Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Courage To Be

Day 23 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (21)

The ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism teaches the principle of Inner Nature.  In his book The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff writes:

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

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

We are different.

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

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

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

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

This is what happens when we choose to define who we are based on others expectations or definitions of who we are.  We live from the outside in, from the ego, because we want to please others.  We listen to Brain (ego), and the brains of others, rather than our Inner Self. pooh

Our Inner Nature, our Authentic Self, is our link to God. We cannot change who God made us to be.  But if we accept this, we can change the ways in which we are not living as our Authentic, True Self.  We begin living our lives from the inside out.  We can’t change our Inner Nature, nor can we change the Inner Nature of others. However, when we change our perspective, we see ourselves and others in a whole new light.

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

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

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

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

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

Sin Revisited

Day 22 of 29 Days of Spiritual Wellness. 29 Days Template (20)

The poet Kahlil Gibran has some interesting words to share with us:

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

Hmm.

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

We.  Are.  Still.  Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are not perfect.

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

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

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

We are.

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

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

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

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

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

Living The High Life

Day 21 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything we do becomes a sacred act.

Talk about living the high life.

A Toast To Presence

Day 20 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

We are either practicing the Presence of the Sacred or Its Absence.

29 Days Template (18)

There’s no middle ground.

How does this translate into daily life?

Ask yourself if you are content.

Are you?

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

We are only as happy as we want to be.

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

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

Because they are practicing Absence rather than Presence.

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

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

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

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

Practicing Presence is about taking responsibility for our own happiness. It’s not about seeking happiness; it’s about allowing ourselves to be happy. If we are to be happy, then we are to do things that make us happy.  If we do things that contribute to our unhappiness, then we will feel it going against the grain of our core, and we will remain unhappy unless we make the necessary changes, whatever they may be. champagne glass

Practicing Absence leaves a void to be filled. Without self-examination, we find ourselves filling this void with things that do not last. We may even try to numb the emptiness with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances or behaviors.

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

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

I’ll toast to that.

 

Living Your Truth

Day 19 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Journey to Jedi-hood

Day 18 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (16)

Today’s simple, yet powerful message comes from the blockbuster movie Star Wars, as young Luke Skywalker prepares himself for Jedi-hood.

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

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

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

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

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

Luke stands in his own way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

yoda

Courtesy Google Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Blame No Game

Day 17 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (15)

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

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

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

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

It is classic victim-mode thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Movies

Day 16 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages. 29 Days Template (14)

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

Let’s examine it:

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

Been there.  Done that.  No fun.

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

Talk about a living hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Stretch Your Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch Your Mouth

Day 14 of 29 Days of Spiritual Messages.

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

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

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

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

Incorrect speech is destructive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings.