Friday, November 29, 2013

The Courage To Be

Day 23 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
29 Days Template (21)
The ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism teaches the principle of Inner Nature. In his book The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff writes:

"Everything has its own Inner Nature. Unlike other forms of life, though, people are easily led away from what's right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can be fooled. Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others."

We each have our own unique attributes. We are "unlike other forms of life."

We are different.

But we sometimes get in our own way because we have "Brain, and Brain can be fooled."

As a result, we are easily influenced by others, especially when we have little understanding of ourselves.

We are social creatures. We want to fit in. We want to be accepted, not rejected. But this fear of rejection sometimes causes us to suppress our Inner Nature, or our Authentic Self.

We end up hiding who we are from others; we wear masks to hide our truth. We deny who we are, and we find ourselves being dishonest with others or ourselves because we are afraid to be who we were designed to be.

This is what happens when we choose to define who we are based on others expectations or definitions of who we are. We live from the outside in, from the ego, because we want to please others. We listen to Brain (ego), and the brains of others, rather than our Inner Self.
Our Inner Nature, our Authentic Self, is our link to God. We cannot change who God made us to be. But if we accept this, we can change the ways in which we are not living as our Authentic, True Self. We begin living our lives from the inside out. We can't change our Inner Nature, nor can we change the Inner Nature of others. However, when we change our perspective, we see ourselves and others in a whole new light.

We are not to be copies of others. We are to be originals because we are originals. And we are to embrace our originality.

We are to listen to who we really are, to what is inside of us, rather than model our lives on social norms because that is what is expected. Sometimes, we get tricked by Brain into assuming that what others want for us is what God expects of us.

Just ask yourself if what others expect of you feels in alignment with who you are inside.

When we accept or agree to something we know is not in alignment with who we are, we feel resignation, not serenity. This allows resentment to sneak into our lives, and if we don't make the necessary changes, we grow ill at ease, prone to "dis-ease." This is not true living.

Knowing who you are and having the courage to be, rather than imitating someone else, is essential to fulfilling your purpose.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sin Revisited

Day 22 of 29 Days of Spiritual Wellness.
29 Days Template (20)
The poet Kahlil Gibran has some interesting words to share with us:

"You are good when you are at one with yourself. Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil. For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is merely a divided house."


If we are not evil when we are not one with ourselves, then what are we?

We. Are. Still. Good.

This brings up the question of sin. How does it fit into this?

Do you get visions of little devils dancing around in your head?

The word for "sin" in the ancient Greek (in which the New Testament was written) is "hamartia" (ἁμαρτία), which transliterated means "miss the mark."

Over the centuries, the word sin has collected a lot of cultural and religious baggage. It was held over the heads of people to scare them into what churches (some, not all) and society considered "proper" behavior. It has been misused, abused, and taken out of context.

The best way to deal with sin is to understand it for what it is. Sin is what occurs when our God-given passions are out of alignment with one another. This is disharmony. It does not mean we, as beings, are "bad" or "evil." As Gibran put it, it is the result of "good tortured by its own hunger."

During the Dark Ages and Medieval times, most people were illiterate and uneducated; only priests and very wealthy people were educated, and because of this privilege, they were able to control (and manipulate) the masses for their purposes. And more often than not, they missed the mark by abusing their power with statements like, If you don't do this or that in the name of God, you're a sinner! You'll be damned and go straight to hell! You're made to feel guilty by others.

It's no wonder people began to fear the word (and God for that matter).

So, when we strip away all of the baggage and misinterpretations, we have a word with a simple definition that points toward the human condition. Because we are human, we are born with some abnormalities, thus the term "original sin."

We are not perfect.

We are born into ignorance. And if we are not careful, others will capitalize on that ignorance to bring out the worst in us or to keep us under their thumbs.

But the concept of "original sin" is not without its flaws. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it expects the worst in human nature. This puts all responsibility on God instead of on us. How selfish of us.

Yet, if we are created in God's image and likeness, this means that God is not the only creator in the creation process. If God is not the only creator, who else is involved?

We are.

This means we are responsible for what happens. We are good people who sometimes do bad things. We miss the mark.

But when we are at one with ourselves -- when we are at one with our Creator -- we hit our target each time.

Gibran knew this, as did Jesus. Jesus knew we weren't perfect, but he taught that we could strive toward perfection, or wholeness: "Therefore, be perfect [whole], even as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Mt 5:48).

Sin is nothing more than a misdirection of our energies, away from our authentic selves and away from God. The biggest sin is remaining ignorant and blind to our authentic selves by letting our flaws (and others) hold us down.

We are perfect in our creation, though not always in our behavior, and if we want wholeness in our lives, then we must be willing to take responsibility for our actions because we are co-partners -- co-creators -- with God.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Living The High Life

Day 21 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's words of wisdom come from Leo Buscaglia, American author and motivational speaker:

"The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises."

Many people think that living a spiritual life requires attending religious services, observing rituals, and studying religious texts.

For others, the spiritual life is not all about following traditional structures when it comes to the Sacred.

It's not the kind of life that one leaves in the church pew at the end of the service or forgets about once the meditation session is finished.

"The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower" may seem like a simple, ordinary act. The act becomes sacred because through it we connect with creation and Creator. What was once ordinary becomes extraordinary.

"The fact that I can...share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's" may seem like the typical process of education. This act becomes sacred because through sharing we are giving selflessly to others. What better way to share with others than to share a bit of knowledge that creates awareness for others so that they can plant themselves and grow.

"The fact that I at someone and receive a smile in return" may seem like a simple, friendly gesture, but this act becomes sacred because through it we connect with others. A smile is something that is understood in every language. It is universal. It says, "I acknowledge and accept you as a sacred being."

Spirituality is the kind of life that flows through all areas of our lives, connecting us to all that is around us and within us.

Everything we do becomes a sacred act.

Talk about living the high life.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Toast To Presence

Day 20 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

We are either practicing the Presence of the Sacred or Its Absence.
29 Days Template (18)

There's no middle ground.

How does this translate into daily life?

Ask yourself if you are content.

Are you?

Today's tidbit of wisdom comes from Abraham Lincoln, when he says: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be."

We are only as happy as we want to be.

Making up our minds to be happy means we don't need to look any further than ourselves. Abe's statement implies choice. Either we choose to be happy, or we don't. Happiness is entirely up to us. We are in charge of it, not anyone or anything else.

So, why do so many people feel that they just don't have enough? Why isn't enough enough?

Because they are practicing Absence rather than Presence.

They've latched onto attachment, and they can't let go. Well, let me rephrase that. They won't let go. They've become attached to being attached to outward things that they think, feel, or believe will make them happy.

