I AM So Blessed

So much of what is reported in the media are expressions of lack, of how wrong things are. There are shocking things happening both to and by ordinary people, and to and by governments and leaders. Yet if this is what we focus on day in and day out, it becomes what our lives are about. This is not what I want for myself or anyone else.

A few weeks ago I woke up feeling how blessed I am. I remember thinking, ‘This is how I want to start every day.’ Not by pretending that life is all roses and chocolates and kisses, but by recognizing all the roses, chocolates and kisses that are in my day-to-day life.

There have been choices in my life that have profoundly changed my life’s direction–choices of moving, work, friendships–each of which involved both loss and gain. I have done better when, while handling the losses, I could also recognize the gains.

I am getting better at remembering it is more my attitude that defines how I experience things, than the external events. Of course I get triggered hearing of tragedies, abuse and scams, or when those close to me get hurt, suffer loss or die. I would not be human nor caring if I didn’t feel these.

Yet when I pay attention, I have a choice; run with the fear, anger and sadness or not. I was taking the above photo when my dog Cheerios yanked on her leash, causing me to drop and break my cell phone. I was pissed. But then I remembered the new one I had been researching. Now I tell people Cheerios got me a new cell phone for my birthday.

I am still dealing with the consequences of that loss–tech and technicians can be frustrating. Nevertheless I choose to recognize and focus on the blessings such as a larger screen, better camera, better battery, etc. Life is more enjoyable this way.

I’m not ignoring what has gone wrong; I still have to pay for the new phone. Yet difficulties have a tendency to bring attention to themselves without me having to add anything. I will deal with them; I just refuse to let them define me.

For many months now, I have had a gratitude partner. We text each other daily, three things for which we are grateful. Sometimes they are profound, sometimes silly; yet each day we re-enforce our ability to recognize what goes right. It is a simple yet powerful technique that helps us remember our blessings regardless of what else is going on in our lives and the world.

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Posted in Affirmation, Attitude, Being Present, Consciousness, Emotions, fear, God, Gratitude, joy, power, Religion, Spirituality, suffering, Truth, Uncategorized, Unity | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Sun Always Shines

I awoke Sunday morning, seeing a cloudy day dawning outside my bedroom window. Yet when I looked through our bathroom window a few minutes later, I was surprised by the beautiful golden glow of sunrise reflecting on nearby buildings. I walked to another window hoping for a photograph, but in those few moments it had already clouded over.

This happened so fast, it got me wondering: was there some meaning in this brief glimpse of golden light. The rest of the day the weather continued gray and cloudy turning into raining. Yet the glimpse of gold uplifted me. It reminded me that, whether I could see it or not, the sun is always shining. Even during this darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere, our sun still shines.

We are at a time in history when, despite our growing awareness of the damage we are doing to our biosphere, the earth, our attempts to correct course continue to face powerful opposition. A few oligarchs around the world are swimming in unimaginable and un-spendable amounts of money–resources–while hundreds of millions are starving or near starving. The leaders of many, including the most powerful nations of the earth, are seriously damaged individuals whose power is based on fear and greed. They seem incapable of true compassion.

The glimpse of shining sun reminds me: Spirit is ever renewing in the hearts of people–even those lost in fear/ greed. More people than ever are recognizing the dangers we are living through, despite the fog of lies and misinformation. More are willing to step up and help our fellow sentient beings, human and otherwise. Each of us can only do what we are capable of doing. No individual can fix it all. Yet each individual doing his or her part will eventually change the world, with or without the cooperation of such leaders.

Just like the sun still glows even when hidden behind gray clouds, there is a heart of gold within every person waiting to burst out. Yes, even those who seem to live by fear and greed have that light filled core. Of course, we cannot change anyone else. Yet by choosing to live as best we can from our own highest good, we are an example which can inspire others to do likewise.

Make this a happy new year by living more fully from your own heart of gold, sharing your light with the world, and we will all be better for it.

 

Posted in Affirmation, Attitude, fear, joy, light, Love, Politics, power, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Holding the High Watch

‘Holding the High Watch’ is the phrase Errol Roelofsz used to describe the job of the Prayer Chaplains at Unity San Francisco. It means that regardless of circumstances we stand with God, affirming the Truth that love and goodness are inherent in each person and situation. As a prayer chaplain, particularly when someone wants prayer for difficulties, a serious illness, struggling to find work, loneliness, depression, fear, anxiety and/or anger whatever the cause, it is my job to affirm the positive without judging their feelings or struggles.

