Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/20/17—Letting Clouds Pass

Cloudy, gray sunset.
Last Friday (this is a classic post) we talked about how clouds make the sunsets more interesting and colorful, as do the "clouds" that come along in our lives. Last night's sunset kind of expanded on that. 

See, it started out all overcast and gray. And I was pretty sure the sunset would suck. But then I saw a tinge on pink on the bottom of one of the clouds and thought, "well now". Then minutes later, the sunset exploded into fabulous color. 

This reminded me of what happened at my last job. I said the wrong thing at the wrong time to my boss and she, in turn, completely handled the situation poorly and it became clear my days were numbered. So the skies on that day seemed pretty gray. But almost immediately it occurred to me to become a freelancer. The gray clouds got a tinge of pink. Then days later, I gave my notice. And, since then, it's been one wild, colorful, spectacular sunset! 

Kinda. :)
A hint of pink lines the gray.

It has certainly resulted in the best years of my professional life. So the very best thing that ever happened to me started out as gray skies. For some, the very best thing started out with a spouse leaving them. Or catching a disease. Or like something that happened as a result of an old friend's actions many years ago.

My friend drove drunk on New Year's Eve and it resulted in a boy's leg being severed from his body. She went to jail and hasn't lived a day of her life without thinking about that. But this boy contacted her 20 or 25 years later and told her losing his leg was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was going down a bad path and it was just the wakeup call he needed. Today he has a wife and children and he doubts that would have ever happened had he not been in the "wrong place at the wrong time". 

The sky explodes into glorious color.
Sometimes our gray clouds don't show their pink edges immediately. And sometimes the pink edges are very subtle and hard to see. But I can't think of anything that's happened in my life—even the really bad stuff—that didn't end up with pink edges and even spectacular color. 

We tend to think of things in terms of winning or losing or of whether or not the universe is on our side. But in the end, there is no loss. There is no such thing as an unsupportive universe. There are just people who prefer to live in perpetual victimhood. That sounds harsh, but the fact is that what you take away from an experience is your choice, not your fate. 

You see this in the video of the guy with no arms or legs who turned his disability into an extraordinary ability to inspire. And through the young girl singled out and shot by the Taliban for promoting education who, after recovering her ability to walk and talk, took her fight to a much larger and more powerful audience. And through John Walsh, who used his son's kidnapping to create a national sex offender registry and the precursor to the "Amber Alert". There is no telling how many lives have been saved or criminals captured as a result of this man's gray clouds. 

All these people turned their gray clouds into spectacular shows. Really, what challenges do any of us have that compare? There is a win in every loss we have...a bigger plan than we can ever imagine when we're down. Last night I waited about 15 minutes to see why the gray clouds had to be that way. Whatever you're going through may take longer. But it will change and the beauty of it will be revealed. All it takes is trust and making the choice to turn your eyes towards the gift.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2/13/17—Prioritizing Your Values

I do a weekend tarot reading for people every Friday evening that can be seen by the public on my Deck of 1000 Spreads Facebook page. And the card I chose for myself this weekend got me thinking.

It was an oracle card about priorities and the advice I gave was this: Time is not something that can be saved for later. So to make the most of your time this weekend, consider your priorities and values. 

I'll be the first to admit that I often fritter away weekends, then regret being unproductive. I know of ways to combat this, but I don't. My usual MO is to be a total lazy arse one day and do chores the other. Even as I write the words, it seems pretty reasonable to me. Especially when I'm busy as I am now during the week, I need the down day. But even so, I feel I could do better than just napping and eating a lot.

So as I considered my own advice, I started thinking about whether or not I prioritize things in my life according to my values. In some ways I do. But then I think about how I value my health, but don't prioritize it. I mean, napping could be considered as being for my health...getting more of that rest/repair time in. So maybe I should say I don't prioritize it necessarily in all the most constructive ways for what I'm trying to achieve, which is feeling better physically. 

Then the more I thought of all of all this, the more I asked myself what my values are and how I prioritize them. Of course, I know what things I value. But I'm not sure I've ever lined them up and prioritized them. In fact, I'm pretty sure I haven't put much active thought into my values (outside of politics) in quite some time. It just seems to be one of those things you develop, then place on cruise control. 

The problem with all that is that I effectively can't act in accordance with the things I value most if I'm always just winging it and doing whatever I seem to conveniently value in the moment. I do love to nap, but the thing my "health values" might prefer is something more active. And where is my book writing in all this? My spiritual work? My role as a doggie mom? Basic survival always comes first—earning money, maintaining a roof over my head and food and medical care for all. We can probably all agree on that. But how do our priorities shake out beyond that?

It's funny. I used to be a more disciplined person and I value discipline a great deal. But many years back I felt I was being too hard on myself, putting some things ahead of others that were more important at the time. And I stepped back from those things. I "gave myself a break". And now I'm seeing where it might be wiser to stop "being kind to myself" in favor of "doing what's right and responsible for myself."

I haven't figured it all out in the 36 hours since I gave myself that advice. I will probably be noodling over it a lot in the coming days and weeks. But my eyes are more open now. So, think about it. Are you living in accordance with your highest values? Where are you working against them? And have you thought about which of the things you value should take the most precedence?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2/6/17—Trusting Again

So stuff's been pretty chaotic lately, am I right? 

I've spoken before about how I've lost my center amidst the batshit craziness that surrounds us. So I stepped back from the non-stop misery and set about relocating my groove. And what I found is that before I was able to lose my center, I first had to lose my trust. 

I'm not talking about my trust in my country. I still have that to a large degree. I'm not talking about my trust in our president, because you can't lose something you never had. What I'm talking about is my trust in the universe.

The thing about trust is, you either have it or don't. Sure, you can "kinda trust" but then you're not really trusting—you're still holding on to doubt. You're still not willing to surrender. And wherever trust is missing, fear flows in to fill the gap. Clearly many people in this country stopped trusting years ago. Or never trusted in the first place. 

I'm not really trusting everything will work out great. Sometimes "great" is not in our best interests. There's really no room to grow. What I'm trusting is that things will work out the way they NEED to. I'm trusting there's a reason for all this. I'm trusting in the inherent goodness and love of the universe's prevailing energies. More than that, even, though, I'm trusting that each of us is far bigger and far more eternal than this moment. 

Remember that? Remember surrender? Divine communion? Remember how we're not just safe in the universe, rather we live in a safe universe? Remember faith? I had let fear fill too many places within me that once remembered all that. 

There's a point of fear that makes us think that we have to stay with the fear in order to effectively combat it. We tell ourselves the fear (or anger, if that's what you prefer to call it) fuels our warrior spirit. But I contend we are never more powerful than when we trust in our higher power. I certainly know I'm happier and a clearer "channel" for the universe when I surrender to it. 

There come times in our journey when we have to ask ourselves, "do I really believe what I believe?" And if you believe in grace, love, a higher power and an eternal soul, then you have to put your trust in that. If you don't, you either don't believe or are having a crisis in your belief. I can't see it any other way. If you really believe, you cast out the fear that stands between you and surrender. 

Mind that I didn't say to cast out the awareness of what's going on around you. You can be aware, but emotionally detached. You can choose to remind yourself of your trust when you feel fear coming on. You can remove yourself from sources of fear until you're in a better frame of mind. You can still act when action is called for. You can still disapprove. But if you remember who you really are as a spiritual being, you'll know not to take the darkness on.

The unknown is always going to intimidating. And we are definitely in unknown waters. But that doesn't mean we have to give ourselves over to the chaos. It doesn't mean we have to trade our trust for hypervigilant worry. So I've been limiting my exposure to online fear. I'm getting news from sources that don't barter in fear and clickbait headlines, like the Washington Post. I'm meditating twice a day to (and beyond) the point that I feel the trust and peace within. I'm recognizing when I'm getting sucked back in. And I'm stepping out of my extreme dislike of what I see going on around me to see the positive things as well, rather than taking everything as an affront to all that is good and holy. 

Freedom, happiness, peace-of-mind and personal power are not concepts your government or society bestow upon you. They are not things that can only exist under certain circumstances. They are divine rights that are regulated from within. Sure. There are times they are harder to come by than others. Things can certainly happen to make trust more difficult or fear more pervasive. But we're nowhere near that. We're not being tortured or starved or some unbearable thing. 

If we want to be SPIRITUAL warriors, then we need to maintain close contact and trust with the divine. Because the further we veer from the light, the more power we give the dark. And the more we trust in the power of our belief, the more invincible we are.

Image above by Ma Deva Padma for the Osho Zen Tarot.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1/30/17—Living Through The Eyes of God

So let me tell you about the book I'm (slowly) writing. I won't share the title quite yet, but it's a sort of how-to be all spiritual and personal growth-y and shit. If you have missed the previous 1200 posts I've made on this page, let's just say that I'm into that kind of stuff. 

It's funny, because in my early research as to competing books and e-courses and whatnot, I've come across a lot of stuff that focused the pursuit of spirituality on burning incense and doing ceremonies. Don't get me wrong, I love those things and think they have their place in spirituality. But they are not spirituality.

To define what I think spirituality is, I use a comparison to religion. I see religion as what you learn about God* from scripture and what religious leaders tell you about him. And I see spirituality as what you learn about God from forging a personal relationship with him. 

That takes more than a smudge stick and moon phase. It takes all kinds of uncomfortable things like forgiveness. Letting go. Trust. Personal responsibility. Compassion. In many ways, the path of spirituality mirrors a path of spiritual growth. Your knowledge and understanding of God/Allah/Buddha/Universe/Source will always be limited until you understand, exhibit and embrace the things they represent. 

Until you love fully, without condition, and open your heart to the "worst" and "least" of humanity, then God's love is just a concept you *think* you know. You don't know the surrender and trust—the courage—it takes to open your heart in such a way. You don't understand how far one's grace must reach or deep one's grace can go. And you know nothing of the peace and blessings that come from releasing all fears and loving at that level...from a place of oneness with all things. Until you learn to live life through God's eyes, his voice will be reaching you through a filter of fear, ego and separation.

Of course, we'll never fully reach the end of any of our spiritual lessons. Or if there's one that we're particularly good at, like maybe compassion, we won't be as amazing at all of them. And I believe that no matter how far you go in your quest to become a living, breathing compassion machine, there's always going to be something that challenges the size of your heart. That said, in the pursuit of these lessons you'll get glimpses of reality through the eyes and heart of God. And you will begin to know him in ways no scripture can teach.

So far I've written much of the introduction to the book, including my full story of how I went from being an atheist to someone who won't shut up about this stuff...haha.  And I'm about 90% through the first chapter on self-awareness, something I consider the absolute bedrock of everyone's spiritual path. How can you truly forgive another if you can't honestly access the part of you that needs forgiveness and understands personal responsibility? How can you have integrity if you can't see your actions (and their repercussions) from a place of objectivity and honesty?

I struggle from time to time wondering if a book like this is needed, and if I'm the person to write it. But then I look and see there really isn't much written on the topics I'm addressing....not under one cover at least. And I see what things like ego issues and a lack of self-awareness can do in the hands of the wrong people. I look around me and observe myself and others fearing and holding on instead of trusting and letting go. And I get emails and comments from people who I have helped through my writing somewhere along the way. So maybe a book like this is needed and maybe I am the one to write it. 

It's hard for me to believe I'm needed or that I'm the answer to anything important. I will probably write a whole series of blogs about that when I have the courage and will to go there...haha. But I'm beginning to believe it's true. And, frankly, this is my plan for my later 50s through the end of my life, so if I don't make it happen, I'm kind of screwed. Fortunately, I have at least one well-connected angel-on-earth who is willing and eager to help me bring it to fruition.

There has never been a better time to move toward God—or if you don't believe in any version of God, toward the concept of love—than now. If I can help people get through their stuck places or misunderstandings (forgiveness, for example, is widely misunderstood, imo) then I'm using this wonderful passion for writing and spirituality to its highest good. I hope you'll all join me on that journey.

*I struggled over this word for a long time. So I'll say this. My belief and perspective is that everything that most everyone considers to be their higher power is the same energy or entity seen through many different eyes and by many different names. The one that resonates more closely with me is "the Universe". The word that resonates more closely with human beings in general is "God". Feel free to substitute your word for "God" as you read along.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

1/23/17—Floating on the Breath of God

I came across this quote today while poking around in old posts on my blog. It's for all of us with trust issues or who get held up on wanting to know WHY something is happening. 

I'm going to quote someone who's quoting it, because that's the only way I know the quote. Richard Bruxvoort Colligan* quoted St. Hildegard by saying:
"Hildegard of Bingen said a faithful life means 'to be a feather on the breath of God.'
And what does a feather know about wind?
What does a kite have to understand in order to fly?
How much knowledge of meteorology does a sailboat need to feel the strength of full sails?"
This quote is so great because it captures the essences of trust, letting go and surrender all in a single, beautiful snippet. Personally, I usually visualize letting go and surrender as laying, arms stretched, in a river and allowing the river to carry me to where I need to be. 

The river is God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. If you try to swim upstream, you'll waste a lot of energy and not get very far. That's what happens when we try to control situations...when we fight against what "is". We may make some progress in the direction we think we want to go, but eventually we end up where the universe wants us to be. And, from my experience, where the universe wants us to be is generally a much better place than where I think I want to go. And the more I fight against it, the less benefit I receive at the ultimate destination. So letting go is really the smartest way to get there. 

The quote also captures the "why" aspect. "Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now?" Have you ever noticed the answers to those questions never come until you've reached—and embraced—your final destination? So the whys are just more wasted energy to add to all the swimming against the current we tend to do. 

Finally, though, this is about trust. It's about lifting all the questions up to the universe and allowing the answers to come in their own time. It's about trusting that you're being led to a place that will serve your higher benefit. That doesn't always look like a winning prospect in the beginning, but my experience in life is that we have no way to lose. If you believe everything happens for a reason, then withholding trust is, again, more wasted energy. 

What's key to know here is that things like trust and letting go aren't necessarily talents you're born with. More often, they're skills you develop. So when you say, "I wish I could be more like you and trust in the future," you can. If you work at it as hard as the person you're admiring, that is. Trust and letting go and surrender are all practices. They're things you work on every day in your relationship with your higher power. 

So when you notice yourself letting fear creep in, stop yourself and visualize yourself floating down the river toward a magical light or soaring through the air as a feather on the breath of God. Just absorbing the idea of floating on the breath of God alone will fill you with the faith you need to weather the storm. Over time, the trusting and letting go will become more and more automatic as you begin to see the wisdom in the practice. 

We don't need to know or understand why things are happening the way they're happening. We just have to let ourselves be taken away by the breath of that which has always looked after us, whether you call it God or Allah or Yaweh or the Universe. It has never failed you yet. And if you think it has, then you haven't yet embraced where you've landed. Regardless of whether you like an outcome or not, though, it is what it is. And you can live there in bitterness or gratitude. That's your choice. I choose to let go and trust. 

*If you want to read the Christian sermon this quote came from, follow this link or the link above (you'll find the links on The sermon goes on to help you with a prayer you can say and it references scripture and stuff. It's a good post.
This post originally appeared on 6/25/14.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1/16/17—Remembering Source

Image from the Tarot of Transformation, The Devil.
Lately I've been feeling disconnected from source. And by "lately" I mean for well over a year.

Each Friday on my personal and public Facebook pages, I do a weekend reading where people get to choose one of three cards, then find out their reading for the weekend. And one of the three cards got me thinking. It was The Devil card, which speaks of addiction, self-defeating behaviors and our inner demons. And this particular Devil card was subtitled "Separation from the Source."

For me, it was a reminder that feeling disconnected from the universe and feeling depressed and self-defeated aren't two different things happening at the same time. They're the same thing, happening in a chicken and egg I having difficulty because I'm disconnected? Or am I disconnected because I'm having difficulty? Probably a little of both.

I've always liked this card for that reason...for its reminder of how the distance between us and source is relative to the distance between us and happiness. And health. And success. And manifestation. And love. 

It's also a reminder that the more we indulge our demons, the further away from source we get. And that the way out of darkness is to keep moving toward the light. And the way to transform demons is to lift them up to the light. 

It sounds so simple, but it's a logic that becomes clouded the deeper you get away from source. It gets buried under, "I'm not a good person" and "I'm not capable" and "why would anyone care anyway?" But our doubts and our fears are just distractions...symptoms of our distance from source. 

Remembering this doesn't make everything better. But it's a start in the right direction. The more time we spend in the presence of grace—out in nature, in meditation, in gratitude, with people we love, in prayer...however you access it—the less power our fears hold. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

1/9/17—Flying With The Squirrels

The squirrels in the back yard are at it again...teaching me lessons.

We've had an unusually warm winter so, instead of shivering in their nests, the squirrels are out to play. And there seem to be an unusual number of small ones for this time of year, too.

So the other day, four younger looking ones were running along the utility lines, chasing and playing. When they got to the utility pole, they chased each other up and down. Then there was some sort of argument and three ran off with one lagging behind. Then the lagger came back, climbed up the pole, all the way to the top where he stood on his hind legs and touched the very top of the transformer with his paw, just within a breath of the live wire!

I audibly cried out "no" when I saw it. My god, why would he do that? There didn't seem to be any other reason for him to climb all the way to the top by himself and do that. But it turned out the squirrel was fine. He ran back down the pole and his friends joined him and they ran off.

Since then, though, I've witnessed more feats of incredible daring from the local squirrels. 

A couple days after the transformer incident, I'm sitting outside and my dogs go after a squirrel, who escapes easily up the neighbor's tree. Then that squirrel makes an easy hop into a tree in my yard. Then he leaps, spanning a chasm of maybe four feet to my stump and he's 20 feet off the ground...if he miscalculates, he will land in my dogs' mouths. I literally gasped aloud. Without missing a beat, he then sails a good six or seven feet off the top of the stump to a tangle of brush behind. Granted, he lept from above but it was a shocking, gravity-defying leap. It is not the normal path they take, by any means. This guy was an athlete among squirrels.

Then yesterday, I saw two squirrels chasing each other on the telephone line. As they are running at breakneck speed, one literally flips over so he's running along the line upside down, directly beneath the other squirrel! I can't swear it's the same guy, but there is certainly a daredevil in our midst. There was a squirrel like this many years back that used to make me gasp in awe. Maybe they are from the same distinguished line of super-atheletic squirrels.

It also occurred to me...maybe touching the transformer was a "dare". Maybe it's part of the tradition of daredevil squirrels. A ritual, of sorts. Maybe it's a way of releasing fears...and claiming fearlessness.

I've been watching the squirrels for years. Some are cautious. Some are just normal. And every once in a while I see one be super daring like the squirrel who made the leaps. I know, with dogs, a low fence will keep a capable jumper in if the dog never realizes he can jump the fence. So many dogs will see a fence and think "I'm trapped". But more daring dogs will find a way

My childhood dog, Valcour, was like that. It was impossible to contain him. We moved once, a few miles down the road from his girlfriend, Sunny. Sunny lived behind a six foot wooden fence. Valcour somehow broke free and made his way to Sunny more than once. One time, he was gone for days. No lie...when he returned, he returned without his balls. He had somehow managed to castrate himself on his journey. After that, the poor boy lost his randy nature, got fat and stopped running away. Not sure there's a moral to that story or not...haha.

In order to know you can jump fences, fly through the air or run on a wire upside down, however, you have to take the risk of jumping a fence, flying though the air or running upside down on a wire. Not all can do that. But in order to know you're capable of doing something, you have to take that risk at least once.

Sometimes, though, you have to break through a wall within you before you're ready to attempt flight. So you do something totally random like showing a live wire at the top of a pole you're not afraid. And if you're not afraid of the live wire, then flying into some brush is a piece of cake.

I see where I could use a live wire to shake me out of complacency right now. Not sure what that translates to in my life though, but it's got me thinking. I feel like I'm at a point where "comfort" and the status quo is beginning to suffocate I'm at a critical juncture between eternal stagnation and perpetual thriving and, although my choice would seem obvious, I don't seem to be making it. Momentum has been pointed toward stagnation for so long, it seems. 

I remember hearing a long time ago that you should make a big change in your life every ten years or so. Whatever change I made ten years or so ago—or didn't make, I suppose—led me to and through some heavy, dark years. I had forgotten all the awesome things I'm capable of, and all the things that fueled my spirit. It's time for me to remember that, even though I'm older and tireder and creakier, I can still fly.