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.

In Pain, Consider Gratitude

You may think I am crazy, and perhaps in some ways I am.

The thought of offering gratitude when you are in pain runs contrary to how we’ve grown up in the world and I was tempted to shy away from this post topic. But, I couldn’t, mostly because that’s where I have been for the last several days.

It’s one of those inexplicable cases where I felt fine one moment and not the next. No obvious precipitating event seemed to lead to my misery.

I simply had progressively worsening pain in my right groin area that made it extremely difficult to move, bend or raise and lower my right leg. As a consequence, I relied almost exclusively on my left side and upper body to carry my weight, causing additional problems.

I’ve had something similar to this happen to me before, but never with as much pain.

I tried to understand why this was happening to me. I recognize this is one of my default settings- needing to know the reason(s) for things in my life. But, I also recognize now how useless pursuing this line of thought is. It doesn’t resolve the problem, takes me away from helpful courses of action and even if I knew exactly how the problem occurred, what benefit would that serve at the moment?

So, I tried to take a step back and accept that something had happened and it was now up to me to choose how to react.

My first thought was to feel a little sorry for myself because I anticipated that the pain was going to be with me for several days, given how sharp and intense it was.

I’ve learned to try to follow my natural reactions, but not get caught up and stuck in them. So, I pushed a little further.

Yes, there was pain, but what else. Was there something hidden that could be revealed? Could I discover any reason(s) to be grateful for this experience?

Now that is a challenging question and one I don’t feel I was completely ready for. And yet, I knew it was important to consider it. So, I asked myself, what gratitude exists here for me?

The first thought that came to me was that there are folks who are available to me to help; my wife, chiropractor, doctor, family, friends, the pharmacy. I wasn’t alone in this.

I got into the spirit of this exercise.

Instead of being angry that I didn’t get my usual 7-8 hours of sleep, I was grateful for the four hours of sleep I did get. I was grateful that I would be able to seek medical help. I was grateful that my back was okay, despite the extra load placed on it, which is a huge thing for me.

I thought about the timing of this event and expressed gratitude that it had happened when it did, rather than during my recent vacations. It would have severely limited my ability to enjoy them fully. But it happened after them and long enough before our next vacation, so I have time to recover.

I continued listing reasons to be grateful and allowed my physical suffering to exist, but not to overwhelm me. I admit this takes a certain amount of commitment and concentration, but the value to me has been extraordinary, not only for this episode, but to carry with me into the future.

This idea may seem too challenging and not one you can easily accept, but had I not opened to the idea, I would not have discovered gratitude’s great power and beauty. I ask only that you consider seeing if it might offer you the same.

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Overloading

When you travel, do you end up bringing the exact right amount of stuff with you or do you under or over pack?

I am guilty of over packing. I do it every time I go somewhere.

It seems silly to me and I end up resolving not to do it again…only to do it again.

One time I took note of all the stuff I didn’t end up needing or using as I returned it to its resting place at my house. I’d calculate that sometimes I brought as much as 50-60% more stuff than I used or needed.

It made me wonder why? Why would I consistently bring so much stuff with me? It didn’t make any logical sense. Wouldn’t one sweatshirt have been sufficient, instead of two? Did I really need extra underwear and socks? And, how about that towel I packed, didn’t the place I was going offer towels for the beach or the pool?

Maybe you don’t ever do this, I don’t know. Maybe you’ve figured out the secret to packing just the right amount. If so, please feel free to share.

Since the answer to my over packing didn’t seem be logical, I wondered, what else could be the reason? Did it stem from some inner sense of comfort I needed, so that I would feel that I would be okay?

I also sensed a level of fear involved and asked myself, what would happen if I didn’t have everything to meet my needs? It did occur to me that I probably could buy whatever the missing item was, but it might not be convenient and it seemed better that I should have it with me to start, right?

That’s when it hit me. The reason wasn’t logical, it was emotional.

I over packed to create a (false) sense of comfort and to ensure that I would be able to feel okay with my surroundings.

And, as with most other experiences, I felt there would be some definite relevance to my life if I explored this a bit deeper.

I wondered, did I over pack in other aspects of living?

The answer turned out to be ‘yes’, and for the very same reason, to feel comfortable emotionally.

But does it work?

No, not really. Mostly I believe because while ‘things’ can create outer comfort, they can’t create inner comfort.

The only thing that can do that is inside of me already. It’s my awareness and knowingness that the entire universe will support me in whatever I choose to do. This goes far beyond both the logical and the emotional and dips directly into the spiritual.

