Permitted Invasion of Stress

Have you ever experienced something in life, where despite your best efforts, things went completely out of control and spun off in all directions, creating total havoc?

I sure have.

It happened again recently. Maureen and I had replaced our front storm door with a brand new quality unit we thought would be ideal for us.

For no apparent reason one of the parts in the lock mechanism retracted and I could not get it to move, even a fraction of an inch. I imagined leaving home and returning only to find that somehow it snapped itself back into place locking us out of our house. And to add to this scenario, of course the key would no longer work. So, I taped over the opening to make sure we’d be able to get back in until we could get it fixed.

A few days later our brand new iMac computer, which had previously been working flawlessly, decided to question our standard password. I entered it and the little gray dots on the screen shook in place, saying in effect, ‘uh uh buddy, not your password.’ So, I tried again. Same result. I called in reinforcements. Maureen entered the password and again if shook it off. We both looked down at the keyboard. Nope, the Cap Lock key was not on.

I waited a bit to see if it would come back to its senses and watched as the screen froze in place and would not respond to any keystroke. I was completely locked out.

So, now my house and my computer were both restricting access. Interesting.

I won’t try to explain in detail, but there were a number of other things happening that were going the same way. And as it happens we were trying to get ready to go away on vacation. I admit that I was stressed out about the intersection of all these problems hitting at once. I took no time to step back and breathe. I didn’t get up and go for a walk or tell myself it would all be okay and that the things I was experiencing would all work out.

No, instead I permitted an invasion of stress into my life and rushed ahead and made matters worse. Instead of dialing Apple Customer Service I mistakenly got through to Apple Care Customer Service. And yes, they are a scam outfit. But given my inner stress and lack of forethought, I fell into their trap, which resulted in having to change all of my passwords and other information and a great deal more stress, and still no functioning computer.

I hope that you don’t have any stories similar to this, but you probably do. You may be able to identify with my confusion and understand why I didn’t step back and more carefully consider my actions.

I believe that everything that happens in life contains hidden gems waiting patiently for us to reveal them. I’ve spoken about this to lots of folks and am often asked to share what has come to me. Sometimes I think the requester wants to judge the benefits I discovered for themselves and see if in their opinion they justify the stress I encountered. Other times I believe there is a genuine curiosity and desire to see how they might be able to reveal gems in their own lives.

Here’s what was revealed this time to me, so that you can see for yourself.

I realized that I am human and will make mistakes and will sometimes berate myself for them. Seeing this clearly allows me to acknowledge my feelings, then release them and any ego attachment to them.

I recognized that fear was the driving force behind all of my stress. And, in my case, the fear represented a lack of faith in the loving universe. This gave me the chance to center myself in my belief that I am loved, protected and cherished by the divine.

I accepted that when I feel stress and time pressure building I loss focus. This helps me to realize I can consciously release whatever stress enters my life and shift my attention to addressing things positively. I also realize that I can stretch time by slowing down, sitting back and breathing into it.

I acknowledged that anger was playing a significant part in my experience. It blurred my vision so that all I could see was unfavorable outcomes. I embraced the idea that being angry is a choice. A choice that does not benefit me and one that requires a high price to be paid. I don’t want to pay this kind of price and I can make better choices. It’s really up to me.

I came to understand that a big part of me was flashing the ‘fairness’ card, enticing me to jump inside the loop of seeing the world as not fair to be treating me this way. The whole idea of fairness is a trap. Quicksand really. The more you struggle, the worse it becomes. I heard a small beautiful voice inside my head saying, “There is no such thing as fairness or punishment and there are no required lessons to learn. You are free to choose to experience life in any way you desire. You can release yourself from anything that feels too heavy or creates stress. Please choose wisely.”

And a companion to fairness rose up during this experience. Control. My desire and my need to control not only the outcome but the process as well. I realized that control is born from fear and I also realized that control is an illusion. We make choices, but we don’t control all outcomes. We are not here by ourselves and there is an incredible web of interconnections throughout the universe. I opened to accepting that there is great wisdom in releasing any sense of control and trusting in the innate intelligence of the universe.

Lastly, I found that when confronted by overwhelming challenges, I can be sustained by consciously releasing whatever rises up in me. I can focus on being patient with myself and offer myself love, knowing I am part of the divine and a radiant being of light. In this way I can be wholly engaged in life, ready for any beautiful encounter that comes my way.

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To Know Flow

I’d like to share a poem I wrote in 1975 when I was 23 years old. At the time I was about to start my ‘real’ working career with two part time jobs; as a youth director at a church in Albany and as a teller at an Albany bank. It was mid-summer and I was finding my way in the world and seeking direction from whatever or whoever would speak to me from inside myself. I was surprised by the clarity of the voice that responded. The poem has stayed with me all this time, which I have to assume means something. Here it is.

to know flow

goals are the rocks of bondage

time is the eternal essence of mind

mind the essential ice to melt

acceptance is the bearer of peace

wisdom is the moderator of the flow

flow is the way of life

I’m a big believer in folks making up their own mind about things. You are certainly free to interpret this any way you choose, or read it and pass right on by. However, if you’d like to know why it means something to me, please keep reading.

goals

Perhaps you were taught to honor goals like I was. They were cornerstones to reach for. Inherently valuable and worthy of all of the time it might take to achieve them. They were what grown-ups ‘should’ strive for and the promise seemed to be that they would make you happy and satisfied with your life.

