Monday, February 25, 2013

Step Away from the Thought

Years ago, I was standing on the sidewalk in Paris chatting with a group of friends. When I moved toward the curb to let some people pass by, I was close to a parked car. Suddenly, a man’s deep voice boomed, “Step away from the car. Step away from the car.” I had never encountered a recorded voice car alarm like this, and I quickly put some distance between me and that car, much to the amusement of everyone who saw me yelp and leap back!

I was reminded of this incident recently when I read a passage in A Course in Miracles about developing the habit of engaging our minds with God, open always to divine presence, united with all beings in our sacred unity. We can develop this habit by actively refusing to let our minds “slip away.”

Our minds can slip away when we get caught up in regretting something from the past, or worrying about something in the future. We can slip away into resentment or blaming or shame or anxiety. Lately, I’ve been thinking about something that happened years ago when someone hurt my feelings. And about a different time when I let someone down. I can get stuck in these thoughts, turning them over and over in my mind, churning up distress.

Before I know it, I have slipped far away from the present moment, far away from God, far away from peace and joy. A Course in Miracles says that when we catch ourselves slipping away with these thoughts, we need not fight them or judge them or reject them. We can simply “step away from them.”

When we have realigned ourselves with the divine, then our inner wisdom will guide us rather than our fear. If action is needed, we will know what to do, and we will have the courage to do it. If stillness is needed, we will know that, too, and we will have the serenity to wait.

So now, when I catch myself getting too close to thoughts that do not serve me, I hear a gentle voice. “Step away from the thought. Step away from the thought.”

The sage lets go of that and chooses this. ~Tao Te Ching

related posts: You Are Here; Thought Camping

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Miracles Happen

Today, the difficult family situation I have referred to in earlier posts was resolved in court, with the best possible outcome in these circumstances. Legal resolution, of course, does not guarantee emotional resolution, but the groundwork was laid this morning for healing to begin.

The outcome was the result of one party making a sudden and radical change in position, allowing both parties to come together in agreement. What caused that change? I have no idea. I can’t explain it.

And so I choose to believe it was a miracle.

I want some time with my family to process what has happened, so I’m taking a few days off. I’ll be back with a new post on Monday. And to my blogging friends who have justifiably felt ignored in recent weeks, I am looking forward to catching up on your blogs. Thank you for your patience.

May your days be as full of miracles as mine was today.

There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle, or you can live as if everything is a miracle. ~Einstein

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Celebrate Love!

The greatest of these is love. ~1 Corinthians 13:13

Today is Valentine’s Day in the US, a day of celebration for companies that make candy, jewelry, cards, and anything shaped like a heart.

It’s a day of pressure to be romantic for those involved in relationships, and a day of disappointment for some who are not.

It has got me thinking about love, not just romantic love, all kinds of love. For example, when my foster daughter joined our family, there was something beautiful in her spirit that I could see had been nurtured in spite of her difficult childhood. I told her that someone must have loved her very much and asked her if she knew who that was. Without hesitation, she answered that it was her Grammy.

All of us are loved now or have been loved at some time, I think, deeply. Whatever else you might be doing with this day, I thought it could be a great day to celebrate someone who loves us, or who loved us in the past.

I’ll start by celebrating Ernie, a dog we had for a brief time when I was a little girl. Ernie was a small dog, but like many small dogs, he thought he was very big. And he loved me with fierce devotion. Too fierce, unfortunately. Although he was a family dog, he singled me out for his exclusive affection...and protection.

Once when we were at a nearby lake for a weekend of recreation, we took off for a boat ride. Ernie was left behind at the cabin, but just as we pulled away from the dock he raced down the ramp and started barking, alarmed at seeing me out of reach. Confident that others at the cabin would retrieve him, we continued on our way, but I looked back just in time to see my tiny knight, who hated water, hurl himself into the lake and start paddling in our wake, determined to save me. I had a frantic fit until the boat was turned around and we went back to fish him out of the water. I held him shivering in my lap for the rest of the ride.

Another time, I was standing in the kitchen talking with my sister. Ernie was jumping and yipping for my attention, but I was ignoring him in favor of the conversation. Then he got quiet. A moment later, my sister looked down and wailed, “He peed on me!” Sure enough, her ankle and foot were soaked.

As you can guess, Ernie did not ingratiate himself with the rest of the family like he did with me. The final straw was when he started biting anyone who came near me. Ernie’s time with our family came to an end. Nobody missed him but me, but I missed him mightily. His devotion might have been expressed in unacceptable ways, but he made me feel special. As a child who was sometimes desperate for friends, I could count on him. I knew without question that he had my back, and I felt safe in his company.

Will you share with us someone whose love fills or filled your spirit – a family member, partner, pet, diety, friend, anyone?

As a Valentine bonus, here is a short video of one of my favorite love stories, about Christian the lion. This true story is well known, and perhaps you have run across it on my blog or elsewhere, but watch it again, or for the first time, and marvel at the power of love.

Monday, February 11, 2013

World Spring

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.  –Rumi

“Arab Spring” is the term often used to describe an ongoing series of protests and wars spreading through the Arab world in the last two years. The term sounds promising and full of hope, although the conflicts themselves, regardless of the outcome, have caused a great deal of suffering.

I read that one slogan of the demonstrators has been Ash-shab yurid isqat an-nizam, "the people want to bring down the regime.” Many of us can understand this sentiment, whether in support of people seeking more freedom in other countries, or wanting change in our own country, or just change in our own lives.

Are you interesting in creating your own Inner Spring and thereby changing the world? I'm thrilled to be guest posting on one of my favorite blogs today. Please click here to read the rest of this post at Vishnu's Virtues.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Arrows into Flowers

My attack thoughts are attacking my invulnerability. ~A Course in Miracles

The story is told of Mara, the evil demon, who attacked Buddha as he was sitting under the tree where he became enlightened. Mara instructed his army to shoot all their arrows at Buddha, but as the arrows drew near, they turned into flowers and fell to the ground.

I have been thinking about this image a lot lately. I mentioned before that I have been struggling with a particular situation in my life that continues to challenge me, to keep me on the razor’s edge, to give me repeated opportunities to practice compassion, fearlessness, and forgiveness.

One of most disturbing aspects for me is the intense hostility that is directed at me and at one of my children. How do I keep my heart open towards this person and at the same time defend myself and my family from the negative energy that is hurled towards us with such rage? It’s like reaching out with one hand while raising the other hand in defense. It’s exhausting!

But then I remembered this story about Buddha and Mara. And the above quote from A Course in Miracles. Ah, the problem is in the concept of defense. Defense presumes attack. If I see myself as attacked, then it is natural to defend myself, even to attack in return. In fact, I’m not sure there is really a difference between defending and attacking. Both involve my seeing the other person as separate from myself. Both involve my judging that other person as a threat, as someone to be feared.

Buddha didn’t defend himself against the arrows of Mara’s army. There was no need. The arrows were no threat to him. What was intended for harm was harmless.

So when I feel disturbed by this situation, I’ve been trying a new approach. I picture the anger coming in our direction as arrows, arrows that turn into flowers and fall gently to the ground. They carpet the earth all around us with soft petals like the cherry blossoms in the spring that we call “pink snow.” No energy is expended; my heart stays open naturally; my spirit remains at peace.

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn, 
Tigers no place to use their claws.
And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so?
Because he has no place for death to enter.
~Tao Te Ching

related posts: The Circle with No Exit; The Dance of Fear; Forgiveness, the Final Frontier

[I will be away from my computer from later today until Saturday. Because I have comment moderation, there may be a delay in seeing your comments appear. Your comments are valuable and valued, so please leave your comment and be assured that I will publish it immediately upon my return.]

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Question or Not To Question?

I have a mystery for everyone today, or perhaps a koan. I was joining in a small group meditation a few weeks ago. Before the meditation started, we were all chatting and catching up with each other. I was describing my confusion about something I was trying to make sense of in my life.

At one point, I joked that I didn’t even know what the question was. Someone else piped up with this statement: “Whatever happens is the answer.” The person thought that was a quote from somewhere, but I can’t find it. At any rate, I’ve been mulling it over. Sometimes the statement just seems like nonsense, but other times it seems quite profound!

Toni Packer writes about being open with curiosity to whatever is going on. No judgment, just honest observing. Hmm, look at that. What does this feel like? See my reaction. Tara Brach writes about radical acceptance in much the same way – “A moment of radical acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom.”

In Shambhala training, we worked with the slogan, “Everything is workable.” This means that we bring everything into our practice. Everything and everyone become my teachers.

One of my tai chi instructors brings his dog to the early morning class. There are just a few of us in the room. The dog is big and friendly and mostly lies on her rug. But every now and then she wants to join in. She will walk slowly over to one of us and position herself right between that person’s feet. As the person shifts to the next posture, she will shift, too, staying right underneath. When I am her chosen partner, I have learned to adjust my stepping and my postures to include her in the form. It’s workable. Rather than interfering with my practice, the dog becomes my teacher.

At a certain level in quantum physics, scientists learned that the question will determine the answer in the experiment. Is this energy or mass? An experiment set up to measure energy will find energy to measure. Set up the experiment to measure mass, and mass magically appears, ready to be measured. So which is it? It is whatever the question seeks to find.

So what happens if we don’t question? Ha, that’s a question, too!

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
~Tao Te Ching

related posts: The Best Exotic Present Moment; Close Encounters of the Brain Kind

Friday, February 1, 2013

Go for Bold

I don't do this very often. In fact, I don't think I've ever done it. But today, I'm doing an interview on my blog. The interview is with Tess Marshall of The Bold Life. Tess is offering a course called 30 Days of Bold, which starts February 17th. The second line of the Serenity Prayer asks for courage to change the things we can. Tess is all about courage. If you don't know her already, you are in for a treat.

For my readers who don’t know you, please introduce yourself.

I currently work as a writer, speaker, and courage coach. I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and had a private practice in Michigan for 10 years. I love to guide and  inspire people to overcome their fears and live-out-loud.  I write at The Bold Life, for an amazing and growing community that I love dearly.  My work has allowed me to reach people all over the world.

My passion is to help others grow through their fears and take the action needed to create and live a meaningful and inspired life. I’ve written three books and created a brand new course, 30 Days of Bold.

Why did you create 30 Days of Bold? Tell us more about it.

30 Days of Bold is an interactive and live course that begins on Monday February 18th. It allows us to support and personally get to know each other. We overcome our fears and grow through our courage.

The course is designed to take one beyond excuses, procrastination, worries and doubts…from fear to freedom.  You’ll gain the confidence to take bold action.

I understand what it is like to be paralyzed by fear. In the past, I made mistakes, I spent my time freaked out, playing small, denying and hiding from fear.

I sunk into depression and I hated my life.  One day, when I couldn’t stand the pain, craziness or drama any longer. I reached out for help. I hired a therapist, attended a support group, found a mentor, hired a coach and put into practice what I learned.

Little by little, I turned my life around. I created a new story.  The payoff of my post-fear life – I raised my family, I saved my marriage, became a successful therapist, a coach, an author, a professional speaker, a blogger, a writer. I achieved things I never would have thought possible. In the end, I’ve been blessed with very loving and brilliant mentors and teachers throughout my lifetime. It’s my turn to give.

How did you become so bold?

I grew up on a produce farm with nine siblings. We were all very competitive for our parents love and attention. It was speak up or lose out. We also began working in the fields and at the Farmer’s Market as young children.  At the market, we learned how to sell and turn our customers into friends! We became experts in sales by age 13! That’s a childhood of bold action.

My biggest challenge, thus far, was getting married and pregnant when I was 17, a senior in high school. Our only plan was “love!” I was the mom to four little girls at age 22. My third pregnancy was twins. We really didn’t have a plan until we began seeing a counselor 10 years later. That was a turning point. We finally had the tools needed to move forward in a healthy and happy manner. There is nothing more difficult than raising children. Nothing! I was only 38 when the twins graduated from high school.

A mother is a coach! I didn’t know it at the time, but they helped me become the courage coach I am today! There is no difference between you and me. Together, we can unearth your courageous self. It’s never too late. The time is now.

What is the most painful fear you can have?

The worst fear is one of feeling unloved and separate. All human beings have three things in common. We all want to give love, receive love and know that we matter. Once we live with an open heart and give and receive love freely, it’s impossible not to feel connected to the whole. Separation is an illusion.

Tell us about a difficult time and how you overcame your fear?

My daughter Kristy was born without a right hand. I was afraid for her. I knew life would be difficult at times and of course you want to save your kids from pain. I pushed her to do things she didn’t think she could. She also was determined to do what her sisters did.

Kristy learned how to play sports using her stub. She played basketball and soccer. She went on to the University of Chicago and played there for two years as well, before she reached her limits. Now she runs marathons, participates in triathlons and works for an athletic shoe company.

I didn’t let Kristy off the hook. Didn’t let her make excuses. She used to say when she was a little girl, “I can’t do the dishes because I only have one hand.” I’d reply, “Oh yes you can, it will just take you longer.” The way I overcame all my fears around my parenting and marriage was one step at a time.

What do you hope that people will take away after completing the course?

I want them to see that they are not alone and that there is nothing wrong with them. We all fail, we all make mistakes and we all have flaws. I want them to own their power and innate goodness. I want them to use their innate courage and have faith in themselves. I want to see them use their gifts, talents and to offer them to others along the path. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed in making the world a better place to live! Dennis Waitley said, “There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”

Click here to find out more and sign up.

[Note: I'm not getting anything for this interview and I won't get anything if you sign up for the course. I'm offering the information because I think Tess is the real deal and has something wonderful to offer. If you take the course, I would love to hear back from you about your experience with it. Whether you take the course or not, please visit her blog. You'll be glad you did.]