Ballast

Ballast seems like a funny word to me. One day it just popped into my head out of nowhere, so I decided to look it up. I thought I knew what it meant already, but as is so often the case, I was mistaken.

The first usage given, for both the noun and the verb, refers to ships. Ballast is some kind of heavy material, like sand, gravel, iron or lead, which is placed low in a ship in order to improve its stability or refers to the stabilizing force offered by these materials.

Interesting.

I wondered how that might apply of our human lives. What sort of things stabilize our existence and give us ballast?

No doubt the answer is different from person to person, but I thought it might be useful to consider if there were some beneficial principles involved.

So, suppose one day you’re walking down the street and a strong wind starts to blow, what gives you ballast? I guess you could fill your pockets with sand or gravel or, if you could even find them, iron or lead. Sure, you could, but not very practical, huh?

You could just move indoors until the strong wind goes by. That would solve your problem. But what about those problems in life that you can’t get away from by hiding inside? What gives you ballast for them?

I know that one of my solutions was to try to block difficult problems as soon as they appeared. I told myself, nope not going to affect me!

But the truth was they did affect me and by spending my energy trying to block or deflect them, it caused a great deal of inner tension and made it even more difficult to deal with the other things going on in my life.

It wasn’t until I started attending Unity Church, that I began to realize, that I had to give myself the chance to feel my feelings. Without taking this scary step, I was never able to move beyond the fear and the subsequent tension it created.

I confess it is challenging to make this shift and, as much as I’d like to say I’m beyond it, that probably isn’t the case. I still have to remind myself to go inside and be honest. And, I still need to feel whatever I’m feeling, before I can move on.

Letting my heart sit with my fears, deep inside me, now feels like ballast to me. They can be very heavy at times, but they draw me in and by allowing them to speak to me, I can create the space for their release.

As it turns out, one ballast for me is the strength of knowing I am safe in this world, which is another Unity idea. When I am challenged, I can remind myself that there are those who want me to succeed. And, there are those who love me and will help me. They are in my corner and it gives me peace knowing that no matter what, they are ready to steady me when life becomes rocky.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking, well, good for you that you have a support group, but I don’t, so who is going to assist me, especially when I experience tough times?

I know there are lots of different groups that seek to provide the help that each of us needs, but if you can’t find them or they don’t find you, I have one place you can still go for stability and support.

I’ve spoken of it before and will again. It is the divine, the sacred spirit that lives inside of you. All it takes is to speak out and ask, then listen with your whole being. I believe that the divine stands waiting at all times for our approach and all it takes is an open heart, ready to believe, ready to be loved.

For me, I know this to be my truth. I hope it becomes yours as well.

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SPECIAL NOTE

If you want to know more about having a relationship with the divine (god), please see the Books page on this website, where there is a description of my book, talking with (god). If you can’t afford it, please let me know  (use the Contact page) and I’ll send you a free copy.

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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Through The Eyes of Love

We so often see ourselves through others eyes, as if we are a reflection, rather than our own being.

We may spend much of our time carefully trying to fit into molds others create for us. And, we may try to avoid stepping over lines they’ve drawn. Ones that represent what they want or need or expect from us.

I believe that there are times it is necessary for someone to set reasonable limits. It’s more a question of when and how.

We come into this world essentially helpless and dependent on others for everything. As we grow up, we gain skills and confidence and resist doing everything others tell us. This can cause a great deal of friction and lead to conflicts and resentments.

It is so hard to navigate the constantly changing line between what is necessary in order to keep us safe and healthy and what is overburdensome control. It can be difficult for both the child and the adult to adapt to all the situations that present themselves.

This has certainly been the case in my life. And, to a degree, it probably still is.

But, I’ve come to suspect there is another way to live our lives. And I believe we are better served by being brave and bold and using out own ideas and images as guides for our actions, and to see life and the world through our own eyes.

Unless there is a question of competency, I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to make their own decisions. Of course, it is helpful and valuable to have resources to aid in setting our course in life. But, once we reach a certain age, we all want to have the ultimate control over our own decisions.

How does this happen so that we feel in charge and yet supported?

I suppose it is different for everyone, especially since there are so many unique situations. Part of what seems like the truth to me is that the shift that makes the difference is on the inside of a person.

Changing your perception from being the overseen to being the overseer can be challenging, but also, extremely rewarding. As nice as it is to have someone as your guide (whether parent, relative, friend, guardian) it is vital to assume your own leadership role for your life.

Shifting from being a reflection of what another wants, to being your own person and casting your own image into the world is a fantastic and wonderful process, even though a sometimes very challenging one.

On the BOOKS page of this website there is a listing of all of the books I’ve written and a few that are planned. One book, Little Buddha Book One, has an important observation I’d like to share about seeing through the eyes of love. The two main characters, Claire and Sam, are having a conversation and the subject comes up about how Claire finds peace in the world.

Here is what she says, “It’s simple. I start each day when I wake up by reminding myself who I am. I am a part of god. A divine spirit, complete and whole. I am not missing anything. My reality is that I am made of love. I remind myself that everything around me is also made of love and that the only difference between me and all that surrounds me is my perception or the way I choose to see the world. If I think or act or say something that is not from love, my perception will be that I am separate from the world. And then I will label things. They become “bad” things or “wrong” things. But if I remember that everything is a part of the one, then I can look at everything through the eyes of love. You see, the idea is simple. It is the true perceiving that is difficult.”

I find great meaning in Claire’s words and try to remind myself to always look at my life through the eyes of love.

