Thursday, September 25, 2008

Have You Been a Little Too Hard on Yourself?


Sometimes I find I can be hard on myself and not even realize it until.....

I'm hard on another person or someone else is hard on me. This usually comes out in some form of criticism. Isn't it interesting how "constructive" criticism rarely feels constructive—either to you as you receive the criticism or to the person receiving criticism from you? Criticism is often riddled with blame about how someone "should" have done something or what someone "should" have done instead.

Throughout my life, I have adopted roles of leadership at various times in my life and I have come to realize that in the eyes of others, you will never do everything right. Some you are serving will perceive you create too many rules; others will say you don't provide enough guidance. And on and on it goes, because each individual you serve is looking through their own personal lens of reality. As a result, I have discovered that criticism has very little value. Instead, I have come to realize that in most cases, most of us are simply doing the best we can in the moment, and hind-sight really is 20/20 vision.

Watching the presidential debates last night was a reminder to me about how easy it is to criticize. When you are not the person in the hot seat, making those tough decisions, it is easy to assume you know what decision someone else should be making. What I saw in the presidential debates were two men, doing their best, making mistakes periodically, who truly believe they have the leadership this country needs. Regardless of whose view, I am more aligned with, there were two men on that stage who have committed their lives to making a difference for others. These men represent two distinct points of view about their leadership that in turn represent, in broad manners, the views of many American citizens.

I could applaud one and criticize the other, but that would be the easy path. Politics is one arena where criticism has frequently become an acceptable response, and I'm not seeing it as a response that is in any way elevating our consciousness as spiritual beings. As someone dedicated to spiritual awareness and growth, I have to ask myself, "How do we transcend our propensity to criticize?" From experience, I know the best place for me to begin answering that question is inside myself.

I am harder on me than any other person I know. And when I am in a pendulum swing reaction to that hardness, I refuse to see where I could be more present, kind or thoughtful. In these two extreme views of myself, spiritual awareness seems to be asleep because I am not being very truthful with myself. I am not doing such a bad job that I deserve the rantings of my inner critic. Neither am I so in touch spiritually that I never miss the mark. Depending upon the alignment of the planets, my mood, and my current perceptions about myself, I am both. The truth is, the harder I am on myself in regard to making positive changes of perception, the less I am willing to look at what I might truly like to change.

And so, if I am willing to look at myself with respect and reverence—honestly and truthfully—I will be able to embrace the saint within me with appreciation and address the sinner (in its original meaning—one who misses the mark) with compassion. If I can hold myself in such regard, then I will be able to hold others with the same respect and reverence.

Ah, now I can imagine holding political candidates in mindful regard. I can pray for both of them, see and love their greatness, and pray for the best outcome in the elections for our country and the world. I may vote for my own personal preference, and yet, hold a vision of political and personal interaction filled with reverence and respect.

What would the world be like if we were compassionately honest with ourselves, and compassionate in our interactions with other? What would the world be like if each of us committed to being a little less hard and critical, and a lot more kind?

Interested in some business perspective about "constructive criticism?" Visit "Ask Misa" at the New Dream Foundation Forums: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Heart of Offering


This weekend my husband and I visited some friends in Denver. We were invited to join them for a yoga class and I decided to take them up on the offer. My husband and I have been doing yoga together on our own for years and thought it would be wonderful to join with other people and learn a new approach.

As the class began, the instructor invited us to place our hands in prayer position in front of our hearts, and to then make an offering of our class. She reminded us that every pose and every stretch could be a gift offered to another or the planet.

My mind went to the great reliefs on the walls of many temples in Egypt. The ancient progression of drawings there show us how, in their spiritual tradition, each candidate or supplicant brought a gift before making his or her request for teaching, healing or intercession.

Before meals together with my Native brothers and sisters, we make a spirit plate of food that is offered to our brother and sister spirits outside, sharing our bounty of food with them before we fill our own plates. When doing tobacco prayers, we make offerings to Great Spirit and the many beings the Creator has made.