Yet, when they attain those things, they're still not happy (though they may be temporarily). When that temporary feeling wears off, they begin seeking once more. It's an exercise in futility, not fulfillment.

Anyone in a state of seeking can never be truly happy; they're so busy acquiring things that they don't have the time to appreciate what they already have. Their minds are constantly focusing on the next prize. They get attached to the outcome. They get addicted to attachment. If they didn't, they would be resting in what they already have; they would find that they have enough.

Practicing Presence is not about unnecessary self-denial. There's nothing wrong with having money or possessions; although, some people do go to the other extreme, thinking that to be spiritual means living a life of renunciation, where they give up or avoid gifts, money, experiences, and people in fear of being selfish or attached. They become attached to not being attached.

Practicing Presence is about taking responsibility for our own happiness. It's not about seeking happiness; it's about allowing ourselves to be happy. If we are to be happy, then we are to do things that make us happy. If we do things that contribute to our unhappiness, then we will feel it going against the grain of our core, and we will remain unhappy unless we make the necessary changes, whatever they may be.
champagne glass
Practicing Absence leaves a void to be filled. Without self-examination, we find ourselves filling this void with things that do not last. We may even try to numb the emptiness with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances or behaviors.

Practicing Presence fills this void with the champagne of joy that bubbles up from within and spills outward into our lives. We find ourselves filled with gratitude for what we have and for who we are. Our perspective evolves. Our lives change.

When we choose to be happy, we practice Presence in our lives. We allow Presence to work its mystery. We allow it to guide us. We allow it to create with us and for us. We move from futility to fulfillment.

I'll toast to that.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Living Your Truth

Day 19 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today we revisit the Bhagavad Gita for inspiration. In XII:19-19, Lord Krishna says:

"He who is tranquil before friend and foe alike, and in encountering adoration and insult, and during the experiences of warmth and chill and of pleasure and suffering; who has relinquished attachment, regarding blame and praise in the same light; who is quiet and easily contented, not attached to domesticity, and of calm disposition and devotional -- that person is dear to Me."

In trying to live spiritually, we are going to encounter materially-minded people who do not understand us. Some of these people may even hate and persecute us because we don't "fit in."

These words from the Bhagavad Gita are exhorting us to operate from a place of inner truth. We are to follow what we know to be right, in spite of criticism.

To be "tranquil" is to be at peace within, no matter what others say or do to us. To do this we must "relinquish attachment" to our ego. The nature of the ego makes undisciplined people uncomfortable and mean-spirited toward those who are morally or spiritually different from themselves.

This passage calls us to analyze ourselves, honestly and without egotistical bias. If what we are living is right, we are to remain strong in our actions that produce joy, uninfluenced by either "adoration or insult."

If what we are living is wrong, or out of alignment with our Highest Self, then we are to be grateful for the opportunity to correct ourselves in order to remove any obstacles from our path of happiness.

Even unjust criticism becomes a tool that fortifies us to follow the ways of inner peace. It enthuses us even more.

It should be considered no great loss when those who don't understand us suddenly shun us. Instead, this ostracism becomes a blessing because it keeps us away from their negative influence, and it opens up the door for like-minded people to find their way to us and us to them.

To be strong in the face of such opposition, the spiritually dedicated are to be "of calm disposition and devotional," meaning we are to approach situations with a levelheadedness, devoid of ego, and we are to cultivate divine habits to which we must adhere. We are not to simply find time, but to make time for honoring Source in the peace of meditation and other spiritual practices. Such practices will grant us the wisdom and guidance by which we are to conduct ourselves.

Living the spiritual life is going to separate us from the worldly crowd and all of its influences. Will there be temptation? Of course. Many will try to get us to veer off of our path, and when we don't, we will more than likely face their non-understanding, insults, and wrath. In knowing who we are and what our truth is, we need not be fazed by such antics of the ego.

This is not to say that we are better than or spiritually superior to others. We're not. They are our brothers and sisters; they can accept us, follow our example, or simply fade harmoniously away when they realize they can not shake us from our Truth.

To live the spiritual life is to live our truth from the inside out, not the outside in. It's not about flattering the ego; it's about flattening it. When we approach life from this perspective, and when we hold fast to our truth, we live more authentically, no matter what anyone says.

When we encounter those who take issue with us because of our chosen path, we know that they come from a place of attachment, of ego, and we can move past their invectives because they know not what they do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Journey To Jedi-hood

Day 18 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
29 Days Template (16)
Today's simple, yet powerful message comes from the blockbuster movie Star Wars, as young Luke Skywalker prepares himself for Jedi-hood.

“Luke: I can't believe it. 
 Yoda: That is why you fail.“

Luke, in his journey, trains intensively with his guru Yoda. At first, he is awkward, clumsy, and unfocused.

But as he continues his practice, he grows into a powerful warrior.

In the midst of his training, Luke struggles to grasp the whole Jedi-Use-The-Force thing.

Yoda sets him straight when the ancient master points out that Luke's thinking is his main stumbling block.

Luke stands in his own way.

How many times have we stood in the way of our own greatness?

The saying, "I'll believe it when I see it," comes to mind. This is a very limiting view. It implies a serious lack of trust with a large dose of cynicism.

The fact that Luke says, "I can't," means that he won't. Not without a complete change in perspective.

When we tell ourselves that we can't, we immediately set up inner roadblocks. Then we wonder why we fail. We have trained our brains to see obstacles instead of possibilities.

Look around at your surroundings. Everything in your line of vision did not exist at one time. Someone had a vision of it. Someone believed it could be created. Someone worked at bringing it into existence. Someone visualized it in the mind's eye first, then gave it life.

Luke's problem is that he doesn't see himself as a creator. He limits himself because of his limited thinking, preventing him from progressing. He doesn't see himself as a Jedi. Yoda not only supplies Luke with the physical training necessary to be a Jedi, but he provides vital mental and spiritual exercise as well. These are not separate, but one.

Courtesy Google Images
When we step into Jedi mode, we step into a whole new identity. Our separate selves unite into one Self.

Yoda's appraisal of Luke points to the young man's lack of trust in an Unknown Force. He is told repeatedly to "Use the Force." Luke's scattered thinking scatters his energies. As he learns to focus and channel his energies, he advances in his training.

If we are to progress, we must trust the Unknown Force in our lives. We may not know how it works, nor are we to concern ourselves with the how. This requires a letting-go of old, out-dated thinking that no longer serves us in our new identity.

What is interesting about the phrase "Use the Force" is that not only must Luke trust it, but he must use it. Yoda speaks in the imperative here, directing Luke to trust and apply.

