Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finding Your Life's Purpose

stone path over water
Ever witness someone living his or her life's purpose?

It's inspiring! Such a person exudes happiness. One can't help but feel energized in their company.

Everyone has a purpose in life. And within that purpose lies a signature talent waiting to birth itself to the world.

While some people have a clear vision of their purpose early on in life, there are those whose paths seems unclear, even elusive. I'm one of those whose life's purpose took the circuitous route. But I've learned a lot along the way, despite the detours.

Detours are not setbacks. Hitting a roadblock means it's time to go in a new or different direction. This is a time for reflection and learning. Rather than worry that you may get lost (and you may), trust that your internal GPS is guiding you in the right direction. You may uncover a unique talent as a result, or you may learn something like a new skill or meet someone who will become a mentor. Be open to the possibilities while on detour...and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Read the signs. To be an active participant in your life, you'll need to pay attention. "Signs" will present themselves in various ways. Notice the things that make you happy. Recall times you've felt fulfilled. What were you doing? What did you feel? Did you experience moments when you've lost track of time because of doing something you loved? Take cues from your relationships. What have others said regarding your skills and talents? Notice any common themes? When you hear the same thing several times from others that could be an indication of a talent you've overlooked.

Slow down. To read the signs presenting themselves to you, you'll need to slow down. We live in such a busy world full of constant stimulation, making it hard to wrap our head around our own thoughts. Put yourself in a time-out, away from all the distractions, so that you can restore your balance and energy. This quiet time could be a walk through the woods, journaling, meditating, or exercising. Find what works for you, do it on a daily basis, and you'll give space to inner clarity and expanded awareness that will help you discover yourself.

Change direction. If you've been traveling the same mental route with no results, you'll need to exit and recalculate. Rather than get stuck on asking, "What is my purpose?" ask, "Who do I want to become?" This shift in direction throws your mind into a higher creative gear. What can you see yourself as, and what do you look like (and feel like) as you are doing it? If it feels good, then you are in alignment with your soul's purpose. You'll experience an inner knowing that can not be shaken. You'll know that you know. And it will feel "right."

Discovering your life's purpose requires taking action. Living your life inside your head is not the same as living your life out loud, on purpose. There are steps to be taken with the biggest one being a leap of faith...not always easy, but absolutely necessary. It doesn't have to be one big giant leap, but smaller ones which will impact big changes over time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

4 Steps To Managing Your Personal Energy

Managing our personal energy is our job, not anyone else's. We are responsible for everything that we think, say, and do. There's no way around it. And as much as we'd like to blame our stress on someone or something else, we must come to terms with the reality that we alone have invited that stress into our lives. We somehow agreed to it, either consciously or unconsciously.
man-424967_1280

When we live our lives on auto-pilot, we get lazy. We say yes when we mean no. We say no when we mean yes. We act without thinking. We think without acting. We don't set healthy boundaries. We take things for granted. Suddenly two plus two equals seventeen, and we are left reeling under the pressure we've placed upon ourselves...all because we weren't mindful.

When we learn to manage our personal energy, we reclaim our power and our lives. Here's how:

Create a list of things that give you energy. All too often we engage in activities that deplete our energy. The focus here is to embrace activities that increase your energy and make you feel better. Take a walk, call a loved one, sing, meditate. It could be anything. These little things will feel like luxuries. Keep your list available so that you can refer to it whenever you begin feeling overwhelmed.

Chunk your time into manageable segments. Rearrange your day so that you are working in blocks of time, not straight through. After every 90 to 120 minutes, take a break and do something from your list of energy-boosting activities. This allows you to relax and recover, and it gives the brain a much-needed break so that it can recuperate.

Practice mindfulness. Stay focused on one activity at a time. This means NO multitasking during your breaks since your breaks are meant for your energy-building activities.

Set healthy boundaries. Say no when you mean no. Say yes when you mean yes. Don't agree to added responsibility if you can't devote the time and energy. Think carefully about taking on additional tasks. Having no boundaries leaves one open to exploitation. Assert yourself if you must, but do so respectfully.

