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Time to Go Forward

Posted August 31, 2014

arms in air


I love this time of year.

Not because the weather feels like fall. In Texas, we're thrilled to be cooling off to 95 this week.

And not because of turning leaves or pumpkins and apples and all those autumn images from children's story books. Fall doesn't look like that in most of the world.

What I love is the inner feeling of September, the surge of life force, the renewal of purpose.

No doubt I'm feeling the old back-to-school energy. I liked school, did well, and saw each new year as a chance to grow and explore.

Now I identify those feelings as divine inspiration.

It's not a buckle-down kind of discipline, but a revving up to new achievements.

  • The anticipation of what's next, what's new
  • The refocusing of attention on what's most important
  • The rallying of people to a common cause
  • The coherence of plans and actions

Everything seems to fall into place naturally, with each person taking a part. The road unfurls from here to Christmas, and we can delight in the particulars of each day.

This is probably how we felt as we planned this lifetime, buoyed by the knowledge of divine support and our own abilities. Full of plans and hopes, with intentions to – what did Thoreau say? – “suck the marrow out of life.”

Yep, that was the goal. I fear too much of life, mine anyway, is frittered away in errands, cleaning up, eating and administrivia, just staying on top of the little things that seem necessary to survive. That, and the power given to annoying people, discouraging thoughts and physical ailments take up way too much time in our lives.

The human design has a number of glitches that I'm going to take up with God when I meet him someday.

But that's another reason this season of natural exuberance is so refreshing. This is how life is supposed to feel. Eager to get up in the morning and get on with it.

Spiritual pioneer Charles Fillmore said it better: “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth with a mighty faith to do the things that ought to be done by me.”

He was 93!

That's the way to go through life.

Fillmore believed zeal is one of the divine attributes of every human, “the inward fire of the soul that urges man onward.”

He wrote: “Zeal is the mighty force that incites the winds, the tides, the storms; it urges the planet on its course, and spurs the ant to greater exertion.

“It is the urge behind all things. Zeal is the affirmative impulse of existence; its command is ‘Go forward!' ”

Zeal is hard-wired into you, part of your divine essence. I hope you are feeling your mighty force, your affirmative impulse.

As we enter this new season of clarity and creativity, go forward!

   

Being v. Doing

Posted August 23, 2014

lounging on the beach


Do you worry you're not doing enough?

Not enough at work? Not enough with the family? Not enough for your spiritual life?

I do. It's a neurosis I inherited from my ever-busy mother, who believed a person's worth is gauged by his or her accomplishments.

So I have a list of things to do every day, then a chart to record what I have done. How much has been achieved? And has it been noticed?

I can't blame Mother entirely. Our society pretty well operates this way.

So I was whimpering to my friend Laura on the phone the other night that I'm afraid I'm not doing enough. And she said:

“Isn't the goal to increase Being rather than increase Doing?”

Well, yeah, I've heard that, of course. We're human beings, not human doings.

But what does Being look like?

So many people describe Being as meditation, solitude – you know, sitting in a lotus position on a mountaintop – that I'm afraid sometimes any effort to BE is just an excuse to DO nothing.

But if Spirit expresses through each of us, then doesn't allowing a greater flow of the divine lead to more expression? Which might look at lot like Doing?

I mean, the Dalai Lama has a pretty packed schedule. Mother Teresa was busy every day. So was Jesus.

Being is not about avoiding the human experience but living in the thick of it with different consciousness. Divine consciousness, the loving and compassionate worldview that we know is possible because we have seen it in mystics.

That's the elevated level at which we want to BE. And wouldn't that make whatever we DO more powerful?

Eckhart Tolle wrote in The Power of Now: “It is only at this point that you begin to make a real contribution toward bringing about a better world, toward creating a different order of reality.”

But he added, “In a way, you don't need the world anymore. You don't even need it to be different from the way it is.”

That is a better definition of Being than to withdraw from the world. It is seeing the perfection in the world as it is. Not agonizing over the state of affairs today, but knowing the impermanence of all things.

So what is mine to do?

Keep being! Keep working toward a higher consciousness.

No, wait, we don't work toward it because it's already there – the higher self, the soul, the divine within. We open to it? Allow it? Connect with it? Tap into it?

Sheesh, I've written myself into a corner! How do YOU practice Being while still Doing what's required for your human experience? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

   

Finding Fulfillment

Posted August 16, 2014

walking between desert and green grass


People are disappointing, aren't they?

Oh, I know, they can be magnificent sometimes. Compassionate, courageous, supportive and entertaining, all in one human package.

But even if you're surrounded by wonderful friends and family who adore you, is it enough? Or is there still some niggling emptiness?

How do we fill up?

It helps to have skill in relationships, and I will quickly confess I'm not your role model for that. I've spent a lot of my life barking up the wrong trees to get my needs met.

  • I have sought love from people who don't have love to give.
  • I have sought approval from people who refuse to acknowledge anyone else's good work or attributes.
  • I have sought comfort from people who don't care much about others.
  • And I have longed for understanding from individuals who can't put themselves in another's shoes.

Those are all signs of rampant codependence, of course, and I'm better. But I think everyone has needs that another human being cannot possibly fulfill.

Thank goodness other humans are not our only source of love, approval, comfort or understanding. There is another Presence within and all around us.

Or so we are told.

The trick is to feel it, to commune with it, even to imagine it.

How?

The concepts are different for different people:

  • God, as you understand God, might be watching from a distance or residing deep in your heart.
  • God might take the form of angels or spirit guides who assist your journey.
  • God might be the light of your own inner being or higher self.
  • God might be a force field of love and creativity from which you can draw whatever strengths you need.

I do believe that what we long for most can only come from the divine. Call it the Universe or the life force, the ground of being.

Whatever we think we want, what we really want is more God.

When we feel needy and clingy, we need love from ourselves, our higher selves.

When we frantically seek approval, we need reassurance that we are whole, perfect and complete. And we need it from the ultimate, authoritative source, our Creator.

But filling up with the divine takes practice. We have to become still enough to feel ourselves wrapped in the arms of God or immersed in a warm ocean of divine Being.

The reward, at this level of consciousness, is a compassionate view of self and others without judgment or fear. It's a relaxing place to hang out, a vacation from the hamster wheel of our ego thoughts.

I so often see people who are furious or hurt when their needs aren't met by someone else. I have certainly been among them. But we're looking for love in all the wrong places.

The answer is not to find the right and perfect human being to meet our needs; that's too much to ask of anyone else. The answer is to find the divine within and let ourselves be filled from the inside.

Then we can go into the world already equipped with everything we need, and eager to give to others, knowing we draw from a bottomless well of well-being.

That's worth a few minutes of prayer and meditation every day.

Be still and know.

   

Seven Ways to Spot a Spiritual Fraud

Posted August 8, 2014

cracked guru


It's wonderful to say we honor all paths to God, but I like to ask people how they decide which path to follow. In particular, which leader to follow.

Is it anyone who shows up claiming to be a shaman? Any earth mother in a flowing gown who says she channels spirit? Someone who claims to unlock secret codes in ancient texts? Do we just believe them all?

The Bible is full of warnings against false prophets, and Jesus aimed his most scathing criticism at Pharisees who prayed loudly on street corners for all to witness.

Call it Pretentious Spirituality.

Most of the people I ask say they just use intuition or discernment to decide which speakers, workshops and books to take seriously.

Fine, if it works for you. I wish it worked more often for me.

My intuition sometimes gets buried in hope.

Hope that a book will offer the magic formula for transforming my life.

Hope that a speaker will say the one inspirational thing I've waited years to hear.

Hope that this workshop will change me, fix me, heal me.

Hope and its subsequent disillusionment have led me, too often, to leave speakers at intermission, drop classes after two sessions, or feign illness to skip out of an all-day seminar.

