So What the Heck Is a Secular Bohemian? by Christina Knowles

tree-huggerWhat Is a Secular Bohemian? I am. I am non-spiritual (secular), and I am unconventional, artistic, and a bit of a hippie (Bohemian). How do these two descriptors coexist in one body?

Well, I may seem like a bundle of contradictions to some. After all I read the Tarot, I celebrate pagan and Christian holidays, I meditate and practice yoga, I eat organic and respect animals, I use alternative and Eastern homeopathic medicines, and I light incense at my Buddha altar.

On the other hand, I don’t believe in gods, heaven, hell, an afterlife, magic, ghosts, reincarnation, the soul, or the supernatural, in general. I accept the current views of the scientific community, and I like to have hard evidence to support the things I believe. I use reason and don’t just accept anything I hear.

So why would a rational person with no spirituality be interested in all of these questionable practices? Well, I consider myself somewhat of a cultural pagan, just like people who aren’t Christians celebrate Christmas. It’s fun and enriches my life. Celebrating the cycles of the earth and the culture of my ancestors enhances my sense of where we came from, what they believed, how they lived, and it’s full of joy and creativity.

I do understand that many non-theists think that all religions are harmful because they promote irrational thinking, but if we take the positive cultural customs in full awareness that there is nothing magical about them, why do we need to toss it all? Most of us give gifts and have a Christmas tree in December, but we don’t have to lie to our children about the existence of Santa Claus.

Meditation, yoga, many essential oils, and nutrition as medicine have all been studied and shown to have positive effects on health. Some doctors are now prescribing essential oils to treat symptoms and disease. For example, frankincense has been tested in the lab has been found to have a positive effect in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and even cancer. Don’t get me wrong, if I need medicine, I’ll take it, but if I can treat it naturally without experiencing the string of side effects associated with pharmaceuticals, I’d rather.

And I know organic foods have been highly criticized by skeptics as well. I don’t have a problem with the concept of genetically modifying food to feed the world or to create a drought-resistant crop, but I do object to genetically modifying food in order to withstand dousing it with proven toxic chemicals like Roundup. I also prefer that my meat is not tortured before slaughter. I do realize that all organic foods are not all they are advertised to be. That’s why I prefer to support local family farms whenever possible. I also think that our food source should be more about health and survival than about corporate profits.

As far as my Buddha and incense rituals go, they simply put me in a relaxed state and have nothing to do with a spiritual concept. It just sets the mood for my meditation—and it smells good too.

And although I never get a flu shot, I am not an anti-vaccer. I guess I just don’t get why freethinkers are so closed-minded when it comes to these things. Things like acupuncture and other Eastern medicines are being researched and positively tested more and more frequently. To just dismiss these things out-of-hand without inquiring about their validity is being skeptical to the extreme. You know, all science is pseudo-science before it is has been tested and accepted, and we actually do not understand everything about our world, at least not yet. I’m not suggesting we believe every new idea put forth by the general public, but neither should we condemn something without enough information. Don’t knock it till you try it.

So, I guess being a secular Bohemian means being open to ideas and experiences that don’t necessarily conform to only proven scientific conventions while not being subject to irrational beliefs about them. And instead of trying to fit into a secular box or a Bohemian one, I accept my complexities and even embrace them. So peace out and merry part!—Christina Knowles

Photo via EcoEquine/Horse Hippie

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This Beautiful Life by Christina Knowles

nature love

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems.
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left. 
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books.
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

“There was never any more inception than there is now,
nor any more youth or age than there is now;
and will never be any more perfection than there is now,
nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”– “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

These are some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard, and they embody my worldview. The beauty of the honest search for truth is the most exquisite gift we can give ourselves. The realization that we do not have to “look through the eyes of the dead” and believe in the myths of old, do not need to listen to the ghosts of ancient men and their antiquated notions, do not need to listen to our conditioning, but we can read, investigate, think, and dialogue all ideas and decide among them for ourselves is true freedom. And my conclusion that this world is all I will ever know, that this is both my heaven and my hell, has given me appreciation for every sweet breath I take, joy in every moment with those I love, and the perspective that allows me to live, really live, taking nothing for granted, and noticing every lovely thing in this beautiful life.—Christina Knowles

Photo via weheart.com

 

The Truth Behind the Tarot by Christina Knowles

Tarot

All my life I’ve been fascinated by the Tarot. I started reading cards many years ago, and although I’ve had great experiences with them, I’ve given them up over and over, just to pick them up again. First, because I thought that the idea that these were somehow magical cards that could tell us truths about ourselves was ridiculous, and later because when I was a Christian, I was told they were evil—full of Satanic power. I thought this was a little crazy too. After all, they seemed pretty innocuous to me. But now, without religious dogma dictating my actions, I decided to pick them up again—just for fun.

 

Why would a skeptical atheist want to mess around with cards that supposedly predict the future? Well, for one thing, that’s not what they are intended to do. They are supposed to get in touch with the “higher self,” the divine self who knows things that our regular self does not. I don’t believe I have a divine self or a “higher self,” but I do have a subconscious mind. Much as dreams may signal internal conflict or reveal unconscious struggles symbolically, reading the cards is a way of unlocking some of our stored away issues of which we are not fully aware.

 

Having taught literature for a number of years, I recognize the power of story—the connections we make, the epiphanies that occur when we relate automatically to a certain set of circumstances or events. Each Tarot card tells a story and can represent many things symbolically. How we relate to these stories at any given time is a clue to revealing our inner desires, our worries and fears, our secret feelings. Some people interpret these feelings when reading cards as intuition. I recognize intuition as our subconscious coming to the surface momentarily, allowing us to have realizations about ourselves that may previously have been blocked, sort of like the anecdote about making decisions. If you really want to know what you want, flip a coin, and when it’s in the air, you will realize which side of the coin you were hoping to see. Sometimes we need a little help figuring ourselves out, and the Tarot can do that—there’s nothing magical or mystical about it.

 

As for those who are really adept at reading cards for others, this is also easily explained. Whenever I read cards for others, I would “sense” a feeling or an interpretation of the cards from my own experiences, biases, and personality. When I repeated my impressions, the person for whom I was reading, reacted. I, in turn, would perceive from their reaction which way to take the story’s interpretation. The person receiving the reading is also influenced by both the cards and my interpretation, essentially being led down a road simultaneously by me and themselves, still reaching the destination of revealed truths about their own struggles and desires. The reader is not necessarily a charlatan. They really believe they are having mystical insights into this person’s life. It does feel like that. I’ve felt it many times, but I assure you I am no psychic.

 

Removing the illusion of magic from the cards doesn’t have to ruin the benefits of card reading. With my imagination, I can immerse myself in their symbols and stories, relax, and let my subconscious tell me what I need to know. As I’ve learned many things about myself through dream interpretation, I continue to use the Tarot as a tool for problem-solving and clarity. After all, it’s all in my mind anyway, so if the goal is understanding my own behavior or decisions, what better place to find answers?—Christina Knowles

Failing at Meditation? No, You’re Not by Christina Knowles

hippie-girl-in-nature            Recently I’ve returned to practicing meditation. I only stopped because I thought I was a failure at it. I thought I had to empty my mind and think of absolutely nothing, and I never could accomplish this. I thought I had to feel nothing but calm, and if I could not think of nothing, then I had to focus on just one image. Well, after succumbing to a stress-related heart attack, I decided I needed to give meditation another shot. This time I joined a meditation group that meets on weekends at one of our many beautiful and natural parks in Colorado Springs. The one where we met the first time I attended, was in a large mountainous park, full of rocky cliffs and pine trees, dirt trails, and wildflowers. We sat in an open pavilion in the shade and let the cool breeze flow over us. We wrote down our worries on pieces of scrap paper and ceremonially put them in the Universe Box to symbolically let the universe take on these problems for us. Then we went inside ourselves, eyes shut, quiet, breathing smoothly, and let our thoughts float in and out. I felt the breeze, I listened with gratitude at the birds chirping, and I went deeper into me. It was like my unconscious mind woke to put her arms around me. Occasionally I’d hear a dog bark or a siren in the distance, but it would gently float in one ear and out the other not even disturbing the serenity I felt. It was like I was one with everything, a part of each thing happening around me, yet above being affected by it.