We can counteract the effects of stress by consciously making decisions and performing activities that energize us. When we feel good, we perform better. And in so doing, the structure of our brain actually changes; new neural pathways form as we continually take in good things, making it easier to feel good in the future.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Positive Mind Medicine


It is a well-known fact that stress, anxiety, tension, worrying, and fear will hurt your physical, mental, and emotional health. These negative states are shots of poison. "Drink" too many and you jeopardize not only your health, but your relationships, your career, your self-confidence, your self-esteem, and your self-worth.

Such negative states release toxins into the bloodstream, thereby "poisoning" your system. This opens the door to various ailments, disorders, diseases, and terminal illnesses.
antidote
Talk about being your own worst enemy!

Obviously, minimizing the amount of stress in your life will reduce the amount of "poison" you release into your system.

Hippocrates said, "The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well."

In other words, we hold the "cure." We are our own antidote.

If we can think ourselves sick, we can think ourselves whole. We have within us what it takes to change the direction of our health and the course of our lives. We can do this through the practice of positive mind medicine.

According to Universal Law, our thoughts and beliefs, whether positive or negative, manifest into reality. If we continually pump our systems with negativity, we release harmful cortisol and epinephrine (stress hormones) that deactivate our body's natural self-repair mechanisms. The more that is released, the more the body breaks down, adding more stress to an already compromised immune system.

However, if we use the power of positive thoughts and emotions to influence our physical health, we relax our nervous systems and give our bodies the space to heal. Also, choosing to participate in positive activities over destructive ones releases "happy hormones" (seratonin, endorphins, dopamine, phenylethamine, and gherlin) that reduce the effects of stress and make us feel better.

Of course, I am not suggesting that positive thinking is the only factor in the healing process (things do happen that warrant immediate medical attention; if you need it, seek it). But in many cases, a positive shift in one's way of thinking and mental habits can prove more effective than medicating oneself with drugs or other substances.

If negativity is "poisoning" you, here's what you can do:

Take inventory of the stressors in your life. What immediate steps can you take to reduce them? Develop a plan of action to begin removing them.

Be more aware of your thoughts. Practice mind management. Catch yourself whenever you think negative thoughts, and replace them by thinking about things that bring you joy. This may take some practice, but keep at it. Inside the poison is the antidote, so turn negative thoughts around to thoughts that will serve you rather than harm you.

Rest your body and mind often. Do this several times a day, even if only for a few minutes at a time.

Practice some form of meditation. Meditation releases tension and stress from the body and mind. Use creative visualization to produce positive changes in your life. Breathe deeply and slowly.

Read inspiring words. Start and end your day with inspirational quotes, positive affirmations, or sacred literature that uplifts and edifies you.

Think and expect the best. Focus thought energy on everything working out for the best. Remember, Universal Law works with your thought energy, whether the energy you are emitting is positive or negative.

Give gratitude for what you have. Remind yourself of all the positives in your life, no matter how small. Gratitude acts as a magnet, attracting more into your life for which to be thankful.

Positive mind medicine has no ill side effects, requires no prescription, and the benefits are many. I'll drink to that!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Breaking The Spell Of Lies

A good friend of mine is going through the most spiritually transforming time of her life. With the blinders gone, she is seeing life from a whole new perspective. While it has been painful for her at times, she is grateful for the journey.
balance-110850_1280
The hardest thing through which she has been working is dismantling the "lies" told to her by others about herself, all of which she believed to be true. Such lies crippled her in almost every area of her life. However, she has taken responsibility for her part in allowing other people's words to control her, freeing herself from this trap.

Behold the power of words. They can build you up, or they can take you down.

Lies are words used to deceive, control, and ultimately destroy us. They hold us spellbound.

In my friend's case, she was repeatedly told many lies:

"You're not worthy of love."

"You are not enough.

"You don't deserve happiness."

"You are not unique or special."

"You don't deserve wealth."

The list goes on.