With my Wiccan sisters, many times I have made an offering of candles and flowers on the altar as gifts to the Divine Feminine—honoring the sacred nature of the feminine before making any requests.

With my Hindu friends I have observed the humble offering of puja—giving to God what is truly God's—where even a song can be sung as a gift.

In my Catholic upbringing, we recognized the great offering of Jesus' suffering so that we might not need to suffer. Before my father died, I watched him follow in the same footsteps, offering the suffering caused by his cancer so that others might not need to suffer. I have sung with Native American sundancers, who also offered their suffering so that others might not.

Offering—bringing a gift of beauty, sacrificing pain or discomfort, giving to others in need, sharing from our abundance—are such rich tributes to the Divine and to life itself. Various forms of the practice of offering is done in religious and spiritual traditions across the globe. It makes sense for such a practice to be adopted by so many cultures. For all that we receive, doesn't it make sense to offer something in return—to give to the cycle of life as well as to receive from it?

In an age when so many of us have been focused on getting our needs met (an appropriate response to many years of not having needs met), it is refreshing to me to witness balance—to participate in a practice of willingly sharing from my heart (and in this case my body) what I have to give in the moment. The yoga instructor introduced a great reminder to me about the importance of making offerings whenever I can. She was a good instructor, pushing us gently past our perceived limits, and at the end of class I knew my offering of stretching into some of those poses were real gifts!

For more insights about the spiritual significance of making offerings visit "Ask Misa" at the New Dream Foundation Forums: http://newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Is Your Gratitude Quotient for You Needing a Little Attention?


I have been addressing some challenging topics lately. One thing I have learned about a true and meaningful spiritual path is that it means the most when we are willing to ask ourselves some of those tough questions. It is easy to talk about spirituality in lofty words and it is relatively easy to feel that yummy, delicious spiritual energy that rises when everyone is in prayer together. But most of the day, we are doing our best to figure out what it means to live a spiritually together life in the midst of turbulent emotions, misunderstandings, bills, strained relationships, etc. The only way I have discovered to truly transcend those challenges is to face them with courage. I'm not talking about beating myself up. I'm talking about honest, compassionate truth and assuming full responsibility for my life. Then after facing myself in raw honesty, I figure I deserve a little recognition.

The person who knows best how dedicated I am to my own spiritual awakening is me. And so, I figure I'm the best person to recognize me. So I let myself know how grateful I am....to myself. Now, I don't eat a bunch of food that isn't good for me or engage in an activity that is ultimately harmful in order to reward myself. I don't figure that approach is truly a reward. What I have learned to do is to feel grateful for me.

If I am an of Divine awareness, then why not be the agent of Divine love for me? The best way I have found to thank myself is to feel gratitude. The feeling really is the juice I'm looking for.

If you are receiving my weekly meditations, you will notice this week's meditation is about breathing in and feeling gratitude for myself. A couple of minutes is all I need to feel wonderful about who I am. Many years ago, it took a lot longer than a couple of minutes, and I cried my way through every breath of gratitude I took because I didn't feel worthy. The good thing about this exercise, is that in continuing to do it, I started feeling more and more worthy.

There are other ways to express gratitude to self. Sometimes it is helpful to write down, act out, sing about, dance or draw self-gratitude. Other times it has meaning to put something special on a personal altar reminding yourself how special you truly are. Put a picture up in your room that simply makes you feel special. Put flowers on a table in honor of you. Light a fire and sip a cup of tea, just because you are you and you deserve a little acknowledgment.

If you are really daring, you might try this. Honor yourself in a special way until you have filled up your gratitude quotient. Then go do something out in the world. Notice what you are like around others when your gratitude quotient is full.

If you would like to receive Reverend Misa's weekly meditations, just sign up with your name and e-mail address at http://www.NewDreamFoundation.com. While you are there, check out the Forums and some of the wonderful free inspiration from our members.