In our own spiritual training, using the Force in our lives means directly applying it. It means taking action. Even more so, it denotes taking responsibility for that action. This puts us at the helm of the control panel. It is there for us to use, and we can steer in any direction we so choose, but we must do so wisely.

The journey to Jedi-hood is an evolution. When we realize that we are responsible for creating what happens in our lives, we realize the power we have within us to change things for better or for worse. We come to understand that life doesn't happen to us, but that we make our lives happen. We focus our energies on what we want, not on what we do not want.

Our entire worldview transforms as we align with the Force. And fail we will not.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No Blame No Game

Day 17 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage for contemplation comes from The First 30 Days by Ariane De Bonvoisin. In it, she says:

By blaming yourself, you become stuck in old patterns, old emotions, and old ways of looking at life. Blame distracts you from looking at the facts, free from emotion. And so it keeps you from doing what needs to be done—making changes in how you look after your health, learning to handle your finances, packing up and moving, or forgiving someone. Stop telling yourself, I should have done this or I should have said that. What’s the point? Blame has never helped anyone achieve anything.

The real question, then, is What can I do now

Blame is abusive. Bottom line. It's a game we never win.

It is classic victim-mode thinking.

Whenever we blame ourselves, we give up our power to create. We get distracted. We remain stuck. We avoid taking responsibility for ourselves -- our health, our finances, our relationships, our daily living -- all of this gets sloppy.

It's like stepping into quicksand. The more you struggle, the quicker you sink.

When we blame ourselves, we are saying to the Universe, "I'm no good. I can't do anything right. I'm a loser." Each blaming thought is a shovel-load of shame we heap upon ourselves, reinforcing our predicament. The Universe, in wanting to bring us what we dominantly think about, gets our message and springs into action, bringing us more of the same.

But according to this passage, there is one small step to take to save ourselves. It instructs us to "Stop telling [ourselves], I should have done this or I should have said that." Actually, this is more than instruction; it's an imperative, meaning it's a command to examine our self-talk, which is absolutely vital if we are to save ourselves from sinking further into the pit of blame and shame.

Stop with the shoulds. And replace them with coulds. Any time you find yourself saying, "I should do ___________________," replace it with "I could do _____________________." Feel the difference? That shift in energy puts you back in control.

One thing Ariane suggests in her book is to "take the twenty-four hour no-blame challenge." Go a day without placing blame on yourself or others, and see what happens. If twenty-four hours seems like too much, then start with a lesser amount of time.

Blame is a game for those who choose to lose. It monopolizes everything with its "Do Not Pass Go. Go Directly To Jail" card. But when we stop the blame by realizing our responsibility for what we have created and for what we can/could/will create, we free ourselves from our self-imposed prison.

We see the blame game for what it is. And then the game ends. We win. Boom.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Mental Movies

Day 16 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage comes from Vernon Howard's book The Power of Your Supermind.

Let's examine it:

"A chief cause of unhappiness is what I call mental movies. Mental movies are a misuse of the imagination. You know how it goes. You have a painful experience with someone, then you run it over and over in your mind. You visualize what you said, what he did, how you both felt. As awful as it is, you feel compelled to repeat the film day and night. It is as if you were locked inside a theater playing a horrible movie."

Been there. Done that. No fun.

Remember the movie Groundhog Day? Phil Connors, an egotistical and arrogant weather man is sent to cover Groundhog Day festivities in a tiny Pennsylvania town only to find himself reliving the same day over and over again, seeing the same people doing the same thing the same way every day. At first, he uses it to his advantage, but then realizes that he is doomed to live this way unless he makes changes within himself.

Talk about a living hell.

But this is exactly what happens when we lock ourselves away in the dark theater of our minds. We get stuck.

Something happened that pained us, and we relive the nightmare again and again. It keeps us in the dark. Our thinking stagnates. We ache and wonder what we could have said or done differently. And watching the same scenes repeatedly serves only to reinforce our unhappiness. We are doomed to relive the pain like Phil Connors.

But when we become aware of what we are doing to ourselves, we can begin the healing process. When we take notice that we are the ones responsible for replaying the same movie, we can take the steps to start playing a new one, one which moves us out of the dark seat of unhappiness.

Rather than view the same old stuff, we can put ourselves in the director's seat where we can create a new role for ourselves. We can ask ourselves, "What role do I want to create for myself in my new movie?" By asking this, we step into action. We take responsibility for what we have created, but more importantly, for what we will create. Imagine the possibilities!

We realize we are the chief cause of our unhappiness and our happiness. Always have been. Always will be. There's no way around it.

We can choose to sit on our duffs in the dark theater of our minds, or we can zoom out of that old, tired thinking and zoom in to fresh, new possibilities.

Life is rolling. It may require a few takes (or more) until we get things right, but at least we are taking the action we need to put us back in the spotlight.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stretch Your Thinking

Day 15 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Our inspiration for today comes from Confucius, the Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 BCE - 479 BCE.

Even when walking in the company of two other men, I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself."

According to Confucius, it is important for us to stretch our thinking. When we do, we learn.

If one learns from others but does not think, one will be continually confused.

If one thinks but refuses to learn from others, then one will remain narrow-minded and in ignorance.

But if we open ourselves to what others have to teach us, we become more well-rounded in our thinking. Some teachings will resonate with us; some may not. Some we will want to apply to our lives; some we won't. Either way, whether we agree or disagree, we are to respect the process and one another.

Learning can happen in any moment from any source. For Confucius, learning occurs "even when walking in the company of two other men." Whatever is present in our reality at that particular moment can serve as a teacher when we open ourselves up to the experience.

Learning doesn't have to take place in a formal setting like a school or a university; it can happen in the most common of places. Teaching doesn't have to come from professors; it can come from the common man, woman, child, animal, place, or thing. 

When we choose to become students in the open classroom of life, we find ourselves "bound to be able to learn" from life's teachers, whoever and whatever those teachers may be. Our learning will be much more meaningful when we acknowledge that life sends many kinds of teachers.

Our teachers ultimately lead us to ourselves. They reflect who we are. When we see the "good points," we will want to emulate them, copying them into the script of our lives. However, when we see the "bad points," we are to "correct them" within ourselves.  We don't necessarily erase them from our lives, but we work to transform them as part of our learning. 

If we are to learn anything, we must be in a state of readiness.

As the adage goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Watch Your Mouth

Day 14 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's inspiration comes from the Fourth Buddhist Precept from the Pali Canon, the first Buddhist scriptures (the Pali language is a variation of Sanskrit).

It is written as Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami, which translated means "I vow (or undertake) to refrain from incorrect speech."

