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Of Wolves and Groundhogs
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

We Have Met the Enemy
Photo by Danielle Voirin.
THE CHILDREN of planet earth are subject to many systems that hold sway over their daily lives -- some of them, like government, tribe and family, are localized. Others are broader still, like environment, physical science and, we assert, astrology. Some are ancient and powerful and have been largely forgotten. With the constant and amazing astrology of these last months (and the months ahead) creating a slipstream of change and turmoil, we find ourselves poised on a couple of powerful eclipses -- and this weekend, we enter the period Wiccans and people of the old religion call Imbolc. 

Imbolc, occurring February 2 - 6, is a midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere) -- it's a cross-quarter of the solar wheel. It calls for the blessing of the seeds, and the awareness of new life, still unseen, springing from within. It's one of our ancient turning points, a shift in awareness away from the dormancy of winter and into anticipation of the birthing that spring brings us. Many consider it a sacred doorway of energy, and the Wiccans hold that the quarter-points are even more potent than the Cardinal points of Equinox or Solstice, the Druids referencing them as Major High Days and celebrations. The Catholic church adopted this date for its celebration of Candlemas, a commemoration of the purification of Mary after giving birth, as well as the presentation of Jesus in the temple forty days after his birth. It signifies both an ending and a beginning.

In the secular world, this same time frame brings us Groundhog Day. We will discover how long winter will remain with us based on the comings and goings of a pudgy rat-type mammal with buck teeth. While that seems somewhat absurd to me, given that we are no longer witness to a natural and undisturbed world as were our forefathers, it makes me smile to think of Bill Murray clutching a chattering groundhog (in the movie Groundhog Day) and speeding toward a cliff, telling it not to "drive angry." That movie fascinates me, anyway, it is wise well beyond its gag lines. In fact, it's a portrait of human enlightenment in slow motion. There comes a moment in the long looping days of the anti-hero in which he understands that contributing to the happiness and well being of others is the way in which he will find his own. He turns his attention to changing himself instead of manipulating those around him, and finds that his world has changed for the better. It even delivers him a "happy ending."

My daughter sent me an e-mail this week, one I'd received dozens of times in my in-box, containing a bit of wisdom I'd heard well before there was an Internet. It was something I was mindful of, a kind of 'default truth,' and yet it jumped off the page at me this time. It reminded me that bits of information come to us like seeds, planted and awaiting their moment to break through the barriers of our attention. It seemed to me the perfect message to meet this period of Imbolc, of eclipse, of energies gone direct and retrograde, of major planetary change.

The old spiritual saws remind us of our connection with all that's outside of us, not in the way we usually think of it but as an extension of our internal process: as above, so below -- as within, so without. All we think of as outside of us begins within us, in our attitudes, our ability to meet life with honesty and integrity, our aptitude for getting out of our own way and glimpsing a larger picture of our own activity and behavior. What does that look like?

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Where are we putting our attention? What are we feeding? There appears to be a wolf at our door today, howling about economy and personal challenges, insecurities based on dissolving opportunities, disrupted comfort zones. If we're frozen in fear, or distracted in worry, if we're mired in overwhelm and terrified of change, we miss that which is our largest strength in times of crisis. Our own strength comes from within and, as the old Cherokee reminds us, we have choices about what we magnify or ignore. Obviously, the attributes that this little story describes are all emotional -- they are not "facts" or "circumstances." They are the very human, seemingly frail potentials that we all possess to some degree, and the degree to which we express the positive or the negative define our lives and our futures.

For many of us, this discovery is not black and white -- perhaps we're mostly honest, mostly well intentioned, or perhaps we're mostly angry, often sorrowful; we make those decisions one at a time, and throw a mixed message to the universe. The more undecided we are, the more confused the outcome. For instance, some of us don't trust ourselves, petrified to make a move, afraid we'll make a mistake when everything seems so critical. This is the 'deer in the headlights' position -- be warned, this is how you get hit by a pickup truck and your carcass thrown across a hood. I can guarantee you, if you're alive you'll make a mistake -- life is one long string of Divine mistakes, learning opportunities, experiences that inform us and temper our souls. Mistakes teach us ... mistakes are the territory of the wolf.

Many of the Native American tribal traditions consider the wolf to be the teacher of the animal kingdom. Wolf is symbolic of the passing of great truths and the courage to apply them to ones life, changing the consciousness of humanity as a whole. In Jamie Sams and David Carson's Medicine Card  oracular system for selecting animal totems, they say this about the requirements of wolf energy:

The gift of wisdom comes to you when you have walked enough pathways and found enough dead ends to truly know the forest. In the discovery and rediscovery of every inch of ground comes the knowledge that nothing ever remains the same.

Walking the forest is walking within. We have all perfected, to some degree, the ability to master survival in the world; have we begun that journey within ourselves? Can we stand beside the negative wolf of our self-pity, our arrogance, our inferiority or greed and take any authority over our own lives, or assume that tomorrow will be a different day then the one that went before? If we have not faced those things in ourselves, we have not discovered the change that will bring a bright tomorrow. Bill Murray got to do the same day over and over until he got it right; we may not have the same simple, clarifying day to repeat, but we are all repeating our patterns on a daily basis. And in this bright, hopeful season of Imbolc we are seeding our future.

A Course in Miracles tells us that we can always 'choose again.' We make hundreds of choices daily, and when we lock into one that feels comfortable we repeat it habitually. The notion of failure scares many of us into inaction, yet if we can't stand to fail, we come to a standstill in evolution. It took thousands of attempts to make the light bulb -- Thomas Alva Edison thought of them as experiments, not failures. If he'd considered his experiments failures, he would not have had the fortitude to continue his search for the electric light. If we can see our lives as a daily experiment in learning, we can give up the tired, and epidemic in my opinion, need to shift responsibility to someone else for all that went wrong. THAT tired old wolf needs to starve to death.

The daily business of which wolf we feed defines what we will contribute toward the great tipping of consciousness into a new and life-affirming period of renewal. It is still bitter outside, there is snow on the ground here in the Pea Patch and I haven't seen anything sprout for a long while. But I can feel it stirring, see subtle signs that something is happening deep within. It's happening in me, in you -- it will out picture in due time. The Mercury retrograde, that regular thorn in our side that we seldom think of as a blessing, is giving us repeat time to think life over ... time to repair, realign, renegotiate, renew. The coming eclipses will break up old energy and set us in a new direction -- take time for the inner work that will prepare you to embrace their fresh and potent message of change.

Refine. That's the wolf howl that I hear within myself. Refine my commitment, my enthusiasm, my determination, my hope. Refine where I put my attention so that I can be an asset to a world yearning for peace, and contribute effectively to the well being of myself and those around me. Refine my faith in the seeds that lie sleeping today, gathering their energy to grow into a new thing. Most of all, I will remain mindful of the wolf I feed, day by day, hour by hour -- and as simple as that is, my little bit...and yours...will make all the difference in the evolution of a waiting world.

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