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How Would You Edit Your Life?

Posted October 26, 2013

video editing screen

I've been teaching myself to edit video, and I'm amazed at the detail and intricacy required even at a beginner's level.

Starting and stopping in just the right places. Making the music match the action. Superimposing titles to identify people.

I started to wonder, what if we could edit the video of our lives?

What would be important to include, and what would you delete? In video, sometimes the most ordinary snippets, the shots you wouldn't have expected to use, turn out to be important for context.

Would parts of your video would run in slow motion or in double time? Which pictures would you enhance – you know, just bump up the color a little? Is there a defining moment, a single shot that tells the story? Where would you focus most of the time, and what would be a quick cutaway?

What's the background music, the soundtrack of your life? Peppy or serene? Classical, rock or rap?

Whose voices dominate your life video? Who gets the longest soundbites, and who has non-speaking roles? Is some of it just talking heads? Is some of it a silent movie, all pictures and no sound?

Think about the B-roll, too, the background shots that set the scene. Which cities, which buildings, which rooms?

You could probably make a nice montage of falling in love or watching your children grow up. But what about all those hours at work? Or straightening the house and doing laundry?

And what would you do with the worst moments in your relationships? Show them? Cut them? How important are they to the full picture?

With video, it's easy to make something look better or worse than it really is.

In fact, I've learned that stopping on any given frame can give me a perfectly awful picture of an otherwise pleasant clip. Mouth open and eyes rolled back in my head. A snarl, a frown. A frame that's blurry or dark. I'm grateful to keep moving.

I guess that's a little life lesson, isn't it? As much as we emphasize living in the present moment, a single frame may offer a badly distorted picture. This moment may not be at all representative of the whole.

We can't help but keep moving, moment to moment to moment. Which means any given frame – happy or sad, blurry or clear – is going to change.

So if you're having a bad-frame day, remember to keep moving. Press PLAY again and advance the video.

If you're on a gorgeous frame where everything is in focus, the colors are saturated, the light is magical – well, appreciate every detail. It, too, will pass.

And taken all together, frame by frame, you will record a life.


Are We Any Closer to Peace?

Posted October 19, 2013

Peace has been on my mind world peace, inner peace – since my church dedicated a new peace pole a few weeks ago.

If I may brag for a moment – ours is one of 200,000 peace poles around the globe, part of the Peace Pole Project that started in Japan in 1955. Each pole says “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages.

We chose eight languages – English, Spanish, Aramaic, Sanskrit, Cherokee, Tibetan, leaf prints and paw prints -- and the peace pole was created by a local sculptor using native limestone.

It's easy to become hopeless thinking we will never have peace on earth. There have been times in recent history when supporting peace over war was considered unpatriotic. Even without war, there are mass shootings and terrorist bombings and sarin gas.

We give a lot of lip service to peace, but is there any evidence we are becoming more peaceful? Does planting peace poles do any good?

I believe so, because life is consciousness. Every peaceful thought we can contribute to the One Mind helps.

We know meditation experiments have lowered crime rates and reduced conflict. We know our thoughts have creative power that we are only beginning to focus and use.

In many ways, peace is measurable. And peace has been flourishing the past few generations. Fewer countries are at war with each other or at war internally. Fewer people are being killed, even at the hands of terrorists.

Despite all we hear about gun violence and mass shootings, domestic violence and gangs and drugs, murder rates have been gradually declining in the United States for two decades.

In 1994, half the people interviewed in a Gallup poll said crime was our worst problem. Fifty percent! Last year, 2 percent thought crime was worst.

Experts give every reason imaginable for this decrease in violence. One is that the Baby Boomers grew up and settled down. One is that the United States locks up so many people in prison, no one is left to commit crimes. One researcher said today's young adults who grew up without lead in gasoline or paint are less violent.

Whatever the reasons, it's all evidence of a shift in consciousness. I hope we are seeing the evolution of the human species.

We live by trial and error, but humans are supposed to be the ones with reasoning ability. Surely 5,000 years of using the blunt instrument of violence to settle problems and punish enemies is enough.

It never works for long. We can't FIGHT for peace. They are opposites.

Here's the good news AND bad news: Whatever we see in our world is a reflection of us.

Everything is energy. We are vibrational beings, and the universe echoes whatever resides inside of us.

As we become more conscious that we want peace, as we wake up, our world is reflecting our inner light. As we see ourselves in each other, we are less likely to do harm.

Peace, like love, is a universal teaching. The Koran of Islam and the Torah of the Jews say peace is one of the names of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”

If each of us is an expression of God on earth, then a divine pattern of peace already dwells within us.

This is Daniel Ladinsky's translation of Hafiz, a Sufi poet who lived about 100 years after Rumi:

With That Moon Language

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them,

"Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud;


Someone would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this,

This great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying,

With that sweet moon language,

What every other eye in this world

Is dying

To hear?


Paring Back to Essentials

Posted October 12, 2013

One of the things I love about my BFF Laura Shepard is that she never lets a life event pass by without milking it for every spiritual insight she can.

Laura got sick last Christmas with what she thought was the flu and never got better. Doctor after doctor had a different theory about what was wrong and how to fix it, and Laura spent a lot of tortured days and nights hoping to get rid of whatever this was.

The diagnosis that finally made sense was fibromyalgia, which isn't fatal but means living with unpredictable levels of pain and fatigue. Her whole body hurts, and most days she doesn't have the energy to get off the sofa.

