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!

Begin Within

A dear friend just passed along a beautiful piece of writing from Matt Licata – and part of the wisdom he included was profoundly illuminating about the ways we bully and judge ourselves.  Many people I know well confess to having a disarmingly well fed inner critic.   That voice is at the ready and willing to join sides with anyone who is bullying us – that is what “self-abandonment” means to me.  Yes, there is something “wrong” with me, yes  I accept your criticism and recognize my flaws…yes, I hate the same things about myself that you do…

Wait a minute!  What about love?  As soon as I kowtow to the negative, judgmental voice in my head I’ve stepped off the path of love.  It’s that simple. I feel it in my heart. And yet those voices carry on, but the way I’ve approached it is by imagining a volume knob, and imagining that I’m turning down the volume on that inner bully.  It is a lot like physical training, the mental training required to tame the wily beast we call our mind.  The workout includes gratitude, meditation and affirmations.  Preceded by realization and awareness of course…this information is as old as humanity – born and reborn into poetically nuanced truth. The Vedas, the Tao, The Dhammapada, the Bible, The Koran, The Talmud – each one has already codified a system to aid us in our quest for inner and outer peace.

Knowing that this wisdom has been available to our species for eons – might be a small clue that it is not the easy path.  There’s no quick fix.  Most if not all (I haven’t read them all) ancient texts teach that determination is a key element of success.  It can be called by other names as well – devotion, contemplation, commitment.  Making a decision and holding it forefront in our consciousness is far from being easy or simple.  Becoming a yogi or any other kind of devotee means adhering to the path of discipline and commitment.  It isn’t easy but the rewards are great.  But there is no need to believe me or any other religion or doctrine.  These suggestions are best tried for yourself.  If it’s true then it will be true for you, too…

“Begin within” is a bumpersticker I love seeing as I drive through town.   I’d like to live in a world that reflects my loving heart – and also to be part of creating a world that is free from bullying and hate crimes.  The wisdom of that nugget compels me to face the ways I bully and abandon myself – to remember the importance of training my mind to stay connected to the love in my heart.  This sounds so simple, perhaps reminiscent of a Hallmark card – and we all know that it is a heroic task.  It takes all the courage we have to turn directly towards our inner demons and face them down, deflate and disempower them.  It is an ongoing work, for all of us. I have witnessed a widespread propensity to project this accomplishment on another – a Guru or spiritual teacher. I’ve noticed that there is no way to verify that another has accomplished this wondrousness, no matter how glowing their resume and credentials.  It is the smaller challenge, in my opinion, to stay open for the duration of a workshop or satsang, and to embody open hearted lovingkindness for an hour or two.  And that is a worthy way to spend time, for sure.  One story I’ve heard (unverified, just so you know) is that it was in times past, important that one’s guru lived a two days walk from home.  In this way it was possible to keep a distance from their everyday lives, which are inevitably easy to judge.  Learning to withdraw our projections from others is also an important task on the path to open hearted living.  It means an end to comparing, to finding others superior to us (ah there is that self abandonment again) and what a relief it is, to level the field and embrace our own divine perfection.

Self-embracing is the healing for self-abandonment.  Love yourself.  No need to change anything.  Just. Love. Yourself.  End the quest for another who can do that for you.  Begin within…

a morning meditation

Breathing in, I fill my body with light
Breathing out, I give thanks for this divine moment

Breathing in I forgive myself
Breathing out I forgive everyone else

Breathing in I love myself
Breathing out I love everyone else

Breathing in I rest in awareness
Breathing out I rest my mind

Breathing in I feel light and free
Breathing out I release all that is holding me back

Breathing in I fill my lungs with light
Breathing out I forgive everyone who has harmed me

Breathing in I open to the divine light of love
Breathing out I forgive everyone I have harmed

Breathing in I recognize the Divine in all beings
Breathing out I send healing love to all

Mitakuye Oyasin
All My Relations

 

The Synergy of Community

I spend a lot of time alone – gardening, meditating and contemplating, reading and working.  I seem to alternate between great bursts of creativity and action and extended times of solitude and quiet.  Learning to enjoy solitude has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, and so I am really happy that I am able to savor each moment of alone time with my own being.

Then, sometimes I host larger gatherings – 40 or 50 folks with lots of overnight guests.  This weekend was quite special,  and the delight of joining together to sing and chant engenders an instant ecstasy.  The general vibrations of happiness that seem to move like waves through the room continued to amplify throughout the evening – as singers sang and dancers danced.  We each took our part in the cosmic “leela” as its called in Sanskrit.  The Divine Play, if you will, also known as our lives.  Each event is its own community, a microcosm of the greater group, which is spread across the planet, vibrating in harmonic resonance.

It’s mysterious, this ecstasy that arrives into a crowd of like minded open hearted people.  Palpable love flowing – energetic exchanges of the highest order, happening simultaneously around the room – like an electric charge – we dance together, we sing together we pray together.  We hold each other up.  This is what I live for – to ride the currents of love waves from shore to shore.  And to feel deeply the emotion as it resides in my emotional field – to master the art of recall.  To know that I am not a prisoner of emotion, but an experiencer of it – that makes it all easier.

I am ever grateful for the grace-filled life I am leading.  There is so much to give thanks for – to appreciate.  Today I watched an orange dragonfly flit around the little “pond” that was just revived.  Yesterday there were crows cawing continuously… today the hawks cry…and yet, I ask myself this question – most days – how can I better serve?  What gifts can I share out into this realm, knowing that there are sufferers and wanting to give a hand to them if possible.  My own suffering has diminished so much I am ready to give more to others.  What is the best way to help out, given my own constellation of gifts, skills and talents?

It no longer seems possible to spend time on things that are not calling strongly to me.  I have been reflecting on the ways that I have followed my inner call and have noticed that it is always easy to follow.  So, if there is no loud calling then it must be time to wait, to prepare and to be simple.  Are big changes coming, or I am in the middle of a process and cannot see it yet?  The kaleidoscope of possibilities keeps spinning, and just staying open to the beauty of it is the extent of what I can do right now.

I am interested in the big questions of life – navigating the challenges, understanding how to live in an open-minded, open hearted way, how to choose love.  There are so many tools (priests as one teacher put it) that can assist the powerful journey into the self. Acquainting myself with these tools, much like having a fully equipped woodshop, or mechanics garage – feels like the right path to be taking right now.

I’m open for conversation about the path of the heart – please send me an email if you’re interested in a discussion about where you are and where you’d like to go… if I can lend support, I would be most honored to do so.  My heart is full of love – love for you, love for the earth, love for the Divine One.  Let’s walk the sacred path together.  Community synergy will take us where we want to go…

 

Joining Heaven & Earth

Image

Joining Heaven and Earth,

Balancing the moving back and forth between togetherness and separateness,

inspiration and practicality

is rarely smooth and easy

All the rough edges we encounter in trying to bring together the opposites

freedom & commitment

Vision & groundedness

Letting go and taking hold

Romance and Reality

Individuality and Communion

are ways we forge our humanity and awaken our heart….

Flowers…

Flowers inspire us, attract us to them and it’s an obvious truth that our lives are happier when we have flowers near us.  The power of flower fragrances to lift our spirits and heal our hearts is returning to our consciousness, and many of us use them to improve the feeling of our surroundings.  We all notice a sweetly scented room, –  “mmm, it smells good in here” is an automatic response to a bouquet of  deliciously fragrant roses, narcissus or gardenia, jasmine or tuberose.

Flowers are the faces of plants, the poetry of the garden.  Through their myriad form and color they interact with other beings in order to fulfill their purpose of bearing fruit and making seeds so that their species will continue to flourish.

Flowers come in a seemingly infinite variety of shapes, sizes and colors.  Their designs are simple or intricate, delicate or strong, long lasting or ephemeral.  Each flower is perfect and complete, bringing its gifts to the natural system.  Imagine for a moment that the birds and the bees also appreciate beauty and respond to color and form in the way that we do.  That would mean then that flowers are uplifting all life forms to a state of happiness.  Just watch as bees roll around ecstatically in the nectar of a poppy flower and it easy to understand this possibility.  Hummingbirds sip the most delicious nectars first,  just casual observation will show that they clearly have preferences in the garden.

Flowers  heal our hearts.  We send flowers to honor the death of a friend or family member, and flowers are essential at both weddings,  funerals and everything in between.  When we cannot think of another gift to give, we give flowers.  Most of us take this for granted, and just take for granted the way that flowers uplift our spirit.  Guardians of the mysteries of life, plants are always there, always helping, guiding, supporting and sustaining us.

Clarissa the cat enjoying the view