Spirituality

Want Spiritual Experiences? Do This!

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If you’ve ever spent any amount of time in a stream of seemingly bad luck, you know how hard it is to stay positive.

If you’re there right now, I feel your pain.  I’ve written about losing my job six weeks ago and a bit about the accompanying crappy details like being denied unemployment, scheduling and preparing for an appeal hearing, finding out my insurance has lapsed in spite of COBRA and the grueling process of debt consolidation.

The icing on the cake was last week’s unexpected but typical family drama.  The proverbial straw . . .

I know, poor, poor, pitiful me.

It’s tough being spiritual, isn’t it, when you’re clinging to a log in the middle of that rough-water stream?

Tough, but not impossible.

You and I know that the logs we metaphorically hang on to–the ones with the claw marks–represent the stuff that’s hurting us, the circumstances or people we must let go.

But before you can let go, there is something that needs to happen.

You need to become willing.

Huh?

That’s right.  Everything you experience in life is about the decisions you make.  You either made a decision already or you need to make a decision and think you can’t.

Do you know why you can’t?  You haven’t become willing.

I’ve spent the better part of the last six weeks terrified that the money will run out, we’ll become homeless and begging with Jazzy on a street corner.

Well, maybe I’m not quite that fearful.  But I have been clinging to a big ‘ole log of fear even as I’ve known that I need to let it go.

But there was a piece missing.  The piece was willingness.

Willingness precedes every growth step.

I was having a conversation over the weekend with friends about spiritual experiences and how to know if we’d had one.  Several people said they only learn to appreciate an event as a spiritual experience after they became willing to open themselves to having them.

Do you agree?

Reading in the text of A Course in Miracles confirmed the piece about decisions.  “If you cannot hear the Voice for God, it is because you do not choose to listen.  That you do listen to the voice of your ego is demonstrated by your attitudes, your feelings and your behavior,” reads ACIM.

Choosing to listen to the voice on your spiritual path or to your ego is your decision, of course.  That’s why we have free will.

And free will decisions are always about either fear or love.  Will you continue to clutch the log in fear or are you willing to let go and open yourself to your cinema of spiritual experiences?

Give it some thought, and if you’re willing, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

B Well & Willing!

Photo courtesy of renowiggum

 

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Invictus: Master Your Fate, Captain Your Soul

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Out of the night that covers me, black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud.  Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade.  And yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll.  I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

I referenced the above poem about 18 months ago, about how I had to memorize it in my 8th grade English class.

I can’t remember what major life challenge was happening at the time; there have been several in the last three years, but it must have been big for me to draw my heavy gun, Invictus.

The poem has crossed my mind several times in the weeks since my job lay-off.  Today it takes on special meaning as friends encourage me to follow my bliss.

The BridgeMaker blog post

About the time I first wrote about how Invictus impacts my life, my friend Alex Blackwell wrote a post on his blog, The BridgeMaker, called “Don’t Rent Your Life, Own It.”

Alex wrote about his fervent belief in Life Ownership Contracts.  He views his contract as a way to embrace his power, to underscore how he is responsible for making his life what it is and what he wants it to be.

A Life Ownership Contract eliminates your victim status, so if you enjoy being a victim, stop reading now.

However, if you want to jump on the magic carpet ride of life, read on.

As I wrote back then, life doesn’t happen to you.  Here’s the rest of what I wrote (I’ve changed the pronouns from 1st to second-person):

When you take 100% responsibility for every aspect of your life–you find freedom.  You no longer blame others for the perceived wrongs done to youYou quit judging others’ actions because you see what they do as the choices they get to make.  If you have a run of what could be seen as crappy circumstances, you sit back and ask yourself whether a belief, thought or feeling you’re holding is attracting the current situation and if not, what can you learn and then pass on to someone else?