We are to be "impeccable" with our speech, as don Miguel Ruiz instructs us in his best-selling book The Four Agreements.

In the Buddhist tradition, the Fourth Precept is described as refraining from four particular actions: (1) being untruthful, (2) exaggerating, (3) divisive speech, and (4) insulting language.

Incorrect speech is destructive.

While this precept is not a rule to which we must adhere like the Abrahamic/Mosaic ten commandments, it is a personal commitment we make to ourselves when we choose to follow a spiritual path. We find versions of this precept in many, if not all, wisdom traditions.

This precept tells us not to lie and not to say things that destroy relationships and friendships. Instead, we are to use "right speech," as Buddha calls it, speaking truthfully and honestly, and speaking words that promote goodwill, not harm.

Can we disagree or criticize? Sure, as long as our words are respectful of others' differing views or offer constructive criticism that will help another to improve.

In Buddhism, false speech is rooted in hate, greed, and ignorance, known as the Three Poisons. If your speech is to discredit or assassinate the character of someone you don't like, to get something that you want at the expense of others, or to lie about your status to win the adoration of others, then you are breaking this promise not only to yourself, but also to your Higher Self.

To practice "right speech," we are to be mindful of our speech at all times. We are to think about what we say before we say it. Is it going to help, edify, or exhort? Or is it going to harm, insult, or abuse?

We need to examine our own motivations for our speech. Is our speech stemming from the three poisons? Or is it coming from a place of love and compassion? What is your intent?

Note the word "refrain." The precept doesn't tell us we have to absolutely stop. We are human; we can't, but that is no excuse for not trying. The more mindful we are of our speech, the better we get at watching what comes out of our mouths.

When we vow to refrain from incorrect speech, we vow to cultivate wholesome, loving speech in order to bring joy and happiness to others. We vow to relieve others of their suffering. We vow to speak truthfully, using words that inspire others.

This precept is not a directive. It's not a commandment. But it is a spiritual practice that enables enlightenment. When we are mindful of our words, it helps us, our families, our relationships, and our community.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Mouth to Mouth

Day 13 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage comes from The Gospel of Thomas, which predates any of the New Testament gospels by some twenty years. The Gospel of Thomas is part of the Nag Hammadi collection, sources discovered in Upper Egypt in 1945 and not endorsed by clerical authorities. In fact, these ancient texts were taken from the library of the earliest Christian monastery in Egypt and hidden after the archbishop of Alexandria ordered the monks to destroy all books he deemed "heretical."

In this gospel, Jesus speaks directly to Thomas and says:

"Whosoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am; and I will become that person; and the mysteries will be revealed to him."


This doesn't sound like the Jesus presented in the canonized version of the Christian bible.

A different sense of communion emerges from this line of text. Rather than eating a wafer or a piece of bread, rather than drinking from a bejeweled chalice, we are told that drinking from the mouth of Jesus makes us one with him and makes him one with us. Of course this is not literal but symbolic.

This is a much more personalized approach to knowing and communing with Spirit. This is more than mouth to mouth. This is Being to Being, Essence to Essence, Spirit to Spirit. Jesus is merely a receptacle, a cistern, pouring forth the Divine from an endless place within himself to a place deep within us, awakening (resurrecting?) the Divine in us.

As we drink, we become.

It's no wonder clerical authorities deemed such texts heretical. This takes all the power away from them and places it directly on us.

This gospel is attributed to "Thomas the twin." In Hebrew literature, the name Thomas means "twin." This does not mean that Jesus had a twin brother. Again, this is a symbolic reference.

Page from Gospel of Thomas
When we partake of the Living Waters of the Spirit from the teachings of Jesus, what we are being offered is access to God right then and there without having to depend on outside authorities telling us what to do and how to do it. Instead, drinking from the mouth, from the Inner Fountain contained within Jesus, we discover at a deep level that we are indeed Jesus' "twin." We become the spiritual twin of Jesus.

This puts us on the same level as Jesus, toe to toe, eye to eye, mouth to mouth. We can choose to drink from the same Source from which Jesus himself drinks, or not. He offers us the choice. And should we take him up on his offer, he claims "the mysteries will be revealed to [us]." As we learn to live with our new identity, Source will reveal its wisdom to us as we continue to drink from it. It will teach us and guide us in the same ways it has taught and guided our twin, Jesus.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Back To Good

Day 12 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage comes from the sacred Hindu Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, literally "the song of the Lord."

In this passage, the Lord Krishna declares:

"Whenever virtue declines and vice predominates, I incarnate as an Avatar. In visible form I appear from age to age to protect the virtuous and to destroy evildoing in order to reestablish righteousness."

The text is presented in the form of a dialogue between the avatar Lord Krishna and his disciple Arjuna on the eve of the historic battle of Kurukshetra. There's a sense of ease and comfort that comes through Krishna's words as he converses with Arjuna, even as they face an impending battle. It's as if Krishna is saying, "Whenever something pivotal is about to happen, I will be there to intervene." In this case, vice is winning over virtue; the bad is outweighing the good. Krishna sees the selfishness and the misdirection of his people and knows his time has come to step-in to right the situation.

What's interesting is his comment, "I incarnate as an Avatar." The word "Avatar" comes from the Sanskrit avatara, with roots ava, "down," and tri, "to pass." Avatars are those who have attained union with Spirit and then return to earth to help mankind; they are divine incarnations on a special mission. They come to pass down something to us.

What's even more interesting is that the Lord says that "in visible form," he "appear[s] from age to age." This implies that he has incarnated more than once, and he will continue to incarnate "whenever virtue declines and vice predominates." This seems to indicate that not only does he come in visible form, but he is with us in an invisible form as well. When in invisible form, he is in a state of potentiality that is waiting to be expressed or incarnated. He has always been and will always be, no matter what form he takes, visible or invisible.

Also, the Avatar doesn't incarnate in the same visible form ("I incarnate as an Avatar," not the Avatar), but in many, and each of these physical forms contained or contains the same God-Mind, the same Infinite Intelligence, throughout the ages. It's this God-Mind that is passed down from Avatar to Avatar to us. It also implies that we humans will somehow be able to recognize these Avatars when they do incarnate. We are not a totally lost people after all. We just need some redirection from time to time, and the Avatars who show up, show up for a very specific reason.

The Lord then shares his reason for incarnating when he tells his disciple that he comes "to protect the virtuous and to destroy evildoing in order to reestablish righteousness." He comes to save us from ourselves, especially when our vices are overtaking our virtues. There is a battle within us; it's the battle between our good and bad tendencies.

Sometimes our thinking gets so flawed that we take it out on ourselves and on one other. We inflict pain and hurt, we commit crimes, we start wars, we cause suffering because we have lost our mind -- our God-Mind -- and we need to be Re-Minded. The Avatar comes to destroy "evildoing," not evildoers, but the wrongful thinking that leads to doing harm; the Avatar comes to "reestablish" --  to reconnect and reunite us -- to our rightful mind, the God-Mind that is ours, too.

Human nature is what it is. We are a forgetful people who tend to do horrible things when we disconnect from the God-Mind. Avatars are Spirit's Emissaries sent to remind us to renew our minds, to renew our thinking, to the Mind of God, the Universal and Infinite Intelligence. Without this intercession of God's love come to earth in the example and form of Avatars, we would be lost in a world of delusion and illusion. Avatars (Krishna, Buddha, Jesus...) from age to age have come and continue to come as guides who open access to spiritual understanding.

They get us back to good.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One With The All

Day 11 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage comes from a Gnostic text from the Nag Hammadi Library collection that was discovered in a cave in Egypt in 1945. This excerpt comes from The Thunder: Perfect Mind. This text is part of the literature that was excluded from the canon of the bible as we know it today.

Hear me, you that hear
   and listen to my words, you who know me.
I am the hearing that can be acquired everywhere,
   and I am the speech that cannot be grasped.
I am the name of the sound
   and the sound of the name.
For what is inside of you is what is outside of you,
   and the one who fashioned you on the outside
   is the one who shaped the inside of you.
And what you see outside of you, you see inside of you;
   it is visible and it is your garment.

We start with the imperative, "Hear me," a directive for us to listen, to pay attention, to someone's words, someone whom we know and who knows us very well. The speaker wants our attention and has gotten it.

But then we are hit with some cryptic phrases that evoke a sense of mystery and leave us scratching our intellectual heads. These words, from wherever it is they come, come from a place of mystery, a place that cannot be explored intellectually. The Voice in this passage begins in mystery and is a mystery.

Such is the language and wisdom of Spirit, especially when it says, "I am the hearing that can be acquired everywhere, and I am the speech that cannot be grasped." How many times do we perceive the sound of words, but do not understand what they mean for our lives? Words sometimes go in one ear and out the other, and when we are not mindful we miss the message. But if we are to grasp the importance of words, we need to open ourselves up to all that is present in our lives.

The Voice makes a big distinction between listening with the head and listening with the heart. We have to open the ears of our heart to fully understand what this message is.

Then we get thrown another cryptic line that says, "I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name." There cannot be a name without the sound of a name. The name of the sound is the perception (or thought) of the sound while the sound of the name validates and expresses the name, giving it its existence. Spirit speaks to us in silence and we are to listen in that silence before we give it voice. This implies that we must be very careful and ever mindful with what we think and say.

Then we are given a statement of assertion, "For what is inside of you is what is outside of you, and the one who fashioned you on the outside is the one who shaped the inside of you." Here we are told that we are not separate from what is outside of us. What we see is shaped by what we are. As we interact with the visible world, we do so through specific lenses. Our outer life and our inner life are reflections of one another.

At the end of the passage, the Voice continues, "And what you see outside of you, you see inside of you; it is visible and it is your garment." Again, it is established that we are not to separate ourselves from what is outside of us. That which has created our inner world has created the outer world and what is outside of us is also inside. We are to clothe ourselves with such knowledge and wisdom.

This is a message of unity, oneness, and harmony. We are not separate from the Universe, nor is it separate from us. As above, so below. The Universe exists within and without. We discover that we move in rhythm with the Universe because we are the Universe and the Universe is us.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Say Yes to Your No

Day 10 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's little gem of a passage comes from Mahatma Gandhi.

Let's see what shiny shards of wisdom we can gather for our spiritual growth.

"A 'No' uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble."

How many times have we said yes when we really meant no?

If we can't say no and mean it, then we can't say yes and mean it. 

No conviction on one end means no conviction on the other.

All too often, people give in to the requests or demands of others at the expense of their own happiness or sanity. 


They say yes as a way to minimize friction, avoid fights, or because it's just too hard to speak up. 

Saying no can be very difficult, especially for those who want to be all things to all people. Saying no puts them at risk for disapproval. 

Learning the power of the word no is about making healthy, conscious, deliberate choices. Saying yes when we mean no means we are out of alignment with ourselves, with our passion, and with our Source.

When we learn to say no to the things that don't serve us, then we create the space to say yes to the things that truly matter to us.

What makes it difficult at first is that it forces us into the position to decide. It forces us to consciously choose, and this scares the hell out of some people. What if we choose and it doesn't work? 

But what if it does?

Courtesy Google Images
Saying no when we mean no is about reclaiming our power. As we say yes to meet someone else's requests or demands when our hearts are screaming no, we give up our power to that person. Each yes to that person is a no to us. This opens the door to anguish, anger, resentment or total submission, and we lose our self-respect. 

Saying no when we mean no is about honoring ourselves. We have needs, too. We have dreams and desires, and we deserve to get what we want, but if we are too busy meeting the demands of others without proper boundaries, we are the ones who lose out. 

Consider these questions before you give an automatic yes:

Am I feeling in alignment with this?
Is this what I really want?
Do I feel passionate about this?
Why am I about to say yes when I really mean no?

Saying yes to your no will give your life back to you.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wise Up

Day 9 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's message comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.“

These five simple sentences are packed with truth. Let's unpack it.

Notice the authority in which HWL speaks to us. He speaks in the imperative. His words command us to "look," to "improve," and to "go." This is the voice of confidence, of experience, of knowing. And the words ring true deep within us. We know this, too, but how many of us remain in the past, glorifying or romanticizing "the good old days"? 

Staying stuck in the past robs us of the present. It smacks of a fear to move forward.

Sure, there were some good times, maybe some better times, and some bad times, but as HWL says, "It comes not back again." In other words, let the past go because there are bigger and better things coming our way, but they can't and won't come to us when we continue holding on to the past. If we are too busy allowing the past to define who we are, how can we ever build a future?

To "look mournfully into the past" is a sad and lowly vibration that does nothing to elevate us; instead, it drags us down by the neck, chaining us to our illusions, where we will forever be haunted. Can we learn from our past? Absolutely. But once we learn the lessons, we must move on so that we can "wisely improve the present."

Note that HWL doesn't say to simply improve the present, but to "wisely improve the present." Big difference. To improve "wisely" means that we must take action, but not just any action. We are to be selective in our choices. We are to be educated in our choices. We are to make choices that will serve the highest good, not just for us, but for all. 

