Cultivate kindness

Taming an unruly mind is not unlike training an unruly dog.  Patience, persistence, determination, intention and love are all included.  It’s most effective to leave behind the all-too-human propensity towards self-criticism, which doesn’t contribute anything valuable to the process of gaining mastery over our minds.  The instructions have been available for eons –   the ancients (think Buddha and Padmasambhava) codified a system for inner peace that has proven to be challenging to us modern humans.

In this universe of polarities, right and wrong, good and bad, up and down mour surface situations continue to change dramatically sometimes from one day to the next.  Technological “advances” seem to have had the opposite effect on the human spirit.  Addicted to “devices” many people do not seem to be aware of the world around them, bringing it all down to a tiny screen on a tiny electronic box, called a “Smart Phone”.  Those nuggets of magnetism are miraculous, no doubt, and become more so every day.  How is this possible?  The human mind is also miraculous,  unrelentingly imagining then creating improvements, modifications and changes to the way things function.

The down side of all this activity is the need for a busy mind.  It has come to be called ADD, attention deficit disorder, which is replicating mightily these days – and is perhaps the siren song of our civilization.  It seems that most of us have forgotten how to sit quietly and contemplate.  Here is the challenge!  There is a lot of evidence that a wealth of material possessions does not bring happiness or deep peace.  In fact, clearing clutter has become a best selling idea, only made possible by the overabundance of non-essential items that tend to collect when we have expendable income.  Clearing our homes of excess things doesn’t necessary clear our minds, but interestingly the processes can be parallel in their unfolding.  What this means to me is – clearing mental clutter is a process of examining thoughts and choosing whether to turn the volume up or down on them.  Recycle, compost or just donate to the landfill, but get rid of unhelpful thoughts!

It’s a good start to simply ask yourself these basic questions:  is this thought helpful and supportive, is it relevant and useful, and does it make me feel good?  The best test of a thought is how our body responds when we think it. We all know what it feels like to have the white hot heat of anger, or some other uncomfortable feeling grab us and wrestle us to the symbolic mat.  In our discomfort it is easy to lash out – causing harm to those we love.  It is a sign of maturity and the  wondrous benefit of effective inner work to be able to choose wisely under emotional duress.  It’s a work in progress for sure, it’s certainly more desirable to my mind than remaining are willing mired in old ways of conflict and abuse.

Taking a stand in our lives to shift our relations and learn to truly love is, in my belief, the one true path in life.  Other things matter little in comparison, and the I’m sure that at the end of our lives what really matters is how much love we shared.  There was a bumper sticker going around “he who dies with the most toys wins”.  Nothing, to my mind could be farther from the truth.  Choose love, dear ones.

 

Grief and Guilt

“Every feeling fully felt leads to Love” — Grace of Mt. Shasta

I lost my Mother last week, which as everyone knows is a huge transition, and even though I know it was her time, I still feel grief arising, in waves that sometimes build and sometimes ebb quietly away.  Occasionally the grief has a quality of extreme pain, other times it is soft and warm.  I can still hear my Mom’s voice, speaking my name and wonder how long that will last.  I saved her final voice message to me on my computer, but alas that computer died and with it – the message… letting go is the message, while remembering to give thanks for her long life, and for the time we had to mend our fences and open our hearts to each other.

What is the pain of grief?  My experience is that when grief is allowed, invited, even welcomed that it is a portal to exaltation, to the rainbow realm, the living grace of this world.  I have experienced this and so speak from there.  But why then is grief sometimes so crippling and painful?  The difference, I believe, is guilt.  When guilt sneakily attaches itself to grief, huge pain erupts.  Thoughts such as   “If only I had….” or “why didn’t I…” begin to surface and with them comes enormous pain.

I once read a really interesting book – Power vs. Force and the statement made in that book is that our feelings have vibrations.  Guilt and shame, say the author, are the lowest vibration.  Lower vibrations (below love) are uncomfortable and make us sick, they bring “dis-ease”.  That means that feelings of guilt are necessarily unhealthy for us and our close ones.  How do we let them go?  Ahhhhh, this is the big work!

