Changes in the New Year

Hello,

Happy New Year! Like all years, 2015 saw lots of growth and change. I received my Master’s in English and Creative Writing, I moved, I became and atheist and a vegan, and lots more. 

2016, baby!

2016, baby!

As I plan to focus even more on my writing this year, I have decided to consolidate my blogs into one. I will still be writing about the same things, but all on one site.

If you would, please visit http://ravenburnes.wordpress.com for all my latest musings. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know who you are as well.

Here’s to love and growth and passion in 2016!

Peace and love,

Raven Burnes

My Preemptive Gratitude List (PGL version 2014), Coming Soon…

Wow, this year has been great — and also weird.  A good weird, mostly.  Also…just weird.  But I’m so grateful!

I’m grateful for all the cool things I’ve gotten to do this year and all the wonderful people I’ve met.  I’m grateful for my renewed commitment to my art and my writing, and for all the work I did this year. I’m grateful for my boys – for who they are as young men and for everything they’ve accomplished.  I’m grateful for El Massivo and his Guardian (you’re everything!).  I am grateful for all the fun times and success I expect to have in 2014.  And I’m grateful for all of you who read this blog and encourage my progress.

So, tonight I will be finalizing my goals for the New Year.  My goals will consist of all the things I want to be grateful for at the end of next year.   I call this my Preemptive Gratitude List, instead of my New Year’s Resolutions.  I want to appreciate things while they are happening, and appreciate the people in my life while they are with me, in real time.  I want to know I’ve really lived – not according to what “people” think  – but according to what’s really in my heart.

My goals keep me from simply existing.  They warn me not to settle.  They push me to be the very best I can be.  And they help me to avoid wandering aimlessly through life.

There’s a saying that states if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?  Also, if you have no destination, any old road will take you there.  But the real reason I do my Preemptive Gratitude List is that I believe in living life intentionally.  (I also really like checking things off and feeling smug).

So, my lovelies, best of luck for an awesome New Year.  If you’re not pursuing your dreams already, make 2014 the year you finally follow your bliss!

Love, peace and blessings…

Participating In Your Own Evolution

I heard someone today make a very interesting comment about evolution.  He said that the history of evolution has been an external progression – something that happened TO us to get us this far – but that the future of evolution will be participatory.  In other words, we are co-creators with the evolutionary process.  I agree.  We can already see evidence of this with climate change, our various lists of extinct and near-extinct creatures, and our almost dogged pursuit of our own destruction.

While it is fascinating to think of such things on a grand scale, the details of our daily lives seem much more pressing.  Fortunately, the same idea applies on the micro-level.  We co-create the progression of our own lives – our own personal evolution – through our interaction with life’s circumstances and events.

For instance, in my last blog I spoke offhand about the mistreatment and cruelty I experienced last week and my struggle to maintain my inner peace.  I knew that my response to this event was critical not only to the health of my spirit but also to my future circumstances and Karmic influences.  I have learned through experience that instead of fighting negative circumstances, the key is to stop resisting at once.  That doesn’t mean to get cozy with negativity or to tell yourself that it’s O.K.  No, ceasing resistance means asking yourself questions like “What must I do to get through this event with dignity, poise, and self-love” or “If this situation were to remain unchanged, how must I adapt?”  “How can I respond with grace to this situation?”.

These questions allow us to counter our natural, emotional, ego-based reactions with Goddess-like thoughts.  These thoughts provide the space needed to develop our highest and best responses to tense, difficult situations.   Also, on a practical level, the sooner we stop resisting negativity, the sooner it goes away.

This, at least, has been my experience.  The difficult people and circumstances I was dealing with disappeared so quickly that it was shocking.  The situation was still unjust, unethical, unbecoming, and many other things – but I am now free of them.  That situation is no longer a problem and, in fact, seems as if it happened a long time ago.

So, my point is that we are not passive pawns in some cosmic game of chess.  We are not simply victims of happenstance cowering before the whims of fate.  Yes, life is unpredictable and even heart-rending at times.  But when we sit down to the card game of life, it is the skillful playing of the hand we’ve been dealt that ultimately determines our happiness – and whether or not we make a positive impact on this planet.

So, we co-create our destiny through our spiritual practice.  But we do not do it alone.  I can say, without question, that the gods and goddesses in human flesh –also known as my friends – have been instrumental to my success in dealing with negative situations.  To them I send a special blessing of Love, Peace, and Harmonizing Prosperity.

May you have a great week co-writing your destiny by standing up to life with grace and peaceful determination.  Love and blessings!  Now, please, go follow your bliss…

Below is my progression of work this week.  I’ve got a long way to go, but things are coming along…  🙂

My Letter to Trayvon Martin – a spiritual perspective

Dear Trayvon,

Thank you for your time on this planet.  I celebrate your life even as I mourn your death.  Thoughts of you have had me in tears, off and on, for almost two days.  Although I never knew you on this earth, I have come to identify with you through your death.  You and I share the fact that we incarnated on this planet in brown skin.  Although that means nothing in the Life after Life where you now reside, as you know, it means a lot here on planet earth.  Most people focus on the superficial aspects of life and on the endless ego-based power struggles that dominate the unenlightened experience on earth.  Focusing on these things elevates the significance of color, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation – turning these glorious expressions of God’s creativity into justifications for exploitation, discrimination, and, yes, even murder.

