Presence and Peace

How You Can “Do Like Daniel”


1-IMG_5359Every now and then, a Sunday morning TV minister catches my attention.

Yesterday morning, following a mighty thunderstorm in north central Texas, Joel Osteen spoke mightily to his faithful in Houston and across the globe.

A quick aside:  Anything ever written in this blog related to religion is strictly my opinion and is never an endorsement.  I like to remain as open-minded as possible when it comes to matters of the Spirit.  And, in the spirit of good 12-step advice, I try to “take what I need and leave the rest.”  

Focus on the message, not the messenger

Lay aside any opinions you may have about Joel Osteen because three words–a total of 14 characters counting spaces–he spoke during his talk/sermon yesterday are much more grand than even his presence.

Osteen said, “Do like Daniel.”

He went on to tell the Old Testament story about Daniel getting unceremoniously tossed into the lion’s den by King Darius in Babylon.  The story goes that old Darius, who thought Daniel was pretty cool, was tricked by some of Daniel’s enemies into passing a law that decreed no one was to worship any god or man other than Darius the king for 30 days.

Daniel, who was 80 at the time (hmmm, didn’t know that fact), continued to worship the God of his faith in spite of the decree.  The king had little choice but to throw him to the lions.  By the way, Rev. Osteen referred to 100 lions but I didn’t fact-check him.

The next morning, after Darius spent a worrisome and sleepless night, he went to the lion pit and found Daniel sleeping.  Duly impressed by Daniel’s unfaltering faith, he made a new decree that everyone should worship Daniel’s God. (Remember:  Take what you need and leave the rest.)

How can you “do like Daniel?”

The story is, after all, describing one man’s ability to weather any storm or condition or event.  I mean, seriously, does it get much worse than a tribe of hungry lions?

The lions are a metaphor for the situations in our lives that threaten our deepest faith in ourselves, and more importantly, our faith in whatever power we believe is greater than ourselves.

I think there are some pretty simple ways we can “do like Daniel.”  Here are a random few; I’d love to hear more from you because I’ll bet you’ve had at least one or two den-like experiences.  Be sure to mention them in the comments section below.

Focus on positivity:  Figure out a way to begin every day this way

Think thoughts on purpose (another Joel-ism): Be deliberate and intentional with your thinking

Find a method or manner of quiet-time each day: Prayer, meditation, bubble baths

Let it all go: No matter what she said or he did to you, no matter the mistakes and missteps you’ve made, forgive it all.

Believe you are good and worthy:  God don’t make no junk, y’all.

Have a supercalifragilistic kind of week.  Don’t forget to DO LIKE DANIEL and tell us how you do it!

Photo courtesy of Sgarton

My Reaction to Fred Phelps’ Death


plantingpeaceFred Phelps, the perennial hater of gays and lesbians, died last week.

You may remember him as the man who hid behind God and his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, while picketing funerals of soldiers and terrorist victims.  He claimed God was punishing the U.S. because it condones homosexuality.

Or at least that’s the way I interpret his followers’ actions.

But let’s not get lost in the semantics of beliefs of the congregants of Westboro Baptist Church. This post is not meant to be about the church or even Mr. Phelps’ death; it’s supposed to be about how you and I respond to such news.  Yet, the more I wrote, the more that what Phelps represented–hate, fear, and a misguided knowledge of right and wrong–became the basis of this post.

Yes, I admit to initially feeling a “thank God he’s gone” sense of justice. I even posted a question on Facebook, “I wonder if anyone will picket Fred Phelps’s funeral” and told myself it was just an innocent question.

Then I started getting comments that were on the mean side. Those folks–my friends–are absolutely entitled to their opinion. But did I need to set them up in such a manner?

Looking back, I think, “Seriously? Just an innocent question?” Please.

My motives were definitely not pure. Now I know that I posed the question so I could piously watch my friends express what I really felt.

How’s that for a Lord, have mercy moment?

What happens when we don’t tell the truth?

Oh how I wish I would’ve left the whole thing alone. Sorry for the set-up, my friends. If you take solace in such things, I’ve felt all disconnected and even ugly inside since last Thursday when I posted the question.

My entire week until the writing of this post on Saturday was speckled with sadness and fear. Monday began with hurtful news that could affect me financially and Friday ended the work week with an additional piece of rotten financial news.

I cried. I even raged a bit.