I love the word “awareness” and perhaps I overuse it these days – but it does seem that awareness is the first step towards change.  After all it is impossible to make a conscious change from an unconscious place.  That seems obvious but is truly worth consideration, since taking the first big step of awareness often brings pain.  In order to face our uncomfortable habits, thought patterns and neuroses takes courage.  Heaps of courage.  I for one have a hard time pricking my finger for a little blood sample, why should I want to poke at the demons of my unconscious wounding?  Well, awakening the sleeping demons means we will need to tussle with them but let’s for one moment feel confident that we have tools to overcome the challenges of our inner lives.  I know we do!  You got this!  Let’s do it!

Ok so the guilt has been brought to the surface.  What is the way to shift and change unconscious patterns?  It is remarkably similar to the way we change our bodies – it takes repetition.  But unlike building physical strength with emotional re-programming it takes repetition with emotion.  Finding the old thoughts and judgements that have created the guilt with us is a huge step, and the painful emotions that are stirred by those thoughts can shift in an instant with new more supportive thoughts.  Feeling deeply into the new thoughts creates a new way to respond and the old patterns can drop away, recycle, compost and reappear as grace.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again – this is no easy task.  I have noticed that when I need to face something uncomfortable in myself that all the little things undone around the house immediately becoming compelling – the vacuum cleaner beckons, the deep cleaning of the closet must happen – on and on the procrastination continues.  It takes huge devotion to make space to sit and contemplate.  Right now, in the middle of the Shelter at Home I hope that you have found the time and space for your inner life.  The world right now is a huge metaphor for what is needed in our inner lives…just be with yourself.   Begin Within… Again…

 

Exiting the Chrysalis

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I have spent countless hours observing caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies.  I have witnessed the challenge, the risk and the glory of metamorphosis.  Each transition is difficult – when the caterpillar hatches it is fine food for birds, lizards and other critters.  As they grow into adulthood, the caterpillar needs to find a safe place to cocoon.  This is not an easy search for such a small being, and there are many hazards on the way.  Once again, they can be eaten by birds, or other creatures, crushed by man or animal or run out of time in their quest.

When the caterpillar finds a suitable place (or unsuitable, time will tell, a Monarch caterpillar once made its chrysalis on a hinge and almost made it until an unwitting guest closed the door… sadly…) I digress – It attaches to the wall.  It needs to hold on in order to let go. That always tickles me to say, paradoxes are my thing!  Then comes the intense part as the caterpillar’s body seems to dissolve.  Sometimes they just don’t make it through this process, it can’t be easy.  If they do make it then they become another kind of being.  A being stopped in time.  Some of them have little faces, others look like dangly jade earrings but all of them are specialized and precise.  For in some period of time, from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, the butterfly will emerge.

The monarch butterfly emerging is a miracle of nature I’m overawed to have witnessed many times.  As the jade green chrysalis approaches hatching time, the skin begins to become transparent and the butterfly inside is seen as a kind of origami puzzle.  When it breaks out of the cocoon it is a fragile being.  It takes time to dry off its wings and is very vulnerable for even a gust of wind can knock it to the ground and its wings will deform.  They can’t take off yet so are at the mercy of any nearby bird.  And yet, many of them flutter happily (I project) into the sunlight.  Butterflies can’t fly in cold weather so they are always beacons of springtime.

Once they are aloft they have two activities to fulfill.  They sip nectar and aid in pollination as a side effect.  They make love and procreate.  I once watched a monarch butterfly couple do their coupling for almost an hour.  When it was complete, he (I imagine, perhaps wrongly) lifted her up and flew her up to a branch where they rested for a while.  It’s a short life, but valuable for sure.

Why am I rambling about this right now?  We’re quarantined to be safe from the corona virus, we’re watching our world come to a standstill.  We are cocooned.  It is a challenge perhaps the biggest challenge of our short lives.  Life, as we imagined it was, has ceased to be.  We have let go, collectively and individually.  We have let go of activity for the most part.  We’re not allowed to gather or recreate together.  It’s very strange.  It seems unnatural.  For those of us who have meditated and vision quested it is not difficult but most people have spent their lives avoiding being alone and quiet and listening to their inner voice.

What’s next?  I imagine us, like the butterfly, emerging slowly from this cocoon.  Taking it one tiny step at a time, into the sunlight.  Everything has shifted and I hope that we can collectively make more loving choices as we recreate our systems to better serve humanity and our ecosystem.  There are some important things each of us can do to contribute and “be the change”.  We can get comfortable with ourselves, honest and true and be clear on what we stand for.  I stand for love, for caring, for holding each other up with nobody left behind.  I think a basic universal income and guaranteed housing would be a fantastic place to start.  All the money spent on the war machine can be turned to providing that and health care, education and funding for the arts.  Animal agriculture should be ended and hemp and cannabis farms allowed to prosper and provide.

The sky is the limit!  What kind of world do you want to live in?  Keep marinating in your cocoon and we can discover that together….I love you!

Understanding is Peace

“Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”  lyrics from Love Potion #9

Being misunderstood creates a complicated series of emotions.  Frustration, confusion, anger, sadness cascade around inside a confused mind.  How can I be more clear?  How can I express myself in a way that can be understood?  Understanding is peace – recognition feels so good, and when a communication is received through a clear filter, hearts open, joy arises.  Layer the filter with insecurities, resentments and bad memories and misunderstandings can build to a crescendo of confusion.

“Why did you say that?  Why didn’t you say it a different way?  Why Why Why?”  Many abusive conversations start this way – it has just occurred to me that those conversations in which we are told (usually angrily) that we should have done something differently are in fact abusive – since none of us can change the past.  What would kindness say?  I’m delving into some other ways to communicate that will be more effective, more kind and way more understanding.

There are many systems who aim is to remedy this kind of situation.  Most of them would recommend staying away from the written word, as inflection calls for assumption, which is the beginning of a slippery slope and a downward slide.  I love the book “The Four Agreements” which proposes a simple set of rules for staying on the positive side of discussions and conversations.

“Don’t Make Assumptions” is a rule that can often clarify misunderstandings.  And oh how assumptions can multiply in a texting barrage.  Oh dear!  What is the remedy?  To ask for clarity, to be open to receiving it instead of clinging to the original assumption, which has come from a clouded place – often dark.  If we are going to make assumptions, it might be best to assume loving motives – albeit this can cause romantic confusion from time to time.  Once again, just simple clarity can alleviate many kerfluffles.  Simplicity rocks!

“Don’t take anything personally” – is another “rule” that is often forgotten.  All of us have a unique perspective, a personal view.  We can sometimes see clearly, but vision is once again clouded by our personalities and histories.  Finding a way through to an open hearted perspective does bring us to the Promised Land of love.  Bringing this teaching close to heart has helped me many times.  “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” said Anais Nin, in a fit of wisdom.  “you, you, you” says the ego – if only “you” did something differently, I would be able to love you.  Sigh, squirm, deflect, resist….

These two suggestions come up often for me.  They can effectively guide me back to a place of understanding that includes seeing myself and others with compassion and love.  If I still can’t get there I can turn to NVC or Non-violent communication.  That system is based on the idea that criticizing and judging others (if only you had ________, I would be ok) is violence.  It certainly isn’t the path of love or kindness.  I haven’t met a person yet who could turn back the clock and re-do the past.  It is a superpower many of us may wish for from time to time, but what we have is this moment, this opportunity, this love.  NVC says to speak of feelings, instead of our judgements of other.  “When you did X, I felt Y” as opposed to “why didn’t you do that differently, what’s wrong with you, now I’m mad”… And this is easier than it sounds, most of us have underdeveloped vocabularies for feelings due to centuries of emotional repression and interrelations that are based on anger and rage.  NVC includes a handy reference guide to feelings – and a reminder that when we say “I feel like you are ________” is not a feeling, but a judgement.

I recently learned that when we say “I feel” it is most likely to express genuine emotion.  When we say “I feel like” then the contemplation has returned to the mental realms of criticism and closed hearted judgements.   These are fine points, I know as we stumble along on the day to day experience of living life as a learning process heading towards love.  And just as an unfinished painting doesn’t include the finer details, an unfinished comprehension is the same.  Filling in the details, being aware of the finer points, paints a different picture.  Be an artist!  Make your life be your masterpiece of understanding.  It’s more fun that way, I am sure of it!

and then, when all else fails – there is a beautiful system called Ho’o’ponopono which goes something like this:

I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me, thank you….

repeat, repeat, repeat until you get it right….

If you want to heal it, you gotta feel it…

 

My inner voice said repeatedly: “Okay self – you got this, you’re good, you’re balanced and happy.  You keep calm under stressful circumstances.  Years of meditation, spiritual healing and “inner work” seemed to have done the trick and helped keep your emotional life stable and simple.”

Surprise!!! Life conspired to prove me wrong about this – as my comfortable, sweet and friendly world was recently turned upside down – without my permission, I might add. Not just in one way, in many ways simultaneously.  I experienced shock. My inability to stay calm, respond rather than react and generally feel good was imperiled. I raved, I cried and squealed.  I lost touch with my center and spiraled into places I haven’t visited for years. Some of them were new and exotic destinations, wholly unimagined.  It has been a deep dive into the ocean of emotion. But I’m a snorkeler, I said to myself – you can do this.  Just remember to keep breathing. Try to remember which way is up. Follow the bubbles.

I’ll confess I gained a lot of compassion and understanding for others during this unraveling.  I also gained a powerful desire to understand in more compelling ways how to change my inner landscape to be what I genuinely want it to be.  To respond in different ways means changing those pesky, troublesome unconscious thought patterns.  If I’m making that sound easy, please forgive me, I’m sure it is not, it is one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my earth walk.  How do we alter what is unconscious?  Years of societal conditioning, childhood and adult wounding and ancestral patterns have been stored inside us, and are the unseen, often troublemaking programmers of our operating systems.

To correct the glitches in our subconscious minds, it calls to me to seek advice from on high. The Vedas – ancient Hindu wisdom scriptures say it this way – there are two paths, the wisdom path, and the devotion path.  When they are brought together, our inner life is enriched, we are connected to all-that-is, and find our life on earth to be vastly improved and more meaningful.  That is my interpretation, anyway.  Bringing their esoteric teachings into modern life is our challenge.  The “path of truth” has been paved over for centuries.  Discernment, contemplation, courage – finding these inside myself is a step by step process. A wild ride!

Wisdom is always present.  Some claim to hear a ‘small still inner voice’ that urges an even deeper listening.  Sitting still, letting it be heard is so important and also presents a monumental challenge.  Ironic, paradoxical and really hard – the wisdom side of things is always available to us.  At this time in history, we have so many teachings that can appear at the flick of a finger.  There’s no need to buy anything if you have internet access – the sages are all present there!  Free Webinars abound if you will simply sacrifice your email address.  And yet, it seems obvious that most of us would rather play a game or enjoy a meal than sincerely seek the wisdom of the universe.

Alongside wisdom appears devotion aka dedication.  The subconscious mind blossoms and changes encouraged by repetition.  Here’s where the two paths meet – the wisdom path is about re-training the conscious mind and the devotional path is about re-training the subconscious mind.  There is another profound tidbit that has just appeared to me – it isn’t just about repetition.  To truly reach the subconscious mind and guide it to behave differently it needs feelings – strong emotion.  So it’s repetition with emotion is reputed to be the magic key.  Absentmindedly repeating a prayer or affirmation doesn’t make much difference to our inner world, but add some powerful emotion there and Shazam – the inner self wakes up and pays attention!

Recognizing these simple truths is part of what can be called “awakening”.  Living consciously means finding the nooks and crannies of our subconscious that are little rebels without a cause – and teaching them to behave in alignment with our higher self.  It’s mind yoga – and as much as the physical side of yoga has swept the world and become mainstream – the yoga of the mind is likely more important especially to our emotional and spiritual well being who are walking hand in hand, or mind in body…

How does this all come together?  Most of us know that to create a new habit takes some weeks of repetition.  On my quest to understand healing and change I recently saw the results of a study that showed that when play is included, the mind learns more quickly.  I would make a leap of faith and say that the unconscious mind may also learn more quickly from a playful attitude as indeed the happy people of this planet show us.  Success seems to love joyful beings!  Unhappiness, in general, is not the direction any of us truly want to go and finding our way through the darker times in life could be called “the quest”… or “enlightenment” since light is a lot more fun than dark, for most of us.

One of the most miraculous and lovely ways to “practice” is to “play” music!  It’s not an accident that making music is called play.  When ambition is airlifted from the area – and music making is merry making, surely that is one of the higher emotional states available to us.  Why do birds sing at sunrise?  I surmise that they are delighted to welcome a new day – and also find their family and friends in the nearby shrubs and trees.  Music also brings us together, unites us in a common energy field, which usually also feels really good.  Just right, comfortable, and fully present.

To recap I am working to feel my emotions more deeply, to understand when I’m acting from unconscious wounds, to reprogram my subconscious with affirmation, repetition infused with emotion all the while in a state of joy and love.  Let’s get started!

 

Heart medicine – a poem

 

letting the raw parts be heard

finding expression for the inexpressible

tears for words

words for tears, cried through my mind

 

The discomfort of some feelings

certain sizzlers like charcoals

yearning to burn

cannot be contained in this body

nor understood in this mind

or felt in this heart

where do they go

how can they be handled

how do I surrender to the flame

 

jumping jacks

Buddhist chants

Primal scream

or Lou Reed

temporary respite

cushion the blows

that rain upon my shattered soul

 

How did this happen to me?

What detours did I have to take

to reach my destination?

Where is the map?

wisdom knows

still,  letting her lead is an

unaccustomed kind of sensation

like breaking in a pair of shoes

or traveling to a foreign land

at first, everything is different,

unfamiliar, uncomfortable

then, gradually a learning

a relaxation and trust emerges

the way is shown

 

 

 

Trust

Trust the Divine – surrender – accept – go with the flow – be grateful for what is received…

Many guides and teachers (including me)  have spoken these words as an offering of wise counsel.  I’m more than ever aware of the underlying fear that holds me  back from the complete expansion and trust that I seek.  The most common worries seem to be about money, health and relationship.  Worthy worries! Living in the present moment and constantly referring back to the feeling of trust means to me that I need to “go deeper”.  Deeper into myself, into the place that thoughts originate. Sometimes called the “true self” or just “the self” finding out where thoughts originate is quite an enjoyable inquiry.  Then comes the next level which in my opinion is to recognize the witness – the thoughts originate somewhere but it is “me” that is witnessing those thoughts.  I suggest that refraining from overthinking this one, which is quite a bit more important to awakening than it seems at first glance.  It comes to mind that there is an internal voice that is “thinking” thoughts, and there is the awareness that is listening to those thoughts.  Which one is “you”?

Relaxing into fear sounds like a paradox.  I start my session with a question – or an intention.  I sit up with a straight spine and begin to breathe deeply, and close my eyes. As the walls begin to crumble in my mind  I watch the time  pass while I continue breathing and relaxing.  I become aware of the depth of feeling that is opening and expanding inside.  Its a lot like diving in the ocean where what matters is breath and presence.  Then I pause to look around and settle in to wait for a kind of psychological unravelling to begin.  I have experienced this as descending down a rope, into a chasm, down down down, always referring back to my question or intention.  What is here for me?  What can I learn that will help me on my life’s journey?  What is the next step I need to take towards healing my heart, healing my body or healing my mind.

This is the purpose of meditation – to wait for the insight and guidance that resides within.  To reaffirm my commitment to learning what love is, what service is and what healing is.  Om namah Shivaya… I bow to the Creator, who also destroys.  I ponder the paradox and see the magic that has always been there, the droplets of grace that have brightened my day…

 

Crisis = Opportunity

Life as a human is confounding, demanding, intensely challenging and ultimately a complete mystery.  It doesn’t matter how many drops of wisdom have rained upon my head, there are simply always ways to get it wrong.  To be messy.  To trigger and be triggered by others actions.  To be misunderstood.  To lose track of how to do it right – if there really is any doing it right!  Or perhaps we just keep picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and trying again.  That seems to be a more realistic way to understand life and  how it actually works.  The never ending challenges that are presented as the pilgrimage, the path, life itself – are ways we grow and learn and simply experience.

How do we reach for humility?  Or does it sometimes just come and slam us to the ground, in an unexpected moment? Is there hope of perfection?  It’s possible that humility is the complete realization that perfection is unattainable…that our foibles are part of us, that finding others whose quirks and crazinesses coincide and resonate with ours is the most effective way to enjoy ourselves. Even then, the stumbling blocks just keep coming.  They trip us, we fall, sometimes break a bone, or sprain an ankle, other times just pick ourselves up and continue on.   Perhaps we dance to reggae music all day just to scare the blues away.  The so-called higher path would have us see each stumbling block as a gift as a messenger as an opportunity.  What gold is the dragon guarding? The dragon of course symbolizing the challenge.  A tangible result of living in humility is to see everything as a gift from the divine – and to be able to genuinely ask the question “how is this situation helping me be the person I strive to be” and fully facing that recognition with confidence in its positive outcome.

I once tripped over a broken concrete slab, fell to my knees and was unable to walk for about 5 years.  Walking was then (and still is) one of my favorite activities.  It seemed possible that my injuries would require me to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. This seemed unimaginably painful, truly agonizing and utterly terrifying.  I sobbed, I wept, I sat around a lot and gained a lot of weight.  Yikes!  Then, somehow a miracle occurred and a talented physical therapist tweaked my knee back into place so that true healing was catalyzed.  Today I can go days without any pain at all and walk miles in the sand.  I am so grateful for each step, each stroll, each meander – so much more grateful than if the possibility hadn’t gone missing.

It is also humbling to find a close friend or companion preferring the company of another.  One of the most difficult life challenges to navigate is the loss of love, or the seeming loss of love.  And then, the resistance to it actually drives it farther away.  All the teachings about acceptance and surrender are called upon to no avail.  It’s hard not to feel forsaken again, alone – not friendless but without that special friend or soul mate.  Humility and love say – celebrate your friend’s happiness with their new friend.   The demon ego says all kinds of other unhelpful things, which I’d rather not repeat.  Often anger arises – which is of course masking the deep pain of loneliness and rejection.  And yet, what if we are never actually being rejected. What if the universe is giving us exactly what we want and need, but we have a lag time in recognizing that.  In that lag time, humility comes in handy to keep us balanced and joyous.  Saying thank you to everything is truly the path of love.

And yet – as we are continually evolving, ever-changing ephemeral beings made from a lot of empty space with some molecules floating around in it (!) perhaps change really is always good.  My inner Pollyanna knows this – it is one of the superpower wisdom bits of life.  See challenges as opportunities.  The Chinese character for change also means opportunity.  Emptiness leaves room for something new to arise.  Looking back at my own life, and its stages, when one person leaves, another arrives, or another dozen arrive.  Net gain, for sure. Being able to find this truth in the harder moments is another benefit of humility, which in my opinion means living in acceptance and surrender to the conditions of this moment.  The truly deeply unbelievably profound mystery of manifestation and life seems to demand a recognition of its magnitude.  In Sanskrit it’s “Jai Ma” – or “Celebrate the Mother of Us All”… It’s not humility if it doesn’t feel fantastic!

 

 

Nurturing Grace

Grace is the flower, the fragrance the sunlight of life.  How can we tend the thoughts in our head in order to create a fertile field that nurtures grace?

I recommend a simple experiment.  Imagine a scenario – play it out in your head from start to finish.  It can be something simple, as long as there is a desired outcome.  Here’s a possibility – you’re in line at the grocery store.  You’re in a hurry and the person in front of you is taking a long time unloading their cart.  What do you do?   One option is to get mad, frustrated, tap your toes, sigh loudly expressing frustration.  Imagine that fully.  What do you suppose that is creating in the general area?  Are others supportive or possibly disgusted at your behavior?  Ponder this.  Then, imagine the opposite.  You move up and lend a hand, helping unload the cart, and in this process discover that the person you’re helping is actually handicapped, and only has use of one arm.  Oops, in the other scenario that was overlooked, as selfish priorities completely took over.  The minute that kindness and gratitude were introduced there was a complete paradigm shift and in this instant you are living in the world as you truly wish it to be.

Now, extend this outward.  During the day the “attitude of gratitude” has an effect on others around you and a deep effect on yourself. It sounds so simple but doesn’t always prove to be easy to maintain.  It’s a work in progress!

Then there’s grace.  Is grace accidental?  Is it completely random, or is there a way we can create fertile ground for grace?  If there is, then gratitude is the bedrock, the compost, the essential nutrient for grace.  Despite circumstances, despite everything, we can be grateful and in that very feeling is opening to grace that makes life worth living.  Sometimes it seems to evade us – where does it go?  In this interactive life there are definitely ways to invite back the honored guest and offer her the seat at the head of the table.  Most religious and spiritual teachings are about this – how to nurture grace.  The ten commandments of Christianity, the Eightfold path of Buddhism, the 8 arms of Yoga… all are profound wisdom, distilled to bring the most benefit to our lives.

Once again, as in all true teachings there is no reason to just believe them, they are all possible to confirm through personal exploration and experience.  Give gratitude a try, make a charitable donation or help a person or animal in need.  The reward for selfless service (called Seva in sanskrit) is immeasurable grace.  Perhaps sainthood is elusive in this life, but living in the light of love, well that is a worthy goal.  Each step taken has the option of moving towards love or away from it.  Choosing mindfully, with conscious awareness means paying close attention, bringing awareness back over and over to the simple truths that belie their power.

It is a hard won realization for me that when I’m struggling and heading towards suffering, the best thing to do is find somebody who needs help more than I do.  That’s not hard to do in this world, there are so many down and out, or handicapped in ways I’m not or injured, or…..well the possibilities are endless.  During one of the hardest time of my life I was living in Hawaii (hmmmm) and would just get in the car and ask the universe to guide me to someone I could help.  Then it turned out that they were everywhere – the sufferers.  I know I can’t help everyone, but supporting just one person or animal is important to that one.  Making a positive difference in life – that to me is truly meaningful.  Go for it!

Determination revisited – the Hero’s Journey

This is a hot topic for me right now.  What has made the difference in my successes and completions?  What has provided the fuel for those endeavors?  Some contemplation led me to this realization:  The most important factor in success, the very most important ingredient is ….. (drumroll, please)  self-love.

For us to believe in ourselves, we do need to love our very own self.  Unconditionally.  Absolutely.  Completely.  Believe in ourselves, nurture ourselves and trust our own guidance and intuition.  Self-trust is born of self love, just as trust of other is born of love.

If I love myself, I’ll follow through on healthy eating, regular exercise and self care.  I can’t put the cart before the horse, that is the piece called will or discipline, which can be inflicted in various ways upon ourselves but isn’t successful in the long run. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that discipline, as in the military, creates defeat, since the will or commitment comes from outside influences, not our own desires, stirring from the cauldron of self love.

How do we nurture this all-important self love?  That sounds so easy, but as part of the game of life it seems many of us were implanted with a bug that creates havoc in our operating system.  This “bug” has created self-doubt, shame and guilt.  These low vibration emotions can defeat us – they render us incapable of self care, of taking powerful steps in the right direction and are self-limiting.

Learning to love ourselves from the inside is a hero’s journey.  It’s a full time job, it’s the Big Work.  Don’t delay, just take a step or two in the direction of self love, as often as you can.  Become your own cheering section – find reasons to believe in your own worth.  It’s really a matter of realization, awareness and choice.  How do you treat the people and animals in your life that you love?  How can  you give yourself some of that same loving care, in your mind and in your actions?  How are ways self love might express?  This takes some mighty pondering!  Ponder away, the benefits are fantastic.

The successful times of my life have had this important thing in common – I believed in myself.  I used to think this way:  “if it’s possible for a human to do it, I can do it”… taking into account my own limitations, of course, but applying that thought and confidence to a potential outcome, I always experienced success.  We believe in the ones we love (including ourselves).  This applies once again to  the “law of attraction” – a  principle that states that when we are in alignment with our goal then we can achieve it.

Here’s a possible affirmation:  In this moment, I choose to love myself.  I love my life, I love my little ways and foibles and I am completely confident of my success in whatever I choose to do. And if I do fail, I will learn as much as I can from that failure, pick myself up, dust myself off and try again.   I release all shame and guilt and recognize myself as a piece of perfection, an integral part of the Great Mystery – a beloved being, perfect in my own eyes, the only ones that really matter….And so it is!