It is not necessary for me to understand all of the dynamics involved. It isn’t necessary for me to be able to explain or prove that this is the truth for me. What is necessary is that I exercise faith and trust that I am loved and cared for and that everything I truly need will be provided.

This is a very big deal.

It may strike a cord with you and find a home. I am grateful if this is the case.

But it may still leave you wanting more. If so, I need to ask you something, what balances and centers you when everything starts to tip over? If it’s something outside of you, it probably doesn’t work all of the time and so, a shift to the inside might help.

Maybe stepping back, closing your eyes, breathing slowly and easily, and opening your heart and asking the divine inside of you to come and share its wisdom with you will bring you peace.

I try to remind myself every time I over pack, either when going on an actual trip or traveling some new pathway in life, that I am loved and cared for by the divine that is always inside of me.

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Mistakes

This is actually not a story about gardening, but it may seem like it at first.

Imagine that you have a large piece of property and want to create a garden and fill it with all sorts of wonderful vegetables. You think to yourself, what steps do I need to take to make this happen?

Knowing what you want to plant and when it would be the best time to get started would be helpful. So too would knowing how to prepare and fertilize the soil and fence it in properly so all of the animals in the area don’t eat your crop before you do.

But, I believe one of the very first steps would be to consider how big you want your garden to be. Once you’ve decided, you could measure the plot outline and place stakes at each one of the corners. And, maybe you’d want to string a line between the stakes so that you can get a better idea of the scope of your garden.

Cultivating the soil and planting your seeds might come next, however, I suggest you consult a real gardener or farmer for the best methods.

For my purposes, I’d like you to imagine that you’ve done all of the prep work and have begun planting your seeds and suddenly realize, that despite your best efforts, you don’t have enough space for everything.

Imagine what your reaction is to this situation.

Are you angry with yourself? Do you berate your lack of forethought? Do you feel like giving up?

Or, do you shift and focus on solutions? Do you think to yourself, all I have to do is move two of the stakes, so I can fit everything in? I’ve just made a simple ‘miss-stake’.

That’s all it really is…you’ve placed the stakes in spots that don’t work for you, so you pull two up and relocate them and then everything is okay again. Simple.

I really love the idea of…simple.

Imagine now that we’re talking about life and not a garden.

You want to experience or create something in your life, so you go about doing the things you believe will make it real for you. But, you know that there are things you don’t understand and that there will be challenges you’ll need to overcome.

You are human and part of that is making mistakes.

No matter how controlled, no matter how intelligent or careful or thoughtful you are, you will make mistakes. You’ll set something up, put something into motion, relate to another person, organize, plan and yet, you’ll make mistakes.

The good and wonderful news is…that’s okay and is to be expected. In fact, I believe, all mistakes lead us in the direction we truly wish to go. That is, unless we allow them to define us and our actions, so that we lose faith in ourselves. Rather than seeing our mistakes as taking away from us, we have the choice to shift our perspective and open to seeing mistakes as redirecting our path toward our best self.

When we shift our focus, we change the course of our lives. There is no more failure or need for negative thoughts about our self. We can see that each mistake offers us an opportunity to find a new and better path. We can be grateful for the insight brought into view and simply change the location of the stakes in our lives.

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Commas

Little things are sometimes big things, or can be, depending on how we see them.

Take a ‘comma’ for instance. It’s so small you might miss it if you’re reading quickly. But, it’s important because as a punctuation mark, its intention is to provide a pause between parts of a sentence. It can also be used to separate items in a list or to mark the place of thousands in a large numeral, like 83,120.

My wife, Maureen, an English major in college, probably knows all of the eight other things a comma can do as it separates parts in a sentence. I confess this makes my eyes glaze over. Which is really okay, because some of my interests do the same thing to her. It seems fair and works for us.

Now back to the comma.

I was thinking about how we could use a comma effectively in our verbal and non-verbal communications.

Imagine that you’re engaged in a conversation with someone and things start to go off the rails. There’s a little heat and you can feel your temper amp up a bit and sense the other person beginning to do the same. Now, imagine being able to insert a comma, a pause between argumentative statements. Your small little comma can save the day and chill things down. All you have to do is stop for a moment and put the comma into action.

Ideally, if both you and the other person did this, you’d likely be able to reset the conversation and find some common ground to restart your dialogue. I realize that sometimes the other person won’t cooperate, but it might be worth using your comma, even just for yourself.

I wonder, what would happen if you disengaged and sat back and thought for a moment? What would they do? Might it be worth trying to see what impact it would have?

I sense the other person would be taken off guard and perhaps, settle down a little. After all, it’s hard to argue with someone who isn’t fighting back.

