Heading Into The Storm

It seems human nature to try to avoid challenging situations in life, almost like we’re hard-wired that way. Perhaps some internal awareness is operating, attempting to save us from having to deal with things we wished were not a part of our life.

When a difficulty presents itself to you, what are you inclined to do? Do you shy away or pretend it’s not real or solicit for help from others? Or do you face it, recognizing it’s unlikely to be resolved without your direct intervention?

There are of course lots of other strategies, but most seem to come with potentially uncomfortable consequences.

You may be thinking this very moment about something you’re facing and wondering how to proceed. Or you may want to arm yourself with a new approach for when the time comes for your next challenge.

You might already know that I am a writer. Afterall, you are reading something I’ve written right now. But I write more than these posts. I am wholly engaged in a series of books that all go by the title of Little Buddha, and I’ve just completed Book Four. In it there is a story about a young man, Max, who worked in the western part of the America doing an internship with the US Forestry Service. This gave him the opportunity to observe nature and experience her wisdom.

Although he learned many things from the Forestry workers, a Native American by the name of Black Elk, was the one who taught him the ways of nature and filled him with a living wisdom he could carry with him. More than this even, Black Elk taught Max how to observe and understand life for himself. Certainly, a most precious gift.

Perhaps the most valuable teaching of all came one day when Max was observing a herd of buffalo and watched as a massive snowstorm swept toward them. He paid as careful attention as he could, trying to see what each of them would do. In the chaos and blinding snow too much happened for him to notice it all. He wanted to understand better, so he asked Black Elk to share his wisdom.

Black Elk, whose normal approach was to teach through asking questions, decided to explain through the use of his own observations.

This is the story he told Max.

“Many, many years ago there was a Sacred Buffalo. All the other buffalo watched the Sacred Buffalo and followed the Sacred Buffalo everywhere it went, always finding enough to eat. One day, a great storm arrived. Many buffalo turned away from the storm, charging as fast as they could, trying to outrun it. Others watched to see what the Sacred Buffalo would do. The Sacred Buffalo snorted and stamped its great hooves upon the earth. Then, giving one great cry, it glanced at the herd and ran full speed into the storm, disappearing in a wall of white snow. All the other buffalo followed stampeding behind where the Sacred Buffalo had disappeared into the whiteness. A short time later all the buffalo emerged from the storm into a place of stillness and there, grazing peacefully, stood the Sacred Buffalo.”

After some more discussion Max came to understand the value of heading into the storm. He accepted and embraced the story and shifted his life, recognizing the wisdom of the Sacred Buffalo.

In my own life, I’ve seen that trying to avoid or run away from my problems has caused an enormous amount of pain and suffering for me. I’ve allowed all those scary, fearful, difficult decisions that have come to visit me too much reign over me.

The essence of Max and Black Elk’s story enlightens me. Opening myself and allowing courage to come forth, then acting swiftly and boldly, heading directly into the storm of any problem, I now see as the wisest path forward. It shortens the length of the storm and leads me into a place of peace.

In the story Black Elk gives Max a carved wooden buffalo that had been bleached white by the sun as a reminder for his travels through life.

My hope is that I remember the teaching of this story.

Should you wish to read more of the story, you can order a copy of the book, Little Buddha Book Four by Rob H. Geyer, on Amazon in either print or ebook format.

Choosing Your Memories

If someone asked you to share one of your memories, what would you choose to tell them?

Now imagine the same person asked you to share five or ten or fifty, how many of them would be ‘good’ memories?

If you were given a day or two to conjure up as many memories as you possibly could, how long would it take before you mentioned a ‘bad’ memory?

It fascinates me to consider what my answers to these questions would be. It feels like some sort of subtle test, a way to measure my satisfaction with my life.

I had an occasion recently to investigate this idea up close and personal. As my mom’s power of attorney, it was up to me to sign all the mortgage closing documents on her recent house sale.

I’d promised myself that I would walk through the house before the closing. I wanted a chance to capture the living memories I felt were stored there. I wanted to sweep them up and bring them with me. To store them somewhere safe inside me so that I could hold them, perhaps forever.

As I walked in the front door, the floodgates opened. I can’t recall the very first time I entered the home I grew up in and I that I have been a part of for over sixty years, but so many things stood there in front of me.

The house has so many interesting features and every inch of space is utilized. There is a shelf inset into the wall in the foyer. One of the shelves used to hold a small wooden ship I carved for my father. It had toothpick masts and thread rigging and it took me a long time to build. It’s not there anymore. I have no idea where it went.

I walked into the living room. A place where so many joyous family gatherings were held. A place where a mounted deer head rested above the fireplace. I’d bought it at a garage sale for 25 cents. I thought it was a great deal. I’m willing to bet the seller and his wife thought they’d made a profit. The deer head is gone now. I have no idea where it went.

On into the dining room, where all our family dinners happened. My mom was an excellent cook and I remembered many of the meals we ate there. If I stretched a bit, I could almost taste them. It became my mom’s reluctant bedroom, when it wasn’t safe for her to go up and down the stairs any longer.

Going from room to room brought more and more sweet memories. Words, sounds, feelings. The comings and goings of six decades. All the games, conversations, fears, hopes, and dreams. All the wonderful cookies after school, fresh out of my mom’s oven. The mad crazy ping pong games with my father in the basement, which was too short for our smashing forehands. All the imaginative games with my sister, one of which was pretending to be radio disc jockeys under the dining room table. Don’t ask me why that was our station headquarters. It just was.

Upstairs I walked down the hall to my bedroom. I could still see it as it was when I was a child, the placement of my desk and chair and bed, the Hopi Indian wall hanging, even the closet that had a sort of secret compartment where I stored my prized possessions.

My memory lane is long. The savoring, both touching and sweet.

Perhaps you’ve lived and lost some parts of you, a house, a family member, friend, favored pet or a lessening of your skills and senses. It happens.

What I think matters most to me is what I do with my memories.

Do I let the ‘bad’ ones overtake me, bringing me down and crushing me into silence and grief?

Or do I sift through them until all that are left are the golden, glowing, shiny memories. The ones I wish to keep and hold near to me.

The beautiful thing is, we each get to choose.

Losing Friends

Have you ever lost someone important to you?

Is there anyone who could say ‘no’ to this question? I cannot imagine this being the case, unless you are very, very young.

How can we cope with our sense of loss?

I realize everyone is different and no one approach will work for all, but I feel compelled to try to open some kind of door here. Certainly, for myself, but also for you, if that is something you desire.

Like many others, I have experienced a great deal of loss in my life. Some of it in dramatic fashion, some over prolonged time periods, some from a distance, some close up.

During a relatively short period of time, I lost my father, my best friend of forty years, my mother-in-law, two brothers-in-law, a great aunt and my daughter’s family boxer. All these beautiful, incredible beings passed from this life to another, through the arms of death.

Absorbing the emotional impact of these transitions was very challenging for me. I had to recognize this was the truth. I couldn’t hide from the pain or ignore it. I couldn’t rationalize that they were better off leaving their lives here. There was a kind of limbo inside of me that surrounded their passing. A suspended state, leaving me wondering about how we are all connected and whether the connection goes on, despite their physical absence.

I was attempting to find my way through this when another loss occurred. Even though not a brother by birth, I had a deep connection with another and called him my brother, and he died by his own hand. Gone in one second of time. Violent, tragic, and yet completely understandable to me, given his circumstances. In his death I recognized that any form of judgment muddies the water. You cannot know another’s path without being on it yourself.

I also discovered that not all loss is the result of physical death. Friendships die, even long-term ones. And they can be just as painful. All those years melting away into mere memories.

It is easy to become stuck in the sadness and sense of loss. And the pain often extends outward into other areas in your life, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

So, where did my struggles take me?

One direction led me to asking why any of us are here? Is it solely to experience our heart’s breaking?

I believe the truth is that we are not here to subtract from each other’s lives but to add to them.

I bolded that statement because it is that important. Those few words shifted something huge inside of me and offered me a question to ponder.

Who am I now, that they were in my life? What did we share? What did we offer each other?

I feel glory in my answers to these questions.

I feel an awareness of something real and tangible. A sense of beauty and depth and how my life is better, fuller, grander because of them.

I sense that parts of them are now parts of me and I can pass them on to others. Their lives then extend through me, becoming another part of the amazing tapestry that covers this world.

Whatever pain or suffering once existed, can be transformed, if I allow it. If I encourage it. If I embrace it.

If I open and let my feelings run through me and guide them, knowing ‘all is well with the world’, I become free and can remember clearly how beautiful every connection I’ve ever made truly is. All a part of the whole.

When I see my life through this lens I feel blessed.

Spiritual Blueprints

Do you believe a blueprint exists for your life? A path forward that is already laid out? Or do you feel that everything that happens is random?

These are interesting questions to consider.

My father was an architect and dealt with blueprints his whole working career. For many years he had his own architectural firm in the town I grew up in. He eventually moved from a small set of rooms on a second floor that he rented to a two-story building that he owned. It was quite large, with a full basement and huge attic space.

I got to know every inch of the building because in the summers I worked there performing a number of different tasks. I cleaned, took care of the yard, did small repairs, helped with office work and whatever special jobs my dad needed.

The most challenging was when he decided, one incredibly hot summer, to have me move all his stored blueprints from the basement to the attic. He was concerned about the moisture degrading their quality and potentially needed them for future reference.

It turns out there were hundreds of them, and they all needed to travel up three flights of stairs and be organized and stored in the attic. That may not sound like much, but consider I’d start out each trip in the 60-degree basement and end it in the 110-degree attic. Those 50-degree changes, done over and over, were exhausting and I ended up drinking an unbelievable amount of water just to stay hydrated.

I remember having to take quite a few breaks. On one of them, I pulled out and unrolled one of the blueprints to see what I was transporting.

If you are unfamiliar with blueprints, they are large sheets of blue paper that show various levels of detail on different pages and are used by contractors to build structures. They’re meant to be unrolled on a flat surface and often are organized to display different levels of what is being built and are extremely detailed.

On several occasions my dad would explain them to me and even let me do some basic drafting, a simple version of a blueprint. I found them fascinating, but not enough to follow in his footsteps, which fortunately, was okay with him.

Recently, I was involved in cleaning out my mom and dad’s house to get it ready to sell and came across some of his blueprints.

Something registered with me.

According to my personal spiritual beliefs, each of us comes here to earth from heaven with our own spiritual blueprints. They are all unique and serve as a guide for our lives. We are not bound by them because we have free will, but they rest in the background and provide wisdom and direction, much like the mechanical blueprints architects create.

So how do you access your spiritual blueprint? Where can you unroll it and lay it flat to look at?

I first became aware of mine during one of my conversations with god. god made a reference to it, saying that each human is made up of physical, emotional, intellectual, ego and spiritual components. They intertwine, but the spiritual component is the only one that knows their spiritual blueprint.

I wanted to know how the rest of me could be let in on this.

What I discovered was that every quiet contemplative state allowed some access. So, when I sit and breath, stilling myself, I open the door to it. When I slow down and wait patiently and give my intuition a chance to come to the surface, I open the door. When I meditate, going deeply within, finding harmony and calmness, I open the door. These are peaceful, wonderful practices to open to the wisdom available in a spiritual blueprint.

And there is one more.

When I can’t seem to settle myself and find the open door, I ask for help, promising to pay attention. I ask god to help me find a stillness where I can listen carefully. I ask god to unroll my spiritual blueprint and help me see it clearly.

I’ve seen it many times and am always grateful for the insight it provides. I believe you can see yours too and hope that in your stillness it comes through your open door.

Oil and Water

Have you ever heard anyone say, when referring to people who always fight and argue, “Oh, those two don’t get along at all, they’re like oil and water”?

It’s a common phenomenon. I’ve seen it happen many times and perhaps you have too. I’m pretty sure I’ve been part of this equation, sometimes consciously and sometimes without even being aware. There seem to be some people you run across in life who feel like your polar opposite.

It made me wonder how the expression came about. It turns out this one is based on scientific principles. Not to get too technical, but to give a frame of reference here’s a quick explanation.

I promise there is real, tangible value to understanding this principle, so please keep reading.

Water molecules are made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The oxygen atom has a negative charge, while the hydrogen atoms carry positive charges. This allows water molecules to form very strong bonds with other water molecules and also gives them the ability to breakdown and dissolve other molecules, like sugars and salts, because of its polarity.

By contrast, oil molecules are nonpolar and are referred to as hydrophobic, meaning they are “water fearing”. Instead of being attracted to water molecules, they are repelled by them. As a result, if you combine oil and water the two separate, with the lighter oil molecules floating on top of the heavier water molecules.

One vivid example of this principle may be seen when there are puddles in the street and a car leaks some oil into them causing an oily film to stretch across the surface of the water. Although it may appear quite beautiful, it creates difficulties to properly clean up…think monstrous sea-going oil tanker with a crack in the hull, flooding the ocean with thousands of gallons of oil.

Can anything be done about this? Yes. When detergent is added to oil and water it helps to break up the surface tension between them and allows the detergent molecules to bind to both the water and the oil molecules.

Science lesson over.

Remarkable when you think about it.

But why all this talk about molecules?

Here’s why. Consider the polarity of other entities. I’m sure you can come up with many of your own, but here’s a few to get you started: ecologist and big business, two countries or gangs fighting over disputed territories, two religious communities arguing about which can claim spiritual superiority, or two political parties failing to see the bigger picture.

The list of examples we could come up with is no doubt voluminous.

As I thought about these polarities, surprisingly I began wondering about ‘detergents’ and what role they could play. Not the detergents used to clean dishes, but rather acts of openness and compromise that could be used to bind both sides together and aid in resolving conflicts and finding common ground.

I confess I am a dreamer.

I see what happens when one side ignores the other and how it fosters added hard feelings. I witness how blind faith builds fences and boundaries to be protected.

I’m not saying this as if I am exempt. I’m not. But seeing this from the direction of oil and water and detergent speaks to me. It offers me an insight and a way forward.

What if, instead of seeing polarity we added some detergent to the mix (listening skills, opening to the bigger picture, compromising, agreeing that we want the best for the next generation, caring, a bit of generosity, compassion and empathy).

What might that look like? How might that feel? What difference might that make?

I wonder about these things every time I pour some detergent into the sink and wash the dishes and I remind myself to do my best to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Searching for Beliefs

Where do our beliefs come from?

Most likely some are taught to us directly, while others we seem to absorb without knowing when or where they came from.

Then there are beliefs we choose for ourselves with intention. If I think about my life, there are beliefs I hold, both because they have a strong appeal to me and ones, I’ve chosen in reaction to what others attempted to force upon me.

Choosing our beliefs may take quite a while. We might feel it’s important to spend the time to sift through all the fiction to find the facts. And even then, it can be overwhelming because certain facts feel very slippery. What is undeniable one day can change over time. Add to that, that the experts don’t agree, and that new research is always occurring and our comfort level with the beliefs we’ve chosen may decline further.

There are other difficulties in the process. Here’s just one simple example.

Have you ever been to the doctor’s office and seen the height chart attached to the wall? You’re asked to stand with your back against it, while the nurse or doctor determines your exact height. There is an underlying assumption that the chart was correctly installed. But suppose that it wasn’t? If it was placed an inch or two above the floor, your height measurement would be wrong. If you’re fully grown when the measurement is taken, you’re likely to live the rest of your life believing an inaccurate measurement.

The same can be true for all your beliefs. If the basis for them is incorrect, the conclusion is incorrect.

I’ve observed that forming my beliefs spans quite a breadth. It’s not all about the facts of life. My beliefs run the distance from intellectual to physical to emotional to spiritual and beyond.

I have to remind myself that sometimes what I’ve been taught is merely someone’s opinion. It’s their perspective and not something I want nor need to accept. That feels very important to me.

At certain times in my life I’ve been told, either out loud or by another’s actions, that I am not very smart or capable or worthwhile. It becomes my decision to accept or reject these statements and believe what I choose.

It’s everyone’s right to challenge beliefs they already have or are in the process of forming. For intellectual decisions it seems reasonable to learn all the facts we can, from as many sources as possible, then choose what appears to be the best answer, while keeping in mind that what we choose needs to be flexible. It feels wise to recognize, that as new facts become available, we can alter our beliefs and that nothing is cast in stone.

When considering emotional beliefs, I’ve found it wisest to ask for input from those I trust most, but to also rely on my feelings and intuition, which can be wonderful guides, alerting me to truths that lie beyond the facts.

As for spiritual beliefs, I rely on my relationship with (god) for all my answers. I believe that each of us is directly connected to the divine, who is always available, waiting for a chance to be present in our lives. Going within ourselves gives us an opportunity to discover truths we can not find in the world around us. Time and time again, by calming my breathing, quieting to silence the outside world, and opening my heart, a way forward will appear. There are of course times I need to be patient, but a part of my truth always comes to fill me.

I believe that you can be filled too, should you decide to open your heart to your inner world.

The Nature of Forgiveness

Do you find that you are able to forgive others?

Are you able to ask for forgiveness from others?

I realize both of these offer their own challenges. Life is often messy and complicated and it’s easy to fall out of harmony with family, friends, and others. Even when doing our best, we may offend or hurt them or be hurt by them.

Balance is easy to disturb but not as easy to mend.

Much is said about forgiveness. There is a school of thought which says an apology must be offered first before forgiveness can be granted. Another school takes a far different approach and says that forgiveness easily given releases everyone.

After struggling for most of my life, I was finally able to come to a place of peace with the whole forgiveness process. It happened as I wrote about it. A story took shape inside me and needed to be brought into the light. This is how my book, Little Buddha (Book One) was born. In the first chapter, a man, Sam asks a wise six-year-old sage (Little Buddha, Claire) if she can help him understand the nature of forgiveness.

Here is the passage.

“Do you think you could answer a question for me?” I asked a little timidly. “Perhaps” she said. “Well, I was wondering if you could tell me about forgiveness. Do you know anything about that, even though you’re so young?” I admit, I thought I was being foolish asking, but in light of her wisdom and my lack of it, I didn’t see how I had anything to lose. She sat for a minute or so filling the bucket to the top with dry white sand.

“Can you imagine something?” she asked. “Sometimes I have a hard time with that, but I’ll try hard”, I responded.

“OK”, she said, “Imagine 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 more 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 me carefully saying, “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.”

I believe that these words came ‘through’ me and are not my own. They have more strength, wisdom, and insight than I possess. I believe they were meant for me, to help me, to free me. And now, I offer them in the hope that they do the same for you.

PS

Should you want to know more, this book is available through Amazon in print and eBook versions.

How to Compost Your Fears

Recently I was thinking about the whole composting issue and whether I wanted to be a part of this revolution. In the middle of my research a thought occurred to me. Might it be possible to compost my fears in the same way I compost my left-over food scraps?

Before I continue, I want to share that this is a two-part post, the first part today and the second part on Thursday, January 20, 2022.

When I began my research, I only had a vague idea about the process of composting. Maybe you already know a great deal, but in case you don’t, here’s a little background that might be helpful.

The whole idea revolves around combining decomposing plant and food waste and other organic materials. The end result is a mixture rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms that can be used to fertilize and improve soil.

In other words, you are able to grow really good stuff with it.

What happens in the process is that everything is combined and placed in a sealed container and left alone. It just sits there, waiting and doing its thing. Really, it couldn’t get much easier.

So, what I’m wondering is, what if I handed you a container and told you that you could place all your fears inside and seal it shut in the hopes that what came out of it at the end of the process would be rich, fertile soil for your life. Would you do it?

And if you did, what fears would you place in the container? What are you holding onto right now that would feel wonderful to release from your life?

I know this is something I would benefit from doing, so here’s my list.

I am afraid of feeling small and not pushing myself beyond my careful limits. I fear that others may not find worth in what I write and therefore, in me. I am afraid to appear foolish. I fear that I might lose this game of life somehow. I have fear and concern about the future and that as I age, my physical wellbeing will deteriorate. I am afraid for the health of those I love, especially during these troublesome times. I have fear that our world will never return to what is was before COVID and I won’t be able to see others beautiful smiles and hug them. I am afraid that we won’t listen well enough to the earth and to each other. And ultimately, I am afraid of both failure and success, but for very different reasons.

This is just a partial list. It’s what came to me just now. I imagine your list may be very different from mine, but what might be the same is how it feels to each of us deep inside. We may have different names but the same sense of fear.

Okay, let’s imagine that you decide to give this a try. First, spend a minute or two and create a list of your fears and concerns by acknowledging them and placing them one by one in your imaginary composting container. Once they’re all in there, snug the lid on top and push it firmly down sealing it shut.

In the silence I hear you asking me this question, “now what?”

Now you leave them in there and go do whatever fun things appeal to you. Take a walk, play a sport, workout, paint, read, anything you find relaxing.

In a few days we’ll see what’s happened to your fears, but for now I want to share what the world might be saying to us about this approach.

In all likelihood it’s telling us that absolutely nothing is going to happen and that the whole idea is ridiculous. This is how the world often speaks to us, as if it’s invested in the continuation of our pain.

But here’s some very good news, we don’t have to listen to the world. We are not required to pay attention and can always choose our own path. That’s what we’ll be doing this coming Thursday, so please join me then.

The Trouble with Choosing Sides

Imagine you are standing amongst a group of kids. You’re facing two other kids who are looking at you with a careful, critical eye. You can see little wheels spinning in their heads while they make their choices. Basically, they are thinking one of two things.

Who will help me win the game we’re about to play (“I want them on my team”) or who will lose it for us (“I absolutely don’t want them on my team”)?

I was a part of this scene dozens of times during my childhood, both as the one making the choices and as the one hoping not to be chosen last.

There is a tremendous emotional imprint made during these sessions which can last a lifetime. It can also affect your self-esteem level, which carries forward to many other situations.

I realize that choosing sides seems to be a part of life and perhaps I would be wise just to accept it.

But I can’t. There is too much at stake.

Every way you look there are expectations for you to make a decision on who to support. Which sports team, political party, religion, talking head, family member, TV show, you name it. You are expected to agree with a certain number of important figures in your life, family members, teachers, business leaders, all to show your allegiance.

But what if you disagree with the crowd? Or, as some others will see it, worst yet, have no opinion at all?

There could be some trouble in that for you, couldn’t there?

Earlier in my life I didn’t have many opinions and I only reluctantly chose sides. Well, except for football, because of course I knew who the best team was. Or did I?

Being forced to choose a side is a tricky thing. Suppose you have no real opinion, or you don’t truly know all of the facts, or you don’t care which side seems to be ‘more right’? In many situations you are expected to choose a side…the ‘right side’ of course. Staying neutral can be dangerous and can place you outside of your group, family, or nation.

Okay, so why would anyone hesitate?

Well, the first reason is that once you choose a side, it makes it very difficult to understand those on the other side. It’s as if your brain goes on strike. It says, “I’ve come to a conclusion and I’m sticking with it and now I don’t have to think any more…case closed”!

You want to talk about dangerous, there it is.

A second reason is that you might feel as though you are missing something. How could there be all these other people who have decided another way is better? What do they know that you don’t? Are there some facts you are unaware of? Maybe it would be valuable to talk with them and find out.

And here’s another thing that happens when you choose a side. Huge rifts are created, and greed and envy polarize positions making it impossible to see beyond them. Wars and territorial issues surface. Borders and fences of all sorts are erected. And emotional attachments harden hearts.

So, what if we didn’t choose sides? Would society collapse? Would there be chaos?

What if we searched for some common ground? What if we were willing to listen so that we could truly know the fuller story? What if we were willing to compromise for the sake of unity? What if winning and losing became unimportant, but everyone gaining peace and harmony took center stage?

And there is more at stake because having to take sides has an emotional impact on each one of us. Being forced to comply with arbitrary positions corrupts us, makes us smaller and weaker as people and blankets our free will which is one of our greatest gifts.

Well, perhaps I am choosing a side after all, one where we aim toward peace and understanding and harmony. I can live with that one.

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.