Chaos Transformed by Love

I look at the world today and see so much chaos. Fear seems to have taken deep root and manifested intense feelings that surface in disturbing ways. The air around us seems filled with worry, heart break and anger.

What can be done to help heal all of this?

For me, I realize I can not be at peace if I harbor animosity in my heart for another person. If I fail to see that we are one human family and that we are all made from the same love, then I am lost.

When I see the cruel and violent actions of others, I have to be able to distinguish between who they ‘appear’ to me to be and who they truly ‘are’. They are more than the show of their outward actions and beliefs.

Before I cast a stone in their direction, I have to force myself to realize they are no more who they ‘appear’ to be than I am. Beneath our surfaces, we are all a part of the one. All made from the same source of love.

What I am saying goes far beyond ‘acceptance’. If I am to help in the worlds healing in any way, I have to be able to live from a center of love. I have to embrace all of my own weaknesses and my wholeness.

None of this is about condoning the behaviors or beliefs of others that arose from their fear and hatred. Rather, it is looking beyond and seeing that all of their actions come from their separation from the truth. The truth of who they really are, beloved of (god).

If I want to experience more feelings of separation and dissonance in my life, the surest way is to believe myself separate from them or superior to them. I benefit from realizing that I have no idea what their lives have been like and what stories they’ve been told and come to believe about themselves and the world.

If I want to help heal the world, I know that I have to start with myself. And so, I ask for a shift in my focus and that I seek a sense of clarity. I ask to have my heart opened fully, so that I can understand the difficult paths others have chosen. I have to suspend my judgment and I have to listen carefully. And, as best as I can, I have to see the world through their eyes.

My task is to see and feel with a loving undivided heart, knowing I am part of the wholeness and the holiness, and see all others as the same. If I live with this kind of heart, I can be in the world, but not of the world.

For there to be any peace inside of me, the depth of my love has to be deeper than the depth of another’s fear. I need to see beyond their misperceptions and find something within them I can hold inside of me. I have to breathe into stillness, letting go of my fear, until I find my loving heart and some part of the truth that can serve as a guide toward understanding and peace.

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Random Image

Do you ever have ideas just pop into your mind, completely unaware of their origin or reason for coming to you? I do. In fact, it happens pretty often.

When this first began, I didn’t pay much attention to when ideas arrived. I thought to myself, ‘oh, that’s interesting…but, I’ve got stuff to do’, disregarding them, only to have the ideas return later.

Believing myself to be someone who respects both intuition and inspiration, I’ve learned now to slow down long enough to take the idea inside and let it sit with me. This is definitely an acquired skill, but offers such value to me and to anyone who chooses it.

So, when my latest idea arrived, I leaned back, breathed into it a bit and let it have its way with me. Here’s what it said:

‘Why don’t you create a post from a random image.’ A statement, not a question.

I responded that I needed more information than that to take any action and was given this:

‘Go to your website, click on the POST button, click on the IMAGE button, see what comes up and SELECT a picture that speaks to you, then write a post about it.’

‘Oh sure’, I thought, ‘simple.’

I confess, I tabled the idea and went on about my business.

Over the next week or so the idea reappeared, sort of like someone knocking at your door, leaving and coming back and knocking again. I knew I would give in.


‘Okay,’ I said, ‘Stop already, I’ll do it!’

At the beginning of this post is the image that spoke to me.

It’s beautiful and very intriguing to me. How is that the tree is growing in the middle of this gorgeous body of water? I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. I also loved the subtlety of the colors and the mix of purple and orange as it spreads across the picture.

I looked closely at the image. I don’t think it’s photo-shopped, but again I wondered, how is it possible for the tree to be there?

I let my mind wander. I let my heart go with it to see what my mind would pick up on. I wondered if the ‘idea’ that started this all directed me to this specific image. Was that possible?

And, I wondered too, what has this all to do with inspiration?

As it turns out, quite a bit, I believe.

This whole exercise is about inspiration. It’s about thoughts and feelings appearing inside me with no obvious cause or reason. They just show up and it’s up to me to recognize them and to learn from them and appreciate them. To invite them to sit down with me, like I would if a friend called me up to have a chat.

If we truly pay keen attention to our lives, I believe it is always like this. Invisible, intangible, delightful inspirations come into our day. We have the chance to work with them and see where they will take us. The question I feel it’s important for me to ask myself is, ‘will I invite them in?’

Once I’ve decided to open myself up, it becomes magical, mysterious and memorable. I can’t explain from where, or how the ideas come. Or, why they chose me. And I can’t explain about the tree in the middle of this water. The thing is, it all inspires me. It’s beautiful and wonderful.

And I sit back…thankful for inspirations.

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One Good Thing and One Bad Thing

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you may think you know where I’m going with this title. Perhaps you believe I’m going to ask you to embrace the ‘good things’ and release the ‘bad things’ in your life.

Nope, not this time.

Instead, I’d like to make a case for something else.

I’d like to suggest that we find ways to learn from both the good things and bad things in our lives. I believe we’d be best served by looking for the enormous values inherent in each, far beyond what we might imagine exists.

But first, a few thoughts about the usage of the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I think they’re problematic, mostly because they depend on the situation.

For example, salt. For some situations it is an absolute necessity, while in others it contributes to high blood pressure, which can in excess, be fatal. And what about water or fire. Both good and bad.

I think the concept extends to other areas as well. Compassion, when given, offers support, hope and love. When compassion turns to enabling it can hurt the giver and receiver and make the situation even worse.

So, maybe it’s best to accept that it is our choice how we interpret good and bad that sets the stage and realize that it is more about what happens next, once we’ve decided which category something falls into.

I’d like to ask you to do something. Grab a piece of paper and pen then sit quietly and allow your mind to drift a little and see what comes to you when you ask yourself to name one good thing and one bad thing from your life. It can be something that just happened or something that stands out from some other time in your life.

I’ll pause while you consider.

Okay, hopefully you’ve decided.

Here’s what comes next.

Write down what you chose for a good thing, skip a few lines and write down what you choose for a bad thing. Then, choose one to focus on first.

Let’s say you picked the bad thing. In the space you left open, write down your reasons for why you chose to view it as a bad thing. Now, look deeper into it and see if any good also came out of it. Then, repeat the process with the good thing.

I’ll share my example to help illustrate.

My car heater fan stopped working one day this week. Here’s why this seemed like a bad thing. It’s January in the northeast US and very cold to drive without heat in your car. Also, it’s inconvenient to get my car to the shop since I still have places I need to go. There’s also the matter of the potential expense.

What I ended up writing down after considering what took place is this; my wife and I were able to fairly easily work around the inconvenience, the heater fan actually began working again (still took it in to have it checked out) and the cost for repairs was only $46.56. Plus, my mechanic was able to thoroughly check out my elderly car and tell me I could keep it for several more years without concern (which is great news for me- I don’t have to buy a new car!)

It turns out that examining the actual outcomes presents a much clearer picture of reality than paying attention only to my initial fears.

For my good thing, here’s what happened.

I received some very positive feedback on my book, talking with (god) which I really enjoyed. After glowing for a while, I realized that I haven’t actively pursued my marketing plan to share the book with the world. This made me sad and a little frustrated with myself.

These bad feelings inspired me to think deeper, to brainstorm directions I could take and eventually to decide that what I really want to do is to donate copies to places where folks really need a sense of love and hope (prisons, half-way houses, domestic abuse centers, shelters, hospitals).

Allowing yourself to look beyond your initial concerns and fears and view each situation from different directions may provide you with wonderful new insights. I hope it does.

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Take A Chance

How does inspiration actually work? I think it’s a good question.

When you name a website ‘messagesforinspiration’ like I did, you really probably ought to know. When it comes down to it, everyone has to decide for themselves, but I thought I’d give you my answer.

I believe that all inspirations start with an idea. It can be any idea, but the ones I favor are meant to open a door or a window for you. Maybe it opens only a crack, but still it represents something new or perhaps something that you haven’t tried in a while.

I think that the ideas can come from anywhere. They can be very simple or seemingly complex, but they have to capture some part of your imagination and offer some hope for a positive change in your life.

My aim is to provide thoughts and ideas which may intrigue you or prompt you to accept a challenge or embrace an opportunity.

So, for today, here’s one for you.

Take a chance.

I don’t mean being cavalier about your choices in life or doing anything dangerous. But, I do believe that we can become so set in our routines that we rarely look outside the box. And, there is a lot outside the box!

I’m suggesting that you take a chance about one thing and see what happens.

What fascinates me most when I take a chance, is the revelation of how everything is connected. On the face of it, things seem separate, but if I look carefully, I realize they link together. And, if I really, really look carefully, they link both forward and backward.

It’s always helped me to have examples, so I’d like to share one with you from my life to illustrate what I’m saying.