Throw my reaction to Mr. Phelps’ death and subsequent manipulative actions into the mix and I was an emotional mess most of the week.

Did I reach out to anyone? No, because this time I felt the need to sit quietly with the emotions instead of replaying the story. I don’t know about you, but when I tell others the stories I tell myself, I stay stuck in the negative doo-doo.

What happens when we center ourselves in lovingkindness?

Tolerance is a natural byproduct of the act of centering. Here’s what I noticed this past Saturday morning before I wrote this post: After spending some time reading and journaling, I felt quieter and much less knotted up inside. I realized I didn’t despise Mr. Phelps as most gays, heck, most people period, do.

The gladness I feel, if you can call it that, is because at least this one vitriolic voice is now silent. Once I really examined my motives and used my personal centering process to face the truth, I was at peace.

Now I can re-read what Planting Peace, a Topeka-based non-profit with a mission to spread peace throughout the world’s pain, posted on its Facebook page (thanks to Lou Elder for steering me to the page):

 “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Fred Phelps Sr. We have sent our sympathies to the Phelps family and plan to assist them in their time of grief if needed. The philosophy of the Equality House has always been to overwhelm hate with unconditional love. A loss of a human life is never a reason to celebrate, even if you have a stark disagreement. Fred was a father, grandfather, and great grandfather that was loved deeply by his family. Let us remember that we are all in this world together and vengeance is never justice.”

This stance from the organization which, one year ago last Wednesday, the 19th, celebrated the first anniversary of Equality House, a small-refurbished house meant to serve as a visual reminder of the need for equality.

The house’s exterior is painted in the colors of the Pride flag and sits right across the street from Westboro Baptist.

“Vengeance is never justice,” Planting Peace wrote. Pray for peace and let go of the outcome, I’ve been told.

Fred Phelps died on the same day as the first anniversary of Equality House, Wednesday, March 19th. May he rest in peace.

Photo courtesy of Planting Peace.

It’s Spring! Get Outside and Blow the Stink Off!


IMG_0963Alrighty then.  You’ve kissed the blarney stone and the wee leprechaun is dancing into history.  It’s the first day of spring and we’re through with holidays for a month or so.

Time to get down to business.  Time to get serious.  Spring cleaning the house isn’t going to take care of itself.

Turns out the house isn’t the only thing that needs a good airing out.  How about the ‘ole noggin?  Think it could use a clearing of the cob webs and a mop and bucket to clean up the winter’s stale outlook and attitudes?

Come on over to my place . . .

I started my spring cleaning a little early after completing Tess Marshall’s Mastermind questionnaire to begin work in her coaching group called The Bold & Courageous Ultimate Mastermind Inner Circle.  Can I just tell you I feel like I’ve completed a fourth step of sorts?

It was fun and grueling and I now know more about myself than I really wanted to know.  Tess will know more about me than anyone else, including me!

Without going into detail, because if you want to shake things up in your life and really take a bold look at your hopes and dreams, I encourage you to head over to Tess’ site, The Bold Life and register for her Mastermind group.  She’s even offering a 60% discount through the month of March.

When 2014 rolled over on the calendar, I said, rather boldly, by the way, this is my year.  When I spoke that emphatic affirmation, every part of me from crown cowlick to toe tips, believed it.  I think I even added a damn it! for emphasis, as in, This is my year, damn it!

The problem was that I had no new tools for creating my year.  I think I subconsciously planned on doing the same things expecting different results.  Uh oh.

Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Get outside and let the stink blow off!

Did your mother used to say that or did I grow up in the only weird family?  Either way, it’s appropriate here as we talk about refreshing our attitudes–letting go of what didn’t work and trying new tools.

Hence, the Mastermind group.  Man, I’m all in.  I am so ready and willing to do something different, not unlike the decision to enter recovery.  

Guess you could say I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of my winter attitude.  Time to blow the stink off, throw myself into spring and truly become the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.

Who’s with me here?

One of the things I’m doing for myself is reading the hottest new book to hit the treatment/addictions/recovery shelves.  It’s called Beyond Addiction, How Science and Kindness Help People Change.  It’s written by the co-founders of the Center for Motivation & Change, in New York City, along with CMC’s director of evaluation and family services.

