Permission

How would you like to do something extraordinary for yourself? Something to raise you up and empower you?

I’m going to hope that you said, “yes”.

As this new year begins to enfold, I wanted to offer you a practice that has proven to be both magnificent and magical for me. It began several years ago when I was attended a retreat at Kripalu in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Our program presenter is one of my all-time favorites, Tama Kieves. If you ever get a chance to attend one of her workshops, please do yourself a favor and sign up. She’s fantastic.

One of the exercises she suggested to us was to write down several ‘permission statements’. They could be about anything, as long as they felt true to us. It was and is one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

It may sound simple, and it is. There are no set rules and no limits to the creativity you can express, so you can go in any direction that calls to you. The freer and more open you are, the greater your rewards.

This is a life-affirming process and something you can do whenever you feel it would assist you or boost your energy. Each time I add to my list, I feel wider and more expansive. And happier.

What a divine reward that is.

If you have the time now, perhaps you’d like to give it a try. I’d suggest starting with five statements and see how it goes.

The first time I did this it took me several minutes to get into it. I can’t recall what I was concerned about but there was some roadblock standing in front of me. I had to marshal my forces and shove it out of the way before I could begin.

That turned out to be my first permission statement…” I give myself permission to do this assignment”. And from there things began to pick up speed. After the session was over, I went back to my room and sat down to see if more would come. And they did, a whole river of permission statements flowed out of me. It was as if a dam had broken. The liberating feeling created was what my heart needed in that moment and I was so grateful.

I can still capture this same feeling when I write new permission statements now.

I’d like to share some with you in the hopes that they serve as a springboard for your own to appear.

“I give myself permission to speak my truth. This does not mean I have to tell everyone everything.”

“I give myself permission to release the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary and speech and thought whenever it appears and to remind myself the word comes from fear, and so I can turn to love, no matter what the subject or context.”

“I give myself permission to live a life of happiness, bright beautiful happiness, knowing I deserve it simply because I am alive and know there are no requirements or restrictions on my life, because I am a free child of god.”

“I give myself permission to trust the process (of life) and to release any investment in the outcome(s).”

“I give myself permission to realize that at times I will feel struggles and feel vulnerable and feel fears of all kinds, but then to always remember to choose to love myself.”

They are not all long statements. Some are very simple.

“I give myself permission to dream any dream.”

“I give myself permission to live the life I came here to live.”

“I give myself permission to be gentle and kind and loving.”

I hope that this idea takes root in you and that you give yourself whatever permission would offer you peace, freedom and love.

New Year Love

I’ve chosen to repeat my post from the end of 2020 because I still believe it represents the truth and I wanted to remind you about it. So, here it is.

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.

Thank you for allowing me to repeat this. My next post will be new, I promise.

What Writing My Own Obit Taught Me

Have you ever wondered about the marvelous truths that could be revealed by one simple act of writing? In this case, I’m talking about writing your own obituary notice.

Okay, let me explain.

I know this may sound a little crazy and you needn’t be concerned because, in order to write your own obit, you have to be alive, so all is well. What I want to share with you is that this can be an incredible celebratory experience, quite the contrary to what you might be imagining.

I’ll start at the beginning.

Several years ago, I attended a workshop at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. Our class was given a number of challenging writing assignments. Writing your own obit was not one of them, but the material we covered generated a spark that led me to consider the idea.

I didn’t do it right away. It felt too threatening somehow, so I filed it for later consideration. But like so many things in life that beg for attention, it wouldn’t sit still. So, after a few weeks of trying to ignore it, I gave in.

Because of what I discovered, I’m very glad that I did.

Many things became clearer to me about my life. The first one is that many obits focus on how a person died rather than how they lived. It isn’t as important to me how I leave this world, but I care deeply about how I live while I am here, and I would want others to know something about me. Writing gave me a chance to do a life review and choose some meaningful events and I had an absolutely wonderful time sorting through my memories and soaking up the joy.

Several obits I encountered concentrated on lengthy lists of milestones and life achievements. I wondered; did this truly give value to the person’s life?

What I decided to write about were all the moments of celebration that occurred during my life. The events that gave my life deep meaning and connected me with others. I realized I had lots of my own milestones and a host of noteworthy accomplishments, but they all paled in comparison with the simple moments of sharing with the people I held dearest.

Another aspect of most obits is the listing of relatives who either passed away before the person or who survived them. They are often shown in chronological order and seem, at least to me, somewhat perfunctory. What I decided was to list everyone who brought heart-felt meaning into my life. I wanted to acknowledge them and tell them how much they meant to me. Listing everyone was an intensely beautiful experience for me and I glowed for weeks thinking about so many things we’d shared.

This self-assigned task also provided me with another shift in focus. I noticed a tendency to consider that a life could be defined by a list of the things a person accumulates during their earthly existence. A house, cars, artwork, seasonal property, bank and brokerage accounts, jewelry, titles, memberships. When I started thinking about this, I gravitated to the exceptional opportunities I encountered in my life that led me to deep spiritual connections with others. It became an adventure in cherishing experiences and releasing my attachment to things.

I also realized that the purpose of the money I earned or was given was that it allowed me to trade it for the value of worldly experiences, especially when others were involved. Others who at first were acquaintances, then friends, then kin to me (those I loved the most).

I found this writing exercise to be life changing because it allowed me to alter my perspective and see life as one continual celebration of events.

I wonder, if you chose to accept this assignment, if you would find that true as well.

Release From Self-Made Prisons

I was shocked to discover that the United States of America has over 2.12 million people in prison, the most of any nation on earth. This is even more astounding when you consider the US has a population of less than 24% of China or India, the two largest countries in the world.

This got me to thinking about prisons in general.