Many years ago, Maureen and I were visiting Asheville, North Carolina and were shopping in its quaint downtown area. We ended up in a local bookstore and I was attracted to the display of local writers. One of the books had a beautifully hand drawn picture on the cover. I picked it up and began reading. As I turned the pages, the author (and illustrator) recounted the first leg of his journey on the Appalachian Trail. I fell in love with the idea of vicariously walking the trail with him, especially since the idea had always appealed to me. I bought the book and told myself to read the daily entries and not rush ahead. It was a fabulous experience.

I wanted to let the author know how much his book meant to me, so I researched him and found his home address in Asheville and decided to ‘take a chance’ and write to him to express my appreciation. Along with my note I decided to offer him a gift copy of my first Little Buddha book, as an additional thank you. I mentioned to him that I didn’t expect any reply, but would certainly be happy to receive one.

Several weeks later his reply arrived. He was thrilled that I’d bought and read his book, honored that I would share mine with him and wanted to stay in touch, which we did.

A few years later, he began his fourth and final section of the trail which put him within 50 miles of my home. He called and relayed that he’d miscalculated his food supplies and wondered if I’d be able to help him out. I met him just off the trail where it crossed Route 20 in Massachusetts. I bought him a hot breakfast from McDonalds plus gave him a lunch and dinner I’d made, so he could make it to his next food restocking location.

Fast forward a few more years.

If you’ve checked out the BOOKS page on this website you’ll notice the first book mentioned. It’s titled, talking with (god). I encourage you to look carefully at the cover. It’s magnificent  and so beautifully draw. Guess who drew it, as well as the rest of the incredible illustrations inside? You got it, my friend, the Appalachian Trail hiker, Mike ‘Sketch’ Wurman.

I am so profoundly glad that I took a chance and wrote to him. Thank you, my friend for being in my life.

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Fun

What are you aiming for this year?

Are you unsure or do you have some thoughts about it already?

Here’s a suggestion you might not have considered. How about including fun in your life? I mean an ‘on purpose’ kind of fun, rather than hoping fun arrives when you need it.

If you’re game, grab a pencil or pen or even better, a crayon. The color doesn’t matter, whatever is handy will do. Oh, and a piece of paper, notebook, journal, or as my dad always used to do, reach for an old envelope.

Now, this is very important. This is an exercise of speed. You may find it works best if you write down exactly what comes to your mind immediately. The things that are sitting inside you and close to the surface are probably the ones you need the most.

You can always dive deeper once you’ve captured the quick and easy stuff.

Ok, here goes. Write down everything that comes to you that sounds like fun. Remember, it doesn’t have to be practical, reasonable or affordable. Stop now and just write.

I’m going to assume you wrote some things. I hope so.

Are you pleased with your list? If not, you can have a do-over whenever you want and as many times as you want.

Here’s another idea. Wouldn’t it be fun to see what other people wrote down on their lists? To me, this offers several opportunities for joy. One, you may want to borrow a couple of items from their list. Two, you may want to get together with them and do some of the items that appeal to both of you. Three, if you expand this to more folks, you may be able to do some fun things in a group.

As with all ventures, it is up to you to decide.

Just in case you’re interested, I’m going to share some of my list with you and maybe plant a few seeds:

Zoom with our Game Group friends, paint some rocks and put them around town, do art projects with my grandchildren, go for a drive with Maureen, put together some Legos, create a Zentangle heart and get it made into stickers, read a good book, make another tie-dye shirt, play cards, watch some shows we like, listen to music, email and text some friends to catch up, have conversations with Lia, and dream about when the weather is warm enough to be in water outdoors (any water really; a brook, stream, pond, lake, ocean, pool, even a puddle will do).

Earlier in my life I thought that intellectual aims were the most important things and that fun just filled in the gaps. But life can become serious and when it does, fun can become lost in the mad shuffle and get squeezed out.

That’s when my alter-ego has to appear. Inside me, there is a perennial four-year-old just waiting to be in charge. His job is to say, ‘enough work, it’s play time’. This is easiest to pull off when the grandchildren are around, but I’m getting to be pretty good at when I’m solo.

I hope you get good at it too.

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New Year Love

I wonder what you want from this life. If you were given a notebook or a journal or a clean slate, what would you write on it?

Here’s a choice…you can stop reading this post for a few minutes and write down the first things that come to you or you can keep reading and perhaps, if you’re interested, do this later (although I may spoil it a little with the rest of this post).

This isn’t the typical New Year’s resolutions, nor a list of challenging items to attempt to accomplish. Rather, it’s a wish list of the experiences you most want to have this time around.

Now, what would happen if I asked you to narrow your list down to only one thing. Would that be difficult for you?

I think it is often the case that we have so many options it becomes challenging to sort through them and choose only the ones that we think will make us happy.

Years ago, Maureen and I were in San Diego and went to brunch at the Hotel Del Coronado. It was incredible. I think they boasted that they had over 130 selections to choose from. It was overwhelming and almost everything looked delicious. I seriously doubt whether anyone left there without a massive stomach ache. They should have handed out Tums as folks walked out the door.

That’s how it can be when we’re given too many choices. Often, we want more things than we can manage. That’s my reason for asking you to narrow your list to only one item. To gain some clarity and focus.

I want to share with you what I chose.

I want to feel loved and that it makes a difference that I’m here on this earth.

I am profoundly grateful that there are those in my life who tell me that they love me and that I make a difference in their lives.

But sometimes, I only hear long after the fact that what I did or said, reached someone. I long to be a part of others’ lives, connecting deeply them. I want them to know that I love them.

From time to time, there is an aloneness that comes to join me. When this happens, it is hard to feel others love for me.

In one of those moments I asked Lia (a feminine part of god I know as Love In Action) about this and was surprised by her answer.

She said, “YOU are always free to do this…to offer love to yourself and to others. And you can always talk with me and I will tell you the truth…you are made from pure love.  You needn’t be troubled by your own misperception that you are anything else but love. The truth remains the truth, that you and I are ONE. One pure love.”

I don’t know about you, but for some reason it’s hard for me to tell myself that I love me. It’s only on my wisest days, that I can hold still, take a calming breathe and tell myself that I love me and that I know it matters that I’m here. That I have a purpose and a mission.

Lia offers this reminder, “It is the same for every one of you. You all want to know and feel love. I ask that you believe me, that you are love.”

My hope for you, heading into this new year, is that you know love and feel loved. It’s truly the reason why I write these posts.

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Play-Doh

Play-Doh, what a delightful material. Talk about fun!

I hope that everyone reading this post has had an opportunity to create with this soft, colorful, mold-able compound. If not, I strongly suggest you buy a few containers and discover the joy for yourself. You can buy small plastic cans for fifty cent a piece. It’s an incredible deal when you think about it. Of course, there’s no price tag for pure joy.

I remember playing with it as a child. And, it just so happens that it was marketed in the mid 1950’s, so Play-Doh and I grew up together. I loved it from the start, even though the selection was pretty basic, unlike today’s explosion of colors.

Not only was it fun to mold, it smelled great too. I couldn’t wait to open the container and get that first whiff…mmmm. And I confess, yes, I’ve eaten my share. Not whole cans mind you, but a nibble here and there. It’s very salty, in case you wanted to know.

To me, the ideal is to enjoy Play-Doh with children. Watching them is a magical experience. It’s also an opportunity to learn about the world.

Think about it for a minute.

You open up a few containers, take out the dough and then what?

Here’s what…you create something out of nothing. Of course, you can copy something you’ve seen but you can also allow your imagination to run wild. It’s all up to you.

What a divine experience, to be a creator. Free of any rules or restrictions. Well, maybe one restriction. Don’t let it fall on the floor and get mashed into the rug. It’s super hard to get out and homeowners are funny about things like that, unless it’s your home and you don’t care, then you’re free again.

I wonder.

Is our life like play-doh? Is it fully moldable? Is it a little bit salty and a little bit sweet? And, are we truly the creators of our own experiences here?

To me, a lot rides on our answers to these simple questions.

What’s really at stake here?

When I watch children create with play-doh, they fully engage in the experience. They often choose lots of colors, so their creation is more beautiful. They aren’t afraid to mix and match and smash and start over again. They walk away for a snack, then come back. They talk about their life, or at least bits and pieces of it and some of their energy gets infused into what they create. They seem to understand that joy is a part of the process, not only the end result.

Every one of these things inspires me to see my life from a different angle. I don’t always have to be in a rush. I can enjoy the moment. I can explore. I can release pursuing life as a goal. I can open to an inner freedom. And I can know a truth, that it’s okay to start over, because there’s always more play-doh.

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Calming the Inner Voice

Is it quiet inside your mind?

You know the answer. Sometimes you may not like the answer, but you surely know it.

What I hear, when speaking with friends, is that quite often there is a lot of background noise. A sort of low-level incessant chatter which makes it hard to concentrate. And sometimes it’s not one voice but many, each clamoring for attention.

For me, I hear a kind of general chatter, but there are times I hear some very distinct voices. I swear there is a whiny two-year-old that shows up, especially when there is something I want, and he tries to take over everything, so that he can get his own way.

Some days the noise inside my head feels like I’ve turned on my TV set and EVERY channel has come on at once. I try to tune them out, but it’s nearly impossible.

Perhaps this or something like it happens to you too.

When our children, Jenny and Tommy, were growing up, they would often have multiple electronic devices on while studying. It amazed me that they were able to concentrate and get anything done. When I asked them about it, they kind of shrugged and went on about their business, like it was no big deal.

For me, it is a big deal. I find that I need quiet to focus and concentrate.

And then there is an associated issue that enters the mix.

I believe that one of my voices is responsible for loading programs into my mind, so that for every situation there is a ready-made response. It’s a kind of auto-pilot setting.

I understand this is for my convenience. After all, who would want to have to think about every step necessary to accomplish a task each time they did it?

The down side seems to be that not every situation is identical. There are nuances to be considered and it might be the case that new answers are required.

So, what to do about the noise level and the automatic responses, which might not be suitable?

I’ve been fortunate to have had many great teachers in my life. That is not to say that I liked them all. I didn’t. Some of them were very unpleasant, but they offered me valuable lessons, quite often I feel without intending to.

One teaching was the wisdom of letting go.

I believe that we each have a natural center of balance inside of us. If we are being pushed away from our center by loud inner (or outer) voices or, because we are listening too intently to our auto-pilot, we tend to know it. There is a huge pay-off for recognizing this and then taking immediate action.

Here’s an example.

Imagine that you’ve been listening to the news on the car radio. Its stressing you out. And then, when you get home and come inside, you turn on the TV or decide to check out Facebook to see what’s happening. When you do, you realize it’s more of the same, which increases your stress level. This picture can seem very familiar, as if you’ve experienced this before. Hmm, it appears your auto-pilot may be engaged.

The lesson of letting go starts with recognizing how you feel. The moment you detect stress is the ideal time to stop, to consciously slow your breathing and then ask yourself, ‘what am I feeling’?

Being honest and paying close attention and naming your feeling(s) allows you time to return to your natural center of balance. From here, you can acknowledge the way you feel and then consciously choose what to do next (disengaging your auto-pilot).

All decisions are open to you. You may sense an answer or direction, or you may decide to talk with a trusted friend or counselor. You may even choose to speak with (god). Or you may decide to simply be kind to yourself and release whatever feelings you are experiencing.

I hope for calmness for you.

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Bob’s Your Uncle and World Peace

There are so many interesting expressions used in our language. I wonder, have you heard this one, ‘And Bob’s Your Uncle’?

Although I’ve heard it many times, I didn’t know where it came from, so I decided to look it up. The most popular explanation is that Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (yes, Uncle Bob), the 20th Prime Minister of England, became famous for appointing his favorite nephew, Arthur Balfour, to several political posts in the 1880’s. Despite Arthur not having a great deal of talent, Uncle Bob wanted him to become successful, so always tried to ensure his placement in important roles.

The practice became known so widely that a phrase emerged. Today, it has come to mean, ‘and there it is’ or ‘and there you have it’. Typically, folks say it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached.

No doubt the context allows for a great deal of flexibility. One and one equals two and Bob’s your uncle. Or, you put thousands of pieces together in an orderly fashion and you can send a rocket to the moon, and Bob’s your uncle.

What does this have to do with world peace?

Actually, a lot, in my opinion. A long shot you say?

Here’s why I feel the way I do.

What do you suppose is the reason why world peace does not already exist?

You probably have an opinion about this and since there are likely many, many reasons, you’re probably correct.

It seems to me that when folks set out to solve this problem, they search for the reasons why it exists. I understand this approach, but I’ve never found it particularly effective in solving challenges. It becomes a rather large rabbit hole to fall into, having to know ‘why’ before taking corrective steps.

What makes more sense to me is to find a way forward, rather than looking backward for answers.

Enter, Bob. What did he care about? I don’t know if he was married or had children of his own, but he did have at least one nephew. Family. He cared about his nephew and his success.

Let’s suppose that you and I could survey every person on earth and ask them what was important to them. What do you imagine they would respond?

I believe one answer would be…family. No matter what their circumstances were, whether they lived in relative peace or inside of a fierce war, I believe they love their children and would want them to be healthy and safe. And, they’d want them to have a chance at a good life, just like Bob wanted for his nephew.

What if folks everywhere were able to sit down at a table and talk about their children and their hopes and dreams for them? And, what if they were able to agree that this was what was the most important thing in life? What if their children’s futures were more important than religious ideologies, territorial boundaries or commercial success?

What if, in sharing our love for our children, we discovered we could look beyond our differences and see our sameness?

I believe that’s when things would change. I believe that’s the pathway to ‘world peace’, if there is one.

Since there can not be peace in the world until there is peace inside of me, I’m going to try to take every opportunity to focus on how to make the world the best possible place for my children and grandchildren…and Bob’s your uncle.

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Failure IS an option

Some people say, “failure is not an option”.

Most times I think what they mean is that they can’t or don’t want to accept the result of what they perceive as a failure. They have in mind certain acceptable outcomes and no deviation can be tolerated.

I’ve been there. It’s not a great place to spend any time. Having your back against the wall with nowhere to go is hard.

But having an unrealistic expectation that you are never going to fail is even harder.

We’ve each been taught about the meaning of failure, whether directly or indirectly. I wonder, were you taught that failure was an enemy or a teacher? It makes a really big difference in how we see the world and our place in it.

And, what about success? Is success the opposite of failure? Do we listen to our inside voice or are we swayed by the opinions of others?

How do we define each of these words? And based on our definitions, how is our world altered?

And then there is this. Have I gained more from success or failure?

These all strike me as worthwhile questions to ask. For me, it’s been a valuable struggle to come to some conclusions. I’d like to share a few thoughts, in case you are struggling too.

When I was in high school I was an okay student and I thought my Math skills were decent and yet I failed one year. I had to go to summer school, which I certainly didn’t prefer. But I connected with the teacher, really learned the subject and was prepared for the next year. A real failure?

Fast forward a few years. I am staring downhill from the top of a black diamond ski trail. In case you’re not familiar with skiing, this is a trail for experts, which I was not. I thought to myself, I can do this, so down I went. Quite literally in fact. This one short trail produced all of my most epic wipe-outs. I mean spectacular, snow flying everywhere, unqualified disasters. Definitely a failure?

One more. My son, Tommy and I spent a weekend in the Adirondacks with the intention to hike one of the peaks called Three Brothers. We started pretty early in the morning and made our way up through blankets of rain and shrouds of mist. It was richly enjoyable spending time together. The hike though seemed like it took forever. Finally, we thought we’d made the summit, only to find a couple coming at us from what we learned was a higher elevation. We conferred with them. They took us a bit further up a trail and pointed to the distance. There was still much more to go to reach the peak. While I’m positive Tommy could have made it, I couldn’t. I’d have to content myself with having hiked up Two and a Half Brothers. For sure a failure, right?

Here’s what’s come to me.

Failure is inevitable, if what you mean by failure is not achieving a specific defined goal. If you open up failure and see it as a sacred teacher, you’ll see something valuable show up in your life. If you ask yourself what have I gained from this experience, you’ll encourage some extraordinary truths to surface.

I found a teacher who cared about me.

I created a sense of admiration for myself for trying something I suspected was beyond my limits.

And, I learned it’s not just about the destination or the summit. A truth was revealed to me that life is a beautiful journey, lived one step at a time.

I hope failure reveals truths to you too.

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Exercise One- Seeing Beneath the Surface

An idea came to me that it might be fun to include exercises that readers could choose to do as part of this adventure. So, I thought that maybe after every twenty posts, I’d offer you one.

I hope you like the idea.

Here’s how the first exercise goes. You can use any size paper you like. A standard notebook page will work well. Begin by turning your paper so it goes lengthwise and make five columns, labeling them as follows; Concern, Reason, Reaction, Deeper Reason, Benefit(s).

Let me explain and then share an example to get you started. I find this exercise rewarding and have made positive shifts as a result of spending some time with it.

In the first column you write down some issue or concern that is troublesome for you. This may only take a few words, but write whatever you need to define the issue.

The second column identifies the reason or reasons why the issue concerns you. You may need to list several reasons or it may be as simple as one.

In the reaction column, write down how you respond to the issue. Consider your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual reactions.

Column four is an opportunity to go deeper and explore what might be beneath the reasons you initially identified. This is often where the shifts begin, so give yourself a little extra time with this one.

Hopefully you find there are benefits that arrive from this exercise and you can note them in column five. A great focus here is to allow yourself to see what positive outcomes are created by shifting your perspective.

So, that’s the set up. Now for the example.

Although I’d like to think of myself as a pretty tolerant individual, I have to admit that when I’m driving, there are lots of things other drivers do that bother me.

So, my column one lists…slow drivers.

In order to better understand myself and find a way to deal with this ongoing problem, I have to ask myself, why does this bother me?

My answer for column two is…because it wastes my time and keeps me from getting places when I expect to get there.

And my reactions in column three are…a great deal of sighing, inner irritation, drumming on the steering wheel and maybe some inappropriate language.

