Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Being Connected

I was watching a spider spin its web, admiring the intricacy and the precision going into its design.

Very clever.

It started with a single thread, forming the basis of the rest of the structure. From there, the spider released a looser thread underneath the first, attaching it at both ends before climbing to its center. From the second thread, she lowered herself down on a vertical thread to form a Y-shape.  It formed the core support structure of the entire web.

With anchored threads in place, the spider laid out threads from the center, creating a starburst effect within the frame of the web. From there, she spun a spiral extending from the center of the web to its outer edges. She made her design efforts look so easy. When she finished, she rested.

What a beautiful, elegant trap, all according to the instructional manual preprogrammed into its little brain.

Everything connected in this little spider universe.

A vibration on one tiny strand reverberates through all the other strands so that all are affected.

What about the web of connections in our own lives?

I can appreciate the Native American myth of Spider Woman, the Mother Goddess who created all life. Using her magical thread, she connects all human, animal, and plant life together in the intricate web of life. She teaches us to honor those connections.

However, there may be times when we feel that we are disconnected from our world. What we do doesn't seem to be of any value or of any major consequence. This is a trap set by our own mind.

We are all bound by an invisible connection. Just because we can't physically see it with our eyes doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Our thoughts and deeds, the decisions we make each day, how we see and relate to the world, can have a profound impact on people and environments that seem entirely separate from our personal realm of existence.

Being conscious of the interconnection between all things helps us to see our choices in terms of the broader effect we may be creating. There are times when we see the immediate result of our words and deeds; but there are many more of which we are not aware.

As a teacher, I rarely hear about the influence I had on my students. But there have been times when years later a student emails me a note of thanks for recognizing a special talent that he or she now uses to help others.

With the New Year upon us, may we take the time to recognize and remember our connections with all things. What impact will our actions and our words have? What can we do or say to bring about a positive impact on others and our environments?

Recognizing that we are intimately connected with all things and understanding the power that we have to affect all that is around us and beyond can be the first step on the path of living consciously.

We'll never know whose lives we'll touch in the great web of life.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year? It Depends

The New Year is almost here.

While many of us will be waiting for the ball to drop on New Year's Eve, others will be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

They are the ones who in positive situations remain on guard, bracing themselves either consciously or unconsciously for something bad to happen. Instead of enjoying the moment, they focus on the negative possibilities, not realizing that they are energizing and inviting (attracting) such possibilities to happen. They fill their lives with anxiety and remain on edge as a result.

This is not healthy.

Remaining on guard against what will happen next makes it difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy happiness and success.

This is not the way to live freely and authentically.

The belief (fear) that happiness is temporary stems from the subconscious mind and past experiences that promoted a negative outlook.

One thing is for sure: the future is unknown. But this is no reason to fear it, just as there is no reason to believe that bad times must befall good times.

When you find yourself expecting the other shoe to drop, it's time to confront what you are feeling in order to remove what is blocking your optimism and happiness.

Take a deep breath.

Is there a strong possibility that something negative will happen?

Is your mind telling you that this positive situation won't last, or that you don't deserve happiness?

Remember that you have more power over your life than you realize. Give yourself permission to enjoy all the things going well for you right now. Counter any thoughts of unworthiness or guilt by reaffirming your worth. Recite a positive mantra, focus on the present moment, read motivational literature or affirmations, and trust in your own potential.

You have complete control over your own happiness. It may take some time to fully believe this about yourself, but as you make room for happiness, you will begin to let go of the fears that have hijacked that happiness.

The New Year is coming. It's a time for new beginnings and a new attitude. Hold on to the good without worrying about what the future will bring. Don't let the fear of the other shoe dropping stop you from wearing it with your new attitude.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting A Holiday Rush

helping hand

The holiday season is upon us, and so are the stresses that come with it. All the shopping, crowding, and lack of parking can test our patience and sanity. Attitudes flare and tempers explode, leaving us caught in a whirlwind of frenetic energy.

What happened to goodwill toward others?

The holidays can bring out the worst in us.

To live harmoniously, we need to be supportive and helpful to others, especially during this time of year when everything is rushed and hectic.

Instead of feeling rushed, we can create a new kind of rush, one that promotes the goodwill that is needed.

Instead of getting caught up in the mob scene of the holidays, why not give the gift of you?

While being of service is part of being a good citizen, it also feels good to help others, especially when we do it without any expectation of anything in return.

Our actions become offerings of love.

However, many times we serve because we were taught that we should serve. We do it to gain good standing in our church or our community. In this sense, we are really only serving ourselves. This kind of serving has no heart.

True serving is much more than meeting the requirements of a community, church, or school project; it is selfless and motivated from a deeper space within us.

There are many ways to be of service, and one may serve in various ways before discovering which area or areas resonate the most and are the most heartfelt. There are the obvious and much-needed volunteer opportunities, such as feeding the homeless or mentoring young people.

But there are other opportunities that we may not even think of as being an act of service.

Running errands for those who aren't able to run them, organizing a group activity like a walking or hiking club, leaving anonymous inspirational notes in neighborhood mailboxes are all simple ways of being of service.

Ask what you can do to brighten the lives of others, especially during this holiday season when many people are experiencing frustration.

Your actions will make a big difference and can be the greatest gift of all.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Okay to Want

We all have within us the ability to co-create with the universe.
what we want
But many of us have been taught that wanting more than what we have is greedy or that having more is unfair.
What if I said that our hopes and dreams are the universe whispering to us?

What if I said that the universe plants seeds of possibility within us while guiding us toward the best use of our gifts?

Striving for what we want may be challenging at times, but it is not a sin. The universe wants to give us our hearts' desires, but we repel it when we come from a place of unworthiness.

When we accept our worth and believe that the universe will facilitate our eventual success, we find that we have a whole cosmic support system backing us. The universe will not only provide us with assistance, but it will also bring opportunities that enable us to make significant progress on our journeys. We open ourselves to synchronicity.

At the first sign of our faith, the universe will put things in motion. There's no reason to be shy in asking for what we want, especially since the universe wants to see us accomplish our goals.

It's okay to want.

We can nurture our dreams without micromanaging them. Here's how:

Be open to receiving. The universe is the Great Gift-Giver. It wants to give because it is designed to give. Accept its gifts.

Be humble about receiving. The universe is always ready to care for our needs but we must ensure that our egos do not become barriers impeding our progress.

Be clear about your desires. Know what it is you want. Have a clear vision. Visualize all the details from every angle. You can design your dreams to your specifications. Imagine how it would feel to have your dreams fulfilled.

Be quiet between your thoughts. Step into the space of silence through whatever methods work best for you. Be still and know that the universe is.

Be bold in your requests for those desires. Once you are in your quiet place, announce your intentions to the pure energy of creation. Our requests travel quickly from our place of stillness, sending out the signal to the universe to align all the necessary details in the mysterious way that it does. Don't worry about how it all works; just accept that it does.

Be grateful. Express your thanks as if the universe has already granted your requests, but release any attachment to the outcome. Gratitude acts like a super magnet.

Be consistent in your practice. Doing this daily allows us to focus our thoughts and energy while regularly connecting with Essence.

It is our partnership with the Divine that allows us to manifest our desires. What we want, the universe wants for us.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Gift of Breath

Day 29 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
29 Days Template (27)
The Gospel of Philip, one of the Gnostic Gospels, is the source for today's inspiration. The Gospel of Philip is not related to the canonical gospels in the Christian bible. Considered a heretical text by clerical authorities, it is most famous for describing Jesus as Mary Magdalene's "koinonos," or companion, which led to the popular theory that they were married.

Whatever the case, the Gospel of Philip provides a collection of Gnostic teachings and reflections on the origins and nature of mankind, including the sacraments of marriage, baptism, and anointing with consecrated oil.

In this gospel, it says:

"Glass decanters and earthenware jugs are both made by means of fire. But if glass decanters break, they are done over, for they came into being through a breath. If earthenware jugs break, however, they are destroyed, for they came into being without a breath."