Or, how about when someone is naming all of the things they think you’re doing wrong. Imagine being able to pause the list until you can catch your breath. That little comma can give you enough time to shift your perspective or get out from under the weight being placed on you.

I wonder, what if each of us could raise our hand as a way of interjecting a non-verbal comma into challenging situations we face?

And, what if the other person had to stop for a moment and give us a chance to consider their words before responding? What might we gain from using the comma this way? Would it create some distance and offer us a greater perspective? Would it lessen the tension and give us a chance to step away?

My personal answer to all of these questions is, ‘yes’.

I see the comma as a small piece of salvation, similar to a reset button. I think it has numerous benefits, not the least of which is encouraging us to slow things down until we’re sure which direction to travel.

Perhaps we can’t influence others to act in ways we find acceptable or helpful, but we can influence our own behaviors and make our own conscious choices, ones that offer us a sense of calmness and peace.

Next time you sense the need for a comma, maybe you’ll want to give it a try and see what happens.

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Shifts in Belief

One of the best things I can do for myself, when something in my life is not going the way I’d like it to, is shift one of my beliefs. I may not immediately know which belief or how to change it, but I know it’s the wise thing to do.

Folks often tell me they have bad memories. My usual response is, “I bet it’s far better than you think it is.” I follow this statement by asking, “would you like some proof?”

Doubtful, but intrigued, folks almost always say, “yes”.

There are numerous methods to improve memory and I’ve worked successfully with several. Based on what I know about the person, I choose one I believe will appeal to them.

In one case, I was talking with a staff member (who I’ll call Gwen) and she explained that she had trouble remembering when she needed to retain several things at once. Gwen added that they all kind of ran together, making it hard to recall any of them and asked if I really thought she could get better at remembering.

“Absolutely,” I said. I asked her to write down a list of ten random things. She glanced at me with a hesitant look, but picked up a pen and wrote them down.

“Okay,” I said, “now we’re going to make a movie together. I want you to tell me your first item and we’re going to create a visual picture in your mind.”

She’d chosen ‘tie’, so we visualized an enormous tie the size of a house with a bold rainbow pattern on it. Next item happened to be ‘house’, so we visualized a scary haunted house and wrapped the tie around it. We continued this way through all ten items, making each stand out, the more bizarre the better, and then linked them, one to the next to the next, until we’d connected all ten.

“Now we’re going to practice our list three times,” I told her. Gwen repeated the movie we’d created three times, getting quicker with each repetition.

Her manager (Sadie), who had watched the whole episode, was given the task of asking Gwen to list the items in order, while she compared it with the list Gwen had written. Gwen did it flawlessly.

I asked Sadie to randomly select any item and ask Gwen what item came before and after it. Sadie made her choice and Gwen responded correctly. I asked Sadie to choose a random number that corresponded with an item and ask Gwen what the item was. Again, Gwen answered correctly.

Gwen was stunned. “That was so easy,” she said, “but I’ll probably forget by tomorrow.”

“No, you won’t,” I said, “and not only that, you’ll also be able to change other beliefs. It’s likely that you have been telling yourself other things that are equally untrue. Here’s a chance for you to shift your beliefs about anything you’d like.”

I saw Gwen once or twice a month following this memory visualization exercise. She’d see me coming and knew what to expect, because each time I’d ask her about her movie and each time she recalled it with ease.

“So,” I asked her, “do you still have a bad memory?”

Gwen would laugh and say, “Guess not, huh!”

Nope, guess not.

The funny and wonderful thing is that we are all capable of shifting any of our beliefs. Once we recognize that they exist, we can decide if they serve us and make our lives better. If they don’t, we can choose to shift them in ways that do serve us.

Nothing in our inner life is set in stone. We have the freedom to decide and choose whatever we desire and set a pathway toward experiencing it.

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The Origin of a Thing

I was wondering the other day where rocks come from. It was in relation to where they end up and how they get from place to place. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, I promise.

There are several interesting facts I discovered and it’s curious how one fact ended up connecting to my original question.

One version of how rocks are formed is that they are made of stardust, as a byproduct of an exploding star, that sends pieces outward into the universe at incredible speeds. Their size varies considerably. Some are just dust or pebbles, while others may be as large as a house. We see some of the house size ones as they burn up in our atmosphere and call them meteorites. Once they’ve landed and had a few million years to hang around they change form and evolve into one of three specific types.

Like almost every other thing I can think of, they go through a life cycle. A star, stardust, universal travel, landing somewhere, creating rock formations, erosion of many sorts and then sometimes they are used by man. We crush them and build roads with them and hundreds of other things.

