often has events in the ‘hood, so I didn’t think much more of it. 

 

Monks2

I know that it is customary here for people to celebrate the death anniversary of a loved one with something called a Dana (proper info can be found here) .  From what I’ve seen at other neighbor’s houses, it involves the arrival of Buddhist priests announced by drumming and flute playing, and then a series of chants followed by a meal offered for the monks, family and neighbors called an almsgiving.

 

In my experience, it’s never lasted more than a few hours, when it ends as the monks leave with the same pomp and ceremony.  Or maybe they’re priests. I don’t know how to tell the difference.

 

I still don’t believe that’s what last night was about, because I noticed around 5:30 or so that the house was covered with for want of a more descriptive term–Christmas lights. White ones that blinked in varying patterns and colorful ones that remained lit continuously.

 

And then the dance music started. True, it was kind of old-fashioned Sri Lankan and Indian music that I imagine was seen in films in the 60’s and 70’s, but it was festive and upbeat. So I began to think that my cook was wrong when she said it was a death anniversary. Aren’t those more somber? Or were they just really pleased that the person was gone?

 

Timeline of Insanity

 

5:30pm – Retro South-Asian Dance Hits played over a sound system.

 

7-ish – Somewhere between 7 and 8 the drums and flutes began.  My cook’s 10-year-old daughter ran to the window to see what was happening (she’s visiting from their village during a school break).  I asked if there were any elephants, cuz if there weren’t, I wasn’t going to bother looking.  No elephants. Poo.  (Speaking of poo, it’s probably a good thing there were no elephants, since the event was basically in front of our house…coulda been messy, not to mention highly odiferous.)

 

At 10:30, while hiding out in the computer room on the opposite side of my house, I told my friend, who lives about 5 miles away, that I thought she could hear the chanting if she stepped outside. It was that loud. When I told her I was hoping they’d quit by 11pm, I was merely being tolerant.

 

11pm– When I left voicemail messages for several people in the U.S. over the next hour, I was laughing in disbelief. But I couldn’t get anyone on the line to share the madness with me, so I called my husband in London. He was shocked about the noise level, but was also under the impression that they’d stop soon. He thought it might have been a house blessing ceremony for the guy who has returned from overseas to finish the eyesore of brick and cement that for the last few years has been attracting stray dogs, mosquitoes and people who have no place to put their trash. That guy is troublesome anyway. One more thing to add to the list when I tell my hubby to go beat him up.

My growing madness

 

At 2AM, I considered my options. I couldn’t call the police because they don’t know of such a thing as noise pollution. Besides, if I complained, I would be setting us up for future complaints every time we watch loud movies with explosions and gunfights until 2AM on a weeknight because of my pilot hubby’s weird flight schedule. Plus it’s a religious thing, and they’re monks. We’ve had louder non-religious parties that lasted that long, and no one has said a word to us. And maybe it would be worse if it were rude partiers and rock music. Maybe just the human voice alone isn’t so bad….

  

At 3AM, when I was sure they were finished, I shut down the computer, turned out the lights, and went downstairs to get a drink of water. That’s when the drums started up again.

 

I had thoughts of setting off the bottle rockets stored in the spare room.

 

I went to the bedroom, which seemed to be directly in front of one of the two speakers, and I called my friend Rhonda in Maryland. She, finally, could confirm how loud it was. She wanted to know who those two men were in the bedroom with me and why they were so loud.  One sounded like a cross between Barry White and Abe Vigoda—low but throaty. The other was more of a tenor and sounded more nasal. They tossed it back and forth with occasional explosions of drums and flute. A very strange version of the dueling banjos.

3:35AM – All I could think was regardless of what they were blessing, couldn’t all of their good intentions be undone from the amount of hatred that I and surely everyone within a 5 mile radius were beaming at them? Why couldn’t they chant WITHOUT the sound system? Seriously.

 

At 4AM – I set aside the book I was reading (but having trouble concentrating upon) and turned off my bedside lamp. I was sure they were finally done. As I slipped into the blissful silence of sleep, they started again.

 

Too tired to turn on the light again, I just lay there drifting from disturbed waking dreams to conscious and back again. This went on until…

 

5:30AM –  I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into sleep.

 

The Day After

 

11am I woke up feeling guilty about sleeping so late on a weekday, even though it was with good reason. I went downstairs to see how the rest of the household was doing.

 

Selliah, our houseman whose room is even closer to the event, was suffering from red eyes and a headache. Our cook, Parmeswary, and her daughter, Sagilah, had the benefit of being at the back of the house with a loud fan, so they seemed to have fared better.

 

We all laughed, AND THEN THE DRUMS STARTED AGAIN!!!!! ARE THEY SERIOUS?!?!?!? And then I went insane.

 

Luckily, it was short, and the rest of the day was silent, as the entire neighborhood caught up on sleep. I can’t tell if I’m recovered yet, because I don’t think the insane know that they are insane. That’s why they’re insane, right?

 

Yet still, insane or not, I remain a fan of the Buddhist monks and Buddhism in general. I'm just sayin' let's look into the need for all-night chants over massive sound systems, shall we?

 

Multicultural Wedding Ceremony

1 Comment

NExJohnChris

I caught a re-run of Northern Exposure as I ate my Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch the other day, and fell in love once again with whoever it was who wrote the lines for Chris.

Played by John Corbett, Chris was the local philosopher, DJ and mail-order minister and I wanted to be like him. Well, I can maybe claim 2 of the 3, since I like to philosophize on comparitive beliefs and I've married a handful of couples.

This wedding ceremony was so cool, I had to track it down online to share. I'd be happy to perform this ceremony for anybody, if you're interested. Here it is:

Marriage, it's a hard term to define. Especially for me–I've ducked it like root canal. Still there's no denying the fact that marriage ranks right up there with birth and death as one of the three biggies  in the human safari. It's the only one though that we'll celebrate with a conscious awareness. Very few of your remember your arrivaland even fewer will attend your own funeral.

You pick a society, any society, Zuni, Nudembo, Pennsylvania Dutch. What's the one thing they all have in common? Marriage. It's like a cultural hand-rail. It links folks to the past and guides them to the future. That's not all though. Marriage is the union of disparate elements. Male and female. Yin and Yang. Proton and Electron. What are we talking about here? Nothing less than the very tension that binds the universe. You see, when we look at marriage, people, we're looking at creation itself.

"I am the sky," says the Hindu bridegroom to the bride. "You are the earth. We are sky and earth united. You are my husband. You are my wife. My feet shall run because of you. My feet shall dance because of you. My heart shall beat because of you. My eyes shall see because of you. My mind shall think because of you and I shall love because of you. Now are you guys cool with that? Then kiss.

Credit and thanks go to the following:

The "Our Wedding" episode of Northern Exposure - Episode 3.22, Original Air Date(1): May 11, 1992 • Production Number: 77524
Written by(
1): Diane Frolov and Andrew SchneiderDirected by(1): Nick Marck

Diane and Andrew, you are my new best friends. Though many of my closest friends are fictional, it's good to remember and acknowledge the real people behind them.

Part of that is known as the Eskimo Love Song, should you care to reference it.

My guess is that my new best friends are fans of Joseph Campbell, as I am. Oh how I love the Joseph Campbell!