Thursday, October 31, 2013

Break The Spell and Go To Health


Many of us have been under a powerful spell.

The spell of social conditioning.

It's time to break it.

We don't realize how much of our life's choices are governed by this type of programming.

We are told how to act, how to look, how to speak, what to wear, where to live, what to think, what to learn, and so on.

Basically, we are told by others how to live our lives, and the sad thing is, we actually listen without question, thinking that because everyone else is doing the same thing, we should do the same.

Images of Macbeth's three witches, the Weird Sisters, come to mind, chanting, "Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble" over their hell-broth as they plot the duping and demise of Macbeth. All sorts of vile ingredients, scavenged from animals and humans, go into their spell-casting.

Unfortunately, Macbeth never breaks the spell, even after taking part in the creation of it. By the time he realizes the truth, it's too late.

But it is never too late for us to get out from under the spell of societal conditioning. We can take back our power and create our own "spells."

I've always found that whenever I "had" to follow the dictates of society or the expectations of others, my body would react violently in the form of massive migraines that would send me to the hospital; I'd be wiped out for days at a time. I "knew" that what I was being told I should do was going against what I wanted to do for my own highest good. 

I had to do something or else live my life in a debilitating state, and when I finally stood up to those Goliaths, all hell broke loose, but it was the best thing to happen because I got to live life on my own terms. If I wanted to make a mess of my life, then I could. If I wanted to make something of my life, then by God I could to do that, too.

I broke the spell when I realized that I had a choice. I could choose to live by others' rules and expectations, thereby sentencing my life to one of misery and hell, or I could choose to live a life of my own creation, freely, openly, and expansively, from the inside out. The migraines vanished, and I got my health (and my mind) back.

Whenever someone says to me, "Well, you're supposed to do this," or "You should do that," I always come back with "Who says?" especially when I'm not feeling in alignment with what they are telling me.

To break the "spell," you must first reclaim your power. Our power can be taken away when we are unaware, unarmed, or unprotected. Realize that your power is yours to give, to keep, or to take back. Be aware of your choices. Take responsibility for yourself. Say no when you must, especially if you are not in alignment with someone else's choices for you. 

Own up to your part in the creation of things past. Things don't simply happen "to" you; they happened because you allowed them to happen. Let these go; they no longer define you. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Move on.

Once you've reclaimed your power, decide how to use that power. Will you use it to inflict harm on others for what has happened in the past, or will you use it to create the highest good for all? The power to create is an awesome responsibility. School yourself in this responsibility to know how to use it wisely.

Trust your Inner Guidance System. Tap into this system on a daily basis. Honor it. Let it speak to you. Here you will find an abundance of wisdom to guide you. It will let you know when it is not in alignment because your body will react physically with discomfort or unease.

Believe in Divine Direction. Your Divine Essence will not lead you down a harmful path. Know that you are being divinely led in the direction you are meant to go, even if others think otherwise. An uncommon strength will rise up to help you power forward on your path.

Do no harm to others or to yourself. When you are in alignment with Spirit, you will cease to do or say anything harmful as you create and expand. You will act from a place of great love, not fear.

Breaking the spell of social conditioning is about taking control of your life, rather than letting others control it for you. As you practice your own brand of Spiritcraft, you will find all areas of your life improving, growing, and expanding. 

Blessed be!

Spiritwork:

Create your own "spell" or "healing-broth." Write it in the form of a short rhyming poem. Fill it with compassion, empathy, and respect for you, others, and your Creator. Let it guide and direct your energies for the good of all. This can be your creed, personal statement, mission statement, etc. Recite it often, pray it, meditate on it, or chant it as a mantra. Create a special "brew" such as a cup of tea to accompany your "spell." You may also create your own special ritual around this activity.


Also, get my free e-book The ABC's of Dealing with Negative People by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coming Out Spiritually

When I was five years old, I looked my mother in the eye and said, "I'm never having children."

"What?" she said as she cocked her head. "But you're a girl, and girls are supposed to have babies."

"I think it's a big, fat lie," I told her.

That memory is as vivid today as it was decades ago.

I may not have known what I wanted, but I "knew" that I didn't want to have children. Something about it didn't feel "right" within me. Sure, if it had happened, I would have embraced it, but it was not what I wanted from life.

For years, my mother hounded me to have children, and it got to a point where she told me I needed psychological help.

I laughed. It was the most absurd thing ever to come out of her mouth.

Because I didn't fit into her construct of what a woman should do with her life, she tried to manipulate me into thinking that I had a problem. Nice try. She was angry because she wanted to be a grandmother, and in her mind I was denying her.

I never wanted the "traditional" life, not that there is anything "wrong" with that kind of life. I just know it's not for me. And while others aren't okay with it, I am.

Walking the spiritual path and living the authentic life, as I have stated in previous posts, is not for wimps. Coming out of the spiritual closet takes initiative and courage.

And as soon as you do, the Goliaths will show up to challenge you because you are not doing things "their" way; that is, you are not doing things in the ways that they think you should. This is because of the social programming they learned. As you live your authentic life, the Goliaths will fade harmoniously away, or they will use your example to begin transforming their lives. Some of those Goliaths will be in your own mind and may need deconstructing through the help of your support system, spiritual practices, and personal educational plan.

A former student and close friend of mine is now facing this dilemma. She said she "doesn't want to feel awkward" because she's "not dating" or because she doesn't know what she wants. She ended by asking, "Is getting married and making kids supposed to be what I want?"

Supposed to? There's that programming again.

She is absolutely torn because she is looking outward for answers instead of inward.

Such questions are the starting points of the journey to the authentic self. We start feeling our "right" in the middle of all the "wrong." What we once thought of as gospel becomes garbage. It no longer works, it no longer fits, it no longer defines.

The spiritual path to your authentic life requires an open mind, free from the distractions brought on by social programming. This means deprogramming yourself and letting go of others' ideas of how you should live your life. Society doesn't dictate who you are, though it thinks it should. You dictate who you are.

Choosing to step out on your own path takes testicular fortitude. It takes asking the deeper, sometimes harder questions of yourself. It takes facing yourself in the face of others.

Being spiritual means breaking with convention. Call it "breaking bad" because that is how some will perceive you when you veer away from the "establishment." Sticking with convention may have its advantages for those who need it, but thinking -- and living -- outside of the box is more expansive and creative.

Coming out spiritually is an act of self-love. It gives you the freedom to grow, to create, to expand, and to express yourself uniquely and authentically.  No longer will you feel held back or stifled by the expectations of others. There is no reason to hide behind the door of fear any longer. Your light wants to shine. Let it.

Everything that happens on the spiritual path becomes a learning, or relearning, experience. As you unlearn the social programming thrust upon you in your formative years and reinforced for many years thereafter, your true vision begins to return. You will be able to "see" again through a holistic lens.

Spirtwork:

Stand in front of a mirror. This is an exercise in learning to love the person you see, even if you don't like everything about yourself. This is not about perfection, and perfection is certainly not necessary for love.

If you find it hard to love yourself, you'll need to examine what thoughts and feelings stand in the way of loving yourself. Most of the time, if not all, you'll find it going back to your personal or social programming.

As you stand in front of the mirror, start with one part of yourself that you do not view as "perfect" and say "I love my _______________." Every day, return to the mirror to view this part of your body and repeat, "I love my _______________." If there is another part of your body that you view as "imperfect," repeat that you love that area as well. Repeat for at least 3 - 5 minutes. Do this every day for 30 days. Examine your reflection and your parts through eyes of love instead of the disgust you were programmed with, as you repeat your love for yourself. Make this a daily meditation.

A variation of this exercise is to start with one part of yourself that you love, and say "I love my __________." Each day add another part of you that you love. If you start with your eyes, say "I love my eyes." The next day add "I love my eyes and my toes." On the third day add "I love my eyes, my toes, and my hair." And so on.  Do for 30 days.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.

Get my free e-book The ABC's of Dealing with Negative People by clicking here.



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Watch Your Language!

When I was a kid, whenever I said anything unkind or unsavory (who, me? cuss?), my mother would wash my mouth out with soap.

"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all, young lady!" were her famous words.

My mother went through a lot of soap in those years.

She made me realize that my words, my sentences, and the language in my mind and in my conversations had power. I had some thinking to do.

I could use my mind language and words to hurt others, including myself. Or, I could use them to help and heal others, including myself.

I learned that they played a very big role in creating my future.

Our words and thoughts will either limit us or expand us.

We can speak as if we are in charge or as if we are victims of circumstance. We can speak in the language of creation or in the language of reaction.

The language of creation is like this: "I choose...," "I intend...," and "I will...," while the language of reaction says, "What should I do?" or "I don't know what to do."

Big difference!

It's going from an "I don't know how to" mentality to an "I want to" attitude and that's because desire is not a fixed state. It is fluid and dynamic, ever-burning within us, making us burst at the seams as we expand our consciousness and awareness in the creative process.

So, if you want to transform your life, watch your language. Carefully choose what you say and think.

Awaken to your status as creator, not victim.

As creator and owner of your life, focus your energy on creating what you want by using language that builds your future, not on wasting your energy with language that describes (and keeps you in) the past.

 As you commit to creating, you'll sentence yourself to a life of goodness.

Spiritwork:

Pay attention to the words that come out of your mouth today. Are they kind and loving, or harmful and hateful? If you find yourself thinking for saying unkind things, correct them by turning them into kinder, more positive words (or you can wash your mouth out with soap, but I wouldn't recommend that!).

If you want to spread some good cheer and lift people, compliment them. When you do this, you will find that you will receive a surge of creative energy, too. Make sure the compliments are sincere. If someone is facing a challenge, encourage him or her. Use your words to inspire others. Give as many as you can in the course of the day, and if you're feeling really daring, continue this exercise the rest of the week or longer.

People love compliments because it makes them feel good about themselves. As a teacher, I made it a point to always find something encouraging to say about students' papers, even if the paper needed improvement or a do-over. If for some reason I forgot to put my signature smiley faces on their work, they would let me know about it in an instant! Give away smiles today and see what happens.

Blessings!

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.

Get my new e-book, The ABC's of Dealing with Negative People. Available now!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Downgrade Fear By Upgrading Your Thinking

I knew an agoraphobic who lived her life as a recluse. Everything worried her. She lived in a continual state of fear. She kept her shades drawn, never letting in any light. Her home was very dark, the air stale, the energy heavy.

Cancer finally cured her.

She said it was the best thing that ever happened to her because it forced her out of her comfort zone to get the help and treatment she needed, and as a result, she began living her life again once she was cancer-free.

We don't need something drastic like cancer to happen to us to move us past our fear.

We can move past fear by taking responsibility for it.

Much of our fear comes from downgraded thinking. Rather than focus on our possibilities, we play out the worst-case scenarios in our minds, and as we play them over and over, we get addicted to this kind of thinking. Sooner or later, we end up tumbling down the staircase into a dark pit of despair.

We hit bottom.

Ouch. And then we are faced with a serious choice.

Do we stay there? Or, do we find a way out?

Finding our way out requires us to upgrade our thinking.

Our brains are designed to seek solutions.

When I was a kid, we didn't have video games. We had to make up our own games. One fun (and scary) game was flashlight tag...in the graveyard.

Well, I was "it" and had to search for someone to tag. As I was creeping around, I didn't see a newly dug grave and in I went. I screamed for help, but no one came. They were too busy running away from me!

The grave was just deep enough where I couldn't climb out.  I. Was. Petrified.

It was dark. It was cold. My heart knocked at my ribs. I kept imagining zombies coming to kill me. My mind became a circus of fear. I screamed again, and then I got angry. So I started kicking the wall of dirt in front of me. Each time I kicked I left an indentation.

And then it hit me. If I made a few more indents in the wall, I could climb out! I went to work with my flashlight, using it to carve out spaces for my feet so I could step up and get the leverage I needed to lift myself out. My fear left me. I was out in no time. Bruised and battered, but out.

When the solution came to me, my thinking immediately shifted from one of panic to one of freedom. An opportunity presented itself, and I took action.

Otherwise, the zombies would have gotten me.

Moving past fear means moving through it. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there seems to be no solution whatsoever. That's because we are focused on the fear of no solution. As soon as we upgrade our thinking from an outdated version, by telling ourselves that there is a solution, that fear downgrades and we find ourselves pushing through with a renewed vitality.

The first step is the biggest step, and that is the step we take within when we change our thinking from one of defeat to one of victory.

You take the first step. Source takes the second step. By the time you get to the third step, you realize that it was Source that took the first step. Source was with you the whole time.

And all those zombies that you invented can now rest in peace.

Spiritwork:

Masterminds Emerson and Twain both said, "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." When you confront the T-Rex of fear, it turns into a tiny gekko. If you run from it, it will continue to chase you and consume you.

Think of something you've always feared doing. Maybe it's an activity like ballroom dancing or parasailing, or it's something that directly addresses a phobia.

Divide a piece of paper into two columns. On the left hand side, list that fear.  Carefully express and define exactly what it is you are afraid of. On the right hand side, write the steps that need to be taken in order to overcome this fear that you created. These steps may be personal or practical. As you write your solutions, your brain will store them, mull them over, and eventually generate some creative and useful responses.

Looking at your list of steps to take, choose one to work on and begin today. Start with the easiest one. When you accomplish it, celebrate yourself, and then move on to the next step.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Your Divine Design

You are a unique expression of life.

