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Where Did You Get That Idea?

Posted April 30, 2017

idea graphic

People ask me all the time where I get ideas for my blogs and talks.

I always fumble for an answer. Where does any idea come from?

Ideas are the divine currency of the universe. Everything begins as an idea – inventions, businesses, relationships, jobs, parties.

Some ideas work out well, and some are disasters. People have made and lost fortunes, found and lost love, caused and cured disease, all based on ideas. They have won awards and gone to jail because of the ideas they decided to pursue.

Everything is created twice – first as an idea, then as a visible thing or action.

Even feelings begin with ideas. We have an idea that something is good or bad, scary or pleasant, wanted or unwanted. Our feelings quickly follow.

Have you had any good ideas lately? Or ideas that seem wacky? Are you acting on them?

IDEAS ARE WAITING

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, suggests that ideas are virtual entities that roam around seeking a receptive mind. I have always thought so, too.

I love to picture them hovering over my head, waiting for an opening.

We are free to accept or reject the ideas that land on us, of course. Sometimes several people accept them at the same time.

Ever notice how two or three movies will be made on the same topic in the same year?

Nobel Prizes are often shared by two or three scientists who had the same idea at about the same time, even though they were working independently.

It's called multiple discovery.

Gilbert tells the story of an idea she had for a novel – she fleshed it out in some detail – but she decided not to write it.

Later, she met another writer who described the novel she was working on. It was the exactly same story Gilbert had considered, with the same characters and details.

Apparently the idea had given up on Gilbert and found someone else to express it.


WHAT'S IN YOUR HEAD?

We couldn't get through the day without ideas.

What to wear, which errands to run. We have ideas for harmony in our relationships, for effectiveness at work, for parenting, for teaching.

What shall we have for supper? It starts with an idea.

You might not be a painter or composer, but even the least imaginative among us is a fountain of daily ideas.

Most of them seem ordinary, but occasionally an idea will inspire you. You might seize upon it even before it makes sense. You can feel something important is trying to emerge.

So I ask again, have you had any good ideas lately? What are the ideas trying to emerge through you, to come into expression?

I'd love to hear the ideas that have presented themselves to you lately. You can email me if you don't want to tell everyone else in the comment section.

Ideas are clamoring for expression. The world is waiting for you to act on them.

   

Your Spiritual Footprint

Posted April 23, 2017

big footprint on beach

What is the spiritual footprint you will leave on earth?

Imagine it's like a carbon footprint, which measures the fossil fuels you consume in a day or a lifetime. Your spiritual footprint is what you use up, leave in your wake, or conversely, what you contribute by having been here.

We've all known people who left behind hurt and heartache, who left a family in flames.

We've all known people, including some of us, who spent years in therapy trying to unravel the damage done by those who left their harmful footprints on us.

I don't mean we are victims. You always can choose how to deal with other people and how to feel about them. Cleaning up their footprints can be part of your growth.

For that matter, you might leave footprints on others. You are their growth catalyst!

PUT OUT YOUR FIRE

What if we could leave these lives without a trace of having harmed anything or anyone, much like campers leave a clean campsite?

I'm not a camper, but I looked up some of their rules, spoken or unspoken.

• Take out what you bring in.
• Put out your fire.
• Put everything back where it was, and fill in any holes you dug.

What's even better is to leave your extra firewood for the next campers.

In a spiritual footprint, this would mean leaving behind no unforgiveness or unhealed relationships.

Instead you would leave your vibration of love for others. Your world would be a better place for your having been there.

TREAD LIGHTLY

What is the spiritual footprint you are making right now?

Is your site clean, or is there trash strewn around – conflicts, disharmony, grudges, worries, judgments?

Are you willing to fill any holes you've dug? Patch up relationships, ask for forgiveness, straighten out misunderstandings?

Are you sharing firewood, leaving help for those who follow, giving away what you have gathered in the interest of supporting others?

I'm not suggesting you should vanish from this lifetime as if you were never here. But at Easter last week, we celebrated the divine in each of us.

