December 30, 2011

{What's Next?}

 [This is the "Addendum" in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that I thought was an appropriate post to end a remarkably shapeshifter sort of a year...and to begin another with even more surprises to come. Enjoy...and stay tuned for news of the book's release!]

At the beginning of this book, I spoke of the significance of the year 2011 in the life and legacy of Princess Diana—and why I was moved to complete the book. In addition to it being the 30th anniversary year of the historic wedding that made her a princess, the year that would have been her 50th birthday, and the year her beloved oldest son, Prince William, married the remarkable Kate Middleton—this shapeshifting sort of year also held some far-reaching cosmic landmarks for people.

One such landmark related to a new discovery about the legendary Mayan calendar—a billions of years-old timeline of the evolution of consciousness. October 28, 2011 was the date that Dr. Carl Johan Calleman and other Mayan experts, reconfiguring this ancient almanac of sacred time, declared as the calendar’s actual last recorded day. Not December 21, 2012 as long thought. (Nor, as talking-heads have shouted for years, is it “the end of the world”—only the end of “old time.”) So when you read this, the day of new beginnings, the “new time” is already here! At this very moment, we are already inside what the wisdom of ancient shamans foretold: the new era of “developed consciousness.” What that means may be a bit fuzzy, but this is what it says to me: At this very moment, you are free of your past. The world is your co-creative playmate! So go and celebrate your life and do what lights you up—in the magic of this very moment, all there ever is or ever will be.

It is also the year that welcomed the “day of ones” on November 11, 2011: 11.11.11. Numerologists say that eleven is considered a “power number” and elevens together form a gateway of no obstructions, of open flow. So on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour (Greenwich Mean Time) of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, people worldwide came together for a moment of quiet awareness and simply paused—just to be in the moment. And in so doing, it became a moment of unity consciousness and your life was changed whether you participated or not. However, something shifted in your life and the world not because these numbers or dates essentially “mean” anything. (Paraphrasing transformational teacher Werner Erhard: Something happens—it is what it is—and then we make it mean something. Then we live our lives out of the “meaning” that we made up!) The world shifted on November 11, 2011, because of what the numbers had us notice: each other. It wasn’t about numbers, but about relationship…about where we put our attention. In the breath of a moment, we can feel connected to the world.

So these numbers and dates were perhaps just a vehicle to create an awareness of a new possibility; to bring people together in like consciousness to really see each other. It was an opportunity to look into the mirror of ourselves. And then again, maybe it was something else!

I add these 2011 notes to illuminate the mesage of this book: Every belief can be reframed with another meaning and every meaning has a different interpretation; ancient wisdom can affect the present, yet the present reinvents itself in the moment; every moment is a possibility of the discovery of something divine and the divinity is already inside you; nothing is completely what it seems and what it seems is simply a clue into its truth; there is nothing that holds you back from creating the life you love that your mind cannot re-imagine; all of life is a mystery of the heart and it takes an open heart to hear the message you were born to hear.

And the life of a beautiful princess—its shadows, its light; what we think we saw and heard and read and what we made up; or what mysteries happened a bit “beyond the veil”—is just the life of a beautiful princess. We made up the rest. The life can inspire us to open our hearts and be a compassionate force in the world or it can dazzle us ‘til we lose ourselves again. It’s what we do with our life that makes the difference. And you get to choose, this very moment. ~

[Stay tuned for news of the release of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Reframing Princess Diana's Legacy {Shattering the Princess Myth & Freeing the Damsel in Distress}]

December 24, 2011

{2011 & the Legacy of a Princess}

 [Below is the opening to the Introduction of my upcoming book: The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Reframing Princess Diana's Legacy.]

I began this book a decade after Princess Diana’s death, tucked it away for a few years, and then began again with new inspiration looking toward 2011. A year that enlivened Diana’s energetic memory, 2011 marked pivotal rites-of-passage relating to her life: it would have been the year of her 50th birthday and the 30th anniversary of Diana and Prince Charles’ legendary wedding; it also was the year that their oldest son, William, married. As the world’s attention was drawn back to another archetypal royal wedding in the spring of 2011, over two billion of us witnessed this particularly intimate event celebrating the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. And like a heaven’s script, the wedding became the latest “shared rite-of-passage” in Diana’s immense legacy.

Given the soul-searching nature of a rite-of-passage (these transformational life journeys that transport us to a new quality of ourselves), it is a piece of good fortune indeed when we have the chance to share in these royal passages that unfold on such a shimmering, balancing-act of a world stage. And given the archetypal nature of royalty (royals act as points of light that affect change for the masses), it was no small piece of this fortunate happening that we got to have our very own transforming moment as well.