Write your Life Ownership Contract

Happily, the LOC I wrote in 2011 is still good.  I’m renewing it today.  I invite you to create your own, or if you did 18 months ago, GREAT!  Join me in reviewing and renewing it.  Please share it if you choose.  Here’s mine:

  1. I agree to remember the Trinity:  God, myself, others.
  2. I agree to respond rather than react.
  3. I agree to allow transparency when it is appropriate.
  4. I agree to treat people and animals with respect and dignity.
  5. I agree to honor my entire self–from the inside out.
  6. I agree to not take myself too seriously and to laugh often.
  7. I agree to walk lightly and appreciate my steps.
  8. I agree to be present to the people, places and circumstances before me.
  9. I agree to always believe in miracles and to know that size doesn’t matter.
  10. I agree to put love ahead of everything else.
  11. I agree to say what I mean and mean what I say and to use words judiciously.
  12. I agree to remember that others’ thoughts, attitudes and opinions are none of my business and to remember to accept responsibility for my own.

Photo courtesy of hotblack

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Return to Love Again and Again

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Happy Love Day!

More than two decades ago, I began a one-day-at-a-time journey that I thought was about turning my back on bottles of whiskey, rum and amber brew.

Little did I know that the by-product of not drinking for 24-hour stretches would be the gift of learning how to love.

One year after I got sober, I purchased a book called A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson.  That was in May of 1992.  By the time I met Marianne at one of her early speaking gigs in November of 1994, I was absolutely smitten with the love bug.

Returning to love

Marianne’s book is the #2 book on my shelf that draws my attention when I’m suffering the slings and arrows of an unloving life (the first one being the book called  Alcoholics Anonymous–many of you are familiar with that one!).  A Return to Love covers love in every area of life and offers instructions about how to infuse love into work, relationships, and ultimately your own heart.

Marianne writes, “Love is what we were born with.  Fear is what we learned here.  The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.”

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

A love gift for you

On this day that celebrates love here in the United States, my gift to you is several key passages from A Return to Love.  I hope they bring you peace.  I pray they ease any struggles you’re having.

Please sit with these words and let them sink deep into your heart.  I’ll be holding them in my heart today too.

From my heart to yours, may your day be filled with love and light.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

To surrender to God means to let go and just love.  By affirming that love is our priority in a situation, we actualize the power of God.  This is not metaphor; it’s fact.  We literally use our minds to co-create with Him.  Through a mental decision–a conscious recognition of love’s importance and our willingness to experience it–we “call on a higher power.”

Love casts out fear the way light casts out darkness.  The shift from fear to love is a miracle.

People deserve our love because of what God created them to be.

Growth is not always about getting what we think we want.  Always, it’s about becoming the men and women we have the potential to be.  Loving, pure, honest, clear.

Finally, Marianne ends A Return to Love with this:  “Dear God, I give this day to you, the fruit of my labor and the desires of my heart.  In your hands I place all questions, on your shoulders I place all burdens.  I pray for my brothers and for myself.  May we return to love.  May our minds be healed.  May we all be blessed.  May we find our way home, from the pain to peace, from fear to love, from hell to Heaven.

To find out more about Marianne Williamson’s work, please visit her website here.

Photo courtesy of clarita.

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How to Stay in Love and Out of Hell

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We’ve entered the year’s most celebrated week of love, at least in the United States.

If you don’t know that Valentine’s Day is this Thursday, you’ve been living without electricity in a remote cabin since January 2.   That’s the date when the Christmas and New Year’s TV commercials transitioned to jewelry store ads.

I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan.  I prefer to celebrate love every day of the year and am opposed to mandatory gift-buying as a means of “showing” love.

However, love is in the air–manufactured or actual–and I’ll take it.  In fact, love pushes to the forefront of mind every time I enter my studio to write.  Hearts are everywhere, along with photos of people I adore and favorite toys and stuffed animals.  I am a child at heart.

I like to make sure that love is all around me because love is my mission and my singleness of purpose.  Love keeps me out of hell.

Hell, you say?

Think about it.  How often do you find yourself in rotten circumstances caused by your unlovingness?  Maybe you involve others but how about all the times you cast yourself into hell with your self talk and self thoughts?

Every time you feel guilty . . .

Every time you judge . . .

Every time you star as the victim in a story you’ve embellished . . .

Every time you undermine your feelings . . .

Every time you lie, cheat or steal (rationales don’t matter) . . .

Every time you participate in character assassinate (deserved or otherwise) . . .

Not much love in any of these situations, is there?  Plus, when you’re active in these scenes, and you sit around wondering about why you’re miserable, don’t you also question if things are ever going to change?

Ah, the old definition of insanity:  Doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.

Insanity is definitely hell.

Don’t you want out of hell?

I must warn you that getting out of hell and into love takes dedicated work and practice.

Here’s how you start:

1.  Become willing to acknowledge that the responsibility rests on your shoulders.  Please know that I’m not insensitive to issues beyond your control that placed you where you are, especially if you’re a victim of a crime.  However, even in those circumstances, you can take responsibility for how you view yourself and how you choose to treat others.

2.  Understand that you can learn the difference between what you can change and what you can’t.   Sometimes simply knowing that difference is a critical game-changer.

3.  Stop your perpetual motion.  I’ve learned–the hard way, most times–that stepping away from constant action gives me the opportunity for peaceful contemplation.  I feed my dark side less and less each time I choose to grow my peace.

And the big one . . .

Accept your dark side.

We all have one.  We’re human, after all.  Trust me, if you ignore the darkness in you, or worse, pretend it doesn’t exist, you’ll stay firmly rooted in hell.

If you believe that you are a holy child of God (or any other name you choose), you can co-exist with the darkness in you.

Didn’t the lion and the lamb lie down together?

The trick is to trust that your holiness is steadfast, even when you don’t feel like it is.

Rising from hell and into love takes constant practice.  No one claims that it’s easy.

If you don’t already know this, you are worth the effort.  We all are.

Happy Love Week.

 

 

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Do You Surrender or “Turn it Over?”

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My friend John has been asked to deliver a presentation to the recovery community about letting go, or in 12-step parlance, turning it over.

We talked about the challenges of turning it over and then taking it back.  We each confessed that we’re guilty of the back-and-forth, pull and push of any given challenge or drama that for us, necessitates turning it over.

Then we decided that it’s hard  to put into words what turning it over means.

After we talked a little more, I asked him whether turning it over was the child’s version of the adult’s surrender.

John thought about it for a bit and said, “Well, it does seem like surrendering is the final, ‘okay, God, I give up.  You can have it.'”

At first I thought he was right.  Now I’m thinking toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.

See what you think.

AA’s Step Three

While my upbringing in recovery is rooted in the 12 steps, I’also open to other teachings.  I love exploring ideas so long as they’re spiritually sound and cast no negative vibes.

Step Three, as we know, goes like this, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  Admittedly, and taken out of context, that statement can be off-putting to newcomers who might rebel with a hearty, “WTF?”

But check out the language inherent in the step:  turning it over. 

The prayer associated with Step Three is beautiful, “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thy wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.  May i do Thy will always.”

That’s pretty much a willingness to surrender, wouldn’t you say?  The key, I believe, is your motivation behind the words.

The Buddhist 12-Step Approach

Kevin Griffin writes about distinguishing between our lower selves–the addicted, self-inflicted, destructive me–and our higher selves–the me that is more loving, compassionate and connected to a higher power.

Kevin writes in his Huffington Post blog, “If we are to get and stay sober, we need to live less from the lower and more from the higher self. Turning our will and our lives over is the way we do this.”

The Buddhists believe it’s all about intention; in other words, why you do something is more critical than what you do.

Let’s say I’m struggling with the upset of losing my job (wow–there’s a shocking example, right?).  The whole situation is really “eating my lunch.”

I can make a decision to turn it over and ask God (or any word you choose to insert) to remove it from me.  Okay, that’s done.  Check the box.

It sort of sounds like my intention is just to push it off my to-do list, doesn’t it?

But if my intention is really to move on, wish the former employer well while taking a deep compassionate breath, that’s different.

Committing to a better life

Do you see the difference in intention?

Kevin writes, “Turning our will over means that we now are clear about how we want to live, that we’ve committed ourselves to living skillfully and wisely . . . This shift of intention has a profound effect on the direction of our lives.

“Turning our lives over means that once we’ve changed our intention, we now change our actions.”

Okay, so turning it over isn’t as child-like as John and I first thought.

Here’s my final thought and I invite your conversation:  Turning it over is the practice of letting go.  Surrender is the final release.

Photo courtesy of amann

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