Infinite Thoughts

Angels are Everywhere

In a 2007 national study by the Baylor Department of Sociology, 1600 men and women from various ages, religious affiliations, education levels and political parties were asked if they believed in angels. The results may surprise you.

More than 60% said, "Absolutely." Another 21% said, "Probably." Only 19% answered in the negative with either "Probably Not" or "Absolutely Not." The latter registered the lowest percentage in the study at 8.8%.

It's also interesting that these trends hold up whether or not the person answering is religious, Democrat, Republican, male or female, and regardless of their level of education. The fact is, people across the entire spectrum embrace the idea of angels. 

Even though today a growing share of Americans claim themselves as "religiously unaffiliated," angels continue to hold a special place in our psyche. They are ubiquitous, appearing in poems, songs, movies, television shows, art, social media and more. Perhaps it is that we all crave a personal messenger to offer us hope in challenging times and a reminder of all that is wonderful in good times. And we are not the first to feel this way.

The word angel, which means messenger, and depictions of what are commonly thought of as angels, have been around for at least 4,000 years. They are seen in ancient Egyptian carvings, cave drawings in many different cultures and  jewelry and pottery dating back to 300 BC, long before the more recognized angel visages cropped up in Renaissance art. Winged Victory - The Infinity Angel and Angelic ArtThe list of intriguing angel facts seem endless. Marsillio Ficino, a fifteenth century philosopher, thought there were 399,920,004 angels in existence. Pope Pius XII reported that he saw St. Peter's Square filled with the guardian angels of the faithful gathered below him. In 1863, one of the most famous pieces of winged goddess or angel art in the world, Winged Victory of Samothrace, was discovered by amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau and shipped to France, where it still resides in the Louvre. The sculpture has been dated back to approximately 200BC, where it was created on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. And according to Art Historian Harry Seymour, perhaps the most famous of all art angels are the two delightful cherubs at the bottom of Raphael's painting The Saint Madonna. These icons of innocence supposedly were inspired by two children of the model who posed as the Madonna for Raphael. I can honestly imagine these two little people hanging out watching this dedicated artist paint their mother. Little did they know that they would end up in this iconic painting, and also on posters, cards, stickers and more through time (even without The Madonna.)

 

 

 

 Raphael's cherubs - The Infinity Angel and Angel Art

While it seems we live in a time when there is more interest in science than ethereal imagery, it's interesting to see modern angels continuing to capture the human spirit. California artist Christine Krainock's abstract depictions of angels often sell out before she finishes a painting. 


Mixed media and collage artist Ingrid Pomeroy often incorporates angels into her creations, like this gold-winged womanl below.

 The Infinity Angel is yet another modern depiction of the simple essence of angels, with her "Everything you need is already here" message encouraging self-reliance and belief that you will continuously learn when you are open to what the universe dishes up.

When we receive messages back from people around the world who have found their own meaning in The Infinity Angel, we know there is hope. We feel privileged to step into a 4,000-year history of angels that still transcends time and space and brings comfort, healing and encouragement to so many people.

Thank you, Buddha.

My father used to coach our daughters on the way to score in basketball. "Bend your knees, eyes on the rim, follow through," he would say over and over again. They would shoot and shoot and shoot for hours in the driveway of my parents' home. Sometimes the ball went through the lace, and even more often, it bounced off the rim or backboard and sent them scurrying until they stood in their "spot" and tried again. Having played in college (Dad was a member of the 1941 Long Island University championship team that won the national championship at Madison Square Garden), his grandchildren trusted he knew his stuff on the court. On those summer evenings, they thought he was teaching them basketball, but he was really teaching them (as he did my siblings and me years before) his own form of meditation that would serve us all well.

Meditation, thought by some to be a uniquely Buddhist practice, comes in many guises. Buddhists do use meditation to transform themselves. It helps them move beyond the world's many distractions to find the true nature of things. Since it dates back thousands of years, and we continue to embrace it in different ways, it must work, right?

In fact, clinical evidence reports that mindfulness meditation, where a person focuses on the simple in and out of the breath, has many benefits. It is said to improve brain health and emotional control. It decreases stress, anxiety and depression and even reduces blood pressure. In fact, various types of meditation have gained in popularity in the U.S. and around the world, due to their health benefits.

I bring this up today, because we are in the middle of May, the month in which the Buddha's birthday is celebrated on different days and in different ways around the world. Since many meditation practices have their genesis in Buddhism, let's take a look at this legendary man...
Buddha's Birthday in Nepal
Here a monk in Nepal  lights candles in celebration of Buddha's birthday.
The Buddha was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama about 2600 years ago in Northern India, now known as Nepal. While many royals through the ages have been satisfied to enjoy their wealth and power, Siddhartha was deeply troubled by what he considered an unjust caste system and the harsh facts of birth, old age, sickness and death. In what must have been a deep personal crisis, he left the palace and spent six years on a spiritual quest. During that time he perfected his own meditation skills and gained insight into the interdependence of everything around him. We are told that during this time he realized that the key to life is detachment from material things and an acceptance of karma, a cycle that propels us to learn and grow and awaken. This was his "awakening," and he became known by his followers as Buddha (which is a Sanskrit word meaning "The Awakened One.")
Buddha's Birthday
Buddhist monks celebrate Buddha's Birthday with a parade in Asia.
His teachings are legendary and his followers are many after almost three millennia. At InfinityAngel.com, we have found Buddha, his teachings and the very concept of meditation to be keys to finding a centered life. And, we chose a product named for him, The Buddha Board, as our first non-Infinity Angel product to represent. This enchanting "spiritual Etch-a-Sketch," as I like to describe it, reminds me of the day I first drew The Infinity Angel in the sand of Ogunquit Beach. You doodle, you write, you let your creativity flow...and you never know what will happen. And then it is gone. 
Happy Birthday, Buddha.
The Buddha Board provides constant lessons about impermanence, about letting go of expectations and letting go of results. When the water dries on your Buddha Board, and you can't stop it, you have to simply remember your creation, because it is gone forever.
I wish I could see the first Infinity Angel I drew on Ogunquit Beach again, but the tides took her away. And, yet, she still inspires me to do things in her name and every time I hear how she helped someone, I am humbled. In her story, I wrote that she taught me in that moment to "focus, believe and let go."

Hmm...sounds a lot like, "bend your knees, eyes on the rim, follow through." Thanks, Dad. And thank you, Buddha, for communicating and inspiring millions of people since you left the palace. And, Happy Birthday, from people around the globe.

 

 

Thanks to Anna

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln connected his mother with angels? In fact he said...

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.

He's not the only one who has celebrated his mother in a very special way. When Anna Jarvis' mother died in 1905, the West Virginia daughter and peace activist started a campaign to make the second Sunday in May a holiday to honor mothers across the United States. Three years later, the U.S. Congress rejected the proposal (really?), but Jarvis' dedication to "the person who had done more for you than anyone in the world" paid off after six years when all U.S. states observed the holiday. Three years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day a national holiday.

Celebrating the special women in our lives is not unique to the U.S. In fact, some form of a day for women is now celebrated in more than 46 countries around the world. In the United Kingdom, Mothering Sunday is celebrated, while in Bolivia, Mother's Day is the date of a battle in which women participated. Some countries celebrate International Women's Day instead of or along with Mother's Day to recognize special women and their accomplishments. Yet in others, the celebration of mothers is uniquely religious, focusing on Mary, the mother of Jesus in Christianity or special mothers in other religions or cultures.

As we look to the arrival of May, let us honor the special women in our lives. The month is named for Maia, the Greek goddess of spring and fertility. In Latin, "Maia" is connected to a word that means to increase or grow. Certainly, few would argue that our mothers have not helped us grow and increase our knowledge and spirit.

Whether we take a moment to think of all that our own mothers have done for us or focus on the kindness, compassion and inspiration shared with us by a grandmother, godmother, aunt, teacher or friend, may we remember the importance of feminine energy in our lives this May. We honor women on this Earth and those who guide us as angels from the Universe beyond where we can see them.

And if you'd like to know more about the two mothers who inspired Honest Abe, click here to learn the story behind his "angel."