Amid 2011’s tumultuous push for freedom and self-expression around the world, some thought the global excitement of the royal wedding seemed the year’s biggest anachronism. But the wedding and the relationship that emerged was revolutionary in its own right—continuing Diana’s legacy of change. William and Kate’s rite-of-passage marked a new paradigm in “relationships of the heart” and “marriage as partnership”—a revolution whose time had come.

With the spot-lit life of a charismatic, archetypal, even revolutionary princess as a backdrop, this book explores the bigger picture of what Diana’s life meant and what her vast (and sometimes surprising) legacy brings to the world. By reframing how we see Diana’s life as well as the archaic fairy-tale like stories surrounding it—the princess myth, the damsel in need of rescuing, the goddess bride, “happily ever after,” the dutiful wife and mother—then we get to learn and open and grow from what these discoveries reveal. In addition, as the historical role of women in general gets reframed in the shared connection of these stories, we become part of the legacy of a princess in unimagined ways—mythological and real.
And in a remarkably “shapeshifting” sort of way, we get to see how mythology and reality overlap and even merge. ~

[For more on why 2011 was a "shapeshifter" of a year, read the next post on December 31st.]

December 18, 2011

{Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge} Time Magazine's Runner-Up Person of the Year

Time Magazine announced their 2011 Person of the Year and runner-ups. One of the runner-up personalities that affected world change was the bride of Prince William of Great Britain, Kate Middleton; now the Duchess of Cambridge. [Below is an excerpt of the article commemorating Kate with a link to Time for the complete text.]:

Kate Middleton: The Princess
by Catherine Mayer
Every Windsor is a draw, even the minor players. So for Queen Elizabeth's Nov. 28 reception for the media — held in anticipation of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year on the throne — palace functionaries set about organizing their 350 guests into manageable constellations along the elegant expanse of the Picture Gallery and in the drawing rooms at either side. The place was lousy with royalty — not only the monarch and her sardonic consort but also Prince Charles, Camilla and a brace of cousins. But then came word that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were holding court in the Blue Drawing Room, and the revelers swirled and regrouped like iron filings exposed to a powerful magnet. Kate — the single syllable now a global brand — is bigger box office than the rest of her in-laws combined.

Chin-stroking editors of national newspapers, lofty columnists and feared TV interrogators elbowed one another for the chance to inspect the 29-year-old's flawless skin and abundant locks, to find out if she is more striking in person (she is) and to hear her speak. And speak she did, a touch hesitantly, making diplomatic small talk about her strange new life. She hasn't been to Buckingham Palace much since the wedding. She hasn't seen her family much since the wedding. She is proud of her husband. Prominent intellectuals and public figures crowded around to catch these anodyne words. "I've never seen such a bunfight," said one despairing palace official.

For the older Windsors, the spectacle may have brought back uncomfortable memories. Exactly three decades ago, they watched a glamorous outsider become the main attraction. Some of their number appeared a little jealous. Yet by all accounts, the royals also appreciated the renewed sense of relevance that Diana Spencer brought to their musty enterprise. By the time they recognized the strength of her gravitational pull, she had almost dislodged the centuries-old institution from its axis.

Support for the royals held steady in the aftermath of Diana's death, but not even the most ardent of monarchists predicted the excitement around her son's marriage, which brought London to a standstill and snared global audiences in the millions — or billions, according to some estimates. From a news perspective the royal wedding seems like 2011's biggest anachronism. This was a year when — from Tunisia and Egypt to the U.S. and, yes, the U.K. too — throngs came together in rage to topple leaders and challenge institutions, not cheer them.

Is Kate's story a last gasp of nostalgia, a feel-good movie for the bleakest of times? Or a cautionary tale for anyone who dared to dream that the struggles of the 20th century would build a more equal world in the 21st? In marrying the second in the line of succession, the newly minted princess has accepted a mission riven with apparent contradictions. She's expected to uphold tradition while bringing modernity to the monarchy, and to reinforce a system based on birthright while proving that a commoner can cut it as a royal. Though she's the first royal bride to have earned a degree, she is unlikely to build a career or even hold down a paying job. Her primary function is to bear children and prepare for the eventuality of one day becoming Queen. Any other duties, as defined by palace conventions, are largely silent or scripted, symbolic and ceremonial. No wonder her words — any words — have such currency.

Kate has given only one interview of any length: with Prince William at her side, after the announcement of their engagement. In the seven months since her wedding, she has kept her thoughts to herself and abided by palace conventions. There are signs that she intends to continue to do so. The head that wears the crown may lie a little easier than in the Diana years.