There has been a great deal of predictability to this. Certainly, more than I would like. That’s why the next step is so important to me. It’s where you get a chance to open up and ask to receive clarity. For some, the asking will be internal, while others will open to the divine for support and guidance.

For me in this case, I asked Lia (the part of god that appears as the divine feminine, also known to me as Love In Action, or simply Lia).

I sat still, slowed my breathing, calmed my mind and asked Lia for help to see beneath the surface.

Here’s what appeared in column four…what came was an image I recognized immediately. It was a car accident I was in. I was sitting waiting for the traffic light to turn green and was rear-ended by a pickup truck traveling 30 mph. It never slowed down and hit me so hard it shoved me through the entire intersection.

Wow, I knew this meant something big.

Enter column five. What was the benefit in seeing this image that lived beneath the surface…I realized that when I’m in my car and on my way somewhere, I’m impatient to get there because, without consciously knowing it, I’m afraid. I want a smooth ride with no interruptions. I don’t want anyone slowing me down and preventing me from getting to where I’m going. And, I don’t want to be in another accident. I want to be safe.

The benefit of seeing at this depth is that I can modify my behavior and reactions. When I get in the car I can tell myself to relax, take my time, enjoy the scenery, be patient, and realize I am loved and cared for.

Sometimes it takes a while before I can see beneath the surface, but, I’ve found it is always time well spent.

I’d love to hear what happens for you, if you decide to try this.

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Try Outs

As I grew up there seemed to be quite a few different opportunities to ‘tryout’ for things. Whether it was for a sports team, a musical group, a play or something else I might have been interested in.

One theme seemed pretty common to them all. They each created some uncertainty inside of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be any good at what I was trying out for. I wasn’t sure I’d get picked and what it would mean to me if I didn’t.

I might be terrible and embarrass myself. I couldn’t know for sure if I’d be welcomed and, I didn’t know in advance, if I’d stay with it or perhaps find, it wasn’t for me. Would I be allowed to quit, if I didn’t like it?

You may have experienced some of these same thoughts.

The fact is we’re always trying new things, sometimes because we want to and other times because we have to. If we’re sick, we have to try new medications. If our car dies, we have to find a new one. If we lose our job or give it up, we have to search for another. The list of new things we have to try or tryout for is considerable.

Interestingly, I rarely assumed that all would go well, that I would like what I tried out for or that I would be good, perhaps even great at it, or that it would bring me joy.

I wonder about that now. How much time did I spend thinking about the potential downsides? I believe the answer is, quite a bit.

And, I think I brought that attitude with me for much of my life. It sat on my shoulder during the college admission process and job interviews and some major life decisions.

I place no blame here. I realize we all absorb ideas and attitudes from our cultures. It’s pretty much a given.

Then one day something changed. I began to ask myself what was really true. Instead of allowing my standard responses to continue to guide me, I challenged everything. I became something of a rebel.

I shifted.

I opened to new possibilities. I started asking myself, what if I absolutely love this new thing? What if I change my idea of ‘success’, making it more about enjoyment than accomplishment? What if I learned to treasure the adventure and release my attitude that it has to lead to something tangible?

I began to embrace the idea that this life is mine. I get to decide what it means and what direction it takes. I get to choose which attitude to accept.

I found that I could let go of my tendency to believe I had to prove myself to others and recognize it is more important what I think and believe about myself. I am the one leading this life. I am the one with hopes and dreams.

I am not trying out for this life. I am this life.

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More Forgiveness

Perhaps you’ve witnessed the same thing I have.

At times I’ve seen a wonderful relationship between two people come apart at the seams. The glue suddenly melts away, because of something said or left unsaid. Hearts become hardened and everyone loses something important. And always, there is a loss of the connection to love.

In 1990, I wrote a series of stories which became my first book. The title of the book is, Witness of the Heart, and it’s very precious to me. It’s the first experience I had where I felt (god) was writing with me. And, writing it was my way of speaking what felt like the truth to me and of saying what my heart yearned to tell others. Doing this released something that was wrapped up inside me. It was incredibly liberating.

Once the story was down on paper, everyone else could make up their own mind about its value. But, at least it was there.

Here is the story that came to me about the experience of forgiveness.

many things have a beginning

but most do not,

they just continue.

they include

some of what has been

and reach for what will be.

some things

we seem a part of

others

leave us outside

it is that way.

but,

we strive to always

be within

even at the center

and this causes each of us pain.

once,

we saw

how two lost sight of this.

they hadn’t meant for the fight to happen

but neither could they stop it

once it had begun.

and it hardened each of them

and they would not speak

nor look at one another.

and time did not heal them.

a season passed

and another

until it became more and

more difficult to remember

what had split them.

but this did not change

their resolve

instead their bitterness grew.

and another season

came and went

and to their shame

nothing changed.

and as it happens

some are strong

others weak

and one of them

slowed

and became sick.

the other saw

but could do nothing

for their hardness

kept them away.

and sliding from this life

the one who was sick

called for the one who was well.

and the well one came

and their eyes met

and as it has the power to do

sickness allowed a bridging.

and they overcame

their distance

and held each other’s hand.

while they sat together

the sick one formed

“I’m sorry”

on his lips

and the well one saw

and wept.

and in that moment

each realized what burdens

you carry

when you can not forgive.

and how it lessens you

and closes you

and keeps you from the

fullness of life.

It strikes me that there is an anatomy to forgiveness.

At first, a seed is planted. We let what is said or done enter some part of us that keeps track of all things. Our reaction may happen through a thought or feeling, but some part of us has taken it personally. A remark or action has challenged us or forced us outside our comfort zone and we feel the need to defend ourselves or to attack others.

I wonder, what if we didn’t take anything personally? What if we allowed everything to flow through us, not bothering to hold anything inside, especially those things which seem to hurt?

The Toltec wisdom tradition teaches this as one of its four cornerstones. They recognize the incredible merit to understanding that what is said or done to you by another, is solely about them. None of it is about you, unless of course, you choose to believe that it is.

I grant you that this is a skill that requires practice.

The question, as always is, is the practice worth it?

That’s a decision we each must make for ourselves. I hope what you choose creates peace and harmony in your life.

Information about Witness of the Heart is available by clicking on BOOKS and scrolling down.

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Forgiveness

I’ve spoken with a lot of people over my sixty-eight years. One of the most common themes I’ve heard is the sense folks have of being out of balance. Things are going along nicely and then, poof, something happens to change them.

Often, as the stories unfold, a disagreement has occurred. Sometimes it’s small or seemingly insignificant. But, at times, the issue creates a major flare up. And when a resolution to the issue doesn’t happen quickly, everything can unravel.

When each side feels that their opinion is worth more and that they should not have to give in, a distance occurs. Closing this gap and restoring harmony requires a degree of openness, a willingness to listen and a belief that common ground can be found.

Forgiveness can become the key, allowing each person to release the thought that there is only one right path. Hearts can be opened to see other directions so that new possibilities can become visible.

I want to offer two consecutive posts about forgiveness because I feel it is so important.

Many years ago, a friend of mine was having an extraordinarily difficult time forgiving an important person in their life. They asked me if I had any suggestions. My response to them came by way of a story. And, this story became the first chapter in my Little Buddha book series.

A man, Sam, asks Claire, a young six-year-old girl he’s met on the beach if she can help him understand how to forgive others. She’s shown her wisdom to him, enough so that he feels he can risk asking her this.

This is her response to him.

 “Imagine (pointing to the pail beside her) that my bucket is you. It’s everything you think and feel and experience during your life. Imagine that everything that is within you- YOU chose to put there. Nothing got in without your choosing. Nothing. Whether conscious or not, every thought, feeling, idea, reaction and prejudice. Every cruel word, every kind gesture, every act of faith, every indifference, everything. Imagine that each of these things takes up space, just like the grains of sand in my bucket. Once it’s full it’s very hard to find any space for anything, no matter how valuable or important. There are ways you can empty part of your bucket if you choose. One way is forgiveness. But first you have to imagine one more thing. Can you imagine that everyone else here is just like you? They’ve lived their lives filling their buckets and sometimes they don’t have any space left either. They’re doing the best they can with what weighs them down. In their hearts, they too wish to be free and to have open space to experience more of the beautiful things in life. But they too don’t know how. They probably sense it, dream about it and desperately want it just like you do. This is very important to know. To forgive anyone anything, requires YOU make a conscious choice. No one else can do it for you.” She eyed (Sam) carefully, “now bring to mind something which begs forgiveness. Feel the space it holds within you. The weight of it, the size, color and dimension. Imagine knowing it needn’t exist and that you can fill its space with something beautiful. Now, close your eyes. Welcome it in. Let it rest in front of you. Believe that it has served its full purpose for you, but does so no longer. Look inside your heart and allow love and compassion to open within. Breathe easily. Smile for a moment. Know that no matter what, this decision is up to you and no one else. Picture your love and compassion surrounding you and the focus of your forgiveness. Now, allow it to fade and fade and fade until it disappears. Breathe and feel the space inside you open. Feel the sunshine enter you and the air move around you. Listen for the sound of your own being. Sense the room created inside of you, now open for that which does serve you. For beauty. For wholeness.”

More to come.

Information about Little Buddha Book One, Two and Three is available by clicking on BOOKS and scrolling down.

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Second Chances

I believe in second chances.

I’ve seen them arrive in my life from many directions. Sometimes given to me and sometimes given by me.

When I was in Junior High School, (yes, there was such a thing at one time), I lived so close to the school that I had to walk back and forth each day. There was a short way and a long way. The short way was initially my preference because it meant I got home for cookies sooner. The downside was that there was a group of bullies that often walked the same way.

A friend of mine, who walked with me, and I were consider great sport for them. Insults and taunting, snowballs in the winter and threats and chasing whenever the mood stuck them. Not fun! And remember, this was long before bullying was taboo in schools.

Somehow my friend and I made it to Senior High School. The bullying subsided, probably because, in addition to living far enough away to be able to ride the bus, they were fortunately on another route.

Fast forward about twenty-five years.

I was a Branch Manager for Albany Savings Bank and had just transferred to the Delmar branch. Part of my job was to interview and hire all of the staff. Applications were forwarded to me for review by Personnel. A batch came one day and guess what? One of my candidates was one of the kids that bullied me in Junior High School.

I had total control over who I interviewed.

So, what to do?

I was curious about him. How had his life unfurled? Was he still a bully? Would he remember me? I wanted to find out. So, I had Personnel set up the interview.

A few days later it was his appointed interview time. I saw him as he walked into the branch. He showed no signs of recognizing me, not even my name, when I introduced myself. During general conversation he understood I’d gone to the same high school he did and during the same years, but nothing else. Not from his side or mine.

I liked him. I could tell he’d led a troubled life but was trying to put things back together.

I hired him on the spot.

He did a good job as a teller. Not flawless, but respectable, and he was very good with our customers, which was a high priority for me.

It seemed that when I was called upon to oversee any of his transactions, he was a little nervous. It was like this every time.

A few months later apparently, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He came out front to see me.

I looked up and he began speaking, “Rob, you know who I am don’t you? You know I used to give you a hard time on your way home from school, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

His baffled look told me a lot. “Then why did you hire me,” he asked, obviously confused?

“Because,” I responded, “I believe in second chances…yours and mine”.

It didn’t appear that he understood, so I continued, “by hiring you, we BOTH got a second chance to see who we want to become in this world.“  

I am very glad that I made the decision I did. I think he was too.

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Hope

One block from the house I grew up in there are two large pillars. Silent sentries, standing guard at the gateway of a five-way intersection. They’re probably made out of concrete blocks and are covered with some sort of stucco facing. They’ve been there my whole life or at least as long as I’ve lived here in town.

I remember as a kid sitting on top of one of them each Memorial Day, watching the parade pass by.

I had to ride my bike down to the pillar, even though it was a short distance. I did this because I had to lean my bike up against the pillar so I could climb onto the bike seat and jump up on to the top. It offered me a wonderful view. And surprisingly, no one else seemed to think of sitting there, so it was always available to me.  

I often found the pillars to be a source of strength. Especially so, when I used to walk home at night by myself from my boy scout meetings at church. It was kind of scary. But the pillars gave me a sense of peace. I did find I had to also repeat the twenty-third Psalm to myself, at least until my house was within sight.

I still see the pillars a lot. Every Tuesday morning, I pass by them on my way to visit my 96-year-old mom who still lives in my childhood home. And often on evening walks I cross paths with them.

Both have cracks now, one more than the other. Large chucks of stucco have fallen off. They lay there on the ground at the feet of the pillars. There is something incredibly sad about this to me. They’re coming apart, piece by piece. I feel like I need to do something about this.

It feels symbolic to me somehow. It seems to fit the whole feeling surrounding this pandemic. A sort of crumbling.

I wonder, is it the same for us? Do we sometimes come apart, piece by piece?

I’m strongly led to take action. I want to fix the pillars. I want to resurface them, sealing them tightly, so they won’t come apart again. And I want to write a word in bold bright red letters across the face of the patch. I want to write a beautiful word there:

                                           HOPE

I want it there for everyone to see…to remember that no matter what happens in our lives, there is always hope.

I wonder, who do I ask for permission to fix the pillars? The Highway department? The Town Administration?

Part of me is drawn to the expression that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

I wonder too, how would I patch them? What materials do I use? Who would know the right way to do this? Is there a DIY YouTube video for fixing crumbling pillars?

Every time I walk by, I think about these questions.

I come back to the same thought over and over. It’s a thought that the NIKE marketing team would feel so proud of. JUST DO IT.

I have a lot of reasons why I won’t be the one to get this done. But, the most valuable question for me is…do I have one reason TO get it done.

I want the answer to be YES. I want to share a vision of hope with the world. At least the part of the world that passed by my beautiful, ugly pillars.

I’ll keep you posted, so stay tuned.

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Ants and Uncles

Have you ever heard of the expression, ‘cry uncle’ or ‘say uncle’? In case you haven’t, it means to submit or give in to someone else.

During my childhood, this most often happened when two of my friends were fighting, and one had the other in a headlock. The ‘locker’ would make the ‘lockee’ utter the phrase, ‘say uncle’, before releasing their grip. Usually it required some tightening before this occurred.

As you can imagine, it’s not a pleasant experience for the ‘lockee’.

It seems to me that there is a grown-up version of this practice. Every so often I witness one person trying to force another into a verbal headlock, demanding their submission.

Maybe all they really want is for the other person to agree with them. But, more often than not, it becomes a classic power struggle, where one person wins and the other losses. This doesn’t feel good either.

Why is winning so popular? Why do we sometimes feel such a need to be in control of others?

Intriguing questions.

Here’s another, which at first glance, may seem unrelated.

Do you have any idea how much an ant can lift? According to scientists who study ants, they can lift between 10-50 times their own body weight. So, if I had their strength, that would mean that on my best day I could lift over 9,000 pounds. That’s the weight of one of those monster trucks that drives over the top of a bunch of cars, crushing them to pieces.

Wow, are ants amazing creatures or what?

Here’s another thing you might not know. The average colony is made up of thousands of ants. There are even ‘super colonies’ that number more than three million ants living together.

That’s shocking to me.

During the early spring, for some reason, ants want to live in our house. I have no idea what they are looking for or how they get in, but for a period of several months they apparently want to commune with Maureen and me.

Ordinarily, if I can, I coax them into an old empty Dove soap box (which I call the ‘bug box’) and escort them back outside. I have no real idea, but I suspect some are repeat offenders.

Occasionally, before transporting them, I will sit and watch them. I’ve seen them lift what I consider to be HUGE things and then easily carry them away. They never seem to give up nor submit to any of the challenges they face.

Perhaps one reason is that there aren’t other ants telling them they CAN’T lift or carry the item they intend to walk away with. Without being told it’s IMPOSSIBLE, they just go ahead, bite down on the item and move along.

I admire them a great deal. I think it’s awesome that they don’t say ‘uncle’ when faced with difficulties and that they aren’t adversely influenced by other ants.

I want to be more like them. I want to believe all things in my life are possible. I want to believe I am capable of lifting things far greater than I’ve previously thought could be done. I want to do amazing things, like they do.

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Four-Year-Old Eyes

For a few moments pretend that you are a four-year-old boy. You’re at the grocery store with your mom and you’re sitting in the shopping cart. Not in the seat where you stick your legs through the slots. That’s for babies. You’re a big kid and you’re sitting where all the groceries go.

You and your mom are done shopping and are now waiting to check out. You’re looking around and spot a really cool looking toy. You don’t know why it’s in the grocery store, but there it is.

So, you ask your mom if she’ll buy it for you. You can tell by the look on her face the answer is probably going to be ‘no’.

She looks at you, but doesn’t say anything right away. You can tell she’s thinking things over, but isn’t sure of her decision. It seems simple to you, it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Her answer surprises you.

She says, “No, honey, we can’t buy that today.” You thought so. That part doesn’t surprise you at all.

But, the next part does, because she goes on to say, “It’s almost Christmas, so you can ask Santa for it. Maybe he’ll bring it to you…IF you’re a good boy.” She continues, “You know Santa is always watching, so you’ll have to be good.”

That last part changes everything for you. There’s no way you can be good all the time. Sometimes you’re in a bad mood or are over tired. And sometimes your little sister is so annoying you scream at her. You apologize later, but you’re not sure if that counts.

And then another thought strikes you and it’s kind of scary. What does she mean, Santa’s always watching? How? You want to ask, but you’re not sure you really want to know the answer.

Why did she have to say that, you wonder? Up until then you thought Santa was fat and jolly, wore a red suit and loved to bring toys to kids. You had no idea he was watching you all the time.

And finally, another idea hits you. If I don’t do what other people want, I won’t get what I want. I could see all of this in his eyes.

