Lessons My Dog Taught Me About Life

Are you a dog lover? I know, I am.  I love cats too.

Animals of all kinds can bring us so much joy, not only when things are going well, but also when we feel pain and are suffering.

Man’s best friend” can be our true and faithful companions through thick and thin. We look to our pets when we are ready to play and laugh, and they instinctively know when we need their support.

We all have struggles and challenges in our life, and it’s during those times that our pets can really come in handy to help us find our joy.

As I watch my dog Molly  go through her day, I realize the lessons are really right there in front of me if I care to pay attention.

Here are some of the ways I can be the person my dog wants me to be, and be the person I want to be as well. I know that whatever life brings me, joy is still always there for the taking.

Live for now

We can spend time regretting the past and obsessing about the future but I have learned that the solution will not be found that way. Spinning my wheels thinking about things that I cannot change is not productive.

Dogs live for today—and so can we. We can appreciate every moment as it comes and be grateful for what we have. Like all animals, when we live in the present, we can have more enthusiasm, joy for life, and less worry.


When you study animal packs, there is rarely a conflict, as the members of the pack solve their problems and move on. They don’t hold a grudge or worry about what happened yesterday.  I can easily forgive an animal or a child but adults can be tricky.

Forgiveness gives us back our power, as we regain a sense of wholeness, peace, and the ability to move on with our lives.

Trust your Intuition

Many of us have not developed or have lost touch with our intuition. We listen to words, but neglect our inner feelings. We may feel uneasy about a certain situation, but neglect what our body is telling us.

Dogs understand what is going on beneath the surface, as they are led by their instincts and rely on their gut reactions. We have these clues as well.  Use your intuition and it will guide you to a life of peace and serenity.

 Find balance.

When any of us have a traumatic situation, we can get off track and spend too much time focused on the situation, neglecting the other areas of our life. I have, at times spent too much time worrying about the problems of others. I’ve learned that we shortchange not only ourselves, but those around us.

Notice how well a dog does when their life is balanced.  Dogs need their exercise, a dose of love, and structure to their daily routine, and so do we.   When we achieve balance, the stress fades to the background and we enjoy life that much more.

 Find your purpose

Have you ever wondered why you were placed here on earth? Sometimes we lose our way and are not sure about our true purpose. The same is true for dogs.

When dogs are given a job and contribute in some way to the well being of others they feel a sense of satisfaction. As humans, we need to find our purpose as well. When we take the time to discover our purpose in life, we feel more fulfilled, and our life feels more meaningful.

 Make every day special.

Sometimes we can let days go by and get swallowed up in our routine. Every day is the same and our excitement is lacking.

Have you ever noticed how a dog finds everyday life exciting? They can’t wait to eat, go for their walk, see you come home, or greet a visitor. We can learn so much by observing how our pets have enthusiasm for the simple joys of everyday life.

Everyday can be special for us as well.  When we take the time to look, we may find our joy is still there waiting to be rediscovered.


Dusk to dawn

I still remember October the 30th.


It was, after all,

The day

New York fell asleep.

Angry gusts

of green wind,

Grey howls of a Hurricane

An orgasm of colors

Exploded like a halo**

Around freedom and liberty and all that jazz

In the city that never sleeps.


She knocked on the doors

‘I hail from the Atlantic,’ she mocked.

She sensed fear on the other side

And laughed cruelly,

‘I will get you anyhow.’


And so she did.

She came, she saw, she conquered.

She broke

She took

She screamed and growled and shrieked


Yet, there was an unholy silence

On the minds of the asleep

In the houses she raped

Around the cries of the dead and gone.


Why, I still remember October the 30th

It was the day Sandy put New York to sleep.

