Category Archives: spiritual advice

Brownie’s Point

While I was putting myself through college, I worked at a local diner where I met people from all walks of life.  Most people were congenial, except for one customer, an older man, whom the servers dubbed “the grouch.” And grouchy he was.  Plus intolerant, unforgiving, and a terrible tipper, if he tipped at all.  No one wanted to wait on him. He brought many a server to tears with his abrasive attitude and harsh comments.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. He hobbled in one evening and sat in my section. I heard the other servers snickering.  I took a deep breath and sauntered his way with a smile.  I offered him a menu and a hello which he disregarded.

“Gimme the meatloaf special,” he growled.

“Great,” I said.  “What would you like to drink?”

“If I wanted anything to drink, I woulda told you!” he snapped.  All heads in the restaurant turned our way.  His hostility stabbed me.  My first impulse was to launch an attack and conquer this angry, bitter man, but I had to heed our “customer is always right” policy if I wanted to keep my job.  I turned to storm away but stopped and returned to his table.  I could hear one of my co-workers behind the counter, “Don’t do it, Mac, don’t do it.” I stood, mustering up the courage to confront (and defeat) him.

“Why are you still here? Get outta here, and get me my damn food!”

I remained.

And then he looked up at me.  What I “saw” was a scared, sad, lonely, hurting soul.  It arrested me.

This is not about you.  He’s in pain.  The anger I felt lifted, and compassion rushed in to fill the void.  Without thinking, I sat down next to him, kissed him on the cheek, and whispered, “I don’t know you or what you’re going through, but you don’t have to be so mean.  I am not the enemy here.”  With those words, I kissed him on the cheek again, and walked away.

He left me a 100% tip that day.

From then on, Brownie refused to sit in anyone else’s section.  He still gave the other servers a hard time when I wasn’t there, and I’d lecture him about it the next time I saw him, but over time he softened. We grew to become friends over the next year or so, until his passing.

I’ve often thought about Brownie over the years.  I valued his wisdom and knowledge, especially as a struggling college student, trying to find her way in a world that seemed so confrontational and confounding.  Any time an event unfolded unfavorably, it was my habit to take it personally and to take it out on others, just as Brownie did.

I came face-to-face with myself the day I met Brownie.  His lashing out was not about me, yet on a deeper level it was. If I had attacked him, then I would have been attacking myself. I would have perpetuated unkindness.  And I probably would have lost my job.

Rather than approach things with a desire to conquer, I approach them now with curiosity.  Well, I try…I’m still a work in progress. Instead of a compulsion to take things (or people) down, I try the path of quiet exploration, of seeing things from another perspective.  I’m willing to pause and observe, to consider options and possibilities beyond that instinctual desire to attack.

I’d say that’s progress.

Thank you, Brownie.  Your lessons remain with me.

Living With Uncertainty

We can’t predict the future, try as we might.  We can certainly prepare for it, but there is no guarantee that things will work out exactly as planned.

For some, the path ahead is dark and scary; they hesitate to start and fear what could happen.  For others, it is a continually unfolding adventure; they are eager to see what happens next.

In either case, the element of uncertainty exists.  We can fear it, or embrace it.

Keep in mind that anything is possible.  Any outcome can materialize.  And know that there will be an outcome in one form or another.  That’s for sure.  It may be what you expected all along, or it may be something different altogether.  You. Just. Never. Know.  That’s the blessing (or curse, depending on your attitude) of mystery.

If the outcome doesn’t work out as intended, then learn from it.  Look for the lesson because there is one lurking in the mess.   Tell yourself, “Well, that didn’t work out.  Let’s try another way.”  Don’t judge it as “good” or “bad.”  Ask how you can turn it around to your advantage.

If the outcome works out as expected, or even better than expected, offer your gratitude, and stay humble as you prepare for the next phase of your journey.