Trayvon, your death hurts me because I have two sons – beautiful young men who could be shot dead in the street because someone in the majority culture viewed them as a “threat”.  Your death reminded me of all the times white people have cringed when I walked into a room, clutched their purses to their bodies, locked their car doors as I walked blissfully down the street, denied me opportunities for flimsy reasons, or completely ignored my presence.  Your death reminds me of how brief and sometimes bewildering this life on earth really is.

It also reminds me that justice is something that eludes us in this country at this time.  It reminds me that my real home is in the heavenly realms from which I came and to which I will one day return.  It reminds me of my duty on this planet in the meantime – to do what I can to establish a fair and just society, one that would never tolerate a man gunning down a child in the street like a dog and walking free.  Your death reminds me that I have spiritual and physical work to do in my lifetime.

Your death also caused me to honor our physical ancestors today.  Their everyday life was one of humiliation – where they had to daily swallow their anger and indignation just to stay alive.  As African-Americans we are still burdened with the task of swallowing our anger and rage in order to make money, survive, and get along in this country.  But our ancestors bore the major brunt of this struggle and their strength is a model and inspiration for our own.  They were not broken by their struggle and, likewise, I am not broken.  I will do what I can, from the vantage point of communion with God, from the energy and Spirit of Love and Peace, to continue the quest for justice in this country.

Dear Trayvon, rest in peace, my son.  Thank you for the Light you brought to your family and friends while you were here.  Thank you for unwittingly being a martyr in the struggle for peace and justice on the planet.  I promise not to forget you.

In solidarity,

Raven Burnes

The Search For Love In A Patriarchal Society

There has been a persistent theme in my life over the last few weeks of analyzing romantic relationships and how I feel about them.  I just finished a wonderful book on the subject entitled Communion: The Female Search For Love by bell hooks.  Hooks is a feminist writer whom I had heard of but had never read any of her books.  The book was an excellent analysis of how patriarchy impacts romantic relationships.

Hooks’ basic premise is that enlightened women, especially feminists, who have been largely successful in fighting patriarchy in so many other areas, want romantic relationships that are deeply intimate and fulfilling.  At odds with this goal is the patriarchal tenet that says that real men are unemotional, closed, and unwilling to talk about their feelings.  This is a learned social behavior, not something innate in male babies.  Male babies cry for the same reasons female babies cry.  But, over time we learn our roles within the patriarchy; and these roles provide built-in conflict when it comes to relationships.

Happily, more and more men are embracing feminism, knowing that equality and decency towards one another is not merely a “woman’s issue”.  Every living human being has had a mother at some point, so women’s issues affect everyone.  In addition, the happiness and success of our daughters, sisters, friends, and coworkers affects the society as a whole, not just those individual women.

While hooks’ book title implies that the topic is romantic love, that is only part of it.  Love is love, and it shows up in many different forms.  Strong platonic friendships in addition to healthy family relationships, where they exist, are key to a sense of community and to one’s overall happiness and security.

What I took away from the book for myself is a confirmation of what I see going on in many romantic relationships and a rational explanation for why I have resisted them.  Within patriarchy, women are taught to find their fulfillment within the boundaries of a romantic relationship.  Men are taught that marriage is a trap and a burden that should be postponed for as long as possible.  Women are taught that being loved by a man is the highest form of validation and the key to a happy and successful life.  Men are taught to find their validation through work, that women are an accessory to their lives, and that a wife’s goals and aspirations should be secondary to the man’s career goals and to the happiness of the family.  Men are also taught that they should be superior to all women in all relevant aspects of life and that a woman’s beauty is a reflection upon his worth as a man.  This is why many men, especially those whose financial success makes them feel entitled, leave their marriages in pursuit of younger women once they reach a certain age.  A woman’s worth, under patriarchy, expires once her youthful good looks and innocence give way to wisdom and maturity.

Given this sad state of affairs between men and women, many women understandably try to navigate their happiness as best they can without directly challenging the system.  To challenge the system is to risk “being alone” – which is patriarchy’s ultimate punishment for lack of conformity.  Society has always taught women that the worst thing that could happen to them is to end up a “spinster” or “old maid” (notice that there are no male equivalents for these derogatory labels).  So women try to find love anyway, within the system, and often tolerate a lifetime of disrespect, uncertainty, and a lack of love.  Those who are luckier either find loving enlightened men or “benevolent patriarchs” with whom they are able to forge reasonably happy unions.

The whole topic is fascinating to me, but I am happy to be a spectator for now.  My goal is to fill my life with love of all kinds.  I love my children, my friends, my career in art, my God, and myself.  I find a great deal of fulfillment in just Being.  Ironically, self-love is the first step and represents the only real shot any of us has in finding romantic love.  But a general sense of happiness and fulfillment is what’s important and is what we are put on this earth to experience.

May this week be one of deep, profound love and connection with Reality and with each other.  Peace and blessings and, as always, please continue to follow your Bliss…

You’re All A Bunch of Mothers!

I am not much of a holiday person; the only holidays I truly love are Halloween and New Year’s Eve.  But I sincerely hope that you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day.  It was a beautiful day here in Los Angeles and my mother seemed to have a nice day.  I had a nice day as well and heard from my two beautiful young men in the morning, which was wonderful.  The day started with listening to Agape spiritual services online, which set the tone for a very reflective and conscious day.

Reverend Michael said many things that were amazing, but I especially liked that he acknowledged the fact that Mother’s Day can be tough for many people.  Not everyone has an Ozzy and Harriet or Cosby Show kind of family; Michael reminded those of us in that situation that we were born into this world with lessons we came to learn.  Our families are part of the package that has helped us become who we are today.

When we become aware of the areas of our lives that have fallen short of our ideals, we have the perfect opportunity to remake those areas in a more pleasing way.  For instance, if we were not taught about money as a child, and that lack of knowledge caused us to make many mistakes, perfect!  We have the opportunity now to seek out the information we didn’t get as children.  If we grew up feeling alienated and unloved, great!  Now we have the opportunity to share with others the love that we wish we had received ourselves.

Too many times we wait around looking to receive things from others when the universe is looking at us, wondering what exactly we’re waiting for.  We are the agents of change.  We have all been blessed with painful challenges, and have come through them with wisdom and compassion to share.  We all have gifts and have overcome things that, if we would only be willing to share, could help someone else and be a blessing to the next generation.

In other words, whether or not you have children, you can be a mother to someone.  Even if you are a man, you have gifts of nurturing, patience, and compassion that can lift someone up.  There is someone out there who needs you to be the Light you were meant to be.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all you “Mothers”!  May we all carry the Divine Mother vibration into the next week and seek out people to love, nurture, and care for.  Peace and blessings… now go follow your bliss…

The Importance of Forgiveness

Forgiveness gets a lot of attention in spiritual circles and for good reason.  A lack of forgiveness can lead to problems as far-reaching as illness, chronic debt, multiple dysfunctional relationships, and even suicide or murder.  Forgiveness never means condoning or approving of what you did to someone, or what they did to you.  Rather, forgiveness involves giving up the quest for a different past and surrendering to the IS-ness of life.  Forgiveness helps us to play the hand we’ve been dealt, and move forward with confidence.

I did a lot of forgiveness work early on in my spiritual walk but hadn’t revisited the topic much since then.  I do a daily meditation during which I release the minor things such as forgiving a rude comment at school or the bully who cut me off on the street.  But real forgiveness work tends to involve those deep soul-shaking events that change the course of your life, or fundamentally shape the way you see yourself and the world around you.  I did that work today.

I was moved to do it because I am exploring deeper territory in my art – going beyond pretty pictures to exploring more significant social, political, and spiritual issues.  Also, I will be graduating soon and moving on to a new phase of life.  So whenever I’m in a transition phase – going beyond the status quo and moving into something more significant – I think it’s important to clean house internally.  So, I began with my journal.

I did journaling instead of meditating because the topics I needed to explore were painful.  Writing provides some distance from your feelings and allows you to be honest so you can get it all out.  The events that shaped me are traumatic childhood experiences.  I faced absenteeism and indifference from one parent; chronic cruelty, criticism, and name-calling from the other, no one to turn to who would listen or care, and only one sibling who, even today, I have never successfully established a relationship with.

Thus far I have tended to gloss over these things, preferring to just move on and have a successful life.  That worked well for years but today I had to revisit this stuff.  I wrote out in full detail what exactly happened that hurt me.  I listed everything I could think of. It’s amazing how much emotion can be tied up in events from decades ago.  It’s amazing how vividly those events reappeared in my mind’s eye.  I became short of breath as I contemplated how truly screwed up some things really were.

But after the list of negative things I received from each parent, I wrote about the Good that they gave me: my looks, intelligence, and spirituality on one side; my artistic talent, strength, and resiliency from the other.  After listing what these two people gave me, I then listed what I have done over the course of my life to maximize these gifts.  Slowly I regained my composure and my breathing returned to normal.  I realized just how much I have accomplished in my life and how faithfully I have used the gifts I have been given thus far.

Finally, I wrote about what I hope for in the future.  I wrote about all the things I still have left to experience in my life.  I listed the things I’m looking forward to doing and having, and gave thanks for each one.  I gave thanks for all the trauma because it has made me who I am.  I gave thanks for learning how to meditate because I believe it saved my life.  I released my prayers to the Universe with great gratitude for my own children who are my precious gifts, and for my friends, present and future, who will become my new extended family.

Afterwards I felt clean, happy, a little shaken, but ready.  I feel more prepared now to be a beneficial presence on the planet and to help others reach their true potential.

With love and gratitude, I appreciate every reader of this blog and wish you all the very Highest and Best for your lives.

Now go follow your bliss…

These are a few items, (some very rough works-in-progress) from this week: