Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Miracles, Anyone?

I mentioned before that I am organizing an online group to study A Course in Miracles (ACIM) beginning January 1.  I’m mentioning it one more time for those who didn’t catch the earlier announcement and might be interested.

Some of you already have some experience with ACIM and others have none.  If you are in the latter category and would like some basic information about the Course, here is a good website to visit http://acim.org/.  Here is a general description:

"A Course in Miracles is a teaching device that aims to assist its readers in achieving spiritual transformation. The book describes a purely non-dualistic philosophy of forgiveness and includes what are meant to be practical lessons and applications for the practice of forgiveness in daily life."

ACIM is meant to be experiential rather than theoretical or analytic.  It is written using Christian language, but the Course itself says that the words are unimportant.  They are “symbols of symbols.”  So whether you come from a Christian faith tradition, or some other tradition, the concepts are just as applicable and are compatible with the essential wisdom teachings of any tradition (or no tradition for that matter).

The Course has three parts – a text, a workbook, and a manual for teachers (teachers meaning all of us).  These components are not set up in the way you might think, given those labels.  There is no direct correlation among them.  You can enter the Course through any of them, although ultimately it is the workbook that is where the action is, so to speak.

The workbook is set up with 365 lessons, which suggests doing one lesson a day throughout the year.  That’s why we’ll start January 1 with the first lesson.

If you are interested in finding out more, please email me directly at galenpearl@gmail.com.  Feel free to pass along this post to anyone you know who might be interested.  Thanks!

I’ll be back to regular posts next time!

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Have You Thanked a First Responder Today?

As I was driving home yesterday from my cabin, I passed four accidents on the highway.  It was raining and foggy, a dangerous combination.  Two of the accidents looked serious; in one of them a car had flipped completely over upside down.  The other two were less serious; it appeared that one of them might have been caused when the car in front slowed down as several lanes merged into one at an accident site, and the car behind ran into it.

The police and fire trucks were already on the scene at two accidents, and were arriving at another one as I drove by.  Ambulances were also there.  The police were quick to address the traffic issues, standing in the pouring rain directing vehicles around the accidents and making room for emergency vehicles and personnel.  The police were also guiding non injured victims in shock to safe areas.  EMTs were attending to the injured.

Many of us are not happy to hear sirens or to see flashing lights in our rear view mirrors, especially if we are being stopped for a traffic violation.  But as I passed these accidents and witnessed the expertise and dedication of all these heroes, I could imagine that those same flashing lights were lights from heaven and the sirens were the songs of angels to the injured and distressed.

So next time I see a police officer or a fire fighter, I’m going to make a point to walk up and say thank you.  If I’m in my car, I’ll smile and wave.  I can drop off some cookies at the fire station near my house, and leave a gift card for the police officers who frequent a local coffee shop.

If you are an emergency responder or if you know one, please accept or pass along my appreciation.  Y’all are heroes every day.  Thank you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Is Your Favorite Word?

I like words.  Indeed, as a lawyer, I made my living from words.  When I think of my favorite word, however, it is not a legal word.  It is a word, or to be more accurate, a phrase, I learned in a college botany course.  In fact, it is the only thing I retained from the course.  (I was not destined to be a scientist.)  Okay, here it is:

Click here to join the party over at Life, for instance!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Best Exotic Present Moment

Everything will be all right in the end.  If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.  –Sonny, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of British retirees comes to India to stay in what has been advertised as a newly restored hotel.  However, they arrive to find a dilapidated relic run by the ever hopeful Sonny.  Each deals with the unexpected challenges and unfamiliar culture in his or her own way, some embracing the circumstances, some recoiling from them, but all finding some new level of self awareness in the process.

Each of the characters reminds me of various ways that I deal with the present moment. Sometimes the present moment is not what I was anticipating.  In my zen mode, I can open myself up to the gifts of the holy instant, but I’m just as likely to balk, to judge, to try to change it, to escape, to pretend it’s something other than what it is.

When the present moment lands in circumstances not to my liking, I can feel fear start to beat like the orc drums deep in the mines of Moria.  I begin to search for some way out of my unease.  The drums grow louder.  Panic clutches at my throat.  I sometimes flee, or I turn to fight, making a powerful enemy out of what I can’t control.