She is happier than I've ever seen her.

Which got us talking about the meaning and gifts that can come from illness.

At first, Laura laughed about having an auto-immune disease because the body attacks itself, just as she has attacked and berated herself all her life. Like so many people, she smiled on the outside while feeling guilty and inadequate inside for not being thin enough or not being a perfect mother or spending too much money.

Getting sick only heightened her feelings of worthlessness. She stopped cooking for the family a year ago. She dragged herself to the car to drive her daughter to school, then didn't have enough energy left for errands. She bailed out on some of the trips she had planned and worried she wasn't pulling her weight in the family. Lately she hasn't even had the energy to talk and, if she did, couldn't coalesce words to express her thoughts.

Her life has been pared back to absolute essentials. Imagine if you only had enough energy to say what was most important to say or perform one activity a day. You'd have to figure out quickly what IS important to be done, who you want to be with and what really needs to be said.

Laura finally told the truth about how bad she felt and learned to ask for help, from other people and from the universe. Now she states a need and watches it show up. Someone offered to drive her daughter to school. Even the hairdresser was happy to make a house call.

“I'm absolutely as worthless, from a human standpoint, as anybody could be, and I feel blissful. I'm not bored, not lonely. Lonely and bored have been my strongest companions for years, but I don't even need any attention!

“I don't need anything. I don't feel guilty about not contributing. I have no justification whatsoever for my existence, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my entire life. I am out of my mind! I lost it! Yes!”

What happened? She gave up. Not only gave up the need to do anything but released the need to understand what is happening and – most challenging for her – let go of the need to teach. She isn't trying to remember her insights or put her experiences into words in order to pass on wisdom to others. She can just BE.

“I just decided to release my mind, surrender all the fears. I don't have to do everything using my mind. The law takes care of it. All I have to do is know and trust and have faith.

“Without this disease, I would not be here. My mind, my ego was too in charge. But this has given me freedom I've never experienced before, and that's always been my strongest desire, is to have freedom. Now I have it in the midst of a debilitating disease. I can't do anything, and I feel so free! And serene and happy!”

It happened overnight and over a lifetime.

Like others who have called illness a friend and teacher, Laura said she wouldn't take a miracle cure now even if it were offered. She said it would feel as if a delicious ice cream cone were being ripped from her hand before she was finished. Her goal is not to get rid of her illness or even label it as undesirable.

“It will end when it's going to end. I just feel like I'm going to ride it out, continue to gain from it. It feels like there's so much more to experience.”

I asked whether her husband and daughter were on board with this do-nothing perspective about life.

“I don't care! Isn't that amazing? This is a miracle. There's more bliss in being worthless.”

And I asked what this means for others who are sick. Should they stop seeking treatment, only do what they want? Most people don't have that luxury.

“No shoulds!” she said. “I would say follow your inspiration. This is a gift, this is an adventure of your lifetime. Don't fight it, enjoy it. Just do exactly what you're inspired to do. You have created this with Source in the most unique and perfect way, and it's going to bring you to the best place you've ever been.”


Are You a Spiritual Perfectionist?

Posted October 5, 2013

As the holidays approach, I'm anticipating at least one gathering where guests will assemble for the big meal and someone will chirp: “Who would like to say grace?”

And everyone will freeze, staring at the floor. No sound but crickets.

I used to wonder why so many people are afraid to pray out loud, but I know perfectly well – they're afraid of doing it wrong. I had to go to seminary to get over my fear of praying in public – actually took a course in it -- and I still worry my prayers aren't eloquent enough.

It's part of an epidemic: trying to do spirituality “right.”

I answer questions nearly every day from people who want to make sure they read the right spiritual books, pray with the right words, practice spiritual principles perfectly and think about God correctly.

And the test of whether they're doing it “right?” Having a perfect life, of course.

You can see how exhausting and self-defeating this is, can't you?

Brene Brown, who writes brilliantly about shame and vulnerability, says everyone has some perfectionistic tendencies, some more extreme than others.

Perfectionism is not the same as striving to be your best or improving yourself, she wrote in The Gifts of Imperfection. It is an attempt to earn approval and acceptance from others as a shield against the pain of being blamed, judged or shamed.

“Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.”

In other words, if we don't get it right, we'll feel terrible about ourselves, and we just can't stand to feel that way again. So we try harder and harder to be perfect, even in our spiritual lives. At the same time we insist that God is unconditional love!

Research shows that trying to be perfect actually has the opposite effect. It's a path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis. “Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we are too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect,” Brown wrote.

So, even though I have fallen into the trap of spiritual correctness many times, I am going to urge you not to. Think of God any way that makes sense to you – Spirit, Father, The Force. Pray any way that works for you, from silence to outright begging and beseeching. Use any translation of the Bible you can understand.

And – here's the main lesson about perfectionism – make sure any efforts you make to change or improve yourself are just for you. Not to please anyone else, not to get it “right,” but to explore new practices or rituals that have meaning for you. To read whatever makes your heart sing. To take a break from continuous self-improvement once in a while.

Do you know how many scientific discoveries resulted from mistakes? How often the law of unintended consequences turns out to be helpful?

I ran across a charming video (above) – just 3:15 – that will give you permission to make a mistake today! Apply it to your spiritual life. What spiritual “mistakes” do you think you've been making? Could they somehow result in an unexpected breakthrough?


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