What happened next was somewhat unexpected. My mind gently drifted to images that I call my “happy place.” Usually my favorite happy place image is a wintry Christmas scene in a room only lit by the softly blinking lights of a small Christmas tree and the warm, crackling of a fire. Looking through the window into the night sky, I see big fat snowflakes falling slowly and gently, no wind to divert them from their path. The light from the moon illuminates them just enough to be clearly seen through the glass. My hand rests on my dog’s back. She is lying next to me with her head resting on my lap. I look down at her, and it’s my beagle, Mulder, who passed away several years ago. She looks up at me with love in her soft brown eyes. I notice that the gifts piled haphazardly under the tree, the tree with homemade and personalized ornaments from my childhood, are all wrapped in old-fashioned Christmas paper, reds and greens with pictures of kids dressed in snow gear that look like they’re from the 1950s. All around me I feel love, not just any love, but the love and wonder of my childhood. I felt like I was me back then. I just sat and let the love and memories wash over me until tears streamed down my face, happy, poignant tears; the coolest thing was I felt such love for me—that little girl. I thought, Is this what they mean by visiting your inner child? At that moment I had an epiphany, that child, her feelings, her hopes, her fears, her personality, they are still me. This was profound to me because I usually feel like such an adult, not in touch with what I always considered my old self. Just realizing that this was still me, that I am still she, gave me a strange kind of understanding of how to take care of myself, how to live a life that I need to live for my good. It was so beautiful. I went home feeling lighter and filled with pure joy.

When I told my meditation group leader about the experience, he told me that what I did was meditation, and it was just fine. I hadn’t failed. I didn’t need to blank out my mind. I can just let my mind drift, go deep, and let my unconscious tell me what I need to know. This was so freeing, and now I am excited each day to visit myself, which ever part of me that decides to show up, and relax, be comforted, and learn whatever I need to learn or let go of. It has been so much easier to make time for my meditation each day. It has never been just like this first experience again, but it is always good. It centers me and I let my mind drift to anything positive it wants to, gently pushing away any other distractions. Sometimes it is just sweet images, sometimes it’s only the sound of nature, or the feeling of a fan blowing on me, but every once in a while, the little girl me, will make a small appearance just to remind me she is still there, we need each other, we love each other.

I’m still working on giving things to the universe, but I’m getting better and better. It’s not like I’ve become a spiritual person though. Well, I guess it’s how you define spiritual. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a spirit—I mean the kind of thing that survives death and somehow contains my personality and essence of who I am. I believe these things, things that make me me, live in the brain, and the brain does not survive the death of the body because it is part of the body. But if you want to call the essence of who I am, the sum total of my experiences, feelings, and personality, maybe even the unconscious or subconscious mind, spirit, then okay. I can deal with that. Meditation for me is getting to the heart of who I am and visiting this calm place where I can be with the inner me in a totally intimate way, a way that I can’t be in touch with myself during the busyness and chaos of the day.

Being exactly who I am on every level and loving that person despite my flaws through meditation has been a freeing experience that I never imagined. I’ve never had a problem with self-esteem, but it’s a different thing to really feel love for who you are, fully acknowledging every flaw. I’m not talking egocentricism, but just really loving and accepting yourself despite not being perfect and not caring if you are perfect to anyone else. Through meditation I understand who I am and can completely accept myself without the pressure of any performance. During those 15 minutes, the world disappears, and I am just a being, worthy of love and tenderness, with no expectations at all. So when I return to the world of constant demands, the responsibilities seem lighter. I am refreshed, rested, and ready to set boundaries to protect the value of myself as a being on this earth, a being with an expiration date. I won’t let that time be used to harm me anymore. So if you think you are failing at meditation because it doesn’t fit some description in a book, don’t listen. If it helps you, if it calms you, or benefits you in any way, you’re doing it right. Do it however you need to do it. Your subconscious you knows what you need. Peace—Christina Knowles

Photo snagged from aquarian.es