Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beyond Counting Blessings

Being Truly Thankful

When we are in the state of thankfulness, we are in a higher state of awareness, and spirituality with gratitude at our doorstep.

Often when we practice being thankful, we go through the process of counting our blessings, acknowledging the wonderful people, things and places that make up our reality.

While it is fine to be grateful for the good fortune we have accumulated, true thankfulness stems from a powerful comprehension of the gift of simply being alive, and when we feel it, we feel it regardless of our circumstances.

In this deep state of gratitude, we recognize the purity of the experience of being, in and of itself, and our thankfulness is part and parcel of our awareness that we are one with this great mystery that is life.

It is difficult for most of us to access this level of consciousness as we are very caught up in the ups and downs of our individual experiences in the world.

There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed by circumstances that come our way, particularly in these times of instability on so many different levels; the global economy, our personal economies, political strife, two active wars with more brewing, unemployment, challenges in our personal lives, and general uncertainty of where we will be one year from now.

The thing to remember about our world, however, is that it ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, gives and takes, and is by its very nature somewhat unreliable.

If we only feel gratitude when it serves our desires, this is not true thankfulness.

No one is exempt from the twists and turns of fate, which may, at any time, take the possessions, situations, and people we love away from us. Ironically, it is sometimes this kind of loss that awakens us to a thankfulness that goes deeper than just being grateful when things go our way.

Illness and near-miss accidents can also serve as wake-up calls to the deeper realization that we are truly lucky to be alive.

We do not have to wait to have our lives shaken apart to experience this state of being truly thankful for our lives. Tuning in to our breath and making an effort to be fully present for a set period of time each day can do wonders for our ability to connect with true gratitude.

We can also awaken ourselves with the intention to be more aware of the unconditional generosity and love of the Spirit that flows through us regardless of our circumstances.

With love & thankfulness,


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Really Strange Story Behind Today's Blue Moon

With thanks to JOE RAO

The full moon of November arrives on Sunday and will bring with it a cosmic addition: It will also be a so-called "blue moon".

"But wait a minute," you might ask. "Isn't a 'blue moon' defined as the second full moon that occurs during a calendar month? Sunday's full moon falls on 21 November and it will be the only full moon in November 2010. So how can it be a 'blue' moon?"

Indeed, November's full moon is blue moon – but only if we follow a rule that's now somewhat obscure.

In fact, the current "two- full moons in one month" rule has superseded an older rule that would allow us to call Sunday's moon "blue." To be clear, the moon does not actually appear a blue color during a blue moon, it has to do with lunar mechanics.

Confused yet?

Well, as the late Paul Harvey used to say — here now, is the rest of the story:

Back in the July 1943 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, in a question and answer column written by Lawrence J. Lafleur, there was a reference made to the term "blue moon."

Lafleur cited the unusual term from a copy of the 1937 edition of the now-defunct Maine Farmers' Almanac (NOT to be confused with The Farmers' Almanac of Lewiston, Maine, which is still in business).

On the almanac page for August 1937, the calendrical meaning for the term "blue moon" was given.

That explanation said that the moon "... usually comes full twelve times in a year, three times for each season."

Occasionally, however, there will come a year when there are 13 full moons during a year, not the usual 12. The almanac explanation continued:

"This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who had charge of the calendar of thirteen months for that year, and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason thirteen came to be considered an unlucky number."

And with that extra full moon, it also meant that one of the four seasons would contain four full moons instead of the usual three.

"There are seven Blue Moons in a Lunar Cycle of nineteen years," continued the almanac, ending on the comment that, "In olden times the almanac makers had much difficulty calculating the occurrence of the Blue Moon and this uncertainty gave rise to the expression 'Once in a Blue Moon.'"

But while LaFleur quoted the almanac's account, he made one very important omission: He never specified the date for this particular blue moon.

As it turned out, in 1937, it occurred on 21 August. That was the third full moon in the summer of 1937, a summer season that would see a total of four full moons.

Names were assigned to each moon in a season: For example, the first moon of summer was called the early summer moon, the second was the midsummer moon, and the last was called the late summer moon.

But when a particular season has four moons, the third was apparently called a blue moon so that the fourth and final one can continue to be called the late moon.

So where did we get the "two full moons in a month rule" that is so popular today?

Once again, we must turn to the pages of Sky & Telescope.

This time, on page 3 of the March 1946 issue, James Hugh Pruett wrote an article, "Once in a Blue Moon," in which he made a reference to the term "blue moon" and referenced LaFleur's article from 1943.

But because Pruett had no specific full moon date for 1937 to fall back on, his interpretation of the ruling given by the Maine Farmers' Almanac was highly subjective. Pruett ultimately came to this conclusion:

"Seven times in 19 years there were – and still are – 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon."

How unfortunate that Pruett did not have a copy of that 1937 almanac at hand, or else he would have almost certainly noticed that his "two full moons in a single month assumption" would have been totally wrong.

For the blue moon date of 21 August was most definitely not the second full moon that month!

Pruett's 1946 explanation was, of course, the wrong interpretation and it might have been completely forgotten were it not for Deborah Byrd who used it on her popular National Public Radio program, "StarDate" on 31 January, 1980.

We could almost say that in the aftermath of her radio show, the incorrect blue moon rule "went viral" — or at least the '80s equivalent of it.

Over the next decade, this new blue moon definition started appearing in diverse places, such as the World Almanac for Kids and the board game Trivial Pursuit.

By 1988, the new definition started receiving international press coverage.

Today, Pruett's misinterpreted "two full moons in a month rule" is recognized worldwide. Indeed, Sky & Telescope turned a literary lemon into lemonade, proclaiming later that – however unintentional – it changed pop culture and the English language in unexpected ways.

Meanwhile, the original Maine Farmers' Almanac rule had been all but forgotten.

Now, let's come back to this Sunday's full moon.

Under the old Almanac rule, this would technically be a blue moon. In the autumn season of 2010, there are four full moons:

23 September
22 October
21 November
21 December

"But wait," you might say. "21 December is the first day of Winter."

And you would be correct, but only if you live north of the equator in the Northern Hemisphere. South of the equator it's the first day of summer.

In 2010, the solstice comes at 6:38 p.m. EST.

But the moon turns full at 3:13 a.m. EST.

That's 15 hours and 25 minutes before the solstice occurs.

So the 21 December full moon occurs during the waning hours of fall and qualifies as the fourth full moon of the season.

This means that under the original Maine Almanac rule – the one promoted by Lafleur and later misinterpreted by Pruett – the third full moon of the 2010 fall season on 21 November would be a blue moon.

So what Blue Moon definition tickles your fancy? Is it the second full moon in a calendar month, or (as is the case on Sunday) the third full moon in a season with four?

Maybe it's both. The final decision is solely up to you.

Sunday's full moon will look no different than any other full moon. But the moon can change color in certain conditions.

After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth's atmosphere, can sometimes make the moon appear bluish.

In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991, there were reports of blue moons (and even blue suns) worldwide.

We could even call the next full moon (on 21 December) a "red moon," but for a different reason: On that day there will be a total eclipse of the moon and, for a short while, the moon will actually glow with a ruddy reddish hue.

At any rate, enjoy the moon.

With love & moonlight,