This passage speaks to our origins. We are either the "earthenware jug," molded from clay and earth, or the "glass decanter," blown into existence from molten glass. Though the techniques are different, fire is the common element needed to produce the jug or decanter. One ends in fire; the other begins in fire. However, "breath" is the operative word in this passage.

Without breath, there is no life.

Made of opaque, earthen materials, the jug when shattered is destroyed "for [it] came into being without breath." It is gone for good. Lost. It may be pieced back together, but it will never be the same. Likewise, without Spirit in our lives, we will remain broken and in darkness.

Formed by the breath blown into it, the glass decanter when shattered can be melted down in fire and re-formed "because [it] came into being through the breath." All is not lost. The fire of Spirit purifies us in our state of brokenness, giving us a new form. Spirit reanimates us, giving us a fresh start.

Our breath is much more than a physical exercise of oxygen in, oxygen out. It’s an act we do day by day, minute by minute. Without it, we’d have no physical life. Physical breathing is necessary for energy production and body functions. It is a miracle we seem to take for granted.

Ruah is the Hebrew word for breath. Interestingly, it is also the word for spirit. Our breath is the animating spirit that flows in and through us. As we breathe, the Universe breathes. This is our life force. When we approach breath in this context, we understand it as a divine gift.

Breath connects us with our Inner Source. As we become conscious of our breath, we begin to understand it as an extension of the life force. Spirit is closer than our next breath because it is our breath.

Stop whatever you are doing.
Just breathe.

Breathe deep.
Breathe slow.

Feel your chest expand.
Feel it contract.

Give gratitude for every single breath you take.
Each breath is the heartbeat of the Universe.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Forgive, Or Relive

Day 28 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.29 Days Template (26)
We all make mistakes.

Yet forgiving ourselves can be so much harder than forgiving those around us, and as a result, we carry a sense of blame for what happened and beat ourselves up in the process.

Let's look to an anonymous quote for inspiration: "Forgiveness of self is impossible until you stop longing for a better past."

Forgiving ourselves will always be impossible when we continue to live in the past. And until we bring forgiveness to ourselves, we will feel guilty, unforgivable, and unlovable. We will feel like a criminal. Worse yet, we will trap ourselves into falsely believing that we are cut off from our Creator.

When we feel cut off, we carry the energy of the belief that we are "bad" in our energy fields. This attracts to us circumstances that reflect this false belief about ourselves, and then we tend to act in the very ways that we held ourselves unforgivable in the first place. It becomes a vicious cycle.

While this experience is common, it is detrimental to our overall well-being. When we carry guilt, we create a space of negativity that causes a pervasive sense of powerlessness and unhappiness. We agonize over a past situation that can not be changed, dooming ourselves to relive it over and over while reinforcing the negative feelings associated with it.

Forgiving ourselves allows us to move forward, free of the emotions that no longer serve us. But to do so, we must stop longing for a better past, as today's quote suggests. The past is gone. The only thing we can do is to make peace with it so that we can move forward.

It's easy to say acknowledge your mistake, feel remorse, and learn from it so that you don't make the same mistakes again, but self-forgiveness is a core issue, and we need to look inside that core in order to heal ourselves. We need to touch the space that hurts, and this is not always easy or pleasant.

If you are hanging on to guilt about something, it's important to practice compassion and self-acceptance. It is part of the human experience to make mistakes and hurt others. But wallowing in guilt will not help you or anyone else, and it certainly won't prevent future suffering. Forgiving yourself is about targeting and facing the specific things that you feel bad about, not about the person you are.

When you examine the guilt you feel about a particular experience, it's important to look at what your true intention was when you did what you did. If you look deep enough, you'll discover that your intention was to protect or take care of yourself in the best way that you knew at that time.

Maybe you didn't know all of the options available, and perhaps you made some decisions that brought undesirable results to you and others, but you did the best that you could with what you had at that time.

Does this make you a bad person? Absolutely not. It makes you human.

Self-forgiveness is an act of love. The guilt we feel is our signal that we have strayed from our deepest life values. Rather than making guilt a permanent state of mind, we can use it to assess our misconduct and employ a course of action that leads to making amends. This, in turn, energizes us to realign with our hearts.