Yet Diana didn't join the royal family to undermine it, nor could she have anticipated becoming the most famous woman of her age. An avatar of the Establishment, she became its nemesis. A dutiful bride, she morphed into a feminist icon. The pressures of palace life and the shambles of her marriage were the catalysts for this change. Kate has also been catapulted to relentless, inescapable celebrity. She finds herself a role model whose most pressing task is to define the nature and meaning of the role. If she becomes as popular as Diana, her choices may help the monarchy thrive or bring it to its knees. Whatever she decides — however she goes about the business of being royal — Britain's second most famous princess is already being watched and emulated across the world. We have entered the era of the copy-Kate. [continued...]

December 13, 2011

{Love's Confusing Joy}

[The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress {and Other Princess Myths Revealed}.]

IMadame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s nineteenth century novel, his dreamy, grasping heroine, Emma Bovary, mused about how it would be to escape what she considered her boring life if she married:

But her eagerness for a change, or perhaps overstimulated [sic] by this man’s presence, she easily persuaded herself that love, that marvelous thing which had hitherto been like a great rosy-plumaged bird soaring in the splendors of poetic skies, was at last within her grasp. And now she could not bring herself to believe that the uneventful life she was leading was the happiness of which she had dreamed.

Princess Diana’s life did not become “uneventful,” it became very busy and full of events after she married, just not what she expected or was prepared for. So once again the overwhelmed princess was “grasping” at life in a world that was asking for more! And she continued grasping for love to sooth the yearning and loneliness, and to help settle the always hovering unease.

I think that the essence of Diana’s little girl dreams (and the dreams for every one of us) was to be deeply loved, period. “By a prince” was just an added fairy-tale attraction that her/our fantasies made up. (Maybe “by a prince” is a euphemism for being loved unconditionally, for being taken care of completely.)

 “To be loved” is at the heart of most fairy tales. There are probably a thousand or so versions of the “being rescued by a prince” Cinderella fairy tale from Indonesia to the Americas, across Europe, and throughout China and India. Most are ancient, some are modern tales re-envisioned; but all the Cinderella tales are versions where mythology expresses, and sometimes shapes, our dreams. Transformative dreams where love’s journey takes us, through light and shadow. “Beyond and beneath the Cinderella stories,” explained Jungian writer Ann Shearer in When a Princess Dies, “is the oldest fairy-tale of all: the suffering of Psyche in her search for Eros, the archetypal story of the soul’s yearning for love.” And perhaps this was the universal piece of Diana’s fairy tale that drew us into her story so deeply. Were her daydreams so different from our own? Are we all searching for, in the poet Rumi’s wise words from centuries ago, “love’s confusing joy”…? ~

[More excerpts posted soon. Book publication date scheduled in 2012. Stay tuned!]

December 3, 2011

{Did You Know?} No. 7: "To Obey"

[Did You Know? is a random series of posts highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship. To read other posts, click on Did You Know? in the Labels list below.]

Did you know that Prince William’s parents also removed “to obey” from their wedding vows as he and Catherine Middleton had done last spring? This remnant of the Middle Ages (and part of the 17th century Book of Common Prayer) was being removed from wedding vows left ’n right as the feminist movement of the 1960s spread into modern culture....but it took a little longer for the removal of “to obey” to enter the custom of the British monarchy.

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue of my upcoming book -- THE END OF THE FAIRY-TALE BRIDE: Princess Diana's Legacy Reframed {Shattering the Princess Myth & Freeing the Damsel in Distress} -- that shares the ground-breaking moment during Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding ceremony and what the Archbishop of Canterbury advised:

Diana’s entrance into the rich splendor of St. Paul’s interior was announced by a fanfare from trumpeters high in the cathedral’s dome...perhaps a heralding sign of changes to come. And the bride and groom made royal history with a break in tradition even before becoming husband and wife. Removing some outdated words from the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer, as the couple stood before the archbishop of Canterbury, and witnessed by a large population of the world, the bride’s marriage vows did not include the promise “to obey.”

An article in The Washington Post a few days before the wedding reported that the archbishop of Canterbury revealed “the decision to drop this vow was made very quickly in his discussion of the service with Charles and Diana and that he told them, the usual clergyman’s joke. ‘It’s a bad thing to start your marriage off with a downright lie.’ He told reporters that many couples now omit the vow, which was a remnant from the Middle Ages, when a wife would pledge ‘to be bonny and buxom in bed and board,’” Downie’s byline from London added.

[To read other Did You Know? posts in this series, click on Did You Know? in the Labels list below. Another one coming soon....]