One little book tease and then you’ll have to wait for my review:

“We built our practice on optimism, not because it made us feel good, though it does, but because it works.  We base our optimism, our clinical practice, and now this book on forty years of well-documented research on how substances and other compulsive behaviors affect people, why people use them, and how and why people stop self-destructive behavior and start on paths toward health and happiness.  In turn, our experiences with thousands of clients bear out the research findings.

“There is in fact a science of change.”

Stay tuned and Happy Spring (cleaning!)!

 

3 Antidotes for the Fear Virus


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At this writing, the 84-degree Spring tease of two days ago in Dallas is a fading memory.  A major winter storm named Titan (When did the National Weather Service start naming winter storms?) slammed a good portion of the U.S. again.  Sigh.

That’s the way it goes sometimes.  Just when you think you’re through with something–can we be rid of winter quick enough?–the Universe, or Mother Nature, drops another heavy load, seemingly with glee.

Come on! You think.  It’s all too much and when are you going to catch a break?  Enough already!

The storms in our hearts

Heavy storms in our hearts are just as real as the foot-high snow drifts outside many windows today.  Just like the weariness we feel about the interminable Artic weather (Say it with me: The “polar vortex” sucks.), so too do we grow weary of the storms raging throughout our spirits.

The question was posed to me recently:  How do I get rid of fear-based thoughts, especially the fear of the unknown?

Well, jeez, I don’t know.  How can I make grass grow in the middle of the Sahara Desert?

If I only knew the answer to the fear question, I could crown myself a spiritual guru or Tony Robbins on the speaking circuit.

When the question came, I fired off a few suggestions that were, admittedly, a tad smart-aleck-y.  You see, the question made me nervous and I become a bit flippant when I’m nervous.

Why was I nervous?  Because I’ve asked the question too, many times, in fact.

So what about the fear question?

The question is haunting, isn’t it?  I haven’t been able to let it go. But now I have an addendum to my answer.

As with most spiritual matters, there is no black and white, so “getting rid of” doesn’t fit the question because it suggests a conclusive action.  You and I are human, so unless your name rhymes with Dalai or Eckhart, fear-based thoughts appear in your life at random and annoying times.

However, I believe there are at least three antidotes for the fear virus (Can its insidiousness be anything but a spreading virus?).

First, rather than focus on getting rid of fear-based thoughts, especially fear of the unknown, what if you quietly and simply accept them?  Acceptance means you can invite the fear thought to stay for dinner, without asking it to spend the night.

D. H. Lawrence said, “The living moment is everything.”  Acceptance can only happen in the living moment.

Second, feel the fearful thought(s) without judgment.  If we can agree that 99.99% of humans feel fear from time to time, then what the heck is the point of beating yourself up for having a fear thought?  Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Finally, and this antidote is kind of radical so stick with me here.  When you’re in the middle of fear, take several deep belly breaths.  That’s right, pull the fear inside as you inhale.  Allow the fear thought to wash over you as you hold your breath for a few seconds.

Then, slowly let your breath out–not the fear, but the idea that you have any control over whatever is causing the fear.  Do this several times.  That exhale, my friends, is faith, and is WAY more powerful than any fear thought you can have.

All spiritual processes take time and practice.  Don’t allow the fear virus to spread.  Patience, Grasshopper, work with the antidotes!

Photo courtesy of Karpati Gabor

How Do You Find Balance?


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I apologize in advance if this post is a downer. I have a lot of heaviness on my heart.

Sometimes I wonder if one of life’s greatest challenges is to learn to balance joy and pain. Excitement and grief. Eagerness and sadness.

How do you bring yourself to a common point between the two extremes?

Faith is the easy answer, of course. “Faith is the absence of fear,” some will tell you.

I try not to spout platitudes, although I was guilty of doing just that over the weekend. Sometimes when you don’t know what to say, the inane automatically slips out.

Personally, I don’t believe there is such a thing as absence of fear.  Maybe it just shows up disguised as anxiety, insecurity or worry.

What to do?

The only thing I know to do is wait.  And while you’re waiting, maybe hit your knees or crawl onto your meditation pillow.  Take a walk, watch an insignificant movie, take a bubble bath.

Then wait some more.

Balance will come, eventually, never on my timeline, but always just in time.

Joy will return, probably more than you expected.

The light in your eyes will brighten and the anvil will lift from your heart.

Sometimes time just takes time.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.  ~ Carl Jung

Photo courtesy of Archbob