Ah, what a waste, losing faith like that.  If I believe, and I do, that all things work together for good, then, as Joel Osteen says, things are not happening to me, they are happening for me.  It might not look that way, but the Bible cautions me to not lean on my own understanding, but rather to walk in faith and not by sight.

I’ve lived long enough to discover that events I initially judged as terrible turned out to be wondrous blessings.  What if I had been able, in the time of trouble, to trust in the basic goodness of the universe, to rest in knowing that the pain would pass, to be grateful for the perfection of every present moment?

Like guests at a hotel, we can look on the back of the door at the map with the red arrow pointing to a spot that says “You are here.”  Indeed we are.  It’s the only place we can be.  And it’s more than all right.  It’s perfect.

related posts: Falling Into Now; You Are Here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pajama Day

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.  My schedule gets away from me, there are too many phone calls, errands to run, things on my to do list.  I’m behind on reading blogs, paperwork is piling up, I can’t remember something and I think it was important.  Things start to feel like burdens instead of blessings.  I feel tired and cranky.  Then I know.  It’s time for a pajama day.

So tomorrow I will stay in my pajamas all day.  That doesn’t mean staying in bed, although I will probably laze in bed a bit later in the morning.  It means a day to myself with no agenda.  I give myself permission to read, watch TV, meditate longer, eat when I want to, drink my favorite tea, practice tai chi in the back yard, turn the phone off (and maybe the computer).

A day to recenter and refresh.  I’m looking forward to it.

What do you do when you need to replenish your reserves?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mom Was Right...Again

I read recently that making your bed can make you happier.  While I generally like a clean and tidy house, I have not been in the habit of making my bed.  Like others have observed, why make it up when I’m just going to sleep in it again tonight?  And besides, since my room is upstairs, no one sees it except me.

However, this article’s promise intrigued me, so I thought I would try it.  The quilt I’ve used on my bed for years didn’t make it through the last wash cycle in one piece, so the occasion of getting a new quilt seemed like an auspicious time to experiment with making my bed.

Wow.  What a difference!  The one minute it takes me to smooth the sheets and blankets and straighten the quilt just when I get out of bed makes my heart smile.  Everything seems right with the world.  There is a noticeable lift in my mood and peace in my spirit.

And here’s the bonus.  I feel happier when I go to bed, too.  I like approaching my bed and pulling the covers down and slipping between the sheets.  My bed is a more welcoming place, inviting me to enter a calm and orderly refuge and settle into restful slumber.

Those of you who practice this habit regularly might not appreciate the dramatic difference this simple act makes at the start of your day.  I’m now a believer, and with the fanaticism characteristic of the newly converted, I want to spread the word!

Do you make your bed?  If not, would you try it for a week?  Let me know what happens!

related post: Are You Belly Breathing?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Story -- Many Lessons

You know those stories that you never live down?  We were at the dinner table the other night and got to laughing over a story about my daughter Mia, a story that gets told and retold.  I’ve probably written about it on the blog, but I can’t remember, so here it is again, with Mia’s permission (accompanied by an eye roll).

When she was in kindergarten, the kids lined up to move through the hallways between the classroom and activities located elsewhere in the school.  Every day, someone was chosen by the teacher to be the line leader, which is a big deal when you are in kindergarten.

One day, as the kids lined up, Mia immediately observed that the girl in front was not the chosen line leader that day.  The chosen leader was further back in the line, apparently shirking her responsibility.  As the line moved forward, Mia was looking back over her shoulder, waving and calling to the girl who was supposed to be in front, and telling her to assume her assigned position (telling her in a somewhat bossy way, as the story was related to me).

As Mia became more adamant (it seems the girl was not at all concerned that some upstart had usurped her role), she was not watching where she was going and tripped over a chair right in front of her, falling flat and getting a bit banged up in the process.

I love this story first of all because I love Mia, and this incident so captures the feisty little pixie that she was.  I also love it because it has much to offer upon reflection.

