The Year of Kindness

kind·ness
/ˈkīn(d)nəs/
noun
1.the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate

As we near the end of calendar year 2015, I have been thinking a lot about New Year’s resolutions.
In year’s past I have promised myself to “be more productive, eat healthier, lose weight, etc,” but after an enthusiastic start, I have always drifted off course by the second or third week, and completely forgotten my intentions after a month or so.

But this year, I am confident things will be different.

My focus is going to be on an ideal, rather than on ego centered personal issues.
I am going to dedicate 2016 to “Kindness,” and resolve to be kinder.

I have always had a connection with the word “kin”, an old English word for family. So my understanding of the word “kindness”, is to “treat like family.” I like that.

What if we all treated each other like family?

What if, as the definition above says, we were “friendly, generous and considerate” of everyone, especially to people we don’t know?

Let’s all incorporate a little extra kindness into each and every day.
We might do this by being:

. Friendly – Let’s smile and say hello. Wave a greeting to neighbors. Doesn’t cost a thing.

. Generous – Many of us already donate to charities, shelters and food banks. Let’s continue that, but come up with other ways to be generous as well. How can you share your talents and time?

. Considerate – I always fall back on the “do unto others” saying. If you wouldn’t want to be treated a certain way, then do not treat others that way. Take a second before you respond, so that it is “responding”, and not “re-acting”. (Big difference.)

Imagine each small act of kindness joining with others, growing in size and intensity, until it washes over the entire planet like a huge compassionate wave.

A little thing I like to do is always put my shopping cart in the cart coral. This is being kind to the person who has to collect them and take them back inside the store, but it is also “kind” as it helps avoid dents and scratches on vehicles from run away carts.

In the coming year I plan to take a suggestion I’ve recently seen posted on facebook, and make up small gift bags for homeless people and keep several in my car at all times. (A simple zip lock bag with socks, soap and a few dollars?)

I hope you will be inspired to change the world too, one small kind act at a time.

I would LOVE to hear how you are incorporating kindness into your day. Please share your ideas and suggestions under comments for everyone to be inspired.

Let’s make 2016 the “Year of Kindness”.
Happy New Year!

Goddess bless!
Priestess Candace Ross

We Can; We Must

World Peace Mural at the Goddess Temple

Hello Family,

When I look around this amazingly beautiful planet, and see what humanity has done (to the Earth and to each other,) I cannot help but become overwhelmed with sadness.

This is NOT how life on Earth was ever meant to be.

I want to share with you two messages I received from “Spirit”, both of them in response to my praying for peace.

The first one was several years ago.  I was at home, on my knees asking Creation to please bring peace to the planet, and the response I got, much to my sad surprise was:

“Until you can give up hate, you are not ready for peace.”

Are we ready to give up hate?

As I scan Facebook posts daily, seeing so many seething with hate for different religions, for poor people, for immigrants, for refugees, it doesn’t seem like we are.

We must give up hate.  There is no other path to peace.

The second message came more recently.  I was praying for an end to violence, this time in the Temple, and the answer I received was:

“Evil will destroy itself.”

Yes, I believe that. Evil will destroy itself.  But it needs to happen NOW.

For World Peace to “come” and World Violence to “go,” we must all be involved.

I believe each of us has come here to this time and this place for a reason.  I believe we are here to bring love, light and joy not only to ourselves but to the planet and beyond.
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I believe we CAN do this, but it requires (non-violent!) action.

Can we give more and take less?

Can we open our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking?

Can we acknowledge there is no “us” and “them,” it is all us?

Can we get up every morning and say, “Today I will make a positive difference in the world”?

Can we spread joy by being joy?

Can we spread love by being love?

Can we spread light by being light?

We can.

We must.

Blessed be,

Candace Ross

What Peace Isn’t

What Peace Isn’t
by Candace Ross

A Planet Called PeaceThere seems to be as many misconceptions surrounding the peace and social justice movement as there are the Pagan community. Being a member of both, I feel qualified to speak “about and for” these movements and our sacred connection. It is in fact, one of the things the Goddess has called me to do.

One dark day in 2002, George W. Bush stood before this nation and uttered the words “pre-emptive strike.” I remember feeling as if someone had struck me in the face. I could not believe my country, MY beautiful freedom loving country would involve itself in such a despicable act.

I realized that slap in the face was from the Goddess, and I pledged that day, to use the remainder of my life to work to empower women and promote peace.

In the months that followed men, women and children from every continent united in calling for “No War on Iraq”. On February 15, 2003 the media reported 15 million of us marched together worldwide, sure we could stop the murder of the people of Iraq, a people who had for years suffered not only under a brutal dictatorship, but brutal “sanctions” that had kept medicines and other essentials from them.

A month later, as my country started bombing Baghdad, as the media jubilantly flashed the phrase “Shock and Awe,” I lay on the floor of my bedroom, heartbroken, weeping.

I wept for the women I could see huddled in their homes, clutching their terrified screaming children, begging their God to rescue them. I wept for the people that all our efforts, and prayers had been unable to save. And as I lay there weeping, I called out, “Oh Mother, we failed”.

Softly She came to me, dried my tears and whispered, “Get up child, there’s work to do.”

I joined a women’s group called CodePink, “women for peace and social justice,” a group that had formed by standing vigil outside the White House months before the war started. Among those original, brave women were Starhawk, Medea Benjamin, and Jodie Evans, a fifth generation Nevadan and long time friend of Genevieve Vaughn, our temple’s founder.

I did not know it at the time, but have since been told Jodie Evans got the inspiration for that first vigil right here, at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality.

For several years, I coordinated CodePink actions in San Diego. We worked with and supported the other peace and social justice groups in that city, and they with us.

One day while standing on the corner of Park and President’s Way with a dozen other women holding our “Women for Peace sign” a man came up to speak to me.

“Tell me,” he said, “Do you ever fight with your family?”

“Of course,” I answered.

“Well,” he smirked, “If you, as a peace activist, fight with your own family, how do you expect the world not to fight?”

“The difference is,” I replied, “when I fight with my family, I do not pull out a gun and shoot them.”

Many people think “peace” means a lack of “passion.” They think peace means walking around silently with your head bowed, and your hands together. It does not. It does mean, I believe, a lack of violent response.

Spend a little time with me or any other peace activist, and you will see what passionate people we are. We burn with passion. We can get loud, excited, yes even angry, but we’re not going to shoot you if you don’t agree with us.

We can get frustrated that you don’t know or care that depleted uranium is sickening not only the people whose land we pollute with it, but our own military that drive the tanks and drop the bombs it is used in, but we will never bomb you.

We can get so upset we cry that you don’t care what’s happening to the innocent civilians, the mothers, children, men and babies in other countries, but we will never invade your home.

Peace is about passion. It is about caring as much for the health and safety of future generations as we care about our own.

Peace, to me, is what the Goddess calls each of us to “intend.” If we eat it, drink it, breathe it, see it, project it, hear it, feel it, give it, make it the first word out of our mouths each morning, and the last one each night, we can re-balance our nation and our planet.

If we educate ourselves as to what our employees, our public servants (otherwise known as elected officials), are doing with our tax dollars, if we demand they do the job we elect them to do, if we always vote and get involved ourselves in the political process, we can re-balance our nation and our planet.

It amazes me that women ever got the vote. It horrifies me that we do not use this awesome power every possible way we can!

A few years ago, I attended a talk on matriarchy, given by a Lakota man, Russell Means. He stood before the group, mostly women, a tall, strong man, and pleaded, “Women! Take back your power! It is the only thing that will save us.”

As a crone, a peace activist, a mother, a devotee of the Divine Feminine, I echo that plea: “Women! Take back your power! It is the only thing that will save us.”

Active Spirituality

Active Spirituality
by Candace Ross

In 2007, I was honored to be selected by Genevieve Vaughan to become the resident priestess at the Temple of Goddess Spirituality dedicated to Sekhmet, when the former priestess, Anne Key, decided that after 3 years, it was time for her to return to Oregon.

Women of PeaceI came here from San Diego , where I’d spent the last 25 years raising my family, working as an artist/art consultant/ picture framer and designer and doing volunteer work.

Years ago, I intentionally cut my paid work week to 30 hours, to allow myself time and energy for community service. I have been a Daisy Girl Scout Leader, helped in both of my children’s kindergarten classes, taught art classes at The Children’s Museum of San Diego, been story teller at The Otay Mesa Public Library, stuffed envelopes and ushered at The Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Social Justice, and coordinated local actions for the San Diego chapter of CodePink.

Here in Las Vegas, I am currently involved with Nevada Desert Experience, The Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, the Master Gardener Program, and am again coordinating for the local chapter of CodePink , Women for Peace and Social Justice.

For those of you unfamiliar with CodePink, here is how the brochure describes the organization:

“CodePink is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement that seeks positive social change through proactive, creative protest and non-violent direct action.

Rejecting the Bush Administration’s color coded security alerts that are based on fear, CodePink is a feisty call for women and men to “wage peace”.

CodePink has become a vibrant presence in the peace and social justice movement. Very visible and recognizable simply by wearing pink, CodePink has found a niche in the movement by addressing serious issues in a multitude of creative and sometimes outrageous ways, always bringing into play the sensibilities of respect, compassion and interconnectedness.”

To me, being politically involved, speaking out and taking non-violent action, is a natural extension of being pagan. As Pagans, we revere nature and the elements. We believe in harming none, and that everyone has the right to enjoy their life.

Doesn’t it follow then, that we should speak out when we see the air being polluted, the rivers and oceans being polluted, the soil and our food sources being poisoned? Shouldn’t we get involved when governments, ours and others, continue to develop weapons that already have the power to destroy all life on Earth 20 times over?

Shouldn’t we take the time to educate ourselves and the people we place in office to represent US as to what needs done, and how we expect them to do it?

If you own a business and hire someone to manage that business, how many of you would take the person you’ve hired to the office the first day, shake their hand and say, “See you in four years!”? Elected officials are your hired employees. They are there to serve you. They are “public servants”.

Their only job is to look out for your interests. Yet how many of us stay in contact with our employees? How many contact our representatives on a regular basis, stay on top of what they’re doing and how they’re voting?

It has been said “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” As Americans, it is our DUTY to be politically informed and active.

A very sad statistic is that less than 50% of eligible Americans vote.

We have all kinds of excuses. We don’t like the candidates, we don’t understand the issues, we’re too busy, it just doesn’t matter anyhow.

Recently I’ve been spending quite a bit of time researching an amazing woman, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton. Ms. Stanton, a close friend and collegue of Susan B. Anthony dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in America.

It is hard to imagine that only 150 years ago, women could not own property in this country, were considered unfit to serve on a jury (or even to testify at a trial in most cases). If a married woman worked, her earnings were the property of her husband. If a man chose to divorce his wife , she could be turned out of their home with nothing but the clothes on her back. Even the children were his “property”.

Elizabeth Caddy StantonBy the end of her life, Ms. Stanton had seen amazing changes in women’s status, but she did not live to see women get the vote. If she were alive today, she would be shocked and heartbroken to see how many women do not even bother to go to the polls.

I believe strongly that positive social change can come about rapidly, simply by more men and women, (but particularly women) becoming politically active. Women bring a different perspective to the table, we look at things differently, we have different ways of doing things. That “difference” is vital to our survival.

Women are the majority on planet Earth. 51% of the population is female. If we had 51% representation in our government, imagine what that would mean.

In the book, “Stop the Next War Now,” is an essay by Kavita Ramdas, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. In it she writes:

“Human Rights Watch and other international agencies estimate that up to 70 percent of the casualties of any war are noncombatants or civilian casualties, and certainly the experience in Iraq bears that out. Women and children who are not supposedly in the line of fire pay a huge price, dismissed as ‘collateral damage’ in military speak.”

“Given all the ways in which war effects women, women in most parts of the world see it as self-evident that commitment to a just peace is essential. Women pay a huge amount of attention to the issue of constitution building and to women’s participation in it. Afghan women took great risks to be able to be present at the Loya Jirga, which is a sort of council of elders, and they begged the United States to support them in their demand for a 50% representation of women in the Loya Jirga discussions. Our government refused to back them, arguing that even in the United States there was only a 14 percent representation of women in the House and Senate – how could they require that Afghan women should have 50% representation? The Afghan women responded, “Just because you are backward, why should we be?”

Women and children are the ones who suffer in war. They die from bombings and gun shots of course, but also from starvation, exposure, disease, hopelessness. This is not a new phenomena, war has always had this effect.

Mark TwainSamuel Clemmons, known more by his pen name Mark Twain, wrote about it in his little book “The War Prayer” in the early 1900’s. If you are not familiar with the book, may I suggest you read it. It is very short, it may take you ten minutes, but it spells out graphically the plight of women and children in war.

You need to know that I am anti-war, but not anti-military. I am not against the military, I am against the mis-use of the military. I was a Navy wife for 8 years and have a certificate from the Navy, thanking me for my civilian service and support. I currently work with the Air Force, going over the basics of Paganism with their assistant chaplains.

Before the war with Iraq started, I was not politically active. I always voted, but did not get involved with the issues, or follow up with my elected officials. I, like so many of us, figured they knew better than me what they were doing, and would do a good job.

But the day I heard George Bush say the words “pre-emptive strike” was a wake up call. I decided then and there that something was radically wrong with my beautiful America, and I needed to do something.

Before then, I did not know about things like depleted uranium, and the harm it is doing to not only the countries we leave it in, as bombs, bullets and tanks, but to the troops, the American soldiers who are exposed to it.

Before that day, I was not aware we were still developing nuclear weapons, or that many soldiers returning from war with both mental and physical problems are not being properly cared for.

Who will speak out for our military, if not us?

The founders of this country went to great length to keep the people in power. There are checks and balances in our three arms of government, our constitution assures us the right to free speech, to peaceful assembly, the right to bear arms , separation of church and state, and the right to privacy.

These rights have come under attack in the past few years. They are being whittled away and our public servants are going along with it.

People use the word “protest” in very negative ways, but the word itself is very positive. Pro meaning “for”, and test “testify, to speak”, so protest means to “speak for”.

If you’ve been to a protest recently, you may have been herded into an enclosure surrounded by fencing a few blocks from the event marked “Free Speech Zone”. What is going on? Is this your idea of free speech? It’s not mine.

As citizens of this nation it is OUR DUTY to protest when the government acts in ways we do not ,cannot condone.

It is our duty to our country, to our children and to ourselves, to assure future generations will know the freedoms we have known. It is our duty to make sure there will always be clean water, air, and soil for those who come after us.

I believe we have come here, to this plane, at this time with a great task before us. We are called to save humanity from greed, from apathy, from aggression. It can be seen as an insurmountable problem, or an amazing opportunity.

I hope you will see it as opportunity, a chance to be creative, give the ol’ brain cells an “extreme” work out.

If we continue to do things as we’ve been doing them, we will
get the same results. We must think in new directions, try things we may believe can’t possibly work.

We must give up our prejudices and preconceived notions. We need to talk to each other, and (here’s the hard part), really listen.

I have dedicated the remainder of my life to promoting peace.

Peace to me, is not merely a lack of violence, it is the creation of a healthy and joyful environment for all living things.

May the Goddess bless each and everyone of you with healthy and joyful lives.

So mote it be.