Will your divinity still resonate after you're gone?

   

What Do You Wish You'd Known?

Posted April 15, 2017

crystal ball

When I'm leading workshops to help people design the lives they want to live, I ask them to create a vision for their life three years from now.

Then they pretend it is already three years from now – that would be 2020 – and everything has come true. They're living the life they dreamed. They talk about it in detail and begin to feel it.

Once they're ensconced in the vision, feeling its vibration as if it were today, I ask them to answer a very telling question:

What do you wish you'd known back in 2017 that you know now? Now that the dream you held has come true.

Half the time – no, nearly all the time, in some version – the answer that pops out of their mouths is: I wish I'd known how easy it would be.

That's it. It's fun to watch how surprised they are at their own wisdom!

The lives they long for are easily available to them, whether they seek dramatic change or just tweaks.

THE VOICE OF STRUGGLE

You don't have to create a long, detailed vision for your life to make this small shift in your thinking.

Whatever you're dreading today – a work meeting, a visit with relatives, driving in rush hour – ask yourself, What if it's easy and fun?

Many of us live on the frequency of Struggle, as if it were a television channel with only one show. But you can change the channel to Easy by shifting your expectations.

To start, you have to catch yourself making the agreement with struggle. It sounds like this:

I could never afford that.
The doctor said half of his patients don't recover from this.
The family is not going to like this.
I don't know if we can sell the house in this market.
Nobody is hiring.
Moving is such an ordeal.
I've got to drag myself to the gym.
It's going to be a long day.
(Sigh)

It's funny when you think about it. We decide something is going to be difficult before anything has actually happened, before we've even started.

The fix is simple: Fix your thinking.

Catch yourself in these thoughts and shift them.

I had a friend who trained himself to think, when his wife was late coming home, “She's probably at the party store planning a surprise for me.” Or, “She's probably cashing in her winning lottery ticket.”

I mean, why not? The things we reflexively label bad or worrisome could just as easily turn out to be great.

SPIRITUAL GRAD SCHOOL

I understand the tasks in your life right now might never be “fun.” You might be planning a memorial service. You might be getting chemo.

So use different language. Affirm that it all goes smoothly. That the experience is harmonious or fulfilling or meaningful. Imagine the best possible outcome.

This works at a spiritual level, too, not just for daily tasks.

Some people worry about what God has in store for them, and believe spiritual lessons will come only through pain and difficulty. Nah.

I knew a minister who affirmed, “All my lessons are easy and fun.” She saw no reason to be hit with a cosmic 2 x 4 when she could learn and grow in joy instead.

3 STEPS TO REFRAME

One of my favorite teachers is Samantha Bennett, who works with creative business people and talks about the spiritual side of success. She knows thoughts are the key.

In a recent interview, I heard her offer a business secret that takes us to spiritual grad school: Everything that looks like a problem, mistake or disappointment is actually an invitation, blessing and opportunity.

She suggested three steps to shift your thinking in this direction.

  1. First, keep repeating this phrase: Nothing bad is happening. It grounds you in the spiritual belief that you live in a benevolent universe, even when things are not going your way.
  2. Then become more precise with your language. If it's not “bad,” then what is it? It might be heartbreaking, challenging, or simply not what you expected or hoped.
  3. So where is the invitation? What are you being called to do or be? A more patient parent, a more understanding spouse, a better communicator at work, a more diligent citizen? Where is the opportunity?

You can apply those three steps to anything – the check that didn't come in the mail, the technology that failed at a crucial moment, the conflict in relationships, even a political or global situation. If the universe is friendly, then what is the opportunity it is offering you?

A PERSON OF INCREASE

Again, you don't have to have an elaborate vision for your life to make changes in the moment.

Sam advises us to go through life asking, How can I make this moment more me? How can I plug in more deeply, show up one degree more?

In the workshops, I call it being a person of increase. Every situation, every place you've been, is a little better for your presence.

And you are a little more fulfilled by life.

What if it's easy and fun?

   

Giving Up Approval

Posted April 8, 2017

flowered thumbs up

The spiritual author Byron Katie says if she had one prayer, it would be, “God, spare me from the desire for love, approval or appreciation.”

Really?? I love approval!

I've always been a very good girl, which helped guarantee lots of approval.

I still get approval. One of the great things about being a minister is standing around after the Sunday service so people can exclaim about how wonderful I am. (Although some people duck their heads and avoid eye contact. Guess they didn't like it.)

I have long recognized my tendency to be a people-pleaser, so a few years ago, I decided to give up seeking approval for Lent.

It was a foolish, foolish choice. And I did it knowing how the Law of Attraction works. I was throwing down a gauntlet before the universe, or angels, or whatever reflects our intentions and creates opportunities to practice them.

Sure enough, I lost the approval of many people during those six weeks. Time and again, I had a chance to release my need to keep everyone happy and make everyone love me.

CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR

During that Lenten season, I was accused of causing pain, being tone deaf, being apathetic, not listening, not hearing, not caring, not understanding, not appreciating how hard people work and how much they do and how much they care and what they want and need and how important their issues are.

And of course, the critics seemed to believe if I were truly loving and spiritual, I would do whatever they want.

I don't remember the particulars of those conflicts – they weren't all in the church -- but I do remember it was as if the universe said, “Here ya go, Ellen. Let us back up the dump truck of disapproval and tip it onto you. So you can cure that disease to please.”

I can't say I was completely cured – obviously, I still remember the sting of disapproval – but I do believe living to make others happy is not our ultimate purpose.

This issue arises often among spiritual people. They turn themselves into divine doormats.

DIVINE DOORMATS

Divine doormats let people walk all over them in the name of compassion, understanding or acceptance. They refuse to judge, even when they are being harmed. They confuse spirituality with always being nice.

doormatWhy be nice? To win others' love, approval and appreciation.

It occurs to me our whole lives are geared to seeking approval – pleasing our parents, getting good grades, attracting a partner, performing in sports, succeeding at work.

Approval is expressed with awards, medals, scholarships, raises and marriage proposals. Approval is how we keep score.

So how could we live without it? Why would we want to?

This doesn't apply to everyone, but I suspect part of my life purpose is learning how to love and engage with other people without losing myself.

THE PRICE OF AUTHENTICITY

Standing up for who you are and what you want means risking others' disapproval, if only because we are all different and won't always agree.

Of course, it is possible to live at a higher level.

In divine consciousness, the approval of others doesn't matter. Our higher selves live in a state of love and oneness, knowing all is well. At that elevation, we even can love our human selves, just as we are.

We are likely to look with affection and amusement on our foibles and those of others, letting go of any need to be right.

And on those occasions when we turn over a few tables in the temple, we aren't afraid of others' reactions.

Which brings me to our buddy Jesus. He is an excellent example of living without a need for others' approval.

JESUS' APPROVAL RATINGS

As you may know, the last week of Jesus' life was eventful.

On Sunday, he rode into Jerusalem with people lining the streets to wave palm branches and shout hosannas in greeting. (That's why Christian churches are celebrating Palm Sunday today.)

By Friday noon, he had been arrested, tried and executed.

Ever have a week like that?

I don't mean to be flippant about Jesus, but his story is our story in so many ways. Easter is a metaphor for the crucifixions and resurrections in our own lives.

JesusAnd notice the ups and downs in his approval ratings? One day they loved him, and a few days later, the crowd was shouting, “Crucify him!”

His whole ministry was like that. Some people were so taken with Jesus that they left home to follow him and become his students. Others rejected him outright, especially those in authority.

Here's the thing: It didn't stop him, and it didn't change him. The approval or the disapproval.

He kept offering his message of transformation, even when no one understood it, not even his devoted students.

I suppose the message for us, then, is not to steel ourselves against the possible judgment of other people, but to focus on our own consciousness, to elevate ourselves to the level of love that Jesus expressed.

