childhood poetry

You made me do it

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By popular request I’m going to post some poetry. Of my own.

While painfully aware that one person asking isn’t the full, honest definition of popular, it is one more than enough to flatter this non-poet into poetry. And being honest, I have already used the “Look how messed up I was as a teenager cause I wrote such atrocious verse” excuse to hide a seldom expressed poetic voice behind. Now there’s no where left to hide.

I had the nerve to suggest a minor rewrite to a poetically more prolific friend recently, so what exactly would my excuse be for a failure of poetic nerve? That I make a better critic?

It’s Monday Poetry Train day today. Let’s grin and bare it for a little exposure…

Untitled and in progress

I am the drop of glistening rain,
puddle formed by side of road,
I am the car driving straight ahead,
beneath skies clouded and grey.

That is my sky,
as good as any other.

I walk under that sky,
along that road,
and beneath this rain
as happy as anywhere else,
as happy as any other.

It’s a few verses short of completion, a few ideas short of expression, and true lyricism was lost somewhere around the second line—the entire first verse has been rewritten off the page. But I’m feeling so much better for the saying…

On the topic of messed up teenagers, I made an initial attempt at tidying this one up, a several thousand word story about my own formative years, posted (with embarrassing photos) for all to see on another site: Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills. It will also do as my response to Camille’s now ancient Conversations With Your Teenage Self Meme. Better late than never.

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Introduction to Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens, or more accurately is preceded, by two poems. The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus, and More Fruits of Solitude by William Penn.

The Libation Bearers
Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground—
answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.


More Fruits of Solitude

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that whch is omnipresent.
In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

—William Penn
(read the full poem at

I think that tells us more than enough about this final instalment in the Harry Potter series…

Anyone doubting J.K. Rowling is a real, or serious author, should put that poorly titled book away right now. Any author who can quote Aeschylus, let alone has even heard of William Penn (one of the founders of Quakerism and namesake for the state of Pennsylvania), is worth all the pounds in the Bank of England.

I must say I am tiring of prose somewhat—the writing of it that is—for tiring of its reading would be a strange thing to say indeed, 607 pages of The Deathly Hallows still to be turned.

Prose is so precise, and therefore so unimaginative. You can joyfully throw precision out the window with poetry—although in the reading that is, definitely not in the writing, which requires an act of concentration at least deeper, if not stronger than in prose. With poetry you can let your imagination paint the words, and the lines in between.

I have been writing prose almost non-stop for a year now—the first substantive piece of writing in my entire life (Airport Anxiety) written a year ago during a visit to Japan, and am starting to tire of it’s up and down, black and white limitations; it’s tendency towards haranguing and shouting, as compared to poetry’s soft whispers, varied meanings.

Perhaps this is why I had a recent piece of writing declined for publication (Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills); the editor said obliquely, and not completely helpfully, that he preferred my more simple, straightforward stories. Not so simply, I am growing tired of words in a straight line, trying my best to break them apart gracefully.

There will probably be some dreadful experiments to come.

I wrote my first poem in about a decade earlier this week—a rush of emotion-bourne words born upon listening to a song, and staring, at the same time, dream-like into a photograph. I then, by habit now an unrestrained shaper of prose, began to prune and rewrite, to my later regret. It will now probably not see the light of day.

Ever the melodramatist, I dare saw I am really only a little tired of prose. No doubt, to either benefit or regret, I have thousands of words inside me left.

And thousands more to read in The Deathly Hallows. I still haven’t made it past the opening poems…

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life meditation music poetry

On the fringes exist soulful whispers

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Earth Dance 2005Music has always been very important to me. The moments in my life when I have lacked inspiration have also been lacking in music; to each and every part of my life worth remembering, there is a soundtrack playing.

I almost always wake in the mornings with a song playing in my head; the better I have slept, the clearer, more deeply the song plays, the longer it stays with me during the day.

It is easy to see only the bad in the world, or ourselves, to take the uninspiring present, our small corner of it, and paint everything black, imagine that even though we can’t always hear it there is a soundtrack playing—even to life’s least rehearsed, badly performed scenes.

Anybody who thinks that the world isn’t improving, that all is doom and gloom might gain in the listening to the lyrics of popular music for a while. Yes, it is mostly insipid romance, exaggerated bravado, aggression or even worse, and it mostly has always been, but out on the fringes, far beyond the television or radio blaring, barely heard but, in time, progenitor and creative influence for everything, are soulful whispers…

I am your truth, I am your destiny
I am desire and despair
I am your glow inside your beating heart
I am the love that leads you there
I am your soul, I am your soul

Can you imagine lyrics like these being sung fifty years ago? To an audience of millions?

Of course the distance between the lyric and the final, sung product, the song writer’s intention and mass, unthinking consumption is still vast, but a distance growing closer I would guess.

Likewise meditation. People who meditate aren’t seen or heard—those who break the silence grab our attention far before those who seek it’s whispers in secluded corners—the squeaky wheel gets the grease as the adage runs—yet those who meditate exist in increasing numbers, and their gentle, correcting, affirming influence can be found in the most surprising places.

And if you only knew
Just how much the sun needs you
To help him light the sky
You would be surprised
Cerf, Mitiska & JarenLight The Skies

I like these lyrics in so many ways—not just for their Emily Dickinson like intuition of a two-way bridge between nature, man and something deeper, their magical imbuing of the ordinary and everyday with something extraordinary and beyond, but for the idea that somehow the happiness of the entire world, the light even of sun and stars is brighter when each of us are happy.

And what else is the human soul but eternal happiness?

I am the darkness where you disappear
I am the light that leads you safe
I am the shepherd of your laughter and your tears
I am your pleasure and your pain
I am your soul, I am your soul
I am the faith that leaves your spirit strong
I am the sunlight in the rain
I am the universe inside your mind
I am your pleasure and your pain
I am your soul, I am your soul
I am your soul, I am your soul

I am the courage that inspires you
I am the knowledge that you gained
I am the people you will choose to be
I am your pleasure and your pain
I am your soul, I am your soul.
Markus Schulz vs. ChakraI am

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Through the Google Glass

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hepi-ichikoIt is a constant joy, near form of poetry to read the search engine phrases that, month after month, click after click deliver readers to this site. Like absolute strangers on a train, mundane queries like“” and“really good writing that I will bookmark and read every day” sit alongside absolute gems—pennies from internet heaven too precious to ignore: “canada state electronic flash churches,” “delusions electricity sensitivity” and “i afraid of three things.” Admittedly one of those phrases might be made up…

My site statistics tell me the most visited post on this site is the deliberately surreal, first exploration of search engine serendipity, Follow the Rainbow, a post inspired by one vistor’s mind-blowing, reality confounding search phrase,“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?,” which to consider the irrational rational, abandon serendipity for cause and effect was one assumes ipso facto attracted to these pages by Sri Chinmoy’s intriguing explanation of the spiritual significance of rainbows. The cause, rather than destination of this seeker’s query however is a matter for speculation—but I hesitate to ask for a serving of what they are having.

I can’t say with certainty why other people enjoyed Follow the Rainbow, but for its author it was most enjoyable to write. An exercise in chance, serendipity and the random, it was written during something of a dry spell—inspiration, ability for anything structured or thought through lacking. So often the portrait of an artist as a procrastinator, I have literally dozens of pieces on the table at any one time, awaiting inspiration or moment of clarity for completion, sometimes comprehension; yet find it usually the unplanned, unstructured I enjoy most—probably the reason why so many remain unfinished. Like a fickle child, I am all too easily entranced by the latest shiny, flashing toy.

Now hopelessly distracted, viewing and reviewing my search engine phrases once more, shall we follow the rainbow again?

“john gillespie”
john gillespie mageeTopping the list of Google queries, admittedly by margin smaller than people you can fit into an average car, is“John Gillespie.” Hmm, that name does sound familiar…

Long in search of the true John Gillespie, I hope dear Google user you also found what you were looking for; but should you have been searching for the University of California biologist, failed Republican Congressional candidate from the year 2000, a London based actor, the Canadian hair transplant surgeon or artist from the nineteenth century, I’m little worried—it seems aside from the politician, my namesakes are all worthy of the seeking.

Especially so John Gillespie Magee, Jr, whose all too brief 19 years crash-landed in a 1941 spitfire accident over Roxholm, England, yet lives on in a poem said to be a favourite amongst astronauts and aviators, quoted by a US President following the Challenger Shuttle disaster:

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

This John Gillespie would almost bargain a fiery, cockpit leaping death to have written that…

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Deserving of Comment

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thousandeyethousandeye, or Alf to his friends, wins this week’s Comment of the Week Award—an all expenses paid link to and mention of his own site—the once semi-flippant and whimsical but fast becoming deep and poetic thousandeye—check out his heart-on-sleeve and words-on-leaves poetry (you’ll understand if you visit) before he becomes famous and haughty (or would that be “one-eyed?”)