 

A Gossamer Day

I woke up this morning thinking about a window display I saw a few years ago when I was in Paris with my family. It captivated me with toddler-size tulle skirts - tutus - floating in the window surrounded by baubles and ribbons. Clearly the enchantment I felt then stayed with me, as I was inspired to find the photo I quickly snapped that day.

It set me thinking about one of my favorite words: gossamer. I think of gossamer as a whisp of gauzey fabric, the feeling of a feather touching my cheek, a soft drape of netting that inspires a lightness of being. You can see through gossamer, yet it filters light in a magical way.

I squinted in this morning's light, also trying to recall a sculpture I saw at the Louvre on that same family trip. I remembered how it had captivated me with its marble delicacy. I had stood mesmerized by the statue, wondering how the sculptor could create such softness with cold stone?

I found myself wishing I could try on this dress, with its feminine drape and memorable style. While I certainly couldn't see through this fabric, nor could I even imagine - no matter how delicate it seemed to my eyes - ever lifting the weight of this piece of marble. Still it reminded me of gossamer...once again, inspiring a lightness in me...a state of being that makes me feel free and happy. Like a lovely breeze lifting me up in the air, a gossamer feeling is one of my favorite things.

Often the word gossamer is associated with angels. Perhaps because it is reminiscent of a delicate, ephemeral energy sweeping in just when you need a reason to believe in something. Have you ever had a little "aha" of synchronicity that makes you feel lighter, as if the universe has just given you a gift of recognition or support?

It's been far more than a decade since I sat on Ogunquit Beach at six in the morning and found The Infinity Angel at the tip of my finger as I traced in the sand. I've so enjoyed having her as a companion and sharing her with the many people who have embraced the gossamer energy she represents.

As I walked the Marginal Way this morning on a 55-degree sunny day (a miracle in itself in the middle of March in Maine), I was inspired to descend the stairs to Little Beach and draw The Infinity Angel in the sand, a much larger representation than the original.

 As I smiled and walked toward the water, I saw an ever-so-delicate feathery pattern that had been traced in the sand by water trickling down toward the ocean from the hill above.

The gossamer energy of nature's doodling took me back to my waking thoughts and brought a feeling of happiness and lightness to me, like those baby ballerina skirts in did Paris that morning. Although I've always cherished The Infinity Angel for her extraordinary simplicity, perhaps, I thought, I need to embrace her gossamer energy. I picked up a driftwood stick and began to draw. I think she was very happy to play on the beach...

Perhaps her gossamer persona will inspire new designs and, if so, I'll know the thoughts of sparkling gauze and floating feathers that woke me this morning came from somewhere enchanted. I hope I am able to visit there often and float on the inspiration.

 

 

 

A Simple Way to Start Meditating: The Infinity Angel Meditation Beads

Today the benefits of mediation are being quoted more and more often. During a recent Wall Street Journal event, in a counter-point to reporting about sales, profits and growing the fourth largest tech company in the world, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff talked about the importance of gratefulness, clearing your mind and attention to breathing. Laurel Holland, author of Courageous Woman: Live Your Inner Strength, recently appeared on television talk show Virginia Today, and said that if you could do just one thing to change your life, it should be meditation. Today on WBUR-FM in Boston, Jon Kabat-Zinn (one of my all-time favorite authors and speakers) told program hosts on Here and Now that meditation has come a long way since he developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for patients at the University of Massachusetts hospital in the 1980s.

According to Kabat-Zinn, "There are very interesting things that happen when people shift from doing to being, in that you can see major changes in brain structure within eight weeks. The reason we’re into this is because of the results. The real reason that mindfulness is valuable is that it’s intrinsically valuable for its own sake – your life improves.”

Rarely a day goes by that I don't read or hear something about the benefits of meditation. My mom always told me, "If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true." She has been right in every instance until now. The results of regular meditation do sound too good to be true, but study after study and anecdote after anecdote confirm the life-affirming, health-enhancing results from making meditation a part of our lives.

How do you get started?

It's easy. Sit. Breathe. Really. See why it's so hard to believe? Of course there are many different ways to meditate. However, the studies keep confirming that it is simply the quiet, mind-clearing breathing that leads the way to more clarity, new levels of intuition, better sleep, lower blood pressure, less stress and increased health.

For some, it is helpful to focus on a physical item or to have a meditation ritual. That's why we have created The Infinity Angel meditation beads. You can choose from The Infinity Angel Wellness Beads or The Infinity Angel Chakra Beads. Both types of meditation beads include the story of how The Infinity Angel came about and are packaged in a gossamer bag with a sample meditation.

I have been so gratified to receive such wonderful comments from those who have given our meditation beads to loved ones. A dear friend in Massachusetts buys a dozen Infinity Angel Wellness Beads at a time so that she can have them on hand to give to loved ones dealing with illness or other life challenges. On one occasion, we sent several strings to a lovely woman in Ireland, who shared them with the women she loved. One recipient did The Infinity Angel Wellness Meditation walking the beach in Ireland every morning. Another woman asked for her Infinity Angel Wellness Beads on her deathbed, asking her sister to recite the entire meditation to her.

These stories, and others like them, have really impacted me. It's wonderful when something you create can bring such comfort to others. I am grateful every day for this opportunity and for that morning when I "discovered" The Infinity Angel on the beach here in Ogunquit, Maine.

If you or a loved one needs a little help in starting a life-changing meditation practice, we welcome you to explore our website. Sometimes it just takes a little something to hold in your hand, or something inspiring to read, in order to feel the confidence and inspiration to trust yourself to just sit and breathe.

It really is that easy. Believe. Do it over and over again and before you know it, your life really can change in subtle, and then dramatic, ways.

Be Well!

From an Etch-a-Sketch to a Buddha Board

I remember, as a little girl, playing with my dad on my Etch-a-Sketch. We would turn the two little knobs to create pictures and then shake the red box with its little screen up and down and the drawings would disappear. The power to remove drawings I didn't like and clearing the screen to start over seemed magical. Not even a pencil eraser was as easy at setting the start point again so cleanly.

It was difficult to control the lines on that screen and I liked making my "mistakes" quickly disappear. Infinity Angel on Etch a Sketch ExperienceHowever, when I finally turned the right and left knobs in just the right way to reveal something of which I was proud, it was difficult to make the decision to shake that box. I didn't want to lose that image, that moment, that experience of satisfaction...forever. With the Etch-a-Sketch, there was no way to make a copy of my creation. It would never be up on the refrigerator, put in a frame, set on my mom's dresser for all to enjoy. I would never see it again. Sometimes, when I was almost finished with my creation, a bump or move would start the disappearing process...no! no! no! Come back!

That was one of my first lessons about impermanence.

The same lesson was learned again and again at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, Massachusetts and Maine. I would create a sandcastle, a moat, a wall to protect my princess fortress. The tide was far away and I thought my miniature land was safe...but always more quickly than I expected...the water would return and dismantle my majestic creation, leaving only a memory.

Infinity Angel Shares Monks Creating a MandalaWhen my daughters were little, I learned of a group of Buddhist monks who were visiting greater Boston to share their skills and wisdom in meditation, chanting and the art of the mandala. We went and watched them meticulously create a sand mandala atop a low table, which measured six feel by six feet. It was mesmerizing to see them drop what seemed to be individual grains of sand to create the finest lines and most intricate shapes. The design was magnificent...detailed, beautiful, radiating  the most incredible colors. They worked on it for an entire day. We were there when they finished. And minutes later, they blew the image away, scattering the grains in every direction. I could feel the little girl in me with the Etch-a-Sketch yelling, "No...why did you do that? That was so beautiful!"

But that was the point. Nothing is permanent. Enjoy the beauty while it's here. Take stock of every moment and breathe. The only thing you can count on is right...now.

As a young mother in my thirties, I quietly explained this idea to Molly and Eliza as they watched with disbelief that these monks would be so silly to destroy their hard work just moments after we'd had the chance to go and see it up close. Maybe someone else hadn't had the chance to actually go up to the table yet, Molly suggested. That's life.