You have a sacred purpose.

You have been created and designed to express your unique pattern of life energy in a way that only you know how.

It's a way that no one but you can do. People may copy yours, but theirs will never be as original as yours.

As you spiritually awaken, you will become aware of some personal life patterns that have held you down or have held you back.

Some of them you may find quite surprising, especially when you decide to rid yourself of their programming. They will say, "No! You can't live without us!" They will kick and scream and throw tantrums like never before.

They will try to manipulate you with their fatalistic attitude by telling you that your life will end without them. They have been parasiting off of you for a long time. The reality is that they can't live without you. 

Whoa!

Why are those past patterns screaming so much?

They are making noise because they want your attention. They don't want to be forgotten; they want to be transformed, healed, and integrated into your new life, one that allows you to be more balanced, creative, and wiser. After all, they are a part of your consciousness, but they are going to need your help in changing them.

How?

Remember that you are not your personal history. You have a personal history, but it is not your essential identity.

Remember that the life of those patterns will end, but life will not. Those old patterns will die, and you will no longer identify with them.

Remember that as you let go of identifying with those old patterns, new, unique, healthier patterns will emerge. Your new pattern is for you to discover. Don't worry. Spirit will send you the resources, people, and help you need to intuit and pioneer your way.

Remember that you are a unique expression of the Divine on a unique path designed especially and specifically for you, and it will unfold in any way you so choose with the help of the Divine. The Divine created you and wants to create with you. It doesn't want your path to be the same as anyone else's. We are each a fingerprint of the Divine; no two are alike. Ever.

Think about that.

Spiritwork:

Celebrating yourself does not need to be reserved for your birthday. Today, do something extra-special to celebrate your new path. Go on a walk and hold hands with the Divine. Start an art project. Take a photo of something in nature that reflects the new you and frame it as a way to honor the way you view the world. Be creative!

Or...

If you are are having difficulty letting go of past patterns and need to unburden yourself, create a postcard that represents what is holding you back. Then mail it to PostSecret (www.postsecret.com), an ongoing community art project that allows you to relieve yourself of your burdens anonymously. There's something wonderfully freeing about finally unburdening ourselves. See the website for the physical address. Warning: the website contains mature themes. Instead of mailing it, you can perform a ritual in which you release the burden of your patterns to the Light for healing and transformation (i.e., burning it, burying it, bottling it, etc.).

You may also want to consider talking to someone whom you trust (pastor, priest, rabbi, spiritual counselor, life coach, doctor, etc.), so that you can work on forgiveness, self-love, and removing emotional blockages.

Also...

On the flip side, create a postcard that represents your transformation and your new, unique, view of life. Share it with those you love. Place it in a prominent place like your refrigerator, a mantle, or your personal altar.

Blessings.

Related Posts: 

Read 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Catapult Your Desire

I'm always amazed by high jumpers and pole vaulters with their grace and agility to leap over a bar set high above their heads. Their athleticism is awe-inspiring.

It just makes you want to set the bar higher in life because deep down inside we all have the desire to reach our greatest potential. It's hard-wired into us.

We have been designed to yearn. Setting the bar high in our lives gives us purpose. It gives us something to strive for.

It allows us to stretch and grow and learn so that we can be the best that we can be.

This yearning, this desire that draws our souls to our Highest Good, is characterized by an inner restlessness that only a Higher Power can fill.

It fills us with passion and makes us want to break free of the status quo. And as we move beyond the petty wants of ego, we find our lives bursting with meaning.

Many people get seduced into playing it safe. They set the bar low, doing just enough to get the job done without standing out; either they are afraid of failure, or they are afraid of success.

Michelangelo knew this all too well when he said, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it but that we aim too low and we make it." When we play it safe, we drown our desire because we may be too cynical or pessimistic to believe that any life other than the one we are familiar with is possible.

Yearning is a gift given to us to embrace and express our Highest Self. It nudges us to aim high and to go for what we want in life. It is a great force of energy that takes us beyond ourselves.

To nurture our spiritual yearning, we must love it and strengthen it. This can be done through seeking, studying, and devotion. As we act, we honor.

Why not allow yourself to reach for fulfillment? How high will you set your bar?

Spiritwork:

The Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi has written some of the most inspiring and ecstatic poetry and stories about his yearning for and love of God, his Beloved. Spend some time with Rumi's words as you reach for fulfillment. One such book is The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. Note how artfully Rumi describes his desire for union.

Another exercise is to personify (giving human qualities to non-human things) Desire.  In other words, describe Desire as a human being, but characterize it in such a way that the meaning is evident without giving away the definition. Is Desire male or female? What does Desire look like? How does Desire dress? What personality traits does Desire have? How does Desire talk or behave when s/he walks into a room? How would you know Desire if s/he walked up to you? Write at least a paragraph to bring Desire to life. I would really love to read your descriptions!

Blessings.

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Muskrats, Microscopes, and Mystery

Spirit leads us in strange ways. Let me share a story to illustrate.

When I was a little girl, I wanted a microscope set and a dissection kit. 

Instead, I kept getting dolls.  

I hated dolls. I didn't like their eyes. They scared me. So I blindfolded them and put them in the back of my closet where'd I'd never see them.

I continued to ask for a microscope set and kit. But whenever I'd ask, my mother would say, "Go play with your dolls."

"No," I finally said. "I gave them all away." 

"You what?" she demanded.

"I gave them all away. I didn't like them," I asserted.  Mother took a long drag from her cigarette to calm herself.

"Well, you're not getting a microscope."

Drop back and punt.

I went into the woods to explore and stumbled upon two dead muskrats, side by side. I had always been a curious child, wanting to understand how things worked. Seeing those two muskrats made me want to know why they died.

So, I took them home.

I laid them out on my mom's new picnic table, took needles and scissors from her sewing basket, and grabbed a filet knife. Never having done a dissection before, I approached it with care and respect. I wanted to know how their insides were put together and how this thing called "life" worked. And what better way to study life than to study death? Victor Frankenstein, eat your heart out!  

When I got my ungloved hands inside, I suddenly felt deeply connected to something much bigger than myself, though I couldn't explain it at the time. Everything seemed connected; I saw myself in those muskrats and I saw them in me. I felt life pumping through me from everything around me, like I was touching a giant heart in the Universe, yet feeling that I was somehow that heart. But when I heard the strained squeak of the screen door behind me, the life went out of me. Uh oh. The sound of trouble.  

There I stood, my hands tangled in ten feet worth of intestines, as my mother gasped in horror. "Why can't you just be a normal little girl!"

I was punished and forced to dispose of the remains, which I later retrieved in secret to give them the proper burial service they deserved. I prayed, "God, please accept these muskrats into heaven. Amen." I covered them gently and placed lilacs on their graves. God had two new playmates in heaven.

I finally got that microscope set.

I don't know why Spirit put me on such an unusual path of exploration at that time. But I was determined to get that microscope set. And nothing was going to stop me, not even being punished. I didn't want to be normal. I didn't like it. Normal just didn't fit. It seemed so confining and unnatural. When I got my way, it really wasn't about getting my way. It was about honoring something deep inside of me. 

Spirit will lead us down some unusual paths. That's just how Spirit works. We don't always know where our paths will lead, but that is the beauty of it. It's an adventure. It's a love affair. It's something that can't -- and won't -- be ignored. 

The direction of our paths, no matter where they begin, will change and evolve as we grow, as we learn, as we experience life. Our paths evolve with us as we evolve on our paths. When we put our lives under a microscope, we begin to examine the deeper questions of life. That's because deep down inside we want to connect, and we have to dig deep into the guts of life, of ourselves, to embrace and honor that sacred connection. 

What is your path teaching you? In what ways has Spirit grabbed you by the guts? How are you honoring it?

Spiritwork:

Walking the spiritual path is a journey into the unknown. We can have an idea of where we are going, and we can work toward those ideas, but at the same time, great mysteries abound and confound, requiring us to have an abiding respect for such processes. Sometimes we must wait in a state of expectation of things unexpected along the way. 

Take some time to contemplate mysteries. Vow to respect the complexity and mystery of life. Cherish the baffling, hidden, curious, and enigmatic dimensions of your existence and the world around you. Resist the temptation to ask, "Why?" 

Create a ritual in which you yield to the "unknowing." Rituals are a wonderful way to reinforce a spiritual practice. Create one that reflects who you are in the Mystery of God. Honor the Great Mystery through this ritual. Perhaps it entails wearing all white or all black to signify your devotion to the mysteries of life. Or, maybe it involves chanting a sacred word that represents mystery. Use your imagination.

Blessings.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking The Plunge

Learning to fly spiritually can be frightening.

You don't know what to expect.

It's all so new, but at the same time, it's not.

You've seen others doing it, and doing it quite well.

Will you soar to new heights?

Or will you crash and burn?

Your awakening to Spirit has you on edge.

You want to remain in the nest of your comfort zone, but deep down you know you will not be able to fly unless you spread your wings and jump.

Reminds me of the time I was learning survival training skills before taking on a five-day whitewater challenge on a river with class six rapids. Our instructor led us to a cliff. We were to jump into the river and float on our backs with our legs out in front of us. This would allow us to push off of any boulders with our feet. It was all part of our self-rescue plan should we flip our crafts or get thrown from them.

I was instructed to go first.

Gulp. I felt like the sacrificial lamb.

As I crept toward the edge, the roar of the river echoed and thrummed through every inch of me. "Holy S***!" I said, knowing full well that everyone else was thinking the same thing, with the exception of the instructor.

All of my training had led to this precipice, and now I had to put my own life in danger in order to save it.

I leaned over the edge to survey my surroundings as adrenaline shot through my body. I stepped back to get a running start. When the instructor shouted, "GO!," I ran and leapt into the face of fear with a big splash, trusting that the skills I had learned would lead to my self-rescue. And they did. It was a step I had to take if I was going to be able to continue this adventure. I finally felt ready for what was next.

The spiritual path will lead you to many cliffs within yourself, and you will be faced with the decision to cross those divides, or to turn and run away. Some will be easy to jump, and others will not. But if you are to continue on your pilgrimage, you must do what you are called to do. This means purging your old self, those old, limiting ways, to welcome your new self.

This purging is a cleansing. It is the process of bringing our behavior, our attitudes, our desires into increasing harmony with our growing vision of what the spiritual life is all about in order to deepen the stage of illumination and shape our experience of union with Spirit. Here, we face and cleanse ourselves of our fears and of our limiting beliefs and behaviors that have held us back for so long from our authentic selves.

Rest assured that Spirit will be very gracious in revealing those things about ourselves, not all at once, but only as we are able to deal with them.

This cleansing gets right to the heart of our deep-seated attitudes and inner programming out of which our behavior patterns flow. It gets right at those inner structures of trust that don't rely on Spirit but on our ego for our well-being. The structures that are not built on solid spiritual ground will crumble, but this is the point where we are called to exercise the fullness of faith in order to enter into a relationship of radical trust in Spirit.

You may at times feel that you are being "crucified" on this cliff, but this is because of the struggle of our two selves: the self that is not yet all that it has been created to be and the self that stands on the other side, whole and complete in Spirit. But once we take the plunge, Spirit will be there, and we will be filled with the peace that passes all understanding.

Spiritwork:

Do a cleansing ritual of your inner self. No, you don't have to jump off of a cliff into a river to do this. All you have to do is take a shower (or you can visualize this). As you are standing in the shower, imagine the water as droplets of light washing away your old, limiting beliefs. See them for what they are, bless them, feel them slipping away from your inner self, and allow them to rinse down the drain.

As they slip away, say: "Thank you for the message. I release you in love to the Light for healing and transformation." Step out of the shower, feeling refreshed and renewed. This can be repeated at any time.

This next two exercises are aimed at your trust structures. The first requires a partner. You are to blindfold yourself and allow your partner to guide you outside in an area with which you are not familiar. Your partner can not touch you and can only voice instructions. You may switch roles when finished. Discuss your experience with your partner.

A similar activity requires a group of 6 - 8 people. Everyone stands in a circle, in a spotting position (feet braced in a front-to-back stance). You get to stand in the middle, with eyes closed and arms across your chest. When you are ready, say, "Ready to fall," and then fall backwards without stopping yourself. Allow the others to catch you and gently pass you around. When everyone has participated (if they feel in alignment with it), discuss your experiences with each other.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Staring Down The Barrel of Truth

A former student once described me as a "buddha with a shotgun."

Excuse me?

"You enlighten us...at gunpoint," she explained.

I couldn't help but laugh at her description. She's always had a way with words.

"Seriously," she said, "you make us see things in new ways. You rip off our blinders, you tell us like it is, you make us face things about ourselves and life that we would never consider. I sit in class and wonder what bullets of truth you're gonna shoot our way. It's scary at times, but I love it."

That was probably the best compliment, or criticism, I've ever received from a student. The image of a gun-toting buddha, though, seemed paradoxical. The more I thought about that image, the more I thought about truth and how it comes to us.

Sometimes truth comes gently to us, on the soft sound of sandaled feet, at which we sit and listen and learn.

And sometimes it comes like a shot...BOOM...jolting us from our stagnation into a new state of awareness.

We are either ready for it, or we are not.

No matter how truth comes, once it is revealed to us, then we are left with the question of what to do with it.

Some people will integrate the truths they learn into their lives to live more fully and authentically, while others will simply shrug their shoulders or walk away in denial.

Some may even use the truth to hurt others; they may use it to justify their need to gossip or talk negatively about others, twisting truth for their own selfish gain.

And others may not know what to do with truth; they may let it incubate for awhile until they figure out what to do. Some will go on to test the truth.

Sometimes truth is not always the truth. This doesn't mean it's a lie. It just means that what is true for one person may not be true for another. Discernment is key here.

Truth can be scary. It can be challenging. It can be downright painful at times. It takes courage to wake up to it. It means pulling our head out of the butt of our ego and doing something to help or better ourselves.

Whatever the case, no matter how truth comes to us, we must learn to respect it. We must take responsibility for it. We must learn from it, no matter how ugly it may appear. We must address it with care, with maturity, and with humility. Sometimes we will accept it; sometimes we will reject it. Sometimes we will learn from it; sometimes we will hide from it. Our state of readiness will determine how we'll deal with it.

What are your thoughts about truth? How does truth come to you? How do you handle truth when it comes?

Spiritwork:

The biggest blur in life is the fact of our mortality. Death is one of those truths in life that strikes fear in many people. Looking death in the eye, or even thinking about it, is not easy for some, but it's inevitable. We tend to think of death as some grand abstraction. The poem I want you to read brings it into a more concrete perspective.

Consider that every year, we celebrate the day of our birth. But have you considered that during this past year you have passed over the very day that will turn out to be the anniversary of your death? Think about that. Brings shudders, doesn't it? What day comes to mind?

Read the poem "For the Anniversary of my Death" by W.S. Merwin (click here).  Note your thoughts, feelings, and responses.

Sometimes it takes the realization of our mortality to wake us up into living a fuller life. What will it take for you to begin living a fuller life, and to being living your truth?

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mountains and Valleys and Rivers, Oh My!

I was surfing through YouTube for some background music while writing when I found myself in the mood for the soulful voice of Michael McDonald. I came across his rendition of a famous Motown song, and even though I've heard this song many times, I was struck by the simple, yet profound words of the chorus (I've linked MM's version for your listening pleasure): 
 
Ain't no mountain high enough

Talk about perseverance. 

There is no stopping this person from getting what he wants. He is not focused on the heighth, depth, or width of the obstacles in front of him; his main focus is on what he wants, and nothing -- no mountain, no valley, no river -- is going to make him quit.

That takes an uncommon strength. 

We all have things we want. We have goals. We have dreams. But if we don't become practitioners of perseverance, we won't realize them. 

Perseverance is that spiritual ingredient with oomph. It's got that extra kick in it that pushes us forward. It's a combination of endurance and the absolute assurance that what we want is going to happen. 

Let's take a lesson from these lyrics.

If we are to persevere, we must first know our purpose. We need to have a goal in mind. No goal means no direction, and then we wander aimlessly in the desert of our minds. 

We must also be passionately committed to what we want. Passion fuels us, giving us the strength and courage to power through to the finish. No passion means no purpose, and then when the winds blow, we are tossed about, when all along we could have harnessed that energy to set sail.

Once our purpose is fueled by our passion, we must remain positive. Our positive self-talk assures us of our success. It minimizes the enormity of any obstacles that try to get in our way. No positive self-talk means no passionate or inspired action, and when that happens, we fail even before we try.

Perseverance allows us to see those mountains, valleys, and rivers from a new perspective.
 
Instead of seeing the mountain as something separate, large, and looming over you, see yourself as that mountain. A mountain never wavers despite being shined upon, rained upon, snowed upon, or stuck upon by lightning. Stand tall and strong as the mountain.

Instead of seeing the river as something that you could never swim against or navigate across, see yourself as that river. A river flows continuously; it cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence, as Jim Watkins reminds us. Flow with the river.

Instead of seeing the valley as something that is a low point that leaves you wide open and vulnerable, see yourself as that valley. A valley contains some of the most fertile soil; it is rich with nutrients. Harvest your strength from the valley.

Heed the words of Alexander Graham Bell when he says, "What this power is, I cannot say. All I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when you are in that state of mind in which you know exactly what you want and are fully determined not to quit until you get it."

Spiritwork:

It's time to finish unfinished business. Think about a project that you have abandoned because the work just got too hard, or you simply got tired of it. Dig it out of the closet or the basement or wherever you left it, and approach it with new eyes. Maybe it's that novel you've always wanted to write. Maybe it's the renovation you've never completed. Maybe it's the exercise program that you quit because you hit a plateau. 

Revisit it and renew your commitment to it. There is a reason why you started it in the first place. Somehow you got the idea to do this, but this time go back to it with the understanding that your idea came to you as a gift. Now it's time to honor it by seeing it through to completion. Think of it as your gift back to Spirit since Spirit endowed you with the skills and talent to accomplish it. 

Blessings.


 

Monday, October 21, 2013

From Underdog to Top Dog

Dysfunction.

It is everywhere.

You see it in families. In churches. In corporations. In government. In schools. In laws.

And anyone who dares to be different within these structures is bound to encounter resistance, ridicule, or resentment.

It takes an uncommon courage to break free. Sometimes it requires drastic measures, and not without conflict.

Think about some of the greatest spiritual leaders who have graced our planet.

They did not follow the crowds. Instead, they led them.

They saw the dysfunction of their times and they challenged it. They were willing to break ranks and shake up the status quo.

I always think of the biblical story of David and Goliath. David, a mere teen and shepherd boy, was sent to the battle lines by his father Jesse to bring back news of his brothers.

Instead of reporting the news, David made the news when he volunteered to fight the giant.

Armed with only a slingshot, a weapon he was skilled at using, and a pouch full of stones, David took down the seemingly invincible Philistine, setting his people free from tyranny.

When everyone else cowered in fear, David ran to the battle. He knew that action needed to be taken, despite the giant's constant criticisms, discouraging insults, and fearful threats.

He went from underdog to top dog in an instant.

When we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations, we need to remember the unique skills that Spirit has placed in our hands to use. There's a reason why we were blessed with those skills in the first place. Because through them, through you, Spirit works its miracles.

There will be times when we will be called to step out of the crowd.

When you hear this call, as Jennifer James says, "[t]hen you must act. If you never hear it, perhaps nothing is lost. If you hear it and ignore it, your life is lost."

It's your call. What will you do?

Spiritwork:

It is a proven fact: when we help others, we help ourselves. The world is overwhelmed by oppression of ideas, feelings, and people. Sometimes we become our own oppressors.

Today is the day to speak out for what you believe in. Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Break ranks by making the world a freer, more humane place to live.