She had allowed such words to blind her from her own amazing opportunities; these words bruised her self-esteem, crushed her self-confidence, and left her searching for what she needed outside of herself instead of searching within. Her inner critic -- the ego, the lower self, the "devil," call it what you will -- got the best of her. She knew she had to take matters into her own hands if she were to survive.

What did my friend do to break such a spell?

She took back her identity. For the longest time she allowed other people and situations to define her. She came to know herself as a spiritual being rather than as a puppet at the hands of others.

She took control of her thoughts. She faced the lies head-on and saw them for what they were. She learned that whatever controls the mind controls life since thoughts lead to our chosen attitudes and actions. She stopped listening to the lies of others, and began believing in herself and in her abilities.

She discovered her gifts. She stopped comparing herself to others, and realized that she has gifts that others do not. Her uniqueness became apparent to herself.

She replaced lies with life-affirming words. She chose words to build her self-esteem and self-confidence and began repeating them to herself often, and it now shows in her actions and how she carries herself. She sets her intentions on a daily basis so that she can live a purposeful and mindful life.

She released toxic people from her life. She cut emotional attachments that were not serving her highest good. She came to understand that though the toxic people in her life weren't inherently bad, they weren't right for her, so she let them go. She made her well-being a priority and created a safer space for herself.

She began studying Universal Laws. She learned about the role that universal laws play in our lives and began to apply them. She understood the role she played and now plays in attracting people and events into her life.

She took responsibility for her past actions. She didn't realize how she had been hurting herself by allowing others to control her with their thoughts and behavior. She forgave herself for giving up her power to them. And she released their hold on her by forgiving them as well.

It's been quite a journey for her as she will attest. Words that once served to curse her to her own inner prison also freed her to discover how worthy and deserving she really is.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Are You Ready To Live A Simple Life?

Living the simple life is not so simple. Not at first.

It requires letting go. And if you've grown up in a consumer society, where everything is readily available and abundant...and convenient...this can be a real challenge.

stack-20241_1920
Here's a telling test. Sit in a quiet room. Alone. No distractions whatsoever. And sit there for 20 - 30 minutes. In. Complete. Silence. Think you can do it? If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable, then you won't be able to simplify. At least not right away. You can ease your way into it by starting with a few minutes a day and then building from there.

Living the simple life is living life on your own terms for your own pursuit of happiness, no matter what anyone else says. But you can't live a simple life if you're unwilling to let go of what you're used to.

Therein lies the conflict...releasing what you've learned in the past in order to embrace a new way of living for your future. It can be quite painful, but it's the kind of pain that pushes one forward. Think of it as physical therapy for the soul.

There was a time when I tried to be everything to everyone. But all I got was exhaustion, emptiness, feelings of failure and sadness. My health declined. I suffered migraines. I hated my life. That's when I took a vow of simplicity. I wised up and pared down. Instead of a life of constant busy-ness and rushing, I chose a life of contemplation, creation, and connection with nature, the people I love, and the activities I enjoy doing.

Does this mean I have no distractions or complications? No. But I have much less of them because I have reduced them to make space for the more important things.

If you're feeling called to lead a simple life but are struggling with the idea of letting go, here are some reflections to help you process:

While letting go can be difficult, it will become easier if you start with a one-day or one-week challenge, upon which you can expand. Let go of something for the allotted time period and see whether you like it or not. Keep a record of your observations.

Decluttering your home and work space will declutter your mind. As you open up space in your environment, you free up your mind. Less time will be devoted to finding things once you establish an organizational system that works for you (you may have to train your family on your new system).

Waking early is a gift and gives you the time to go into your day unrushed. Use this time to read, write, meditate, and center yourself.

Let go of watching the news or programs that fill you with anxiety or fear. Negative energy breeds more negative energy. Also, get away from watching commercials that want you to buy things you don't really need.

While social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are a great way to stay in touch and share with others, they can be a source of frustration and much pain for some people, especially when those people begin comparing what's happening (or not) in their lives to what's happening in the lives of others. Reducing your dependency on such sites opens up space for you to begin creating a better life for yourself.

