Friday, October 17, 2014

Gratitude For ALL Things???

Gratitude.

This has been the word of the week around my town after a tornado tore through it this past Monday. Even though it was on the ground for only a few minutes, it left it's calling card.

gratitude avenue
The townsfolk here are resilient though. People came together to help one another. With the buzzing of chainsaws in the air, people went to work removing the debris that had accumulated in the tornado's aftermath, all the while giving thanks that their lives were spared. As I navigated through the debris, I encountered a woman who shared with me that a tree had crashed through her home, just missing her and her children. "My house can be replaced. My life and my children's lives can't," she said, "so I am truly blessed." We hugged and I wished her the best.

Power has yet to be restored in some areas of town, but people refuse to sit idle. They want to help, and they are doing what they can to help others. It's a beautiful thing to see. And in every conversation that I hear or overhear, people are giving their thanks despite their losses.

This brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote: "Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude."

Yes, this means being grateful for even those things that may appear as obstacles in our lives. Being grateful for all things that happen means embracing not only the good but also the setbacks as part of our overall journey. Everything contributes to who we are and who we are to become.

Seeing our personal "tornadoes" as some kind of punishment is not going to get us through. That is a victim-mindset, something the folks here in town are not displaying, bless their hearts.

Instead, they are not letting this situation define them. They are not focusing on why this has happened to them; they are forging ahead with solutions. They are choosing to be positive. They have a sense of humor. They know that they are not alone. They are allowing others to help them, and they are helping others as well. They are making the best of it so they can move forward.

"Tornadoes" are going to occur from time to time. They may be emotional. They may be financial. They may be spiritual. Whatever the case, no matter how bad the situation may seem, gratitude will see us through and set us on a new path of discovery.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cutting Cords

In our relationships, there is a continual exchange of energy, whether we realize it or not.

cords
This energy is an invisible cord that connects two individuals. These are the "ties that bind."

In quantum physics, this is known as "phase entanglement." Particles converge and separate, but often when two of them come together, they take a portion of the other with them when they separate. In our relationships, when two people meet, each one's energy becomes attached to the other, and when the relationship ends, each individual leaves something behind when moving on.

However you view it, or whatever you call it, these cords exist and connect us to others, and they can remain long after a relationship has ended, sometimes leaving an open channel through which emotions and energy can continue to flow.

Think of it as a psychic or invisible umbilical cord through which thoughts, feelings, and energy pass between individuals.

If you're unaware that it exists, you may find yourself feeling the other person's feelings and mistakenly think that they are your own. This kind of psychic vampirism can leave you feeling vulnerable, sad, angry, lethargic, and completely drained of your mojo.

Cutting the cord can help you rid yourself of old baggage and unnecessary attachments, especially from connections that are no longer benefiting either of you.

Cutting the cord of attachment is a gentle but potent process. It's best done when you are alone and relaxed, and it's important that you be strong in your intention to release the cord between you and someone else. There are numerous ways to do this, but you may create your own version or ritual of release. The key components are intention, centering, visualizing, cutting, healing, and blessing.

To begin, state your intention, either aloud or to yourself: "I, (state your name), now intend to release the ties that bind me to (state person's name)."

Center yourself by breathing deeply. When you are ready, visualize or sense the cord that is connecting you to the individual you have named. Determine where the cut is to be made and then visualize a clean, swift cut through the cord. You may call upon the help of archangel Michael with his sword, or you may visualize yourself or your spiritual being of choice doing the cutting.

Visualize any space in your energy field being filled with healing light so as to "cauterize" this spiritual gap. You may enlist the help of archangel Raphael with his green healing light or another spiritual being.

See this as a positive and nurturing act. Say, "I now release (state person's name) with love. It is done." Send it to the light for healing and transformation. Offer your gratitude for this experience.

This does not mean that you are severing the relationship with the person, just the cord that is no longer benefiting either of you. You may have simply outgrown each other, or the relationship may no longer serve a higher purpose. Perhaps it has grown toxic.

Whatever the case, cord cutting is a freeing experience. It releases us, and others, to reach new stages of growth, giving us the space to complete any emotional work that may need to be done.