This event really happened the last time I was at the grocery store. Of course, I’ve supplied what he was thinking. That was very easy for me, because there’s a strong part of me that is still four years old. Don’t believe me, ask any of my grandchildren.

Here’s what troubles me about this story.

Not only does it fill the boy with unnecessary fear, but it also directs all of his efforts into pleasing other people. And, it takes away his power and gives it to others.

I don’t want to place blame on the mom. She’s probably only repeating what she heard as a child. I’ve probably even done or said the same kind of thing, without considering the impact.

So, what could she have done or said?

How about this.

She could have said that it was possible, that together, they could think of ways for him to get the toy he wanted. That he could put it on his Christmas list and wait to see if it arrived on Christmas morning. If it didn’t, perhaps he could do a few extra chores around the house to earn the money to buy it later. She could help him see that HE has power inside of himself and let him know that she will always help him.

I would love to have heard that.

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Three Dollar Wisdom

At some point a few years ago I stumbled across an idea. I didn’t know exactly where it came from but I think it’s worth sharing with you.

I realized that I was losing some really good ideas because I wasn’t writing them down at the time they came to me.

So, I went to one of my favorite places, the Dollar Store. Sure, that may be hard to believe, but I’ve discovered a few simple treasures there. This time, it was $3.00 worth of small lined pads of paper.

When I got home, I placed them strategically around so one would always be within easy reach. That way, I reasoned, I could capture any thoughts that arose I felt were worth remembering.

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down when I’m thinking of it, it’s likely to disappear. Sort of like when you wake up in the morning after having had a particularly vivid dream, but later when you try to recount it to someone, all the details have become fuzzy.

Not all of what I write down is of the same quality. I can prove that to you. 

Here are two examples of some inconsistencies in life I’ve observed. Why, I wonder, do they call two baseball games played back to back a ‘double header, but when they play just one game it’s not called a ‘single header’? 

Or this. Why is December 21st known as the SHORTEST DAY of the year, rather than the LONGEST NIGHT of the year? I don’t get it, do you?

But then, there are times I’m very glad I paid attention and took the time to record my fleeting thoughts. Here are a few I’d like to pass along.

PHYSICAL PAIN

“Breathing into physical pain, rather than tightening and accentuating the pain, allows it to release, move out and away from me. It’s so good to remember this for when the time comes.”

MEASURES OF SUCCESS

“What if there is more going on here (on earth) than keeping score? What if the score doesn’t matter at all? And what would happen if I released any need I had to WIN?” 

(Good things, I bet)

CONSCIOUS CHOICE

“What if what you want to happen ALREADY EXISTS, and that you have the ability to consciously choose it? And what if the more clear you are about consciously choosing (visualizing), the more accurately it will appear (manifest) in your life?”

SIMPLE

During a conversation with Lia, I asked, “Is fear behind every angry reaction (I have)? Her answer was, “YES, it is that simple.”

Again, I asked, “Is the antidote to fear always love?” and she responded, “YES, it is that simple.” And lastly, I asked, “Is everything that’s wrong with my body because of what I’ve put into it (thoughts, food, worry…)?” And as before, she answered, “YES, it is that simple.”

I pass these along as a way of offering you an opportunity to harness your own constant stream of inner wisdom. I know you have it in you and I hope you choose to let it surface and use it for your benefit. And, perhaps the benefit of others as well, if that feels right to you.

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More Heaven

Imagine that you are a being of light. You have form, but no tangible substance. And as light, you flow.

Imagine that you know everything there is to be known. For you, there are no unanswerable questions. You are pure awareness, pure consciousness.

You are part of the ocean of bliss. It is your home and you call it, heaven.

I was a part of this bliss. I am still a part of this.

This matters to me because the awareness of this represents an unbreakable promise, that I will return home, after my earth life is complete. There is immense freedom in this assurance.

There was a moment in time where I chose to shift my awareness and decided to live a life of a spiritual being, as a human being.

There was a ceremony for me in heaven. A passage. A losing and a gaining.

I chose to experience the ‘great forgetting’, where I released my awareness of all things, so that I could live without knowing the answers to all of my questions. I chose to shift my perspective so that I could create and experience every part of my human life with newness. And I accepted the gift of free will, the most precious of all gifts.

With free will, there are no requirements or obligations upon me. This is an incredibly beautiful thing, when I wholly accept and embrace it.

This matters to me because I am able to choose my own direction without restrictions, regardless of what my culture teaches. I can consciously choose to correct whatever I see or feel are my mistakes, not because I have to, but because I want to. Everything is open to me.

With the gaining, there was also a giving, because in this transition I chose to believe in separation. I chose to leave behind the truth, that I am part of the one, the whole, the holy.

I chose to accept what my culture taught me, that I have missing pieces and that I should live my life searching for them.

I accepted that (god) was not personally knowable or touchable and that my only way to the truth was through someone else’s voice.

And I did not see that fear was my beautiful messenger.

I did not realize that all of what happened to me was a part of my plan, so that I could create and experience anything I desired.

Understanding this, matters to me because I can wake up and abandon this illusion if I choose. I can give up my search for any missing pieces, in favor of accepting the truth. The truth that I am already whole. And I can live this human life, knowing that (god) lives within me, in each and every moment, and that when my human life is complete, I will be reunited with bliss and admitted to heaven.

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Heaven

Several years ago, I was attending a workshop at the Kripalu Retreat Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Prior to beginning one of our class exercises, we went into meditation. Instantly, I was transported. Even though I was sitting among my classmates, I was as far away from them as I could possibly imagine.

I want to share my experience with you and the poem that formed inside me, because it brings us to the heart of a question I believe almost everyone has asked themselves at one time or another. Actually, maybe even more than one time.

Is there really a ‘heaven’?

Despite how you may have been brought up, you’ve probably heard many different opinions expressed about the nature and reality of heaven. And I suspect, about the uncertainty of whether there is such a thing. After all, what conclusive proof can anyone offer you?

In the end, it seems to become a matter of belief. But where does one’s belief come from? Do we accept what we are told by some religious or spiritual group? Or perhaps we favor a scientific approach or we seek an answer from some special faction within society?

Interestingly, I’ve been asked about my belief about heaven on many occasions. What I have to say usually comes as quite a surprise to those who ask.

I want to preface what I have to tell you by saying I honor everyone’s decisions and recognize it is always up to each of us what we choose to accept.

For me, I feel really ‘nudged’ to share what feels like the truth to me, because it’s changed the way I view everything. And maybe it will open a doorway for you, one that creates beauty and wonder and new possibilities.

When you read the poem, I’d like to ask a favor of you. I’d like you to place yourself within the poem, seeing and feeling everything that is being described as if it was happening personally to you. Imagine opening your heart fully and giving permission to (god) and to your spirit guides to come and be with you.

If you have someone who can read the poem out loud to you, that’s ideal because it allows you to stay in the moment. If no one is available to read the poem to you, I suggest that you read one line at a time, pausing to feel into the experience before moving on to the next line.

And now, the poem.

Admitted to Heaven

During my meditation, I gave permission to all of my spiritual guides to come and stand behind me,

Immediately, guides were there, then there were hordes of them, pushing and shoving to stand around me,

A great crowd arrived, and one of the beings said to another, “they’re emptying heaven to stand behind him”, and still more came,

I was crying so hard now, and they lifted me up, and held me over their heads effortlessly on hands of light, and passed me around, as if I weighed no more than a feather,

It was the most beautiful thing,

And I heard many shouting, “He’s back, come see, he’s back”, and heaven lit up,

And I could feel it, they all loved me, truly loved me, an overwhelming love, so beautiful, I never wanted to leave,

I asked, “Can I come home any time I want to?”, “Yes,” they all said.

I have so much more to say, so I’ll continue with more heaven in my next post.

I hope to see you then.

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Habits

Every day we experience opportunities for growth in our lives. Some of the opportunities we may long for, while others we’d just as soon not encounter.

When we’re provided these choices, we have to decide whether to resist or accept them. A great deal of our harmony and peace of mind depends on which choice we make.

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that every single thing that happens to me offers me something of value. At first, the item or event may not appear to be important. But, if I open and allow myself a moment of consideration, often rewarding things happen.

Here’s one seemingly insignificant example.

I brush my teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and once before I go to bed at night. You may do the same thing.

So, there I am in front of the medicine cabinet. I open it and reach for my toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, which has a flip top. Being a creature of habit, I hold the tube with the label facing me, then find I can’t flip the top open.

This bugs me. I don’t know why, it just does.

So, at least twice a day there is something in my life that is guaranteed to irritate and annoy me.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.

When I was a kid, I’d say, “Duh” and follow that with something obvious like, “so reach for the toothpaste and hold it with the label facing away from you (numbskull).”

Problem solved, right?

I have to wonder, what prevents me from executing this very simple solution? I’m pretty sure I know.

Habit.

Reinforcement of the same thing, day after day, until what I choose, becomes second nature to me.

But, is this helpful? Certainly, for me, not always.

My next question is, how many other things in my life are on this kind of auto-pilot?

My answer would have to be, a lot.

It’s fascinating to me that habits hide our power and become a substitute for conscious thought and decision making. Is the world too complicated for us to navigate, so we allow habits to take care of many things for us?

It makes me wonder.

Here’s another example.

Do I really listen to someone’s answer when I ask them, “How are you today” or is this just a habit? Not surprisingly, the answers we’re inclined to give to this question are often as habitual as the question itself.

What if I gave myself a chance to be present when they spoke? What sort of difference would that make in my world…and theirs?

I tested this out recently and discovered it makes a great deal of difference.

When I asked someone how they were, I looked directly at the person and stood still and waited for their answer. Most of the time, it took a minute for the person to realize I was actually waiting for them to respond. Often, they stopped, returned my gaze and appeared to consider their answer for a moment. When they got over their shock, they relaxed and said something about the way they felt, then stopped speaking and looked expectantly in my direction. I took in what they’d said and responded, saying something that I hoped made it obvious I’d heard them and that what they said mattered to me.

Amazingly, when I remembered to do this, I found we formed a real connection. I felt a spark and that felt good to me. And, it made me want to continue exploring other habits of mine and seeing what benefits I might be able to find.

If you do some exploring of your own, please let me know what you discover.

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Energy

I share a belief held by many scientists that everything in our world is part of an energy field. Actually, the claim is even larger, because most state that everything in the universe is part of one vast energy field. Imagine that everything, ranging from the grandest scale all the way down to the unseen quantum level is included.

Belief in this is challenging for many, because they want undisputed proof. They want evidence in support of these claims. For them, feeling it is not enough, they want the facts.

For those scientists who do believe, and for all of the rest of us who join them, several big questions arise. Chief among them, what force created and sustains this incredible energy field?

One of the beautiful things in this world is that each of us is free to decide for ourselves.

I’m glad this is the case.

I’m a big believer in free will and my ability to choose my own direction.

I’d like to share what feels like the truth to me. I believe that

LOVE is the powerful force that creates and sustains this energy field and sets everything in motion. I believe that love creates vibrations that oscillate as frequencies. And these frequencies are in constant motion within and surrounding everything.

For humans, and perhaps all essences, it seems to me that we are nourished and depleted according to the flow of energy entering and exiting our being. And so, our sense of happiness or suffering occurs as a result of shifts in our energy fields.

At times, certain events which appear to be outside of our control, challenge us and disturb our energy flow. We may even perceive that we have needs that are unmet, which create further problems for us. The longer these situations continue, the more our balance is affected.

You might ask, how does this theory relate to everyday life? That’s a very good question and one I’ve been pondering lately.

I’ve discovered that all of the answers I desire come from (god). Lately my answers have come through a part of (god) I call Lia, which stands for Love In Action. For me, she and the other parts of (god) are what powers the universal energy field.

I’m not asking you to accept this as your truth, but I’d like to share what she had to say to me about when our needs are not met, to see if it might be helpful to you.

These are her words to me.

“Need is a distortion of the truth and a false impression. The feeling of need shifts your attention away from love and draws you into a feeling of ‘lack’, where you believe you are not whole. It makes you feel that you must acquire some missing piece or pieces. The truth is you are already whole and surrounded by an energy field of love. 

Need is a mirage. You know this as the truth most deeply when you observe that once you receive what you felt you needed and intensely desired, that it did not fill you up. Or, if it did, that the feeling was only temporary, quickly faded and was replaced by a new sense of need.

The way through and beyond this is to realize you ‘lack’ nothing, because you are already complete and always connected to love and to the vast energetic field of love.

(She continued) And before you ask, yes, of course there are ‘things’ you don’t have, but things don’t, nor will they ever, make you feel complete. Love alone provides this.”

So, I’ve decided to trust Lia and when a need in me arises, to remember her words and her promise to always love me.

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More Balance

I love trees. I have for as long as I can remember. They’re beautiful and they’ve shared many truths with me.

Recently I was gazing at a tree that sits between our neighbor’s house and ours. It has such gorgeous leaves, which have mostly turned various shades of orange. Some of them seem to glow, like they are electrified.

I noticed that the leaves closest to the trunk were still green and very healthy, while the ones furthest away, were the most colorful and vibrant. They were also the ones that were first to fall off.

And, for some reason, I thought about the hara line. I wondered if every living thing has its own hara line. Surely, if this concept is true, it would apply to a tree, with its roots sunk deeply into the earth and its branches reaching far up into the sky.

I looked at the tree’s trunk, firm, straight and incredibly strong. I watched as the wind played with its branches, moving them all around, while the trunk remained firm and solid and unmoved.

I wondered, how does the tree maintain its balance throughout the seasons. I wondered too, whether the tree was trying to silently teach me what it knows to be the truth.

It certainly felt that way.

So, I opened my awareness and let its message pour over me. As is so often the case, its wisdom came in the form of questions.

It asked me, what nourishes you? What fortifies you? What inspires you?

Wonderful questions and clearly meant to connect me with a greater sense of balance within myself.

One of my favorite experiences is to attend workshops at Kripalu, a retreat center about forty-five minutes away from me. On one occasion I drew a picture of a tree, complete with roots, trunk and branches. Along each one of the roots, I wrote the name of something that nourished me. Then, I noted on some of the branches those things which I hoped to accomplish in my life.

I realize now that what I choose as nourishing sources matters a great deal to my sense of balance and harmony in this world. The more sources I choose and the deeper they connect me, the more firmly I feel rooted.

I see too, that what I chose to believe about myself, either keeps me growing straight and tall or bends me, forcing me into wayward directions. Directions that keep me distant from what I say I want to experience while I’m here.

The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful.

And, just as important as what feeds me and helps me grow, is what inspires me. I want to reach toward the sky and feel the strongest sunshine on my face. I want to live with infinite possibilities all around me, ready for me to call their names.

And so I wonder, what nourishes, fortifies and inspires you? If you feel like sharing, let me know.

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Balance

During the past year I’ve fallen a few times. I know the medical community regards this as a possible indicator of potential problems which should be investigated. But, I think I know the cause.

My feet. They don’t seem to rest firmly and flatly on the ground. My podiatrist says I have neuromas, which is another way of saying that there are nerves running down my feet and between my toes that are irritated and make it hard for me to feel things. And, if I can’t feel or sense with my feet, it’s hard to remain balanced.

Part of me wanted this condition to take care of itself, you know, some kind of magical resolution where I didn’t have to do anything other than wish it so. It didn’t happen. I gave it a pretty good shot, perhaps even a few years.

Sometimes it’s hard to be this honest with myself. And now I’m repeating it to you, which feels both embarrassing and freeing at the same time.

Recently, I told myself enough was enough. I started doing my own balance exercises. Simple. Just pick up one foot and try to balance for as long as I could. I consider my first try to be an epic failure. I could only stay upright for the count of 8, before I tipped over. So sad.

I knew I needed to keep at it, so I practiced every day. Within three weeks I was able to balance for a count of 30 on each foot. Another two weeks went by and the count went to 50, then 75. After another two weeks…90.

Along the way, I realized several things. First, it mattered what I thought would happen. Second, it was considerably easier to maintain my balance when I chose a single point in the distance to focus on. And third, I realized that it would require practice.

Perhaps you remember a child’s toy from years ago. Surprisingly, it’s still around. It’s called a Weeble. They were little people and sort of egg shaped and no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t knock them over. The company’s catchy slogan ran like this, “Weebles wooble, but they don’t fall down”.

I want to be a Weeble.

Sometimes I think to myself how nice it would be to experience my life without falling down or being knocked over. But, that’s not what happens to me. And, I’m guessing it might not be what happens to you.

So, how to stay in balance? Or the companion question, how to regain balance once you’ve been pushed off center?

Many energy healers believe there is a column of light that runs from inside the earth, upwards through the center line of our body and out of the top of our head, connecting all the way to our source (or whatever name we use for god). They call this the ‘hara line’. There is a strong belief that the hara line vibrates with our intentions and contains our life purpose and reason for being here on earth as spiritual beings.

Imagine for a moment that you accepted this as the truth, or at least, part of the truth.

It certainly might explain why it feels so uncomfortable when we are forced out of balance, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. It also might help us understand that as our balance is disturbed, we’re unable to sense the same strength of connection with our life purpose.

Being out of alignment could then turn out to be a powerful message to us, encouraging us to take steps to regain our balance.

There’s so much more to say, so I’m going to do something a little different with this post. I’m going to leave it as a cliff hanger and promise to finish my thoughts about this on my next post (Post #7 on Sunday). I hope you’ll join me.

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Worthiness

Do you seem to have an endless list of things to do and not enough time to do them? Even the most important ones?

There’s probably some club you could join where everyone feels this way. Of course, it’s likely you wouldn’t have time to go to any of the meetings.

I could be in this club.

I have a TO DO list almost a mile long and as soon as I start to feel I’m getting ahead, I add new things to it. Most of the time I add more than I complete.

I asked myself recently how I felt about this. The answer was, burdened.

My thinking mind said, ‘but there’s so much to do and we need to get it done. We have to organize and prioritize. We can do this, we just need to make some adjustments. Let’s identify ways to handle this.’

My thinking mind set about brainstorming ideas; I could get up earlier, avoid distractions and break up my TO DO list into smaller more manageable pieces.

Perhaps these were reasonable fixes, but the feeling part of me knew each of these ideas would only add more items to my already bulging list.

An idea dawned on me.

Maybe the answer wasn’t to identify and fix the reasons why I couldn’t get everything done.

Maybe the answer or answers would appear if I explored the belief(s) that drove my need to check off all of the items.

This felt promising.

I began to wonder what would happen if I didn’t complete each of my self-assigned tasks. As I looked at each item, I discovered a common theme. I would not feel good about myself.

But why?

That now seemed like the critical question to ask. What did completing items from my list really do for me? Well, it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Beneath this, where my beliefs live, I realized there was more. It also gave me a sense of worthiness, which came through the praise of others and my own self-congratulations.

So, why is this necessary?

That answer eluded me at first, until I went inside and looked into my heart and spirit, and then I knew. I saw clearly how my ego was driven by fear and how it believed this fear was necessary in order to protect the self-image it had created. An image that firmly rested on praise from the outside and the inside. My ego believed it was vital to create opportunities (like the TO DO list) that would serve as nourishment to keep me healthy.

In the past I would have begun an internal argument with my ego. I would have attempted to convince my ego that it was wrong and that this approach would always lead to unhappiness.

But, I’ve learned that my ego plays a necessary part in my life and I no longer argue with it. Instead, I offer it love, which is the only thing that allows it to relax and calm down. I thank it for doing its job and keeping me safe. I offer it my gratitude and then share from my heart and spirit a more powerful truth. That I am inherently worthy and valuable. That I am radiant and beautiful and beloved. That I am a child of god and never need to prove myself, to be found worthy.

Looking beneath the surface, beyond my worldly concerns and thinking mind, I find a place of love. My true home.

In this light, I can let go of the significance of all of my TO DO items and they can each patiently wait their turn now.

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Joyful

Do you know the TV and magazine ads that promise to help you deal with physical issues you might be experiencing? No matter what problem you have, there’s a drug or treatment that offers you help in managing your symptoms or condition. I’m very glad that this type of assistance exists and it’s wonderful to know that when you need support, it’s available to you.

The last time I saw one of these ads I wondered, is there some kind of pill or treatment for ‘conditional happiness’?

You may be wondering what this is.

Here are some of the symptoms. Do you create certain criteria that must be met BEFORE you can be happy? A list of items to check off, otherwise you think happiness can’t be experienced. Do you find yourself feeling happy and then wonder how long it can possibly last? And then, sure enough, it falls away. Do you wonder how it is even conceivable to be happy, given the state of the world? You want to be happy, but you feel so much stands in your way.

I’d like to propose a radical idea for you to consider.

What if we shifted our perspective? What if we all were designed to be happy? Suppose your core nature contained everything you need to be happy, and that buried deep within you, there is a place of perfect peace. A place you can draw from any time you need or want to.

While I’m thinking about this, I’m considering my choice of words. Maybe ‘happiness’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps, ‘contentment’ would be better. No, contentment feels limited, sort of like settling for something.

How about ‘joyful’? Yes, I like that word. I like opening it up to see that it means, filled with joy. What an awesome concept. I want to be filled with joy.

So, let me start over.

What if we all were full of joy by design? What if we came here to this earth with the capacity to feel joy no matter what we encountered. What if we believed that joy was our very nature. I love the way that feels.

Is this possible for you to conceive? I hope so.

Imagine what the world would be like if we believed that joy is a fundamental part of us, centered deep within each of us.

How would this change things?

Ahhhh, isn’t that the real question?

One important thought comes to me. If I truly believed that I am filled with joy, and that it is always accessible to me, I could see things from a very different perspective. I could allow joy to flow through me and embrace it with delight.

On seeing a person by the side of the road asking for money because they are homeless, I could open my heart and spirit and let my joy overflow. I could open my window and share from my abundance and watch as my joy spread into another person’s world.

I could look around and see the beautiful turn of colors in the leaves. I could get lost in the aroma of fresh baked cookies coming out of the oven. I could glory in the connection with others who share this world with me, like you. I could reveal joy wherever I looked.

Rather than living according to what I see outside of me, I could live from my center of joy. What a wonderful choice to have.

Power

Recently, my wife and I were babysitting our two local grandchildren. Their family lives near a very active train yard and we’re pretty used to all of its noises. The screeching of rail car wheels against the tracks and the loud slamming and banging of train cars being coupled. And, all of the whistles.

But, what we heard last Wednesday went far beyond any of these sounds. It was as if every train car in the yard had suddenly been picked up and smashed into one another in some kind of massive train wreck.

It turns out, it wasn’t trains we heard, it was the wind. It howled and shook the house. It destroyed trees, pulling some enormous giants out by their roots and simply tossing them aside.

The devastation was mind blowing and widespread.

And, of course, the power went out. Went out and stayed out.

Once my wife and I were home it was time to go into action. Time to find all of the flashlights and candles and get out extra blankets for us, plus one for my 96-year-old mom, who stayed with us. Of course, there was one more important thing to remember, don’t open the refrigerator door!

You probably have your own tales to tell about power outages, so you know how the story goes. No heat, no food, no light, no TV or computer. And for us, no cell phone, since we don’t have a car charger.

No communication with the outside world.

Powerless.

The part of me that wasn’t feeling sorry for myself understood this is the way vast portions of the world’s population feel every single day of their lives.

I don’t mean being without electricity, although there are many who exist this way. I mean feeling powerless to have the kind of life they want, for themselves and for their families. Powerless, with no real prospect for that to change. Powerless, and probably, hopeless.

I thought of all the people whose whole world falls apart due to some calamity. Some outside or inside force that shatters their lives.

I thought of those who deal with disease or oppression or racial injustice or malnutrition. The list goes on and on.

I thought, what is my powerlessness compared to theirs?

You might be wondering, what is the message of inspiration here?

Well, part of the answer is found in knowing how our electricity was restored. PEOPLE. Humans reconnecting wires and reestablishing a path for the power to travel.

People working together we are capable of incredible things. We’ve been able to reach out and touch the moon and beyond. We’ve discovered new medicines, saved rain forests, created new ways to harness energy. This list goes on and on too.

People working together we can do amazing things. Perhaps we can even offer hope to the powerless. No doubt, there are a million ways to do this.

Choosing just one can make a difference.

We all can make a difference.

We don’t have to cure everything in the world. But, imagine if one million people did one thing to help restore power.

That too would be mind blowing.

Expectations

I still find it upsetting when my expectations are not met. It doesn’t seem to matter what size they are, the unsatisfied feelings I get are pretty much the same. Some part of me knows there is a wealth of value in every experience of my life, but, when I’m in the moment, I often can’t see that.

Here’s a real-life example.

Despite all of my best efforts, my first website post wasn’t visible on Sunday, October 4, 2020 at 7:30am as I’d promised and I’d expected.

I confess, I panicked. I sat in front of my computer, frustrated, unhappy and frankly more than a little angry. And, I had no idea how to fix the problem. I believe I might even have said a bad word or two. Okay, I did say a bad word of two.

Even though I eventually found a work-around, I realized I had many more changes that needed to be made so that you could navigate more easily. And, so that you can share your comments and read those which others have written. I’m still working on these.

Looking back, I understand that I reacted very emotionally. Nothing specifically wrong with that, after all, I am human. But, were my reactions helpful and what might have served be better?

Well for one thing, I could have stopped and allowed myself to sit in stillness. I could have breathed in and out slowly until my emotions came to a halt. And, I could have allowed a part of me to stand at a distance and observe what was going on inside of me. From this place I could have acknowledged my feelings, encouraged them to speak to me and embraced them. If I had, I might have understood what was beneath the surface. I might have realized that each feeling came to serve me and offer me a message.

Many years ago, my wonderful friend and Unity minister, Jim Fuller, shared in one of his sermons that it is very important to ‘feel your feelings’. This idea was a foreign concept to me and had not been a part of my cultural training. And yet, I sensed how significant and necessary it could be for me.

So, I began expressing my feelings in a daily journal. It’s been almost six years and I’m still writing every day and discovering truths hidden beneath the surface.

And now, back to my opening paragraph about my unmet expectations. When I stood still and gently breathed in and out and let my intense emotions drain away, I found that my fear of failure sat directly on top of me. Fear that I could not manage the technology necessary to communicate with you. Fear, that despite my deep desire, I could not keep my promises to you and share my thoughts based on when I said I would.

So, I turned to Lia, one of my names for (god), which stands for ‘love in action’, and asked for her wisdom.

She reminded me of a simple, yet powerful message she’s offered me in the past, “just show love”. These words sunk into me and allowed the power of my expectations, and the fears underneath them, to fade away, replaced by a marvelous sense of love.

I hope to remember this wisdom sooner next time.