Maybe the secret to his equanimity was that he knew he was so much more than people could see, more than anyone could know or understand.

He was not just a human personality with strengths and flaws to be judged by others. He was the divine in expression.

And so are you.

   

Bad Spiritual Cliches

Posted April 2, 2017

blah blah blah

So many people I know fled mainstream Christian churches complaining about religious mumbo jumbo.

But our Spiritual But Not Religious crowd has its own set of slogans and sound bites that amount to the same thing. That is, they sound good in the moment, but they're ultimately meaningless.

In fairness, the intention in saying them is usually to make someone feel better, to reassure them everything is all right despite appearances.

But these clichés only reaffirm victimhood and helplessness. They assume God Out There is intervening in your life, without acknowledging a shred of your own divine creative power.

And yes, I've said these out loud more than once, and yes, I'm sorry.

1. God doesn't give you more than you can handle.

Simply not true. Ever felt you had more than you could handle? Ever wondered how in the world you were going to handle a situation? Ever made a complete mess of it?

Or maybe you've known someone who started to drink, or isolated themselves, or even committed suicide. Life was more than they could handle.

This reassuring cliché probably comes from the same verse in the New Testament that makes people believe God tests them.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13 NRSV)

For the record, that wasn't Jesus talking. It was the Apostle Paul, who was wrong about many things (and right about many others).

God isn't out there sending tests into your life OR giving you things to handle. Our tribulations are human creations.


2. It's all God, and it's all good.

Only in the great, cosmic scheme of things.

Anyone who's been alive more than, say, a day knows it isn't all good. Sometimes we're hungry and cold. Sometimes we're heartbroken or humiliated. Or confused or broke.

It is true great spiritual lessons can be learned from hardship. And sometimes what first appears to be a tragedy turns out to be a blessing. Gifts can come from these events.

The problem is the word “good.” In common usage, it means the things we find pleasant or rewarding or generally pain-free.

Obviously that's not always how we feel. Trying to convince someone the terrible thing they're going through is somehow good gives spiritual people a bad name.

I do believe there's a bigger picture, and there might be gifts, even from an occurrence we wish never had happened.

I also believe everything is God, in that everything is connected within the whole, in One Mind.

But labeling it all good is where words fail us. Sometimes it's better to live in the question than to slap a happy-face sticker over our human distress.


3. It's all in divine order

This is close kin to Everything happens for a reason and All things work together for good.

This seems to suggest there's a Supreme Being out there ordering events in your life, possibly torturing you for the greater good. (Back to “testing.”)

Granted, that is a standard picture of God.

But what if God is more like The Force, an energy of love and intelligence that is ours to use for good or ill, skillfully or not? (Darth Vader was using the same Force as Luke and Obi-Wan.)

Then it's true everything happens for a reason, and that reason is you. You are the creator of your experience.

Divine order only means universal law is working all the time. Your thoughts are constantly creating, whether you're aware of it or not.

I do believe there's a bigger picture we can't see, and our souls are guiding us to play our role in it.

As humans, we make it harder than it has to be. But that's part of the exploration, the trial and error, of this Earth experience.

WHO AND WHAT WE ARE

Increasingly, I'm convinced we asked for it all, the good and bad.

We knew when we volunteered to come into human form there would be tough times, and we would experience sorrow and anger without the infinite perspective we had from the other side.

We knew we would forget who we really are.

But we wanted the whole human experience. That includes misery and grief that make us feel as if we're being tested.

Maybe these clichés came into being as an attempt to remember the truth about ourselves.

Not more than we can handle calls upon our own strength, a divine power that comes from within.

All God and all good reminds us we live and move and have our being within a force of love that governs the universe.

Divine order invokes the laws by which we live, using spiritual principles to order our own lives.

So if you're tempted to offer a spiritual cliché in a bad situation, take just a moment to think what the words – and you – really mean. Then say that instead.


PS – If you want to debunk more spiritual clichés, I recommend two little books by Paul Hasselbeck and Bil (one L) Holton titled Get Over It! and Get Over These, Too!

   




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