This may take some hard work as well as some heart work to bring about positive change. There is no time like the present because "it is thine;" the present is all we have, so let's use it wisely in order to "go forth" to our future, no matter how uncertain it appears.

Courtesy Google Images
Even though the future is "shadowy," HWL tells us to meet it "without fear." We can't predict the future, and this scares many people because the future is the one thing over which we have no control. We can either fear it or embrace it. 

Our preparation in the NOW is what will help or hurt our future. This goes back to wisely improving our present. Our choices in the here and now will pave the way for what is to come. If we prepare in fear, we live in fear. If we prepare in faith, we live in faith. When we accept that the future is unpredictable, we can move forward without any fear because we will have prepared ourselves wisely through our personal and spiritual practices. 

As we live in the present, in the here and now, the future will take care of itself. 


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Stripping Down

Day 8 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's spiritual message springs forth from an excerpt found in the book Stripping Down by United Church of Christ minister Donna Schaper. Here, she discovers truths about herself while refinishing a chair.

So, let's sit up straight in our seats and strip this passage down for some meaning.

"The first thing people do when restoring old chairs is to strip--strip right down to the bare wood. They do this to see what the original might have looked like and to determine if the thing is worth doing over. They strip away all the years of grime, the garish coats of paint piled one on top of the other. They get rid of all the junk that's been tacked on through the years and try to find the solid, simple thing that's underneath."

We are like these old chairs in need of that stripping process.

The old chair that we see is not the simple, original chair that it once was. Over the years, the original slowly disappeared under the "years of grime" and the "garish coats of paint piled one on top of the other," heaped on us by culture, media and advertising, authorities, family and friends, and more.

How did we let this happen? Why didn't we see this happening? And how do we "get rid of all the junk that's been tacked on" throughout our lives?

It's gonna take some elbow grease.

Some of those areas will need more elbow grease than others.

But either way, when we make a commitment to our spiritual and personal growth, we must be willing to strip ourselves down to our core, that "bare wood" to get back to our natural, original beauty.

We didn't see this happening to us because we didn't know any better. We learned what everyone else before us had learned and had passed down to us. We accepted it as "truth." We didn't question it. Because we didn't question it, it piled on. And we allowed it to pile on because of our ignorance.

But not knowing any better is not an excuse.

When we realize that we have always had the power of choice and that we are responsible for what happens in our lives, we remove the initial layer of "grime."  We begin to take a long hard look at what has built up in ourselves. We see what we have gotten ourselves into.

We come to see that all of those so-called "truths" are really illusions to keep us in our places. So, we strip, and we strip some more. Sometimes it's downright painful, but we keep doing it because we now "know" what lies beneath. We remember our purity, our beauty, our naturalness, our divinity in all of its originality.

This stripping down is an intentional letting go. It becomes an act of love and worship. The illusions fade away as we strip through the layers of anger, disappointments, cynicism, or pain -- all the junk -- until we can finally forgive ourselves for what we have done to our Sacred Center.

And that's when God says, "Welcome home, my Beloved. Come sit with me now."


Friday, November 8, 2013

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Day 7 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

We begin today with a few lines of a poem ("Zen Forest") written by a Chinese Zen master more than one thousand years ago:

Magical power,
     marvelous action!
Chopping wood,
     carrying water . . .

At first glance, one would say, Well, what does chopping wood and carrying water have to do with anything? What does it have to do with spirituality?

Chopping wood and carrying water are simple, down-to-earth tasks. Without wood we have no fire. Without water we have no food or drink or cleanliness. These lines were penned during a time when such basic tasks were necessary for survival. These were simple words to live by.

And they still are.

But we tend to overlook the importance of such simple acts, especially in this busy day and age.

Look at all the things that bombard us on an everyday basis: work, technology, relationships, finances, household chores. How do we make all of these things, not just some of them, part of our spiritual path, especially when culture teaches us otherwise?

We live in a fast-paced world. No wonder people are confused. Everything happens at once. There is no heart in what some of us do. There is no spirit. Just a numbness and desensitization. Things get done because they have to get done, not because we want to get them done.

Our needs and wants are not parallel here. Our inner scale is imbalanced, and we feel it in the form of stress and illness. We've lost our way.

This is when we need to get back to the basics of "chopping wood" and "carrying water." We need to reevaluate, refuel, realign, reinvent, and recommit ourselves to the highest good.

To reevaluate, we need to slow down and come to a complete stop. We need to stop everything that we are doing in that moment and simply quiet ourselves. We need to remove ourselves from all distractions so we can hear ourselves think and allow ourselves to feel. We begin to examine those tasks with a more critical eye. We ask how they are serving our growth, if at all. We reprioritize.

To refuel, we get back to practicing self-care. Taking care of our basic needs helps us to rebuild our awareness and reconnect with our essence. We let go of those tasks that no longer serve us. We adopt new tasks and practices, ones that fulfill and satisfy us on all levels of our being. The basics become imbued with a "magical power," and we begin to see our actions as "marvelous," full of meaning. The mundane transforms, as do we in the process. We love ourselves back to life as we drink from the Inner Well.

To realign, we begin to let go of what culture says we should do. We no longer listen to what others -- our teachers, parents, friends -- tell us to do. We find our center, our truth, and we begin to live our lives from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. We choose to listen to our Inner Guidance System, our Source. We find ourselves more alert and alive than ever before.

Courtesy Google Images
To reinvent, we practice renewing our minds on a daily basis. We put mindfulness in action every single moment, every single day. We strengthen our Core through our daily practices. Before we fully awaken, we perform worldly tasks, paying no mind to their importance. After we awaken, we may perform the same tasks; however, these actions take on new meaning. What was once habit transforms to a consciously chosen effort. We grow more mindful in all that we do. Imagine chopping wood without mindfulness. Now imagine your foot without your toes.

To recommit, we make a vow to ourselves and to our spiritual growth, not to our egos that split us into separate selves, apart from our essence. Instead, we are to put our egos on the chopping block. It's not so much about finding ourselves as it is about remembering who we are.

Getting back to the basics is about getting back to ourselves. The demands of life will still be there, but we will approach them in a more holistic way, one that carries truth and meaning. One that finally has heart.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

In the Desert of Doubt

Day 6 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage comes from a particular book that did not make it into the canon of the Christian bible because it was deemed heretical by Church leaders during the third and fourth centuries; it didn't fit the doctrine that the Church was promoting.

But, nevertheless, we can glean wisdom from its words. This passage comes from The Apocryphon of John, from the Nag Hammadi texts, the extracanonical manuscripts (Gnostic Gospels) found hidden in a cave in the Egyptian desert in 1945. 

Let's explore.

"Where is your master whom you followed?" a Pharisee said to me.
"He has filled your ears with lies, he has closed your heart,
and turned you from the tradition of your fathers."

When I, John, heard these words, I fled the temple;
I withdrew to the desert, grieving greatly, and I cried aloud,
"How then was the savior appointed, and why was he sent to us
by his Father? And what did he mean when he said to us,
'The realm to which you shall go is imperishable'?"

While I sat contemplating these things, lo, the heavens opened
and the world shook and trembled beneath my feet!
In the light I beheld a youth who stood beside me.
Even as I looked he became like an old man, then like a servant.
Yet there were not three before me, but one, with multiple forms
appearing through each other as though transparent.
He said to me, "John, John, why do you doubt?
And why are you afraid? I am the one who is with you always.
I am the Father. I am the Mother. I am the Son."

John, his faith shaken by the words of a Pharisee (high pious priest), forsakes the Temple and retreats to the desert. 

The Temple has been his fortress of faith. This is where he prayed, associated with his friends, identified as a Jew, and learned from his Teacher. The Temple was his life. Leaving it meant leaving the world he has always known and loved, even with its institutions and its rules on how to behave, think, and believe. 

Entering the desert meant confronting a whole new wilderness, alone, robbed of all his comfort and familiarity.

And so it is when we face dark hours and doubt all that we have believed, even ourselves. What an awful, empty, gut-wrenching feeling it is.

We retreat, withdrawing ourselves from all that we have known, and find ourselves in a vast, spiritual desert.

We begin asking ourselves all the ancient and eternal questions that have plagued mankind since the beginning. "Who am I?" "What am I?" "Why is this happening to me?" "Where do I go from here?" "What does all of this mean?" And so on. The internal world with which we were familiar and comfortable is all thrown into question and off balance. What happened to our foundation?

Too many times we approach spirituality the way John did. We try to deduce the meaning of life or the meaning of our existence using intellectual knowledge alone. And the moment our "beliefs" are challenged, the way the Pharisee challenges John, we are thrown into chaos and we bolt.

Maybe that's because we aren't completely sure of what it is we "believe," which is why John probably doesn't engage the Pharisee. John isn't prepared to answer the Pharisee's question of "Where is your master whom you followed?" His foundation is rocked, and he loses his footing.

The Pharisee doesn't stop there. He adds insult to injury when he tells John that his master "has filled your ears with lies, he has closed your heart, and turned you from the tradition of your fathers."  In other words, his master turned him into something unrecognizable. All John hears is, "You are worthless. You have turned against us. You have abandoned your traditions. Loser!" Fight or flight. John chooses to flee and to go lick his wounds in private.

How many times have we done this?

How many times have we taken criticism as a personal attack?

But fleeing sometimes has its advantages, especially as we begin our journey.

Alone in this newfound darkness of the desert, we find ourselves "grieving greatly" and "[crying] aloud." To whom? We scream and yell in anger, directing our questions and emotions toward "something" or "someone" in the hopes that we will be heard. In John's case, he questions his savior's whole purpose. But the deeper issue for John is the sense of abandonment he feels by his savior. He is a broken man.

How many times have we felt abandoned by those whom we loved and trusted?

Our intellectual knowledge can only tell us what something is, not what it means. It will only carry us so far.

Then somehow in the midst of our breakdown we breakthrough.

In the empty space we have created through our solitude, "the heavens [open]," and truth appears, bringing us the enlightenment we need to carry on. Our "teacher" appears in a new form, one we have never expected.

Whatever the form, we come to understand the "message" meant for us. It becomes transparent and visible all in one, one that is outside of ourselves and yet within us; it is all things when it says, "I am the Father. I am the Mother. I am the Son." We see through the veils of reality, beyond what is, to what is yet to come. This is a new knowledge, an inner knowing, one that bypasses all intellectual understanding.

This is the language of the heart.

Through this dark night, we realize that the desert in which we find ourselves is holy ground.

In the words of Terry Tempest Williams, "If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide, and so we are found." We discover that the Truth has been there all along and will always be there, even when we have our doubts.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peeling Back The Layers

Day 5 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's passage is an excerpt from Mary Hayes-Grieco's book The Kitchen Mystic.

For many, the onion is simply an edible bulbous plant, the Allium cepa, that is usually white, yellow, or red, and is composed of fleshy, tight, concentric leaf bases having a pungent odor and taste.

And let's not forget that it can make us cry.

But for others, onions carry their own special brand of divinity.

So, let's chop into this passage:

"I see God in onions. I always have. I remember when I first saw my mother slicing into an onion when I was about six. I stopped my playing, awestruck. What is this vegetable that is so pure, so watery-white, so many-layered in concentric rings that make mounds of perfect circles as they fall open onto the cutting board? I begged her to let me cut some, despite her warning that it would make my eyes burn. I can remember the concentration and reverence welling up within me as I awkwardly tried to make perfect slices. My eyes did burn and I had to stop after a few cuts, but I vowed that I would understand onions some day and cook with them myself."

One of my favorite aromas while cooking is the smell of onions sauteing in butter. It's a smell that fills the entire house, making it feel like a home.

But one must go beyond the simple act of slicing and sauteing an onion to the core of this passage.

When we awaken to the Divine, we see that it exists everywhere. In this case, God exists in the lowly onion. Not many people would consider the Divine in an onion. Most would look to a church or temple or to some "religious" artifact. But this passage begs the question, "Well, why can't we search for God in an onion?" The answer is, we can. There is no law that states that we can't. The onion is simply a starting place.

When the Divine makes Itself known, it grabs our attention. We stop our "playing" -- our pretending -- and we suddenly awaken to something that is so powerfully awesome. We take notice of its Design, though we may not fully understand it, especially as we begin our spiritual journey. We see its purity and its perfection. Beneath the surface, we come to see layer upon layer in this Sacred Design, giving us pause for reflection about its existence and meaning and our place in this Divine Design. We wonder, How do I fit into all of this, if I do?

When the Divine reveals Itself, we find ourselves on a quest. Our focus switches from one of "playing" to one of deep "concentration and reverence." A shift happens. We try to approach the Divine with methods and thinking that are outdated, that can not and will not serve us on our new path.

Cutting into the Sacred -- trying to slice it and dice it to make it fit into one pan of spirituality -- comes with the "warning" that we are to approach it carefully and mindfully. We "awkwardly [try] to make perfect slices" only to find our "eyes" -- our ego, our old ways -- burning because we are trying to look through old lenses, when we need to see with renewed eyes, ones that will lead us to a deeper, richer spiritual understanding.

When the Divine burns this new truth into us, we come to appreciate its Mystery. We realize that the Sacred can't and won't be contained in any one object, not a church, not a temple, not an onion. The Divine is never the thing and the thing is never the Divine. These objects are merely starting places; they point us further in the direction of the Divine.

When we embrace the Divine Mystery, we enter into Sacred Relationship. This relationship turns intimate and personal, and we vow to grow it through the many spiritual practices available to us. We become active partners with Spirit as we team up to "cook," co-creating a new life together, as One.

Now that's something worth shedding tears.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Living On The Edge

Day 4 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's spiritual reading comes from the writing of photographer William Guion, who describes an oak tree leaning over a pond and how it speaks to his situation at the time. His reflection is based on his photograph Leaning Oak and Reflection, New Orleans, 1991.

Here's a snapshot from his reflection:

"A thin mist fell, or more accurately, hung in the air. Rain had soaked the landscape during the night, and mud at the water's edge sucked at my shoes. In the yawning light, I saw an oak leaning at a precarious angle over the water. The soil had eroded over time, dissolving much of the tree's foundation, yet the oak's roots were locked tenaciously into the receding land. Against the threat of drowning, this tree survived through an elegant dance of balance, perseverance and heroism. Almost in praise, the pond mirrored the oak's profile creating a beautiful mandala-like wheel with spokes of water, leaves, earth and light."

How often have we lived life on the edge? How often have we operated within our comfort zones, within safe boundaries, never really stretching outside of ourselves?

Oh, the uncertainty of life.

When we are faced with a decision that could change our lives forever, we tend to go back and forth in our thinking. We play out the possible scenarios in our minds; we carefully weigh our options.  The mist of doubt often clouds our vision. Sometimes we just don't know what to do or expect. In our impatience, we want answers, and we want them NOW. But the truth is, we won't know what happens until we do it, whatever it is.

That "thin mist" of uncertainty or doubt that hangs in the air, still and unmoving, will remain until we make a move. When we act, when we make a decision, we begin to move in the direction of choice. As we set things in motion, the universe begins to move and conspire, and we find the mist beginning to dissipate. Then we can move forward toward our vision.

The "rain that soaked the landscape during the night" has made a mess of things in our own interior landscape. It has loosened our foundation, making it difficult to traverse the land. We get stuck in the "mud" of our old thinking, our old ways, unsure of doing something new and different. Every time we try to make a move, the mud sucks at our feet, trying to hold us back, as if saying, "No! Don't go!" Our old ways do not want us to abandon them.

But "in the yawning light," what was once indiscernible now comes into view. Our weeping may have endured for a night, but joy now comes as we realize the direction in which we must go.

The "oak leaning at a precarious angle at the water's edge" reminds us of our position. We are at the edge of something big, something great, something heroic, if not to others, to ourselves. This is a big step. All of this time we've been playing it safe, doing what we thought and believed we should be doing or doing what was expected of us.

But something inside of us is  s t r e t c h i n g  us to reach further as we struggle between what should I do and what do I want. This is the crux of the matter, and so we stand on the edge of an uncertain future, "locked tenaciously into the receding land" of our old life, but desiring more by leaning forward over the "pond" of the unknown.

No matter what happens, we will survive. Our decision may be life-altering, but it is not life-or-death by any means. We come to see all the "rain" -- the grief we endured in our dark night -- as our baptism into a new life. And as we see the oak's profile as a "beautiful mandala-like wheel with spokes of water, leaves, earth and light" mirrored in the pond, we glimpse ourselves in a new form, reborn.

And so we are transformed.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Diving Into The Deep

Day 3 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's spiritual reading comes from the non-fictional novel Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. It is the true adventure of two men who risked everything, even their lives, to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II. 

Their deep-wreck diving became an addiction as they braved treacherous currents and depths that induced hallucinatory narcosis. They pushed themselves to their limits and beyond as they explored the wreckage of a German U-Boat, 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey, 230 feet below the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Let's dive in.

This excerpt is from chapter 2, page 22:

"Deep-shipwreck diving is among the world's most dangerous sports. Few other endeavors exist in which nature, biology, equipment, instinct and object conspire—without warning and from all directions—to so completely attack a man's mind and disassemble his spirit."

Courtesy Google Images
On the surface, yes, this is about the dangers of deep-shipwreck diving, but upon closer inspection, what seems to be a warning is really a lesson about diving into life, in particular, into those areas of life that have brought the most pain to us. 

This is about diving deep into our own personal wreckage so that we may "right" the "wrongs" and move forward from pain to freedom.

Any analysis of the self can be a bit uncomfortable. No one likes to be poked and prodded as if some kind of specimen under bright, blinding lights. But without self-examination, life stagnates. Even Socrates tells us that the unexamined life not worth living. If life is not progressing in the way we had planned, or if it is not advancing at all, we have to stop and examine what is holding us back from our potential. 

Most of the time, if not all, that what is us

Once we are aware of this fact, we can either make the choice to move forward or to remain inert.

Exploring our depths can be quite frightening. It is unknown territory, and it means facing fears. If we are holding ourselves back, we need to go to the "wreck" site and shine some light on it. This means taking responsibility for what has happened in our lives. And that can be scary. 

Are there dangers? There can be if we are not properly prepared. It's important to understand the risks involved so that we can navigate safely and effectively through any twisted metal and tangled wires within ourselves. 

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The real danger is not knowing what to do. That's why it's important to establish some kind of lifeline to grab onto to find our way back. This means getting the help we need, either professionally or informally, to plumb the depths. Should the sediment start kicking up, obscuring our vision, we have that guidance system in place. 

When things come "without warning and from all directions," and when we are not prepared in some fashion to face it because of fear, denial, or low information, these circumstances "so completely attack [our] mind and disassemble [our] spirit," rendering us victims. Once we've lived, loved, and lost, it's easy to fall into this sort of thinking. But that's exactly the kind of thinking that will hold us down and keep us tied to the wreckage within.

Unexpected things will happen in life that may cause pain and hurt; we can't predict what will happen. Not everything is in our control, but when we remember that we are in control of ourselves, then we can choose how to approach these things when they do happen. 

In the diving world, a wreck is not simply a wreck resting at the bottom of the ocean; it's a goldmine. A wreck gets explored for its secrets and hidden treasures, not its wreckage.

We are to see beyond the bones of wreckage in our lives and learn how to use that wreckage to transform us.

When we dive into the shadows and explore our personal wreckage, we will find many parts of it salvageable. We can refashion these parts and find much value in them. We can choose to believe that everything happens for a purpose and a reason, in time and in season. 

It's up to us to turn that wreckage into gold. 

How have you turned personal wreckage into treasure?