I admit, being sent to prison is one of my greatest irrational fears. The idea that I would not see all of those I love and have my freedom restricted for an extensive amount of time, is an intense and upsetting feeling. Knowing I haven’t done anything to deserve going to prison plays no part in this equation.

And yet, I wonder, am I not in a prison of my own making? Aren’t we all?

I listen to my own words and the words of others and what I often hear is self judgement and recrimination for actions we have taken or for actions we feel we should have taken.

What we tell ourselves can create some pretty high walls and some very strong doors. And the light that gets in may be too dim for us to see well.

The words we use to describe our lives are extremely important. They can provide us freedom or send us to our own internal prison.

According to the dictionary, prison is a place where inmates are confined and denied a variety of freedoms under some ruling authority. If a crime has been committed, the result may very well be incarceration in a prison with a loss of freedom until the sentence has been served.

But what about when we commit ourselves to a self-made prison?

When we deem our actions to be worthy of judgement, we may lock ourselves away, convinced we deserve to be isolated from the world.

Our mistakes might be minor or major, but they result in the same action, a prison sentence of our own making. We can be so hard on ourselves and may tend to focus on our infractions, rather than on their resolution.

So many things could be made ‘right’ by expressing sorrow for our actions and apologizing, then taking some action to make things better. When we fail to do this, we strengthen and extend our internal prison sentence. Our inaction holds us in place and our suffering continues.

There are ways out prison.

One is parole, where a prisoner receives an early release after agreeing to abide by certain conditions. And, the other way is a pardon, which is an act of being forgiven for an offense or error that has been committed. The proverbial ‘get out of jail free card’.

In both of these cases, it is the ruling authority which has granted the action of release, one with conditions, the other without.

What about us and our release from our own prisons? Can we open ourselves to the realization that we can be forgiven for our actions or inactions? Can we allow ourselves some latitude to live a free life, seeing our mistakes and yet letting ourselves off the hook? Can we find ways to make amends and clear the way forward?

How wonderful it would be to accept our own pardon and free up space inside of our self. Imagine what you could do if you released all of your guilt and shame and fear. What an enormous sense of freedom it would bring. Who knows what could be done with all of that beautiful open space? I hope you accept your own pardon and live a wonderful life.

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Do What Calls To You

I am a huge advocate of doing what calls to me.

It took time for this idea to seep completely into me. It had to get past a lot of worldly notions that I had better things to do with my life, like concentrating on getting through school, finding a job, climbing the corporate ladder and all the other milestones we reach for.

I’m not saying that these things are not important, they are. But, what I discovered along the way is that they are not the only things that are important. And, that finding my own sense of balance between the ‘necessary’ and the ‘desirable’, was very important to me.

When I was a kid, playing was the ultimate for me. It topped all my other activities and I found ways to incorporate it into everything I did. When I had to pick up my room, I’d set aside a basket and toss everything into it, keeping score during the process.

As time went on, life became more demanding and I occasionally lost sight of doing some of the things that called to me.

When I went college, I struggled with all of the typical freshman dilemmas; homesickness, trying to make new friends, adapting to a more rigorous course schedule, being on my own while being surrounded by so many others. I felt overwhelmed by it all.

Then I remembered how important it was for me to do what called to me. So, out the door I headed. I walked everywhere as if I was an adventurer in the wildness. I searched out creeks, investigated the massive train yards west of the town, spelunked my way through an underground viaduct that run under the city, and whatever else popped into my mind. I even hopped a few freight trains and learned how important it was to get off before they picked up too much speed. Doing a face-plant into railroad bed cinders is absolutely no fun. It is, however, one of my favorite stories to tell.

At one point in my life I began a special journal. It doesn’t have a title, which is peculiar for me. I could never figure out anything that seemed the right fit. I’ll just call it my ‘life ambitions’ journal for now.

At this moment in time it has 277 items listed. They have one strong commonality…they all called to me…and I accepted.

I split my listing into three categories; those I’ve actually experienced, those I plan to experience and those I will experience virtually. My wife is primarily responsible for the third category, because they are the more outlandish or dangerous items. Okay, you could call them foolhardy.

Actually, there is a fourth category, which are items I have allowed myself to release. This one is very important, so that I don’t become fixated and feel like I’m failing if I don’t do them all. That’s not what this is about. Some ‘calls’ are more a suggestion, than a desire.

I’ll give you a sampling from each of the categories, so you can see what I’m talking about. FYI- hopping a freight train was #10.

Have done: #119 laid on a bed of nails, #59 blown an alphorn, #42 seen the Grand Canyon, #76 done the bobsled run at Lake Placid, #265 built a Lego Taj Mahal (5900 pieces) <shown on the banner above>, #210 built a treehouse with my dad for our children, #149 slid into 500 gallons of Jello to support a good cause, #156 sponsored a child through Compassion International

Plan to do: #49 ride a Segway, #67 ‘glean’ produce (pick surplus crops for donation to a food pantry), #73 visit a Blackfoot Native American reservation, #100 take the Polar Bear plunge, #136 rent a houseboat on Lake Powell, #252 participate in a flashmob

Virtual plans: #46 hangglide, #77 skydive (see what I mean)

Released: #4 climb 10 of the high peaks in the Adirondacks (knees will not cooperate any longer), #26 create my own style of self-defense

That probably gives you a pretty good idea.

One of the most important things I’ve discovered about this practice is that I am always enriched by listening to my inner callings. I’ve come to believe the calls are guiding me toward the things I came here to experience. They are not meaningless or senseless recommendations. They are ‘the stuff of life’.

I hope that you hear the calls in your life and answer the ones that most appeal to you. I believe they are here to open you up to a richer, more exciting life.

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