Feeling Fed Up with Humanity
In the World and in Ourselves
We are all capable of the best and the worst that humanity has to offer and knowing this allows us to find compassion.
From time to time, we may all feel fed up with humanity, whether it’s from learning about what’s going on around the world, or what’s going on next door. There are always situations that leave us feeling as if people are simply not capable of behaving in a way that is coming from a place of awareness. Often it seems as if people are actually geared to handle things in the worst possible way, repeatedly. At the same time, none of us wants to linger in a judgmental mood about our own species. As a result, we might tend to repress the feelings coming up as we take in the news from the world and the neighborhood.
It is natural to feel let down and disappointed when we see our fellow humans behaving in ways that are greedy, selfish, violent, or uncaring, but there are also ways to process that disappointment without sinking into despondency. As with any emotional response, we honor our feelings by feeling them fully, without judging or acting on them. Once we’ve done that—and we may need to do it every day, as part of our daily self-care—we can begin to consider ways that we might help the situation in which humanity finds itself.
As always, we start with ourselves, utilizing our awareness of the failings of others to renew our own commitment to be more conscious human beings. We are all capable of the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, and remembering this keeps us in check, as well as allowing us to find compassion for others. We may find ourselves feeling compelled to serve people who are suffering injustices at the hands of other people, or we may begin to speak out when we see something that we don’t think is right. Whatever the case, the only thing we can do is pledge to serve the best, rather than the worst, of what humanity has to offer, both in the world, and in ourselves.
Setting the Tone
Starting Your Day Well
A gentle, reflective, and thoughtful morning will prepare you to create a gentle, conscious, and thoughtful day.
The choices you make upon waking can have a profound impact on your day. If, still drowsy, you hit the ground running, rushing to prepare yourself to face your worldly obligations, you will likely feel fatigued and overwhelmed for most of your day. A leisurely and relaxing morning, on the other hand, can energize and excite you, as well as give you the courage to meet the challenges waiting for you. By beginning your day in a focused and centered fashion, you make it your own. You set the tone of your expectations and choose the mood you will use to respond to your circumstances. A gentle, reflective, and thoughtful morning will prepare you to create a gentle, conscious, and thoughtful day.
The simplest way to eliminate the rush from your morning routine is to rise earlier. Getting children into routines and getting themselves ready as much as possible will also give you more time. Though this may seem like a hardship at first, you will soon grow to love the extra minutes or hours that afford you an opportunity to really enjoy watching the sun come up or connect with your loved ones before you go in your separate directions. There are many more ways you can constructively use the time you gain. A mere half-hour of introspection in which you examine your goals, thank the universe for the richness in your life, and contemplate the blessings you will receive this day can lift your spirit and help you formulate lasting positive expectations. Likewise, you can solidify your day’s intention through spoken affirmations or the words you record in a journal. Or, if you want little more than to enjoy your day, devote a portion of your personal time to activities that bot! h ground and delight you, such as meditation, yoga, chanting, singing, reading, or listening to music. If you feel, however, that there is little room for change in your start-of-the-day routine, try to make each activity you engage in upon waking a ritual in its own right. The time you spend everyday savoring a soothing cup of tea or washing away tension in a hot shower can serve as a potent reminder of the need to care for yourself no matter what the hour.
Your morning is yours and should reflect not only your practical needs but also the needs of your soul. When you center yourself at the start of your day, you will likely find it easier to remain centered during subsequent work, play, and downtime because the overall sense of serenity you create through your choices will stay with you throughout the day.
A Call to Action
Assembling Your Light Team
Assembling a team of angelic helpers and ancestors before you need them can save time and anguish when you need them.
Each of us, whether we realize it or not, moves through life in the company of beings whose task is to watch over us. These ancestors, spirit guides, angels, guardians, and ascended masters designated to serve as protectors and guides take pleasure in their roles yet cannot assist us without first being asked. Since the origins of our sacred sentinels differ, we may choose whom we call upon for help based on the situation at hand. However, in certain circumstances, particularly those in which time is of the essence or there is the potential for harm, we may feel the need to surround ourselves with our entire complement of benevolent, watchful guardians at a moment’s notice. To do so, a great shortcut is to create and assemble a light team—a group of spirit helpers who will come to our aid when we utter a simple word or phrase.
The creation of a light team begins with the dedication of the words that will serve as a shortcut in your time of distress, signaling to your sentinels that you are requesting their support. Meditation, at an altar or otherwise, can help you attract their attention, affording you an opportunity to articulate your desire that they work in tandem in certain instances. Creating a short ceremony in which you surround yourself with objects you associate with the helpers you wish to assign to your light team can ensure that those beings are in attendance as you designate your shortcut. Creating this shortcut is simply a tool. You can employ “light team” as your rallying cry or any other words you feel comfortable using. The numerous guides and guardians that see to your welfare will accept your choice gladly and respond instantaneously when called.
Your light team will be there to assist you in those dangerous, chaotic, or confounding moments when you don’t have the time, energy, or opportunity to center yourself and meditate on individual sentinels. You can also call upon them when seeking guidance that originates from a variety of perspectives. Whether the support they provide comes in the form of guidance or wisdom, their combined presence will give you a sense of security that strengthens you and reminds you that you are never alone.
Intelligence Speaks for Itself
The Fear of Appearing Dumb
In trying to project an image of intelligence, you deny others the opportunity to know the terrific individual you are.
The universal need to be accepted by others can be a barrier that prevents us from being ourselves around them. When we fear that the people we encounter will perceive us as inept or unintelligent, we frequently try to flaunt our grasp of large words or clever witticisms or our professional expertise in an effort to convince them that we are smart and capable. The reasons for feeling this way can be many, and they can often stem from as far back as your childhood. Many women in particular have the fear that they may appear not smart. Yet overcompensating for this fear can have the opposite effect if others are driven away by what they see as an immodest attitude or sense that you are urgently trying to prove yourself. The simple desire to be judged smart by both new and old acquaintances can cause you to reject your true self and adopt an affected persona. But in trying so persistently to project an image of supreme intelligence or capability, you deny others the opportunity! to become acquainted with the real and terrific individual you truly are.
The fear that others will perceive you as unintelligent can further influence your behavior, causing you to consciously avoid speaking your mind or asking questions. You may feel uncomfortable participating in activities if there is a chance that you won’t excel or taking part in discussions with others who may have more knowledge than you. In essence, you become ashamed of who you are and attempt to encase your identity in a veneer that others will find pleasing and impressive. It is, however, a common fear—one experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives. The simplest way to combat it is to make a personal commitment to being yourself in your home, your workplace, and among strangers. Ask yourself how you believe the individuals you encounter will react should you speak awkwardly, need clarification, or fail to be the best at some activity. By being yourself, you will discover that all people make mistakes and ask questions and that others will like and resp! ect you because they recognize the goodness in your soul.
The fact that you are willing to be yourself, letting your many affirmative attributes express themselves naturally, will help you make a positive first impression on everyone you meet and earn the esteem of your family and friends. Your confidence and easygoing manner will say, - this is who I am and I am proud of the person I have become.
When we are flexible we allow for situations we could not have planned and so the world continues to surprise and delight us.
Flexibility is the capacity to bend without breaking, as well as a continual willingness to change or be changed in order to accommodate new circumstances. People with flexible minds are open to shifting their course when necessary or useful; they are not overly attached to things going the way they had planned. This enables them to take advantage of opportunities that a more rigid person would miss out on. It can also make life a lot more fun. When we are flexible, we allow for situations we could not have planned, and so the world continues to surprise and delight us.
Since reality is in a constant state of flux, it doesn’t make sense to be rigid or to cling to any one idea of what is happening or what is going to happen. We are more in tune with reality when we are flexible. Being in tune enables us to adjust to the external environment and other people as they change and grow. When we are rigid or stuck in our ways, instead of adjusting to the world around us we hunker down, clinging to a concept of reality rather than reality itself. When we do this, we cut ourselves off from life, and we miss out on valuable opportunities, as well as a lot of joy.
Just as we create flexibility in our bodies by stretching physically, we can create limberness in our minds by stretching mentally. Every day we have the opportunity to exercise our flexibility. We can do this in small ways such as taking a different route home from work or changing our exercise routine. On a larger scale, we can rearrange the furniture or redo a room in our house. If these are things we already do regularly, we can stretch our minds by imagining several different possibilities for how the next year will unfold. As we do this, our minds become more supple and open, and when changes come our way, we are able to accommodate and flow with the new reality.
The Good in All
We can see the good in all when we come from a place of serenity and looking deeply within.
Sometimes we find it difficult to see the good in people, places, or situations that aren’t to our liking. We focus on the things we don’t like in our lives as a way of fueling our efforts to create change. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and it is one way we make progress. However, if we get too caught up in this way of looking at the world, we lose touch with our ability to sit back and simply say yes to everything on our plates, which is the true starting point for all successful activity. Sometimes what we really need is to encourage ourselves to look deeply into all things in our lives to see the inherent goodness at the heart of everything.
At the core of this inquiry is the practice of unconditional acceptance, which can be scary because we feel as if we are being asked not to change the things we don’t like. But when we think this way, we are still operating on the surface of our lives. In order to feel the beauty and warmth of full acceptance, we have to be willing to sink deeper into the stratum underlying the external manifestation of our lives. This deeper place of being is the origin of all lasting change, yet its paradox is that when we are in it, we often don’t feel the need to change anything. From this place, we experience the pure beauty of the process of being alive, and we see that all things change in their own time. We don’t need to force anything. If there are things that we do need to change, from this place of serenity we create the shift easily, our hands guided by an energy that resides at the very center of our hearts.
In our active, goal-oriented culture, we learn to distrust stillness and to engage in busywork on the surface of life. This tendency can blind us to the good that lies at the heart of all things. But all we have to do to see again is stop for a moment, let go of our preconceptions and our agendas, and settle into the very center of our hearts, remembering that it is only from here that we can truly see.
It’s Never Too Late
Getting Back to What You Love
Forgetting about what you love to do can be a form of self-sabotage - get back to what you love.
There are times in life when we are committed to pursuing our passions. Every molecule in our body is focused on doing what we love. At other times, necessity and responsibility dictate that we put our dreams aside and do what needs to be done. It is during these moments that we may choose to forget what it is that we love to do. There are many other reasons for why we may leave our passions behind. A hobby may lose its appeal once we’ve realize it will never turn into our dream job. Someone important to us may keep telling us that our passions are childish and unsuitable – until we finally believe them.
Forgetting about what you love to do can be a form of self-sabotage. If you can forget about your dreams, then you never have to risk failure. But just because we’ve decided to ignore our passions doesn’t mean they no longer exist. Nothing can fill the emptiness that remains in a space vacated by a passion that we have tossed aside. Besides, life is too short to stop doing what you love, and it is never too late to rediscover your favorite things. If you gave up playing an instrument, painting, drawing, spending time in nature, or any other activity or interest that you once loved to do, now may be the time to take up that passion again. If you don’t remember what it is that you used to be passionate about, you may want to think about the activities or interests that you used to love or the dreams that you always wished you could pursue.
You don’t have to neglect your responsibilities to pursue your passions, and you don’t have to neglect your commitments to do what you love. When you make an effort to incorporate your interests into your life, the fire within you ignites. You feel excited, inspired, and fed by the flames that are sparked by living your life with passion for what you love.
An Empowered Perspective
Importance of Forgiveness
Learning to forgive is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
When someone has hurt us, consciously or unconsciously, one of the most difficult things we have to face in resolving the situation is the act of forgiveness. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier not to forgive and that the answer is to simply cut the person in question out of our lives. In some cases, ending the relationship may be the right thing to do, but even in that case, we will only be free if we have truly forgiven. If we harbor bitterness in our hearts against anyone, we only hurt ourselves because we are the ones harboring the bitterness. Choosing to forgive is choosing to alleviate ourselves of that burden, choosing to be free of the past, and choosing not to perceive ourselves as victims.
One of the reasons that forgiveness can be so challenging is that we feel we are condoning the actions of the person who caused our suffering, but this is a misunderstanding of what is required. In order to forgive, we simply need to get to a place where we are ready to stop identifying ourselves with the suffering that was caused us. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, and our forgiveness of others is an extension of our readiness to let go of our own pain. Getting to this point begins with fully accepting what has happened. Through this acceptance, we allow ourselves to feel and process our emotions.
It can be helpful to articulate our feelings in writing over a period of days or even weeks. As we allow ourselves to say what we need to say and ask for what we need to heal, we will find that this changes each day. It may be confusing, but it is a sign of progress. At times we may feel as if we are slogging uphill through dense mud and thick trees, getting nowhere. If we keep going, however, we will reach a summit and see clearly that we are finally free of the past. From here, we recognize that suffering comes from suffering, and compassion for those who have hurt us naturally arises, enhancing our new perspective.
by Madisyn Taylor
We all want to push the fast-forward button, but in these times is where we find the juice stuff.
We all go through times when we wish we could press a fast-forward button and propel ourselves into the future and out of our current circumstances. Whether the situation we are facing is minor, or major such as the loss of a loved one, it is human nature to want to move away from pain and find comfort as soon as possible. Yet we all know deep down that we need to work through these experiences in a conscious fashion rather than bury our heads in the sand, because these are the times when we access important information about ourselves and life. The learning process may not be easy, but it is full of lessons that bring us wisdom we cannot find any other way.
The desire to press fast-forward can lead to escapism and denial, both of which only prolong our difficulties and in some cases make them worse. The more direct, clear, and courageous we are in the face of whatever we are dealing with, the more quickly we will move through the situation. Understanding this, we may begin to realize that trying to find the fast-forward button is really more akin to pressing pause. When we truly grasp that the only way out of any situation in which we find ourselves is to go through it, we stop looking for ways to escape and we start paying close attention to what is happening. We realize that we are exactly where we need to be. We remember that we are in this situation in order to learn something we need to know, and we can alleviate some of our pain with the awareness that there is a purpose to our suffering.
When you feel the urge to press the fast-forward button, remember that you are not alone; we all instinctively avoid pain. But in doing so, we often prolong our pain and delay important learning. As you choose to move forward in real time, know that in the long run, this is the least painful way to go.
Healing What Hurts
Freeing Up Energy
The longer we sit on pain the harder it is to allow it to surface and begin healing.
Many of us are going through our lives aware of a well of pain underlying our daily awareness that we’ve felt for so long we aren’t even sure where it comes from. It almost seems as if it’s part of who we are, or the way we see the world, but it’s important to realize that this pain is something that needs to be acknowledged and processed. The longer we sit on it, the harder it is to work through, and the more likely it is that we will be forced to acknowledge it as it makes itself known to us in ways we can’t predict. Rather than waiting for this to happen, we can empower ourselves by identifying the pain and resolving to take action toward healing it.
The very thought of this brings up feelings of resistance in most of us, especially if, on the surface, our lives seem to be in order. It’s difficult to dig up the past and go into it unless we are being seriously inconvenienced by the hurt. The thing is, when we are carrying the burden of our unprocessed pain, sooner or later, it will inconvenience us. If we can be brave and proactive, we can save ourselves a lot of future suffering and free up the energy that is tied up in keeping the pain down.
There are many ways to do this, but the first step is to recognize the pain and honor it by moving our awareness into it. In this process, even if it’s just five minutes during meditation, we will begin to have a sense of what the pain is made of. It might be fear of abandonment, childhood abuse, anger at being mistreated, or some other long held wound. As we sit with the pain, we will also have a sense of whether we can deal with it by ourselves, or not. It may be time to work with a counselor, or form a healing circle with close friends. Whatever path you choose, resolve to go deep into the pain, so that you can release it fully, and set yourself free. Remember, it is never too late in life to heal what hurts, and there is never a better time than now.
Creating Connections while Apart
Create a ceremony around nature to connect with loved ones that are far away.
Life’s journeys may sometimes take us away from our families and friends, but there are many ways to stay connected. Aside from making use of the technology available—speaking on the phone or seeing each other from across cyberspace—we can create simple ceremonies using nature and our own thoughts to connect our hearts across the miles.
The first step in creating your ceremony is to look to nature for similarities in the different surroundings. The second step is agreeing upon something that is meaningful to all involved. If your mother loves birds, then perhaps each time you hear a bird chirp, you can think of her and mentally send love. You may choose the sight of a butterfly, the feel of a breeze or raindrops, or the scent of flowers to remind you of a special someone. The pink glow of sunset might be your favorite time to send a thought, or perhaps the warming oranges of sunrise. We can all see the sun, the moon, and an array of twinkling stars when we look to the skies. The monthly full moon may be your time to connect with your loved ones, or the first star you see each night, knowing that they, too, are gazing into the night sky and sending love. You could choose a day that you would usually celebrate together, such as a holiday or a solstice. If you once shared Sunday brunches in the garden, you can! each seek out a garden on Sundays. Or you can choose a specific time and account for the time difference in order to connect by heart and mind at exactly the same moment.
With practice, we may learn to recognize the feeling that comes when a loved one sends energy our way, and the feeling of soul-to-soul communication. In this case, distance may indeed make our connections stronger. There is certainly much to make us think of our close friends and loved ones often, but when we decide upon a reminder together, we create a simple ceremony of connection that defies any distance.
Choose Your Words
All you have to do is speak or read the word failure and see how it makes you feel.
The word failure puts forward a very simplistic way of thinking that allows for only two possibilities: failure or success. Few things in the universe are black and white, yet much of our language reads as if they are. The word failure signifies a paradigm in which all subtlety is lost. When we regard something we have done, or ourselves, as a failure, we lose our ability to see the truth, which is no doubt considerably more complex. In addition, we hurt ourselves. All you have to do is speak or read the word failure and see how it makes you feel.
At some point, the word may not have been so loaded with the weight of negativity, and it simply referred to something that did not go according to plan. Unfortunately, in our culture it is often used very negatively, such as when a person is labeled a failure, even though it is impossible for something as vast and subtle as a human being to be reduced in such a way. It also acts as a deterrent, scaring us from taking risks for fear of failure. It has somehow come to represent the worst possible outcome. Failure is a word so burdened with fearful and unconscious energy that we can all benefit from consciously examining our use of it, because the language we use influences the way we think and feel.
Next time you feel like a failure or fear failure, know that you are under the influence of an outmoded way of perceiving the world. When the world failure comes up, it’s a call for us to apply a more enlightened consciousness to the matter at hand. When you are consciously aware of the word and its baggage you will not fall victim to its darkness. In your own use of language, you may choose to stop using the word failure altogether. This might encourage you to articulate more clearly the truth of the situation, opening your mind to subtleties and possibilities the word failure would never have allowed.
Finding Joy in Life’s Surprises
Releasing Your Expectations
When we expect a situation to unfold in a certain way, it becomes more difficult to enjoy the surprises.
As we endeavor to find personal fulfillment and realize our individual ideals, we naturally form emotional attachments to those outcomes we hope will come to pass. These expectations can serve as a source of stability, allowing us to draft plans based on our visions of the future, but they can also limit our potential for happiness by blinding us to equally satisfying yet unexpected outcomes. Instead of taking pleasure in the surprising circumstances unfolding around us, we mourn for the anticipation left unfulfilled. When we think of letting go of our expectations, we may find ourselves at the mercy of a small inner voice that admonishes us to strive for specific goals, even if they continually elude us. However, the opposite of expectation is not pessimism. We can retain our optimism and free ourselves from the need to focus on specific probabilities by opening our hearts and minds to a wide variety of possible outcomes.
When we expect a situation, event, or confrontation to unfold in a certain way, it becomes more difficult to enjoy the surprises that have the potential to become profound blessings. Likewise, we may feel that we failed to meet our inner objectives because we were unable to bring about the desired results through our choices and actions. Consider, though, that we are all at the mercy of the universal flow, and our best intentions are often thwarted by fate. As you grow increasingly open to unforeseen outcomes, you will be more apt to look for and recognize the positive elements of your new circumstances. This receptivity to the unexpected can serve you well when you are called upon to compromise with others, your life plans seem to go awry, or the world moves forward in an unanticipated manner by granting you the flexibility to see the positive aspects of almost any outcome.
The further you distance yourself from your expectations, the more exhilarating your life will become. Though a situation in which you find yourself may not correspond to your initial wants, needs, or goals, ask yourself how you can make the most of it and then do your best to adapt. Your life’s journey will likely take many unpredicted and astonishing twists because you are willing to release your expectations.
Capturing the Thrill
Do What Excites You
Try to start bringing some excitement into your life as often as possible and drop the fear.
Each human life has the potential to be dramatic, thrilling, and awe-inspiring. Our lives are, in truth, ours to design. Each day, we make choices that influence the character of our experiences, and our decisions determine whether our paths are rousing or tedious, breathtaking or tiresome. We can create an exciting life by simply doing what excites us whenever the opportunity presents itself. Your passions may ebb and flow, and what excites you one year may not excite you the next, but when you make excitement a regular part of your existence, life becomes more fun and more fulfilling.
If you are somebody that tends to live practically, excitement may overwhelm you at first. To ease the anxiety that prevents you from incorporating all that you find exciting into your life, acknowledge that you are alive right now in this time and every moment matters. When you choose to do more of what excites you, even if your choices requires you to make certain sacrifices, your daily life will soon be imbued with exhilaration, pleasure, and optimistic anticipation.
To understand what excites you, you may need to observe and ponder your reaction to the activities, events, circumstances, and concepts that make up your life. What makes your pulse race, what makes you want to get out of your chair and take action? Try to avoid getting too wrapped up in life’s details; their tedium may cause you to plod through your existence unaware of prospective excitement. Once you have created a substantial list of what excites you, find ways to integrate each item into your routine. You will soon find yourself riding a wave of excitement that lifts you up and makes life truly worth living. What excites you in your life?
Self-Examination at Depth
To reach the depth we wish to access, we must dive below these layers to the deepest parts of ourselves.
There are times when life urges us to seek more. Small changes to our comfort zone may fail to alleviate any sense of stagnancy or frustration, and we may need to examine our lives and ourselves more deeply to find the right place to start. Everything we need for success and joy lies within. But so often, life’s debris accumulates, building layers around our core that makes it difficult to access the truth that resides within. To reach the depth we wish to access, we must dive below these layers to the deepest parts of ourselves.
The first layer can be found in our minds. Our to-do lists and busy work are usually less important than we think, so we must look past them to examine the thoughts that matter most to us. The next layer can be found in our hearts, where past hurts and disappointments can sometimes cover up our vulnerabilities, as well as the truth of who and what really stirs the love within us. We can choose to go even deeper – to our center. If we can go beyond anything has affected us to the point that it blocks us at the gut level, we can reconnect with our power, our raw instincts, our organic yeses. Here, at the core, lies our truth. Our core is our foundation that supports us and what we’d like to build our authentic life upon.
When we examine ourselves to these depths, we are able to find what we wish to bring to the surface and what we wish to let go. When we remember what lies beneath our layers, we can look at what was floating on the surface, causing blocks and pains, and understand the purpose that they served. Oftentimes, it is the built up debris that causes us to go deeper, so we can search for the truth. Go deep, live life from your truth within, and watch your innate beauty manifest outward.
Appreciating What Is
Enjoying Your Age
Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to savor.
In each stage of life, there are wonderful experiences one can savor and valuable insights one can absorb. Every new decade and, in fact, every new year brings with it wisdom, transformation, and growth, as well as ends and beginnings. Many people, however, believe that there is one age that eclipses the others. They expend energy trying to reach it and, once it has passed, trying to retain it. But wishing to be younger or older is a denial of the joys that have been and the joys yet to be, as well as the beauty of your life in the present. Holding on to one age can make it difficult to appreciate each new milestone you reach. Taking pleasure in the delights of your age, whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, can help you see the magnificence and usefulness of the complex seasons of your life.
Each new year gifted to us by the universe is replete with exciting and unfamiliar experiences. In our 20s, we can embrace the energy of youth and the learning process, knowing it’s okay to not have all the answers. As we move through our third decade, we grow more self-assured as the confusion of our young adulthood melts away. We can honor these years by putting aside our fears of aging and concentrating instead on solidifying our values and enjoying our growing emotional maturity. In our 40s, we become conscious of the wisdom we have attained through life experience and are blessed with the ability to put it to good use. We are not afraid to explore unfamiliar territory or to change. In our 50s, we tend to have successfully navigated our midlife reevaluations and have prioritized our lives. In the decades beyond, we discover a greater sense of freedom than we have ever known and can truly enjoy the memory of all we’ve seen and done.
Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to savor.
The Day’s Closing
Evening time is often overlooked in our busy lives, but is an important time of day for reflection on our day's actions.
From the beginning of time, a richly colored twinge of dusk touching the eastern horizon, the lengthening of shadows, and the appearance of the evening’s first star have let us know that it was time to rest, relax, and retire from the pressures of the day. For human beings and other living things that tend to be most active in daylight, evenings can be less hectic and more relaxing, as we prepare for sleep and spend quality time with our loved ones. But evenings are about much more than dinner and the feel of a cool, soft pillow. Evenings are a wonderful time to catalog the events of the day without distraction, to revel in gentle solitude or silence, to end the day in serenity, and to commune with your inner self.
There are many ways to turn the evening into a nurturing and soul enriching experience. A simple stroll through the realms of dusk and darkness can show you two different worlds: one winding down and one just coming to life. In the evening, the sounds we humans make begin to diminish, and the sounds of earth’s more nocturnal creatures and nature itself become more apparent. As night slowly falls, scents change, and the smell of the soil and greenery become magnified. Sky gazing in the evenings can be a meditative activity – one that reminds us that we are only one part of an infinitely complex and vast universe. Each night, the different phases of the moon show us the passage of time and the waxing and waning of life, as its glowing visage – whether in the shape of a circle, crescent, or a smile –bathes the world in an ethereal, wistful glow.
As crickets chirp and night birds cry out, evening rituals and routines can make your day feel complete, help you unwind from the day’s busyness, and pave the way for rejuvenating sleep. Rituals and routines help you say goodnight to the present day, so you can look forward to the next one. While the sun sets, try doing a series of stretches, lighting some candles, or watching the daylight fade. The soothing, natural beauty of each evening can be your backdrop, as you meditate, quiet your soul, and relax into the peace and stillness that can be found at day’s end.
Protecting Your Flow
How Fear Blocks Creativity
When we are feeling creatively blocked, it is usually our own fear that is creating that block.
To understand how fear blocks creativity, take a moment to imagine yourself telling a story. First, imagine telling the story to someone you love and who loves you. You probably feel warmth and energy as you fill in the details of your tale to your friend’s delight. Now, imagine telling the same story to someone who, for whatever reason, makes you uncomfortable. The wonderful twists and turns, the fine points and colorful images that unfolded in your mind for your friend probably won’t present themselves. Instead of warmth, energy, and creativity, you will probably feel opposite sensations and a desire to close down. When we feel unsafe, whether we fear being judged, disliked, or misunderstood, our creative flow stops. Alternately, when we feel safe, our creativity unfolds like a beautiful flower, without conscious effort.
Knowing this, we can maximize our creative potential by creating the conditions that inspire our creativity. In order to really be in the flow, we need to feel safe and unrestricted. However, achieving this is not as simple as avoiding people who make us feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we can be alone in a room and still feel totally blocked. When this happens, we know we have come up against elements in our own psyches that are making us feel fearful. Perhaps we are afraid that in expressing ourselves we will discover something we don’t want to know, or unleash emotions or ideas that we don’t want to be responsible for. Or maybe we’re afraid we’ll fail to produce something worthy.
When you’re up against fear, internal or external, ritual can be a powerful—and creative—antidote. Before you sit down to be creative, try casting a circle of protection around yourself. Visualize yourself inside a ring of light, protective fire, or angels. Imagine that this protective energy emanates unconditional love for you and wants to hear, see, and feel everything you have to express. Take a moment to bathe in the warmth of this feeling and then fearlessly surrender yourself to the power that flows through you
Enlightenment at Home
Right Where We Are
Not everyone will feel the need to travel afar to become enlightened as that can happen right where you are.
Many spiritual seekers feel called to far-flung places across the globe in the interest of pursuing the path of their enlightenment. This may indeed be the right course of action for certain people, but it is by no means necessary to attaining an enlightened consciousness. Enlightenment can take root anywhere on earth, as long as the seeker is an open and ready vessel for higher consciousness. All we need is a powerful intention, and a willingness to do the work necessary to moving forward on our path.
In terms of spiritual practice, at this moment, there are more tools available to more people than at any other time in history. We have access to so much wisdom through the vehicles of books, magazines, the Internet, television, and film. In addition, the time-honored practice of meditation is free, and sitting quietly everyday, listening to the universe, is a great way to start the journey within. There is further inspiration in the fact that the greatest teachers we have are our own life experiences, and they come to us every day with new lessons and new opportunities to learn. If we look at the people around us, we may realize that we have a spiritual community already intact, and if we don’t, we can find one, if not in our own neighborhood, then on-line.
Meanwhile, if we feel called to travel in search of teachers and experiences, then by all means, we should. But if we can’t go to India, or Burma, or Indonesia, or if we don’t have the desire, this is not an obstacle in terms of our spiritual development. In fact, we may simply be aware that our time and energy is best spent in our own homes, with our meditation practice and all the complications and joys of our own lives. We can confidently stay in one place, knowing that everything that we need to attain enlightenment is always available right where we are.
Everything is Relative
Pain is pain and yours is not greater than or less than anybody else's pain and deserves to be acknowledged as such.
Every day we hear stories of personal suffering and loss that far exceed our own. When we compare our situations to those of people living in war-torn countries or those who have lost their homes and livelihoods to natural disasters, it is tempting to minimize our own experiences of suffering. We may feel that we don’t have a right to be upset about the breakup of a relationship, for example, because at least we have food to eat and a roof over our heads.
While awareness of the pain of others in the world can be a valuable way to keep our own struggles in perspective, it is not a legitimate reason to disregard our own pain. Disparaging your feelings as being less important than other people's emotions leads to denial and repression. Over time, an unwillingness to experience your own feelings leads to numbness. It is as if our internal systems become clogged with our unexpressed emotions. This in no way helps other people who are suffering in the world. In fact, it may do just the opposite because when we devalue our own sorrow, we become impervious to the sorrow in others.
Fully experiencing our own hurt is the gateway to compassion toward other human beings. Feelings of loss, abandonment, loneliness, and fear are universal, and, in that sense, all feelings are created equal. Regardless of what leads us to feel the way we do, our comprehension of what it means to be human is deepened by our own experiences. Our personal lives provide us with the material we need to become fully conscious. If we reject our emotions because we think our experiences are not dramatic or important enough, we are missing out on our own humanity. We honor and value the human condition when we fully inhabit our bodies so we can experience and feel life fully. Accepting our emotions and allowing ourselves to feel them connects us to all human beings. Then, when we hear the stories of other people’s suffering, our hearts can resonate with understanding and compassion—for all of us.
Shifting with the Tide
With each moment, we are given opportunities to create change using nothing more than our awareness.
Since our lives are constantly in motion energetically, change is a constant element of our existence. As dynamic as that energy is, it is not random or haphazard in nature—the shifts in energy that are constantly taking place are the result of our choices. The formulation of intention, a change in perspective, or the creation of a goal can transform our lives in blink of an eye. We think positive thoughts and the world becomes a brighter place. Or we decide who we want to be and become that person. With each passing moment, we are given innumerable opportunities to create change using nothing more than our awareness.
In the span of a single second, our lives can change immeasurably because energy moves at a pace more rapid than anything we can consciously fathom. Though we may not at first be sensitive to the vibrational shifts taking place, our choices are ultimately at the heart of these transformations. We can typically recognize the consequences of key decisions because we anticipated the resultant energetic shifts. But many, if not most, of the choices we make each day are a product of instantaneous reactions, and these still have a significant impact on the energy of our existence. It is for this reason that we should learn to wield what control we can over these shifts. If we bear in mind that all we think and all we do will shape the existence we know, we can deliberately direct the energetic motion of our lives.
Each day, you make an infinite array of decisions that cause energy shifts in the world around you. In many cases, these transitions are almost imperceptible, while in others the change that takes place is palpable not only to you but also to those in your sphere of influence. Your awareness of the immediate energetic consequences of your thoughts and actions can guide you as you endeavor to make the most of the autonomy that defines you as an individual. The myriad choices you make from moment to moment, however inconsequential they may seem, represent your personal power, which sanctions you to transform the energetic tide of your existence with nothing more than your will.
Knowing When to Let Someone Go
Knowing when to let somebody go and leave a relationship is a true act of self-love.
Just as a good relationship can have a positive impact on your life, stressful, draining, or imbalanced relationships can have negative effects on your health and well-being. It’s common to maintain a relationship because we feel the other person needs us or we believe that they will eventually change. We may also be afraid of hurting the other person or feel insecure in our ability to find new relationships. But knowing when to end a relationship and acknowledging that the pain will pass can often prevent greater pain and feelings of loss in the long run.
If you’re in a relationship that isn’t satisfying or one that has become unhealthy for you, rather than spending energy attempting to fix the problem or complaining, ask yourself what you really want from the relationship. Consider whether the other person truly considers your feelings or if they are willing to change their behavior. Ask yourself if you’ve often thought about ending the relationship or if you feel your bonds have atrophied. While every relationship has ups and downs, when there are more downs than ups or the two of you are bringing out the worst in each other, it may be time to sever the connection. Be honest with yourself and your answers, even if the truth is painful.
Relationships thrive on honesty, communication, mutual caring, and time spent together. When one or more of these elements are missing, it may be that the relationship, no matter how passionate, simply isn’t worth it. It’s far better to end a relationship that doesn’t feel right than to hold on to it and languish in feelings of anger or resentment. Moving on without struggle, on the other hand, can be the door that leads you to a more nurturing relationship in the future.
The Changing Nest
Being a parent never ends, it only transitions throughout our lives together assuming new and exciting roles.
Once individuals become parents, they are parents forevermore. Their identities change perceptively the moment Mother Nature inaugurates them mom or dad. Yet the role they undertake when they welcome children into their lives is not a fixed one. As children move from one phase of their lives to the next, parental roles change. When these transitions involve a child gaining independence, many parents experience an empty nest feeling. Instead of feeling proud that their children have achieved so much—whether the flight from the nest refers to the first day of kindergarten or the start of college&mdasharents feel they are losing a part of themselves. However, when approached thoughtfully, this new stage of parental life can be an exciting time in which mothers and fathers rediscover themselves and relate to their children in a new way.
As children earn greater levels of independence, their parents often gain unanticipated freedom. Used to being depended upon by and subject to the demands of their children, parents sometimes forget that they are not only mom or dad but also individuals. As the nest empties, parents can alleviate the anxiety and sadness they feel by rediscovering themselves and honoring the immense strides their children have made in life. The simplest way to honor a child undergoing a transition is to allow that child to make decisions and mistakes appropriate to their level of maturity. Freed from the role of disciplinarian, parents of college-age children can befriend their offspring and undertake an advisory position. Those with younger children beginning school or teenagers taking a first job can plan a special day in which they express their pride and explain that they will always be there to offer love and support.
An empty nest can touch other members of the family unit as well. Young people may feel isolated or abandoned when their siblings leave the nest. As this is normal, extra attention can help them feel more secure in their newly less populated home. Spouses with more leisure time on their hands may need to relearn how to be best friends and lovers. Other family members will likely grieve less when they understand the significance of the child’s new phase of life. The more parents both celebrate and honor their children’s life transitions, the less apprehension the children will feel. Parents who embrace their changing nest while still cherishing their offspring can look forward to developing deeper, more mature relationships with them in the future.
Together on Earth
Seeing the Bigger Picture
When we see a photo of our earth from space, it is hard to feel ourselves as being separate from all others.
Seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space inspires awe in many of us, since we can clearly see the connectedness of all of us who live upon this planet. We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together, breathing the same air, drinking from the same water, eating food grown from the same earth. We share everything on this planet, whether we are conscious of it or not, with other people, and those people are our brothers and sisters. Keeping a photograph or painting of the planet Earth in a prominent place in our homes can be a positive way to remember our interconnectedness.
Meditating on the fact that any sense of separation we have from one another is truly an illusion, we will naturally begin to make more conscious choices in our daily lives. The simple act of preparing food, or determining how to dispose of our refuse, can be done with the consciousness that whatever we do will affect all our brothers and sisters, no matter how far away they live, as well as the planet herself. When we foster this kind of awareness in ourselves out of a feeling of awe, it becomes easier to be conscious than to fall back into old habits of thinking of ourselves as separate.
When we contemplate the earth in her wholeness, we attune ourselves to the truth of the bigger picture, which is the Earth, and all of us, every one of us, living on her body. We are connected to one another in the most intimate way, because we literally share our living space. As more people become aware of the reality of our interdependency, things will shift in a positive direction, and much of the discord that we see now will give way to a more cooperative, loving conscious. This is happening already, so as our consciousness grows, we can join with the many other minds working to live in the spirit of togetherness.
Embracing the Disinherited
The Elderly Population
An important part of our culture, our elderly, are almost always undervalued and underutilized - for they have much to offer.
In tribal cultures, the elderly play an important role. They are the keepers of the tribe’s memories and the holders of wisdom. As such, the elderly are honored and respected members of tribes. In many modern cultures, however, this is often not the case. Many elderly people say that they feel ignored, left out, and disrespected. This is a sad commentary on modernization, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this situation by taking the time to examine our attitudes about the elderly and taking action.
Modern societies tend to be obsessed with the ideas of newness, youth, and progress. Scientific studies tell us how to do everything – from the way we should raise our kids to what we need to eat for breakfast. As a result, the wisdom that is passed down from older generations is often disregarded. Of course, grandparents and retired persons have more than information to offer the world. Their maturity and experience allows for a larger perspective of life, and we can learn a lot from talking to elderly people. It’s a shame that society doesn’t do more to allow our older population to continue to feel productive for the rest of their lives, but you can help to make change. Perhaps you could help facilitate a mentorship program that would allow children to be tutored by the elderly in retirement homes. The elderly make wonderful storytellers, and creating programs where they could share their real life experiences with others is another way to educate and inspire other genera! tions.
Take stock of your relationships with the elderly population. Maybe you don’t really listen to them because you hold the belief that their time has passed and they are too old to understand what you are going through. You may even realize that you don’t have any relationships with older people. Try to understand why and how our cultural perception of the elderly influences the way you perceive them. Look around you and reach out to someone who is elderly – even if you are just saying hello and making small talk. Resolve to be more aware of the elderly. They are our mentors, wise folk, and the pioneers that came before us and paved the way for our future.
Finding Our Own Paths
There is no one right path to awareness and each of us has our own path that is perfect for us.
Entering into our own spirituality is a private journey. Each of us will be drawn to a different gateway to begin on our personal path to awakening to a greater experience of ourselves. Even though we may be taught certain philosophies or beliefs as children, we still need to find our own way of understanding and applying them in our lives. For those who are raised without a spiritual framework, they may not even know their process as a form of spirituality. But at some stage in their lives, whether in youth or adulthood, they are likely to recognize the resonance of their beliefs, the ring of truth in their philosophy, and their dedication to their chosen purpose.
Our inner guidance will lead us, so that we will be drawn to the right doorway for us--a doorway that only we can recognize by the way it makes us feel inside. It could be a picture of an angel or the gift of a crystal. We may meet someone special who shares their experiences with us in a way that we find intriguing. While visiting the home of an admired friend, we may notice a book or statue of a diety, and ask why they chose those tools. Or a word or phrase may catch our attention in a song, or a lecture. For some they may find their way by walking through the experience of illness before they begin the search for what will help them to truly heal, while others may seek physical improvement and stumble across yoga or meditation--only to find that it leads them to an unexpected place beyond the body.
As we awaken to ourselves and to life, we will become more attuned to what is right for us. The universe speaks to all of us through infinite channels, but we each have our own frequency. Others may share what worked for them, but only we can decide what truly makes us feel inspired, awakened, connected, fully conscious, aware and alive. Whatever our path, it is perfect and is meant especially for us.
Raising Our Consciousness
Stepping out from Where We Were
We cannot gain a sense of power in our lives while identifying ourselves as a victim.
Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” A Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein’s scientific theories transformed the world’s understanding of the universe and its workings, so we can believe that these words come from his personal experience and helped him to explore both science and life itself. He offered us an example of what can be learned by looking deeply into nature to reach a deeper understanding of all life and by following our ideas to their logical conclusions in our minds before acting upon them in the world.
When we apply this quote to our lives, we can see that we cannot create abundance by staying in a consciousness of poverty, nor can we gain a sense of power in our lives while identifying ourselves as a victim. Situations begun from anger or fear can have little chance of reaching a state of peace and trust unless someone involved can conceive of that possibility and act upon it. We need to find ways to step outside of our limited understanding in order to seek a bigger picture. One way to do this is to shift our perspective to see the situation from another’s point of view and ideally the perspective of all others involved. Even if we can’t truly know another’s motivations, by imagining what they might be, we open ourselves up to numerous possibilities and an expanded vision. This alone can shift our feelings of anger to compassion and the desire for a positive solution for all involved.
Once we have opened our mind to greater possibilities, we can connect to our higher self for inspired solutions. From the peace at our center, we gain distance from our emotions to connect to intuitive wisdom that offers us understanding of the underlying causes and the inspiration needed to guide our steps in a new direction. Albert Einstein showed us the impact that can be made when we raise our consciousness and allow ourselves to imagine the possibilities.
Co-Creating with Nature
When we decide to give up control of our garden and work in cooperation with the earth, your garden and your life will blossom.
Gardens offer us a perfect opportunity to reconnect to our true selves and remember our place in the natural world. Rather than approach our gardens as mere investments of energy, we can look at the entire process of gardening, from planting seeds to harvesting food, as a way of deepening our conscious relationship with the creative force of the universe. If we are willing to shift our intention from dominating, or at least directing nature, to co-creating with nature instead, we may discover a deep peace and renewed sense of wonder.
To co-create we must first begin with a foundation of mutual respect. As you create your garden in partnership with nature, you can respect the earth, water, insects and animals by using organic seeds, soil and fertilizers. You can also communicate with the plants, insects and elements involved in your garden, and create a regular practice of stillness to listen for any messages they may have for you. When it comes time for harvesting fresh vegetables or picking beautiful blooms, you might even ask permission first. If you ask with an open heart, you will always receive an answer.
Imagine what it would be like to surrender certain aspects of your human world to the precision and surety of the natural environment. You might decide, for example, to forego your calendar and plant in rhythm with the cycles of the moon. Or, you might choose to ignore clock time and water your garden when the sun hits a certain position in the sky. By opening your garden experience to more of nature’s input, you can become available to witness a whole universe of miracles, while engendering a greater sense of honor between the two worlds.
When we recognize ourselves as allies, co-creators, with the earth and the natural world, our relationship to our environment begins to change. We no longer feel the need to control the circumstances around us and can relish in the perfection of all that is.
Serving The Higher Self
As long as we are in touch with our higher selves our egos are not a threat, rather a tool in service of the spirit.
In most spiritual circles, the ego gets a pretty bad rap. The reason for this is that the ego, to some extent, is the principle in our psyches that separates us from one another, while spirit is the principle that shows us that no such separation exists. Sometimes the ego is depicted as an almost demonic figure that keeps us from realizing our true nature. But at its most basic, the ego is simply a tool that helps us organize the various aspects of our personality so that we can function in the world. In this sense, the ego is simply a way for us to understand and attend to ourselves at the same time as we understand and attend to the world around us. The ego is a tool that we use to navigate the world.
Perhaps the problem is that the ego sometimes gets out of control. This happens when the higher self loses control of the psyche. The psyche then falls under the leadership of the ego, an entity that was never meant to lead. The ego is meant to be definitively in the service of the higher self. When this relationship is functioning, the ego is a useful intermediary representing the whole self but not thinking that it is the whole self. Then, it is almost as if the ego is the self playfully pretending to be the separate entity called “I.” Like an actor, the ego plays the roles that the world asks us to play in order to be part of the program. In this way, the ego can be a tool enabling us to be in the world but not of it.
As long as we are in touch with our higher selves, our egos are not a threat. They are simply useful tools in the service of spirit. We keep our egos in check when we continually nurture our awareness of who we really are. Then our egos are free to serve without trying ineffectually to rule. It is healthy to have ego, but like all things in life, ego functions best when it is in balance and harmony with your whole self.
From Getting Unstuck On-line Course
by Pema Chodron
The following is an excerpt from the "Getting Unstuck" on-line course. If you would like to enroll in the course, click here.
Each of us gets hooked in habitual ways of seeing the world, but how we respond to these situations will in large part determine how much peace and freedom we experience in our lives.
Once we learn to recognize when we’re caught, and our own unique styles of getting hooked, we then have the opportunity to do something different, to choose a fresh alternative.
Positive Groundlessness and the Three Difficult Practices
The first difficult practice is noticing when you get hooked, when you get caught in a habitual pattern which causes you to suffer. Pema explains that, with some practice, you can catch on to this rather quickly and begin to clearly notice when you are hooked. Further, we learn that getting hooked, in and of itself, is not actually a problem; it is quite natural and arises spontaneously in all of us. There is no suffering inherent in the hooking itself, Pema explains, but only in how we respond to it.
The second difficult practice is: do something different. This practice is much more difficult to catch on to, Pema teaches, and goes against the grain of our conditioning and habits. This practice is also referred to as “choosing a fresh alternative.” Through this practice, we begin to explore the interruption of the momentum which keeps our suffering alive. In the face of this “being hooked”, we often speak and act in ways which only serve to strengthen our habits of resentment, anger, blaming others, and so forth, which just entrench us in patterns that make us more and more unhappy.
The third and final difficult practice is making this exploration a way of life. The notion here is that this is not just a one-time thing where you notice you’re hooked, choose a fresh alternative, and then it’s all over. These patterns are something that will continue to arise in our experience, leaving us with dozens or hundreds of opportunities each week to notice the various ways we get caught in the momentum of our habitual responses to life’s challenges.
We also learn about the teaching of &ldquoositive groundlessness.” When we notice that we’ve been hooked, we find it very difficult to relax into the experience and to stay open and unbiased, simply experiencing the rawness of what is there. In this space we see that there is truly nothing to hold onto-- no bias, no preference. On the one hand, this experience is quite terrifying, this reality of no ground underneath our feet, no fixed reference point or view in which we can hang out in. But this groundlessness is also filled with &ldquoositive” qualities, such as wide open vastness, limitlessness, and extraordinary potential.
Questions for Reflection:
1. Are you aware of what it feels like to “get hooked,”? What does this look and feel like for you?
2. What is your understanding of the notion of &ldquoositive groundlessness”?
3. PRACTICE TIP: Over the next week, start to pay attention to the times you get “hooked” or caught, where you begin to feel yourself tightening up, moving into a storyline, and starting to act in habitual ways to escape discomfort.
For more information visit Getting Unstuck On-Line Course
Editing Your Life
Cutting out what isn't working in your life is a bold first step to creating the life that does work for you.
Our lives can be compared to an ongoing movie script over which we have complete creative control. Within us lies the power to examine what works or isn’t working in our lives and make “edits” to our life’s script, accordingly. Choosing to actively edit your life can be incredibly empowering. As you evolve, you have the choice to accept the script you’ve written thus far or edit it so you can create a life that fulfills you. You can cut out from your life’s script what is no longer working for you. Acknowledging that you are responsible for the experience you create gives you the ability to create the life you’ve always longed for.
Granted, editing your real life isn’t always as easy as erasing a line of text. If you’ve carried emotional baggage or held on to an unhealthy relationship for a long time, these may be difficult to edit out. But when you do cut out what isn’t working from your life, you’ll feel lighter and more alive. Editing out activities that you find stressful, disassociating yourself from people that drain your energy, and letting go of your emotional baggage are all beneficial cuts you can make. In the empty spaces that are left behind, you can add in anything you like. Just as you have the power to edit out negative situations or beliefs that you no longer wish to have as part of your life, you can now include the kinds of positive experiences, people, and beliefs that you would like to fill your life with. The manifestation of these thoughts and images as realities in your life will inevitably follow. As you make changes to your life, you can also add in the bits where you choose mo! re intimate, healthier relationships, seek out adventure over tedium, and are no longer negatively impacted by old experiences.
To begin editing your life, simply think about your positive and negative experiences. When you determine what parts of your life are no longer serving you, make the commitment to remove them – though, it is important to remember that there is no proper timing or way to do this, and patience and compassion for yourself are always important during this process. Then, ask yourself what has brought you profound bliss and consider how you can make those experiences and beliefs part of your life now. With a little editing, you’ll be able to clear out what is no longer serving you and make room in your life for more happiness, love, and wisdom.
Choosing Not to Be a Target
It is important to remember that if you are being attacked emotionally, it is more than likely not about you at all.
Hurtful confrontations often leave us feeling drained and confused. When someone attacks us emotionally, we may wonder what we did to rouse their anger, and we take their actions personally. We may ask ourselves what we could have done to compel them to behave or speak that way toward us. It’s important to remember that there are no real targets in an emotional attack and that it is usually a way for the attacker to redirect their uncomfortable feelings away from themselves. When people are overcome by strong emotions, like hurt or anguish, they may see themselves as victims and lash out at others as a means of protection or to make themselves feel better. You may be able to shield yourself from an emotional attack by not taking the behavior personally. First, however, it is good to cultivate a state of detachment that can provide you with some protection from the person who is attacking you. This will allow you to feel compassion for this person and remember that their beha! vior isn’t as much about you as it is about their need to vent their emotions.
If you have difficulty remaining unaffected by someone’s behavior, take a moment to breathe deeply and remind yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong, and you aren’t responsible for people’s feelings. If you can see that this person is indirectly expressing a need to you—whether they are reaching out for help or wanting to be heard—you may be able to diffuse the attack by getting them to talk about what is really bothering them.
You cannot control other people’s emotions, but you can control your own. If you sense yourself responding to their negativity, try not to let yourself. Keep your heart open to them, and they may let go of their defensiveness and yield to your compassion and openness.
Know Your Food
Eating Close to the Earth
Eating organic local food will change your life for the positive in so many ways as you connect with the earth and your community.
The food we eat is a multidimensional aspect of our lives. Food provides us with the energy that enables us to grow and prosper. Yet it can be, and frequently is, much, much more. Our food can be an experience in and of itself if we allow it to be. The dishes we remember from childhood offer unmatched comfort. The act of preparing meals can be an art form of the highest caliber. And the nourishment we derive from this fare promotes wellness within us. But many of us, distracted by daily affairs, forget that the profound pleasures of eating go beyond simple sustenance. We eat foods that are convenient or we eat unconsciously, snacking on whatever happens to be on hand. To understand the true value of food and the impact it can have on our lives, we should acknowledge and honor it by eating close to the earth.
If you have ever shelled and eaten garden-grown peas or bitten into a sun-warmed apple freshly plucked from its tree, you likely understand that there is a marked difference between these foods and those that are processed and stacked on supermarket shelves. Food recently picked contains more of its original life force and thus has a greater store of energy and nutrients. You can ensure you are eating close to the earth—and enjoying the many benefits of doing so—by shopping at a local farmers market and getting to know the individuals who grow your food. If you make the experience of shopping in this way enjoyable, you will be more apt to reject more convenient canned, packaged, and frozen foods in favor of the real delight you feel while browsing stalls of fresh foods nourished by the same soil you can find in your own backyard. You will soon learn what foods are in season in your area and how to prepare them.
As you savor the vivid flavors of juicy ripe fruits and the hearty crunch of unprocessed vegetables, you can also take pleasure in the fact that, by eating close to the earth, you are supporting farmers in your region, connecting with your local ecosystem, discouraging those who would waste precious fossil fuels by carting produce cross-country, and helping to preserve healthy culinary traditions that have existed for centuries.
10 Steps to Making Change Easier
Change can be hard for anyone, following these ideas below can make it a little less stressful.
1. Begin by making small changes or break up large-scale changes into more manageable increments. This can make you feel better about handling the changes you are about to make while making you more comfortable with change in general.
2. Mentally link changes to established daily rituals. This can make changes like taking on a new habit, starting a new job, or adapting to a new home happen much more smoothly. For example, if you want to begin meditating at home, try weaving it into your morning routine.
3. Going with the flow can help you accept change instead of resisting it. If you stay flexible, you will be able to ride out change without too much turbulence.
4. When a change feels most stressful, relief can often be found in finding the good that it brings. An illness, a financial loss, or a broken relationship can seem like the end of the world, yet they also can be blessings in disguise.
5. Remember that all change involves a degree of learning. If you find change particularly stressful, try to keep in mind that after this period of transformation has passed, you will be a wiser person for it.
6. Remember that upheaval and confusion are often natural parts of change. While we can anticipate certain elements that a change might bring, it is impossible to know everything that will happen in advance. Be prepared for unexpected surprises, and the winds of change won’t easily knock you over.
7. Don’t feel like you have to cope with changing circumstances or the stress of making a change on your own. Talk about what’s going on for you with a friend or write about it in a journal. Sharing your feelings can give you a sense of relief while helping you find the strength to carry on.
8. Give yourself time to accept any changes that you face. And as change happens, recognize that you may need time to adjust to your new situation. Allow yourself a period of time to reconcile your feelings. This can make big changes feel less extreme.
9. No matter how large or difficult a change is, you will eventually adapt to these new circumstances. Remember that regardless of how great the change, all the new that it brings will eventually weave itself into the right places in your life.
10. If you’re trying to change a pattern of behavior or navigate your way through a life change, don’t assume that it has to be easy. Wanting to cry or being moody during a period of change is natural. Then again, don’t assume that making a change needs to be hard. Sometimes, changes are meant to be that easy.
Effort and Understanding
Having It Easy
When we view the lives of others and think they have it easy, we are not seeing the whole of their life or the story they are presenting.
Our lives are an exercise in facing challenges. We dream the grandest of dreams as youngsters only to discover that we must cultivate copious inner strength and determination in order to meet our goals. Our hard work does not always yield the results we expect. And it is when we find ourselves frustrated by the trials we face or unable to meet our own expectations that we are most apt to take notice of those individuals who appear to accomplish great feats effortlessly. Some people’s lives seem to magically fall into place. We can see the blessings they have received, the ease with which they have attained their desires, their unwavering confidence, and their wealth. But, because we can never see the story of their lives as a whole, it is important that we refrain from passing judgment or becoming envious.
Throughout our lives, we glimpse only the outer hull of others’ life experiences, so it’s tempting to presuppose that the abundance they enjoy is the result of luck rather than diligent effort. In a small number of cases, our assumptions may mirror reality. But very few people “have it easy.” Everyone must overcome difficulties and everyone has been granted a distinctive set of talents with which to do so. An individual who is highly gifted may nonetheless have to practice industriously and correct themselves repeatedly in order to cultivate their talents. Their myriad accomplishments are more likely than not the result of ongoing hard work and sacrifice. You, no doubt, have natural abilities that you have nurtured and your gifts may be the very reason you strive as tirelessly as you do. Yet others see only the outcome of your efforts and not the efforts themselves
Our intellects, our hearts, and our souls are constantly being tested by the universe. Life will create new challenges for you to face each time you prove yourself capable of overcoming the challenges of the past. What you deem difficult will always differ from that which others deem difficult. The tests you will be given will be as unique as you are. If you focus on doing the best you can and making use of the blessings you have been granted, the outcome of your efforts will be a joyous reflection of your dedication.
Playing Your Part
Life Is an Illusion
As we become more enlightened on our journey of life, we become more compassionate and wise and have less attachment.
As children, most of us sang that mesmerizing, wistful lullaby that ends with the words, “Life is but a dream.” This is a classic example of a deep, sophisticated truth hiding, like an underground stream, in an unlikely place. It winds its way through our minds like a riddle or a Zen koan, coming up when we least expect it and asking that we consider its meaning. Many gurus and philosophers agree with this mysterious observation, saying that this world we perceive as real is actually an illusion, not unlike a film being projected on a screen. Most of us are so involved in the projection that we don’t understand it for what it is. We are completely caught up in the illusion, imagining that we are in a life and death struggle and taking it very seriously.
The enlightened few, on the other hand, live their lives in the light of the awareness that what most of us perceive as reality is a passing fancy. As a result, they behave with detachment, compassion, and wisdom, while the rest of us struggle and writhe upon the stage in the play of our life. Having the wisdom to know that life is but a dream does not mean that we ignore it or don’t do our best with the twists and turns of our fate. Rather, like an actress who plays her role fully even as she knows it’s only a role, we engage in the unfolding drama, but with a little more freedom because we know that this is not the totality of who we are.
And life is more of an improvisation than it is like a play whose lines have already been written, whose end is already known. Like an improviser, we have choices to make and the more we embrace the illusionary quality of the performance, the lighter we can be on the planet, on others, and on ourselves. We can truly play with the shadows cast by the light of the projector, fully engaging without getting bogged down.
Physical Bodies on Earth
Spiritual Being--Physical Experience
While we are incarnated in a body on this earth, we must remember that we still are a spiritual being at our core.
We are on this earth, in our physical bodies, because our souls have things to learn that we could not learn in any other way. It is through our physical body and the physical world that we can experience life. Purely spiritual beings are just that – they are in a state of being rather than doing – in a place that is beyond the limitations of time and space. But when we incarnate on the physical plane, we are automatically subject to the laws of physics and the world of dualities. In this place, we know what happiness is because we have experienced sadness, and we understand the value and power of light because we have known darkness. Knowing this, we have the opportunity to let ourselves be spiritual beings having a physical experience.
There is no pain in the spiritual realm, because we know we are one with the limitless source of the universe. But here, in the material realm, our sense of limitation and separation allows us to feel our emotions and to learn about love, forgiveness, and compassion. We go from a spiritual state of oneness to learning how to be in relationship with people who are different and distinct individuals. We learn to understand ourselves through our relationships with the world around us—its seasons and landscapes, challenges and opportunities. And through our journey to find our place among so many others, we begin to recognize our own glimmer of light in a constellation of stars.
Once we remember that we are spiritual beings, we can revel in the experience of being human while knowing we are all connected. We can live from the place of oneness while truly appreciating the beauty of diversity, the bittersweet feel of love and loss, and the elation of triumph over challenges and adversity. It is through these opposites that we experience life itself, and we can ride through the dark times with the understanding that it will help us to appreciate the light of life and love and spirit more fully. We are here now because we made the choice to experience an earth life, so now we can choose to enjoy the journey as completely as possible.
Wanting to Join
Dumbing Ourselves Down
Playing it small in order to fit in with a group of people robs the essence of your soul level self.
The ability to go into any social situation and sense the level of consciousness in that situation is a gift. It enables us to move considerately in a world that holds people of all levels of awareness. However, there is a difference between shifting our energy to accommodate people and dumbing ourselves down to a regrettable degree. Sometimes, when we get into a particular social situation, we may feel pressure to play it small in order to fit in. Perhaps everyone is drinking or smoking excessively, engaging in gossipy small talk, or complaining bitterly about politics. It is one thing to notice this and modify our expectations and another thing entirely to join in.
When we notice where people are coming from and acknowledge to ourselves that their energy is not in alignment with ours, we have several choices as to how to proceed. One viable option is to quietly endure the situation, keeping to ourselves until it is time to leave. In this way, we take care of our own consciousness and protect our growth process. Another option is to interact in a way that honors and pays respect to the people in the group, while gently attempting to shift the level of consciousness with our input. In order to do this, we must maintain our own vibration, which means that joining in by dumbing down is not an option.
When we choose to dumb ourselves down to fit in, we not only sell ourselves short but we also lose a possible opportunity to influence the situation for the good of all concerned. Our desire to join in may come from our natural yearning to feel connected to the people around us. There is no shame in this, but being able to stand on our own, separate from the crowd, is a powerful milestone on any spiritual path. It can be difficult in the moment, but when we arrive on the other side, our integrity intact, we may find ourselves feeling positively smart.
The Life Cycle
Bud and Blossom and Beyond
It is through watching the cycles of nature that we more fully understand the cycles of our own lives.
Flowers and leaves both begin their lives as organisms so tiny we cannot see them with the naked eye. With time, they become visible, curled in upon themselves, colorful buds slowly softening and releasing. With the proper warmth and moisture, they unfold little by little, revealing with each degree of opening a new color, shape, or dimension. Sometimes buds open seemingly all at once, unfolding the full majesty of their potential, of what looks to the human eye like courage, openness, and generosity.
As days go by, the bloom slowly moves through more stages, revealing still more colors, shapes, and dimensions of its essence. It falls apart, strewing its petals on the ground, or it wilts, or it closes back in on itself. When we can appreciate the full beauty of each stage of the cycle of life, from bud to blossom to disintegration, we feel more at home with our own earthly process. We can be inspired not to hold back the fullness of what we have to offer, knowing that our time to give of ourselves in this way will come to pass. At the same time, we can honor others, and the little processes that go on within the larger process of living our lives.
Each stage we go through has its time of fulfillment and recession, as do all living things. Every moment of every stage has its own particular beauty, and we can appreciate that, even as most of us tend to love the spectacular moment of full blossoming most of all. When we feel the wisdom contained in the budding, blossoming, and dissolution of a simple flower, we begin to feel it everywhere, in each moment that comes and goes, in each sunrise and sunset, in every hello and goodbye, as the very essence of the pulsating ebb and flow of existence.
Symbols of Versatility
We can learn a lot from our duck friends as they are able dive deep but also have the ability to float gracefully.
If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world that is also a home to ducks, you will no doubt be familiar with the image of their cute feathery bottoms sticking up in the air as their heads disappear under the surface of the water. Perhaps you’ve even taken a moment to wonder what they see in their underwater world, and if they will resurface with a fish or a water bug in their beaks. As we observe them, we see that ducks are denizens of three worlds—the world of air, the world of water, and the world of earth. As such, they have adapted themselves to be able to swim, fly, and walk, and they seek and find nourishment in more than one place. They are symbols of versatility and can inspire us to explore our own ability to adapt and find nourishment in a variety of places.
Ducks are able to float, swim, and dive into the water, fishing for food. They can walk on the ground, eating vegetation and bugs, and they fly in the air to travel long distances relatively quickly. Equipped with feet that are equally good at paddling and walking, as well as wings to fly, ducks seem comfortable in just about any natural environment. Next time you see a duck bottom, you might be inspired to examine your own ability to both float on the surface and to dive beneath it. In many traditions, water symbolizes the emotions—to duck our heads into our emotions means we are able to surrender our minds to our hearts, to go into the watery realm of feeling and see what there is to see, often coming to the surface with nourishment and treasure.
At the same time, we share the duck’s ability to get solid ground under our feet by connecting to the earth on which we live simply by walking on it. And finally, when we reside in our spirits, we fly above the mental, emotional, and material realms, free of all the ties that bind us to this earth, traveling faster and farther than we ever thought possible.
Alive in Joy
Some people are so used to creating drama that a peaceful existence seems uncomfortable for them.
There are scores of people in the world who seem to be magnets for calamity. They live their lives jumping from one difficult to the next, surrounded by unstable individuals. Some believe themselves victims of fate and decry a universe they regard as malevolent. Others view their chaotic circumstances as just punishments for some failing within. Yet, in truth, neither group has been fated or consigned to suffer. They are likely unconsciously drawing drama into their lives, attracting catastrophe through their choices, attitudes, and patterns of thought. Drama, however disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the thrill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and drain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one.
Many people, so used to living in the dramatic world they create, feel uncomfortable when confronted with the prospect of a lifetime of peace and contentment. The drama in their lives serves multiple purposes. Upset causes excitement, prompting the body to manufacture adrenaline, which produces a pleasurable surge of energy. For those seeking affection in the form of sympathy, drama forms the basis of their identity as a victim. And when drama is familial, many people believe they can avoid abandonment by continuing to play a key role in the established family dynamic. The addiction to drama is fed by the intensity of the feelings evoked during bouts of conflict, periods of uncertainty, and upheaval.
Understanding where the subconscious need for drama stems from is the key to addressing it effectively. Journaling can help you transfer this need from your mind onto a benign piece of paper. After repeated writing sessions, your feelings regarding the mayhem, hurt feelings, and confusion often associated with drama become clear. When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously choose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life.
Things We Don’t Want to Do
Outside the Comfort Zone
Most often, after you have completed something you didn't want to do, you wonder why you were so worried in the first place.
Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.
Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn't want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.
We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it.
Doing for Others
Solace in Service
So many times, when we are being of service to others, we find the answer or solution to our own problems.
When we feel bad, often our first instinct is to isolate ourselves and focus on what’s upsetting us. Sometimes we really do need some downtime, but many times the best way to get out of the blues quickly is to turn our attention to other people. In being of service to others, paradoxically, we often find answers to our own questions and solutions to our own problems. We also end up feeling more connected to the people around us, as well as empowered by the experience of helping someone.
When we reach out to people we can help, we confirm that we are not alone in our own need for support and inspiration, and we also remind ourselves that we are powerful and capable in certain ways. Even as our own problems or moods get the better of us sometimes, there is always someone else who can use our particular gifts and energy to help them out. They, in turn, remind us that we are not the only people in the world with difficulties or issues. We all struggle with the problems of life, and we all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but we can almost always find solace in service.
In the most ideal situation, the person we are helping sheds light on our own dilemma, sometimes with a direct piece of advice, and sometimes without saying anything at all. Sometimes just the act of getting our minds out of the obsessive mode of trying to figure out what to do about our own life does the trick. Many great inventors and artists have found that the inspiration they need to get to the next level in their work comes not when they’re working but when they’re walking around the block or doing dishes. We do ourselves and everyone else a great service when we take a break from our sorrows and extend ourselves to someone in need.
Everything Is in Divine Order
Often when things are not as they seem to be, it is because we do not see the whole vision as we are asked to take baby steps.
We can only see so much from where we sit in our particular bodies, in the midst of our particular lives, rooted as we are in the continuum of space and time. The divine, on the other hand, is not limited to the constructs of either space or time, and its wisdom and workings often elude us as we try to make sense of what is happening in our lives. This is why things are not always what they seem to be and even the best-laid plans are sometimes overturned. Even when we feel we have been guided by our intuition every step of the way, we may find ourselves facing unexpected loss and disappointment. At times like these, we can find some solace in trusting that no matter how bad or just plain inexplicable things look from our perspective, they are, in fact, in divine order.
Even as we take our places in this earthly realm, a part of us remains completely free of the confines we face here. Regardless of what is happening in our lives, this part of us remains infused with joy and gratitude, connected to the unbroken source from which we come. Our small self, on the other hand, who is caught up in our false identity as a being limited in space and time, regards happiness as the result of things going the way it wants them to go. It is this part of us that suffers the greatest confusion and upset when the logic of events does not compute. And it is to this self that we must extend unconditional love, forgiveness, and compassion. In order to do this, we tap into our inner divinity, holding the space of a tender authority, extending love and light to our ego as a mother extends her love to a troubled child.
There are many ways to access our inner divinity—meditation, prayer, chanting, channeling, and conscious breathing, to name a few. It is helpful to develop a regular practice that provides us access to this all-powerful, healing presence, as it can be difficult to reach once we are in a stressful position, if we have not already established a connection. The more connected we are with this part of ourselves, the more we share its unlimited vision and the secure, knowing that all the things of our life, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order.
The Road to New Beginnings
Just as new beginnings are important, so is honoring the experience of closure.
Life is a collage of beginnings and endings that run together like still-wet paint. Yet before we can begin any new phase in life, we must sometimes first achieve closure to the current stage we are in. That’s because many of life’s experiences call for closure. Often, we cannot see the significance of an event or importance of a lesson until we have reached closure. Or, we may have completed a certain phase in life or path of learning and want to honor that ending. It is this sense of completion that frees us to open the door to new beginnings. Closure serves to tie up or sever loose ends, quiets the mind even when questions have been left unanswered, signifies the end of an experience, and acknowledges that a change has taken place.
The period of completion, rather than being just an act of finality, is also one of transition. When we seek closure, what we really want is an understanding of what has happened and an opportunity to derive what lessons we can from an experience. Without closure, there is no resolution and we are left to grieve, relive old memories to the point of frustration, or remain forever connected to people from our past. A sense of completion regarding a situation may also result when we accept that we have done our best. If you can’t officially achieve closure with someone, you can create completion by participating in a closure ritual. Write a farewell letter to that person and then burn your note during a ceremony. This ritual allows you to consciously honor and appreciate what has taken place between you and release the experience so you can move forward.
Closure can help you let go of feelings of anger or uncertainty regarding your past even as you honor your experience – whether good or bad - as a necessary step on your life’s path. Closure allows you to emotionally lay to rest issues and feelings that may be weighing down your spirit. When you create closure, you affirm that you have done what was needed, are wiser because of your experience, and are ready for whatever life wants to bring you next.
Coping with People You Dislike
When we are forced to deal with people we dislike, a great learning opportunity is being put forth to us.
As much as most of us wish we could exist in harmony with the people we encounter throughout our lives, there will always be individuals we dislike. Some simply rub us the wrong way while others strike us as deliberately unaware. We may judge others as too mean or abrasive for us to interact with them comfortably. Yet no person should be deemed a villain because their beliefs, opinions, mannerisms, and mode of being are not compatible with your own. You need not embrace the rough traits they have chosen to embody. There may be times in which the best course of action involves distancing yourself from someone you dislike. But circumstances may require that you spend time in the company of individuals who awaken your aversion. In such cases, you can ease your discomfort by showing your foe loving compassion while examining your feelings carefully.
The reasons we dislike some individuals are often complex and, at first, indecipherable. Often, we are automatically averse to people who are different because they compel us to question our values, spirituality, culture, and ideologies, threatening to undermine our self-assurance. Realistically, however, those you dislike have no power to weaken your life’s foundations. In fact, your aversion to specific individuals may actually be your response to your fear that specific qualities you see in them also exist within you. Their presence may force you to face internal issues you would rather not confront. If you meet someone who inspired an intense, largely negative response in you, ask yourself why your reaction is so laden with powerful emotions. Remember that you control your feelings and, if necessary, you can minimize this individual’s impact on your well-being by choosing how you will respond to them.
Though you may not have an immediate breakthrough, your willingness to consider your dislike rationally can help you better understand the root of your feelings. Your aversion to certain individuals may not wane over time, yet the comprehension you gain through reflection can help you interact with them sympathetically, benevolently, and with a greater degree of kindness. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that you are incompatible with some people. You may never achieve a shared harmony with those you dislike, but you can nonetheless learn to modulate your reactions to these individuals and, ultimately, to coexist peacefully with them.
Almost nothing else represents the emergence of spring as the beloved yellow daffodil happy and bright after a long winter's nap.
Some things on this earth look as if they were designed to bring happiness to the hearts of humans. The daffodil, with its bright yellow coloring and green stem, is one such creation. The daffodil makes its appearance in the spring, abundant and inexpensive, bringing gladness as sure as sunshine itself to whoever is lucky enough to receive a single stem, or a bunch, of these delicate yellow miracles. It is as if the sun has shed a layer of skin and fashioned a flower out of it.
Color psychologists suggest that too much yellow can be too stimulating, but in small doses it inspires hope and good cheer. The daffodil is a perfect-sized package of yellow for anyone feeling glum or energetically low. It can spur us to action or simply imbue us with a feeling of optimism as it vibrantly glows in our homes or on our desks at work. The daffodil’s presence is ideal in any region where sunshine is scarce as it seems to carry the sun in the soft flesh of its petals. The bulbs are not expensive, and the flowers give so much that you may decide to plant a few in your yard or in a window box. Then again, you may simply wait until they arrive in neat little bundles in the grocery store or flower shop. They are usually very reasonably priced, so you can afford to spoil yourself, and those you love, with a large bouquet.
A daffodil placed under the windshield wiper of a loved one’s car says, “Be happy! Spring has sprung! I love you!” A collection of stems gathered and placed in a Mason jar can be left on someone’s doorstep to remind them of the simple beauties that abound in this life. Don’t forget to bless yourself with a vase of these bright blossoms on your kitchen table or nightstand. Every time you see them, you will be filled with the happiness and warmth of the sun.
A Separate Reality
Disconnecting from the Source
We can all experience times when we feel disconnected from the universe, but you have never been abandoned.
We all experience periods where we feel separated from the loving ebb and flow of the universe. These times of feeling disconnected from the source may occur for many reasons, but self-sabotage is the most common cause for us choosing to cut ourselves off from the flow of the universe. We purposefully, though often unconsciously, cut ourselves off from this flow and from the embrace of humanity so we can avoid dealing with painful issues, shun the necessary steps for growth, or prevent the success that we are afraid of achieving from ever happening. When you choose to disconnect from the source, you block the flow of the universe’s energy from passing through you. You become like a sleepwalker who is not fully awake to life, and your hopes, plans, and dreams begin to appear as distant blurs on a faraway horizon. Universal support has never left you, but if you can remember that you became disconnected from source by choice, you can choose to reconnect.
Reconnecting with the universe grounds you and is as easy as you making a concerted effort to become interested in the activities you love or responding to what nurtures or stimulates you. You may also want to make a list of the activities and kinds of experiences that touch your soul. Try to pinpoint the times when you have felt fully engaged and aware and ask yourself what you were doing. But one of the easiest ways to reconnect is simply by stating the intention of doing so.
When you disconnect from the universe, your sense of purpose, creativity, and ability to be innovative are not as easy to access. You may also experience a deep and empty sense of longing or feel devoid of ideas or unworthy of love. It’s important, however, to recognize that being disconnected from the universe is never a permanent state, and it can be reversed any time you decide that you are ready to reconnect. When you are connected to the universe, all aspects of your being will feel alive as the flow of the universe pours through your being and into your life.
Working with Space
Intuit Your Home’s Decor
When decorating spaces in your home, allow the space to speak to you by being still and observing each room.
When we decide the time has come to change the look or feel of our personal spaces, it is the spaces themselves that can provide us with the most useful guidance. Working with a single room, an apartment, or an entire house allows us to unearth the innate potential of these spaces and also better understand how we want to relate to them. To be conscious of the possibilities of a space, we need to listen to, look at, and bond with that space in a deep and personal way. Just as no two people are alike, no two rooms, however similar, are identical. The more we know about the spaces we wish to change, the better equipped we are to make them both beautiful and functional.
Before you contemplate colors and layouts, spend some time in the rooms you plan to modify. Observe the way light moves through each space at different times of day. In the course of a week or so, note those times when you feel drawn to a particular space. You may naturally gravitate toward one room when you want to relax and toward another when you want to socialize. Also, remember that not all rooms have to be used as originally planed, for example a dining room may make a wonderful sitting area. As you make these observations, think about whether the spaces under consideration remind you of anything or bring certain thoughts to mind. Writing your thoughts down can make the process of examination simpler. The discoveries you make regarding the rooms in your home can help guide you as you choose color schemes, furniture layouts, and decorative styles, so that you bring out the natural qualities of each using your creativity and eye for detail. Using the cues you pick up, yo! u can design a beautiful room that is bright and exciting, or one that calms the soul and invites meditation.
By treating the layout and décor of your personal spaces in this mindful way, you can honor their natural rhythms while creating a cohesive and comfortable home through which energy can flow unencumbered. The design elements you subsequently choose will work together like the diverse instruments that come together to form a symphony orchestra. Each will resonate harmoniously with the next, ensuring that your home resounds with a lasting message of beauty, serenity, reassurance, and comfort.
Detoxing Your Body
Inner Spring Cleaning
All of our bodies need to detox once in a while and is a wonderful gift to your body, mind and spirit.
When you want to start with a clean slate in life, one way is to cleanse your body. Detoxifying can be done in many ways and for many reasons, depending on your specific goals. You may feel a physical need for cleansing, or a spiritual one where you would cleanse the areas of the body that correspond to your current life challenges. If you feel, for instance, that your inner self is not shining through as you would like, you may want to do a bathing detox to clean the skin of impurities so that you can radiate your inner health like a newly washed stained-glass window that lets the light shine through more brilliantly.
No matter how healthy and conscious our habits are, our bodies move with the cycles of life, which means that our cells sometimes need to fall like leaves from the trees before they can regenerate and be renewed. Just as we need to wash our bodies to remove the buildup of natural processes and contact with the world around us, we need to clean our bodies from the inside as well. So you may want to detoxify your blood or digestive system, or target specific buildup such as plaque or metals. Our bodies are the vessels that allow us to move through life, but we can treat them like wild gardens that need our attention to reach their full potential of beauty and balance in their ecosystem.
The first days of a detoxification process may bring to mind an image of the dust that gets stirred up during spring cleaning. You may feel a little worse before you feel better, but that may indeed be the universe’s way of showing us the benefits by contrast. We live in a world of dualities, so we may need to experience both sides of a situation in order to find our perfect balance. Once the impurities have been cleansed, you could experience a sense of lightness or clarity of vision and purpose. You will know it worked when you feel enhanced ease as you move through the world toward your goals.
The Valley of Despair
Seeds of Light
Even in our darkest times, there are seeds of light within ourselves, we need only call them forward.
Anyone who has walked through the valley of despair and come out the other side knows that even in that darkness, seeds of light can be found. Often their tendrils reach out of the gloom and into the daylight alongside the journeyer who emerges from that deep sorrow. When we find ourselves in a place of despair, it can help us to know this, so that we don’t give up. We can stop, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that we will find ourselves on the other side of this troubled time, and that we may even emerge with something new to offer.
It seems that despair has been around for as long as humans have been able to express themselves, and many of the great artists, teachers, and visionaries have labored through times of depression and hopelessness. Their words, images, and lives can serve as beacons in the darkness, even if they can’t always immediately lead us out. In the end, we must find our own way, and this is why despair often overwhelms us when it comes; we doubt that we have the resources to contend with such a formidable presence all by ourselves. This is when we must come to our own aid and know in our hearts that we have what it takes to keep moving forward in the general direction of the light.
Even though we must ultimately rely on ourselves, this doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help. Our friends and families can help us, as can our inner guides and helping spirits. They can serve the purpose of a fire that burns throughout the night, keeping us warm, and providing a light by which we might see the changes we may need to make in order to move forward. In addition, there truly are seeds of light inside us, however small, waiting to unfurl their green shoots, if only we will give them the time.
The Question of Worthiness
Shifting into Gratitude
When we question whether or not we are worthy of something it is important at that time to shift into gratitude.
We all know what it’s like to finally get something we want, only to find ourselves feeling as if we don’t deserve it. Whether it’s a car, a new job, or a date with someone wonderful, we suddenly feel as if we are not up to it. Something in us wants to reject this gift from the universe, perhaps because it requires that we think of ourselves in a new way or makes us question why we should have something that others don’t have. If these feelings of unworthiness are not consciously acknowledged, they can lead us to sabotage ourselves out of the gift being offered. Perhaps the best way to avoid rejection and sabotage is to simply shift into a state of gratitude, bypassing the question of worthiness altogether.
The question of whether we or anyone else deserves something is not really in our jurisdiction. These themes play themselves out in ways we can’t fully comprehend—on the level of the soul, over the course of many lifetimes. What we do know is that the universe has its own way of shifting the balance over the course of time so that all things are ultimately fair. We can trust in this process and understand that when a gift comes our way, it is because we are meant to have it. Otherwise, it would not be available to us. Accepting the gift with gratitude and using it to the best of our ability is true humility.
When we receive a gift and find that feelings of unworthiness crop up, we can simply acknowledge the feelings and then remind ourselves that they are beside the point. We might say to ourselves, “I am meant to have this.” As we allow ourselves to accept the gift, we might feel tenderness in our hearts that naturally shifts into a deep feeling of gratitude. As we sit for a moment, consciously holding the gift in our hands or in our hearts, we say “yes” to the universe’s many blessings, and we also say “thank you.”
Cause, Effect, and Transformation
If you are feeling depleted, your body is asking you to take time to make some real changes in your life.
There are times in our lives when it seems our bodies are running on empty. We are not sick, nor are we necessarily pushing ourselves to the limit—rather, the energy we typical enjoy has mysteriously dissipated, leaving only fatigue. Many people grow accustomed to feeling this way because they do not know that it is possible to exist in any other state. The body’s natural state, however, is one of energy, clarity, and balance. Cultivating these virtues in our own bodies so that we can combat feelings of depletion is a matter of developing a refined awareness of the self and then making changes based on our observations.
A few scant moments of focused self-examination in which you assess your recent schedule, diet, and general health may help you zero in on the factors causing your depletion. If you are struggling to cope with an overfull agenda, prioritization can provide you with more time to sleep and otherwise refresh yourself. Switching to a diet containing plenty of nutritious foods may serve to restore your vigor, especially when augmented by supplements like B vitamins or ginseng. Consider, too, that a visit to a healer or homeopath will likely provide you with wonderful insights into your tiredness. But identifying the source of your exhaustion will occasionally be more complicated than spotting a void in your lifestyle and filling it with some form of literal nourishment. Since your earthly and ethereal forms are so intimately entwined, matters of the mind and heart can take their toll on your physical self. Intense emotions such as anger, sadness, jealousy, and regret need fuel to! manifest in your consciousness, and this fuel is more often than not corporeal energy. Conversely, a lack of mental and emotional stimulation may leave you feeling listless and lethargic.
Coping with and healing physical depletion will be easier when you accept that the underlying cause might be more complex than you at first imagined. A harried lifestyle or a diet low in vital nutrients can represent only one part of a larger issue affecting your mood, stamina, and energy levels. When you believe that you are ultimately in control of how you feel, you will be empowered to transform yourself and your day-to-day life so that lasting fatigue can no longer gain a foothold in your existence.
Accepting and Releasing Emotions
Denying Your Feelings
It's always best to acknowledge our feelings so they may rise to the surface rather than keep them suppressed and turned into anger.
Dealing with powerful emotions can be challenging, especially when we are going through chaotic, sad, or cruel experiences in our lives. Often, it can seem like we have only two options for dealing with our feelings so they don’t become too overwhelming. We may let our feelings out in an immediate and visceral way, or we may bottle them up by suppressing our emotions inside our bodies. Most people make the second choice, repressing their feelings in an attempt to deny them. The truth is that there are many positive ways to deal with emotions, and experiencing your negative feelings doesn’t have to constitute a negative experience. Denying your feelings is not only unhealthy for the mind and the body, but it may also rob you of valuable information you could be learning about yourself and your life. Suppressing your emotions can even impede your short-term memory. Acknowledging your feelings can help you better understand them and help you recover naturally from change, stres! s, and grief.
If you find that facing your feelings head on is proving too difficult during times of emotional distress, you may want to explore alternative ways of expressing them. Otherwise, the emotions you deny could morph into unconscious anger or self-hatred. Expressing your thoughts to friends or family can be helpful. If you don’t feel ready to share them, try giving them words by writing down what you are feeling. Give whatever you are feeling simple words like “livid” or “angry” or “excited” You can also funnel your feelings into a creative outlet, physical exercise, or chores. Even just accepting and speaking your feelings out loud to yourself can be a healing release. In releasing intense emotions, it is most beneficial to acknowledge the feelings, allow yourself to feel them, and let the feelings go. Those who are willing to experience and release their feelings without judgment also find that their lives become less stressful. Breathing deeply, going for a long walk, or doi! ng a constructive task can help you respond to your feelings in a healthy way.
While burying negative or uncomfortable feelings can numb the pain, it also may inevitably dull your ability to experience your more positive and pleasurable feelings. You may find yourself afraid to open up in the future for fear of getting hurt. The feelings we deny aren’t limited to anger and sadness. Suppressing our happiness or excitement can be just as unhealthy. In learning how to express your intense emotions in a healthy way, you are giving yourself the freedom to fully experience the more joyful emotions that come with being alive.
We can let go of our defense mechanisms when we are ready to be truly honest with ourselves.
We all have defense mechanisms that we’ve developed over time, often without being aware of it. In times of trouble, the behaviors that have worked to get us past challenges with the least amount of pain are the ones that we repeat; even when part of us knows they no longer work. Such behavior is a natural response from our mental and physical aspects. But because we are spiritual beings as well, we have the ability to rise above habits and patterns to see the truth that lay beyond. And from that moment on, we can make choices that allow us to work directly from that place of truth within us.
Most of our defense mechanisms were developed in childhood; from the moment that we realized crying would get us the attention we craved. Passive aggressive ways of communicating may have allowed us to get what we needed without being scolded, punished or laughed at, so we learned to avoid being direct and honest. Some of us may have taken refuge in the lives of others, discovering ways to direct attention away from ourselves entirely. Throwing ourselves into projects or rescuing others from themselves can be effective ways to avoid dealing with our own issues. And when people are truly helped by our actions, we get the added bonus of feeling heroic. But while defenses can keep away the things we fear, they can also work to keep our good from us.
When we can be honest with ourselves about what we truly desire, then we can connect our desires to the creative power of the spirit within us. Knowing that we are one with the energy of the universe allows us release any need for defense. Trusting that power, we know that we are exactly where we are meant to be, and that challenges bring gifts of growth and experience. When we can put down arms raised in defense, then we are free to use our hands, minds, hearts and spirits to mold and shape our abundant energy to create and live our lives.
Letting Go of Understanding
We don't always need to know the deeper meaning of everything that happens in our lives.
All of us who seek to be conscious and aware regard our experiences as teachers, and we try to discern what lessons we are learning from the things that happen in our lives. Sometimes the lesson is very clear from the get-go, and other times we have to really search to understand the deeper meaning behind some event. While this search often yields results, there also comes a point in the search where what we really need to do is move forward. It is possible that we are not meant to know the deeper meaning of certain occurrences. Answers may come later in our lives, or they may come as a result of letting go, or they may never come.
We are all part of a complex system of being, and things work themselves out in the system as a whole. Sometimes we are just playing a necessary part in that process with a result larger than we can understand. It may have very little to do with us personally, and while that can be hard to understand, it can also free us from overthinking the matter. Sometimes it is best to see it in terms of karma, a past debt we have been able to repay in this way, or as the clearing of energy. We can simply thank the event for being part of our experience and let it go. This completes the process that the occurrence has made possible.
To make this letting go official, we can perform a ritual, make a final journal entry on the subject, or sit in meditation with the intention of releasing the event from our consciousness. As we do so, we summon it one last time, honoring it with our attention, thanking it, and saying good-bye. We then let it go out the door, out the window, out the top of our heads, or into the earth through the bottoms of our feet, liberating ourselves from any burden we have carried in association with it.
Exploring an Alternate Universe
What Makes People Tick?
Interacting peacefully with people from all walks of life is a matter of first understanding where they are coming from.
All people have their own way of being in the world. It is easiest to comprehend this basic yet profound fact when we consider that every human being on the planet occupies a distinct role in the universe. We grow up in different environments, affected by a unique range of influences. The preferences, values, and beliefs we embrace are frequently related intimately to our origins. And the need to individualize our experiences is instinctive, as doing so enables us to cope when we must face challenges on our own. Consequently, each of us has developed a perspective that is uniquely ours. Interacting peacefully and constructively with people from all walks of life is a matter of first understanding where they are coming from. Then we can adjust our expectations so that we avoid making undue assumptions about what they are about.
In the face of emerging interpersonal conflict, it is easy to assume that others are being difficult, unreasonable, or stubborn. We are apt to grow frustrated when someone in our environment does not share our opinions or feel compelled to support us in our endeavors. It is likely that the individual or individuals before us may simply possess differing notions with regard to what is and what is not important in this life. We can ease the tension that exists between us by reaffirming our belief in the fundamental right of all beings to determine their own destinies. To foster a harmonious relationship, we need to do our best to relate to the unique universes they inhabit. And as we discover what makes them tick, our ability to find a mode of interaction that is pleasing to both of us is enhanced.
When there are barriers keeping you from connecting with someone else, think of questions you can ask them to gain a more thorough understanding of their point of view. You may discover that in addition to the differences in perspective dividing you, they are subject to insecurities and other personal issues that influence their way of seeing the world. It is likely that you will never fully grasp the myriad complexities embodied by humanity, but you can go a long way toward encouraging mutually satisfying relations by reaching out to others in the spirit of sympathetic comprehension.
Keeping a Diary with Purpose
A diary that is kept for a specific purpose can be a great way to focus on a specific issue that you want to work through.
A diary can play many roles. It can be a confidant, a vehicle of self expression, a tool that facilitates clarity of thought, or a repository of dreams. A diary can also be a powerful source of comfort during challenging or traumatic periods. When you record those insights and incidents that clearly demonstrate you are on the right track, you can return to your words days, weeks, or months later and find uniquely soothing reassurance. A diary with a specific purpose can be a good tool for keeping track of experiences before the passage of time can skew your perception of events. It reflects the immediacy of your life and thus provides you with a landmark to return to when you begin to doubt yourself. If doubt does arise, simply open your diary to reaffirm your experiences. The confidence, surety, passion, and bravery you felt in a single moment is preserved, giving you a means to recapture those feelings in any place, at any time.
Your diary serves as a repository of personalized encouragement. Since a diary is, by its very nature, as individual as you are, you should give some thought to the type of diary that will serve you best. A synchronicity-and-connections diary might describe those instances where seemingly random occurrences came together in a meaningful way, propelling you forward. Or you may find strength in the pages of a pride diary that makes note not only of those times you felt proud of yourself but also precisely why you were pleased with your efforts. And a cause-and-effect diary can help you become more decisive by reminding you of all the wise, life-affirming choices you have made. Your diary should be small enough to be readily portable and on hand whenever possible because the faster you put your thoughts down on paper, the more authentic your declarations are apt to be.
Regardless of the type of focused diary you choose to keep, your recollections will create a positive feedback loop that helps you cope with doubt in a constructive way. Reading through your diary when life seems uncertain can show you that your misgivings are unfounded. As you draw consolation from your uplifting words, you will know without a doubt that you are indeed living your purpose and following the path that you committed to before birth.
Using Your Power
When your choices are your own, you will be more likely to accept and be satisfied with the outcome of those choices.
Our lives are defined by the decisions we make each day. When we choose one option over another, whether we are selecting a restaurant or considering a cross-country move, we shape our lives. The decision-making process can be empowering, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of self-determination. Yet it can also be a source of anxiety because decisions force us to face the possibility of dissatisfaction and inner conflict. As a result, many of us opt to avoid making decisions by allowing others to make them for us. We consequently turn our power over to spouses, relatives, friends, and colleagues, granting them the stewardship of our lives that is ours by right. Though the decisions we must make are often difficult, we grow more self-sufficient and secure each time we trust ourselves enough to choose.
Ultimately, only you can know how the options before you will impact your daily life and your long-term well-being. Within you lies the power to competently weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each selection. Even if you feel incapable of making a decision, your inner wisdom and your intuitive mind will give you sound counsel if you have faith in yourself. Try to come to your own conclusions before seeking the guidance of others, and even then, treat their suggestions as supplementary information rather than votes to be tallied. Before making your choice, release your fear of wrong decisions. Perceived mistakes can lead you down wonderful and unexpected paths that expose you to life-changing insights. If you can let go of the notion that certain choices are utterly right while others are entirely wrong, you will be less tempted to invite others to take the reigns of your destiny.
When your choices are your own, you will be more likely to accept and be satisfied with the outcome of those choices. Your decisions will be a pure reflection of your desires, your creativity, your awareness, and your power. Since you understand that you must live with and take responsibility for your decisions, you will likely exercise great care when coming to conclusions. As you learn to make informed and autonomous choices, you will gain the freedom to consciously direct the flow of your life without interference.
The World as Home
Each day we choose to decorate our life just as we do our homes.
There are few things more thrilling than having a new house or an empty room to decorate. Our imaginations soar as we consider the many possibilities. In the same way, our lives offer us the opportunity to express ourselves within various contexts, to ask ourselves questions about what we want to see as we move through our days and how we want things to flow. Some people do this instinctively, moving through the various environments they inhabit and shifting the energy with their presence. These people have a knack for decorating life. This can be as simple as the way they dress, the way they speak, or the fact that they always bring a bouquet of wildflowers when they come for a visit.
As we move through the world, we make a statement, whether we intend to or not. We shift the energy one way when we enter a room dressed elegantly and simply, and another when we show up in bright, cheerful colors and a floppy hat. One is not better than the other. It is simply a question of the mood we wish to create. What we wear is just one choice we can focus on. The way we speak to people, or touch them, shifts the energy more profoundly than almost anything else. The words we speak and the tone in which we say them are the music we choose to play in the world that is our home. Some of us fill the space with passionate arias, others with healing hymns. Again, one is not better than the other. We are all called to contribute.
Just as we consciously create an environment within our homes, we can consciously choose to decorate life itself with our particular energy. Ideally, in doing so, we express our deeper selves, so that the adornments we add to the world make it more meaningful, more beautiful, and as welcoming as a beloved home.
Dealing with Difficult People
Opening the Channels of Communication
We all have the experience of difficult people in our lives at one point or another and honest but clear communication is the answer.
We encounter a wide variety of people throughout our lives. Many of them touch us in some positive way. Occasionally, however, we encounter those individuals who, for whatever reason, can be difficult to deal with. Perhaps this person is a colleague or close friend that you feel is deliberately being obtuse, inviting in trouble, or doing foolish things that you find annoying. Sometimes, it may be possible to appease or avoid those people short term. Dealing with them in the long term, however, can be exhausting. The behavior of difficult people can even make you feel like losing your temper, but keep your cool. Staying calm is the first step, especially when you are ready to confront them.
Avoiding a difficult person can improve impossible and not in your best interest, especially if you live or work together. Likewise, attempts to steer clear of them can become a source of stress and anxiety when they are a part of your social circle. When this is the case, it is best to kindly address the problem. Try not to let their actions or mood affect you. You also may want to try expressing your feelings directly. Tell to the person how their actions make you feel and encourage them toward a more positive course of action. Speak assertively, but respectfully, and don’t portray yourself as a victim. Another approach for dealing with a difficult individual is to gain a deeper understanding of who that person is. Ask them why they do or say certain things. If you disagree with their motives, question them further so you can try and discover the root of their behaviors. In doing so, you may be able to gently shift their perceptions, or at least help them understand your ! point of view.
You may want to think about what you want to say to a difficult person before you actually talk to them. If you can, avoid being judgmental or defensive, and try to approach the conversation objectively. If the person is open to the idea, try coming to an agreement. If approaching them fails, let it go and move on. There is no reason to let difficult person or situation have power over your state of being. Remember that a lot can be accomplished when you take the time to listen and offer up alternative perspectives.
Taking a Day Trip
We need not go on an expensive vacation to feel we have had time off as your local park or beach can offer a blissful refuge.
We tend to think of a vacation as something that requires an enormous amount of preparation, but small daylong excursions can be just as refreshing and fulfilling as their lengthier counterparts. A short drive can be the channel that transports you into a world of novel experiences and blissful relaxation. Solo day trips can be a wonderful way to unwind from the stresses of routine existence while simultaneously feeding the soul. And when you choose to share your day trip with someone you care about, a leisurely drive becomes a chance to talk about childhood, recall favorite songs, or simply spend time enjoying one another's presence.
You may be surprised to see how many day-trip possibilities exist within a mere hour's time from your home. Forests, beaches, lakes, mountains, rivers, and deserts can serve as the perfect spot for a mini-vacation. The physical and mental rejuvenation you experience in an unfamiliar and engaging setting are enhanced by meditation, journaling, deep breathing, or just being still with nature. Though the cost of gasoline can make taking a day trip seem frivolous, and our commitment to environmental well-being may cause us to hesitate before utilizing our cars in this manner, there are numerous ways we can effectively offset our carbon signature while still seeing to the needs of ourselves on a soul level.
Since day trips tend to require much smaller investments of time and money than traditional outings, you can enjoy a diverse range of experiences day by day. On one weekend, you may be motivated by a need to connect with your natural heritage to explore a vast state park or nature preserve. On another, your curiosity can inspire you to visit a historical site that has long piqued your interest. In the end, where you go will often be less important than your willingness to broaden your horizons by removing yourself from the environment already so familiar to you. Each mini-getaway you take will imbue your existence with a sensation of renewal that prepares you for whatever lies ahead.
Dark Night of the Soul
Surrendering the Ego
While we are in a dark night of the soul experience, hold steady knowing the light will appear once again.
Whenever a word is overused, it is most likely being misused, and over time, it begins to lose its meaningfulness. For example, we often refer to a fleeting feeling of depression or a period of confusion, as a dark night of the soul, but neither of these things qualifies as such. A dark night of the soul is a very specific experience that some people encounter on their spiritual journeys. There are people who never encounter a dark night of the soul, but others must endure this as part of the process of breaking through to the dawn of higher consciousness.
The dark night of the soul invites us to fully recognize the confines of our egos’ identity. We may feel as if we are trapped in a prison that affords us no access to light or the outside. We are coming from a place of higher knowing, and we may have spent a lot of time and energy reaching toward the light of higher consciousness. This is why the dark night has such a quality of despair: We are suddenly shut off from what we thought we had realized and the emotional pain is very real. We may even begin to feel that it was all an illusion and that we are lost forever in this darkness. The more we struggle, the darker things get, until finally we surrender to our not knowing what to do, how to think, where to turn. It is from this place of losing our sense of ourselves as in control that the ego begins to crack or soften and the possibility of light entering becomes real.
Some of us will have to endure this process only once in our lives, while others may have to go through it many times. The great revelation of the dark night is the releasing of our old, false identity. We finally give up believing in this false self and thus become capable of owning and embracing the light.
The rhythm of drumming is easy for our bodies to take in as was the rhythm of our mother's heartbeat.
That rhythm renews us is no secret. Drumming is the oldest form of music on the planet. Virtually every culture that exists or has existed on earth has practiced some form of drumming. In Africa, the beating of a drum continues to be an important part of significant ceremonies and holiday celebrations. Native American cultures use drumming as a means to reconnect an individual’s mental and physical selves. Throughout history, drumming has been a part of performing rituals, marking significant transitions, and celebrating life’s cycles. Our lives are infused with rhythm beginning at the very moment we first sense our mother’s heartbeat in her womb.
All manner of drumming has the ability to put us in touch with our own natural rhythms, the rhythms of the earth, and the rhythms of the people we choose to drum with. The drum can represent the heart, and drumming awakens the mind while stirring the soul. Drumming can take you to a place deep inside you where you are keenly aware of your mind and your body, as well as the vital bond between the two. Much like human beings, each drum has its own vibration and voice. Drumming alone can help you release tension, dispel stress and aggressive feelings, and restore your energy. It can also give you an opportunity to reestablish your connection to Mother Earth, as the beat of a drum can represent a crack of lightning, pounding ocean waves, or the tumult of an earthquake.
Drumming with others brings with it many benefits. Taking part in a drumming circle attunes us to the invisible energy that exists between us while uniting us in a common purpose. Drumming can be relaxing as well as energizing. It quiets mental chatter and can create a peaceful meditative state. In Navajo lore, the drum is the Great Spirit’s favorite instrument. It is said that this is why all human beings were given a heartbeat. The rhythmic beating of a drum can move us into new realms of consciousness. There is no right or wrong way to drum, and everyone has the innate ability to create rhythm. When you drum with intention, you’ll discover the rhythms that move you.
Healing with Movement
Our bodies were made to move and flow and within our movement we find a deeper connection to our bodies and the earth.
As children, most of us were encouraged to dance on a regular basis, freely and openly, in whatever way felt best. A few of us may have retained or regained our ability to engage in dancing unselfconsciously, but by the time we reach adulthood, many of us have stopped dancing altogether. We may have hang-ups about our bodies, or we may fear being judged. Then again, we may simply have fallen out of the habit for so long that we don’t even realize we never dance anymore. Whatever the case, there’s no time like now to rediscover the healing pleasure of moving your body to music—alone, as part of a couple, or in a group. Opportunities to dance abound, once you start looking for them.
If you haven’t danced in a long time and feel too self-conscious to start in a public situation, find some time alone to reintroduce yourself to the joy of listening and responding to music with your body. Turn the lights down low and remember that it’s much more fun when you’re not thinking about what you look like. It won’t take long before your body remembers how much it loves to move. Feel the music in your soul, feel the vibrations healing your body. Treat the time like a meditation session in which you agree to allow yourself to fully inhabit your amazing body.
If you feel awkward, remember that every culture since time immemorial has celebrated life and the body with dance. All people carry the memory of dance in their blood and bones. In other words, you were born to do this, it is in you already; all you have to do is start moving. If you prefer more interaction, take a class one night a week. In most cities, you can find everything from modern dance to African dance to ballroom and salsa. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret choosing to rediscover your birthright—the healing, joyful thrill of dancing.
Nourishing and Cleansing
Performing Daily Ceremony
Having daily ritual or ceremony in our lives is very important to keep us connected to what really matters.
When we perform or participate in rituals and ceremonies, we enter into a state of mind that is different from mundane consciousness. Ranging in significance from bedtime stories to weddings, ceremonies and rituals are acknowledgments that an event or period of time has special meaning. As a result, they can have the effect of drawing us into the moment, inviting us to pay closer attention and tune into the subtle energies that are always present but that often go unrecognized. In addition, as we perform the same actions we have performed before and will perform again, we immerse ourselves in a river of continuity that extends back into the past and forward into the future.
Many of us have distanced ourselves from rituals that may have seemed too constricting or too attached to an organized religion we have chosen not to follow. However, we can reclaim the practices of ceremony and ritual to good effect, imbuing them with our new consciousness, and we do not have to wait for a big event to do it. We can engage in daily practices that include ritual and ceremony, reminding ourselves throughout the day of the sacredness of this life.
In fact, if we look closely, we will see that our days are already made up of rituals, from the time we wake up to the time we retire. So we do not need to change anything except our perspective to imbue our day with an air of ceremony.
Most of our daily rituals revolve around nourishing and cleansing, both of which have always been sacred acts. With this in mind, we may pause before each meal, close our eyes, and say a silent thank you to the universe that provides. If we want to get more elaborate, we can light candles or bless our food. Similarly, as we wash ourselves in the morning and evening, we can choose to see the grace in this act of cleansing and purification as we release what has past and prepare ourselves for the new. We can be as simple or as complex as we like, so long as our attitude is one of reverence for this sacred moment in this sacred life.
Learning from the Big Picture
Cycle of Life
While we are on earth we are all human beings in different phases of our lives and soul development.
As we walk through the world, the people we encounter appear so different from one another. We see babies, old men, pregnant women, and teenaged boys. We know couples on the verge of marriage and lonely widows. We interact with toddlers and the terminally ill. As different as each person seems, they are all living the human experience. They are just at different places in the cycle that begins with birth and ends with death. Every phase of the cycle of life has its gifts and its challenges. Each stage is temporary and ultimately gives way to a new phase. This ephemeral quality makes each phase precious, because it will never last.
One of the wonderful qualities possessed by babies and young children is that they are unaware that a cycle of life even exists. They simply are present to wherever they happen to be right now, and they don’t give much thought to the past or future. Being around them reminds us of the joy that comes from living fully in the moment. On the opposite end of life’s cycle are our elderly role models. They are a reminder that each phase of life should be treasured. Time does pass, and we all change and grow older.
Being aware of the cycle of life and our place in it makes us wiser. As we develop a true appreciation for the phase we are in, we can savor it more. A new mother going through a difficult time with her infant can more easily embrace her challenges because she knows that her child will grow up, and she will long for this time again. Difficult and challenging periods are inevitable, but – like everything that is a part of the cycle of life – they are temporary. When we are fully engaged with life, we get to savor and grow from each phase, and we are ready for the next one when it arrives. Fully embracing wherever you are in the cycle of life is the very essence to happiness.
A Sense of Closure
Sometimes the emotions we are feeling belong to the person we are in a connection with and an energetic cord must be severed.
In every relationship, people are constantly exchanging energy that can become a chord connecting two people. This energetic cord forms just below the breastbone and can remain long after a relationship has ended. This unbroken cord may leave an open channel between you and another person, through which emotions and energy can continue to flow. If you are unaware that the chord exists, it is easy to feel the other person’s emotions and mistakenly think that they are yours. Besides the fact that this can limit the amount of closure you can experience in a relationship, letting this cord remain intact can leave you with a continued sense of sadness while creating feelings of lethargy as your own energy is sapped from you. Cutting the cord can help you separate yourself from old baggage, unnecessary attachments, and release you from connections that are no longer serving you.
Finding and cutting unwanted cords is a simple, gentle process that is best done alone and when you are relaxed. It is important that you are strong in your intention to release the chord between you and someone else. To begin, breathe deeply and perform a simple centering meditation. When you are ready, visualize or sense the chords that are connecting you to other people. Run your fingers through the cords to separate them until you find the cord you wish to sever. There is no need to worry, because the chord you need to sever will feel just right. When you have found it, determine where the cut should be made and then visualize the cord being cleanly cut. If you need assistance, Archangel Michael can be called upon to help you with his sword. Afterwards, if you feel that cutting the chord has left spaces in your energy field, then visualize those spaces being filled with healing sunlight.
There may be times where cutting a cord can help free a relative or loved one to reach new stages of growth. You’re not severing a relationship, but you are severing the chords that are no longer serving you both. At other times, a cord may simply refuse to be cut because it is still serving a higher purpose. It is also important to remember that cutting a cord with someone is not a replacement for doing your emotional work with people. It can, however, be an enactment of that work upon its completion. In any case, cutting a relationship cord should always be viewed as a positive and nurturing act. By cutting the cords that no longer need to be there, you are setting yourself and others free from the ties that bind.
When Life Throws You a Curve Ball
When the unexpected happens, you always have your inner core strength which cannot be taken from you.
In life, we are always setting goals for ourselves and working to make them happen. This gives us focus and ensures that we use our time and energy efficiently and effectively. It also provides us with a sense of purpose and direction. We know where we are going and what we want to do. But quite often, due to forces outside our control, things do not go as we had planned—the flat tire on the way to the wedding, the unforeseen flu virus—and we have to adjust to a postponement or create a whole new set of circumstances. Even positive turns of fortune — an unexpected influx of cash or falling in love — require us to be flexible and to reconsider our plans and priorities, sometimes in the blink of an eye. This is what happens when life throws you a curve ball.
The ability to accept what is happening and let go of your original expectations is key when dealing with these unexpected turns of fate. We have a tendency to get stuck in our heads, clinging to an idea of how we think life should go, and we can have a hard time accepting anything that doesn’t comply with that idea. The fact is that life is unpredictable. The trip you thought was for business — and when the deal fell through, you got depressed — actually landed you at the airport two days earlier than planned so you could meet the love of your life. Your car breaks down, and you are late for an appointment. While it’s true that you never arrive at that important meeting, you end up spending a few relaxing hours with people you would never have met otherwise.
In order to keep us awake to opportunity and to teach us equanimity, the universe throws us the occasional curve ball. Remember that curve balls are not only life’s way of keeping us awake, which is a gift in and of itself; they are also often life’s way of bringing us wonderful surprises. Next time a curve ball comes your way, take a deep breath, say thank you, and open your mind to a new opportunity.
No Hard Edges
Creating Space in the Body
As we move deeper into meditation, the state of our mind expands thus allowing us to create more space within our body.
Our minds and bodies are interconnected, and the condition of one affects the condition of the other. This is why meditation is such a powerful tool for healing the body, as powerful as physical therapies. When our minds are cluttered with thoughts, information, and plans, our bodies respond by trying to take action. When the body has a clear directive from the mind, it knows what to do, but a cluttered, unfocused mind creates a confused, tense body. Our muscles tighten up, our breath shortens, and we find ourselves feeling constricted without necessarily knowing why.
When we sit down to meditate, we let our bodies know that it is okay to be still and rest. This is a clear directive from the mind, and the body knows exactly how to respond. Thus, at the very beginning, we have created a sense of clarity for the body and the mind. As we move deeper into meditation, the state of our mind reveals itself, and we have the opportunity to consciously decide to settle it. A meditation teacher pointed out that if you put a cow in a small pen, she acts up and pushes against the boundaries, whereas if you provide her with a large, open space, she will peacefully graze in one spot. In the same way, our thoughts settle down peacefully if we provide them with enough space, and our bodies follow suit.
When we settle down to examine and experience our consciousness, we discover that there are no hard, definable edges. It is a vast, open space in which our thoughts can come and go without making waves, as long as we let them by neither attaching to them nor repressing them. As we see our thoughts come and go, we begin to breathe deeper and more easily, finding that our body is more open to the breath as it relaxes along with the mind. In this way, the space we recognize through meditation creates space in our bodies, allowing for a feeling of lightness and rightness with the world.
Taking a Time Out
You Are Not Crazy
Sometimes as adults, we just need a time out to refocus and gather ourselves before starting out again.
Most of us feel a little crazy from time to time. Periods of high stress can make us feel like we’re losing it, as can being surrounded by people whose values are very different from our own. Losing a significant relationship and moving into a new life situation are other events that can cause us to feel off kilter. Circumstances like these recur in our lives, and they naturally affect our mental stability. The symptoms of our state of mind can range from having no recollection of putting our car keys where we eventually find them, to wondering if we’re seeing things clearly when everyone around us seems to be in denial of what’s going on right in front of their eyes. For most of us, the key to survival at times like these is to step back, take a deep breath, and regain our composure. Then we can decide what course of action to take.
Sometimes a time-out does the trick. We take a day off from whatever is making us feel crazy and, like magic, we feel in our right mind again. Talking to an objective friend can also help. We begin to see what it is about the situation that destabilizes us, and we can make changes from there. At other times, if the situation is particularly sticky, we may need to seek professional help. Meeting with someone who understands the way the human mind reacts to stress, loss, and difficulty can make us feel less alone and more supported. A therapist or a spiritual counselor can give us techniques that help bring us back to a sane state of mind so that we can affect useful changes. They can also mirror our basic goodness, helping us to see that we are actually okay.
The main purpose of the wake-up call that feeling crazy provides is to let us know that something in our lives is out of balance. Confirm for yourself that you are capable of creating a sane and peaceful reality for yourself. Try to remember that most people have felt, at one time or another, that they are losing it. You deserve a life that helps you thrive. Try and take some steps today to help you achieve more balance and a little less crazy.
Hearing the One Voice
Taking Counsel in a Circle
The use of a talking stick during counsel assures every voice is heard fully without interruption.
When we sit in a circle together and share our thoughts and feelings, we participate in a powerful, unifying practice whose origins stem from the very beginning of human time. All early cultures practiced some form of this ritual, which gives each individual in the group a voice, and at the same time reveals the one voice, and the ultimate unity, of the group. This profound and simple way of talking and listening has experienced a modern rebirth in counseling, social work, and spirituality.
Most circles benefit from the presence of a leader who opens the circle by calling in angels, spirit guides, and ancestors—beings of light who will be present with those taking counsel. The leader may announce a theme for the circle, or one may simply evolve from the unstructured expressions of each participant. The circle continues for as long as feels right, at which point the leader may summarize what has been said, perhaps leading everyone in a moment of silence before the circle disbands. One of the most powerful components of this work is the talking stick, which can be any object—a crystal, a flower, or a candle—that is passed around the circle from person to person. The person holding the object speaks until he has fully expressed his feelings, and no one else interjects, interrupts, or even responds until they are holding the stick. This enables people who have a hard time speaking out to express long buried feelings and points of view. This is powerful because in a! community it is often what is not said or acknowledged that causes the most pain and suffering.
The circle, which contains no hard edges or angles, is the ideal container for these difficult truths. As we hear the many perspectives the subject at hand inspires, we begin to see that our individual truth is just one of many. Our own hard edges begin to soften as the circle flows from one person to the next, and each wave of words cleanses us of one more layer of mental and emotional armor, freeing us to be closer to the people around us. Try using counsel during your next family meeting, school class, or any setting where you feel a centering communication method is needed.
Acting Together for Good
Cooperation is allowed to flow more easily when we let go of the necessity to be right all the time.
Cooperation seems simple: working together toward a common goal for the benefit of all involved. But amazingly it can be quite challenging, even when we have so many successful examples all around us. Human society is based upon the concept of cooperation, but finding a balance to ensure the good of all members of society is difficult. In nature, symbiotic relationships form between unlikely allies: a bee and a flower, a bird and a rhinoceros, small fish and sharks. Yet nature also shows us instances of constant competition in which only the strongest survive. Given the choice, it seems most people would choose the more peaceful path of cooperation. Intellectually, we know that together we can create something greater than what one could do alone, but cooperation still seems to be one of the greatest challenges people face. We don’t always agree on how goals can be reached. Our priorities may be different, or our methods, but in the end, cooperation offers the best chance fo! r success.
So how can we learn to cooperate with each other? We can gain greater perspective by trying to understand one another’s point of view, perhaps even putting ourselves in their place. We can search for commonalities as well as differences, and look for the good in different approaches. There is always more than one way of doing things, and some approaches are better suited for certain situations than others. All this is easier when we let go of the necessity to be right and to call others wrong. More important, we must believe that there is a solution that benefits all involved, not just one side.
The results of cooperation can be as simple as effortlessly getting everyone in your household to their appointments to large-scale social shifts to changing minds and hearts or policies that affect the future.
Prioritizing over Smokescreens
When we offer nothing but excuses in our lives, we are not being honest with anybody, mostly ourselves.
Excuses may seem like rational reasons for us not to do something, but if we’re not careful we can allow them to keep us from reaching our goals. Too often we accept our excuses as reasons why we cannot accomplish what we set out to do, and instead of finding alternatives we give up. But if we can be honest with ourselves and take responsibility for our choices, we will begin to notice that we no longer give excuses. When we keep our minds focused on our goals, we will find that excuses fade away in the light of our priorities, and issues become challenges that can help us become wiser and stronger.
Sometimes we may give others excuses rather than be fully honest. We may think it is kind to tell someone we are willing to do something with them, whether work or play, but then keep putting them off. This diverts our energy into keeping the truth at a distance while continuing a falsehood. But when we can take responsibility for our feelings and express them honestly, but gently, the other person is free to find someone who is better suited to accompany them while we are free to pursue the things we like. When we can do this, our energy can be invested in building better lives and relationships.
There’s another way in which excuses rob us of energy—and that is in the power of our thoughts and words. If we find ourselves in a situation, for example, where we are being asked for a financial contribution but we use the excuse that we can’t afford it, we create and attract lack and limitation into our lives. The same goes for seemingly simple things like pretending to not feel well or any other false statement. We may think that excuses make things easier, but they complicate matters with smokescreens. When we can commit to our priorities, take responsibility for our choices, and communicate them honestly to others, there will be no need to make excuses, and we will have much more energy to dedicate to all the things we love.
Letting the Curves Take You
The answer to control is practicing surrender.
Trying to maintain control in this life is a bit like trying to maintain control on a roller coaster. The ride has its own logic and is going to go its own way, regardless of how tightly you grip the bar. There is a thrill and a power in simply surrendering to the ride and fully feeling the ups and downs of it, letting the curves take you rather than fighting them. When you fight the ride, resisting what’s happening at every turn, your whole being becomes tense and anxiety is your close companion. When you go with the ride, accepting what you cannot control, freedom and joy will inevitably arise.
As with so many seemingly simple things in life, it is not always easy to let go, even of the things we know we can’t control. Most of us feel a great discomfort with the givens of this life, one of which is the fact that much of the time we have no control over what happens. Sometimes this awareness comes only when we have a stark encounter with this fact, and all our attempts to be in control are revealed to be unnecessary burdens. We can also cultivate this awareness in ourselves gently, by simply making surrender a daily practice. At the end of our meditation, we might bow, saying, “I surrender to this life.” This simple mantra can be repeated as necessary throughout the day, when we find ourselves metaphorically gripping the safety bar.
We can give in to our fear and anxiety, or we can surrender to this great mystery with courage. When we see people on a roller coaster, we see that there are those with their faces tight with fear and then there are those that smile broadly, with their hands in the air, carried through the ride on a wave of freedom and joy. This powerful image reminds us that often the only control we have is choosing how we are going to respond to the ride.
The last 3 days of a lunar cycle is a time to let go and purge anything in your life that you want to change.
In ancient times, the moon was revered as a goddess, and each of her lunar phases – new moon, full moon, and dark moon – was said to correspond to the three phases of a woman’s life: maiden, mother, and crone. The moon has long been associated with our power within, and you do not have to be a woman to connect with the moon’s power. The dark moon, which is associated with the crone phase, appears in the sky during the last three days of every lunar cycle. It cannot be seen with the human eye, but it is the dark moon that presides over the sky until a new 28-day cycle begins and a new moon is ready to appear. Often referred to as the “dead moon,” the dark moon doesn’t necessarily represent death. It is, however, a time for life-enriching endings and a prelude to new beginnings.
When the dark moon appears, it becomes easier for us to shed unnecessary emotional baggage and free ourselves of people and ideas that no longer serve us or add value to our life. It is a time to cleanse ourselves and create space so that what is new can enter. For many people, the dark moon is a time to rest, be introspective, and replenish their energy. Powerful, healing dreams have been known to take place during the dark moon, and you may discover that it is during the dark moon that you are most driven to meditate, explore your intuitive abilities, retrieve past life memories, or delve more deeply into your psyche.
One way to harness the energy of the dark moon is to perform a ritual where you light a black candle. Call forth and visualize the different parts of your life that you are ready to let go of. Through visualization, bind these parts together with light and imagine this bundle moving toward the candle. Watch these old parts being devoured by the flames, and let the candle burn out. Trust that what you’ve released has left you. You are now ready to welcome the new into your life.
Contracting before Expanding
Going through the Opening
It is a natural part of being that our lives sometimes contract before expanding.
Sometimes our lives contract before they expand. We may be working hard on ourselves spiritually, doing good in the world, following our dreams, and wondering why we are still facing constrictions of all kinds—financial, emotional, physical. Perhaps we even feel as if we’ve lost our spirituality and are stuck in a dark room with no windows. We may be confused and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress. But sometimes this is the way things work. Like a caterpillar that confines itself to a tiny cocoon before it grows wings and flies, we are experiencing the darkness before the dawn.
When things feel tight, it’s easy to panic or want to act in some way to ease the feeling of constriction. We might also spin our wheels mentally, trying to understand why things are the way they are. However, there is nothing we need to do at this time other than to be patient and persevering. We can cling to the awareness that we are processing the shift from one stage to another, and the more we surrender to the experience, the more quickly we will move through the tightness into the opening on the other side. Just like a baby making its way down the birth canal, we may feel squeezed and pushed and very uncomfortable, but if we remember that we are on our way to being born into a new reality, we will find the strength to carry on.
Even as we endure the contractions, we can find peace within ourselves if we remember to trust the universe. We can look to the natural world for inspiration as we see that all beings surrender to the process of being born. In that surrender, and in the center of our own hearts, is a willingness to trust in the unknown as we make our way through the opening.
We Are All Connected
Being aware of the connection between all things can help you in terms of the broader effect you may be creating.
There are times when we may feel disconnected from the world. Our actions can seem like they are of no major consequence, and we may feel like we exist in our own vacuum. Yet, the truth is that our simplest thought or action - the decisions we make each day, and how we see and relate to the world - can be incredibly significant and have a profound impact on the lives of those around us, as well as the world at large. The earth and everything on it is bound by an invisible connection between people, animals, plants, the air, the water, and the soil. Insignificant actions on your part, whether positive or negative, can have an impact on people and the environment that seem entirely separate from your personal realm of existence. Staying conscious of the interconnection between all things can help you think of your choices and your life in terms of the broader effect you may be creating.
Think of buying a wooden stool. The wood was once part of a tree which is part of a forest. A person was paid to fell the tree, another to cut the wood, and yet another to build the stool. Their income may have had a positive effect on their families, just as the loss of the tree may have had a negative impact on the forest or the animals that made that tree their home. An encouraging word to a young child about their special talent can influence this person to develop their gift so that one day their inventions can change the lives of millions. A poem written “merely” to express oneself can make a stranger reading it online from thousands of miles away feel less alone because there is someone else out there who feels exactly the way they do.
Staying conscious of your connection to all things can help you think of your choices in terms of their impact. We are powerful enough that what we do and say can reverberate through the lives of people we may never meet. Understanding that you are intimately connected with all things and understanding your power to affect our world can be the first step on the road to living more consciously.
The Strength of Compassion
Coming at Conflict with an Open Heart
Conflict should always be met with open ears and an open heart.
Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives because our beliefs and modes of being often contrast powerfully with those of our loved ones, acquaintances, and associates. Yet for all the grief disagreements can cause, we can learn much from them. The manner in which we handle ourselves when confronted with anger or argument demonstrates our overall level of patience and the quality of our energetic states. To resolve conflict, no matter how exasperating the disagreement at hand, we should approach our adversary with an open heart laden with compassion. Judgments and blame must be cast aside and replaced with mutual respect. Conflict is frequently motivated by unspoken needs that are masked by confrontational attitudes or aggressive behavior. When we come at conflict with love and acceptance in our hearts, we empower ourselves to discover a means to attaining collective resolution.
The key to finding the wisdom concealed in conflict is to ask yourself why you clash with a particular person or situation. Your inner self or the universe may be trying to point you to a specific life lesson, so try to keep your ears and eyes open. Once you have explored the internal and external roots of your disagreement, make a conscious effort to release any anger or resentment you feel. As you do so, the energy between you and your adversary with change perceptibly, even if they are still operating from a more limited energy state. Consider that each of you likely has compelling reasons for thinking and feeling as you do, and accept that you have no power to change your adversary’s mind. This can help you approach your disagreement rationally, with a steady voice and a willingness to compromise.
If you listen thoughtfully and with an empathetic ear during conflict, you can transform clashes into opportunities to compromise. Examine your thoughts and feelings carefully. You may discover stubbornness within yourself that is causing resistance or that you are unwittingly feeding yourself negative messages about your adversary. As your part in disagreements becomes gradually more clear, each new conflict becomes another chance to further hone your empathy, compassion, and tolerance.
Receiving a Gift with Grace
When we willingly accept compliments, we are reminded that others see us through different eyes.
Many of us find it difficult to accept compliments but easy to believe the slightest criticism. Today, right now, let’s make a choice to fully accept compliments as we would a gift. Sincere compliments are gifts of praise. They are kudos given for wise choices or accomplishments or perhaps for just letting your light shine. There is no reason not to accept the gift of a kind word, but some of us argue against them, even giving reasons why they aren’t true.
If we visualize the energy of a compliment, we would see beautiful, shining, positive energy being sent from the giver. That energy, if accepted graciously, would brighten our personal energy field. Our gratitude then returns to the giver as warm, fuzzy, glowing energy, completing an even circuit of good feelings. But if we reject a compliment, what could have been a beautiful exchange becomes awkward and uncomfortable, making it a negative experience instead. Misplaced modesty can ruin the joy of sharing this connection with another person. But we can accept a compliment and still be modest by simply saying “thank you.” However, if compliments are rejected due to a lack of self-esteem, then the first step would be to start believing good things about yourself. Try giving yourself compliments in the mirror. Beyond the initial feelings of silliness, you will notice how good it feels and can watch the smile it puts on your face. The next step would be to see how it feels to gi! ve compliments to others. Notice how great you feel when you’ve made another person’s face brighten and how differently you feel when the gift you’ve offered is rejected. Having experienced all sides, you will be ready to play along fully and willingly.
We are our harshest critics. When we accept compliments, we are reminded that others see us through different eyes. All living beings crave positive attention, and we all deserve to have positive energy shared with us. Perhaps if we happily and gratefully accept compliments, we will give others permission to do so as well.
Tearing Down to Rebuild
When we spend all of our time complaining, we are in essence in constant destroy mode rather than building mode.
We all know someone who has elevated the process of complaining to a high art. Sometimes funny, sometimes exhausting, these people have the ability to find a problem just about anywhere. In its more evolved form, complaining is simply the ability to see what’s not working, in one’s own life or in the external world, and it can be quite useful if followed to its natural conclusion—finding a solution and applying it. However, many of us don’t get that far, and we find that complaining has become an end in itself. In small doses, this is not a big problem, but if complaining has become a huge part of our identities, it may be time to take a good look at how we are spending our energy.
Complaining is a person’s way of acknowledging that they are not happy with the way things are. In a metaphorical way, when we complain or criticize, we are tearing down an undesirable structure in order to make room for something new. But if all we do is tear down, never bothering to summon the creative energy required to create something new, we are not fulfilling the process. In fact, we are at risk for becoming a stagnant and destructive force in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love. Another issue with complaining is that we sometimes tend to focus on other people, whom we can’t change, as a way of deflecting attention from the one person we can change—ourselves. So transforming complaining into something useful is a twofold process that begins with turning our critical eye to look at things we can actually do something about, and then taking positive action.
When we find ourselves complaining, the last thing we need to do is get down on ourselves. Instead, we can begin by noticing that we are in the mode of wanting to make some changes. But rather than lashing out at somebody or an organization, we can look for an appropriate place to channel this energy—not our neighbor’s house, but possibly parts of our own. Finally, we can ask ourselves the positive question of what we would like to create in the place of whatever it is we want to tear down. When we do this, we channel a negative habit into a creative process, thus using our energy to change the world around us in a positive way.
Wining Isn’t Everything
Competing with Yourself
When we are satisfied with our life, we do not look for experiences of winning and losing to define our self-worth.
The urges that drive us to compete with others tend to be straightforward. Years of both evolution and societal influences have shaped us to pit ourselves against our peers. The needs and desires that inspire us to compete with ourselves, however, are entirely personal and thus far more complex. A need to outdo our earlier efforts—to confirm that we have grown as individuals—can motivate us to reach new heights of accomplishment. We are capable of using our past achievements as a foundation from which we venture confidently into the unknown. Yet if this drive to compete with our former selves is the result of low self-worth or a need to prove ourselves to others, even glowing successes can feel disheartening. Examining why we compete with ourselves enables us to positively identify those contests that will enrich our existence.
There are many reasons we strive to outdo ourselves. When we are ambitious in our quest for growth, we are driven to set and meet our own expectations. We do not look to external experiences of winning and losing to define our sense of self-worth. Rather, we are our own judges and coaches, monitoring our progress and gauging how successful we have become. Though we seek the thrill of accomplishment tirelessly, we do so out of a legitimate need to improve the world or to pave the way for those who will follow in our footsteps. Be careful, though, that your competitiveness is not the result of an unconscious need to show others that you are capable of meeting and then exceeding their standards.
Consider, too, that successful efforts that would be deemed more than good enough when evaluated from an external perspective may not satisfy our inner judge, who can drive us ruthlessly. In order to attain balance, we have to learn the art of patience even as we strive to achieve our highest vision of who we are. When we feel drained, tense, or unhappy as we pursue our goals, it may be that we are pushing ourselves for the wrong reasons. Our enthusiasm for our endeavors will return as soon as we recall that authentic evolution is a matter not of winning but of taking pride in our progress at any pace.
In The Presence of Difficulty
True compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion.
Compassion is the ability to see the deep connectedness between ourselves and others. Moreover, true compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion. When we first begin to practice compassion, this very deep level of understanding may elude us, but we can have faith that if we start where we are, we will eventually feel our way toward it. We move closer to it every time we see past our own self-concern to accommodate concern for others. And, as with any skill, our compassion grows most in the presence of difficulty.
We practice small acts of compassion every day, when our loved ones are short-tempered or another driver cuts us off in traffic. We extend our forgiveness by trying to understand their point of view; we know how it is to feel stressed out or irritable. The practice of compassion becomes more difficult when we find ourselves unable to understand the actions of the person who offends us. These are the situations that ask us to look more deeply into ourselves, into parts of our psyches that we may want to deny, parts that we have repressed because society has labeled them bad or wrong. For example, acts of violence are often well beyond anything we ourselves have perpetuated, so when we are on the receiving end of such acts, we are often at a loss. This is where the real potential for growth begins, because we are called to shine a light inside ourselves and take responsibility for what we have disowned. It is at this juncture that we have the opportunity to transform from with! in.
This can seem like a very tall order, but when life presents us with circumstances that require our compassion, no matter how difficult, we can trust that we are ready. We can call upon all the light we have cultivated so far, allowing it to lead the way into the darkest parts of our own hearts, connecting us to the hearts of others in the understanding that is true compassion.
Caretaking the Soul of Gaia
Just as you have energy centers in your body called Chakras, so too does Mother Earth.
As we walk upon the earth, we walk upon a living being more similar to ourselves than we imagine. Just like us, the earth has both a physical body and an energetic body, complete with a chakra system identified by ancient mystics and modern scientists alike. Gaia, as the earth is called when acknowledged as a living entity in her own right, has her own life force and her own path of unfolding, separate from us, but including us. Human beings and Gaia are intertwined on every level, not just the physical, and an awareness of her chakras can help us to acknowledge, heal, and enable her on her path, just as she selflessly returns the favor to us.
It is generally agreed that Gaia has seven major chakras distributed evenly across her body and connected to one another via two lines of energy that intersect at various points on the earth. The first chakra is located at Mount Shasta in Northern California; the second is in Lake Titicaca in South America; the third chakra is in Uluru-Kata Tjuta in Australia; the fourth chakra resides in Glastonbury in England; the fifth chakra is at the Great Pyramid in Mount of Olives; the sixth chakra is in Kuh-e Malek Siah in Iran, and the seventh chakra is in Mount Kailas in Tibet. In addition to her seven major chakras, she has minor chakras and other vortexes of energy that are significant to her life-energy system, and all these energy centers need caretaking. Just as we can heal ourselves through our own chakras, we can heal and support Gaia through hers.
While it would be a wonderful experience to visit one of the earth’s chakras, you can always participate in loving and healing Gaia wherever you are. Maintaining an awareness of the regions in which her chakras reside can be very powerful. You may place photos of the locales on your altar, sending healing energy to each of her chakras during your meditations. As you consciously connect your energy system to her energy system, the true meaning of groundedness reveals itself—it is a relationship with Gaia in which we acknowledge our calling as the caretakers of her soul.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
There is nobody else like you in the world and this is worth celebrating rather than searching for faults.
You are unique. There is no one else like you in the entire universe. In honor of your unique self, it is good to acknowledge and embrace the special qualities that make you the person that you are. One way to do this is to not compare yourself with other people.
It is human nature to want to see how we measure up in comparison to others – especially if we think that they are better than us or have more of something that we want. Yet the truth is that it is not a good use of time to compare ourselves with others because there is no one like us and this makes us incomparable. It is sometimes almost easier to look outside of ourselves and feel like we are deficient in comparison to other people rather than taking responsibility for our own progress in relation to the fulfillment of our life purpose. It actually takes more courage to be self-referential and look at ourselves to see whether we are measuring up to our standards or meeting our full potential. Each of us has very special gifts, and we are here for very specific reasons. We each have a life purpose to fulfill and with this come the lessons that we must learn and the circumstances that we must go through in order to evolve as spiritual beings. To compare our lives to other pe! ople’s lives when we have no idea of what they are here to learn or fulfill doesn’t benefit anyone – especially you.
Instead, if we can accept ourselves, appreciate the special talents and qualities that we alone possess, and realize that each of us is going through certain kinds of experiences for a reason, we are less likely focus so much on what other people have or are doing. Realizing and valuing our uniqueness enables us to bring out the best in ourselves so we can get on with living rather than preoccupying ourselves with meaningless comparisons. Try to not compare yourself to others, and you will see how much you have and how special you are.
Small Gestures Make a Big Difference
Common courtesy is a small gesture that makes a big difference and should be practiced as often as possible.
We often feel that we don’t have the time or energy to extend ourselves to others with the small gestures that compose what we call common courtesy. It sometimes seems that this kind of social awareness belongs to the past, to smaller towns and slower times. Yet, when someone extends this kind of courtesy to us, we always feel touched. Someone who lends a helping hand when we are struggling with our groceries makes an impression because many people just walk right by. Even someone who simply makes the effort to look us in the eye, smile, and greet us properly when entering a room stands out of the crowd. It seems these people carry with them the elegance and grace of another time, and we are always thankful for our contact with them. Common courtesy is a small gesture that makes a big difference.
An essential component of common courtesy is awareness and common sense—looking outside yourself to see when someone needs help or acknowledgment. As a courteous person, you are aware that you are walking into a room full of people or that your waiter has arrived to take your order. Then, awareness leads to action. It is usually quite clear what needs to be done—open the door for the woman holding the baby, move your car up two feet so another person can park behind you, acknowledge your sister’s shy boyfriend with a smile and some conversation, apologize if you bump into someone. A third component is to give courtesy freely, without expecting anything in return. People may not even take notice, much less return the kindness, but you can take heart in the fact that you are creating the kind of world you want to live in with your actions.
When you are out in the world, remember to be aware of others, lend your hand when one is needed, and give this help without an ulterior motive. Through these small actions, you make this world a better place in which to live.
The Journey of Commitment
Entering into Commitment
Many people have not witnessed a loving relationship between their parents, so they don’t know what it looks like.
Loving and committing to another person is a spiritual process whether it involves a wedding or any other type of commitment ceremony. Often when we enter into a relationship, we allow our emotions to lead us forward without thinking more deeply about what true commitment involves. If we can understand that sharing our lives with another person is not just based on love but also on the hard work of being able to compromise and enter into a dialogue with them, then we are much more likely to find the key to having a successful relationship with our partners. So many people have not experienced a loving relationship between their own parents and therefore have no role model of what love should feel like or look like.
Many of us have been exposed to the idea that love should be romantic and sweep us off our feet. While this is a natural part of any relationship, the true test of our love comes from our willingness to explore this world with another person; to not only share in the delights that we encounter but also to negotiate the bumps in the road together. Generally this often takes the form of a mutual exchange of ideas, but because any relationship is based on the needs and experiences of two people, we might also face a certain amount of misunderstanding. Learning to be open and receptive to our partners and to treat their wants and ideas with respect can help us navigate even the most difficult situations. One way to do this is to take a deep breath, holding our partner in a space of love, and allow ourselves to listen fully with our hearts to what they have to say. Should this become difficult to do, we can also turn toward people whose relationships we admire for advice or guida! nce. Knowing that there are resources out there to help us and being up for exploring them with our partner will only serve to deepen and strengthen our relationship.
Entering into a committed relationship is in fact a spiritual journey that we undertake with another person. By being able to love and care for someone else with an open heart, we will find that we can reach a greater level of personal transformation, evolving along our path and learning powerful lessons about ourselves that we might not otherwise be able to do on our own.
The Boundaries of Experience
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Your current comfort zone has served you, but it represents your behaviors and patterns from your past.
None of us are born with a guidebook that provides explicit rules for thought and behavior that will enable us to navigate life successfully. To cope with the myriad of complexities to which all of humanity is subject, we each develop a set of habits and routines that ground us, their continuity assuring us that life is progressing normally. Most of us know, whether instinctively or by experience, that transformations can be uncomfortable, but we always learn and gain so much. Any initial discomfort we experience when expanding our comfort zones diminishes gradually as we both become accustomed to change and begin to understand that temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the evolution of our soul.
Your current comfort zone did, at one time, serve a purpose in your life. But it is representative of behaviors and patterns of thought that empowered you to cope with challenges of days past. Now, this comfort zone does little to facilitate the growth you wish to achieve in the present. Leaving your comfort zone behind through personal expansion of any kind can prepare you to take the larger leaps of faith that will, in time, help you refine your purpose. Work your way outward at your own pace, and try not to let your discomfort interfere with your resolve. With the passage of each well-earned triumph, you will have grown and your comfort zone will have expanded to accommodate this evolution.
Whether your comfort zone is living with your parents, or perhaps being too shy to socialize, or maybe it’s not realizing your spirit self—whatever it is, start small, and you will discover that venturing beyond the limited comfort zone you now cling to is not as stressful an experience as you imagined it might be. And the joy you feel upon challenging yourself in this way will nearly always outweigh your discomfort. As you continue to expand your comfort zone to include new ideas, activities, goals, and experiences, you will see that you are capable of stimulating change and coping with the fresh challenges that accompany it.
No Need to Wait
In our world, there is always someone in need of our best efforts to rally a group of helpers and healers.
We humans have a knack for coming together and rising up to our potential in the face of a tragedy. Natural disasters and acts of violence bring us out of our small selves and into the world, ready to lend a hand to those in need. This experience is often life-changing for those who are willing to step into the position of helper. We feel as if we are finally doing something really important, and this leads us to feeling more self-actualized. We feel more connected to the people we are helping, as well as more connected to humanity in general. As we expand beyond the boundaries of our individualistic pursuit of happiness there can be a complete reality shift. We often find that it is much easier to be happy when we are motivated in an effort to make the world better in tangible ways, by coming to the rescue of those who are suffering.
Considering the many benefits of this kind of gesture, it is surprising that more of us don’t devote our lives, or at least some portion of our time, to serving people in need. We don’t have to wait for a tragedy to come together, as a community or a nation, and offer ourselves to the world in service. Sometimes it’s easier, of course, to respond to an event that has just happened rather than to ongoing problems like homelessness, poverty, and illness. But the truth of this world is that there is always someone in need of our best efforts to rally a group of helpers and healers. Maybe we feel discouraged because these smaller acts and gestures don’t generate the same kind of energy and attention from other people as heroic acts in the face of immediate disaster, and perhaps an effort to change this is one way to change the world.
The more we promote, applaud, and actively inspire humanitarian efforts in the world, the more others will be drawn to this kind of work. We might pay a little less attention to sports and celebrity gossip and a little more attention to those everyday heroes who devote their lives to alleviating suffering. The more attention we pay, the more we will inspire others and ourselves to be of service in a world that greatly needs our attention.
Loving the Light
Often the colors we like best are the colors we most need in our lives and provide us with subtle vibrational help.
The wondrous displays of color that define the world around us are manifestations of light and, as such, each possesses a unique frequency. The attraction we feel to certain colors is not a matter of pure chance—we experience the beneficial affects of color even while blindfolded. We are naturally drawn to those colors that lift our mood, expand consciousness, and restore health. Color therapy, also known as chromo therapy, allows us to harness the power of individual color frequencies to heal the body, positively influence our emotions, and achieve a renewed sense of inner harmony through sympathetic resonance. Colors do not directly affect the composition of our physical, mental, or aura, but they noninvasively alter the vibrational characteristics of diverse elements of the self so that each resonates at its proper healthy frequency.
It is easy to overlook the colors that saturate our personal and professional environments. Yet these, whether in the form of the paint on our walls or the clothing we wear, can influence our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings to an extraordinary degree. The colors we like best are often those that we need most in our lives, and there are many ways we can utilize them. Basking under a colored lightbulb or gazing at an area of color can stimulate or calm us depending on the color we choose. For example, red stimulates the brain, circulatory systems, and first chakra, giving us an energy boost, while blue acts on the throat chakra, soothing the body and mind. And when we do not feel drawn to any one color, we can still benefit from the healing effects of white light, which is an amalgamation of all the colors of the visible spectrum. It is a cleansing color, one that can purify us on many levels.
Human beings evolved to delight in vivid sunsets and rainbows, to enjoy the sensations awakened by particularly eye-catching color, and to decorate our spaces and ourselves with bright colors. In essence, we evolved to love the light because of its harmonizing influence on every aspect of the self. When we pay attention to the potential affects of individual colors, we can modify our spaces, wardrobes, and habits to ensure that we introduce the colors that speak to us most deeply in our everyday lives.
Sharing Space and Energy
Cohabitating with Others
Each time we co-habitate with others it is important that we make the effort to share the space in a way that supports everyone.
Our homes are our havens. These places where we come to rest, recharge, and dream in safety and comfort allow us to better face the challenges of the world outside our doors. When sharing a living space with others, an awareness of the thoughts and feelings of everyone involved is essential in creating the peace we all desire. Regardless of where we lived before, each time we cohabitate with others it is important that we make the effort to share the space in a way that supports everyone.
We need to remember that in a shared space, everything we sense can also be sensed by another person. Peace will not likely be the result when the senses are filled with the sight of unwashed plates, intrusive sounds, unpleasant smells, the feel of a foreign substance beneath bare feet, or the taste of food tainted by an uncovered onion in the fridge. But if we communicate and listen with respect to those with whom we share a space, we may find that one enjoys washing dishes to end the day, while the other can take out the garbage during their evening walk. Working with another’s schedule, you can still meditate or exercise to your favorite music while the other is out, and save reading for the times when they are trying to sleep. Being thoughtful of the energy that is required for something to be cleaned up may make everyone aware of being neater, whether that means taking off your shoes at the entrance or wiping up juice spilled on the kitchen floor.
In the same way, pent up resentment toward your living partners is just as easily felt. Keeping the energy clear requires the effort of communication, the awareness of another’s feelings, and courtesy toward the space you share. While that sometimes requires changing your schedule or habits, there are many times when having a caring someone nearby is worth all the effort. Living with others can help us learn to mingle our energies at home as well as at work and in the world at large in a way that benefits us and everyone around us.
your welcome Kat
THANK YOU FOR BEING MY VOICE IN THE WIND.
Opening a Closed Connection
If you feel abandoned or cut off from Spirit, know that it is always there for you waiting for you to plug back in.
There may be times when we feel like our connection to the universe is closed. Maybe things don’t seem to be going well in our day, or our lives, or we may feel out of our element. The truth is, the universe is always there for us. We know that we create our experience with our thoughts, and this is another way we need to make a conscious decision about how we want to experience life. It is up to us to do the work of making the connection, because nobody can do it for us, though sometimes the universe may send us wake-up calls.
You can think of it as getting some fresh air. We are always breathing and the air is always around us, surrounding us, moving through us. But we may need to step outside of where we are in the moment&mdashhysically, mentally, or emotionally—and make the conscious choice to take a deep breath in order to feel the air coming in and going out. Whether this means stepping outside physically or merely shifting our thoughts, it is only our perception that changes; the air remains the same.
It is just as easy to reconnect with the universe. Using the same technique as a breath of fresh air, a deep breath can bring us back to our center. As we inhale, we fill our bodies with the oxygen needed to replenish our most basic physical needs, allowing the air to circulate within us. Exhaling, we release the stale, the used, the potentially toxic air, removing any blocks that may keep us from going deeper into the stillness that lies at our center where we connect to the universe. Feeling closed off does not need to be a negative experience. When we become conscious of it, we can think of the wholeness of a closed circuit, which allows electricity to connect and flow properly. Our bodies work the same way, and when we make that connection in our minds, it can help bring us back to the connection we seek.
Allowing Spirit In
Clearing Your Mind
The more we practice settling our minds, the easier it will become over time.
After a full day out in the world, stories, words, images, and songs from any number of sources continue to play in our heads hours after we encounter them. Even as we lie in bed, in the quiet dark, our minds continue noisily processing all the input from our day. This can leave us feeling unsettled and harassed. It also makes it difficult to take in any new information or inspiration. Like a cluttered house that needs to be cleared if it is to have room for movement and new life, our minds need clearing if they are to be open to new information, ideas, and inspiration.
Too often, the activities we choose to help us relax only add to the clutter. Watching television, seeing a movie, reading a book, or talking to a friend all involve taking in more information. In order to really clear our minds, we need a break from mental stimulation. Activities like yoga, dancing, or taking a long walk help to draw our attention to our bodies, slowing our mental activity enough that our minds begin to settle. Deep breathing is an even simpler way to draw attention away from our mental activities. Once we are mentally relaxed, we can begin the process of clearing our minds. Most of us instinctively know what allows our minds to relax and release any unnecessary clutter. It may be meditation or time spent staring at the stars. Whatever it is, these exercises feel like a cool, cleansing bath for the brain and leave our minds feeling clear and open.
Setting aside time to clear our minds once a day creates a ritual that becomes second nature over time. Our minds will begin to settle with less effort the more we practice. Ultimately, the practice of clearing our minds allows us to be increasingly more open so that we can perceive the world as the fresh offering it is, free of yesterday’s mental clutter.
Circling the Wagons
Surrounding with Protective Light
As we join our energy with those in circle, we become part of something that is more powerful than the individuals within it.
There are times when we may know of someone who is in great need and wants help, but we may feel at a loss about how best to help them. It is at such times that we can ask for help in surrounding them with support and protection, just like the pioneers once circled their wagons in the middle of unknown territory. Whether this means turning to an already established community such as a service organization or gathering support from diverse sources, a group of people can be brought together to help an individual or an entire community. It doesn’t always take money to help someone either--cooking, cleaning, driving, fund raising, or offering emotional support are all valuable and have the added benefit of the closeness of the human touch. In any case, the universe sends angels in the form of willing friends or strangers to gather their individual lights to surround those in need with the warmth of compassion.
Some people may have difficulty accepting or even recognizing aid when it appears in unexpected guises from unlikely sources. All we can do is to follow our inner guidance, give when we are moved to do so and shine our light to the best of our ability. As we join our energy with those in the circle, we become part of something that is larger and more powerful than the individuals within it.
When we act as part of a community of service like this, we are reminded that we are not only assisting an individual or select group in the moment, but we are serving the greater good. We are creating a better world, and can rest assured that help will be there for us as well. As we offer our own light to the collective glow to help someone through a time of darkness, all of our lights become brighter. We can live every day from this place of light, knowing the freedom from fear and worry that allows us to receive and share the protective and supportive light of life.
How the Body Clears Energy
When your body is physically ill, try treating your emotions too and view your body as a whole.
Whole-self well-being is, in part, the result of a harmonious flow of energy between our physical and mental selves. When this flow is thrown out of balance for any reason, the body and mind react to one another rather than act cooperatively. Ongoing stress, sadness, anxiety, excitement, and fear can overwhelm the cerebral self, causing traumatic energy to be channeled into the body. The body then responds by taking steps to organically dispel the energy that has burdened it and expressing it by means of physical symptoms such as illness, fatigue, or disease. In some cases, these symptoms can simply be allowed to run their natural course and recovery will come about naturally. In most instances, however, health and wellness can only be restored by a dual course of treatment that acknowledges both the physical manifestations of energy clearing and the underlying emotional causes.
Many of the ailments we experience over the course of our lives can be indicative of the body’s attempts to process intellectual and emotional energy. Swollen glands, for example, can signal that you are going through a period of emotional cleansing. Even something as simple as a pimple can indicate that your body is ridding itself of toxins and old energy. In Chinese medicine, intense emotions are held in the body’s organs as a matter of course. Grief lurks in the lungs, anger inhabits the liver, fretfulness lingers in the heart, worry is held in the stomach, and the kidneys harbor fright. Particular illnesses and symptoms represent the body’s attempts to clear emotional energy. Coughs or bronchitis can signify that the physical self is clearing away grief while a loss of appetite may signal that worry is being actively addressed.
When you feel ill or imbalanced, treating your whole self rather than treating the physical self alone can empower you to determine the root cause of sickness. Since you understand that your physical symptoms may be an expression of emotional discomfort, you can establish a balanced treatment regimen to ensure that you quickly recover your good health.
What We Are Made Of
Make all decisions from pure love and the world will change.
Love is often presented as the opposite of fear, but true love is not opposite anything. True love is far more powerful than any negative emotions, as it is the environment in which all things arise. Negative emotions are like sharks swimming in the ocean of love. All things beautiful and fearful, ugly and kind, powerful and small, come into existence, do their thing, and disappear within the context of this great ocean. At the same time, they are made of the very love in which they swim and can never be separated. We are made of this love and live our whole lives at one with it, whether we know it or not.
It is only the illusion that we are separate from this great love that causes us to believe that choosing anything other than love makes sense or is even possible. In the relative, dualistic world of positive and negative, darkness and light, male and female, we make choices and we learn from them. This is exactly what we are meant to be doing here on earth. Underlying these relative choices, though, is the choice to be conscious of what we are, which is love, or to be unconscious of it. When we choose to be conscious of it, we choose love. We will still exist in the relative world of opposites and choices and cause and effect, and we will need to make our way here, but doing so with an awareness that we are all made of this love will enable us to be more playful, more joyful, more loving and wise, as we make our way. Ultimately, the choices we make will shed light on the love that makes us all one, enabling those who have forgotten to return to the source.
This world makes it easy to forget this great love, which is part of why we are here. We are here to remember and, when we forget to remember again, to choose love.
Tending the Emotions
Having a Breakdown
Having a breakdown is often the catharsis that is needed to keep our emotional life in balance.
Most of us have had the experience of holding back our emotions for such a long period of time that when they finally come out, we have something resembling a breakdown. For a certain period of time, the overwhelming flood of feelings coursing through our bodies consumes us, and we stop functioning. Often, these outbursts take us by surprise, welling up within us as we drive to or from work, watch a movie, or engage in some otherwise mundane task. We may feel like we do not know what triggered us, or if we do know, it does not make sense of our overpowering emotional response. This is because we are releasing feelings that have accumulated over a long period of time, and whatever inspired the release was just a catalyst for a much larger, much needed catharsis.
When we find ourselves in the midst of such an experience, it is important that we allow it to happen, rather than fight it or try to shut down. Wherever we are, we can try to find a private, safe place in which to let our feelings out. If we can not access such a place immediately, we can promise to set aside some time for ourselves at our earliest possible convenience, perhaps taking a day off work. The important thing is that we need to give our emotional system some much-needed attention. It is essential that we allow ourselves to release the pent-up emotions inside ourselves so that they do not create imbalances in our bodies and minds.
When you are feeling better, make a plan to find a way to process your emotions more regularly. You can do this by employing a therapist or making a regular date to talk to a trusted friend. Journaling can also be a great way to acknowledge and release your emotions, as can certain forms of meditation. Making room in your life for tending your emotions on a regular basis will keep you healthy, balanced, and ready for life.
The Miracle of Change
The sense of feeling bored in life can be an indicator that we need to be proactive in creating change.
Sometimes we feel that things aren’t moving along fast enough for us and that the world is passing us by. It may be that time seems to stand still and that we are simply bystanders in our own lives. Other times it might appear that there is nothing new left for us to experience and that we are locked into a never-ending cycle of stasis. If we take the time to listen to these feelings we will notice that there is probably more going on beneath the surface, like our apprehension to venture out into the unknown. By taking a new look at how we live our lives, however, it will be easier to break through our sense of boredom and enter into a more positive state of being.
When life seems monotonous, it is usually an indication that there is something we need to change. Boredom can easily lead us down the path to despondency. Acknowledging our feelings and then setting the intention to alter just one small thing in our life can give us a much more affirmative outlook. This act of change allows us to step outside of ourselves and discover new and exciting things that are often already present in our everyday lives. Simple things such as eating a healthier diet, taking a new class, or joining a club are all ways in which we can go beyond our comfort zone and explore the wonders that exist all around us. Keep in mind that the moment we do something different from our usual routine, the more fresh energy, hope, and blessings we will manifest in our life. What this means is that we’ll no longer see things as being tedious but will instead realize the preciousness of everything.
Being able to integrate these subtle changes on a daily basis allows us to recognize the miracles that are our lives. Even though we may think of change as doing something life-altering or drastic, gentle transitions from our habitual ways of doing things and an appreciation of all life offers us will truly bring about positive and lasting transformation.
Releasing the Reigns
If your tendency is to try and change other people, take some time to explore why you feel the need to do so.
Our perception of humanity as a whole is, to a large extent, dualistic. We paint people with a broad brush—some are like us, sharing our opinions and our attitudes, while others are different. Our commitment to values we have chosen to embrace is often so strong that we are easily convinced that our way is the right way. We may find ourselves frustrated by those who view the world from an alternate vantage point and make use of unusual strategies when coping with life's challenges. However ardently we believe that these people would be happier and more satisfied following our lead, we should resist the temptation to try to change them. Every human being has been blessed with a unique nature that cannot be altered by outside forces. We are who we are at any one point in our lives for a reason, and no one person can say for certain what another should be like.
The reasons we try to change one another are numerous. Since we have learned over time to flourish in the richness of lives we have built, we may come to believe that we are qualified to speak on behalf of the greater source. The sum total of our knowledge will never compare to what we do not know, however, and our understanding of others’ lives will forever be limited. The potential we see in the people who are a part of our lives will never be precisely the same as our own, so we do these individuals a disservice when we make assumptions about their intentions, preferences, and goals. Our power lies in our ability to accept others for all their quirks and differences and to let go of the need to control every element of our existence. We can love people for who they are, embracing their uniqueness, or we can love them as human beings from afar.
Your ability to influence people may grow more sophisticated because others sense that you respect their right to be themselves, but you will likely spend more time gazing inward, into the one person you can change: yourself.
Allowing Our Children to Be
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow our children to be who they want to be.
Parenting asks us to rise to some of the most difficult challenges this world has to offer, and one of its greatest paradoxes arises around the issue of attachment. On the one hand, successful parenting requires that we love our children, and most of us love in a very attached way. On the other hand, it also requires that we let go of our children at the appropriate times, which means we must practice some level of nonattachment. Many parents find this difficult because we love our children fiercely, more than we will ever love anyone, and this can cause us to overstep our bounds with them as their independence grows. Yet truly loving them requires that we set them free.
Attachment to outcome is perhaps the greatest obstacle on the parenting path, and the one that teaches us the most about the importance of practicing nonattachment. We commonly perceive our children to be extensions of ourselves, imagining that we know what’s best for them, but our children are people in their own right with their own paths to follow in this world. They may be called to move in directions we fear, don’t respect, or don’t understand, yet we must let them go. This letting go happens gradually throughout our lives with our children until we finally honor them as fully grown adults who no longer require our guidance. At this point, it is important that we treat them as peers who may or may not seek our input into their lives. This allows them, and us, to fully realize the greatest gift parents can offer their offspring —independence.
Letting go in any area of life requires a deep trust in the universe, in the overall meaning and purpose of existence. Remembering that there is more to us and our children than meets the eye can help us practice nonattachment, even when we feel overwhelmed by concern and the desire to interfere. We are all souls making our way in the world and making our way, ultimately, back to the same source. This can be our mantra as we let our children go in peace and confidence.
Bringing Out the Best
Checks and Balances
When we see ourselves in other people it can be a great opportunity for growth if we are willing to do the work.
Most of us have probably come across the universal wisdom that the people who irritate us the most are expressing qualities that we ourselves have. This is why family members can be so vexing for so many of us—we see ourselves in them, and vice versa. This isn’t always true, of course, but when it is, it’s a real opportunity for growth if we can acknowledge it, because it is infinitely easier to change ourselves than it is to try to change another person, which is never a good idea. For example, if we have a coworker who engages in some kind of negative behavior, like complaining or trying to control everything, we can look and see if we ourselves carry those traits.
We may have to look to other situations in our lives to see it, because we behave differently in different environments. Perhaps we don’t complain at work, because our coworker overdoes it, but maybe we do it with our friends. Maybe we aren’t controlling at the office, but we’re used to being in control at home, and this is why we feel so irritated not to be in control at work. Even if we look and find that we are not engaging in the same behavior that we see as negative in others, we can still learn from what we are seeing in this person. The truth is, human nature is universal, and we share many of the same tendencies. What we see in others can always help us to understand ourselves more deeply.
Having the ability to see something in another person, and automatically bring this observation back to ourselves, is like having a built-in system of checks and balances that enables us to be continually engaged in self-exploration and behavior change. When we see behavior we don’t like, we can make a concerted effort to weed it out of ourselves, and when we see behavior we do like, we can let it inspire us to engage in imitation. Through this process, we read our environment and let it influence us to bring out the best in ourselves.
By using your breath and your voice with Chanting, you raise the level of your own vibration to a higher spiritual state.
In many cultures and civilizations, chanting, a form of vocal meditation, has endured through the ages. Practiced by many people around the world seeking greater health, a sense of well-being, enlightenment, and a connection to the divine, chanting unites the mind, body, emotions, and breath through vocal sounding. This unification can open and nurture your creativity, lower stress levels, and teach you to become fully alert and in the moment.
Some people are naturally drawn to chant while others feel awkward using their voices in such a way. Singing along with recorded chants before chanting on your own can help dispel any nervousness. However, the chanting that will resonate most deeply and beneficially for you is the chanting you do for yourself. There are many different chants. They can be composed of names, words, sounds, syllables, or even sections of text. What you chant is less important than your willingness to focus fully on the act of chanting itself. To begin, sit comfortably with a straight back and take a series of long, deep breaths to open and flex your lungs. Then, take another breath, and with resonant tones direct your breath outward in the form of sound. Simple syllables like ‘oh,’ ‘ee,’ or ‘mm’ are easy to remember.
Chanting lets you raise the level of your own vibration to a higher spiritual state. You can chant as an invocation or to set intention. Reciting even the simplest chant can bolster a flagging spirit, hone the mind, and produce natural painkillers within the brain. While chanting, you may feel energy surging through your physical body or joy entering your heart. Chanting can liberate and ground you simultaneously because it allows your soul to soar freely while compelling you to focus on the here and now.
We can start fresh in this very moment, not needing to wait for a new day to start anew.
When today is not going well, it is tempting to focus on tomorrow as a blank slate with all the possibilities that newness provides. It is true that tomorrow will be a brand-new day, but we do not have to wait until tomorrow to start fresh. We can start fresh at any moment, clearing our energy field of any negativity that has accumulated, and call this very moment the beginning of our brand-new day.
There is something about the sunrise and the first few hours of the morning that make us feel cleansed and rejuvenated, ready to move forward enthusiastically. As the day wears on, we lose some of this dynamic energy and the inspiration it provides. This may be why we look forward to tomorrow as providing the possibility of renewal. Many traditions consider the light of the rising sun to be particularly divine in its origins; this is why so many people in the world face east when performing ritual. We too can cultivate that rising sun energy inside ourselves, carrying it with us to light our way through any time of day or night, drawing on its power to awaken and renew our spirits.
One simple way to do this is to carry an image or a photograph of the rising sun with us in our wallet or purse. We can also post this image on our wall at work or at home, or have it as our screensaver on our computer. When we feel the need to start fresh, we can take a moment to gaze at the image, allowing its light to enter into our hearts. As we do this, we might say out loud or quietly to ourselves, I am ready to let go of the past and start anew. We might visualize anything we want to release leaving us as we exhale, and as we inhale, we can take in the fresh energy of the eastern sun, allowing it to light the way to a brand-new day.
Letting Yourself Be Seen
A powerful healing tool can be allowing yourself to be witnessed by your friends, sharing your pain to a listening audience.
When we allow ourselves to be witnessed by another, we cannot help but be transformed by the experience. Whether we are sharing a personal experience, standing in front of friends to celebrate a special occasion, or expressing our unbridled joy or sorrow in front of a loved one, we are allowing ourselves to be seen and experienced in a very intimate way. Not only are we baring ourselves to someone else, but we are allowing that person to hold a very specific kind of space with us so this powerful act can take place. To be witnessed is to let ourselves be seen as we truly are in that moment.
Our friends and loved ones can easily be witnesses for us, if only we are brave enough to let them. Your next birthday may be the perfect occasion to experience this sacred act: Invite your friends and loved ones to your special day. During the celebration, stand in front of them and thank them for being there for you. Feel their gratitude, attention, warmth, and support, while noticing the sense of safety you feel as they surround you. If you feel inspired, share your innermost thoughts about the day and your life. You may be surprised at the feelings of peace and validation that arise within you, when you feel safe enough to go deep into your soul and share yourself with those you trust.
Anyone who has ever seen love, admiration, acceptance, or appreciation reflected in a friend or loved one’s eyes knows how transformative that experience can be. When you bare yourself to another, you are giving them the gift of you and showing them that they also matter. In letting yourself be witnessed, you are letting others into your intimate space, stepping in the sacred container they have created for you, and creating a cauldron of positive affirmation, support, love, and goodwill that will stay with you forever.
Make Change Work for You
by Madisyn Taylor
When we experience change in our life we can control our response and reaction to the changes that are happening.
Transformation is a universal constant that affects our lives from the moment we are born until we leave earthly existence behind. At the root of all growth, we find change. Occasionally, change and the circumstances leading up to it are a source of extraordinary joy, but more often than not they provoke feelings of discomfort, fear, or pain. Though many changes are unavoidable, we should not believe that we are subject to the whims of an unpredictable universe. It is our response to those circumstances that will dictate the nature of our experiences. At the heart of every transformation, no matter how chaotic, there is substance. When we no longer resist change and instead regard it as an opportunity to grow, we find that we are far from helpless in the face of it.
Our role as masters of our own destinies is cemented when we choose to make change work in our favor. Yet before we can truly internalize this power, we must accept that we cannot hide from the changes taking place all around us. Existence as we know it will come to an end at one or more points in our lives, making way for some new and perhaps unexpected mode of being. This transformation will take place whether or not we want it to, and so it is up to us to decide whether we will open our eyes to the blessings hidden amidst disorder or close ourselves off from opportunities hiding behind obstacles.
To make change work for you, look constructively at your situation and ask yourself how you can benefit from the transformation that has taken place. As threatening as change can seem, it is often a sign that a new era of your life has begun. If you reevaluate your plans and goals in the days or weeks following a major change, you will discover that you can adapt your ambition to the circumstances before you and even capitalize on these changes. Optimism, enthusiasm, and flexibility will aid you greatly here, as there is nothing to be gained by dwelling on what might have been. Change can hurt in the short term but, if you are willing to embrace it proactively, its lasting impact will nearly always be physically, spiritually, and intellectually transformative.
Clarity of Soul
Chakra Clearing Exercise
Just as the spaces we inhabit need to be cleared of clutter, our energetic fields must also be cleared of the old.
Just as the physical spaces we inhabit require that we clear them periodically of clutter, the energetic fields that are a vital part of our being must also be cleared of old thoughts, energy, and emotions. Clearing your chakras and your aura restores and strengthens your connection to yourself and your divine inner wisdom. Unfettered by energetic baggage masquerading as fear, pain, and self-hatred, your consciousness is once again free to grow. If you find the thought of clearing your energy fields disconcerting, simply think of it as cleansing the energy that surrounds you and releasing any stagnancy. You may not be able to see the results of your efforts, but you will experience a lightness of being and clarity of mind.
You can begin by sitting or lying down on a comfortable surface. Take a series of deep breaths and allow your soul to connect with Mother Earth and the vast expanse of the Universe. Visualize your first chakra, situated near the tailbone, and imagine if you will, a valve opening there, much like a faucet. Imagine a cord dropping from your tailbone deep into Mother Earth and let everything that is stagnant within you flow through it. Let go of old energy, inactive thoughts, and anything else that no longer serves you. Ask the earth to accept what you are offering by turning this old energy into light. Continue to let old energy drain out of you until you feel like you’ve released all your energetic baggage. When you are done, imagine the valve closing. Before moving on to clear your next chakra, let vibrant terra cotta light travel upward from the earth and through the cord into your first chakra. Repeat this process with all seven of the body’s chakras. The second chakra i! s orange, the third is yellow, the fourth is green, the fifth is blue, the sixth is indigo and the 7th is violet. Afterward, visualize your crown chakra and draw beautiful, golden-white light from the universe flowing down through the top of your head. Release any worries or fears that you have been holding on to. Draw this light into your aura and enjoy the resultant feeling of peace.
To finish clearing your energy and ensure that you have rid yourself of the last vestiges of clutter, take a bath infused with one cup apple cider vinegar, one cup Epsom salt, and one cup sea salt. After completing this exercise, be sure to thank Mother Earth and the universe for their help.
Gathering Our Straying Thoughts
All too often our lives can be spread too thin and it becomes important to gather our thoughts and center ourselves to become whole again.
When our thoughts are scattered in several directions at once and we are no longer conscious of what we are doing or why, it is time to center ourselves. When we center ourselves, we begin by acknowledging that we have become spread too thin and we are no longer unified inside. Our thoughts might be out of sync with our feelings, and our actions may be out of sync with both. The main signs that we need to center ourselves are scattered thoughts and a feeling of disconnection or numbness, as if we are no longer able to take anything in. In addition, we may feel unfocused and not present in our bodies. Centering ourselves is a way of coming to terms with all the different energies within us and drawing them back into ourselves.
Centering yourself means that you are working from or being aware of the core of your being in the solar plexus area of your body. At first it may not make sense, but as you progress you will understand what this feels like. We naturally know how to center ourselves when we take a deep breath, for example, before making a big announcement or doing something big. Another way to center ourselves is to sit down and engage in breath meditation. We can start by simply getting into a comfortable upright position and noticing as our breath enters and leaves our bodies. Our breath flows into our center and out from our center, and this process can serve as a template for all of our interactions in the world. In conversations, we can take what our friends are saying into the center of our beings and respond from the center. Our whole lives mirror this ebb and flow of energy that begins and ends at the center of ourselves. If we follow this ebb and flow, we are in harmony with the uni! verse, and when we find we are out of harmony, we can always come back into balance by sitting down and observing our breath.
When we sit down to center ourselves we can imagine that we are gathering our straying thoughts and energies back into ourselves, the way a mother duck gathers her babies around her. We can also visualize ourselves casting a net and pulling all the disparate parts of ourselves back to the center of our being, creating a sense of fluid integration. From this place of centeredness, we can begin again, directing ourselves outward in a more intentional way.
The Joy of Being
Celebrating the In-Between Times
Real life most often happens during the in-between times when we are not celebrating a special occasion.
While celebrations are intended to honor life’s more momentous occasions, much of real life tends to happen during the in-between times. While moving from one moment in time to the next is seldom considered a significant occurrence, it is during those in-between times that we are most in tune with life’s most profound, albeit simple joys. Between birth and death, triumph and sorrow, beginnings and endings, we enjoy innumerable experiences that often happen unnoticed. These times are just as worthy of celebration.
The in-between times are seldom about landmark moments. How you choose to celebrate them or which moments you choose to celebrate is up to you. You may want to celebrate the simple facts that you are alive and that every day is a chance to spend time with the people you care about or do the work that you love. Then again, when you look at the good that exists in your life, many reasons for celebrating the in-between times may become clear: a cup of your favorite tea, a beautiful sunrise, a good book, and the smell of fresh air can be reasons for celebration.
Celebrating the in-between times can be as easy as paying special attention to them when they do happen, rather than taking them for granted. It’s your focus of attention that can turn an in-between time into a celebration. You can also pay homage to the in-between times by slowing down and allowing yourself time to look around and allow your heart and mind to take in all of your life’s wonders. Far too often, we can let those simple moments of awe pass us by. The in-between times are when life happens to us between the pauses that we take to honor our milestones occasions. Without the in-between times, there would be no big moments to celebrate.
Beyond Counting Blessings
Being Truly Thankful
Our gratitude deepens when we begin to be thankful for being alive during this time and living the life we are living.
Often when we practice being thankful, we go through the process of counting our blessings, acknowledging the wonderful people, things and places that make up our reality. While it is fine to be grateful for the good fortune we have accumulated, true thankfulness stems from a powerful comprehension of the gift of simply being alive, and when we feel it, we feel it regardless of our circumstances. In this deep state of gratitude, we recognize the purity of the experience of being, in and of itself, and our thankfulness is part and parcel of our awareness that we are one with this great mystery that is life.
It is difficult for most of us to access this level of consciousness as we are very caught up in the ups and downs of our individual experiences in the world. The thing to remember about the world, though, is that it ebbs and flows, expands and contracts, gives and takes, and is by its very nature somewhat unreliable. If we only feel gratitude when it serves our desires, this is not true thankfulness. No one is exempt from the twists and turns of fate, which may, at any time, take the possessions, situations, and people we love away from us. Ironically, it is sometimes this kind of loss that awakens us to a thankfulness that goes deeper than just being grateful when things go our way. Illness and near-miss accidents can also serve as wake-up calls to the deeper realization that we are truly lucky to be alive.
We do not have to wait to be shaken to experience this state of being truly thankful for our lives. Tuning in to our breath and making an effort to be fully present for a set period of time each day can do wonders for our ability to connect with true gratitude. We can also awaken ourselves with the intention to be more aware of the unconditional generosity of the life force that flows through us regardless of our circumstances.
Listening with Your Heart
Less Thinking and More Feeling
When we begin to listen with our hearts rather than our heads, our whole world changes and becomes softer.
Most of us were born and raised in cultures that value the head over the heart and, as a result, we place our own hearts below our heads in a sort of inner hierarchy of which we may not be conscious. What this means is that we tend to listen and respond from the neck up, often leaving the rest of our bodies with little or no say in most matters. This is a physical habit, which sometimes feels as ingrained as the way we breathe or walk. However, with effort and awareness, we can shift the energy into our hearts, listening and responding from this much deeper, more resonant place.
The brain has a masterful way of imposing structure and order on the world, creating divisions and categories, devising plans and strategies. In many ways, we have our brains to thank for our survival on this planet. However, as is so clear at this time, we also need the wisdom of our hearts if we wish to continue surviving in a viable way. When we listen from our heart, the logical grid of the brain tends to soften and melt, which enables us to perceive the interconnectedness beneath the divisions and categories we use to organize the world. We begin to understand that just as the heart underlies the brain, this interconnectedness underlies everything.
Many agree that this is the most important work we can do at this time in history, and there are many practices at our disposal. For a simple start, try sitting with a friend and asking him to tell you about his life at this moment. For 10 minutes or more, try to listen without responding verbally, offering suggestions, or brainstorming solutions. Instead, breathe into your heart and your belly, listening and feeling instead of thinking. When you do this, you may find that it’s much more difficult to offer advice and much easier to identify with the feelings your friend is sharing. You may also find that your friend opens up more, goes deeper, and feels he has really been heard. If you also feel great warmth and compassion, almost as if you are seeing your friend for the first time, then you will know that you have begun to tap the power of listening with your heart.
When somebody continues to open our old wounds on purpose, they must be told that their behavior is no longer welcome.
We’ve all had our buttons pushed to the point where we feel we can’t take it any more, and chances are, we’ve all pushed somebody else’s buttons, with or without knowing it. The button pusher may not be conscious of what they’re doing, but in the end the buttons belong to us, and we are the ones who must deal with what comes up. The more we take responsibility for our own feelings and reactions, the less tender these buttons will be.
We’ve all had the experience of having someone snap at us, seemingly out of nowhere. This happens when we unconsciously push a button in someone else we didn’t even know was there. This can happen with a complete stranger and sometimes with a person we’ve known and been close to for years. We ourselves may have a relationship with someone whose buttons we secretly like to push. Buttons are just soft spots that have been touched one too many times, and they symbolize some pain that needs to be acknowledged and healed. This may be a wound from childhood, or some recent trauma, that we haven’t adequately tended. Whatever the case, when our buttons get pushed, the person who most needs our attention and caring is us, and blaming the button pusher only distracts us from finding a true resolution to our suffering.
At the same time, if someone continually opens our wounds so that they never have time to heal, we are well within our rights to set a boundary with that person. Compulsive button pushers, who seem to find pleasure or satisfaction in hurting us, are not welcome in our personal space. In the end, knowing where our buttons are enables us to do the work necessary to heal. Freedom comes when we deal with the pain behind the button, thus disconnecting our automatic reaction to being pushed.
Empathy in Action
An Experiment in Gratitude
If you find it hard to be grateful for what you have, it is time to dig deeper and be brave when looking for the gratitude.
Sometimes we forget to take the time to recognize the richness that defines our lives. This may be because many of the messages we encounter as we go about our affairs prompt us to think about what we don’t have rather than all the abundance we do enjoy. Consequently, our gratitude exists in perpetual conflict with our desire for more, whether we crave time, convenience, wealth, or enlightenment. Yet understanding and truly appreciating our blessings can be as simple as walking a mile in another’s shoes for a short period of time. Because many of us lead comparatively insular lives, we may not comprehend the full scope of our prosperity that is relative to our sisters and brothers in humanity.
If you find taking an inventory of your life’s blessings difficult, consider the ease with which you nourish your body and mind, feed your family, move from place to place, and attend to tasks at hand. For a great number of people, activities you may take for granted, such as attaining an education, buying healthy food, commuting to work, or keeping a clean house, represent great challenges. To experience firsthand the complex tests others face as a matter of course in their daily lives, try living without the amenities you most often take for granted. This can be a great experiment to undertake with your entire family or a classroom. Understanding working poverty can be as easy as endeavoring to buy nutritious foods with a budget of $100 for the week. If you own a car, relying on public transportation for even just a day can help you see the true value of the comfort and conveniences others do without. As you explore a life without things you may normally take for granted,! ask yourself for how long you could endure.
The compassionate gratitude that floods your heart when you come to fully realize your abundance may awaken pangs of guilt in your heart. Be aware, however, that the purpose of such an experiment is to open your heart further in gratitude and compassion. This awareness can help you attain a deeper level of gratitude that will allow you to savor and, above all, appreciate your life with renewed grace.
Stronger for It
Mending a Broken Heart
A heart that has been broken and seen pain, reveals within it, a crack that allows more light in.
Heartbreak happens to all of us and can wash over us like a heavy rain. When experiencing a broken heart, our ethereal selves are saturated with grief, and the overflow is channeled into the physical body. Loss becomes a physical emptiness, and longing is transmuted into a feeling that often cannot be put into words. Mending a broken heart can seem a task so monumental that we dare not attempt it for fear of damaging ourselves further. But heartbreak, like all emotions, falls under the spell of our conscious influence.
Often the pain that wounds us most deeply also leaves the most enduring mark upon us. The shock that becomes the tender, throbbing ache of the heart eventually leads us down the path of enlightenment, blessing our lives with a new depth and richness.
Acknowledging heartbreak's impermanence by no means dulls its sting for it is the sting itself that stimulates healing. The pain is letting us know that we need to pay attention to our emotional selves, to sit with our feelings and be in them fully before we can begin to heal. It is said that time heals all wounds. Time may dull the pain of a broken heart, but it is fully feeling your pain and acknowledging it that will truly help you heal. Dealing with your heartache in a healthy way rather than putting it off for tomorrow is the key to repair. Gentleness more than anything else is called for. Most important, open yourself to the possibility of loving, trusting, and believing again. When, someday soon, you emerge from the cushion of your grief, you will see that the universe did not cease to be as you nursed your broken heart. You emerge on the other side of the mending, stronger for all you have experienced
Sharing Your Gifts
We all know how to give the gift of a present, but it is more important to share your gifts that you were born with.
When the holidays come around, most of us join the masses in shopping for gifts, wrapping them, and giving them away. Once we are in the mind-set that this is what we are going to do, we don’t hold back or struggle with the process. We simply give the presents we have acquired, letting them go in the awareness that they were never ours anyway. If we could apply some of this unquestioning generosity with our own inner resources and gifts, we might be able to give of ourselves more freely.
In truth, our gifts only make sense when we give them away. Imagine carefully procured and wrapped presents that remain in the house of the giver, never getting to the people who were meant to have them. If we hold back, not knowing quite when to share our gifts, we all lose. Ironically, the more we give of ourselves, the more we have to offer. For example, if we have a talent for singing but we hold it back, we sing less and have less experience. On the other hand, if we offer the gift of our voice to the world at every opportunity, our talent develops and becomes still greater, and we have that much more to give.
How we present our gifts can be likened to wrapping paper and ribbons. When we truly value what we have to offer, our presentation honors what lies inside it. We speak well of our talents and introduce them with confidence and panache. Like a performer who chooses carefully what to wear and how to set the stage, we provide an environment that complements and enhances what we have to offer. Far from being superficial, a beautiful presentation is as much a part of the energy of gift giving as the gift itself. All these things together—the gift, the presentation, and the giving away—make up the joyful experience of bestowing our offerings upon the world.
People in Need
Taking Our Turn to Give
The greatest gift we can give to somebody in need is giving awareness and without judgment.
When we see a person in need, we may want to give them something as a way of helping them, but if we give without taking the time to see who they really are, honoring that most of all, our gift is nowhere near as powerful as it could be. We may want to give a homeless person a sandwich, for example, but if we give it without also taking a moment to look the person in the eye, making authentic contact, we rob them of the experience of being human.
Being in a position of need leaves a lot of people feeling vulnerable and full of self-doubt. The greatest gift we can give is to meet people in need without judgment and with the awareness that we are not superior to them simply because we are not currently in their position. If we take the long view, we can see that we all began life in need of a lot of care and attention, and many of us end life in the same way. Giving and receiving are companion energies that take turns throughout our lives, and we all get a chance to be on both sides of the exchange from time to time.
It’s important to be aware of our own tendency to give from a desire to feel good about ourselves, rather than from an acknowledgement of our connection to all people. Letting go of our self-importance allows us to see that, regardless of appearances, we are all givers and receivers. When we are in the position of the giver, we honor those we are helping when we remember the many people who have helped us. Then we can look the person we are helping in the eye, aware that we are making contact with a human being who is our equal.
Greeting the Divine Spirit
Bowing has the quality of consciously evoking spirit and conveys a sense of reverence for the people involved.
Bowing is a universal gesture of respect and reverence. In many cultures, it is the predominant form of social greeting, and most religions incorporate it into their rituals of worship. In many cases, bowing signifies not only respect but also an acknowledgment of the shared divinity between the bower and the recipient. Bowing can also be a turning in toward our own divinity when we bow our heads in prayer, contemplation, or meditation. Bows range in form from a slight forward nod of the head to a full body prostration on the ground, and range in meaning from a simple greeting to a complete giving over of the self to the divine.
If you have ever bowed or been on the receiving end of a bow, you know that it is different from a handshake or a hug. Bowing has the quality of consciously evoking spirit and conveys a sense of reverence for the people involved. The word “Namaste,” which accompanies bowing in yoga, actually translates as “The divine spirit in me acknowledges the divine spirit in you.” When we greet one another with this kind of awareness, we can’t help but be more conscious that we are deeply connected to one another and to everyone, because this divine spirit resides in all of us.
There are simple bows and complicated bows, and subtle variations carry different meanings depending upon where you are, who you are, and a number of other factors. But we can all practice bowing by simply bringing our two hands together in prayer and pressing the thumb side of our hands lightly into our chests. Keeping a long spine, simply bend your head gently down so that you are looking at the tops of your fingers. Close your eyes and breathe consciously, paying homage to your spirit, the same spirit that resides within all of humanity.
Finding Your Pinnacle
Meditating near a mountain can be both powerful and grounding in a most profound way.
Throughout history, humankind has stood in awe of mountains. The strength and sturdiness evident in the rocky crags and smooth slopes of peaks around the globe have from time immemorial inspired creativity and kindled courage. Mountains have been venerated by many cultures, which worshipped great summits as gods and sacred beings. In their looming presence, humanity has seen power, steadfastness, and resolve. Yet you needn’t live near a mountain to tap into this vast energy of commanding grandeur. Conversely, since mountains are as unique in form as human beings, your locale may exist under the unwavering gaze of a small mountain without your knowing it. As you practice mountain meditation, the power that lurks in the heart of all mountains will flow into you while their essential beauty reminds you that you, too, are a creature of the earth.
If there are mountains in your area, plan to spend some time enjoying the peaceful embrace of Mother Nature, which can be a potent meditation aid. Likewise, grasping a rock or stone in your hand will enable you to easily tap into earth energy. If you are prevented by circumstance from visiting a mountain, however, begin by visualizing yourself at the base of a towering summit. Holding a rock can be helpful to tune into mountain energy. You may find yourself picturing a steep and majestic snowcapped peak or a lush, tree-covered mass that rises gently from the earth. Sit or imagine yourself sitting at the mountain’s base and spend a few minutes simply coexisting with it. When you feel tranquil, express your intention to commune with your mountain and ask to receive its energy. Project your consciousness onto the mountain’s peak, and look down upon the flatlands over which it stands guard. Send light to the flora and fauna that call the mountain home. You may discover that you ! feel wonderfully immense and unshakable as you delve deeper into the meditation.
Finally, ask the mountain to serve as a guide and give it your sincerest gratitude. If you have literally visited a plateau or summit, pass time with the mountain by camping, hiking, or picnicking upon it. Or, if your journey has been a spiritual one, use your imagination to survey the sights, sounds, and scents of your mountain. As your explorations progress, you will become ever more grounded, growing gradually into your personal power. When you are finished meditating with mountain energy, give thanks to this strong and powerful energy for sharing time with you.
Blessing Our Bodies
We can detect subtle changes in our own bodies by performing our own energy scan on a regular basis.
As the living vehicles for our spirits, our bodies deserve loving attention and care. We can positively affect our health, prevent illness, and heal injuries by regularly focusing our mental and spiritual energy on the workings of our bodies. This can be done by performing a body scan on yourself.
Begin by lying in a comfortable position and taking three deep cleansing breaths. Imagine, if you will, a sunbeam entering the top of your head. Feel this light slowly scanning each part of your internal body. Allow it to scan every cell in your body and keep breathing. Every time you exhale, blow out negative energy you may feel. Notice any changes in your body. Sensations may vary from person to person. You may feel a shift in body temperature, see a color or flash of light, or hear a voice offering you guidance. If you feel a block in a certain area of your body, sit with that block and feel into it. Ask your body why that block is there and what you need to do to release it. Try not to judge or analyze the wisdom that comes to you. Often, we experience energy blocks in our body because our body is trying to tell us something. You may want to breathe into that area until you feel the block dissolving. When you have finished your scan, take one last deep breath and exhal! e any energetic residue that you are ready to release.
The body doesn’t lie, and it has much wisdom to share with us. Any injuries or blocks that exist in our bodies are there so that we can learn from having them in our bodies. An existing injury can teach us to slow down or help us recognize that something is out of balance in our bodies. The more you scan your body, the better you will become at it. If you sense that something is not right in your body, you may want to visit a doctor and tell them about your experience. When you have finished your scan, don’t forget to thank your wonderful, amazing body.
Expressions of the Heart
Creating Meaningful Homemade Gifts
During this season of giving, it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.
The gifts we craft with our own hands are often the most significant because the love that drove us to create is infused in the products of our creation. And the recipients of these homemade offerings receive a token of our willingness to invest ourselves in their joy. Allow these ideas to inspire you:
1. When you craft a beautifully decorated prayer box (or jar) for loved ones, you give them the gift of spiritual awareness. As you share this gift, explain that it should serve as a receptacle for their hopes, dreams, and loves—as well as worries—and thus a reminder of who they were, are, and will someday be.
2. If you love journaling, share your writing joy with family and friends by giving each a unique, handmade personal journal. A simple spiral notebook dressed up with paper, fabric, photographs, or other embellishments will give your loved ones a special place to record their private thoughts.
3. Erase the distance between yourself and your far away loved ones by presenting each with a photo journal documenting how your life has changed in the past year. Or introduce them to your locale with a homemade guidebook that highlights everything you love about your town or city.
4. When you sew medicine bags for the people you care about, you can rest assured your gift will always be close to their hearts. A small pouch can be filled with many meditative or symbolic items, such as quartz crystals, sage, or magical objects.
5. A progressive photo album, wherein pictures tell the story of your relationships from the past up to the present, can be a simple yet poignant reminder of the many wonderful experiences you and your loved ones have shared over the years.
6. Give the gift of serenity with a guided meditation you create and record to CD or tape. Your loved ones will take pleasure in being led through tranquil landscapes by the soothing sound of your voice.
7. Hand-crafted ornaments that can be hung on trees, in windows, and on walls afford you an opportunity to surround the important people in your life with beauty. Whether you prefer to work with clay, crystals, fabric, baked dough, or natural objects, your gift can serve as a calming focal point in your loved ones’ homes.
Whether you choose to give a gift or simply share your friendship and love, remember that it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.
Listening and Responding
Tuning in to the language of our bodies can be very enlightening and increases our intuition.
So much can be revealed to us when we listen to the language of our bodies. Our bodies are always speaking, sending us messages through the way we move, the sensations that arise from within, and the gestures and expressions that we make when we are communicating with others. Tuning in to the language of our bodies can be very enlightening, especially as most communication is believed to take place nonverbally. It is also believed that the body never lies, and that if we want to know the truth about ourselves and others, then we should listen to what our bodies have to say. Anyone who has ever flirted with someone they are attracted to has probably, at one point in time or another, brushed their hands through their hair or found themselves leaning forward to get closer to that person. Someone feeling defensive will tend to cross their arms over their chest, while a person who wants to withhold something may look away when speaking.
If you want to know how you truly feel about a person or a situation, then it is a good idea to tune in to what you are feeling inside. Excitement, nervousness, anxiety, and fear are just some of the messages that your body wants you to hear. Your body can also be a very reliable compass. Anyone who has ever been somewhere they don’t want to be has probably experienced their bodies trying to move them away from that particular circumstance. And while it can be very easy to talk ourselves into and out of choices we may make with our minds, it isn’t so easy to change the truth of our hearts that reside within our bodies.
To begin tuning in to this subtle form of communication, start taking the time to notice what your body is telling you. Greet each feeling or sensation as a message carrying wisdom from your body. Tune in to what your body is telling you about the situations and people you encounter and listen to what others are communicating to you through their bodies. We already are subconsciously receptive to the language of our bodies, but when we choose to consciously pay attention, we hear and understand so much more about ourselves and the people around us.
A Clear Current
Maintaining the Flow
Life energy flows through us like a swift stream when there is nothing to obstruct it.
The essence of all being is energy. Our physical and ethereal selves depend on the unrestricted flow of life energy that is the source of wholeness and wellness. Though the channels through which this energy flows are open systems and influenced by factors outside of our control, we ultimately choose what impact these will have in our lives. It is up to us to identify and clear blockages in the energy field to ensure that flow is maintained. A healthy, grounded individual absorbs some portion of the energy emitted by other people and the environment, but this does not interrupt the continuous stream of balanced energy sustaining them. The same individual copes constructively with stress and upset, and they are not subject to the stagnation that frequently goes hand in hand with negativity. When we keep the energy in and around our bodies flowing harmoniously, we are naturally healthy, vibrant, and peaceful.
Life energy flows through us like a swift stream when there is nothing to obstruct it, but various forces such as trauma, downbeat vibrations, and disappointments act like stones that impede the current. If we allow these to pile up, our life energy is thrown off its course or blocked entirely, causing illness, restlessness, and a lack of vigor. If, however, we take the time to clear these forces away, we rob them of the power to impact our lives. When we cultivate simple yet affirmative habits such as taking regular cleansing baths, practicing meditation and breathing exercises, smudging, and self-shielding, we protect ourselves from outside influences that might otherwise impede our energy flow. Likewise, we lessen the impact of inner influences when we clear our auras of unwanted attachments and divest ourselves of blocked emotions.
A strong and fluid energy field is the key that unlocks the doors of self-healing and peace of mind. Your awareness of the flow of energy sustaining you empowers you to take charge of your own well-being by taking steps to unblock, correct, and enhance that flow. Fear will likely be the culprit when you cannot identify the source of stagnation—you may simply be afraid to let go of what is obstructing the flow. Letting go can be challenging, but the exuberance you will feel when the flow is restored will be a welcome and blessed reward.
The Sky Is Blue Even on a Cloudy Day
Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine.
When we refer to a “beautiful day,” we are often describing a day that is sunny, clear, and without a cloud in sight to mar a sky that is a brilliantly perfect blue. We find ourselves bouncing along, light in spirit, free from worries, and enjoying the moment. That is, until the clouds begin to form. The sky may turn grey, and a fog may roll in. Puffs of white take on whimsical, darker shades, and our beautiful day disappears along with the sunshine… or so it seems.
A clear blue sky often inspires in us good cheer, bringing on a lighter, more carefree day. We may find ourselves spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, and basking in the warmth of the sun. Yet should clouds appear to wash the sky with shadows, we may let this change of weather decrease our energy and enthusiasm, pulling us into our own cloudy funk. Darker days are just as much a part of life as are the days graced with sunshine. They show us a different perspective of our world, while helping us appreciate the moments of illumination that inevitably follow. A rainy day with clouds helps to clear the air, washing away stagnation. Still, it’s hard not to feel gloomy or think that the day has been ruined when there are clouds hanging over us. Yet if you can remember that these shades of grey won’t last forever, and that hidden behind the clouds is the blue sky, you will find that the beauty of your day is merely playing a game of peek-a-boo with you. Like the mis! haps and interruptions that occasionally block the brilliance that is our own lives from shining through, clouds eventually clear away so we can open up to a brighter horizon.
The next time you wake up to a cloudy day, remember that these shades of grey in life are there just for the moment. And that no matter how hard the rain falls or how chilly the fog is, the clouds will go away, the sun will break through, and you will be able to see the sky that has always and forever been a beautiful and brilliant blue.
Now Is the Time
Bloom Where You Are Planted
The time to blossom is now, not sometime in the future when you believe the stars will be aligned for you.
Having a vision for our future that differs from our current circumstances can be inspiring and exciting, but it can also keep us from fully committing to our present placement. We may become aware that this is happening when we notice our thoughts about the future distracting us from our participation in the moment. We may find upon searching our hearts that we are waiting for some future time or situation in order to self-actualize. This would be like a flower planted in North Dakota putting off blooming because it would prefer to do so in Illinois.
There are no guarantees in this life, so when we hold back we do so at the risk of never fully blossoming. This present moment always offers us the ground in which we can take root and open our hearts now. What this means is that we live fully, wherever we are, not hesitating because conditions are not perfect, or we might end up moving, or we haven’t found our life partner. This can be scary, because we might feel that we are giving up our cherished dreams if we do not agree to wait for them. But this notion that we have to hold back our life force now in order to find happiness later doesn’t really make sense. What might really be happening is that we are afraid to embrace this moment, and ourselves, just exactly as we are right now. This constitutes a tendency to hold back from fully loving ourselves, as we are, where we are.
We have a habit of presenting life with a set of conditions—ifs and whens that must be fulfilled before we will say yes to the gift of our lives. Now is the time for each of us to bloom where we are planted, overriding our tendency to hold back. Now is the time to say yes, to be brave and commit fully to ourselves, because until we do no one else will. Now is the time to be vulnerable, unfolding delicately yet fully into the space in which we find ourselves.
Relating to the Negative
The Danger of Repression
When negative thoughts arise it is best to address them rather than pushing them down where they will surface again.
For the last several years, there has been a lot of focus on the power of positive thinking. Many people have come to misinterpret this wisdom to mean that it is not okay to have a bad mood or a negative thought or feeling. This can lend a kind of superficiality to their relationship with life and relationships with other people. It can also lead them to feel that if a negative thought or feeling comes up, in themselves or someone else, they must immediately block it out. When they do this, they are engaging in the act of repressing a part of themselves that needs to seen, heard, and processed.
When we repress parts of ourselves, they don’t go away so much as they get buried deep within us, and they often come out when we least expect it. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to be fully human, honoring all the thoughts, feelings, and moods that pass through us on a given day, we create a more conscious relationship with ourselves. Instead of blocking out thoughts and feelings that we label as negative, we can simply observe them and then let them go. They only get stuck when we react to them negatively, pushing them down and out of sight where they get lodged in our unconscious minds. A healthier solution might be to develop a practice of following any negative thought we may have with a positive thought. This works well because positive thoughts are many times more powerful than negative thoughts.
Rather than setting our minds up in such a way that we become fearful of the contents of our own consciousness, blocking out anything that is less than 100 percent positive, we might resolve to develop a friendlier attitude toward ourselves, trusting in our inherent goodness. When we recognize our true inner worth, a few dark clouds passing through our minds will not intimidate us. We will see them for what they are—small, dark figures passing through an expansive sky of well-being and truth.
Giving yourself permission to be silly will nourish your creativity and is a good exercise in letting go.
Children appreciate all that is silly as a matter of course. Their grasp of humor is instinctual, and even the smallest absurdities provoke joyous gales of earnest laughter. As we age, this innate ability to see the value of silliness can diminish. Work takes precedence over play, and we have less incentive to exercise our imaginative minds by focusing on what is humorous. When we remember childhood, we may recall the pleasures of donning funny costumes, reciting nonsense poems, making up strange games, or playing pretend. This unabashed silliness nourished our vitality and creativity. We can take in this nourishment once again by giving ourselves permission to lighten up and be silly.
Too often we reject the wonderful silliness that is an inherent, inborn aspect of the self because we believe that it serves no purpose or is at odds with the grown-up culture of maturity. We play yet we do not lose ourselves in play, and our imaginations are never truly given free reign because we regard the products of irrational creativity as being valueless. Yet silliness itself does indeed constitute a vital part of human existence on a myriad of levels. Our first taste of ethereal bliss is often a consequence of our willingness to dabble in what we deem outrageous, nonsensical, or absurd. We delight in ridiculousness not only because laughter is intrinsically pleasurable, but also because it serves as a reminder that existence itself is fun. Skipping, doodling, and singing funny songs are no less entertaining than they were when we were children. We need not lose all interest in these cheerful and amusing activities, but to make them a part of our lives we must be read! y to sacrifice a little dignity and a lot of fear.
It is precisely because so much of life is inescapably serious that silliness should be regarded as a priority. Through the magic of imagination, you can be or become anything—a photographer, a professional athlete, a dancer, a pilot. Whether you take hundreds of silly pictures, revel in the adulation of your fans as you make the winning catch, boogie down rock-star style in front of your bedroom mirror, or turn your desk into a cockpit, the ensuing hilarity will help you see that lighthearted fun and adulthood are not at all incompatible.
We cannot insist that someone else take responsibility for their actions; only they can make that choice when they are ready.
As we begin to truly understand that the world outside of us is a reflection of the world inside of us, we may feel confused about who is to blame for the problems in our lives. If we had a difficult childhood, we may wonder how we can take responsibility for that, and in our current relationships, the same question arises. We all know that blaming others is the opposite of taking responsibility, but we may not understand how to take responsibility for things that we don’t truly feel responsible for. We may blame our parents for our low self-esteem, and we may blame our current partner for exacerbating it with their unconscious behavior. Objectively, this seems to make sense. After all, it is not our fault if our parents were irresponsible or unkind, and we are not to blame for our partner’s bad behavior.
Perhaps the problem lies with the activity of blaming. Whether we blame others or blame ourselves, there is something aggressive and unkind about it. It sets up a situation in which it becomes difficult to move forward under the burdensome feelings of shame and guilt that arise. It also puts the resolution of our pain in the hands of someone other than us. Ultimately, we cannot insist that someone else take responsibility for their actions; only they can make that choice when they are ready. In the meantime, if we want to move forward with our lives instead of waiting around for something that may or may not happen, we begin to see the wisdom of taking the situation into our own hands.