Infinity Angel on Ogunquit Beach

When I created the first Infinity Angel on Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit, more than a decade ago on a crisp, sunny morning, I didn't think about the tide coming up and how quickly this little angel would disappear. You'd think I'd learn! This time, as the water rushed in however, I emblazoned her visage on my brain. I experienced the moment.  And due to her simplicity and the message I heard inside my head, I was able to create her again and again, each time feeling more and more certain that she was supposed to help me and others with many lessons. One of the lessons is certainly the understanding of impermanence, as I can never draw her freehand the same way twice. 

The Buddha Board: An Etch-a-Sketch for Grown-ups!

I first encountered a Buddha Board several years after I'd drawn my first Infinity Angel on the beach. It beckoned me to pick up the paint brush, dip it in the water and draw something on the papery surface. I tried my hand creating my little angel, not knowing exactly what a Buddha Board would offer. There she was, in a bold, painterly black brush stroke. I'd cocked her halo a little dramatically in this rendition and before I could step back and really take her in...she started to disappear. Aaah...of course, a Buddha Board would offer the mandala experience once again, what other type of art medium would be named for the man who said, "You only lose what you cling to"?

The Infinity Angel on Buddha BoardDrawing on the Buddha Board felt so much like drawing on the sand on Ogunquit Beach that I chuckled. As it stands on its easel, with the water well filled and the brush at the ready, you are beckoned to try your hand at something, anything. Create. Do it. Have fun. If what you create is less than perfect, it will fade away. And if it is the most magnificent piece of art you've ever imagined, it will fade away just as quickly. Everything is equal in impermanence. Our Buddha Boards offer quite a unique meditation experience.

So, while we offer you many ways on our website to physically hold onto your Infinity Angel, we thought it was fitting to also offer Buddha Boards...a wonderful gift to share with a friend who understands the value of the moment. Or perhaps for someone who needs to learn what that's all about. Place your Buddha Board on a coffee table, kitchen counter, or the corner of your desk to remind you and others to take a chance, let go and create.

If you're like me, you need to regularly remind yourself that all of life is like a mandala. The most precious things (and even people) are fleeting and, still, our most memorable moments will stay forever in our minds. 

Enjoy this moment and thanks for reading,

 

Kelly McCoy
Creator of The Infinity Angel

 

 

 

There's No Alternative to Dialogue

The word dialogue has become a bad word, a signal of being a liberal.

It is the only way out of a difficult moment. There's no alternative to dialogue. The alternative is to circle the wagons and wait for the end of the world.

These four sentences hit me deeply as I read them on my phone this morning. They were spoken by Pope Francis. The first he shared before he became Pope. The next three short, declarative sentences, he uttered in the least-publicized of his speeches in the United States this week. These he impressed upon his bishops, when he spoke to them at the Cathedral at St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

Let me begin by saying that I have not been a church-going gal in many years. I was baptized Catholic and raised Catholic. When I was a child, my dad's retail career moved us from New Jersey to Florida, then to Illinois and Ohio to New England. I attended six schools in 12 years. In some of those places, I went to a Catholic school. In others I attended public schools. The combination of this religious and public education, culminating in four years of Catholic High School (which I still call, with loving sarcasm, "the angel factory") taught me that religion doesn't really matter as much as people being good people.

I was married in a Catholic church in Framingham, Massachusetts, mostly to honor my parents' wishes. When my first daughter was born, my husband (who is not Catholic) and I decided to have her baptized in a Catholic church where we lived in Milford, Massachusetts. In my world, it seemed like the thing to do when you have a child. After an odd altercation, which felt far less than holy and loving having to do with our little girl's Catholic religion classes when she was six years old, we got off the moving sidewalk of Catholicism. I haven't considered myself a Catholic in years, though I will always somehow belong to that club of adults who can connect at a cocktail party on their years of nuns in the classroom and folk masses in the chapel.

So, it was against this backdrop that I read the headlines of the Pope coming to the U.S. for his first visit this week. Over the past year or two, I've heard a few things about him that I liked. He seemed like a kind, inclusive world leader. He seemed to be using his "bully pulpit" for good, which I admired from a distance.