As you intentionally take responsibility for your actions, know that you are creating healing for yourself and anyone that you have hurt. Learn from your choices, know that you are inherently good, and always do your best. When you do, you will come home to a sense of connectedness and peace.

(Written for my nephew. I love you, RJ).

No "Wrong" Decisions

Day 27 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
29 Days Template (25)
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who served under President Eisenhower from 1953-1959 and was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, lends his wisdom about decision-making:

"Once -- many, many years ago -- I thought I made a wrong decision. Of course, it turned out that I had been right all along. But I was wrong to have thought that I was wrong."

There are no "wrong" decisions.

Many of us have a hard time making decisions. We fear that if we make the "wrong" choice, we will make a bad investment.

We could, at times, make better, more informed choices, but they are never "wrong." Regardless of the outcome, we always gain something from it, whether we get what we intended or learn a valuable lesson.

A decision is only "wrong" when we attach an outcome to it. Attaching an outcome narrows the possibilities of what can happen, and when things don't happen in the way that we expect, we find ourselves feeling full of disappointment, and worse yet, feeling like a failure.

decision sign
CTSY: Google Images
This is not what the Universe wants for us.

Being able to make choices is one of life's privileges. But to exercise this privilege, we must have the courage to decide, to act, to take a chance by moving in a particular direction. But we can't take any action until we first make a decision. Without action our lives stagnate.

Sometimes we need to follow through on a decision to realize that what we thought we wanted is not what we really want. For example, maybe you've always wanted to live in the big city, away from the quietness of the country, so you leave your family, friends, and job and move far, far away. But once you get there, you find that you do not like the commotion and the fast-pace of city living. You wouldn't have known this unless you tried it.

Your decision to experience urban life did work out, just not in the way that you intended. Chalk it up to experience and a lesson learned. Now you know what city life is all about and you can move home (or move on) with a new appreciation for small town life.

Our decisions are never "wrong" when they help us to expand who we are. The only thing that is "wrong" is our wrongful thinking about our decisions. When we change our perspective about the outcome of our decisions, we can only grow and move forward. We can fully embrace the direction our lives are taking.

Being able to make choices is a gift. Our decisions may not always work out as we intended, but they always work out in the end for our highest good and our ultimate happiness.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Warning Signs

Day 26 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
Remember the science fiction television series Lost In Space? The show ran for three seasons (1965-68) and centered on the Robinson family who set out from an over-populated Earth in their spaceship Jupiter 2 to visit a planet with the hopes of colonizing it; however, the sabotage of Dr. Zachary Smith leaves them lost in space.
One of the characters, the family robot, is endowed with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry, and often displays human characteristics such as laughter, sadness, and mockery. It is best known for its warning, "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" while flailing its arms to ward off any impending harm.
Just as the universe wants to provide for us, it also works to protect us from danger, harm, and inconveniences.

We get signals warning us of potential problems all the time.

But we may not always recognize these signs.

Ever get a "bad" feeling about something? That's the universe waving a red flag at us. These warnings come in the form of feelings, and they urge us to take pause, rethink the situation, and listen to our inner guidance system.

robot lost in space
Lost In Space
Sometimes we may not know why we are being warned, only that we are. This is the universe trying to redirect us to our best path.

Many times we choose to ignore our intuition when it warns us that something is not right. We end up dismissing unsettling feelings as illogical because it doesn't seem to make sense in the moment. We may even think that we are being paranoid or that it's our imagination.

Yet, when we look back at situations where we received warnings, the signs become clear to us.

These warnings are part of a divine system designed to protect us. We may not always understand them, but it is always in our best interest to pay attention to them. No harm comes from pausing for a moment to reconsider things. We are to pay attention...to look before we leap, knowing that the Universe is always looking out for us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bad Day?

Day 25 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.
29 Days Template (23)
Today's words of wisdom come from Theodor Seuss Geisel, the famous cartoonist and writer better known as Dr. Seuss. Here, Dr. Seuss gives us some advice on how to handle our troubles:

"I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead, others come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me."

As simplistic as this statement sounds, it packs a profound punch.

