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!

Determination – part 1

“the obstacle is the path” – excerpt from Zen teaching

What holds us back from living our dreams? How do we cultivate the qualities that bring us success? One of the most important qualities that walks hand-in-hand with success is determination.  A close relative of commitment, determination is the driving force that compels us to the finish line.  Apathy would appear to be its counterpart – always lurking at the shadows, beckoning our will to concede defeat.  Ha!

What nurtures determination?  A kissing cousin of discipline as well as commitment, determination can also be called will.   Sometimes  it seems to take a whopping share of suffering to urge our being to take the steps we need to take.  Most of us would prefer to skip the suffering and move directly on to the successful outcome in our lives but this doesn’t seem to fulfill the purpose of life.  It seems to me that one of the main purposes of life is the experiencing of challenges.  The obstacle IS the path, in other words.  And each obstacle, somehow perfectly placed by the Great Mystery detours us to the perfect destination, teaching us along the way the great lessons of life.

Relaxation may seem antithetical to determination but I don’t think it is.  Stress derails most things, a tight grip on the steering wheel doesn’t allow for fluid movement on the road, and that analogy flows straight into real life, where approaching life as a dance is just so much more fun than marching in military formation.  So, relaxed determination leaves space for commitment and flexibility – a strong will doesn’t need to reside in a tense body.   Keep breathing!

Allowing the Divine currents to flow – to inspire and to direct – creates a path for great determination to provide the energy to complete projects, to create and manifest.  Allowing happens in a state of relaxation, but also allows for the greatest source energy to come through us.  Letting go in order to hold on…another powerful paradox reveals itself.

There are a multitude of suggestions about how to urge myself towards determination.  Most of them start with a morning meditation practice.  Wake up with a plan – put that plan into action and then surrender into the day.  What’s a good plan for the morning?  Once awake, I reach for gratitude and positive thoughts.  It’s a lot like cleaning house – sweeping out the cobwebs, dusting the furniture and so on.  Sometimes I envision gathering all the negative energies that have come to reside in my being and gather them all up expel them in a powerful breath.  The ancient yogic breathing practices called Pranayama are well described and powerful.

So, first a daily reset/refresher.  Then, on to a meditation – generally even before I get up.  This might break all the “rules” of a Zen or other system, but what the heck, it’s ok to meditate in whatever way is most effective, says I.  Some yoga, always a good idea and the day is now heading a very good direction.  That could be enough to foster determination, which together with a “to-do” list supports me towards relaxed accomplishment.

Sometimes I’m overtaken with passion for a project, or with a deadline.  Both of those situations foster and support determination.  The aging process has brought with it a slower pace, so even in times of great passion and determination I need to accept my own limitations and practice self- care to make it over the finish line with grace.  Deep inner listening has become one of life’s most precious necessities.  Self-respect, coupled with a sense of humor brings a lot to the table – and reminds me that in some way that may even be incomprehensible – life is good, and all is well.

 

 

Everyday Angels

angels… are they cherubic little beings that can fly? White robed celestial blondes with halos?  Or are they just like us, only waiting for an opportunity to serve in a time of need?

I have had several extraordinary encounters that poke a little fun at the idea of the haloed image and show a different side to this idea.  Here are a couple of stories I hope you enjoy.

I was fixing up a little cottage to rent to some friends who needed a home.  I decided to install a bamboo floor, and being a die hard “do-it-yourself”er I was on my hands and knees laying the floor with the help of a couple of friends.  The project was humming along, but we were all tiring out and there was still a fair bit of floor to nail down.  The friends called, their moving truck was on its way – we only had a couple of hours before they arrived, eager to unpack and settle for the night.

Both my helpers had given up in sheer exhaustion.  I too took a short break, but since it was my responsibility I said a short prayer to the universe for help – I needed angels to assist me, since my helpers just couldn’t do any more.  Then I got up and returned to the cottage.

Shortly after I arrived back to the cottage there came a knock at the door.  I opened it to find two men – the movers – who had arrived a couple of hours early.  They were both wearing “Los Angeles” baseball caps (yes, a sports team, but I don’t remember which one).  Most of you know that translates to “The Angels”.  They looked inside at the floor, and asked if they could help – they were experienced at laying floors and got right to it!  We were finished in no time, their work was extremely high quality, apparently they were actual craftsmen.  Such an excellent cosmic joke and is there a deeper meaning?  You know I think so!

and, while I”m at it, one more story that actually happened to me –

I was holding a plant sale (among other things I’m a nurserywoman and hold occasional plant sales at my farm).  My signs for the highway – sandwich boards, actually – were all worn out and I needed new ones.  I’m not a sign painter but thought I might find someone who could do a good job, time was running out!  I went to the hardware store and bought some plywood and hinges to make the signs.  I was sitting in my little truck in the parking lot, getting ready to leave for home when a man knocked on the window.  I rolled it down (it was an old truck, no electric windows!) and looked up to see a man handing me a business card.  “Do you need a sign made” he asked me.  WHAAAAAAAAT?  Are you kidding?  I really said that!  After a short conversation it seemed that he was actually a professional sign maker.  I told him what I needed, gave him a small down payment and went home, wondering it I had been conned.

Sure enough, right on time, as agreed, he called and met me in town and he had created perfect signs for my sale.

Next time I need a sign, I know where to go!

Every breath a prayer

What is prayer?  Some see it as a plea for help, a request from the higher powers to grant wishes or to create healing.  The way I see it is as a conversation with the Universe, God, the Goddess, or angels, guides and helpers.  How is prayer different than other activities?  I don’t believe it has to be, that we can live in a way that makes every word and thought a prayer.  It’s a description of enlightenment – taking each step in a sacred way, with love. To fully inhabit the truth of our connectedness to all things, to the recognition of the watcher within, and the infinity we are part of.

I am a mystic.  I choose to see the world through prismatic rose colored glasses of a metaphorical variety.  The colors, shapes, light and shadow that is forming itself into a 3D reality is possibly unrolling before each of us as our own personal theater of the Divine.  What may be called the Law of Attraction holds the key to manifesting a desired reality, stepping through that portal takes a complete disengagement of the ego mind, the negative mind, the nay-sayers who chant “you can’t do it, you’re not good enough”.  One truth I’ve experienced is that when my mind is sure of the outcome, it has never been disappointed.  It is the process of training (healing) the subconscious mind which, like an unruly toddler is constantly derailing desires and intentions with its insecurities and negative self talk.

Recalling times in my life when things seemed to be going my way, my desires and intentions being granted, there is one  common thread – the confidence rooted in my actions.  The clarity of the big YES that has guided me along.  There are other ways to talk about it – it can be called “vibration” and when my vibration is “high” or actually aligned then my life looks the way I think it should.  Is there anything more important to contemplate?  I think not!

As the recognition of my own priorities and desires is able to freely arise to the forefront of my awareness I have been able to more easily recognize my inner guidance system.  Thanks to the many teachers who are freely available on the internet, I can tap into the wisdom of sages in an instant!  Electronic enlightenment!

We live in a time where technology appears to have gained the capability of creating our heart’s desires in any medium.  Our smartphones mean we can all be filmmakers, writers, photographers and musicians.  In an instant – with one viral video we can become world famous!  The lottery winnings have risen into the multi millions and all around us the possibilities have opened for many into the realms of the Gods.

My own life has lapsed back towards simplicity.  Is there a butterfly in the garden today?  Will I get to see a hummingbird?  how little can I do in a day to make space for the inner journey, the quiet of contemplation and actuality of where the important things are taking place.  Life as Prayer….

 

 

 

Resistance is futile

Understanding how to navigate life is part of the path of awakening, of conscious living, of happiness.  There is not any need to follow the advice of others if we can’t confirm for ourselves that the information we have received is true – by simple trial and error.  Of course, I for one wish to skip the “error” part of “trial and error” and pass “go” to collect my reward!  Isn’t that the purpose of the game?  Or is it that the trials and errors are teaching tools, and life is a game, with happiness  and well being as the reward?  I like to take that approach, it works pretty well for me even when times are challenging and I don’t know exactly which way to turn.

“What you resist will persist”  – is the reason that resistance is futile.  If resistance, or the opposite of acceptance brings us the undesirable outcome, then a new strategy is needed, and so the pondering begins.  There are endless challenges and situations that call for more profound awarenesses and true wake-ups.  When I cling to a strategy that doesn’t work, what then?  I will usually continue trying that strategy until I am depressed, de-energized and unmotivated, until I reach the stage of surrender to the futility and try something different.  It really is that simple.  And yes, sometimes just one more try can bring us to success, but what if it doesn’t?  Starting with a small example – getting a lid off a jar.  I twist and twist to no avail.  Do I give up?  I really need what’s in that jar! Next I try using the gripper pad for a stronger grip, or maybe run the jar under hot water to loosen it up… then, all those options aside, I might look for someone with bigger hands to help me…. one of those paths will surely lead to success!  And that is a small, everyday example but the same wisdom can apply to bigger challenges, too.  How to become healthier or wealthier – those are big challenges.  In order for something to change, we need to change our attitude towards it.  The Law of Attraction says that we can’t manifest anything without coming into vibrational alignment with it… to me that does mean letting go of all resistance… first step, accept where I am, second step, imagine where I want to be and third (or fourth, and fifth and on) step is believing and knowing it is possible.  This step can be the most challenging, especially if the first step has already been taken…

So, releasing resistance is a change of attitude.  Moving from pessimism and depression to gratitude is the leap that seems certain to create the change we want.  Sometimes its difficult to go straight to gratitude from depression and negativity.  Taking small steps towards the desired destination may be all that is possible… and the meter for progress is to check in with emotions and our emotional state.  Do I feel a little better?  What is one step I can take towards feeling better… no need to believe anybody else’s advice, just let the results be the gauge of effectiveness.  And, the mind becomes habituated to thoughts as the body becomes habituated to activities… I try to end each day with affirmations about health and well being and begin each day in the same way… Give it a try!

 

 

Encourage Courage

What exactly is courage?  It’s root word means “heart” and so the heart is the seat of courage in our being.  Making the decision to let our  heart lead us where our mind feels fear is the best example of courage I can find.  Knowing that fear is our constant companion, and choosing boldly to follow our heart’s truth is another paradox of life on earth.  To be who we truly want to be means stepping into the fire, walking on hot coals and overriding the fearful part of us that craves safety.  It means that to continue moving forward in the face of fear is to be more fully realized, satisfied and actually alive.

To embark on even the simplest adventure calls for courage.  Some days it takes courage to get out of bed, other days not so much…there was a 10 year period of my life during which I was terrified of airplanes and elevators.  My career at that time involved repairing high-tech video equipment and so I spent my time searching for solutions to make machines work again.  To me, airplanes and elevators were equipment failures just waiting to happen, created by the most fallible of beings, the human!  What now sounds kind of reasonable was in direct contrast to my real life – because at the same time I wouldn’t engage in air travel I could be found rafting and kayaking wild rivers, scuba diving and exploring deep wilderness with steady nerves.  Our fears are not always rational or reasonable, bringing to mind the fear we can see at the sight of a teeny, tiny spiders or bugs-  inspiring a surprising number of adults (including me) to squeal in fear.

Of course now I realize that all along it was that old traveling companion – the fear of death – that was cloaked in creative excuses for staying home!  It wasn’t until life called me to a foreign country that could only be accessed by airplane that I faced my fear.  The whole world then opened to me.  Hawaii, no problem, Thailand, no problem, and India, yep I got there!  And, I am still a confirmed home-body who wants to leave a small carbon footprint.  And I also like to visit tropical beaches as often as possible so I  can now almost fearlessly step into a jumbo jet.

Fear of closeness with others is one of the most common fears that many people bring to the meditation sessions I hold.  Once bitten, twice shy – and yes opening ourselves to intimacy after a painful ending takes courage.  Living alone, that too is considerably courageous, when the fear of living alone overcomes the fear of loneliness, then perhaps we can engage with another in a new, healthier, less fearful way.  I’m banking on it!  Co-dependence is defined as a neediness, a gigantic overwhelming fear of aloneness.  And yet, there is always this challenge to be more, to explore, to expand and to release the bonds that hold us back from that.  Is it actually love or need that is running our lives when we “commit” to a relationship with another?  That is a good question to ask, regularly, I believe, and to be able to love fearlessly, for sure.

How is fear holding you back?  I think it is an important question – learning to choose between love (adventure) and fear is a moment by moment exploration.  How to encourage courage to facilitate a life lived in the light of love?