Though I never expected it, personal history, curiosity or hope drew me in this week. I heard one Francis radio sound bite while driving in the car. Sounded like a great thought. Then I heard another, as I flipped by the news on TV while looking for the premiere of the new Muppet Show, which I hoped would offer good humor and a reason to feel like the world was a kind place. The news snippit caused me to pause. Francis was garnering much bigger crowds than the parade of presidential candidates. This was an interesting sign. I became intrigued. I stopped for longer on CNN. I listened to SiriusXM radio to grab a piece of coverage while driving to the grocery store.

This was not the Pope I expected. Somehow, I thought he was luring me in and I was waiting for the sucker punch. It never came.

This morning, as I perused my phone to see if I had an email or a Facebook message from my children or friends, I bumped up against a few posts that beckoned me to read the Pope's entire speech to Congress. I'd heard the highlights. Did I really need to read this entire presentation in six point type? But, I challenged myself. I thought, "You often criticize sound bites and say that people live life out of context. Here's the whole speech; read it."

So I did. I read every word of Pope Francis' speech to the joint houses of the United States Congress. The cynical side of me (perhaps borne of my being a public relations person for 30 years) mentally responded with, "What a masterful piece of writing." Yet I was drawn to go back and read several of the paragraphs again. He touched me deeply. This was more than good PR.

What was different here? This human being, given the opportunity to espouse his philosophy (which many are taught and truly believe comes straight from the mouth of God, once he is ordained as Pope) is truly trying to promote love and kindness. He is not posturing to show superiority. He is not trying to convince the world that only he knows something to which the rest of us are not privy. He is offering some honest thoughts, thoughts that he believes will make the world a better place. He is truly leading by example. How unique for a person in a position of such power to offer a simple message of kindness. I had heard the day he took over as Pope that he refused the big residence in favor of a much more humble apartment. He even chose to wear his usual black shoes instead of the iconic red loafers, which set the Pope apart from all other Catholic leadership. Here in the U.S., he chose to be transported in a small Fiat, dwarfed by the large U.S. security vehicles around him. Actions speak louder than words...and now as I read every one of his words, I was amazed at how humble, yet powerful, they were.

I finished the entire text of the speech and was prompted (in that way that Facebook, Amazon and other great online marketers offer) to read other Pope Francis stories from this week. I went to a piece by the National Catholic Review, as surely I would read something here that would bring me out of my Francis stupor. Here I would find the words he shared with "his fellow bishops" in DC this week. Surely, there would be some inside scoop from the pontiff that Catholics would clutch onto that said, "Hey guys, I mean all that warm and fuzzy stuff I've been sharing with the masses, but we all know we're right and you're doing a great job on teaching anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, and Catholics do have the real inside track to heaven." I knew this is where I would be disappointed.

As I braced myself, I read the National Catholic Review article. Shock and awe ensued. Francis spoke to the bishops just like he spoke to the senators and reps earlier that day...and like he spoke to the masses in New York City the next. He spoke the words I shared at the top of this post. He told his bishops that there is nothing that replaces dialogue. He told them, in his stunningly non-judgmental language, that we have to keep working together and talking about how to save ourselves and the world. He said that the bishops and priests and parishioners and non-believers all needed to treat one another as they would want to be treated themselves. He reminded them all of the golden rule.

What a concept. I love this guy. His agenda is love and peace and kindness. What world leader says these things?

I agree completely. Dialogue is key. It promotes strong children and happy families and world peace. We should definitely talk about all of this more often and in public.

I haven't written a post on InfinityAngel.com in quite awhile. This man inspired me. I was reminded that when I discovered The Infinity Angel on the beach in Ogunquit more than a decade ago, the message I felt very strongly was, "Everything you need is already here."

At that time, Pope Francis was Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a new Catholic Cardinal in Argentina. In the next 12 years, he would work and teach and talk and eat with the poor. And then, seemingly from nowhere, he would become the global leader of the Catholic Church. There are powerful good forces working in the world. Forces that we don't immediately see.

Somehow the media and many disturbed people have made fear and destruction rule the front pages and TV and radio sound bites. Yet, one kind voice can still cut through with hope and civility and peace. And people are eager for that message. That's where I want to live. That's what I want to hear. That's who I want to be.

Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding me that dialogue is the key and, indeed, everything I need is already here.

Be inspired and enjoy the beauty of autumn!

Kelly McCoy