What has been your experience with cutting cords? Feel free to share.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dissecting The Golden Rule

The concept of the Golden Rule can be found in every major religion and ethical tradition in one form or another. It is the ethic of reciprocity and the standard by which different cultures operate to resolve conflicts. But whatever the form, it demands that people treat others in a way which they themselves would like to be treated.

Note some of the following examples:

Buddhism: Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. -Udana-Varga 5.18

Confucianism: One word which sums up the basis of all conduct...loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. - Analects 15.23

Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. - T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien, 213-218

Zoroastrianism: Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. - Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

Islam: Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. -Prophet Muhammad, Hadith

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. - Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty - do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. - Mahabharata, 5:1517

Baha'i Faith: Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. - Baha'u'Hah, Gleanings

If you'll notice, the above versions have one thing in common: they tell us NOT to do bad to others (with the exception of Islam, but it, too, has a qualifier when it implies that one is NOT a believer if s/he fails to practice the rule).

In the Christian version, Jesus takes the Golden Rule in a different direction in Matthew 22:37-39:

"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

JC takes a more positive and proactive approach than the others. This is not to say that Christianity is a superior religion to the others, but JC's teaching goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing harmful or hurtful things to others to a positive formulation of actively doing good to others, and if one were to find himself in his neighbor's position, he would desire to be treated with the same dignity, respect, and love in return.

We are instructed on what to do, rather than on what we are not to do. There is nothing passive about JC's version; it is a directive to follow and apply.

What I like about JC's version is that it calls us to inspired action. It calls us to go and do and to do it with the energy and power of love. The connotation of fear is non-existent; it doesn't imply that we'll suffer repercussions should we not follow the rule. I find it more empowering than the other versions.

But the Golden Rule is more than a code of conduct when it comes to dealing with others. It's more radical than we think because it calls us to love across religious, racial, and cultural divides...and it extends to our enemies.

Can we do this? We can certainly try. But it will take a radical shift in our thinking, which JC calls for in his version of the Golden Rule.

Consider this in context of JC's version: You are a creative expression of God, a divine masterpiece, and so is the person next to you, the person in front of you, the person behind you, and so on. Spirit is what connects us to one another because we are Spirit and Spirit is us. The way we treat ourselves and others is the way we treat Spirit.

There is no separation.

Does it matter how the Golden Rule is stated?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Becoming Spiritually Conscious

I woke up dead.

Well, at least that's how I felt.

I felt no connection to anything. Life consisted of going through the motions...day in, day out...same ol' same ol'. I had been trying to let outside things determine my happiness and my spiritual fitness, but it wasn't working. I was so concerned about how to "do" life right that I wasn't living it at all. I knew I had to shake things up.

Ever feel like this?

If so, know that this is the beginning of being conscious of your spiritual journey. Your spiritual alarm clock is sounding!

I had been "unconscious" for so long that I really didn't know what I was doing. But I was open to anything, and whenever I felt that "something" tugging at me inside, I followed its guidance. I haunted those "New Age" bookstores that others had told me to avoid because they were "evil." The more I read, the more I craved. My spiritual appetite was ravenous!

I began to meditate, to pray, and to ask questions. I went within and uncovered my true self that had been buried under years of others "shoulding" on me and listening to them instead of myself.

I broke away from the confines of religion, especially the ones that told me I was going to hell if I did or didn't do this or that.

I felt connected. Transformed. And alive!

Here's what I've learned along the way...

There is no right or wrong way. We're all on the same journey; we're just taking different paths to get there. The God of my understanding is of the same essence as the God of your understanding, even if we relate in different ways.

There is no "normal" when it comes to spirituality. Our beliefs are unique to ourselves. We are each individual expressions of a Diverse Divine Being, and we are free to call that Being by whatever name we choose.

There's no need to follow the crowd. The differences around us allow us to mold our own journey into exactly what we want. What works for some may not work for me or for you, and that's okay. Be grateful for these differences; it's Spirit's creativity in action.

There's no need to compare journeys. Each journey is unique to the individual. Celebrate each part of it along the way. If something works for you on your journey, hold on to it, and if it doesn't, then let it go. It's not always going to be a smooth journey, so whatever happens, allow it to shape you in the best version of yourself.

I love having the freedom to express my spirituality in the way that I so choose, and I've learned much from the various wisdom traditions and spiritual practices that exist. They've served as the stepping stones in my journey.

In the words of Khalil Gibran, "I love you when yo bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit."

What have you learned along the way?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Putting Your Best Thought Forward

Put your best thought forward.

It's easy to get caught up in the web of self-defeating thoughts. Many times this is done by default.

Fortunately, you can change your thoughts so that they empower you.

No one can think your thoughts for you. Think about that. Only you can do that.

And this means that you are responsible, not only for what you think, but for what shows up in your life as a result of your thinking.

Instead of thinking by habit, why not make the decision to think by choice? Rather than accept someone else's thoughts (opinions/beliefs/ideas) at face value, test them to see if they hold true for you. If they don't align with your purpose, your goals, your values, or your dreams, then choose to think for yourself. Thinking by habit is lazy thinking.

When you nurture the same old negative thoughts, you'll get sucked into a black hole of vibration that keeps you from moving forward. Rather than focus on possible negative outcomes, why not focus on possible positive outcomes? Put your creativity to use. Instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the possible solutions. Since thought is the source, it's also the solution.

Our most dominant and consistent thoughts carry power and energy. They have a very real and significant impact on the way we act. Choose to think the best about yourself, your world, and the people and events in it. Doing this allows you to enable, encourage, empower, and motivate yourself to do your best.

You're going to get from here to the future anyway as time goes on, so you might as well think thoughts that will shift your vibration, serve your highest good, and accelerate your desired outcomes. Put your best thought(s) forward, and before you know it, you'll be stepping into your joy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Hold...

Sometimes things happen because the Universe is guiding us to place our efforts in a different direction for the time being.

This is one of those times.

And that's okay.

I will be back with more of Spiritography: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life. While this series is on temporary hold, I will continue posting about spiritual matters. In the meantime, click on the links below to enjoy the past posts regarding spirituality and photography.

Pruning: Not Just For Plants

Holy Graffiti

How To Disappoint Disappointment

Ways To Wander Into Wonder

Cultivate Your Sacred Vision

Lessons We Can Learn From Water

3 Spiritual Lessons From Autumn

Getting On Track

Butterfly As Spiritual Metaphor

Bee Here Now!

Thank you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bee Here Now!

I worked with the most cooperative subjects in my garden this morning -- bumblebees.

Usually I keep my distance from things that are known to sting, but the bumblebee is not aggressive, and I saw this as an invitation to understand its world.

Technically, the bumblebee should not be able to fly. But it does. Scientists have said that aerodynamically, the bumblebee is designed completely wrong, and that the only reason it flies is through "sheer will."

It is a flying miracle.

Being master pollinators, bees also play a vital role in the delicate balance of our ecosystem.

With camera in hand, I let the bee speak to me through the lens.

"Master Pollinator" by Penny McDaniel
"Bee" productive. Bees stay focused on whatever they are doing. If our energy is scattered, the bumblebee can show us how to become focused once more.

"Bee" mindful. The bumblebee reminds us to slow down from being a "busy bee" in our lives. Smell the flowers and taste the sweetness of life. "Bee" here now, in the moment.

"Bee" of service. In the pollination process, while they collect nectar, they also collect pollen which they pass on to other flowers. Their service contributes greatly to our livelihood. The bee invites us to service by sharing our talents with humanity. As they service each flower, we see the interconnectedness of all living things. Our gifts are of importance. "Bee" part of the community and contribute where you can.

"Bee" the miracle. Bees, according to science, aren't designed to fly, yet they do. They defy logic. So do miracles. The bee reminds us that miracles are possible.

IMG_7767 - Edited
"Bee on Russian Sage" by Penny McDaniel
"Bee-ing Mindful" by Penny McDaniel
"Just Bee-ing" by Penny McDaniel