Troubles are bound to show up in our lives. When they do, we need to show up bigger. We do this by showing up with our "big bat" of courage, faith, and determination.

Troubles can come from any direction, "ahead" and "behind." While we may not know when they will hit, and while we can't control when they will happen, we can prepare ourselves and be in a state of readiness when they do happen.

The key to being prepared is having some tools that we can call upon to help us through a difficult time and use on an ongoing basis to make our lives a little easier.

When troubling times hit, we need to remember that we are not alone. One of the things we can do is to call a friend, someone who is willing to listen and who understands us. This can make a big difference. A friend can help us to see options where before we saw none and can give us direction.

Another thing we can do is to journal. Things can get jumbled inside our heads and by writing things out onto paper we can get a clearer picture once we identify patterns. Getting the clutter out of our heads helps us to see our options.
Getting physical by doing some kind of exercise also helps by relieving any pent-up stress. Getting our bodies moving allows for energy to keep moving so that it doesn't stagnate within our bodies and cause any kind of dis-ease.dr seuss
Make quiet time. Whether it takes the form of meditation, contemplation, gardening, or folding the laundry, quiet time relieves the mind of daily complications and helps us to find our courage, faith, strength, and determination. This is our time to reload.

Give our bodies gratitude. Our bodies work hard in supporting us and keeping us healthy. Instead of making negative comments about the physical self, give thanks to every organ, muscle, and cell for working harmoniously together so that we can keep going.

We may never be able to fully avoid troubles from showing up in our lives, but we can have our "big bat" ready. Rather than duck and run in fear, we can stand and swing with confidence.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

One Size Fits All?

Recently I was asked to be a guest blogger for the website Light of Feng Shui, which offers consultations, tips, seminars, coaching and much more to help others live spiritually and in tune with the energies around us.

When it comes to spirituality, there are many approaches one can take. Each path is as unique as the person on it. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. You can read my article ("One Size Fits All?") here.

Special thanks to Shasheta Bo for inviting me to share with her community.

Note: Feng Shui is the ancient art and science of harmonizing the energies of any given space to assure fortune and good health to those inhabiting it. It is based on the Taoist vision and understanding of nature is alive and filled with chi, or energy. This Chinese practice allows the practitioner to position objects, buildings, furniture, and even graves based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi. To learn more about this ancient practice, please visit http://www.lightoffengshui.com.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Awakening

Day 24 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

Today's piece of wisdom comes from the Qur'an. Al-Mu'minun 23:115 states: "Do you think God has created you without any purpose, and that you will not be brought back to Him?"

There is a time and season for everything and everyone.

Notice that this is not a direct command to do something. It is a question of humble self-inquiry, designed to get one thinking about why he or she is gracing this planet with his or her presence.

You may be someone who fully understands your purpose and the true nature of reality. You may also perceive deeply that we all emanate from the same Source. If so, then you know that we are here to live our lives as authentically as we can; we are here to love and to support one another. When we understand this, then we are awakened to our true nature.

This understanding is such a blessing.

But not everyone evolves at the same rate to this understanding. This doesn't mean that there is something "wrong." It simply means that we each progress at our own pace. We all have a lot to learn, and some of us may have more to learn than others.

Yet sometimes we find ourselves feeling a bit intolerant with those who just aren't progressing at a rate that we'd like them to progress. It can be frustrating to watch them, especially when they are not connected to purpose.

But it's not for us to determine how quickly others progress. Instead, we need to embrace the spiritual practice of compassion, holding them in love and light, not in judgment, anger, or fear, allowing harmony to flow.

For some, slow and steady wins the race. It would help us to remember that everyone must find their own way to awakening, and whatever they are experiencing is an important part of the process.

It would also help us to be inspired by their example as a way to look closely within ourselves, shedding light upon our own dark places, and remembering that we are still a work-in-progress. Perhaps their example is our own reflection we need to face about ourselves.

Sacrificing the urge to judge is not easy. When we feel this urge, it is our cue to remind ourselves of our true purpose as posed by the Qur'an's question.

We will all be brought back to our Source, in divine time, not ours. Our job is to hold others in the light and love of our energy, and maybe it will awaken theirs.