Examine your core beliefs. Harness their energy to make a difference in your community. Start a club, volunteer, become an activist, and let Spirit take your skills to the next level.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dog Day Afternoon

I embraced my inner Henry David Thoreau and took to the woods, away from civilization, where I could commune with nature.

While the coolness of autumn has arrived, her colors are not quite here. It may be a couple of weeks before things peak.

The trail, though well-trodden, showed no other signs of hikers. I had the entire canyon to myself, a personal Eden.

Or so I thought.

As I squatted on a footbridge to angle my camera for a photo of the stream, I heard the pitter-patter of feet coming toward me. And then it licked the side of my face. Yuk.

It was a black lab.
On point, waiting for me to throw a stick.

I looked around for its owner, but saw no one. I waited.

And waited.

No one came to claim this dog.

I crossed the bridge to a shelter, thinking the dog would take his leave. He didn't. I took mine instead and headed deeper into the canyon. To my surprise, the dog stayed with me, leading the way, always looking back to make sure I was still there, as if saying, "Follow me."

So, we bonded. He grabbed a stick and dropped it at my feet, staring. He wanted to play. I threw the stick and he fetched. This went on for an hour. When we made it to the second shelter, we played fetch in the stream so he could cool down and drink. I fed him all of my beef jerky and half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another kiss. Yuk.

The shadows grew long. Time to head back. My dark furry angel remained with me. We spent four hours together, sharing the woods, playing, and bonding, but I knew it would eventually come to an end. We headed back toward the entrance of the preserve, where I gave him more water. I petted him and thanked him for his company; he thanked me yet again with licks to my face. Yuk.


And then off he sauntered to the mystery from which he came. A piece of my heart went with him.

Like Thoreau, I went to the woods to live deliberately, if only for a few hours, and as I did, I found it bursting with the colors of Spirit; Spirit made Itself known in every moment, from the scented breeze that I breathed in, to the falling leaves that baptized me in nature's cathedral, to a dog's sense of play and adventure that unleashed my own.

Spiritwork:

If you've lived with animals on a daily basis, you know intuitively that they have souls. They live through their senses, are curious about the world, serve as companions, and are great teachers of life. To some a dog is nothing but a carnivorous quadruped, the canis lupus familiaris, of the family Canidae. To others the dog is a study of intelligence, loyalty, unconditional love, obedience, and protection. Examine your view of animals.

If you have a family pet, spend time with it and observe it throughout the day. What can you learn from it? Or, if you don't have a pet, go someplace where you can observe pet owners interacting with their furry family members. What do you notice?

Another exercise is to choose one way to help animals in need. You can visit a local animal shelter and volunteer for a day. You can walk the dogs, pet or feed the cats, or simply socialize with them. Or, you an volunteer to pet sit for a neighbor. Maybe you can plan a fundraiser for abused animals. Let your heart guide you.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

What's Love Got To Do With It?

All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

So sing The Beatles.

Love is not something that we fall into; it is a spiritual practice.

Love is an art.

Love is action.

Love requires mastery.  We can get better at it over time.

We are instructed by the world's religions and wisdom traditions to love self, to love our neighbors, and to love God. Love is the foundation.

Sometimes loving is easy, and sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world to do.

I once had a seminary professor who said, "Some of you are going to be pissed off at who God lets into heaven."

Wow.

That's how much God loves.

And we are challenged to love as greatly. Buddha said to revere our enemies as our parents. Jesus said to love our enemies.

Yikes!

What does that mean?

It means that what God creates, God loves, and loves unconditionally. It means that even though we feel it is our right to hate a person for his or her wrongful, "evil" actions, it is our duty to honor that person with love because the Divine that is within us also resides within that person. That person's deepest self is as much the image of God as ours is.

Buddha nature. Jesushood. God-Self. Divine Essence. It's all there inside of us. We are God's love letters to ourselves and to each other.

It's time to move beyond lip service and back up our convictions with the actions of love. What will you do to be a sign of love in the world?

Love Park, Philadelphia, PA...a favorite place to relax
when I worked in the city.
Spiritwork:

Think of someone in your life who gets on your last nerve. You know who it is...he or she may be impossible to please, constantly complains, or just exasperates you. Yeah, that one.

Now, instead of seeing this person as negative or impossible, hold him or her in the light, visualizing that person engulfed by Spirit's love and presence. Repeat the mantra: Love, love, love. Breathe in love, exhale prayer. Continue this loving act until you begin to see the divine within him or her. Give gratitude for this transformation.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Be A Prophet of Play

It takes courage to be a clown.

The greatest criticism of spiritual or religious people is that they take themselves too seriously.

Think Pharisees. What an uptight group of men. No sense of humor whatsoever.

Clowning around is a pathway to laughter. Look at all the spiritual traditions...they all have their jesters, their jokers, their holy fools.

These playful prophets encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Without humor, life becomes oppressive and difficult. It is an essential element in spiritual health.

Did you know that children laugh as much as 100 to 200 times a day? Adults go from zero to only a few in a day. There's something wrong with that equation.  It's time we adults lighten up and get in touch with the playful child within.

Humor is holy. It is healing. And it is downright fun.

Check out some of the benefits:

  • lowers blood pressure
  • conditions the abdominal muscles
  • reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
  • increases the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells such as Gamma-interferon and T-cells
  • increases antibodies in saliva that combats upper respiratory infections
  • helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues
  • and much more!
With benefits like these, we can't go wrong.

When I was a kid, being asked to say the blessing in front of many others at special meals like Thanksgiving was terrifying. My dad, sensing my hesitancy and always the jokester, jumped in with, "Bless the meat. Bless the skin. Open your mouth, and cram it in!" His humor lit up the room and added the levity I needed. 

Thank God for humor.

Spiritwork:

Be a clown today. Make people laugh and bring out the child in them. You'll find that when you act like a clown, you'll meet and encourage the clown in others. 

Whenever I go out to eat, my server inevitably asks, "Can I get you anything else?," to which I respond, "A million dollars?" 

Heh, heh. Works like a charm. 

Or, here's another easy exercise. Take time to read the comics. Read them and laugh. You'll find that they contain great wisdom about the nature of life. I like to cut out cartoons that make me laugh. They hold a special place on my refrigerator as "Laugh of the Week." 

Blessings!

Related Posts:




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scratching That Spiritual Itch

Purpose.

The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

That's a tidy definition.

And it's a loaded one.

There is a reason why we want what we want.

But how many of us actually take the time to actually investigate it?

We all long to make a difference. Some of us actually do go out and make a difference. But many of us don't. 

Sadly, those who don't have been lured into thinking that the purpose of life equals holding power, acquiring status, accumulation of wealth, and possessing as many material things as possible. 

And when they finally achieve those things, they still feel that something is missing. There's that little void inside that just can't seem to be filled.