**I have no ownership over…

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Halloween Past & Present                         by Angela H. Penn ©October 2012

Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago, that, is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France.  It is an Irish-Gaelic word meaning “summer’s end.”  Samhain heralds the beginning of winter when the world starts to darken and the days are getting shorter – the ‘dark half’ of the year and the demise of the power of the sun.  They also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset, the night before.  Samhain represented the death of the summer sun god, Lugh.  The Celts believed that the passage of a day began with darkness and progressed into the light. The same notion explains why winter – the season of long, dark nights – marked the beginning of the year and progressed into the lighter days of spring, summer and autumn.   The 1st of November, Samhain, was the Celtic New Year, and the celebrations began at sunset of the day before, i.e. it’s Eve. (1)

Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.   On the night of October 31st, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.  In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.  For a people entirely dependent on the unpredictable natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

Samhain was also a time to plant the seeds in order for  them to germinate over the winter months.  This period marked the end of the old and taking a general inventory of one’s life.  Samhain allowed you to come to terms with your past year and leave all mistakes and/or regrets behind you in order to move on.  Use the magic of this time to say good-bye to all bad habits or addictions, an old relationship, or anything else negative in your life.

What kind of rituals did Samhain involve?

According to Jenny Butler, a Ph.D. student of Béaloideas/Folklore at the University College Cork in Ire land, Samhain traditionally involved rituals of divination, the idea that this was a perceived breaking down of barriers between the human and spirit realms; communication was thought to become possible between the living and the dead.   People may also have believed that they would be privy to supernatural aid or otherworldly knowledge at this time.   Other rituals may have been symbolically to do with the juxtaposition of life and death.  Some divinatory rituals have survived in the form of games, such as “snap-apple” and “bobbing for apples.”  (2)

Samhain being the end of the final harvest of the summer meant that all apples had to be picked by the time the day’s feasting began as it was believed that the puca (pronounced “pooka” – Irish evil fairies) spat on any apples that remained on the trees, thus making them inedible.

What was the significance of lighting bonfires?

There are many reasons why bonfires might have been lit. The most practical one was for warmth as the end of October is a cold, time of the year.  Around a fire is a traditional setting for storytelling sessions and the light and heat from a large fire add to the festive atmosphere.  There’s an Irish custom that it is good luck to jump through the flames of a bonfire.  It has been suggested that the ancient practice of lighting fires on the hills of Ireland had to do with symbolic mirroring of the light and color of the sun in the sky, in a ritual that perhaps was part of a sun-worshipping religion. (2)

Are there any sites that were significant for the celebration of Samhain?

Butler states:  An example of an ancient site that was associated with the observance of the feast of Samhain was the Hill of Ward or “Tlachtga,” located near Athboy in the modern county of Meath.  It is 116 meters (380 feet) high with a prehistoric ring fort on the top.  There are legends that druids gathered there to light huge fires as a signal that festivities should commence.  There is evidence that these great fires were lit on this hill in pre-Christian times, perhaps in order to mark the beginning of winter.   The Hill of Tara, one of the most popular of the Irish heritage sites, was also a significant Samhain site in ancient times and there have been references in medieval manuscripts to Feis Teamhrach or a feast of Tara which was said to be held three days before and three days after Samhain.   It is important to remember that, since we can only base our judgments on scant archaeological evidence and mythological sources, it is difficult to say with certainty what rituals occurred at ancient sites at Samhain but we do know the sites were important to the people in some way and had a religious significance. (2)

Samhain was also a festival not unlike the modern New Year’s Day in that it carried the notion of casting out the old and moving into the new.  Also like modern day New Year’s Eve which we vow to quit smoking, exercise more and lose weight in the upcoming year.  To our pagan ancestors it marked the end of the pastoral cycle – a time when all the crops would be gathered and stored for the long winter ahead.  The livestock would be then be brought in from the fields and used for either breeding or slaughtering.

In olden-day Ireland, jack-o-lanterns would be made by hollowing out a turnip or sugar beet and carving bits out to represent facial features and would then be lit from a candle placed on the inside. The dual idea behind this may have been to at once light the way for the souls of the dead ancestors who are returning to visit the human world and to frighten off any supernatural forces that might be about on this night.  Today in Ireland, people carve faces on pumpkins, which are again an American import. (2)

According to legend, the origin of the Halloween lantern can be found in the tale of a young smith called Jack O’Lantern who made a pact with the Devil during a gambling session. He managed to thwart the Devil and extracted a promise from him that he would never take his soul.  When he eventually died, Jack was refused entry to heaven on account of his drunken, lewd and miserly ways. The Devil, remembering his earlier promise, also refused to allow him into hell.  So Jack was condemned to roam the dark hills and lanes of Ireland for eternity.  His only possessions were a turnip with a gouged out centre and a burning coal, thrown to him by the Devil. He put the coal inside the turnip to light his way through the dark countryside where he still wanders…… (3)