Waiting for the right time to do something is wasting time. You have to make time, especially for what is important: time with your spouse, time with your kids, time for creating, time for exercise, time for nature, time for self.

Learning to say no gets easier. Reducing your number of commitments reduces your level of stress. Overcommitment is a cardinal sin against simple living. The less you agree to do the more time you will have for yourself. Choose the commitments that are most important to you.

You don't need to change addresses or move deep into the backcountry to discover simplicity. You can create it right where you are. Simple living is all about self-reliance. It's about taking your life out of the hands of others and into your own hands.

What will it take for you to live simply?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spiritual Growing Pains: Tell-Tale Signs

When we awaken spiritually, a subtle yet powerful shift occurs. Like a newborn, we crave spiritual nourishment so that we can grow and evolve. Just as we experience the physical growing pains of childhood, we experience the metaphysical growing pains of spirithood.

As we grow, we find ourselves expanding beyond people, places, and ideas that have been familiar and comfortable. These can be challenging times, especially when those around us make judgments about our new state of being and our new-found, ever-evolving approach to life situations. Some may even choose not to support us in our decisions and transformation.

This does not mean anything is wrong with you. Nor does it mean that there is anything wrong with those who no longer wish to support your growth. We each grow and learn at different rates, and as much as we'd like to take others with us on our journey, sometimes we must accept that in moving on we may have to leave others behind.

sad-505857_1280
Photo Courtesy Pixabay

And therein lies the spiritual pain. As much as we want to remain, we know we can't. Yet we push forward because we know the pain would be that much greater in remaining than in answering the call of Higher Self. No pill can palliate the pain. Why? Because the point of spiritual pain is not to get rid of it, but to embrace it and integrate it, so that we can grow through it. We can certainly channel this energy through various spiritual practices (prayer, meditation, chanting, ritual cleansing, acts of atonement, yoga, etc.) that will bring clarity, direction, and peace of mind.

Here are some tell-tale signs of spiritual growing pains:

Restlessness. Spirit wants to move and create; the ego wants to lounge and stick with the status quo. You'll want to "do new things" even if you don't know what those things are...yet. Your sleep patterns may be affected. You get the strong feeling that there's something more to life, and you begin to develop a determination to find out what it is. You realize that the material world cannot fulfill this longing.

Restriction. Spirit moves in freedom; the ego remains within safe confines. You may be feeling the constraints of a job or a relationship that no longer serves you. In fact, the situation feels inhibiting and contracting rather than expanding. You want to break free from restrictive patterns, toxic people, and life-draining jobs, and you begin to do so.

Brain-fog. Spirit is suprarational; the ego refuses to budge beyond the rational. Things that you thought made sense no longer make sense. And things that never made sense before suddenly make sense. Normally, the left hemisphere of the brain (which likes to organize, compartmentalize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and problem-solve) dominates the often less-valued right side of the brain. You may be experiencing psychic ability, intuitive knowing, feeling, compassion, and other right hemisphere activities that contradict those of the left side of the brain. You may also be experiencing a feeling of spaciness, minor memory lapses, scattered thinking, mild dizziness, and a general fogginess as you try to find balance. You feel drawn to creative activities of expression and to the sensate. There's no explaining it; it's an inner knowing. As you allow your heart and your right brain to lead you, the left will activate appropriately to support you, and that "fog" will lift.

Of course, seek medical help if these symptoms persist. If you've determined that it is not a medical condition, then simply relax in the realization that what you are experiencing is temporary.

As Spirit evolves, ego devolves. Spiritual growing pains are part of our journey. Recognizing, embracing, and channeling them will give us the confidence and strength to move through them.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Time For A Cosmic Reset?

personal choices

We forget that we have choices.

We forget that our current reality exists because of our choices.

We forget that we are the creators of our current reality.

We forget that we are in charge of our own happiness.

There are laws that rule the Universe.

We forget that these laws are in place to help us fulfill our destiny, to help us be the highest expression of ourselves.

We don't have to do anything to activate these laws. These laws are always working in our lives.

Where are you focusing your attention lately?

Is it focused predominately on thoughts of lack or resistance, or abundance and flow? It is an energetic law of the Universe that like attracts like. Whatever thought (vibration) we hold within mind magnetically draws more of the same to us.

Time for a cosmic reset.

Remember:

1) Everything is energy.

2) Energy follows thought.

3) Your dominant thought (focus, vibration) brings you more of the same.

Change your thinking and you change the direction of your energy.

Your choices put you in the creator's seat. Become aware of your choices. Better choices bring better results, and better results make for a better reality.

It's clearly up to you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frustrated? Try Gratitude

you are the key
Many people underestimate the power of gratitude.

And many times, gratitude is dismissed in times of frustration. Instead, people resort to complaining. Then they find themselves experiencing a chain reaction of negative emotions -- anxiety, despair, anger, even rage -- robbing themselves of inner peace, harmony, and balance.

When we find ourselves in situations that are beginning to frustrate us, we sometimes forget that we have a choice. We can choose to let the situation upset us, or we can choose to manage our energy by taking a more constructive approach.

We know the situations well. Getting stuck in traffic. Waiting in a long line. Patience runs thin. We grimace. We complain. We throw our arms up in frustration. For what? Why fill the body with the toxins that emotions release? Such energy is not going to improve or hurry the situation.

Instead, give pause for thought and appreciate where you are in that moment.

If you're stuck in traffic, be thankful that you have a car with which to get around. Some people don't have such a luxury. Others may not have driving privileges, or their privileges may have been taken away.

If you're stuck in a long line at the store, be thankful that your neighborhood is able to supply you with a business which in turn supplies you with your needs. Think about all the time and effort that goes into managing such a place.

When we take things for granted, we lessen their value.

When we are grateful for what we have, we end up having more.

Gratitude has the power to change your life. It acts as a lightning rod for Universal Energy to transform your life.

You are the key.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

Everyone loves hearing or telling stories. Stories spur our imagination. Stories give us hope. Stories allow us to express ourselves -- our hopes, our fears, our challenges.

Ever stop to think about the kinds of stories you are telling? To yourself? To others?

Do you relate stories of hope and imagination?

Or do you share stories of doom and gloom?

And, do you realize that you can limit or expand yourself by the stories that you tell?

change your story
Think about the stories you have created about yourself. Do you like those stories? If so, great. Keep telling them. If not, then do what a writer does...delete the story and start over. Begin telling a new and different story...one of success, not failure.

We are either failure-conscious or success-conscious. You are the only one who can rewrite your story. Change your story and you change your life. Authoring your story sometimes requires revision. Make yours the best version you can.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Create A Self-Care Practice


Self-care is NOT selfish.

Making yourself a priority in your own life does NOT mean that you don't care for your loved ones.

Without self-care, life will overwhelm us. We'll grow frustrated, depleted, even bitter. Our energy plummets. Our weight skyrockets. We compromise our immune systems and invite all kinds of ailments into our bodies and minds. Our relationships suffer. We find ourselves ill-tempered and uninspired. We lose our confidence. Before we know it, a spiritual cancer has set in.

Self-care will combat this.
meditation-338446_1920
Creating a self-care practice will bring you back to YOU.

How?

Re-prioritize. It's time to drop back and punt. Resolve to reevaluate your priorities. Put yourself at the top of your priority list. You can't be number one outside until you are number one inside.

Reconnect with yourself. Ask, "What makes me happy, and what can I do to be the best version of myself?" Take a self-inventory, and then take action!

Retreat to nature. Take in and appreciate the beauty and stillness of nature. Immerse yourself in its restorative power. Open yourself to the lessons nature has to teach.

Rekindle your relationship with spirit. Meditate. Pray. Contemplate. Journal your thoughts and feelings. Recommit yourself to spiritual work.

Refuel your body. Re-energize it by getting enough rest, nourishing yourself with healthy foods, and finding fitness you enjoy.

Redecorate your mind. Renew your thinking through positive affirmations and self-talk. Rip down those dismal drapes of doom and let in the light. Clear out the cobwebs of negativity that have slowed or stalled your progress. Release any thoughts that no longer serve you or the highest good.

Recruit support. Hold yourself accountable. Enlist the help of loved ones, friends, or a coach to help you get your life back in control.

Creating an effective self-care practice is about redesigning your life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The more you give to yourself, the more you give to your loved ones.

Take care of YOU. You are the only YOU you've got.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gratitude For ALL Things???

Gratitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cutting Cords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dissecting The Golden Rule

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

Note some of the following examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no separation.

Does it matter how the Golden Rule is stated?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Becoming Spiritually Conscious

I woke up dead.

Well, at least that's how I felt.

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

Ever feel like this?

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

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

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

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

I felt connected. Transformed. And alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you learned along the way?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Putting Your Best Thought Forward

Put your best thought forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Hold...

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

This is one of those times.

And that's okay.

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

Pruning: Not Just For Plants

Holy Graffiti

How To Disappoint Disappointment

Ways To Wander Into Wonder

Cultivate Your Sacred Vision

Lessons We Can Learn From Water

3 Spiritual Lessons From Autumn

Getting On Track

Butterfly As Spiritual Metaphor

Bee Here Now!

Thank you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bee Here Now!

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

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

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

It is a flying miracle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Butterfly As Spiritual Metaphor

Spiritography Day 9: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

For the past three days, butterflies have been making their presence known wherever I go. It's like they're following me. One was even daring enough to make full contact with me when it landed on my arm during a contemplative moment. So I gave it the attention it deserved.

It appeared so ethereal and fragile as its proboscis probed and tickled my skin. Its wings opened and closed in intervals, appearing paper thin one moment, and then on full display the next. I marveled at the life cycle of this little shape-shifter -- from a crawling, leaf-eating caterpillar to a fluttering, nectar-drinking butterfly.

Its metamorphosis represents our own spiritual transformation.

Like caterpillars, we crawl our way through life, doing our day-to-day activities. As we begin our inner journey, we enter into a chrysalis state, insulating ourselves in a dark inner sanctum where the environment is ripe for conversion. We pray. We meditate. We study spiritual truths. When we are ready to emerge, we break free from our confines, spread our wings, and fly as our true selves. We are renewed and reborn.

"Butterfly on Steel Cable" by Penny McDaniel
When my little winged friend finished, it lighted off of my arm almost as quickly as it had landed. It fulfilled its butterfly purpose, pollinating me with the presence of spirit. Though the butterfly lives only one to two weeks, it serves as a reminder to enjoy the present moment and to make the most of our lives before time runs out.

"Iron Butterfly" by Penny McDaniel

Getting On Track

Spiritography Day 8: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

I found myself standing on a set of railroad tracks today, imagining them crisscrossing the countryside, cutting through sleepy towns and winding around bustling cities. Trains have always evoked a sense of adventure and romance in me. As a child, I couldn't fall asleep unless I heard the sound of a freight train rumbling by our home. I'd sneak out of the house to sit on the back porch just to listen to them...they were my lullabies, my reassurance...

People are a lot like trains. We make scheduled and unscheduled stops in life, but eventually we make it to our destination. We move at different speeds along the way. Some of us are like express trains, moving quickly through life, without any stops in between. Others are like luxury trains, traveling new routes, going to unknown places, enjoying the view.

We don't know where the tracks of our lives will lead us. They lie ahead, pointing us toward new horizons, and it's up to us to follow where they lead. If we see ourselves going in a direction that is unsatisfying, we have the choice to change course to find a more fulfilling path to follow. We can always get ourselves on the right track with our choices and decisions.

So, today, I offer you the spirit of trains in poem and pictures as we travel the rails of our lives...

"Juncture" by Penny McDaniel
"The 5850 Crossing the Tennessee"
on meeting a sleeping train

the infinite rails stretch

past the horizon

calling me to follow

its curves and bends

like a poem

that never tells me

where it is taking me

when i begin to compose.

the tracks are quiet

and i balance myself,

one foot in front of the other,

a tightrope of steel shimmering

in the sizzling southern sun.

a train rests ahead,

engines purring,

a strong diesel scent

marks its territory,

mixes with honeysuckle air,

a string of cars snakes behind

carrying cargo and secrets.

i could stow away, live

the life of a wanderer,

but i have no need

to tame this train,

whose dark, metal skin

i tremble to touch.
 
"9832" by Penny McDaniel
Photo by Penny McDaniel
"John Knight's Crossing at No. 2 Hill, Nauvoo, Alabama" by Penny McDaniel

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3 Spiritual Lessons From Autumn

Spiritography Day 7: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

My favorite color is Autumn.

It's also my favorite aroma.

The fire-glow radiance of gold, orange, and scarlet...

The scent of pine, patchouli, and cinnamon...

Autumn is a season of culmination and transition. It is nature's last hoorah before retiring into winter's dormancy. It is a time that calls us to self-reflection, letting go, and spiritual connection when we open ourselves to its lessons.

IMG_7186
Photo by Penny McDaniel
I invite you to gently enter into the Spirit of Autumn and see how it can help you live a richer, more meaningful life.

The first great lesson of Autumn is letting go. Trees that once nurtured emerging buds now let go of the leaves they once nourished. It is a natural process, and that which no longer serves the tree will now enrich and nourish the earth below in its transition.

Autumn prompts us to release our attachments to past experiences, without regrets or resentments. Things which no longer serve us can be donated, recycled, or given to someone in need. Relationships may need to be revised or given the room to fade harmoniously away. We can keep the value of an experience while letting go of its weight.

The second great lesson of Autumn is acknowledging impermanence. When we contemplate the autumnal changes, we grow more appreciative of all the beauty that surrounds us, not just in nature, but in our lives. When we cherish someone or something, we do so because deep down we know that they won't be around forever for us to enjoy, and this moves us to connect as deeply as we can.

Autumn is a time of dual purpose, and so the third great lesson is preparation. While Autumn is a time for gathering main harvests, it is also the time to determine what is needed for the upcoming winter. We see this as animals ready their homes in such a way that they need not go out in the middle of winter for anything they need. Autumn teaches us to be ready.

IMG_7157
Photo by Penny McDaniel
As we contemplate Autumn and its spirit, let us be inspired by its sounds, its aromas, its colors, but most of all, its gentle guidance so that we may live full, fruitful lives. Let it reveal again what is most precious in our lives.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lessons We Can Learn From Water

Spiritography Day 6: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

Since approaching photography as a spiritual practice, I've learned to focus more on the process of it rather than on the final product. It has become a lesson in receiving rather than in taking. Instead of a trophy that is hunted, the image I receive is a gift.

Like meditation or contemplation, photography-as-receiving requires me to cultivate an attitude of receptivity. When I do, I open myself to surprise and mystery.

While it has taken time and deliberate effort, my lens for viewing is definitely changing.

On one of my contemplative walks, water became the subject, not as an object, but as a collaborator, even a co-creator. I spent some time contemplating different bodies of water to see what images I would receive and what messages would come through.

"Nature's Bridal Veil"
"Nature's Bridal Veil"
I've stopped by this waterfall many times, but on this day it arrested my attention because it reminded me of a beautifully flowing veil. It was a sweltering day. The waterfall invited me over, as if to say, "Come. Take refuge here. Let me cool you with my mist." Message: nature is our bride and we are her stewards. Only when we "marry" ourselves to nature will she reveal what's beneath her veil.

IMG_7706
"Little Dudh Kosi"
I call the photograph above "Little Dudh Kosi" which in Nepali means "Milk River" for the river that flows through the Everest region in Nepal. The milky water, here, flows from a hidden source within the bluff. Message: when we tap into the hidden resource within ourselves, abundance flows forth in our lives. We find ourselves living in the land of "milk and honey."

The photo below is deceiving. Looking at this makes me feel as if I'm in an M.C. Escher illustration. The angle makes it seem as if the flow of water is moving away from me, from left to right, down into a dark cavity. It's really flowing toward me, cascading down from the right toward the left and into the light. Message: life can be an illusion for those who are struggling with personal darkness.

"Illusion"
The photo below shows the interplay of stone and water, creating various ripples. Message: the current of life that exists in all things flows in a natural rhythm, and connects everything.

"Interconnectedness"
Fellow photographer and friend Mike Rothman experiments with light and water in his contemplative practice. What he calls "water drop photography" is an exploration into the nature and beauty of something many people take for granted. He uses the common element of water and the science of physics to create images that are not only aesthetic but comforting on a soul level. The photo below is a beautiful example of his work. Note the precision and the concentricity.

Photo by Mike Rothman
Here's another that leads the eye on a visual journey accented by pops of color (completely unretouched, no photoshopping). Who would have thought that water had such a colorful personality?

Photo by Mike Rothman
Of course, the message I receive may not be the message another receives, but that just goes to show how multi-dimensional the sacred is.

Collaborating with water has taught me a few things:

1. The act of living is the act of flowing. Water teaches us to be fluid, to flow, to move, to change, and to let go. If water is dammed up, it can't flow and will stagnate. If we resist flowing with life, we, too, grow stagnant.

2. Water is nature's reminder to relax and enjoy. It soothes us and produces a very relaxed state.

3. Like water, we can make waves and make change. We can also create storm surges and tsunamis, so we must take care that the waves we do make are not destructive.

4. Our body is approximately three-quarters water. The water that flows in the world is the same water that flows within us. Our bodies require it to live. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that our thoughts and emotions can change the molecular structure of water. This in turn affects our health and well-being.

Water is part of the rhythm of life. It teaches us how to live when we embrace its message. Let's respect and appreciate it and give gratitude for it's life-giving properties.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cultivate Your Sacred Vision

Spiritography Day 5: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

I've been spending a lot of time cultivating my capacity for spiritual sight through the medium of photography. While it has been a challenge, it has allowed me to slow down, contemplate, and linger over moments of beauty.

I used to take such an aggressive approach. I used my lens to hunt and capture, rather than open up to the moment and receive the image. Photography was a conquest rather than a contemplative act.

The challenge is to shift my physical eye from seeing the obvious to beholding the sacred within each moment with my heart's eye. My ability to see the world beneath the surface appearance of things is growing, but it takes time, patience, and practice. I'm learning to see with wonder, respect, and humility.

We don't realize how blind we have been until we begin a contemplative practice. Technology, speed, and the busyness of everyday life in Western culture fosters this habit of blindness. We forget that there is more beneath the surface of things because we are so used to using our sense of sight to quickly survey our surroundings and to scan over things.

I'd like to offer you the opportunity to cultivate your own spiritual vision.

It will require you to sit in a relaxed and comfortable position.

You may use the photographs I've supplied below as your point of focus, or you may choose an object from your everyday life. It could be anything that you use on a daily basis but often falls short of your full attention.

Take a deep breath and allow yourself about 10 or 15 minutes for this exercise. Do some deep breathing before you start. Then, when you are ready, begin with a soft gaze while releasing any inner judgments and projections as much as possible. The less the ego is involved, the more the sacred will reveal itself.

Let go of your expectations of what you think you will see and instead just be with it. Become intimate with it. Allow yourself to "receive" from it. Take notice of what this stirs within you. Let go of the need to analyze the experience. Enjoy the process.
"Fallen"
"Fallen"
"Anticipation"
"Anticipation"
IMG_7530
"Fledgling"
IMG_7161
"Looking Up"
IMG_7564
"Mess"
I would love to hear how the process went for you...feel free to post comments below.