I remember once driving half an hour to a Saturday workshop, only to find the room set up with low lights, cushions in a circle, and candles and incense burning. I know that's Nirvana for some people. But I backed out the door and drove straight home. Intuition would have saved time and gasoline.

Then there are my shelves of half-read then discarded books.

We learn, as years go by, how to assess what will appeal to us. And there's nothing wrong with being out of our comfort zones occasionally. It's the only way to experience something new.

But no one wants to feel ripped off.

So I have devised seven guidelines -- for those of us who are sometimes intuition impaired – to assess authenticity or pretension.

And let me say up front, authenticity vs. pretention is in the eye of the beholder. You will decide who and what speaks to you.

1. What are the teacher's credentials?

The speaker, author or teacher doesn't have to have a degree or certification in the subject. Some of the best teachings are based on personal experience. Just be aware whether someone is schooled in a topic, is a self-taught expert or simply has some ideas to share, and decide how much it matters to you.

2. Where is the focus of attention?

Are they sharing themselves or promoting their image? Are they focused on their life story or yours? Are they directing you to the divine within or to something outside yourself as the answer?

3. Are they interested in your good?

Is the teacher sharing an insight or practice she's eager for you to learn, or is she subtly claiming to be more connected to God than you are?

4. Is there a clear message?

Can you describe what you're signing up for, and can you put it into one or two sentences afterwards? Beware of spiri-babble, when you hear lots of spiritual jargon – even soaring poetry -- but can't boil it down to key points.

5. Does it change your outlook on life?

A good teacher holds up a mirror to see yourself differently or opens a window to see the world differently. Not every book or lecture is life-changing, but ideally it offers at least one new idea that is permanent, not just a good feeling.

6. Does it cost more to get answers?

Is the initial workshop or lecture worthwhile, or is it just a promotion for a more expensive course? Many teachers offer more in-depth study, but the first contact should be substantial as well.

7. Who else is attracted to this message?

Who recommended this to you? Do the people in the room seem to be living with divine awareness? Do they have qualities you want (inner peace, joy, confidence)? Or do they seem to be worshipping a guru and spouting spiri-babble?

You might have other ways to decide whether to pursue a particular path, including some you learned the hard way, as I did. I'd be interested in hearing your experiences below.

PS – Thanks again for your wonderful responses about how to handle difficult people. I got one more, from a man who said the most difficult person to handle is often ourselves. That's a whole 'nother topic for another blog!

   

Coping with Difficult People

Posted August 2, 2014

hands in solidarity


Wow, my blog last week asking how to cope with difficult people hit a nerve!

I've been getting responses from you all week. And they are wonderful, a plethora of imaginative ideas to make life a little easier.

I promised to share them with everyone. I've grouped the remedies into four general categories:


1. THIS IS MY STUFF, THESE ARE MY TEACHERS

TIM in Colorado said when he can't avoid a difficult person or see the divine in them, “I think, ‘What is this person triggering in me?' A past hurt? A way I don't like to see myself?

“Maybe, just maybe, as Wayne Dyer says, those difficult people can actually be bringing to the surface those areas in your life that need healing, and they are doing you a service.”

LIZ echoed that idea, and said her answer for handling difficult people (DP) has been to have compassion for herself.

“I start by asking myself what it is or why said DP disturbs me. Then I ask if I have also done/felt or acted in a similar fashion.

“The thing that drives me crazy in others is often the thing I find uncomfortable in myself. Then it's a matter of sitting with the revelation and acknowledging it and accepting it. Layer after layer needs to be peel away to find the core…

“For me, it's because I am not seeing my true self but rather living under the faulty belief that I am not good enough, and I am not lovable. The only real solution I have found is to sit with that feeling. Hold that wounded child and ask if that is really the truth. I know it is not.”

I love Liz's abbreviation – DP for difficult people. Let's call them DP's from now on.

Confronting DPs doesn't work. Trying to change them doesn't work.

A WOMAN struggling with her coworkers said she extracts gifts from the DPs.

She looks at them and silently affirms:

“YOU will benefit me in many ways. Your behavior is made to advance me and teach me how to be promoted. YOU will give me prosperity each time you are difficult. You will teach me the secrets of being strong.”


2. SHIELDS UP

Thoughts and words are energy, so it never hurts to put up energetic shields against DPs.

Imagine yourself bathed in sparkling white light or safe inside a hard purple Lucite egg. (Those are my visuals – you can make up your own.) Affirm that only love can penetrate your shields.

TRELBY said you also can mentally “cancel your subscription” to DPs' issues and walk away.

LORICE dishes the bad juju right back. “I mentally gather up the energy they're projecting at me, roll it up into a ball and lob it back to them from my solar plexus.

“I try to do it with not a huge amount of force, but a definite thrust. That way it doesn't build up inside and make me want to kill somebody, and it's only returning to the person what they're sending out.”


3. BLAST THEM WITH LOVE

I really didn't want love to be the answer, because it's so hard to find love when I'm angry. Turns out no one believes he or she has the ultimate secret or handles difficult people perfectly all the time.

But we keep trying!

GARNETT said he has to be meditating daily – and he emphasized daily – to project love to DPs. He uses a reading from Og Mandino's second scroll, “I Will Greet This Day With Love in My Heart.”

This passage is key:

“And how will I confront each whom I meet? In only one way. In silence and to myself I will address them and I will say ‘I love you.' Though spoken in silence, these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkle my brow, bring a smile to my lips and echo in my voice; and their hearts will be opened.”

Garnett said it helps to visualize running into the difficult person and bombarding him with love. “Hi, Joe, I am feeling love for you!” Just imagining it is amusing, and sometimes it seems the other's heart is, in fact, opened.

KEVIN taught me a new word: cooptation. That is to co-opt someone.

He was managing a swimming pool one summer and noticed a couple of neighborhood gang members jumping the fence to hang out at the pool. Rather than staging a big confrontation, Kevin offered them free admission if they would pick up trash and keep an eye out for people who tried to get into the pool without paying. The guys were happy to take charge.

I love Kevin's unsentimental expression of love for other human beings, acknowledging the good in them.

BRENT said his 12-Step sponsor has suggested praying every morning for the DP to experience all the blessings Brent does on a daily basis. “I speak in specifics of what those blessings are, and I do this for weeks! It doesn't work after a day, ha!”

I had another friend whose sponsor said not only to pray that the DP gets everything you want, but to pray the DP gets it first. Some of those sponsors are brutal!


4. DETACH WITH LOVE

People in 12 Step groups have been drilled in detachment.

ONE WOMAN said she'd had success with “Let go and let God.” She also liked to remind herself, “This is distressing but not dangerous,” which made it easier to overlook minor incidents.

But not all incidents are minor.

“A 12-step program helped me when dealing with a husband whom I later divorced. My mother, however, was in my life until she died. She was always angry with someone.

“Did this anger affect the cells in her body to develop dementia? I believe it did, and when I find myself getting worked up, I remind myself of her example, the biggest teacher in my life, and I make a conscious decision to calm down and practice the presence.”

EDGAR CAYCE used the phrase “loving indifference.” KATY said she learned this Cayce prayer from her mother:

"Lord, they are thine, as I am thine. I am willing. I forgive. I present the problems to thee. Use me, use them, in whatever be thy will in the matter."

Katy added: “I have often prayed it as ‘in whatever is needed to bring harmony between us.' I don't know if it's me or the other person doing the changing, but nearly always the situation improves or resolves.”


You-all are brilliant! Thank you so much for these thoughtful and wise answers.

I'm going to come to you with all my problems from now on!


Be sure to scroll down through the original blog about difficult people (July 26, 2014) to read other ideas and comments that were posted.

   




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