We do this by forgiving our parents, even if they have not asked for our forgiveness, so that we can be free. We end the abusive relationship with our partner, who may never admit to any wrongdoing, because we are willing to take responsibility for how we are treated. In short, we love ourselves as we want to be loved and create the life we know we deserve. We leave the resolution of the wrongs committed against us in the hands of the universe, releasing ourselves to live a life free of blame.
The Understanding Underneath
Experiences with Multiple Meanings
The refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance can add a new richness and texture to your life.
Though we humans are self-aware, we nonetheless cannot distance ourselves from the world around us and have a natural tendency to ascribe meaning to all that we experience. The significance we perceive in our experiences is rooted in our observation of patterns as they relate to ourselves. One situation has the power to teach us about life because it exposes us to something unfamiliar. Another touches our emotions deeply by enabling us to see how fortunate we are. Yet our initial impressions of an experience may not wholly reveal the true significance of that occurrence because our full response to an experience is like an onion with many layers that all have disparate meanings. Consider that a sunrise may stun us visually while simultaneously evoking memories of childhood and reminding us that each new day is a rebirth.
If you take the time to examine your experiences closely, you will discover that your original impressions may only be a part of a larger story of significance. Peeling away the layers of an event or incident can be a fun and interesting process if you allow it. To begin, relive your experience in your mind’s eye and from multiple perspectives if possible. Your interpretation of any situation is based not only on facts but also on feelings, beliefs, and your values. As you ruminate upon your experience, spend a few moments contemplating how you felt when it began and how your feelings had changed by its end. Ask yourself what abstractions, if any, it awakened in your mind. If an experience stirs up questions within your soul, it may be that in striving to answer them a new layer of meaning may reveal itself to you.
The significance of an experience may remain hidden to you for some time. The meaning of an event can change when viewed from another context or may only become apparent after intense meditation. An incident that seemed superficial may unexpectedly touch us deeply later in our lives. If you take a truly open-minded approach to your examination of each new level and do not shy away from revelations that could prove painful, you will learn much about your relationship to the world around you. And the refined impression you glean from your experiences after contemplating their significance can add a new richness and texture to your life.
One of a Kind
The Black Sheep
When we move beyond comparisons and accept our differences, we appreciate the significance of our upbringing and socialization in each of our unique life's journey.
Many of us have had an experience in which we felt like the lone black sheep in a vast sea of white sheep. For some of us, however, this sense of not belonging runs more deeply and spans a period of many years. It is possible to feel like the black sheep in families and peer groups that are supportive, as well as in those that are not. Even if we receive no overt criticism regarding our values, there will likely be times when it seems that relatives and friends are humoring us or waiting for us to grow out of a phase. Sometimes we may even think we have been adopted because we are so different from our family members. These feelings are not a sign that we have failed in some way to connect with others. Rather, they should be perceived as the natural result of our willingness to articulate our individuality.
Many black sheep respond to the separateness they feel by pulling back from the very people to whom they might otherwise feel closest and embracing a different group with whom they enjoy a greater degree of commonality. But if you feel that your very nature has set you apart from your peers and relatives, consider that you chose long ago to be raised by a specific family and to come together with specific people so that you could have certain experiences that would contribute to your ongoing evolution. You may be much more sensitive than the people around you or more artistic, aware, spiritual, or imaginative. The disparate temperament of your values and those of your family or peers need not be a catalyst for interpersonal conflict. If you can move beyond comparisons and accept these differences, you will come to appreciate the significant role your upbringing and socialization have played in your life's unique journey.
In time, most black sheep learn to embrace their differences and be thankful for those aspects of their individuality that set them apart from others. We cannot expect that our peers and relatives will suddenly choose to embrace our values and offer us the precise form of support we need. But we can acknowledge the importance of these individuals by devoting a portion of our energy to keeping these relationships healthy while continuing to define our own identities apart from them.
Lifting Pain's Veil
Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing.
It is natural to feel resentment or anger when life does not unfold as expected. We consciously or unconsciously anticipated one experience, and we grieve for the loss of it when the universe puts something else in our path. Most of the time, we work through these feelings and they pass. Occasionally, our anger and resentment do not fade and are instead transformed into bitterness. Bitter feelings allow us to become perfect victims in that we no longer feel obliged to work toward healing and choose instead to identify with our pain. Yet as unwholesome as bitterness can be, it is also a natural element of our emotional palette. When we acknowledge that it is okay to feel bitter, we reconnect with our hurt in a constructive way and can begin the process of working through it.
The nature of bitterness is rooted in the fact that the pain we feel provides us with a rationale. We may feel that we deserve to embrace our bitterness to its full extent. And to be bitter is, in essence, to cut ourselves off from all that is positive, hardening our hearts and vowing never to let go of our hurt. But just as bitter feelings can be self-defeating, so too can the release of bitterness be life-affirming in a way that few other emotional experiences are. When we decide that we no longer want to be bitter, we are reborn into a world filled with delight and fulfillment unlike any we knew while in the clutches of bitterness. The veil it cast over our lives is lifted, letting light and warmth touch our souls.
Divesting yourself of bitter feelings can be as simple as truly forgiving and moving on. Even when your bitterness has no concrete object, you can forgive situations too. Healing pain can be challenging but may be easier if you remind yourself that you are the only entity truly affected by your emotional state. In time, you will discover that letting go of your bitterness frees you to initiate the healing process and allows you to once again celebrate the possibility of the more wonderful life you deserve.
Fully Committed to Now
Why We Are Not Shown the Big Picture
Often we want to be shown the big picture but it is not always in our best interest as we can easily become overwhelmed.
Sometimes, we may find ourselves wishing we knew what our lives are going to look like or what gifts and challenges are going to be presented to us in the coming months or years. We may want to know if the relationship we’re in now will go the distance or if our goals will be realized. Perhaps we feel like we need help making a decision and we want to know which choice will work out best. We may consult psychics, tarot cards, our dreams, and many other sources in the hopes of finding out what the future holds. Usually, at most, we may catch glimpses. And even though we think we would like to know the whole story in all its details, the truth is that we would probably be overwhelmed and exhausted if we knew everything that is going to happen to us.
Just think of your life as you’ve lived it up to this point. If you are like most of us, you have probably done more and faced more than you could have ever imagined. If someone had told you as a child of all the jobs and relationships you would experience, along with each one’s inherent ups and downs, you would have become overwhelmed. With your head full of information about the future, you would have had a very hard time experiencing your life in the present moment, which is where everything actually happens.
In many ways, not knowing what the future has in store brings out in us the qualities we need to grow. For example, it would have been difficult to commit yourself to certain people or projects if you knew they wouldn’t ultimately work out. Yet, it was through your commitment to see them through that you experienced the lessons you needed to grow. Looking back on your life, you would likely be hard pressed to say that anything in your past should not have happened. In fact, your most challenging experiences with their inevitable lessons may have ultimately brought you the greatest rewards. Not knowing the future keeps us just where we need to be—fully committed and in the present moment.
Witnessing Nature through Meditation
When it becomes too cold to be outside with nature, bring her inside through your meditation.
When the weather gets colder it can be more difficult to get in touch with the marvel of nature as it exists around us. Finding innovative ways to really connect with nature brings us closer to the wonders that envelop our lives. One way to do this is to perform a meditation with our feathered friends, the bird kingdom.
Just by taking a few moments each day to watch the bird activity that goes on in our backyards through our windows can bring a sense of calm and well-being to our lives. Watching and being with the birds that we share our garden space with us allows us to experience greater feelings of relaxation and gratitude for the diversity that is always present around us. Simply watching, without judgment or expectations, heightens our awareness of the beauty of nature. If you watch the birds for a long enough period of time you will begin to feel a great sense of deep joy within you knowing we are all truly divine. Doing this with our family members will in turn introduce a meditative practice that can easily be shared and appreciated by all, as well as create deeper bonds with each other through the joy of experiencing the healing power of nature.
Looking through our windows and placing a feeder and bird bath in our gardens to attract the birds is a way to call forth beauty into our lives. As we consciously connect with our outer world—even when the weather inhibits us from physically being in it—we see that the splendor we view outside of our windows is simply a reflection of what lies within us.
Growing Day by Day
Becoming a Better Person
We understand that we want to be better but have no clear definition of what better means and that is part of the process.
At some point in our lives, many of us find ourselves overcome with the desire to become better people. While we are all uniquely capable of navigating this world, we may nonetheless feel driven to grow, expand, and change. This innate need for personal expansion can lead us down many paths as we develop within the context of our individual lives. Yet the initial steps that can put us on the road to evolution are not always clear. We understand that we want to be better but have no clear definition of “better.” To ease this often frustrating uncertainty, we can take small steps, keeping our own concept of growth in mind rather than allowing others to direct the course of our journey. And we should accept that change won’t happen overnight—we may not recognize the transformations taking place within us at first.
Becoming a better person in your own eyes is a whole-life project, and thus you should focus your step-by-step efforts on multiple areas of your existence. Since you likely know innately which qualities you consider good, growing as an individual is simply a matter of making an effort to do good whenever possible. Respect should be a key element of your efforts. When you acknowledge that all people are deserving of compassion, consideration, and dignity, you are naturally more apt to treat them in the manner you yourself wish to be treated. You will intuitively become a more active listener, universally helpful, and truthful. Going the extra mile in all you do can also facilitate evolution. Approaching your everyday duties with an upbeat attitude and positive expectations can help you make the world a brighter, more cheerful place. Finally, coming to terms with your values and then abiding by them will enable you to introduce a new degree of integrity and dignity into your l! ife.
As you endeavor to develop yourself further, you can take pride not only in your successes, but also in the fact that you are cultivating consciousness within yourself through your choices, actions, and behaviors. While you may never feel you have reached the pinnacles of awareness you hope to achieve, you can make the most of this creative process of transformation. Becoming a better person is your choice and is a natural progression in your journey of self-awareness.
Progressing with Patience
Doing the Best You Can
Try not to expect perfection when starting out on a spiritual path or attaining inner peace.
It isn’t always easy to meet the expectations we hold ourselves to. We may find ourselves in a situation such as just finishing a relaxing yoga class or meditation retreat, a serene session of deep breathing, or listening to some calming, soul-stirring music, yet we have difficulty retaining our sense of peace. A long line at the store, slow-moving traffic, or another stressful situation can unnerve you and leave you wondering why the tranquility and spiritual equilibrium you cultivate is so quick to dissipate in the face of certain stressors. You may feel guilty and angry at yourself or even feel like a hypocrite for not being able to maintain control after practicing being centered. However, being patient with yourself will help you more in your soul’s journey than frustration at your perceived lack of progress. Doing the best you can in your quest for spiritual growth is vastly more important than striving for perfection.
Just because you are devoted to following a spiritual path, attaining inner peace, or living a specific ideology doesn’t mean you should expect to achieve perfection. When you approach your personal evolution mindfully, you can experience intense emotions such as anger without feeling that you have somehow failed. Simply by being aware of what you are experiencing and recognizing that your feelings are temporary, you have begun taking the necessary steps to regaining your internal balance. Accepting that difficult situations will arise from time to time and treating your reaction to them as if they are passing events rather than a part of who you are can help you move past them. Practicing this form of acceptance and paying attention to your reactions in order to learn from them will make it easier for you to return to your center more quickly in the future.
Since your experiences won’t be similar to others’ and your behavior will be shaped by those experiences, you may never stop reacting strongly to the challenging situations you encounter. Even if you are able to do nothing more than acknowledge what you are feeling and that there is little you can do to affect your current circumstances, in time you’ll alter your reaction to such circumstances. You can learn gradually to let negative thoughts come into your mind, recognize them, and then let them go. You may never reach a place of perfect peace, but you’ll find serenity in having done your best.
The Dance of Intimacy
Coming Back to Center in a Relationship
In a long-term relationship it is often necessary to get back to basics and come back to center with each other.
Anyone in a long-term relationship knows that the dance of intimacy involves coming together and moving apart. Early in a relationship, intense periods of closeness are important in order to establish the ground of a new union. Just as a sapling needs a lot more attention than a full-grown tree, budding relationships demand time and attention if they are to fully take root. Once they become more established, the individuals in the union begin to turn their attention outward again, to the other parts of their lives that matter, such as work, family, and friendships. This is natural and healthy. Yet, if a long-term relationship is to last, turning towards one another recurrently, with the same curiosity, attention, and nurturance of earlier times, is essential.
In a busy and demanding world full of obligations and opportunities, we sometimes lose track of our primary relationships, thinking they will tend to themselves. We may have the best intentions when we think about how nice it would be to surprise our partner with a gift or establish a weekly date night. Yet somehow, life gets in the way. We may think that our love is strong enough to survive without attention. Yet even mature trees need water and care if they are to thrive.
One of the best ways to nourish a relationship is through communication. If you feel that a distance has grown between you and your partner, you may be able to bridge the gap by sharing how you feel. Do your best to avoid blame and regret. Focus instead on the positive, which is the fact that you want to grow closer together. Sometimes, just acknowledging that there is distance between you has the effect of bringing the relationship into balance. In other cases, more intense effort and attention may be required. You may want to set aside time to talk and come up with solutions together. Remember to have compassion for each other. You’re in the same boat together and trying to maintain the right balance of space and togetherness to keep your relationship healthy and thriving. Express faith and confidence in each other, and enjoy the slow dance of intimacy that can resume between the two of you.
Leaving a Positive Footprint
We can bless each space we enter leaving a sweet energetic footprint behind.
Physical space acts like a sponge, absorbing the radiant of all who pass through it. And, more likely than not, the spaces we move through each day have seen many people come and go. We have no way of knowing whether the energy footprints left behind by those who preceded us will invigorate us or drain us. Yet we can control the energy footprint we leave behind for others. In blessing each space we enter, we orchestrate a subtle energy shift that affects not only our own experiences in that space but also the experiences of the individuals who will enter the space after us. While we may never see the effects our blessing has had, we can take comfort in the fact that we have provided grace for those that follow after us.
When you bless a room or an entire building, you leave a powerful message of love and light for all those who will come after you. Your blessings thus have myriad effects on the environments through which you pass. Old, stagnant energy is cleared, creating a vacuum into which fresh and invigorating energy can freely flow. The space is thus rendered harmonious and nourishing, and it becomes a hub from which positive feelings are transmitted. Intent is the key component of the blessings you leave in your physical wake. If your intent involves using your own consciousness as a tool for selflessly spreading grace, your blessings will never go awry. Whether you feel more comfortable performing a solo blessing or prefer to call upon your spirit guides for assistance, visualize each space you enter becoming free of toxins, chaos, and negativity as you speak your blessing. Then imagine the resultant emptiness being replaced by pure, healing white light and loving energy. Even a quic! k mindful thought of love can bless a space.
This type of blessing is cumulative and will grow each time you bestow it. Try blessing every home, business, and office you visit for an entire week and observing the effects of your goodwill. Your affirmative energy footprint will help brighten your day as you contemplate your blessing’s future impact on your siblings in humanity and your environment.
Summon Your Aliveness
Being Fully Present
When we live fully in the moment there is an aliveness that comes easily.
When we are fully present, we offer our whole selves to whatever it is that we are doing. Our attention, our integrity, and our energy are all focused in the moment and on the task at hand. This is a powerful experience, and when we are in this state, we feel completely alive and invigorated. This kind of aliveness comes easily when we are absorbed in work or play that we love, but it is available to us in every moment, and we can learn to summon it regardless of what we are doing. Even tasks or jobs we don’t enjoy can become infused with the light of being present. The more present we are, the more meaningful our entire lives become.
Next time you find yourself fully engaged in the moment, whether you are making art, trying to solve an interesting puzzle, or talking to your best friend, you may want to take a moment to notice how you feel. You may observe that you are not thinking about what you need to do next, your body feels like it’s pleasantly humming, or your brain feels tingly. As you enjoy the feeling of being located entirely in the present moment, you can inform yourself that you may try to recall this feeling later. You might try this while driving home or getting ready for bed, allowing yourself to be just as engaged in that experience as you were in the earlier one.
The more we draw ourselves into the present moment, the more we honor the gift of our lives, and the more we honor the people around us. When we are fully present, we give and receive aliveness in equal measure. For today, try to be fully present in your daily activities and watch a new reality open for you.
Embracing New Information
As we live we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview.
Living in an information age, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the constant influx of scientific studies, breaking news, and even spiritual revelations that fill our bookshelves, radio waves, and in-boxes. No sooner have we decided what to eat or how to think about the universe than a new study or book comes out confounding our well-researched opinion. After a while, we may be tempted to dismiss or ignore new information in the interest of stabilizing our point of view, and this is understandable. Rather than closing down, we might try instead to remain open by allowing our intuition to guide us.
For example, contradictory studies concerning foods that are good for you and foods that are bad for you are plentiful. At a certain point, though, we can feel for ourselves whether coffee or tomatoes are good for us or not. The answer is different for each individual, and this is something that a scientific study can’t quite account for. All we can do is take in the information and process it through our own systems of understanding. In the end, only we can decide what information, ideas, and concepts we will integrate. Remaining open allows us to continually change and shift by checking in with ourselves as we learn new information. It keeps us flexible and alert, and while it can feel a bit like being thrown off balance all the time, this openness is essential to the process of growth and expansion.
Perhaps the key is realizing that we are not going to finally get to some stable place of having it all figured out. Throughout our lives we will go through the processes of opening to new information, integrating it, and stabilizing our worldview. No sooner will we have reached some kind of stability than it will be time to open again to new information, which is inherently destabilizing. If we see ourselves as surfers riding the incoming waves of information and inspiration, always open and willing to attune ourselves to the next shift, we will see how blessed we are to have this opportunity to play on the waves and, most of all, to enjoy the ride.
Echoes of Happiness
It is easy to laugh when we feel good, but it is when the world appears dim that we most need laughter in our lives.
As children, we laugh hundreds of times each day, delighted by the newness of living. When we reach adulthood, however, we tend to not allow ourselves to let go in a good belly laugh. Inviting laughter back into our lives is simply a matter of making the conscious decision to laugh. Though most of us are incited to laugh only when exposed to humor or the unexpected, each of us is capable of laughing at will. A laugh that comes from the belly carries with it the same positive effects whether prompted by a funny joke or consciously willed into existence. When our laughter comes from the core of our being, it permeates every cell in our physical selves, beginning in the center and radiating outward, until we are not merely belly laughing but rather body laughing.
Laughter has been a part of the human mode of expression since before evolution granted us the art of speech. Through it, we connected with allies while demonstrating our connection with people we didn’t know. In the present, laughter allows us to enjoy positive shared experiences with strangers and loved ones alike. Yet solitary laughter carries with it its own slew of benefits. An energetic and enthusiastic bout of whole-body laughter exercises the muscles, the lungs, and the mind in equal measure, leaving us feeling relaxed and content. When we laugh heartily at life’s ridiculousness instead of responding irritably, our focus shifts. Anger, stress, guilt, and sadness no longer wield any influence over us, and we are empowered to make light of what we originally feared. Laughter also opens our hearts, letting love and light in, changing our perspective, and enabling us to fix our attention on what is positive in our lives.
It is easy to laugh when we feel good, but it is when the world appears dim that we most need laughter in our lives. Our laughter then resonates through our hearts, filling the empty spaces with pure, unadulterated joy. We regain our footing in the moment and remember that no sorrow is powerful enough to rob us of our inborn happiness. When we understand that uninhibited laughter is the food of the soul, nourishing us from within, we know instinctively that life is worthwhile.
Voicing Faith in Another
The Gift of a Positive Image
It is important that we all find people that believe in us just as we believe in others.
There are times in our lives when we may find ourselves facing challenges that can seem overwhelming. The situation or task we are struggling with seems hopeless, and it is easy to stop believing in ourselves, our goals, and our dreams. It is during these moments that it can be reassuring and reaffirming to turn to the people in our lives who do believe in us, especially when we are finding it hard to believe in ourselves. An encouraging word, a reassuring look, or hearing the words “I believe in you” from someone who matters can help us turn our situations around in an instant.
Everybody has someone who believes in them, whether this person is a teacher, parent, friend, loved one, or an employer. Often their belief can wrap us in warmth, bolster us, and offer us a supportive hand to grab onto until we can regain our own support. Having that special person who believes in our abilities and our worth is a wonderful gift. But when we are feeling unworthy, it may be difficult to take in something so precious. We may even feel like we need to do it all on our own and that we shouldn’t be asking for help. However, in letting their belief and support impact you, you are acknowledging the part of yourself that knows you are worthy of trust and esteem. By allowing them to believe in you, your own belief in yourself and your abilities will start to emerge again. Borrow their vision, and you can make it your own.
If your special someone is not there to spur you on, you also can lift yourself up with the gift of a positive image. When you feel uncertain, you can create a vision of the future you desire that will serve as a beacon of light. To do so, simply imagine a future that is exactly as you’d like it to be. Imagine in detail how you feel, what you are doing, and how others are responding to you. Make your vision as real as possible, and allow your doubts to recede so you can focus solely on the goal you seek. The more intently you focus on the image of what you want, your belief in yourself will step to the forefront, making it easier for the universe to open up a path and guide you.
A Relationship with Self
By allowing ourselves to be comfortable with being alone, we can become the people with whom we want to have a relationship.
The most important relationship we have in our lives is with our selves. And even though we are the only ones who are present at every moment of our lives—from birth onward—this relationship can be the most difficult one to cultivate. This may be because society places such emphasis on the importance of being in a romantic partnership, even teaching us to set aside our own needs for the needs of another. Until we know ourselves, however, we cannot possibly choose the right relationship to support our mutual growth toward our highest potential. By allowing ourselves to be comfortable with being alone, we can become the people with whom we want to have a relationship.
Perhaps at no other time in history has it been possible for people to survive, and even thrive, while living alone. We can now support ourselves financially, socially, and emotionally without needing a spouse for survival in any of these realms. With this freedom, we can pursue our own interests and create fulfilling partnerships with friends, business partners, creative cohorts, and neighbors. Once we’ve satisfied our needs and created our support system, a mate then becomes someone with whom we can share the bounty of all we’ve created and the beauty we’ve discovered within ourselves.
As we move away from tradition and fall into more natural cycles of being in the world today, we may find that there are times where being alone nourishes us and other periods in which a partnership is best for our growth. We may need to learn to create spaces to be alone within relationships. When we can shift our expectations of our relationships with ourselves and others to opportunities for discovery, we open ourselves to forge new paths and encounter uncharted territory. Being willing to know and love ourselves, and to find what truly makes us feel deeply and strongly, gives us the advantage of being able to attract and choose the right people with whom to share ourselves, whether those relationships fall into recognizable roles or not. Choosing to enjoy being alone allows us to fully explore our most important relationship—the one with our true selves.
Generate Your Own Patterns
Becoming Your Parents
We may honor some traits from our parents while rejecting others and becoming our own person.
Heredity plays a role in almost all human development, whether physical, mental, or emotional. We tend to look like our parents and are subject to the same sensitivities they have. We may even be predisposed to certain behaviors or preferences. As we grow older, we become increasingly aware of the traits that exist within us and the clear history of the traits of our mothers and fathers. Our response to this epiphany depends upon whether the inclinations, tendencies, and penchants we inherited from our forebears are acceptable in our eyes. We may honor some of these shared traits while rejecting others. However, there is no law of nature, no ethereal connection between parents and children, that states that the latter must follow in the footsteps of the former. We are each of us free to become whoever we wish to be.
When we accept that our parents are human beings in possession of both human graces and human failings, we begin to regard them as distinct individuals. And by granting mothers and fathers personhood in our minds, we come to realize that we, too, are autonomous people and in no way destined to become our relations. While we may have involuntarily integrated some of our parents’ mannerisms or habits into our own lives, conscious self-examination will provide us with a means to identify these and work past them if we so desire. We can then unreservedly honor and emulate those aspects of our mothers and fathers that we admire without becoming carbon copies of them.
Though many of the tempers and temperaments that define you are inherited, you control how they manifest in your life. The patterns you have witnessed unfolding in the lives of your parents need not be a part of your unique destiny. You can learn from the decisions they made and choose not to indulge in the same vices. Their habits need not become yours. But even as you forge your own path, consider that your parents’ influence will continue to shape your life—whether or not you follow in their footsteps. Throughout your entire existence, they have endeavored to provide you with the benefit of their experiences. How you make use of this profound gift is up to you.
Consulting Heart and Mind
Making Choices From a Place of Balance
It is important to make decisions from a place of balance in your life by taking a breath and checking in with heart and mind.
Each of the myriad decisions we make every day has the potential to have a deep impact on our lives. Some choices touch us to our very cores, awakening poignant feelings within us. Others seem at first to be simple but prove to be confusingly complex. We make the best decisions when we approach the decision-making process from a balanced emotional and intellectual foundation. When we have achieved equilibrium in our hearts and in our minds, we can clearly see both sides of an issue or alternative. Likewise, we can accept compromise as a natural fact of life. Instead of relying solely on our feelings or our rationality, we utilize both in equal measure, empowering ourselves to come to a life-affirming and balanced conclusion.
Balance within and balance without go hand in hand. When you are called upon to choose between two or more options, whether they are attractive or distasteful, you should understand all you can about the choice ahead of you before moving forward. If you do not come to the decision from a place of balance, you risk making choices that are irrational and overly emotional or are wholly logical and don’t take your feelings into account. In bringing your thoughts and emotions together during the decision-making process, you ensure that you are taking everything possible into account before moving forward. Nothing is left up to chance, and you have ample opportunity to determine which options are in accordance with your values.
Though some major decisions may oblige you to act and react quickly, most will allow you an abundance of time in which to mull over your choices. If you doubt your ability to approach your options in a balanced fashion, take an extended time-out before responding to the decision. This will give you the interlude you need to make certain that your thoughts and feelings are in equilibrium. As you practice achieving balance, you will ultimately reach a state of mind in which you can easily make decisions that honor every aspect of the self.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
Aligning Actions and Words
Words carry a lot of weight in this world, but it is through our actions that we bring things into being.
Words carry a lot of weight in this world, from how we say them to what we say with them, but it is through our actions that we bring things into being. This is what we mean when we say to one another that actions speak louder than words. In many cases, what we say doesn’t necessarily line up with what we are doing, and it is here that it becomes clear that it’s easier to talk about doing something than it is to actually do something. At the same time, it’s easy to keep doing something that we don’t necessarily acknowledge ourselves doing verbally. It’s good for all of us to take a look every once and a while to make sure there is alignment between what we say and what we do.
For example, it’s easy to talk about our dreams, but it takes a lot more energy to take the many small steps that lead to bringing our dreams into reality. If all we ever do is talk about it, we begin to lose faith in ourselves because nothing changes on the external level. In this way, being all talk and no action is actually a form of self-sabotage. It’s also useful to examine our actions to see if, through them, we are following through on our words. For example, in expressing concern about the environment, we can look to make sure that we are taking the simple steps we can take to put that concern into action.
It’s always helpful to observe what we talk about and who we say we are, and then to observe what we actually do in the world. Sometimes we realize our actions haven’t caught up with what we are saying, and at other times we see that we might change our words in a way that it will more adequately reflect what we do in the world. Either way, the more we align our words and our deeds, the clearer we are in expressing our truth in the world, and the more powerful we are in bringing it into reality.
You Are Beautiful
Many of us do not take the time to notice and acknowledge how beautiful we are as humans.
Many of us do not take the time to notice and acknowledge how beautiful we are as humans. We may be great lovers of beauty, seeing it in the people, places, and things around us, while completely missing it in ourselves. Some of us feel that it is vain to consider our appearance too much, or we may find that when we look at ourselves, all we see are imperfections. Often we come to the mirror with expectations and preconceived notions about beauty that blind us from seeing ourselves clearly. As a result, we miss the beauty that is closest to us, the beauty we are. Sometimes we see our beauty in a shallow way, noticing how well we are conforming to social norms, but failing to see the deeper beauty that shines out from within and that will continue to shine regardless of how we measure up to society’s ideal.
If we can cut through all these obstacles and simply appreciate how beautiful we are, we free up so much energy. We also become less dependent upon the opinions and feedback of others since we become our own greatest admirers. Many of us know that after a great yoga practice or a long, deep meditation, we are more able to see how beautiful we are. This is because we have released some of our baggage, thus unburdening ourselves and summoning forth the spirit that dwells within us. It is the heady combination of the divine spirit and the human body that conveys beauty more accurately than anything else.
To keep ourselves in touch with our own beauty, we can surround ourselves with images that reflect our beauty back to us&mdashhotos of a relative or child who has our eyes, images of teachers who embody spirit, or self-portraits that capture our essence in a way that allows us to see ourselves anew. The best way to keep ourselves in touch with our own beauty is to keep looking deeply into our own souls and opening our eyes to the human being we see in the mirror every day.
Living in All Realms
We can incorporate bear energy into our lives by remembering to take time to go inward to rest and rejuvenate in daily mini hibernations.
When the image of a bear enters our consciousness, we may first notice their size, strength, and power, but beyond their physical attributes lay many traits that can guide us deeper into our experience of life. Their abilities as hunters and powerful protectors of their loved ones are well known, but you may also envision them on a quest for variety as they seek out the flavors and scents of the world, first fishing, then enjoying berries, or braving angry bees to indulge in honey. But their hidden strength lies in the bear’s ability to travel between the physical and spiritual worlds, a talent that is recognized all around the world by those who live in harmony with nature.
One way that bears access their inner world is during hibernation when they find a safe and womblike environment to let their physical bodies rest while their spirit travels. They travel through time, mentally digesting and learning from their experiences, but they also travel beyond the realm of mind and body into the dreamtime, where they are able to be rejuvenated by the source of all life. In this sacred space, they are connected to physical, mental, and spiritual realms all at once and can find the balance that they need to reenter the world.
Polar bears don’t enter a deep state of hibernation like other bears, but instead fluidly cross between realms on the physical plane as well the spiritual. Their reflective, translucent fur makes them difficult to see as they move across the frozen ice, blending into terrain covered with snow, making them seem like they are shimmering between dimensions. They move as easily in water as on land, agile and able in both worlds. They can remind us that we are one with our environment, inseparable from it. They teach us that while we can take time apart to connect with spirit, we can also carry that awareness with us as we move through life, making the spiritual indistinguishable from the material. By aligning ourselves with bear energy, we fully embody the best of all worlds.
Anxiety about Change
Anticipating the Good
Change will occur in almost every aspect of our lives, we can learn to embrace it while releasing the past with grace.
When we find ourselves going through any kind of change in our lives, our natural response may be to tense up on the physical, mental, or emotional level. We may not even notice that we have braced ourselves against a shift until we recognize the anxiety, mood swings, or general worried feeling toward the unknown that usually results. There are positive ways to move through change without pushing it away, however, or attempting to deny that it is happening. Since change will occur in almost every aspect of our lives, we can learn to make our response to it an affirmative one of anticipation, welcoming the new while releasing the past with grace.
One thing we can do is change our perspective by changing the labels we use to identify our feelings. We can reinterpret feelings of anxiety as the anxious butterflies that come with eager expectation. With this shift, we begin to look for the good that is on its way to us. Though we may only be able to imagine the possibilities, when we acknowledge that good is there for us to find, we focus our energy on joyful anticipation and bring it into our experience while allowing the feelings to carry us forward.
We can also choose to do a ceremony to allow our emotions to process. Every culture has created ceremonies to help people make the transition from one phase of life to the next. We can always create a ceremony too, perhaps by burning written thoughts to watch the smoke carry them away, thereby releasing them, or we can welcome new endeavors by planting flowers or trees. Some ceremonial activities such as a farewell send-off or housewarming party, we may do automatically. Society also has built-in ceremonies, like graduation and weddings, which may satisfy the need we feel. Sometimes the shift from denial to acceptance is all that is needed to ease our anxiety, allowing us to bring our memories with us as we move through nervousness to joyful excitement about the good to come.
A Self-Esteem Exercise
Having low self-esteem is a common issue and with some introspection you can start to loosen the grip of this negative thought pattern.
Our primary relationship in life is with our selves. No one else goes through every experience in life with us. We are our one permanent companion, yet we are often our worst critic. To remind ourselves of our magnificence, we can do this exercise: “Five Things I Like About Myself.”