A regular kind purveyor of comments, Alf went well beyond the call of readership, not only providing the following serendipitous link, Dog gets Purple Heart for saving kids, letting me know that George the Hero Terrier that deserved a medal actually got one (a heart-warming story in its own right as postscript to one already so), but was kind enough to leave one of his worthy poems for us all to read:

I have never been a cat person but dogs are definitely special.

Reminds me of a poem I once wrote about my dog:

Faith, my friend,
You always come to me
With new eyes.

Will I one day be an old man whose major conversational gambit is,“…reminds me of a poem I once wrote…”?

PS The dog was called Katie, not Faith!

Also deserving of a mention as regular commentators and—I hope this isn’t an assumption too far—readers of A Sensitivity to Things are:

  • Shardul of KiwiCelt, who would have won the prize last week for some recollections of the 1970s—a time I can write about but not substantively remember—prompted by an eccentric walk down memory lane masquerading as a tour of patriotism, if I had but remembered that a weekly award needs to be awarded weekly;
  • Larry of Mental Blog, who claims to be“better on paper than in person,” and judging by the quality of his blog and comments here who am I to dispute him;
  • Camille of Now, who has been posting comments since before comments were deserving;
  • Tejvan of, whose commenting style is faster than the cycling individual pursuit;
  • and finally, Sumangali of In the Spirit of Serendipity, whose comments are to be appreciated almost as much as her serendipitous blog.

No doubt I am missing a few worthy mentions, but in the spirit of reverse psychology, a glaring omission may just encourage your continued submission…

Postscript: I installed the DoFollow WordPress plugin today on the semi-recommendation of NetWriting, which should further encourage those interested in search engine standing, if not good karma and authorial appreciation, to comment here at A Sensitivity to Things.

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Comment of the Week

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Larry Keiler of Mental Blog has just won my inaugural comment of the week competition. Apologies for the lack of warning but, seeing as this blog is dedicated to—and occasionally written in—the spirit of meditation, if you weren’t on the same wave length, well… better luck next time.

Larry’s prize? A mention—in fact a word-for-word quotation—and a link back to his well worth the read and I’m not just saying that because he was nice to me blog.

I think the main flaw of all of our youthful writings is that it tends towards the purple. The fact that it’s self-absorbed and angst-ridden is just the way it is and probably always will be. It takes a special sort of genius to be a young genius. But it also takes a special sort of genius to even attempt writing (anything) in one’s youth. I wrote similar stuff to yours when I was young. And now I think I’m blessed that I had the courage to do it, and the outlet it provided. (Because I was angst-ridden and hormone-hyped and drug-addled and generally confused…) Many of my friends did not have this. They became 100 yard hurdlers and racewalkers.

We’re all writers, else we wouldn’t be blogging would we? But even now, most often I write ME. Even when I’m thinking through other characters, I’m still writing ME. And in a certain sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For a while I wrote Jack Kerouac. Or Kafka. Or any other writer whose name starts with K. Now I get to write Keiler, for better or worse.

…In my first year of university, I wrote a short story with a rather“Book of Revelations” ending involving snow. My professor said it reminded her of the themes raised in Margaret Atwood’s“Survival”, a particularly Canadian book. I’m not sure I still have a copy of that story, but looking back on it now, I remember it as being simply over-wrought.

Outstanding comment Larry. Which leads me on to, or more accurately, back to, my favourite topic of all. You guessed it—me.

Funnily enough, as Larry relates, I also wrote Jack Kerouac for a while, and am grateful to ‘Ti Jean’ for his“first thought best thought” approach to writing. Experimenting with just pouring the words out upon the page, never looking back like Lot of The Book of Genesis—just write, write, write and don’t worry what you write—all of this helped inestimably in the thousand-page journey to find my writer’s voice, and to my blessed relief, liberated me from the quagmire of over-analysis and hesitation.

About the time I was writing purple-hued, post-adolescent poetry, I landed a weekly column in a university newspaper—a particularly daring move considering I had all of two completed articles to my name. With twenty-six, due by 12pm Monday at the latest ahead of me, I was soon writing come agonising over-wrought, over-thought think-pieces on topics as diverse as Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King and myself. I think you can guess which topic was the odd one out.

The column—This Side of the (TV) Screen, collapsed after only twelve editions, crushed under weight of over-expectation and a nagging self-doubt. The task of six hundred worthy words a week seemed a mountain too high, and, despite knowing better, I couldn’t help but compare myself—unfavourably—to a fellow columnist, who wrote the most eloquent, lyrical pieces I had then ever seen. Despite my self-perceived flaws, the editor—son of a famous New Zealand poet and an emerging playwright—was more than encouraging, and looking back now—beyond the tears of frustration and sense of failure—it was a good learning experience—a commendable first start.