While doing research for this article I discovered that the origin of Halloween ‘trick or treating’ seems to have been a Druid ritual that began with the collecting of items such as eggs, apples and nuts from the homes within the village.  These offerings were meant to protect people from bad luck, such as damage to crops or livestock in the next year.  Tricks were played on the ones who were stingy with their offerings.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween appears to have both European and Celtic origins.  It was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world and people were fearful that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes.   People would wear masks when they left their homes after dark to avoid being mistaken for fellow spirits.   Bowls of food would be placed outside one’s home to prevent spirits from coming in.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory.  In the four hundred years they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.  The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.  The second was a day to honor Pomona, who was the Roman goddess of fruit and trees.  The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this is practiced today on Halloween. (1)

Pope Boniface IV, on May 13, 609 A.D., dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and thus the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church.  When Pope Gregory III (731–741) took over he expanded the festival to include all saints and martyrs, moving the observance from May 13 to November 1.  By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites.  In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2, All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.   It is widely believed that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.  All Souls Day was celebrated much like the Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils.  The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it.  The traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve, and eventually Halloween. (1)

Halloween Superstitions

The secular, commercialized holiday we know today would be barely recognizable to Halloween celebrants a century ago.  Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more frightening, and our customs and superstitions are even scarier too.  Children now dress in elaborate costumes, travelling door to door in pursuit of candy.  We avoid crossing paths with black cats, as this may bring us bad luck. This idea originated in the middle Ages, when many people believed that witches turned themselves into cats to avoid being discovered.   One superstition we have in Canada is to not walk under a ladder of any sort, at any time of year.  I suspect this may be a North American superstition.  At Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road, or on the sidewalk.  I have also heard that spilling salt is a bad omen from others.

What about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about?

Many of these rituals focused on the future and the living rather than the dead.  In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married.  In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.   In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)   Another tale states that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.  Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.   At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle. (1)

While researching for this article I was delighted to find that the world’s largest Halloween party is held in Derry, which is located in Northern Ireland.  Approximately 30,000 people attend this event on average, every year.  Festivities are held at Guildhall Square that includes: a free concert, ghost walks and fireworks.

Happy Halloween!


All Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


1.  http://www.history.com/topics/halloween

2.  ARCHAEOLOGY interview with Jenny Butler Oct. 2006. asked Butler to explain the Celtic roots of Halloween and how relics of the past are understood today.  Jenny Butler, a Ph.D. student of Béaloideas/Folklore at the University College Cork in Ireland.

3. http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/origin-of-Halloween.html

Angela H. Penn is a free-lance writer, poet, herbalist student, animal activist, and an avid blogger who lives in Alberta, Canada.  She can be found on Facebook or via her blog at https://littleburstsofinspiration.wordpress.com/.

 Halloween Past & Present

Unleash Your Authentic Self

What exactly is the authentic self?  Let’s begin with a definition of authenticity which has been described as Authenticity means being real and genuine when you communicate.  We can add trustworthy, loyal and sincere as areas that are part of our authentic selves. The truth should guide you on your path.

Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman defined authenticity as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise. (1)

Writers tend to agree that authenticity is something to be pursued as a goal intrinsic to “the good life.” And yet it is often described as an intrinsically difficult state to achieve, due in part to social pressures to live inauthentically, and in part due to a person’s own character. It is also described as a revelatory state, where one perceives oneself, other people, and sometimes even things, in a radically new way. Some writers argue that authenticity also requires self-knowledge, and that it alters a person’s relationships with other people. Authenticity also carries with it its own set of moral obligations, which often exist regardless of race, gender and class. The notion of authenticity also fits into utopian ideology, which requires authenticity among its citizens to exist, or which claims that such a condition would remove physical and economic barriers to pursuing authenticity.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ―    C.G. Jung

To know ourself, our authentic self, is to embark on the greatest journey of all. Author, Hermann Hesse and psychologist, Carl Jung were pivotal influences in my own journey of discovery and both continue to be touchstones for my path in life.