Begin by writing down at least five things that you like about yourself. This is not the time to be modest. If you are having trouble coming up with a total of five items, you know that this exercise can really benefit you. Be sure to include more than your physical attributes on your list, since our bodies are only part of who we are. If you are still struggling with what to include on your list, think of what you like about your favorite people, because these traits are probably qualities that you possess too. Another way to complete your list is to think of five things you don’t like about yourself and find something about these traits that you can like.
Continue this process for a week, thinking of five new things you like about yourself everyday. At the end of the week, read the list aloud to yourself while standing in front of a mirror. Instead of looking for flaws to fix, allow the mirror to reflect your magnificence. You may feel silly about standing in front of a mirror and reading aloud a list of your admirable attributes, but it might just bring a smile to your face and change the way you see yourself. Remember, it is when you feel the most resistant that this exercise can benefit you the most. Because we are constantly looking at the world, instead of looking at ourselves, we don’t often see what’s magnificent about ourselves that others do. When we take the time to experience ourselves the way we would experience someone we love and admire, we become our best companion and supporter on life’s journey.
A Living Dwelling
Creating a Beautiful Home
Our conscious, loving intentions can literally transform the spaces in which we live, dispelling any lingering unharmonious energy.
The homes we occupy are seldom ideal. A space that satisfies our basic needs may nonetheless leave us wanting where location, décor, or style are concerned. Yet every home has the potential to be beautiful. When we fill our homes with love, we transcend worldly factors such as market value and design. Our conscious, loving intentions can literally transform the spaces in which we live, dispelling any lingering unharmonious energy and replacing it with an ethereal beauty that is felt rather than seen. Our homes become spiritual dwellings that feel soulful and alive. Regardless of their outward appearances, they radiate love, making all who enter, including ourselves, feel instantly welcome.
Turning a space into the beautiful outward expression of your inner warmth is as easy as projecting love into it. When your intentions are sincere, you can infuse the walls of your home with your energy, your emotional sensitivity, and your generosity of spirit, turning it into a haven of affection, joy, laughter, and togetherness. It is up to you, whether you want your personal spaces to be peaceful and quiet or lively and inspiring. Begin by cultivating awareness within yourself. This will allow you to see your home as an integral part of your existence rather than somewhere you simply return to at the end of each day. Consider how you relate to each element of your space, and remind yourself that every room in your home can serve a purpose in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Finally, lovingly thank each room for providing for your needs. As you become more mindful of the manner in which your home contributes to your well-being, you will discover that, more and ! more, you want to love and be loved by it.
Appearance and other superficial qualities can be deceiving. An aesthetically beautiful home can prove unwelcoming. And a home that seems mundane in every characteristic can be as comforting and cozy as a beloved relative or friend. When you nurture and care for your home as if it were a loved one, it will absorb your tender intentions and project a love so touching you will soon come to feel a great affection for it.
A balanced lifestyle is simply a state of being in which one has time and energy for obligations and pleasures.
Like pieces of a puzzle, the many different aspects of your being come together to form the person that you are. You work and play, rest and expend energy, commune with your body and soul, exalt in joy, and feel sorrow. Balance is the state that you achieve when all of the aspects of your life and self are in harmony. Your life force flows in a state of equilibrium because nothing feels out of sync. While balance is necessary to have a satisfying, energetic, and joyful life, only you can determine what balance means to you.
Achieving balance requires that you assess what is important to you. The many demands of modern life can push us to make choices that can put us off balance and have a detrimental effect on our habits, relationships, health, and career. In creating a balanced lifestyle, you must ascertain how much time and energy you are willing to devote to the different areas of your life. To do so, imagine that your life is a house made up of many rooms. Draw this house, give each part of your life its own room, and size each room according to the amount of importance you assign to that aspect of your life. You can include family, solitude, activities that benefit others, healthy eating, indulgences, exercise and working on self. You may discover that certain elements of your life take up an inordinate amount of time, energy, or effort and leave you with few resources to nurture the other aspects of your life. You may want to spend less time on these activities and more on the ones that! fulfill you.
A balanced lifestyle is simply a state of being in which one has time and energy for obligations and pleasures, as well as time to live well and in a gratifying way. With its many nuances, balance can be a difficult concept to integrate into your life. Living a balanced existence, however, can help you attain a greater sense of happiness, health, and fulfillment.
Hard Learned Lessons
We all have bad days and within these days is usually a gem of a gift waiting to be opened.
We all have days from time to time when it feels like the world is against us or that the chaos we are experiencing will never end. One negative circumstance seems to lead to another. You may wonder, on a bad day, whether anything in your life will ever go right again. But a bad day, like any other day, can be a gift. Having a bad day can show you that it is time to slow down, change course, or lighten up. A bad day can help you glean wisdom you might otherwise have overlooked or discounted. Bad days can certainly cause you to experience uncomfortable feelings you would prefer to avoid, yet a bad day may also give you a potent means to learn about yourself.
You may consider a bad day to be one where you’ve missing an important meeting because your car stalled, the dryer broke, and you received a piece of very bad news earlier in the morning. Multiple misfortunes that take place one after the other can leave us feeling vulnerable and intensely cognizant of our fragility. But bad days can only have a long-term negative effect on us if we let them. It is better to ask yourself what you can learn from these kinds of days. The state of your bad day may be an indicator that you need to stay in and hibernate or let go of your growing negativity.
Bad days contribute to the people we become. Though we may feel discouraged and distressed on our bad days, a bad day can teach us patience and perseverance. It is important to remember that your attitude drives your destiny and that one negative experience does not have to be the beginning of an ongoing stroke of bad luck. A bad day is memorable because it is one day among many good days – otherwise, we wouldn’t even bother to acknowledge it as a bad day. Know too, that everybody has bad days, you are not alone, the world is not against you. Tomorrow is guaranteed to be a brighter day.
Big Steps On Life's Path
Being Aware is the First Step
There is freedom that comes with awareness, because with it comes the opportunity to make a choice.
Life is a journey comprised of many steps on our personal path that takes us down a winding road of constant evolution. And each day, we are provided with a myriad of opportunities that can allow us to transform into our next best selves. One moment we are presented with an opportunity to react differently when yet another someone in our life rubs us the wrong way; on another day we may find ourselves wanting to walk away from a particular circumstance but are not sure if we can. Eventually, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut that we can never seem to get out of. We may even make the same choices over and over again because we don’t know how to choose otherwise. Rather than moving us forward, our personal paths may take us in a seemingly never-ending circle where our actions and choices lead us nowhere but to where we’ve already been. It is during these moments that awareness can be the first step to change.
Awareness is when we are able to realize what we are doing. We observe ourselves, noticing our reactions, actions, and choices as if we were a detached viewer. Awareness is the first step to change because we can’t make a change unless we are aware that one needs to be made in the first place. We can then begin understanding why we are doing what we are doing. Afterward, it becomes difficult not to change because we are no longer asleep to the truth behind our behaviors. We also begin to realize that, just as much as we are the root source behind the causes for our behaviors, we are also the originator for any changes that we want to happen.
There is a freedom that comes with awareness. Rather than thinking that we are stuck in a repetitive cycle where there is no escape, we begin to see that we very much play a hand in creating our lives. Whether we are aware of them or not, our behaviors and choices are always ours to make. Our past and our present no longer have to dictate our future when we choose to be aware. We are then free to move beyond our old limits, make new choices, and take new actions. With awareness, our paths can’t help but wind us forward in our lives while paving the way for new experiences and new ways of being. It is through awareness that we can continue to consciously evolve.
Avoiding the Center
Hovering Around the Sun
Quiet time each day is so important, but many are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to be in stillness.
It’s funny to imagine our lives as something we spend a lot of time avoiding, because it seems like that would be impossible to do. Our lives consist of everything we engage in, from showering to sleeping, but also a lot of busy work that distracts us and keeps us from looking at our lives. Experiencing our life from the inside means taking time each day to simply be alone and quiet in the presence of our soul. Many of us are so out of practice that it’s almost unnerving to have a moment to ourselves. As a result, we may have stopped trying to carve out that time to take a seat at the center of our lives.
One of the reasons it can be uncomfortable to sit with ourselves is because when we do, we tend to open ourselves to an inner voice, which might question the way we’re living or some of the choices we’re making. Sometimes the voice reminds us of our secret, inner yearnings, dreams we thought we had forgotten. When we already feel overwhelmed by our busy schedules, the idea of hearing this voice can be exhausting. However, its reflections are the chords that connect us to our authentic selves, and they are the very things that make our lives worth living. When we continually avoid connecting with our life, we risk losing out on the very purpose of our existence.
To begin the process of being more present and less absent in your life, you might want to set aside just a few minutes each day to simply sit with yourself. This doesn't mean watching a movie or reading a book, but taking time each day for self-examination to avoid the avoidance, to be with yourself in an open way. After a while, you may start to enjoy this part of the day so much that you make less busy work for yourself, so that you can spend more time at the center of your own life, rather than hovering like a planet around the sun.
Asking for What You Want
Cocreating with the Universe
We all have the ability to live our dreams, we must simply ask and respond with the appropriate action that is asked of us.
Most people don’t always fully realize that we all have within us the ability to cocreate our lives with the universe. So many of us are taught to accept what we are given and not even to dream of anything more. But our hopes and dreams are the universe whispering to us, planting an idea of what’s possible while directing us toward the best use of our gifts. The universe truly wants to give us our hearts’ desires, but we need to be clear about what they are and ask for them.
To ask for something does not mean to beg or plead from a place of lack or unworthiness. It’s like placing an order—we don’t need to beg the salesperson for what we want or prove to them that we deserve to have it. It is their job to give us what we ask for; we only have to tell them what we want. Once we have a clear vision of what we desire, we simply step into the silent realm where all possibilities exist and let our desires be known. Whatever methods we use to become still, it is important that we find the quiet space between our thoughts.
From that still and quiet place, we can announce our intentions to the pure energy of creation. By imagining all the details from every angle, including scent, color, and how it would feel to have it, we design our dreams to our specifications. Similar to dropping a pebble into a pond, the ripples created by our thoughts travel quickly from this place of stillness, echoing out into the world to align and orchestrate all the necessary details to bring our desires into manifestation. Before leaving this wonderful space to come back to the world, release any attachment to the outcome and express gratitude. By doing this daily, we focus our thoughts and our energy while regularly mingling with the essence that makes it possible to build the life of our dreams.
Spiritualizing the Planet
As we ascend, we gain consciousness of the more subtle aspects of our being and begin to connect with all that is.
We are one with the cosmos whether we realize it or not. Realizing it, though, quickens our spiritual energy and allows us access to higher realms. In those higher realms lies the awareness that we are more than just finite physical beings living one life in one place at one point in time. Connecting with this awareness is to awaken to the truth and take a step forward, and upward, on our soul’s journey. This upward movement is known as ascension because the more we remember who we are and embody that truth, the higher our energy vibrates; we ascend up the scale from the gross physical plane to the subtle spiritual plane. As we ascend, we gain consciousness of the more subtle aspects of our being, with the ultimate outcome being a complete identification with the light body, an experience of unification with the cosmos.
As you look around you, you will see that many people are not even interested in these ideas. Others are open and paying attention. Still others have devoted their lives to deepening their understanding of the truth. All these people are on the path of ascension, but they will ascend at different rates. Each soul chooses its own path. The more devoted a person is to remembering and being guided by spirit, the more quickly the soul will ascend. These people are at the forefront of an important process of raising the energetic vibration of the whole planet. The earth, made of the same energy we are, is undergoing this shift along with us. This evolutionary process, while seemingly chaotic at times, is as natural as the process that unfolds a flower from a seed and we are all part of it.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the earth too is on her own ascension path as she is sentient. The best way to support this process in yourself and in the world is simply to relax and be open to its unfolding. Listen to your inner guidance, and let it guide you to the path that brings your heart the most joy.
If we can remember that our response to others is important, we can realize that trust and forgiveness go hand in hand.
In life there will always be times when we are affected by the actions of another person. When this happens, we often receive an apology. More often than not we say, “It’s alright,” or “ It’s okay,” and by saying this we are allowing, accepting, and giving permission for the behavior to happen again. When we say “thank you,” or “I accept your apology,” we are forced to sit in our feelings rather than ignore them.
There are many of us who feel that it is easier to brush off how we really feel than to express our discomfort with something that has happened to us. While this may initially seem like the best thing to do, what it really does is put us into an unending pattern of behavior; since we are not honest with another person, we continue the cycle of letting them overstep our emotional limits time and time again. By doing this we place ourselves in the position of victim. We can put an end to this karmic chain by first acknowledging to the other person that we accept their request for forgiveness; often a simple “thank you” is enough. To truly create a greater sense of harmony in our relationship, however, we need to gently, and with compassion, express our innermost concerns about what has transpired. By taking a deep breath and calling upon the deepest parts of our spirit, we can usually find the right words to say and verbalize them in a way that lets the other person recognize ! the consequences of what they have done.
If we can remember that our response to others is important, we can begin to realize that trust and forgiveness go hand in hand. And when we react in a way that engenders a greater amount of honesty and candor, we will establish a more positive and empowering way of being and interacting others.
Balancing Self with Family Life
It is vital to the energy of your spirit and the energy of your family unit that you take time for yourself each day to balance and center.
Many of us have a hard time balancing taking care of ourselves with taking care of our family responsibilities. For people with young children, this can be especially challenging, but even people without children have obligations to care for extended family, partners, pets, and the home in which they live. It’s easy to lose track of our own needs as we give ourselves to the people, pets, and places we love. However, it is essential to their well-being that we take care of ourselves, filling our own wells with water so that we have something to offer when we return home each day.
It is easy to get caught up in the demands of home life because they never stop. There is always one more thing you can do, another dish in the sink, a counter that needs wiping, or a person who needs a ride somewhere. If you don’t set some boundaries, you will find yourself on an endless journey of housework and doing for others. Eventually, you will probably feel drained and out of touch with your inner life force. Instead of waiting for this to happen, integrate self-care into your daily schedule. Even Buddha insisted that he have one hour completely to himself every day. There are times when even that will not be possible—for example, with a new baby or a sick relative. At times like this, retreating inward energetically can be a lifesaver. You can always find five minutes to close your eyes and breathe consciously. You may even be able to meditate.
Most of the time, though, it is possible to set aside a full hour for yourself each day. In addition, scheduling a longer interval of time, perhaps on a weekly basis, can really help to restore your energy. Get a massage or go to a movie or out with a friend. Taking time to experience the world outside of your home makes returning home all the more wonderful. In the same way, taking care of yourself is a natural complement to taking care of your home and family.
Parts of the One
Ants and Bees, a Metaphor
We can learn a lot from watching ants and bees living in community and working for the greater good.
When we see ants and bees out in the world, we often see just one, but this belies the reality of their situation. More than any other species, ants and bees function as parts of a whole. They cannot and do not survive as individuals; they survive as members of a group, and the group’s survival is the implicit goal of each individual’s life. There is no concept of life outside the group, so even to use the word individual is somewhat misleading. Often, humans, on the other hand, strongly value individuality and often negatively associate ants and bees with a lack of independence. And yet, if we look closer at these amazing creatures, we can learn valuable lessons about how much we can achieve when we band together with others to work for a higher purpose.
Most ants and bees have highly specified roles within their communities, some of which are biologically dictated, and they work within the confines of their roles without complaint, never wishing to be something other than what they are. In this way, they symbolize self-knowledge and humility. They also display selfless service as they work for the common good. In many ways, they are like the individual cells of one body, living and dying as necessary to preserve the integrity of the whole body, not to protect themselves as individuals. In this way, ants personify the ability to see beyond one’s small self to one’s place within the greater whole, and the ability to serve this whole selflessly.
Ants and bees can inspire us to fully own what we have to offer and to put it to use in the pursuit of a goal that will benefit all of humanity, whether it be raising consciousness about the environment, feeding the hungry, or raising a happy child. Each one of us has certain talents we were born with, as well as skills we have acquired. When we apply these gifts, knowing that we are one part of a greater organism working to better the whole world, we honor and implement the wisdom of ants and bees.
Finding Answers Within
You Have All the Answers Within You
When you realize that you always have the answers within yourself, you can stop searching outside of yourself.
Many of us seek the answers to life’s questions by looking outside of ourselves and trying to glean advice from the people around us. But as each of us is unique, with our own personal histories, our own sense of right and wrong, and our own way of experiencing the world that defines our realities, looking to others for our answers is only partially helpful. The answers to our personal questions can be most often found by looking within. When you realize that you always have access to the part of you that always knows what you need and is meant to act as your inner compass, you can stop searching outside of yourself. If you can learn to hear, trust, and embrace the wisdom that lives within you, you will be able to confidently navigate your life.
Trusting your inner wisdom may be awkward at first, particularly if you grew up around people who taught you to look to others for answers. We each have exclusive access to our inner knowing. All we have to do is remember how to listen. Remember to be patient as you relearn how to hear, receive, and follow your own guidance. If you are unsure about whether following your inner wisdom will prove reliable, you may want to think of a time when you did trust your own knowing and everything worked out. Recall how the answers came to you, how they felt in your body as you considered them, and what happened when you acted upon this guidance. Now, recall a time when you didn’t trust yourself and the results didn’t work out as you had hoped. Trusting your own guidance can help you avoid going against what you instinctively know is right for you.
When you second guess yourself and go against what you know to be your truth, you can easily go off course because you are no longer following your inner compass. By looking inside yourself for the answers to your life’s questions, you are consulting your best guide. Only you can know the how’s and why’s of your life. The answers that you seek can be found when you start answering your own questions.
Combating Emotional Vampires
From the Combating Emotional Vampires On-Line Course
by Dr. Judith Orloff
The following is an excerpt from the "Combating Emotional Vampires" on-line course. If you would like to take the entire course, click here.
Relationships are always an energy exchange. To stay feeling our best, we must ask ourselves: Who gives us energy? Who saps it? It's important to be surrounded by supportive, heart-centered people who make us feel safe and secure. It's equally important to pinpoint the emotional vampires, who, whether they intend to or not, leech our energy.
To protect your sensitivity, it's imperative to name and combat these emotional vampires. They're everywhere: coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends. In Energy Psychiatry I've treated a revolving door of patients who've been hard-hit by drainers--truly a mental health epidemic that conventional medicine doesn't see. I'm horrified by how many of these "emotionally walking wounded" (ordinarily perceptive, intelligent individuals) have become resigned to chronic anxiety or depression. Why the blind spot? Most of us haven't been educated about draining people or how to emancipate ourselves from their clutches, requisite social skills for everyone desiring freedom. Emotional draining is a touchy subject. We don't know how to tactfully address our needs without alienating others. The result: We get tongue-tied, or destructively passive. We ignore the SOS from our gut that screams, "Beware!" Or, quaking in our boots, we're so afraid of the faux pas of appearing "impolite" that w! e become martyrs in lieu of being respectfully assertive. We don't speak out because we don't want to be seen as "difficult" or uncaring.
Vampires do more than drain our physical energy. The super-malignant ones can make you believe you're an unworthy, unlovable wretch who doesn't deserve better. The subtler species inflict damage that's more of a slow burn. Smaller digs here and there can make you feel bad about yourself such as, "Dear, I see you've put on a few pounds" or "It's not lady-like to interrupt." In a flash, they've zapped you by prodding areas of shaky self-worth.
This is my credo for vampires: Their antics are unacceptable; you must develop a successful plan for coping with them. I deeply believe in the merciful message of The Lord's Prayer to "forgive people their trespasses," but I'm also a proponent of preventing the unconscious or mean-spirited from trespassing against us. Taking a stand against draining people is a form of self-care and canny communication that you must practice to give your freedom legs.
What turns someone into an emotional vampire? First, a psychological reason: children often reflexively mimic their parents' most unflattering traits. A self-absorbed father can turn you into a self-absorbed son. Early modeling has impact. Studies of Holocaust survivors reveal that many became abusive parents themselves. The second explanation involves subtle energy. I've observed that childhood trauma--mistreatment, loss, parental alcoholism, illness--can weaken a person's energy field. This energy leakage may condition those with such early wounds to draw on the vitality of others to compensate; it's not something most are aware of. Nevertheless, the effects can be extreme. Visualize an octopus-like tendril extending from their energy field and glomming onto yours. Your intuition may register this as sadness, anger, fatigue, or a cloying, squirrelly feeling. The degree of mood change or physical reaction may vary. A vampire's effects can stun like a sonic blast or make you! slowly wilt. But it's the rare drainer that sets out to purposely enervate you. The majority act unconsciously, oblivious to being an emotional drain.
Let me tell you the secret of how a vampire operates so you can outsmart one. A vampire goes in for the kill by stirring up your emotions. Pushing your buttons throws you off center, which renders you easier to drain. Of all the emotional types, empaths are often the most devastated. However, certain emotional states increase everyone's vulnerability. I myself am most susceptible to emotional vampires when I feel desperate, tired, or disempowered. Here are some others:
- Low self-esteem
- A victim mentality
- Fear of asserting yourself
- Addiction to people-pleasing
When encountering emotional vampires, see what you can learn too. It's your choice. You can simply feel tortured, resentful, and impotent. Or, as I try to do, ask yourself, "How can this interchange help me grow?" Every nanosecond of life, good, bad, or indifferent, is a chance to become emotionally freer, enlarge the heart. If we're to have any hope of breaking war-mongering patterns, we must each play a part. As freedom fighters, strive to view vampires as opportunities to enlist your highest self and not be a sucker for negativity. Then you'll leave smelling like a rose, even with Major-League Draculas.
For more information visit Combating Emotional Vampires On-Line Course
The Start of Change
Breaking Family Cycles
Breaking the chains of family cycles can be done, and it only takes one person to step and take action.
It is easy to believe that in leaving our childhood homes and embarking upon the journey of adulthood, we have effectively removed ourselves from harmful and self-perpetuating familial patterns. In looking closely at ourselves, however, we may discover that our behaviors and beliefs are still those that were impressed upon us during our youth by our parents, grandparents, and the generations that preceded them. We may find ourselves unconsciously perpetuating cycles of the previous generations, such as fear of having enough, not showing affection, and secrecy patterns. Yet the transmission of negative patterns from one generation to the next is not inevitable. It is possible to become the endpoint at which negative family cycles that have thrived for generations are exhausted and can exert their influence no longer. Breaking the pattern is a matter of overcoming those values imprinted upon us long ago in order to replace them with pure love, tolerance, and conscious awarenes! s.
Even if you have struggled with the cumulative effects of family cycles that were an expression of established modes of living and a reflection of the strife your ancestors were forced to endure, you can still liberate yourself from the effects of your family history. The will to divest yourself of old, dark forms of familial energy and carry forth a new loving energy may come in the form of an epiphany. You may one day simply realize that certain aspects of your early life have negatively affected your health, happiness, and ability to evolve as an individual. Or you may find that in order to transcend long-standing patterns of limiting beliefs, irrational behavior, and emotional stiltedness, you have to question your values and earnestly examine how your family has impacted your personality. Only when you understand how family cycles have influenced you can you gain freedom from those cycles.
In order to truly change, you must give yourself permission to change. Breaking family patterns is in no way an act of defiance or betrayal. It is important that you trust yourself implicitly when determining the behaviors and beliefs that will help you overwrite the generation-based cyclical value system that limited your individual potential. Many people are on the earth at this time to break family cycles, for all of you are true pioneers. In breaking negative family cycles, you will discover that your ability to express your feelings and needs grows exponentially and that you will embark upon a journey toward greater well-being that can positively impact generations to come.
Animals in Nature
Messengers of Direction
Animals in nature always have a message for us, start noticing what animals show up in your life and when.
Animals share our planet with us, but experience it differently—each has its own abilities and gifts that allow them to interact successfully with the natural world. Since we are merely one manifestation of the universe’s energy in action, when we feel the need for direction we can turn to animals in nature for guidance. Animals can show us different ways to approach and deal with our challenges.
As we hold a question in mind, we can begin to pay attention to the animal activity around us. Staring out a window we may notice a bird soaring high in the sky, showing us how to look at our situation from a greater distance. If we don’t get an immediate answer, we can remember that the universe has its own perfect timing that doesn’t heed the ticking of the clock. Instead, we can release our question into the universe’s care, and then trust that an animal messenger will carry inspiration our way. In the meantime, we align ourselves with the universe’s rhythm—opening, humbling ourselves, and shifting our perceptions so that at the perfect time we will be ready. Then, even weeks later, the sight of a small bird hopping from branch to branch may signal for us to use a talent other than our greatest strength and to take small leaps rather than fly over details. A squirrel bounding across an open expanse of grass to stash its latest prize may remind us to check our favorite hid! ing places for forgotten treasure. Even if we don’t see actual animals, their representations may hold messages; whether we see them in a shape in the clouds, a picture, or a show on television, their symbolic meaning is the same.
Animals are closer to the rhythms and cycles of nature and have fewer distractions from it than humans do. That is why they are the perfect messengers when we are in need of advice. Just by being themselves they remind us of the wisdom of the universe, and that all answers are available to us when we reconnect with our source and with those who know how to be nurtured by it.
The Upside of Irritation
Things that Annoy Us
There will always be factors and people that we cannot control; how we respond can determine the quality of our lives.
There are many stories of spiritual masters embracing the presence of an annoying student in their community. There is even one story that documents a teacher paying an irritating person to live among his students. From an everyday perspective, this is difficult to comprehend. We generally work hard to avoid people and things that we find annoying so they don’t bother us.
From a deeper spiritual perspective, however, irritation can be an important teacher and indicator that we are making progress on our path. Being able to remain centered and awake even when we feel uncomfortable is much more impressive than doing so in an environment where everything is to our liking. No matter how good we are at controlling our circumstances, there will always be factors and people that we cannot control. How we respond to these experiences to a great degree determines the quality of our lives. The goal of spiritual development is not to learn to control our environment—which is more of an ego-driven desire. And while having some measure of control over our external reality is important, it is when we are confronted with a person or situation that irritates us and we can choose not to react that we know have made progress spiritually. It is when we have mastered our internal reality that we will have become the masters of our lives.
The more we try to eliminate annoyances, instead of learning to handle them gracefully, the further we get from developing the qualities that come with spiritual growth, such as patience, tolerance, and acceptance. It is often in the presence of people and experiences we find annoying that we have an opportunity to develop these qualities. Fortunately for most of us, our lives offer an abundance of opportunities to practice and cultivate these traits.
A Warm Refuge
by Madisyn Taylor
Our best friends are a warm refuge in which we feel free to be fully ourselves.
By the time we reach adulthood, many of us have had the good fortune to have at least one best friend. If we have moved around or changed our life situation repeatedly, we may be lucky enough to have had several. The best friend relationship is often our earliest intimate peer relationship, and it can be a source of great warmth and connection throughout our lives. The details of best friendship change as we grow up and grow older, but the heart of it remains the same. Our best friends are a warm refuge in which we feel free to be fully ourselves, to share our deepest secrets, to rest when we are tired, to celebrate when we are happy—a place in which we feel utterly welcome to give and receive that most precious of all gifts, love.
Most intimate relationships hit bumps from time to time, and one of the hallmarks of an enduring best friendship is its ability to ride out the turbulence and remain intact even as it faces changes. Our best friends are those who manage to love us through all of our transitions, as we do the same for them. We find ways to embrace and appreciate the differences that set us apart and offer love and support no matter what. We allow each other to be exactly as we are at a given moment, even as we allow each other to change over time. In this way, best friends sometimes feel like family. We know we will stick together regardless of where our individual paths lead.
We may be on the phone with our best friends every day, or we may not have spoken for a year, yet we know that our bond will be strong and immediate when we do connect. This bond ties us together even when we are apart and draws us blissfully back into the warm refuge of each other’s company when our paths bring us together again.
by Madisyn Taylor
When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment and transcend stress.
Many people might be surprised to think of laughter as a form of meditation. Yet not only is laughing meditation one of the simplest forms of meditation, but also it is a very powerful one. The physical act of laughing is one of the few actions involving the body, emotions, and the soul. When we laugh, we give ourselves over to the immediacy of the present moment. We also are able to momentarily transcend minor physical and mental stresses. Practiced in the morning, laughing meditation can lend a joyful quality to the entire day. Practiced in the evening, laughing meditation is a potent relaxant that has been known to inspire pleasant dreams. Laughter also can help open our eyes to previously unnoticed absurdities that can make life seem less serious.
There are three stages to mindful laughter. Each stage can last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The first stage involves stretching your body like a cat and breathing deeply. Your stretch should start at the hands and feet before you move through the rest of your body. Stretch out the muscles in your face by yawning and making silly faces. The second stage of the meditation is pure laughter. Imagine a humorous situation, remember funny jokes, or think about how odd it is to be laughing by yourself. When the giggles start to rise, let them. Let the laughter ripple through your belly and down into the soles of your feet. Let the laughter lead to physical movement. Roll on the floor, if you have to, and keep on laughing until you stop. The final stage of the meditation is one of silence. Sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breath.
Laughter brings with it a host of positive effects that operate on both the physical and mental levels. It is also fun, expressive, and a way to release tension. Learn to laugh in the present moment, and you’ll find that joy is always there.
Unblocking the Ally
by Madisyn Taylor
Anger can easily become our go-to emotion; to remedy, start noticing when and why you get angry.
Sometimes when we feel anger, it is coming from a deep place that demands acknowledgment and expression. At these times, it is important that we find healthy ways to honor our anger, remembering how dangerous it is to repress it. However, anger can also become a habit, our go-to emotion whenever things go wrong. Often this is because, for whatever reason, we feel more comfortable expressing anger than we do other emotions, like sadness. It can also be that getting angry gives us the impression that we’ve done something about our problem. In these cases, our habitual anger is inhibiting both our ability to express our other emotions and to take action in our lives.
If it’s true that anger is functioning this way in your life, the first thing you might want to try is to notice when you get angry. You might begin to see a pattern of some kind. For example, you could notice that it is always your first response or that it comes up a lot in one particular situation. If the pattern doesn’t become clear right away, you could try keeping a journal about when you get angry and see if you can find any underlying meaning. The good thing about keeping a journal is that you can explore your anger more deeply in it—from examining who in your family of origin expressed a lot of anger to how you feel when you encounter anger in others. This kind of awareness can be a formidable agent of transformation.
Anger can be a powerful ally, since it is filled with energy that we can harness and use to create change in the world. It is one of the most cathartic emotions, and it can also be a very effective cleanser of the emotional system. However, when it becomes a habit, it actually loses its power to transform and becomes an obstacle to growth. Identifying the role anger plays in your life and restoring it to its proper function can bring new energy and expansiveness to your emotional life.
An Invitation to Love
by Madisyn Taylor
A meditation with your angels can provide a new gentleness into your normal meditation routine.
Though your host of spirit guides encompasses many diverse beings, all of which willingly watch over you, meditating with angels can be a uniquely insightful experience. The angels stationed at your side are both powerful and knowledgeable—they possess a limitless understanding of your needs and desires, your strengths and weaknesses, and your purpose. However, angels take an active part in our lives only when invited to do so. Meditation allows you to make contact with your angels and lovingly request that they participate actively in your day-to-day life.
To begin, retreat to a solitary place where you won’t be distracted by concerns. Incense and candlelight may aid you in achieving a meditative state but are not necessary. However, laying an image of an angel, angel statue, or item symbolizing your angels before you can focus your thoughts. Sit comfortably, breathe deeply, and let yourself relax. When you feel peaceful, invite your angels from the highest of light to sit with you as you meditate. Mentally repeat your request and reiterate that this time together is important to you. Then, in your mind’s eye, visualize a bright-white light floating above you. As you breathe, draw this light first into the crown of your head and then into the whole of your physical self. Allow this light to spread through your arms and hands, your core, and your lower body. Repeat this integration of illumination with a violet light.
Once again, ask your angels to be with you. Let the stillness surrounding you enter your soul, and open your heart to your angel guides. If they wish to communicate a message, they will do so now. Allow them to wrap their wings around you and infuse you with their bountiful love. Breathe them in as you did the light. As the meditation draws to a close, you may feel a presence, fluttering wings, or billowing fabric, or you may see an angel in your mind’s eye. Thank them for providing you with love and light, and being with you as you meditated. If you don’t sense or feel anything, there is no cause for worry—you can be certain your angels are with you. Don’t be surprised if you start to see signs throughout the day that your angels are near, perhaps a feather at your doorstep. As you practice this meditation, you will become increasingly adept at recognizing when your angels are near and sensing their presence.