Shall we play a game today?  How many lessons can we learn from this simple story?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Close Encounters of the Brain Kind

I was up at my cabin this weekend enjoying some beautiful fall weather.  I took a walk along a rocky path that I don’t travel often.  Along the way, I decided to try some awareness exercises.  The path ahead was bumpy but without any significant hazards.  I closed my eyes and stepped very carefully, keeping my weight on one foot until the other foot was safely positioned before shifting my weight forward.

I hadn’t gone very far before I stepped forward into mossy undergrowth.  Realizing that I had veered to the edge of the path, I opened my eyes and found myself facing directly towards the side of the path.  Wow, I thought, I didn’t even sense that I was not moving in a straight line.  Believing that I had turned towards the right side of the path, I turned back to the left and continued on, keeping my eyes open.

After a while, wondering why I had not come to the road I was expecting, I started looking around.  Something didn’t seem right.  The path was going gradually uphill instead of down.  The sun was on my right instead of left.  I stopped, completely disoriented.  The faint traffic noise from the distant highway was on the “wrong” side, too.

My brain, which had immediately made an assumption when I opened my eyes that I was facing the right side of the path, insisted that I was going in the right direction.  All my senses, however, said I wasn’t.  Indeed, my senses were correct.  With my eyes closed, I had veered to the left side of the path instead of the right.  If I had paused to get my bearings when I opened my eyes, I would have seen that and continued down the path to my right, instead of turning to my left and going back up the path where I had come from.

What was so interesting to me was how sure my brain was that it was correct, even when all my senses were telling me that it was wrong.  Even when I turned and headed in the right direction, my brain continued to be confused.  Everything seemed “backwards” until I found familiar landmarks and convinced my brain that indeed we were going the right way.  

I wonder how many other assumptions my brain has latched onto without a careful consideration of the available information.  Seeing how much effort it took to change my brain’s orientation made me think that my brain, once having reached a conclusion, is loathe to consider other possibilities, even when conflicting evidence is presented.

I learned two things.  First, my brain likes to have an answer and will jump to one quickly rather than pause in uncertainty.  Second, once my brain has an answer, it will lock it in and defend it against anything that contradicts it.

My brain has given me a lot to think about.  My awareness exercise was a huge success, just not in the way I intended!

related post: The Curiosity of Not Knowing  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Thank You This Day

If you are familiar with the Christian faith, you might have run across the Lord’s Prayer.  This is the prayer Jesus taught his followers.  One line in the prayer is usually translated “Give us this day our daily bread.”  This petition has long bothered me.  Let me explain.

Just before he offers this prayer, Jesus reassures his followers that God knows what they need before they ask.  Later, he points out that the birds do not till the soil and yet are fed; the lilies of the field do not spin and yet are gloriously clothed.  I don’t think he is suggesting that we all sit around watching TV, waiting for food and clothes to magically appear.  What he is suggesting, indeed what he says outright, is to “not be anxious about your life.”  What Jesus teaches is to trust God.

The Tao Te Ching teaches a similar lesson.  “The truly good man does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.”  Like Jesus, Lao Tsu is not suggesting sloth, but rather a non-ego approach to life, an approach based not in fear but in faith, faith in the Tao, or the Way.

Buddhism reflects this in the concepts of Right Thought, Right Effort, Right Action, and in trusting in the basic goodness of the universe.

I would love to hear from Hindu and Muslim readers about similar concepts.

And even beyond specific faith traditions, we see this idea reflected in Einstein’s observation about choosing whether to see the universe as hostile or friendly.  I choose the latter.

And so, if I choose to believe in the basic goodness of the universe, and I do, then why would I need to ask for my daily bread?

When I wake up every morning, it is my habit to say a prayer just as I am coming into consciousness.  Because my brain is still fuzzy, it is easier to say a prayer from habit.  I often choose the Lord’s Prayer, but with a few modifications.  Instead of praying “Give us this day our daily bread,” I pray “Thank you this day for our daily bread.”

It’s a small change, but with a big impact.  I start my day in faith that all will be well.  This is true even if on the surface it might not seem that way to me.  I have faith that all things work together for good.  I start my day in gratitude.

How do you start your day?  Do you have any prayers or habits or routines that get your day off to a good start?

related post:  For Today, Newly Bright