Living with uncertainty can evoke many emotions, but it is not meant to discourage us.  It will push us to the edge of our comfort zone, and the only way we are going to find out what happens is to take action.

Is The Universe Trying To Tell You Something?

Do you ever feel like the Universe is trying to tell you something, but you don’t quite understand the message?

The Universe is constantly sending us hints, “speaking” to us about the directions we are to take in life.  To understand what the Universe is saying, we have to become more aware of its “language.”  Oftentimes, we don’t recognize the messages because the Universe speaks through experience.

There are many ways in which the Universe communicates with us.  It does not have any limits on how it will speak to us.  As we become more aware of our life experiences, we can begin to decode the messages sent our way.

To understand the Universe’s language, you must take the steps to learn it.  First and foremost, allow yourself to be open to receiving its messages.  If there is any apprehension, the Universe will take it that you are not ready.  As you cultivate your desire to hear from the Universe, the answers will begin to present themselves in many ways, but you must be willing to accept those answers, no matter how they show up.  You may receive your answers from a dream, from a friend’s advice or a stranger’s, or you may overhear a conversation related to your question. You may hear a song that speaks to your experience, see a message on a billboard or on someone’s tee-shirt, or you may see a TV show that contains the information you need…the possibilities are endless.

Start paying attention to what you are experiencing.  Make note of recurring experiences.  My rule of thumb is, if you hear or see something three times in a short period of time, act on it. These little synchronicities are the Divine’s way of saying that you are on the right track, or they are clues to help you better understand yourself, your growth, or your path. Sometimes the Universe will send messages repeatedly until we get them.  For example, maybe the presence of a particular animal keeps getting your attention.  Perhaps the Universe is trying to tell you to incorporate the traits of this animal into your life.  The symbolism and message can change depending on your individual connection or feeling toward the animal.  Follow your intuition on this.

Pay attention to your body.  The physical body can provide many messages about your emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  Of course illness occurs when our immunity is compromised, but could it be that your body is trying to communicate something deeper? Maybe that sore throat is the Universe trying to communicate something to you about your self-expression (are you angry with someone and want to tell that person but are afraid?).

Keep track of your dreams.  Dreams are very symbolic and unique to the individual, but focus on how the dream makes you feel to determine what the message might be.  Dreams are clues as to what is happening on the subconscious level.  Recurring dreams could mean that the Universe is trying to tell you about an unresolved issue that needs attention and resolution. Make note of the images, colors, and feelings you experience in each dream.

When the Universe sends messages, these messages are often symbols loaded with meaning, so it’s important to examine your connection to the symbol.  A spider to one person could stir up fear and loathing, but to another person it could mean making connections…again, trust your intuition as you develop your own dictionary of spiritual symbols.  You will know the “truth” of a symbol by the way it resonates with you. It’s truth will speak to you as an individual in a way which you understand and relate to on a deeper level.  You’ll just “know.”

As you fine tune your sensitivity to the Universe and its messages, signs, and symbols, you’re experience of life will only grow. Keep your eyes and ears open.  Stay in tune with your gut. The Universe uses signs to validate its presence in your life or as an intuitive nudge to prompt you to take action. As you cultivate your awareness, you’ll soon discover that the Universe has been communicating with you all along.

 

Please share your comments below.   I would love to hear about your experiences.

Searching For Your Spiritual Path? You’re Already On It.

In my last post, I wrote that spirituality is about our personal relationship with the energy of the Universe, whether you call it God, the Tao, Great Spirit, Physics, Law of Attraction, or Source. Trips to foreign lands or to a guru are not necessarily required to explore this relationship (unless that is supremely appealing to you).  Spirituality begins with us, where we are, in the moment. And it’s up to us to nurture this relationship in ways that encourage and promote our well-being and growth.  Of course, there are many ways to do this; it’s a matter of finding what resonates with you.