When things are going well, the prayer is one of gratitude and appreciation. This is less challenging than when someone is facing fear and suffering. How can I be grateful and see the good in life, when a loved one has stolen most of my savings? Or I have just learned I have breast cancer? Or I don’t know how I am going to pay next month’s rent?

With ‘the news media,’ the phrase ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ remains sadly true. Recently the news has focused on children being taken away from their parents as part of the USA’s border immigration enforcement. This fundamentally immoral behavior (child abuse) is being done in our name. Social media spreads out information—and misinformation—very quickly. We get inundated with pictures of crying toddlers and smirking politicians who misuse the Bible to justify what is basically unjustifiable.

So how do I ‘Hold the High Watch’ in circumstances such as this? How do I affirm the good in life when people defend child abuse as reasonable action? Whether you are a prayer chaplain or not, it is in times such as now that it is most important to affirm the good in life, in people. Michelle Obama is famous for repeating the phrase, “When they go low, we go high.” So how do we go high when this is happening and those supporting it basically attack anyone who objects to it as weak, unpatriotic and anti-American?

It seems so easy to respond in kind, accuse them of being stupid, racist, ignorant or anti-American. We can focus on their bigotry, the anti-family policies of the allegedly pro-family crowd, the sanctity of life only before one is born. To repeat a helpful phrase, ‘The trouble in wrestling with a pig is that while you both get dirty, the pig likes it.’

I believe that every person, every soul is good at core. Some folks just seem to hide it better than others, usually defending against some fear. None of us always behaves or express ourselves from our core of love, compassion and kindness. It is my responsibility to resist the impulse to mirror the negativity coming at me. I would rather respond from a deeper, loving wisdom.

As a prayer chaplain, when someone comes to me to pray after getting a cancer diagnosis, I pray affirmatively with them. I affirm their core value as a person, as well as their underlying health, strength and wholeness. I don’t curse the cancer. I affirm life, and bless them, their families, caregivers, even their treatments. I see all working together for their highest good, and the highest good for all. Then I express gratitude for their lives, for all the things they have already enjoyed and achieved and the things they continue to do.

So what about the families being torn apart and the children feeling lost and confused? I pray affirming them being reunited and healed. I also pray that those bringing forth such policies are reminded of their core of love, and that kindness is not weakness but a different form of strength. And finally, I pray that all of us find healthier ways to address fear that doesn’t fuel suffering and inhumanity.

It is easy to see the ‘bad’ that comes from these actions. So where is the ‘good?’ This is a hard question. I do know that some of those whom up to now have ignored the abusive actions of our leaders, are starting to take notice. Protests are spreading beyond the usual groups. I see an awakening of consciousness that we are actually all of the same race, the human race.

“Holding the High Watch,” or “Going High” means choosing to see and act based on affirming life and love, and not to return fear with fear, hate with hate. Those who perpetuate harm may never acknowledge or even see the wrong they do. It is not my job to force them to do so. It is my job to respond with love, not ignoring the abuse but not mirroring it either. I choose to live more from love than fear. It makes life better for all.

Posted in Affirmation, Compassion, Consciousness, Emotions, fear, God, Gratitude, Love, Prayer, Spirituality, suffering, Uncategorized, Unity | 1 Comment

Relax: Let Go and Let God

Relaxation is how most traditional practices start. As you can see even our dog practices it. Yoga, most martial arts, meditation, prayer, are amongst those that start with relaxation. Yet at the same time in most advanced cultures, relaxation tends to be an afterthought. So what is relaxation and why focus on it?

The Apple Dictionary App defines relaxation as follows:
1) the state of being free from tension and anxiety.
2) the action of making a rule or restriction less strict.
3) the restoration of equilibrium following disturbance.

So relaxation is defined as relief from its opposites: tensions, anxieties, rules, restrictions, disturbances. In relaxation we let go of these in order to return to an easier, open state of being. We are more able to appreciate life by being conscious and present—if we aren’t so tired we just fall asleep.

So simply relax. Why not? Easy to do in a hot tub. Yet perhaps not so much if we are stuck waiting in a traffic jam, a grocery checkout line, the DMV or other government offices, or waiting to board a delayed flight. Modern life seems to have a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’ opportunities. What a treasure trove of anxiety, fear, irritation and grumbling! Even if I start out patient, when others around me start to grumble and express anxiety I quickly feel them arise in me.