While this has been true in some cases, it has more often been that my goals were unattainable, or at least not achievable in the ways I want to experience them. Most of them became ‘rocks of bondage’.

It was not until recently that my vision shifted away from ‘goals’ and moved toward ‘aims’. This is a much more gently word and concept. It implies a certain amount of freedom, because the emphasis is on the direction of your movement, not the final outcome. I try now to leave goals out of the process and instead envision those things I am aiming for in my life. Maybe you might want to try this with one of your goals and see what happens.

time

It seems to me that everyone knows time is a man-made construct, an arbitrarily agreed upon decision to break up days into hours and minutes. I get how necessary it is, but somehow, I’m uncomfortable with the idea. I’ve never worn a watch for this reason and yet somehow, I’ve managed to show up for all of life’s meetings. I’ve also discovered that time is malleable. The same fixed amount of time can seem incredibly short or excruciatingly long, depending on the circumstances. Time seems to be an ‘essence of the mind’.

mind

Everyone has one. Everyone needs one. But, I’ve seen in my life how often my mind wants to be in charge, as if it always knows best. Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but to me, wisdom is far superior, so that ‘mind is the essential ice to melt.’

acceptance

Even though I’ve given intolerance, defiance and resistance every possible chance to solve my problems, they have all failed me. Quite miserably, in fact. Only acceptance has offered me a way forward, guiding me gently, yet firmly and being for me, ‘a bearer of peace.’

wisdom

As I see it, wisdom comes from the inside of me and knowledge comes from the outside of me. Wisdom follows a pathway through my feelings, while knowledge moves through my mind. When it comes to trusting, I choose wisdom over knowledge every time, because I recognize it as ‘the moderator of the flow.’

flow

Here is the truest way to feel and know your truth, are you moving against or with the current of your life? It is really a simple question and so revealing. Would life actually be trying to move you in a direction that did not benefit you? Not only is this a question of flow, but of faith. I hope that my choices are made in such a way that ‘flow is the way of my life’.

Feelings

I may have mentioned this before. I know it’s in my most recent book, talking with (god). I keep a daily Feelings Journal, which gives me the chance to actually spend time feeling, instead of always focusing on thinking. Of course, I can’t help that some part of me is thinking while I do this. That seems inevitable. But, offering myself the chance to express how I really feel is priceless.

I discover so many wonderful insights when I open to what my heart is experiencing. Over the years, I’ve learned to open as wide as I can and to say whatever feels like it needs to be said.

Recently, I was sensing despair surrounding me, especially as it related to the political turmoil in our nation. Bravely, I chose to allow everything that upsets me to rise to the surface. In doing so, this observation came into view, “we fall off the rails and slip into our own darkness when we judge our lives by the darkness of others”.

I think this explains a lot and I can see how it applies to my life. Perhaps it may apply to yours also.

Others darkness affects me. It spreads out, enveloping everything in its path. Have you felt this?

It can affect my whole world, altering it and fading it, sometimes turning it into formless shadows.

One of the beautiful things about acknowledging my feelings is that I get to reclaim the colors in my world. I get to recognize that I am in charge of my own light and my own darkness. By allowing each of my feelings to be seen in the light, rather than staying deep inside of me, I can choose what is to become of them.

Sometimes only one or two feelings pop up, but other times there is a multitude. The last time this happened I allowed each feeling to have it’s own voice. It was very loud at first, but it subsided and a wise voice spoke saying, “don’t try to start with everything, start with one thing.”

One thing, one feeling.

Yes, I could manage that. There is certainly wisdom in allowing the rest to wait their turn. And if they become unruly, I can always put them in ‘time-out’, after all, I am the one in charge.

So, where to start when there can be so many?

It’s up to you of course, but I’ll share my approach and you can decide if it feels right to you. I hope that’s the way it always works when you come here. You have your own magnificent life to live, so I hope you always feel free to choose your own way, no matter what you find here.

Sometimes I choose the feeling that speaks the loudest to me. I figure that if I do this, I’ll be able to hear the feelings with quieter voices better. Sometimes I have an inner knowing that the feeling with the quietest voice is the key to everything, so I start there. The selection process is mostly intuitive.

It probably doesn’t matter where you start, but it does matter that you start.

For me, the ideal starting point is by talking with (god). You know, if you’ve read my book, that (god) comes to me as father (Abba), mother (Na’a), brother (Yeshiwa) and sister (Lia or love In Action). I spend the most time with Lia these days. I can lay out all of my feelings in any way and in any order and they are all heard. Doing this gives me enormous peace. And talking with Lia and hearing her response fills me and brightens every color in my world

For you, there may be a different starting point. The beautiful thing is it’s up to each of us to choose our own path.

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SPECIAL NOTE:

I case you want to know more about creating or expanding your relationship with (god) you may want to consider reading talking with (god), which you can learn more about on the Books page of this website.

Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is her response to him.

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

More to come.

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

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Three Dollar Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHYSICAL PAIN

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

MEASURES OF SUCCESS

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

(Good things, I bet)

CONSCIOUS CHOICE

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

SIMPLE

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

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

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

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More Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

It certainly felt that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful.

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

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

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