As an aside, I never met my columnist colleague that year—he was a secretive, mysterious scribe, and seldom ever seen. Several years later however I did, by which time I had graduated to Production Manager—he still a columnist. Would you believe it—despite his paper-eloquence and pen-in-hand wit he was in person nervous, neurotic and to the extreme meek, virtually apologising for his contributions before he even submitted them. Who would have thought…

No Failure
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the shadow
Of success.
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the changing body
Of success.
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the fast approaching train
Of the greatest success.

Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 13, 1973

As someone once said, failure (upon failure) paves the road to success. And while I’m composing my victory speech, I should say that I couldn’t have done it without meditation.

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Back from holiday

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Elizabeth BrowningNot a few of my readers come to me from, and so, in the spirit of serendipity, and just a little charity, let me return the favour and announce a return to blogging form: Truly… Nothing’s Small.

Which gives me a convenient excuse to mention poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose poem forms the title of the afore-mentioned, prodigal post. Just when you think you know something about poetry (I don’t), you go and discover a new poet, and have to start all over again…

Here is a little Browning sample, from ‘Book 1’ of Aurora Leigh:

I, alas,
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water, give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck, —
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father’s word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
`Love, love, my child.’ She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love — she was his sister once,
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved,
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm’s length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face, — ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm
And missed it rather, — told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear, —
`She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.’ Very kind.

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life poetry writing

Bad, bad, so very bad…

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WritingI’ve been avoiding doing this for a while. Almost ten years in fact. It has been a decade since I first discovered poetry—probably a little later than most in truth. No longer an angst ridden teenager but still angst ridden, I was in my early twenties and the right side of a university arts degree—not the usual or most direct route to a love of verse and crafted, written word, but then any route will do.

As William S. Burroughs once said, and very much after the fact: every writer fears the amount of bad writing he will have to do before he does any good. And I really did some bad writing.

Long hidden at the bottom of a box and I long hiding from it—notebook after notebook of poetry and wild-eyed, stream of consciousness writing. Best forgotten but compelling like a car-wreck, they are the rubber-neck memoirs of a tortured youth—page after anguished page of over-wrought, over-thought poems, almost poems in truth.

With the benefit much bad writing written I can discern a semblance of a poetry in the output of this younger self—a single sentence or stanza attempting to take flight, but that is all. The seed or germinating idea for a poem is present, discernible just, and the formative experiences certainly are or were—the messy, moving stuff of life clamouring for poetic expression, but the ideas and emotions are never fully grown, written down in full.

Aim, concentration and focus are all wanting badly in these poems, scattered in the winds of distraction, perhaps personal dis-function as well; lost before the wisps of substance and meaning could bind together and form.

If my poems had been written consciously they would be great art—if the compelling, true to life back story, clearly discernible now with the benefit of time was actually present on page—but alas such is not the case. Instead they are the reflection of the artist as a young, very young man, but not a true or worthy portrait—words writ blurred and myopic, pen tripping over clumsy mind, spilled out without thought as page over page of stumbles, heart scribbled in the margins, wanting to be found.

I really can’t believe how bad they are—how bad I was. Melodramatic emotionalism without restraint, turgid, vapid—subtly but a dream, the shores of sensibility—and just plain sense—a long way off. Exhibits of an obsession with fruitless self-analysis, and a futile search for meaning in the mud of mental and emotional obscurity.

Thank God I got over myself. Thank God I stopped writing poems about myself.

If I was perhaps different
Then what would I be?
Would the life I have lived
Then mean nothing to me?
What road would I travel
And where abouts would I go
My journey now falls behind me
Ahead nothing I know

And another…

Whatever you know
I know something better
bigger, vaster,

Whatever you are,
I am something more—
something Infinite.

You torment me, torture me
rage on within me
But your torrent of noise
is your weakness
not mine

O cornered ego
O delusion and distraction
Your angry shouts and wounded howls
invoke a death from which you can not hide.

You, not I.

Update: From one brain to another, although hopefully not so tortured, check out the Monday Poetry Train at From My Brain to Yours.

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When I heard the learn’d astronomer

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When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman


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Follow the rainbow

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rainbowman.jpgI’m having a great time at the moment following the site stats for A Sensitivity to Things. Which is not to say that I am statistically inclined, not particularly any way, not like one of my webmaster friends, who writes articles on economics in his part and full time; rather, I am enjoying discovering the where and how in the world people are beating a path to my door.

Near the very end of the visitor origin stats, and right at the bottom of the list of search key-phrases, were a handful of surfers who visited by following a rainbow, more literally than figuratively, their Google searches for the meaning of rainbows leading them to a recent posting of Sri Chinmoy’s beautiful explanation of their spiritual significance. I certainly hope they found their pot of gold.

One search key-phrase however stood out from the rest, like a multi-hued rainbow across a sky of dull grey if you will:

“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?”

Er, what?! I think a rainbow just appeared in my mind…

I told you I was having a great time—a seemingly simple phrase, a possible statistical anomaly and among all the visitors recorded a one in a thousand rarity had me more than intrigued. Rainbows are special, certainly, but a rainbow in your living room? Now that is something I would like to see!

And find too. Long since through the rabbit hole, I am compelled to follow this rainbow further…

A quick search of Google (0.22 seconds for the statistically minded) revealed 1,190,000 potential answers. Curious to see where an in-the-spirit-of-serendipity search would lead me, and mildly interested to know how high my only-several-weeks-old website was ranking, I followed a rainbow to the following sites, listed in rough order of search ranking and ability to catch my fickle eye:

Harmonic Concordance
“Creation began with a tone, and so it shall end as all is about harmonics.”

Forgetting for a moment my just created philosophy of colour-dazed search, I stopped for a moment to read, reminded of a conversation overheard in childhood about how you could destroy the entire world with the right harmonic frequency (!), although ‘wrong frequency’ it seems to me would be a more apt description. Several paragraphs in though I draw back the reins of my eyes—it is time to press on and follow the hand of serendipity rather than the heels of distraction.

Moving down the list and then to the next page, my eye is caught by the name of the following site, and upon further investigation, its writers’ disturbingly positive outlook:

A mommy going crazy
“I see the rainbow! This afternoon I am feeling much better, I still have my wrist in a splint, but that is my only obstacle I am faced with today, YEAH!”

I have often wondered how to live with psychic gifts. The next site tells you how:

Living with your Psychic Gifts
“As for your psychic abilities, it seems to me you are both a healer and an empath. Different abilities can combine like this, it isn’t uncommon. The heat you feel is the movement of the healing force through you. Let it happen! Set an intention that you will heal them, see positive white or rainbow energy flowing from you into them. Read Hands of Light and other healing books. The world needs more healers!”

rainbow_storm.jpgHmm, I read that book once. Kind of made me feel bad for not being able to enter into other dimensions as easily as described by its author. Luckily I discovered in time, and not without bruising my forehead somewhat from repeated trying, that there is more than enough in the right here and now to fascinate and amaze, let alone any other plane of existence. It just requires a certain attention to detail, an open heart, and the ability to see the world as a child once again.

But what about rainbows? Aren’t we supposed to be following a rainbow? Back to the search…

Living the dream—A Rainbow Start
“Saw this rainbow while I was preparing to bathe, really happy to see it on a New Year’s Day (: Not being auspcious or superstitous here but it just bores well for a New Year.”

A rainbow on New Year’s Day? A fellow fan of syncronicity it seems. Glad to have made their acquaintance.

I suppose I’d better stop ignoring all of the ‘New Age’ search results. Yes, nobody has a monopoly on wisdom and insight (especially not myself), so I really shouldn’t be so dismissive of crystal gazing, well-meaning wearers of rainbow coloured sweat-pants…

the meditation room, your window to the world of life after death
“The Fifth Chakra: This is the throat chakra and deals with communication, expression and judgment. It has the color of blue, the crystal stone is blue lace agate and it has the musical note of “G”. The blue lace agate crystal stone will help with expressing how you feel. In other words to help clear and clarify the way you wish to communicate. This chakra controls the vocal chords, the thyroid gland and the bronchial system. This chakra can sometimes be the most important of all the chakras. Because it controls the thyroid gland, and it is this particular gland that has complete jurisdiction over the entire body. If the gland is not operating properly then it can create all sorts of very bad sickness. When in an activating mode, this particular chakra, through your meditations, will then be dealing with the frustration’s within your communications that you will have to resolve. It is with this chakra that you will question the wisdom of your self expression when it is concerned with your judgment of others. When you meditate on this chakra, your throat chakra, you will find that your voice will become a lot clearer and more fuller in depth, with the sincerity of life itself..”

Interesting stuff. And there is more. Much, much more…

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