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Names

It’s interesting to me that we humans feel it important to name everything. Babies at birth, cereal, house styles, planets, flowers. It goes on and on.

I have lots of odd thoughts about this. Who first decided to name something? Which name sticks, if there are disagreements? What do we do when there are several names for the same thing?

And then there are all of the issues that arrive when we introduce other languages into the mix. Which name will be the most common? And to confuse things further, there are different spelling for the same name.

One of my distant relatives did some genealogy research and discovered eight different spelling for one of our family names. How is it even possible to keep track of all of them?

And what about all of the slang names we have for things, places, eras, people? It’s mind-boggling really.

I understand why we do it. It’s convenient and makes our lives easier, even when there isn’t universal agreement. Often, it’s enough for us to get by in our conversations.

Maybe it doesn’t matter with most things since you can tell a lot by the context, but in some cases, it seems very important what name you use.

One such occasion is when the reference is to ‘god’.

In some religions, ‘god’ is never to be named, while in others, ‘god’ has many, many names, all of which are meaningful and relevant depending on the point of reference.

I wonder, do you have your own name for ‘god’? Was it one that others taught you to use or did you come by it on your own?

I think it’s important for you to know that I honor and respect whatever name you use. I also honor and respect your right to have no name or relationship with an entity know as ‘god’. I believe in free will and that every person has a right to choose their own path here on earth.

I also believe that we profit from sharing with one another and I would like to share my names for ‘god’ with you, because they matter to me.

I have four names that I use and each represents a different relationship I have with ‘god’. There is Abba, a masculine loving, devoted energy, Na’a, a feminine supportive, caring, and loving energy, Yeshiwa, a masculine personal, loving energy and Lia, a feminine ethereal, loving, and deeply connective energy.

I speak with them all and they speak with me. We have two-way conversations. I share my life with them and they share their love and wisdom with me. (You can read more about this in my book, talking with (god), which you’ll find on the Book page of this website).

I’d like you to hear what Lia told me, so that you have a better idea about her and what she means to me.

Like all people, I have ups and downs. I have both incredible strength and huge vulnerabilities. Over time I have learned to release many of the names I once called myself. I’ve opened to hearing a greater truth, one spoken to me in words I can understand. Words that show the depth of how much I am loved. I know these words belong to everyone, so I want to share them with you. Please hear them and know that you too are loved this deeply.

Lia said to me, “You have never been alone, because I am with you. I have dedicated my life to you. I will always be with you, now and forever. My love covers you over and nowhere is left untouched. You are who I live for and breathe for. I am you, and you are me. Open yourself up to knowing me and my presence within you. I will give you peace. Peace not of this world, but of heaven and you will know a new love. One that surpasses all you’ve ever felt before in your earth life. Know this, when you walk, I am with you. Wherever you go, I am by your side and in your heart. I am in every breathe of your life. Open yourself to my presence, that we might again be one. Dear heart, I ask you to choose to see and feel my presence. I take nothing from you. I give everything to you. Now, always and forever. You are my true heart. Open and feel my love for you.”

I hope that you will accept these words.

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Acceptance

I have very good friends whose points of view on a variety of subjects are radically different from mine. I wonder, how this can be?

Whether it’s politics, religion, sports, food preferences, child rearing decisions, you name it, the disparity can be significant. Any one of these topics could be the source of a major argument, and there comes a time when we have to ‘agree to disagree’ and move on to another topic.

Maybe you experience this same situation with some of your friends and family members.

Part of me is always interested in how things like this come about. Try as I might, the answers elude me. We’re each a product of so many influences, that it would likely be impossible to unwind things enough to discover the source, even if we tried.

A curious question arises for me. What allows us to continue to be friends, in light of the disparity in our points of view?  

My answer is simple. There is a greater love between us than there is a sense of divide. We relinquish ‘rightness’ in trade for ‘harmony’. Somehow, we are able to allow each other latitude, because down deep we have formed a stronger bond than anything we disagree about. To me, this is certainly a case where love overcomes.

But, there are of course, folks I disagree with and whose moral compass and opinions serve to separate us and the gap between us can seem monumental.

Looking at the world today, it appears present everywhere, that our various points of view are widening and causing major challenges, resulting in violence and revealing deep seated fears. I have little doubt this has always been the case, but with our abundant social media platforms, we hear so much more about it.

No matter which side you lean toward, it seems everyone senses a measure of discomfort.

So, what to do?

It feels like the truth to me that we know by now that, ‘the fangs first approach’, will not heal the world. When we allow our fears to lead the way with visceral reactions, they create a predictable defensive outcome, the return of barb for barb. It’s highly unlikely that this will ever produce any real answers.

I believe things will change only when our love is greater than our fear.

Fear thrives on maintaining set ideas and an avoidance of anything new. Fear needs to be listened to and allowed to have its say.

I believe there needs to be a search for a true understanding. We have to be willing to suspend our own beliefs, in order to ask questions and listen carefully to the perspectives of others. We need to be open to hearing their answers, with an eye toward resolution.

This is a tall order, no doubt about it.

It seems like the fundamental question is whether the love that is within each of us can rise to the surface and accept another human being the way they are? Can we give them an opportunity to express their concerns, so that we hear them, before we express our own? Can we see if it is possible to find common ground first, then build on that toward a better future?

I am not always successful in doing this and sometimes I fail miserably. When this happens, I try to recognize that I’ve fallen into old patterns and awaken myself to a better path. I try to release fear and summon love, because it’s the only way to live the life I want to experience here.

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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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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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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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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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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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