As we awaken to our spiritual nature, life takes on new meaning and things begin to happen in inexplicable, mysterious, even miraculous ways.  We begin to see things differently as our awareness expands beyond the trappings of our ego.  We come to “know” things that can not be quantified or fully explained.  There is a surety to this inner knowing that can not be shaken.  It’s the kind of surety that made martyrs out of some of Jesus’ followers.

Years ago when I traveled to Israel, I was baptized in the Jordan River, the same river in which Jesus was baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. No dove descended from the heavens. No voice announced, “This is Penny, in whom I am well-pleased.” I felt…nothing — even though others cried with happiness, raised their arms in praise, or were “slain in the spirit” as they convulsed on the ground. This experience didn’t resonate spiritually with me.

What did resonate with me was realizing that whatever spiritual path I was to follow, it wasn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s, and that was okay. I found immediate comfort, freedom, and relief in that realization.  I knew there was more, whatever that more was, and something deep inside was driving me to explore it.

The spiritual path, while accessible to all of us, is different for everyone. But, searching for you particular spiritual path is irrelevant because you are already walking it, being the spiritual being that you are. It may not seem spiritual to some, but that is because they may have a skewed perception of what spirituality is and what the path entails. Every action you take moves you forward on your particular path, even when it feels like you are going backwards.

What can you expect on the path? Each experience is unique to the individual. The lessons you learn on your path may not be the lessons I learn on mine, though we may share similar experiences.

There is no “normal” when it comes to spirituality; we have the freedom to believe and practice whatever we choose. As we awaken (return) to our natural state of spirituality, we release the need to judge other wisdom traditions and religions that exist today.  We realize that all are on the same journey; we’re just taking different roads to get there. There is no “right” or “wrong” way, and Spirit will call you to what is best for you. Spirit expresses Itself in unique and different ways, and you just happen to be one of those expressions. Trust the path that you are on because it is leading you to the highest expression of yourself.

From Underdog to Top Dog

Dysfunction.

It is everywhere.

You see it in families. In churches. In corporations. In government. In schools. In laws.

And anyone who dares to be different within these structures is bound to encounter resistance, ridicule, or resentment.

It takes an uncommon courage to break free. Sometimes it requires drastic measures, and not without conflict.

Think about some of the greatest spiritual leaders who have graced our planet.

They did not follow the crowds. Instead, they led them.

They saw the dysfunction of their times and they challenged it. They were willing to break ranks and shake up the status quo.

I always think of the biblical story of David and Goliath. David, a mere teen and shepherd boy, was sent to the battle lines by his father Jesse to bring back news of his brothers.

Instead of reporting the news, David made the news when he volunteered to fight the giant.

Armed with only a slingshot, a weapon he was skilled at using, and a pouch full of stones, David took down the seemingly invincible Philistine, setting his people free from tyranny.

When everyone else cowered in fear, David ran to the battle. He knew that action needed to be taken, despite the giant’s constant criticisms, discouraging insults, and fearful threats.

He went from underdog to top dog in an instant.

When we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations, we need to remember the unique skills that Spirit has placed in our hands to use. There’s a reason why we were blessed with those skills in the first place. Because through them, through you, Spirit works its miracles.

There will be times when we will be called to step out of the crowd.

When you hear this call, as Jennifer James says, “[t]hen you must act. If you never hear it, perhaps nothing is lost. If you hear it and ignore it, your life is lost.”

It’s your call. What will you do?

Spiritwork:

It is a proven fact: when we help others, we help ourselves. The world is overwhelmed by oppression of ideas, feelings, and people. Sometimes we become our own oppressors.

Today is the day to speak out for what you believe in. Speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. Break ranks by making the world a freer, more humane place to live.

Examine your core beliefs. Harness their energy to make a difference in your community. Start a club, volunteer, become an activist, and let Spirit take your skills to the next level.

Blessings.

Related Posts:

Read the introduction of 31 Days of Spiritual Growth here, and find links to all posts in this series.