Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Spiritual Discipline of Cultivating Joy

Reclusive author J. D. Salinger once said, “The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy is a liquid.”

Many people use the words happiness and joy interchangeably. While they are cousins, they are not identical; there is a difference.

There are many definitions for the word happiness; there doesn’t seem to be a consensus and so a true definition remains elusive. Nonetheless, we know it when we feel it, and we can say that it is a subjective experience of emotion that we choose to feel; it is marked by feelings of pleasure or satisfaction. It is aroused in us when something good happens, such as when we buy something for ourselves or when we get a promotion or a raise. This means that happiness comes and goes; it is fleeting. Probably the biggest distinguishing factor is that happiness is dependent on outward circumstances and sources. Happiness is about the self’s pleasure.

Like happiness, joy also eludes definition. But it is marked by something much deeper than happiness and by something much greater than ourselves. Joy is about the inner self; it is a soul-satisfying experience in which the ego is absent. It is marked by inward peace and contentment, even in the midst of trial and tribulation. Joy is constant, and with it comes a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life.

But this does not mean one is better than the other; they actually reinforce each other. They are the dynamic duo of positive emotions, working together for our highest good. But, while happiness is an emotion that is automatically felt (it is not a learned emotion), joy is to be cultivated.

So, how does one cultivate joy?

For starters, observe joyful people. Joyful people are often in good health. They are grateful and appreciative. They are generous, playful, and kind. They value relationships. They have a positive mindset. They have coping skills in place. They are creative. And they live their lives from the inside out, not the outside in. In other words, while they are appreciative of outside things, they are not dependent on such things; these things do not define them, or confine them. Instead, there is a fluidity to their lives that makes room for abundance in every area; magical experiences of synchronicity flow into their lives.

Cultivating joy is a spiritual discipline. Below are ways to nurture the joy within:

1.  Choose joy. Remember, we have the freedom of choice. We can choose our responses to situations and people. We can choose joy, or we can choose fear (joy’s opposite), anger, boredom, etc. Sure, we may face challenging times, but joy is still achievable if we believe it to be.

2.  See life as a gift. Life is temporary. Make the best of it. We don’t know when we will depart this life. We can either approach life passively, or we can be active participants by creating the reality we desire through our power of choice.

3.  Keep a gratitude journal/scrapbook. Write down five things for which you are thankful. Each day add to it. Do this for 30 days. Read your list as a meditation each day and give thanks.

4.  Get physical. Practice some kind of movement meditation. This can be yoga, tai chi, walking, etc. Regular physical exercise releases endorphins (“happy hormones”) that help to reduce stress and anxiety, the twins of negativity that lead to illness.

5.  Pay it forward. According to neuroscience studies, when we give to others, the pleasure and reward region of the brain lights up. Generosity stems from a place of love. In giving selflessly, people have reported feelings of euphoria and of increased energy. Psychologists call this “helper’s high,” in which endorphins are theoretically released. Whatever the case, people have said giving makes them feel good; they touch a place that’s deeply profound.

6.  Honor relationships. Make time for those whom we love. Forgive those who need forgiveness. These are acts of love that strengthen bonds.

7.  Release the past.  Learn from it, bless it, and then let it go. Our past does not define us.

8.  Maintain a positive attitude. Studies have shown that negative and positive emotions affect our physiology and psyche. Fear, anger, and sadness, the unholy trinity of negativity, can have devastating effects on our minds and bodies, leading to all kinds of ailments and illnesses. Joy and happiness, on the other hand, have the reverse effect.

We all have the choice to live in joy or in fear.  Joy and happiness carry high vibrations, and as a result, we feel lighter in our beings; we feel better about ourselves and about our places in the world, allowing for the continual flow of goodness and positivity. Joyful people lead happier, healthier lives, regardless of their circumstances. They have no need to rely on external sources; instead, they yield to an inner source, to that which is greater than themselves because they know this is where joy resides. Joy brings meaning and purpose to our lives, even during challenging times. Joy sustains us. By cultivating joy, we honor the sacred space within.

Sticking Your Neck Out: A Lesson From The Giraffe

I don’t know what it is about a giraffe that intrigues me.

At eighteen feet tall with a neck that spans seven feet, it towers well above other creatures. Despite its enormous height, the giraffe is graceful in its movements. Even when it has to stoop for a drink of water, it has to position itself carefully by angling its front legs. And when it gives birth, its calf drops nearly six feet to the ground.

One can’t help but be fascinated by such a unique animal.

There’s a deeper meaning behind its unique presence. With its neck being its most telling physical feature, one can’t walk away without the message of “sticking one’s neck out” in life — of taking risks and making connections that serve our personal and spiritual growth. As the giraffe reaches to nibble on the tops of trees, it reminds me to reach for things that others may see as unreachable.

I look at the giraffe, and I see it as a being which links the physical and the spiritual, with its feet planted firmly on the ground and its head high in the sky, where it can see much farther than others. It tells me to stay grounded and to see high above any of my problems. It reminds me to have vision and to move through life with grace and poise.

I don’t know what God had in mind when creating this strangely endearing being. One can’t help but smile at its whimsy. If we are to take a lesson from the giraffe, it is that we are beings of enormous potential; we are to stand tall, stay balanced, and to rise to any challenge. With God’s grace, we can and we will.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images (photographer unknown or not credited).

Facing Challenges

Challenges. We either love them, or we avoid them. Challenges push us to excel, to grow, to break through our self-imposed limitations so that we can be all that we are destined to be.

Some challenges are easy while others are difficult. And not everyone enjoys a good challenge; however, when we know that challenges are designed to bring about our highest good, we begin to view them differently. We see them in a more positive light.

Approaching challenges with a positive frame of mind allows for positive energy to rise and flow. Help materializes in ways we never expected. Things begin to work out. Our confidence builds. We feel lighter, happier, and empowered. The next time a challenge approaches, we face it head-on, knowing we will grow into a better person because of it.

Approaching challenges with a negative mindset allows for negative energy to rise and flow as well.  Complications arise. Things don’t work out as expected. Doubt creeps in. We get frustrated, short-tempered, and angry. We complain complain complain only to compound the situation until a dam of negativity builds, blocking anything from getting through. We stay stuck until we are forced to do something about it.

Challenges are the Universe’s way of saying, “Hey, you can do this! I believe in you!” It’s the Universe endorsing us, cheering us on to our higher selves.

Now that’s an endorsement we can live with because we know we will make it through.

You Happen Only Once

Osho said existence is so creative that it never repeats anything.

Wow.

There will never be anyone quite like you.

You happen only once.

You did not come off of the assembly line, nor are you a second-rate version of someone else. Unfortunately, too many people fail to see and embrace their own uniqueness. Instead, they compare themselves to others, or they copycat them, imitating their style or manner.

Copying someone else only shows you to be an imitation of that person.  Your individuality gets lost; worse yet, it dies.

I like being one of a kind.  Don’t you?

Celebrate your uniqueness. You are an expression of the Divine.

Jesus and The Law of Attraction

In the sacred text of the bible, the Gospel of Matthew 7:7-8 states: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” In Mark 11:24, Jesus states: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
In these verses, we see the roots of the Law of Attraction. And Jesus knew how the principles worked, even if he didn’t have the scientific knowledge we have today.
One must remember that Christianity did not exist in Jesus’s time, and it certainly didn’t exist in the form as we know it today. Instead he laid out a set of principles regarding the manifestation of one’s reality and desires. He had access to special knowledge that he claimed we could have as well, if we opened ourselves to it. The Law of Attraction was around long before Jesus or any other avatars or master teachers knew of its power. Jesus knew the Law of Attraction as God. And he knew it as a loving God, not the wrathful God of the Old Testament.
What can we glean from these powerful verses about the Law of Attraction?
1.  Have a clear vision of what you desire to manifest. When you pray, meditate, visualize, or concentrate, you are deliberately releasing energy into the Universe toward God, your Higher Power, the Infinite Intelligence, Source, etc. The emotion, or conviction, in your words/images sends out a vibration, or a frequency, like a radio signal that gets picked up. If in harmony with the Universe, those desires manifest.  Believing equals receiving. Whatever you desire, know (believe) that you have it. The Universe always provides.
2.  Have faith, not doubt. Faith, being the essence of things not seen, is a force of positive energy that releases whenever we pray, meditate, or visualize. Doubt is rooted in fear and will negate any of your efforts to manifest your desires. Having faith in God’s power/Universe/Source will bring about particular results as Jesus emphasized. Jesus never told people that his faith had healed or restored them, but rather that their own faith had made them whole. The power of their own minds was key. You become a magnet of energy once you establish an inner conviction that the law works.
3.  Take control. Jesus speaks in the imperative in these verses. He says, “Ask,” “Seek,” “Knock,” “Believe.”  In other words, you ask, you seek, you knock, you believe. You are in control of co-creating your reality with your Higher Source. These are not passive words; they are words of action. Jesus is telling us that when we act, God/Universe acts in accordance with our desires when we are aligned in harmony for the highest good.
Jesus served as a spiritual beacon. He lived in tune with his purpose for which he had been incarnated. He may not have known the Law of Attraction as the Law of Attraction, but he knew how it worked and he knew it as the power of God. Having faith and believing are acts of love and positive energy. He knew that having a clear vision coupled with faith and magnetized by prayer, thought, meditation, and/or visualization attracted results, and he came to teach us that we, too, have access to the same power that he did.

Love, Creation, and the Universe

When you love something — another person, a place, an animal, a thing, yourself — you are loving the Universe in that form.

Everything around us is worthy of love because everything was, and is, created out of love. At any given moment the Universe is expanding, meaning that it is continually birthing and rebirthing itself through us and through the things around us. It’s the energy of love that makes the Universe expand. This is the power of creation.

The Universe is truly magical.

Look around. There’s a whole lot of loving to be done.

Stop Limiting Yourself

Limitations are like curses. They only work when you believe in them.

When you limit your imagination, you limit all the possibilities that want to come your way. Ultimately, you limit yourself.

You get what you think about. If your dominant thoughts are of abundance, you will see abundance in your life. Likewise, if your dominant thoughts are of limitation and lack, you will see limitation and lack in your life. If you are predominantly thinking about things you desire, your life will reflect those things. If you are predominantly thinking about things you don’t want, your life experience will reflect those things. It’s a simple law. Like attracts like.

Refuse to limit yourself. Open up your mind; free your imagination. What you desire is waiting for you.

Greatness Awaits

You are the creator of your own reality. No one else is.

You are free to make your own choices. Allowing someone else to attempt to create your reality is slavery. What satisfaction is there in being enslaved? It is your birthright to create.

By intentionally guiding your own life, you live your life on YOUR terms.

So, how do you get there from where you are now?

Align (or realign) yourself with Source/God/Infinite Intelligence/Creator. This is a conscious decision on your part. When you open up your heart to Source and the Universal Laws, you agree to allow the life force to move in and through you freely to help you create your reality.

Understand that your current state of reality is a result of your thinking, not someone else’s. You created this reality because of the kinds of thoughts you have generated. Thoughts are energy, and they have either a positive charge or a negative charge. What you have in your life is the result of holding yourself in a vibrational pattern that matched the vibration of your desire. In other words, you are what you think. You attract what you think about the most. Your dominant thoughts get “picked up” by the universe (law of attraction); the universe then works in the mysterious ways that it does to manifest things into your life.  Imagine yourself as a radio transmitter, sending out signals. That’s when the universe tunes in.

The universe will always respond to you.  So, you must be aware of your thought process (are your thoughts negative or positive?).  You must also be aware of your feeling process.  The two must match to bring about desired results.  If they do not, then there is an imbalance that must be addressed.  For example, if you desire a loving relationship, yet you harbor a fear of rejection, you’ve negated that love because of your fear.  Love and fear cannot coexist in the same space.  Something needs to change.  In order to move forward, you would need to release those resistant thoughts (fears).  Feeling any kind of discord when you think about your desires only pushes those desires further away.

Consciously return to the knowledge that you are free. You’ve always been free and always will be. Examine any resistance within yourself. Release what is holding you back…release it in forgiveness and in love. You may need to make some changes in your life. Examine what is holding you back from realizing your authentic self. Many times this requires a shift in your thinking from one of fear to one of love, from one of negativity to one that is positive.  As you become aware of your thoughts and feelings, and as you realize your creative potential, you will be empowered to move forward in freedom.

 When you team up with the Universe, you will not be denied. Greatness awaits.

Balancing Act

I was balancing my checkbook this morning only to find that the numbers didn’t match.  Frustrating.  So I scrutinized my online banking statement and compared it to what I had logged in my checkbook.  I found some addition and subtraction errors and finally balanced the numbers, but it took some effort and time.  My frustration melted away.  Ahhh…

Then I got to thinking about living a balanced life.  You know when you are living a balanced life because you enjoy every moment, you have coping skills in place when challenges arise, you are happy without any reason, and you are your authentic self.  There’s nothing simpler than living a balanced life.
Some people may try to blame the world for the imbalances in their lives.  They feel overworked, fatigued, and stressed because of the demands of their careers, family obligations, and other responsibilities.  What these people fail to realize is that it’s not the world that causes imbalance; they are the cause of the imbalance themselves because they were the ones who agreed to the demands in the first place, consciously or not.  
How does one restore balance?
Living a balanced life will take some work.  Balancing your life is like trying to balance a checkbook when your numbers are off.  It takes scrutiny.  Every area of your life, every nook and cranny, needs to be analyzed.  Once you find where you can make changes, you’ll find yourself in the flow and you’ll discover ways to steer your life in your desired direction.  You will feel empowered.  
Here are some essentials to help you live a more balanced life:
1.  Admit that your life is imbalanced and realize where you need to make changes.  Take inventory of our life.  Where do you feel the most pressure happening?  Become aware of those stressors so that you can begin a plan of action to take care of yourself.
2.  Cultivate awareness and mindfulness.  This is the key to balanced living.  You begin to appreciate every moment of your life.  Being mindful means being in the present moment; it does not mean living in the past or the future, even though it’s important to plan for the future and to learn from the past. Remaining calm in the moment keeps you from making decisions you may regret in the future.
3.  Set boundaries.  Learn to say no.  Don’t take on more responsibilities than you already have.  Your goal is to lighten the load you’ve been carrying.  Being everything to everybody will leave nothing for yourself.  You’ll be of no help to anyone, not even yourself, if you do not take care of your needs.  
4.  Pay attention to your body.  Your body will tell you when it needs to recharge.  Your body is a gift.  Take care of it.  Eat proper nutrition.  Get plenty of exercise.  Rest when you need to rest.  Balanced living is not possible without a balanced body.  
5.  Simplify.  If your work schedule is a major contributor of stress, you may need to delegate some of your responsibilities.  If that doesn’t work, have a heart-to-heart with your employer to help you make the much-needed changes. You may have to change jobs if there is no other solution.  If certain relationships are stressful, you may have to end them and begin connecting with people of positive influence.  Reduce your social media exposure if you find yourself spending too much time online.  
6.  Turn on your creativity. Challenges are a part of life. Put your creativity to use when solving problems. Use your creativity to turn your dreams into reality.  Balanced people are in touch with their creativity.  
7.  Be patient with yourself.  Some things take time.  Track your progress along the way and reward yourself when you reach your goals.  Patience will help you to keep things in perspective.  A patient mind is a mindful one, and mindfulness leads to balance.  
Living a balanced life may take some time and effort, but the pay-off in the end is a life of happiness, joy, and peace.  It begins with choice.  If you truly desire a balanced life, you will do what is necessary, but it begins with you and no one else.  

Lemons or Lemonade?

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  So cliche, but true.

My A/C unit decided to die on what’s going to be one of the hottest days of the year. 97 degrees. It was already 81 degrees when I woke up this morning. The central air unit is running, but the fan is kaput. So, off with the whole system until service arrives…whenever that will be.

Some people would make a big deal out of this by bemoaning the situation only to add to the misery. I’m going to make an even bigger deal out of it. I’m taking this lemon and squeezing it to make some of the best lemonade possible.

I’m throwing a sprinkler party.

Yup.  Slip-and-slide included.

Rather than shift into a “woe is me” attitude, today is my opportunity to let out the kid in me.

When I was a kid, my generation created a brand of fun that is defunct today…like my A/C unit. Video games did not exist. The TV had maybe five channels in black and white with no remote. A computer?  What the heck was that? But we could turn anything into a playground. Graveyards for flashlight tag. Dirt mounds for King-of-the-Mountain. The backyard for camping adventures. The railroad tracks and woods for exploring. We saw opportunities everywhere and life was magical.

It’s time to create that magic today.

The sprinkler is set up. I found a roll of plastic in the shed. The beach towels are in a basket, ready to use.  Fresh fruit is chilling along with gallons of sweet tea. And friends are joining in. It’s a great day to be a kid again.  It’s a great day, period.

Now that’s what I call some good old fashioned lemonade.