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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.

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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.

Spreading The Love Through Liebster

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One of the rewards of blogging is meeting people from all walks of life from all over the world. I learn so much from them. I hear other points of view that I never would have considered. I see lands I’ve never visited. I witness the beauty of other cultures. And I get to connect with these wonderful people through the medium of writing. Writing is what brings us together. It’s a beautiful thing.

One of the things that bloggers do for other bloggers is nominate them for awards. It’s a way to help each other get the word out about their blogs. Today I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Mary Burris from Jingle Jangle Jungle, a wonderfully rich blog about music, artists, and the stories behind them (thank you, Mary!).

The word “liebster” is German in origin. It means “beloved,” or “dearest.” In researching the award, I have found that there is no real award. There are no judges and no special rules. However, with that said, the rewards are greater than an actual award because you create connections and relationships with some very talented people you never would have met otherwise.

There are some “rules” to follow should you accept this “award,” but from what I have read, they vary:

  • Link back to the blog from which you were nominated.
  • Answer ten questions about yourself.
  • Give ten new questions to your nominees.
  • Nominate between five and ten new bloggers (some say 5, some say 10…your choice).
  • Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.
  • Comment on this post when you are finished, so we can follow the trail.

When Mary nominated me, she listed 9 questions (that’s okay, Mary, I won’t hold that against you!). My answers are in bold.

1.  What is your blog about? I blog about all things spiritual. I believe life is filled with “spiritunities” — opportunities that advance our spiritual growth.  Through my blog, I guide others on their spiritual paths.

2. What is your inspiration for writing? Authentic living inspires me to write. 

3. If you could give one piece of advice to fellow bloggers, what would it be? Write from the heart so that your true voice is heard. Writing is an organic, sometimes messy but beautiful and rewarding process.

4. What is your favorite genre of music? My musical tastes are varied and change often. I can’t say that I have a favorite. If I had to choose a favorite, well, no, I really can’t; although, I bounce between jazz, blues, rock, and country.

5. What do you do in your spare time? Write. Write. Write. Exercise. Write. Read. Write some more. Cook. Hike. Write. Think. Ponder. Contemplate. Read. Not necessarily in that order. 

6. What’s in your cup? Wuyi Narcissus Oolong tea with a touch of sweet cream. 

7. What is your favorite color? Purple. Deep shades of purple. 

8. If you won the lottery today, what would you do with your winnings? I’d invest it in others. 

9. Share with us your social media connections:

I nominate (in no particular order):

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Nominees, here are ten questions for you:

1.  What is your favorite song to sing aloud, especially when no one is looking?

2.  Describe yourself in three (3) words.

3.  Who is your favorite fictional villain?

4.  What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

5.  Share your favorite inspirational quote.

6.  What is your favorite way to unwind?

7.  If you were a color, what color would you be…and why?

8.  If you could travel back in time, what year would you travel to?

9.  What trick do you use to break through writer’s block?

10. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to endure, and what did you learn?

Okay nominees, don’t forget to link back to this post in your post.  Answer the 10 questions I gave you, nominate 5 – 10 bloggers, give them 10 new questions, and come back and comment on this post when you’re done!  Congratulations!

For those I’ve nominated, please don’t feel pressured to pass this on. However, it certainly could brighten someone’s day if you choose to participate. Either way, thank you for your very inspiring and entertaining posts.

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.

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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?

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.

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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.

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?

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Cutting Cords

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

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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.

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?

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 you 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?