My granddaughter and I, think they make wonderful subjects to be painted. We find that they are very well behaved and sit still while we change their appearance. We both love the process and the outcomes and enjoy placing them outdoors for others to see. She will sometimes place a sign next to one of hers that says, “Adopt a Rock”, so a passerby knows they can take it home with them.

I think this is very generous of her.

Recently we painted a bunch of rocks, which you can see from the banner picture at the top of this post.

And, here’s the connection I promised you.

I painted one completely black, then added the words, “the sky is not the limit” and surrounded the words with lots of white stars. I had no idea at the time that rocks came to us from the stars. I think that’s pretty cool.

I put the rock out in our front yard and hope that folks passing by read it and take it to heart. I believe it is the truth. Whatever limits we feel we have, are the result of our belief system, including in this case, the sky. I don’t think it is the limit. Not literally and not figuratively. I take inspiration from shifting my point of view, away from restrictions and constraints and toward expansion and creation.

It seems amazing to me that the star exploded and expanded and in doing so, set into motion a cascade of creation (albeit, a very, very slow one) that eventually resulted in my finding one small rock and painting it with the night sky, filled with stars. A part of me wondered whether it felt at ‘home’.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Since I placed my rock next to one of our trees, I also began to wonder about its life cycle. What is the origin of a tree and how many different things does it become? I felt fairly confident, but did a little research to confirm my thoughts. Yes, trees come from seeds, which grow up, create new seeds and find incredibly varied ways of sending them forth to become new trees.

Sorry, I can’t help it. Which comes first the seed or the tree?

I know, I’ll ask a chicken.

Anyway, as I started to consider all of the uses for trees, one image leapt into my mind. It’s where lots of people are gathered together and they’re constructing a house for someone in need. They are part of a Habitat for Humanity project, which turns out to impact so much more than one person or one family. It’s a gift for everyone. The person who plants the tree, the worker who harvests and mills it, the people who sell it as lumber and those who buy and ship it. And then there is the whole process of turning the wood into a house. All those who organize the projects, those who volunteer and build the dwellings and those who eventually live in them.

It’s a beautiful life cycle, especially when I allow myself to become a part of everything I see.

I remind myself of this when I see the rock and the tree. What an amazing journey we’re all on.

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Never Mind

“Never mind.”

Have you heard these words before? I certainly have and I suspect you have too.

I’ve heard them most often when used to cancel out a request that’s been made. An individual has asked a question or expressed a need for help. If the question isn’t answered quickly enough or the plea for help is ignored, ‘never mind’ can be uttered with some passion and anger. The subtext is a kind of, ‘thanks anyway!’, and the person who asked the question or needed some help usually walks away frustrated.

It also happens that ‘never mind’ is used more softly. At times an individual will request something, but realize they are capable of filling their own need or rethink the importance of their request. Saying ‘never mind’ is their release of need, both for the one they asked and for themselves. It is often accompanied with a shrug or a little laugh, as if to say, ‘sorry to trouble you.’

It is interesting to me that we can use the same expression to mean two very different things. I’m pretty sure there are a ton of examples that fit this description.

Beyond these two examples, I’ve thought of three other interpretations I’d like to share.

First, I want to tell you how this post came about. These two words popped into my head and I just knew they needed to be the subject of a POST. I knew nothing beyond that. I stared at a blank page in my notebook and said to myself, ‘let’s just see what happens’. I’m telling you this because it represents a state of being I encourage, where you let go and trust there is wisdom to fill the void.

And, I want to tell you, there is always wisdom to fill the void.

What about ‘never mind’ meaning that it is okay to be open and to accept what comes your way, knowing you are loved and cared for by the divine universe (you choose the name you like best for the divine universe). Whether it is a less than desirable grade on a test, a bump in your fender, a perceived sense of disrespect or anything else that makes you feel less.

Or the slight variation of ‘never mind’ meaning that you allow everything to be as it is, without having to control it. A kind of ‘never mind’ freedom. So, when others don’t act as you would prefer or say the things you don’t want to hear, you release whatever sting of pain their words or actions might have created in you.

Here’s my last one.

What if ‘never mind’ became a suggestion to shift where you live your life from. So, the expression would read, ‘never mind (first)’.

What if you lived your life from your ‘heart’ first, instead of your ‘mind’? What would that be like?

This idea is not to suggest that your ‘mind’ doesn’t play a significant role in your life. It does. It has to. But, is it first?

What comes to me is this question.

Where is my best life going to come from?

My answer is, ‘never mind’, but rather from ‘my heart’. How about you?

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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 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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