It's the itch that's in that hard-to-scratch spot...close enough to be just out of the way.

Our purpose has nothing to do with our outward life. It has everything to do with our inward life.

It's about discovering who we really are and living authentically, not by society's or someone else's definition of who we should be.

As Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series, says, "All we have to do is step up and do it," when it comes to claiming and living our purpose.

Success is not limited to the list of boxes that society expects us to check: education, marriage, kids, career, retirement.


That's conformity, not purpose.

To live with purpose means to be connected to purpose. It means living from the inside out, not the outside in. 

It means living a spiritually-based life, rather than an ego-centered one. 

It means letting your life speak to you, rather than forcing it in the direction the ego demands. It's about listening to an inner calling, not an outer one.

Your purpose is seeking you as much as you are seeking it. Only when we remove ourselves from the distractions of the world do we hear it. Embracing and valuing silence will allow you to connect. Without silence, you will fall prey to your ego, believing that it (and all that it wants) is your purpose. Silence creates the space for authenticity to bubble to the surface.

To discover your purpose, be open to the non-logical. Purpose lies beyond all logic and reason. Get comfortable with emotion, intuition, sensitivities, and impulses. Get accustomed to not having all the answers, but trust that the universe will provide them when you are ready to hear them. 

Your purpose is not static. It is as fluid and dynamic as the Spirit that created you. Your purpose may change over time; it evolves as you evolve, as you grow and learn. 

Your purpose is yours for the taking. Discover it. Claim it. Value it. Do it. 

Spiritwork:

Ready to scratch that itch? Remove yourself from the day's distractions. Turn off the TV, the radio, your phone and anything else that makes noise. Take the day off. Send your spouse or partner to work with a kiss. Hugs the kids as they head out to school or to their favorite aunt or uncle for the day. 

Ask for spiritual direction either through prayer or meditation, then begin a self-inventory. What are your likes and dislikes? When you were a child, what did you want to be when your grew up? Why? Ask, Am I happy and fulfilled? If you could be doing something else, what would it be? Why? What do you love to do? What steps can you take to begin the process of change? Let the silence speak to you. Your heart knows what it wants. Your answers will be revealed by how your heart feels, not what your mind thinks. 

When you're finished, create a new "business card" for yourself. Instead of a job title, write your purpose in 3 to 4 words only. Mine says Director for Spiritual Living. 

On the back, write out an affirmation, draw a special or personal symbol, or a short prayer about your purpose. Mine says, "My purpose is to help others grow spiritually."

Next, craft a spiritual resumé based on your self-inventory. Be sure to include your objective and the life experiences that "qualify" you for your new purpose in life. 

Blessings.

Related posts:


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Victim or Victor?

Spirituality is not for wimps.

There is no room for victims.

If you're feeling like the spiritual equivalent of a 90 pound weakling while others throw copies of Dyer, Chopra, and Tolle in your face, then life will appear to be an endless string of crimes against you.

Life happens to you rather than for you.

In other words, life is either working for you, or it is working against you.

Sure, some events happen that seem like they are out of your control. They seem to come out of left field unexpectedly, and you suddenly find yourself in the position of fight, flight, or freeze. You can choose to let the events affect your life in the ways that you allow, or you can use them as a learning tools to improve your spiritual IQ.

Caroline Myss, an American author, says, "We are never being punished, only being taught. Everything is a teaching."

It's a matter of perspective.

We can choose to be victims, or we can choose to be victors.

As a victim, life happens to you in ways that kick you around like an abused dog chained to a tree. You live your life fearing what will happen, and you continuously growl at anything that comes your way. You blame everything and everyone else for your misfortune, and you feel that the Universe is punishing you.

As a victor, though, life happens as you make it happen. If flows effortlessly, and if obstacles come your way, you embrace them and turn them into learning experiences for your highest good. Rather than let life steamroll over you, you jump into the driver's seat and direct your course. You feel connected to the Universe in a loving and positive way. There is no blame, only gratitude.

Want to improve your spiritual IQ? See yourself as living victoriously. Take responsibility. Educate yourself. And give gratitude.

No more wimping around.

Spiritwork:

If you could invite one spiritual leader (alive or no longer on our physical plane) to your home for dinner, who would you invite?

Write down a list of questions you would ask this person.

After "speaking" with this person during dinner, how do you think he or she would answer your questions?

For the next week, emulate, as much as possible, this spiritual leader whose actions and attributes you admire.

Ask how s/he would act if faced with the situations in your daily life. Play the part. How would that spiritual leader respond to a situation that requires a decision, or to someone who feels confused and lost?

Research shows that an attitude change follows a behavior change. We do, then we feel. As you emulate your spiritual leader of choice, notice how it affects your interactions with others. More than likely, you will find them improving.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to each post in this series.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Getting Your Emotional House In Order

Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi, in his poem, "The Guest House," compares being human to a dwelling, in which emotions come and go, not only as unexpected visitors, but as potent teachers and guides from beyond.

We are a Bed and Breakfast for our emotions.

They come unannounced, at all hours, with different agendas, and they want to be fed our attention.

Rumi tells us to meet them at the door laughing, to invite them in, and to entertain them all. They will leave when their time is up. Some will be frequent guests. Others may visit every so often. Sometimes they may come all at once, while we scramble to get them settled. And at other times, we find ourselves standing quietly at the door in their absence, but knowing full well that they will return as events unfold throughout our lives.

Running our inward Bed and Breakfast takes some skill. It takes emotional intelligence -- the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage our emotions in positive, effective ways. When we are aware of our emotions, we can be proactive in relieving stress, communicating effectively and empathizing with others, facing and overcoming challenges, and defusing the bomb of conflict.

Upon meeting our emotions at the door, we find that some can be very intense, demanding, and quite petulant, while others are more low-key, quiet, and peaceful. Some throw tantrums; others remain calm. Hosting some of them can be quite the challenge. But the gracious host or hostess knows how best to serve each guest.

Hosting our emotions starts with knowing our attitudes and knowing our emotional comings and goings. If you find yourself feeling unexpectedly strongly about something, ask yourself why. Put a label on it, admit what you are feeling, identify why you are feeling it, and then take the steps to rectify it. This is an exercise in self-honesty. Many times, you'll find that what you are feeling is ego-centered, rather than spirit-centered. Controlling your emotions isn't about pretending they are not there; on the contrary, it's about acknowledging them so that you can move forward without the extra baggage.

Some emotions require a serious time-out. They come in like a storm, blowing the doors wide open, nearly knocking us out of our place. Emotions are physical responses. Our heart rate increases. Our blood pressure skyrockets. Our immune system becomes compromised. These physical changes are led by the way we breathe. We literally have to catch our breath. We can deal with these changes by resetting our breath. Stop. Inhale slowly. Exhale even more slowly. Know that your out-breath will calm everything before heading into a discussion with these emotions.

Our emotions need our guidance and direction as much as we need theirs. They show up at our doorstep because we are a place where they feel safe.  When we acknowledge them by offering our hospitality, we can learn a great deal about ourselves. But, if we cater to them too much, we enable them to overstay their welcome, causing us to react blindly, often with unintended or unwanted consequences. As we come to know them and ourselves, we can channel their energy into constructive productivity for our highest good.

Getting our emotional house in order will ensure that we are not strangers in our own house whenever our emotions come for a visit. Prepare to meet them. Give them the attention they deserve. Learn from them. Channel their energy. Be grateful for their gifts.

Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our emotions are some of our closest neighbors. Treat them with the love and respect they deserve.

Spiritwork:

Denying our feelings and emotions leads to a host of physical issues and health problems. Now is the time to voice your unexpressed emotions.

Think of a challenging event or relationship in your life. It could be something you have done that incurred much guilt. Or, it could be someone you have not been able to forgive.

Take a piece of paper and write down all the negative things you've felt, done, said, and thought.

Now, shred it into pieces. You can either bury them in the yard, or build a fire and watch them burn. Notice how you feel as you let go.

In your mind, surround the situation or person with the white light of healing and transformation, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Repeat this ritual until you feel a shift. You will feel lighter as a result because you are making a difference with your efforts.

Be sure to forgive yourself, too.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to each post in this series.


Thank you to my spiritual mentor and friend Merv for inspiring this post.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Your Chariot Awaits

Plato, in his dialogue Phaedrus, draws on the analogy of a charioteer to explain the soul. He eloquently paints a picture of a charioteer driving a chariot being pulled by two winged horses, one white, the other black.

The charioteer must direct the chariot, trying to stop the horses from going in different directions, so he can reach enlightenment.

We are the charioteers of our lives. We are in the driver's seat, directing our chariots to go where we want them to go.

We are in control.

However, as human beings, we have divided natures.

We have the proverbial angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each whispering into our spiritual ears, trying to lure us away from the other.

If we do not know who we are, we will continue to be divided within ourselves, where we will be pulled in different directions. It's a constant tug-o-war. Talk about insanity!

Let me throw in a football analogy. Here in Alabama, you pledge allegiance to either The Crimson Tide (Roll Tide!) or The Auburn Tigers (War Eagle!) when it comes to college football. Both are Alabama universities, yet they are rivals, even though they've originated from the same state.

Many times you will see flags, signs, or license plates displaying the emblems of both teams, divided by a lightning bolt, surrounded by the words, "A House Divided," meaning some members in the home are Tide fans while others are Tiger fans. You can imagine the excitement and the insanity on game day when these two teams meet. There's no peace.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. And if you are divided against yourself, you will not stand, unless you take control of your life by taking a stand. 

This means getting in your chariot and taking the reins.

You've got two horses rearing to go in front of your chariot: your Higher Self and your lower self. Your Higher Self is the authentic, realized, ultimate you -- your God-Self. Your lower self is the base, unrealized, egoic you -- your ego-self.

You'll know which horse is your God-Self because it will lead you forward into curiosity and adventure. You'll find yourself ready to break free from your comfort zone and eager to try new experiences. You'll be intrinsically motivated. You'll speak your own truth, not someone else's version of it. And you will feel connected to a Higher Purpose.

Likewise, you'll recognize which horse is your ego-self. It will not look out for anyone else but itself because of its insecurity. It is addicted to greed and will always measure itself by the accumulation of external rewards such as money, status, and the like. It serves self-interest as its god.

Which horse will you encourage?

Spiritwork:

Break out of your comfort zone today and do something that you've never done before, or have never considered doing until now. Take the reins of your life and direct it where you want it to go. Just thinking about it will activate the spiritual horsepower within you.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction to 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to each post in the series.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Avoid Spiritual Suicide

And on the seventh day, God rested.

Hmm.

How often do we take time out of our busy lives to simply rest?

The world can be pretty darn demanding of us at times.

If we are not careful, it will leave us feeling frazzled, fragmented, frustrated, fragile, and just flat out fried.

We end up meeting the needs of the world rather than meeting our own.

And when this happens, the world owns us. Say buh-bye to freedom. This is the path to spiritual suicide.

The best and safest thing to do is to create and keep balance in your life. We must absolutely take time out to rest.

To do this, we need to discover what our own needs and limits are. Once we do, we can make decisions, say no when we need to, and schedule our "me" time without guilt, blame, or shame. When we do these things, we start to take our lives back into our own hands, and we begin creating our lives by defining our priorities.

It begins with rest.

Rest allows us to reflect and to get in touch with our Deepest Self.

Rest allows us to acknowledge and access the great powers around us and in us.

Rest allows us to develop a well-rounded life.

Rest allows us to create harmony.

Rest allows us to make much-needed changes now.

Rest allows us to create and follow our own path, not the world's.

Rest allows us to break out of old, tired, unthinking, and counterproductive routines.

Rest is a divine gift. It is holy time, designed for us to embrace, where we can wholly develop ourselves so that we can live productive, fulfilling, joy-filled lives...on our terms.

Spiritwork:

Give yourself permission to take the day off.

Many faith traditions offer insights about the importance of rest. For example, in Judaism, the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. No work is allowed during that time. Followers begin with a Friday night meal that has enough leftovers so that no cooking is to be done on Saturday.  This is a time to rest from all obligations (with the exception of attendance in synagogue). Why not designate one day a week, your choice, where there is no cooking? Instead, go out to dinner, or simply enjoy leftovers. You may also choose to fast if you are so inclined.

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In Buddhism, the Uposatha is a day of observance that has been around since 500 B.C. It is a day designed to "cleanse the defiled mind," resulting in inner calm and joy. Generally, the Uposatha is observed about once a week, in accordance with the four phases of the moon (new moon, full moon, and the two quarters in between). Why not create a rituals of your choosing around the phases of the moon? During the new moon, you could reflect on your goals for the new you. Set your intentions and write them down. Save this for the last quarter moon. Invite an exciting new view of yourself. During the first quarter of the moon, you could observe what in your life is challenging you to take new action. Embrace your warrior self. Do one thing that scares you. Use the full moon to open the gates of your mind to illumination. Pray or meditate at moonrise. During the coming week, look for significant new understandings. At the last quarter moon, weed your inner garden of old growth. Discard something you no longer need, and burn your list that you wrote during the new moon in a little fire ceremony, giving gratitude for all that you have.

Of course, the point is for you to define what rest means to you. Decide how you want to take your rest. Let this inspire you to think of taking rest in new and life-giving ways.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all the posts in this series.