In self-analysis we stop looking outward and focus inward. In doing so, we begin to strip away the compressed layers of conventional attitudes we are taught as ‘reality’, or how we should be, and begin to think for ourself, as we are, with all variables in play and in doing so we come into our authentic self. We do this not in a narcissistic way, where we use the world and others to inflate and gratify an immature grandiose-self, but quite the opposite, in a whole, non-fragmented way where we are functioning on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We detach from the world, just as we detached from our birth mother when we were born, in order to find our true identity and thus embrace the person we are.




The Authentic self is who we truly are or are aiming to be.  Those that choose enlightenment and want to be better people do so but now we add the public self to the equation and everything changes.  The public self is what “society” expects us to behave like, how we act, talk and our opinions are greatly influenced by what we should do.  This is not necessarily a bad thing for if we did not follow laws and behave in a civilized manner there would be repercussions for our actions.

Many people present a persona on Facebook that is contrary to who they truly are, is this to follow some norm?  Is our authentic self truly what we are projecting to the world of social media?  Or are we inclined to be pretending to be someone else just to fit in?




The authentic self is the soul made visible. – Sarah Ban Breathnach


Behaving authentically means acting in accord with one’s values, preferences, and needs  as opposed to acting merely to please others or to attain rewards or avoid  punishments through acting ‘falsely.’ . . . Authenticity is not reflected in a  compulsion to be one’s true self, but rather in the free expression of core  feelings, motives and inclinations. (2)

Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements.  To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:

1.Be impeccable with your word. Carefully examine what you tell yourself, what you tell others, and when you decide to speak. Use your word consistently to express and strengthen your values. Don’t employ or overlook factual errors, fallacies or, distortions during communications. Express yourself authentically. Earn trust. Do what you say.

2.Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you. Reject the fallacy of personalization. Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters. Challenge and balance your first-person viewpoint.

3.Don’t make assumptions. Suspend judgment. Readily acknowledge what you don’t know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully examine the evidence. Don’t attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.

4.Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can’t do it all. All you can do is all you can do. When you have truly done your best, there is no reason for shame. It’s ok to goof off if you do your best when it matters the most. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.

If you are ready to explore and unleash your authentic self start with these three simple tasks and see where they take you.

1.  Sit in silence with yourself every day.

Living an authentic life means taking action from the inner confidence of intuition. Most people have no idea what their intuition feels like because they are so busy. We do not stop to listen to what we truly desire.  Our culture values productivity over peace and tranquility.   Cultivate and harness your voice of intuition.  it will always lead you to where you need to be.  You need to be able to actually hear it,  practice the art of silence every day — even if it’s only for 5- 10 minutes at a time.

2.  Be vulnerable. That’s Where The Real Power Lies.

If we want to live an authentic life, be more real, feel more alive, empowered, and fulfilled then we need to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is facing these emotions of shame, fear, guilt, frustration, and grief.  It’s only when we connect with our pain and move through it that we connect with the emotions of love, joy and happiness on the other side.

Have the courage to be still and feel what you feel, don’t run from it. Being vulnerable is real strength. It’s the ability to honour your boundaries. It means having the confidence to be the real you even if it’s not pleasant. Being vulnerable is the path to authenticity.

3. Fulfill Those Dreams.  Write out the steps you will need to take in order to live that dream and take your first “next step.” It won’t feel overwhelming if you focus on one step at a time.

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


1. Wright, Karen (May 01, 2008). “Dare to be yourself”. Psychology Today.

2. Kernis, M. (2003). Toward a conceptualization of optimal  self-esteem. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 1-26.


Being Honest with Ourselves

The Liberated Lotus

    With an understanding of projection let us now explore applications of this new found awareness. Since everything is purely subjective and within us this means that literally we are the only ones who decide how we feel in every moment. This means that all love, happiness, fulfillment, contentment, and satisfaction in life is purely up to us and only us. There is no thing or person who can actually make us happy, feel loved, or right. It is only our own choice. Out of inspiration provided from recent discussions with friends, the following may be useful guidance pertaining to remembering how to love ourselves and be honest with ourselves regarding how we feel in order to realize more happiness in our lives.

Happiness is Our Choice

     I’d like to reiterate the importance of the fact that it is only us that choose to be…

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