Years ago I discovered that when I became aware of my tension in times of frustration or anxiety, I could release it by shifting into a meditative pose of mind and body. I would focus on deep flowing breathing as in mediation, and relax muscles. Sometimes when standing, I would shift my weight slowly from right foot to left foot and back, a practice I learned in T’ai Chi. Thus through relaxation, ‘wasted’ waiting time would transform into practice time, and I felt much better.

The body is a great help in relaxation, since most tensions are held in different body parts. I get tight in my shoulders and jaws when tense, some fairly common reactions. My dentist informed me a few years ago that I had developed cracks in some teeth from grinding. Grinding teeth is a tension reaction. And me, Mr. Meditation, had not even been aware of it!

“Let go and let God,” is a useful phrase that reminds me to relax. I haven’t been able to find its origins. It speaks of faith that at times, we are better served by releasing the need to act or ‘do.’ Instead we can simply ‘be,’ having faith that some good will emerge. In a way this is prayer and meditation. We relax the mental and physical muscles, we get out of our own protective urgency to do something, in order to know the truth of a situation.

While I have always owned Apple computers, on rare occasions I need to use a PC. In running a class series at Unity San Francisco, I was using Power Point on a PC. I had a lot of trouble getting things to work. Someone even guided me via video calling—so she could see what I was doing—but it didn’t help.

Over the weeks of the class several people tried to figure out what might be going wrong. For the last class I gave up and had someone else get it started. It felt a bit absurd and foolish. I sensed something basic was missing but what?

The night following the last class, I woke up relaxed from a comfortable dream. My mind wandered to the computer issue. I suddenly remembered a basic difference between a PC and a Mac. No longer under time pressure to fix it, I found the elusive answer. Mac mice are simply clicked, no right or left choice. I had been right clicking instead of left clicking on the PC, hence nothing would opened.

There is a Bible quote about seeking the kingdom of God first in all things.(Matthew 6:33) In practice for me, this means relaxing and turning inward, ‘Letting go and letting God,’ prayer and meditation. I had been so focused on the doing, fixing the situation that I never fully ‘Let go and let God.’

Once again I have re-discovered the importance of taking time to relax, of relaxing and ‘first seeking the kingdom of God.’ ‘Letting go and letting God’ eases and clarifies what is in front of me here-and-now. If naming God is difficult for you, simply add the letter ‘o’, and you have ‘Let go and let Good.’ Finding God is finding Good. With either term life becomes easier and more enjoyable.

Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Consciousness, God, Meditation, Prayer, silence, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Unity | 2 Comments

Being the Light in the Dark

Moon 2006

At this time of year in the northern hemisphere we have the longest, often coldest nights, the turning point before moving toward the greater light, warmth and the new growth of spring. Traditional holidays, celebrated as Christmas, Chanukah, Winter Solstice and others, have helped people create their own light at this time of darkness. They can serve to reaffirm our commitment to, or faith in, living by the light of our highest good.

This seasonal darkness currently seems matched spiritually and culturally in the United States. It is normal to feel anger and despair when we see those expressing hate, greed and inhumanity ascend to the highest offices of power not only in the US but across the world. I have wondered how is it that humanity so often allows some of the most dysfunctional amongst us—the least spiritually, psychologically and morally developed—be in charge? By the time they are finally removed, the rest of us have to figure out how best to cope and heal from all the inevitably negative consequences of their actions.

The traditions of the past, while often distorted by commercialism and superficiality, still hold some timeless answers. Humans have survived through many periods of darkness, wars, persecutions, holocausts, pandemics, and natural disasters. To do so, we have learned to not only ‘light a candle in the dark,’ but more importantly to become the light in the dark.

By “being the light in the dark” I mean holding to the highest good when it is hardest. I remember an image likely from a movie, of bearded Hassidim singing and dancing as they went into the Nazi gas chambers. Could I knowingly go to my death singing praises of God as they did? Could I find and express joy in the most despairing times of life?

While I have often failed to do so, I do know this is possible. It helps to have others to remind me of the Light that is who each of us are at core. It helps to decide, to choose to be and act from this core. And it helps to practice this every day, to learn to see each set back, harsh criticism, or attack as an opportunity to deepen my faith in God, Good, Love and Life.

For me this struggle is what it means to live a spiritual life. Not the specific rituals, songs, ways of living, but the ongoing choice to be the light I seek, to be the love I seek. Choosing over and over again to be the hands and voice of God/ good/ light is what makes for a spiritual or even moral life.

Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Emotions, God, joy, light, Love, Religion, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Super Powers

From a young age, I enjoyed reading science fiction and fantasy books. I loved the people (or creatures) in exotic locations, doing fantastic things. While having advanced technology was interesting, it was the special characters, sometimes with special talents, that drew me. I was intrigued imagining being able to read minds, or fly, or talk with animals, or heal with your mind or touch, or other similarly super powers. These powers, personal and technological, enabled them to explore fantastic places and survive challenges that might defeat others. Yet they were still ordinary beings with personal fears and flaws.

Yet even if a character had special abilities, that didn’t mean they could do anything, anytime. As with our more common abilities there are limits. Indeed the best stories have people succeeding with a combination of unusual abilities and what we see as more ordinary skills. I can speak, but talk to me in Finnish and I will be lost. I can ride a bike, but without a lot of practice forget about any multi-mile trips. Abilities ordinary and extraordinary have rules or principles by which they can be expressed.

For many years I saw my interest in fantasy stories as escape or relief from ordinary life and it’s challenges. I enjoyed those in exotic settings and with exotic powers, overcome seemingly overwhelming odds or events. I felt vicarious empowerment and aliveness which only indirectly touched upon my own struggles. Yet what if exotic powers are only exotic because we are unused to using or seeing them? What if we all actually do have special powers?

Actually, of course, we do. Some of them are so familiar we take them for granted. Via technology, we have many, from automated travel including flying through the air, to speaking with and seeing folks on the other side of the world, and through conquering diseases that were fatal not that long ago. Yet our technology, as amazing as it is, is actually the product of people pursuing their dreams (super visions) and developing what on one level are ordinary powers—of creativity, imagination, observation—and making them super by applying them in new, interesting and useful ways.

Often people express this through work. The architect who builds a strong, functional and beautiful building, the surgeon who saves lives by cutting into living beings and healing them, the bus driver who greets everyone who comes aboard, drives through difficult streets to get people to their destinations safely, the teacher who takes unruly children and inspires them to learn to be more than they were aware they could be.

It is not only through work. The accountant by day, poet by night, or the person who greets everyone coming into Church on Sundays making them feel welcome and special, is him/ herself special. So is the volunteer who comes into a hospice, hospital or senior residence and helps the patients/residents feel alive and valued. There are so many different ways each of us can make a real difference in peoples’ lives every day. Remember super powers by their nature do not so much defy the laws of nature but extend them in different ways.

Ultimately our choices differentiate whether what we do is truly super, something that improves lives and aliveness, or just another, limited, self-serving action. Yes, we need to provide for ourselves. Yet it is when our actions come from seeking the highest good for all that our abilities, our powers become truly super.

Posted in Affirmation, Being Present, Compassion, Gratitude, Passion, power, Relating, service, Uncategorized, volunteer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silence

I have meditated since the early 1970’s. So when I went to sit the other day and I went truly into the Silence, I was surprised to realize that lately there have only been brief moments of it.

The meditation style I mostly do is Buddhist meditation that is all about silence. There are a variety of useful teachings which help one let go of thoughts, feelings, and other reactions in order to simply be present.

Trance states, contemplation, spacing out, getting lost in fantasies, thoughts and feelings are merely things that come up, happen. The practice involves noticing but not attending to these things. This involves not so much pushing them away as not engaging them.

Over the years there have often been moments, and sometimes more than moments, when there was true silence. There is ease, little or no sense of myself or others, awareness of the present and the deep, replenishing stillness. Recently in meditation, while my mind would go through things and release them—the analogy I use is taking a psychic poop—the moments of true Silence have been fleeting.

Taking longer times apart to practice meditation can be helpful, yet perhaps ironically the present is always here. It is possible to fully release the distracting mental activity at any moment. This is not only in formal mediation practice. It is more about resting in peace rather than other, more agitated mental states, anywhere, anytime.

After that morning re-awakening, having lunch with Allen, I was able to let him talk without having to engage. I not only ate more slowly—I have always been a relatively fast eater—but was satisfied with less. Allen asked if I was OK. I was, am more than OK.

I have been blessed with so many tools to enable me to let go and relax in the Silence, yet how often do I use them? Mind engagement and entertainment is habituated as well as enticing. When I remember and choose the Silence in my life, I get less caught in life’s dramas. I feel peaceful and get things done with less stress and more appreciation.

Learning to be truly still is a gift that can take some time to fully appreciate. I hope in sharing this reminder with which I was blessed will be of use to you as well.

 

Posted in Affirmation, Attitude, Being Present, Buddhism, Gratitude, silence, Spirituality, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment