Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When Life Becomes a Living Prayer

I've been writing about some tough issues coming up for me lately, and I have found it to be very healing to look at myself straight on. It isn't always easy, but the freedom on the other side of self honesty—well, the immense joy and freedom on the other side makes it all worth the effort. However, today I would like to take a little break to reflect on something more nurturing.

I grew up the oldest of six kids, with a mom who was ill a lot of the time. Bet you can get the picture. I was a little mom assuming a lot of adult responsibility at a very young age. As I grew older, it became challenging to create time to play and rest.

One Saturday, I actually told myself wasn't going to do anything I felt had to be done. I would only engage in activities I wanted to experience. Once I got passed the "I should be doing" thoughts, it became one of the most enjoyable days of my life. Living for the fun of it was a completely new concept to me. Now I dedicate time every week for fun—no talking about the Foundation, my upcoming book, challenges—just stories, laughter and teasing.

I still do things I need to do, even the tasks I'm not particularly fond of, but somehow over the years I've learned to think about them a little differently. I like to approach those tasks, and when I'm really being conscious—all of my experiences, as prayer. It feels so good to be painting the steps of the porch, weeding the garden or doing the dishes and offering the acts themselves as prayers of thanksgiving for all I get to enjoy in life.

When it is a particularly unpleasant task like cleaning out the toilet or taking out the garbage, it is a wonderful time to remember people who are even more challenged than me, and offer the act as a prayer to reduce the burden of someone else. There are many children around the world who are raising and providing for their younger brothers and sisters with far fewer resources and help than I had. Some of them don't have parents or homes or even regular food to eat. So I turn my chores into acts of prayer for them.

To get up in the morning grateful for my dreams and time to meditate; to step outside from my office to enjoy sensation of sweet, clean air and listen to the birds singing to each other; to know that the work I do each day is of service to someone in greater need than me; to go to bed at night and feel gratitude for our home and my husband snuggled up against me—every moment is worthy of being a prayer. Every moment is a prayer.

From time to time, particularly when I am feeling challenged by what I perceive needs to be done, I remind myself my life is a prayer. And then I ask myself, "So how do I want to live this prayer?" The answer usually comes very quickly. Some quality of love comes to mind like peacefully, happily, joyfully, romantically......all the yummy ways I want to experience life. Then I am able to turn the challenge into an opportunity to be of service, and the service becomes a loving, joyful expression of life—and I experience my life as a living prayer.

To read a prayer about Life As Prayer, visit: http://newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php/board,38.0.html

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Struggle of Accepting Others and Self as We Are

My relationship with my husband has proven to be a wonderful place in which to become more self-aware. Perhaps relationships for most, if not all of us, allow us to see powerful reflections of our beliefs and behaviors in action, and that is certainly true for us. On my part, it is fairly easy to see the reasons he loves me. The harder realities to witness are the justifiable reasons I drive him crazy and even hurt his feelings.

We are in the process of selling our home right now, and like many couples, the added workload and transition is pushing our stress buttons. Frankly, we are not always acting like the spiritually sensitive and kind beings we take pride in being. The good news is that we are both willing to look at ourselves honestly.

Currently that means I am taking a close look at how I expect him to be the way I want him to be. My mother did the same thing. So did my grandmothers. I didn’t know my great-grandmothers, but I’m willing to bet they did the same thing. I have read a few books on relationship dynamics that would confirm my suspicion that women tend to do that. We think we will be happier if our men would just become the men we want them to be. Never mind that we fell in love with them as they are.

In fairness, we women aren’t the only ones that engage in this interesting practice. Take a look at the world. It has become somewhat accepted policy when the US attempts to (and sometimes does) establish democracies in countries that never wanted a democratic government, as if we know what is better for someone else, so even against their will we attempt to change them.

If you didn’t know, I’m part Caucasian, part Native with a background in behavioral science, which gives me reason to consider the patterned behaviors of the cultures I have come from. What I’m about to say, may not fit for you and you might not agree. If you have a different perspective, write me and I’ll post your view.

When I look at the history of my Caucasian ancestors, it seems we have a long history of changing other cultures so that we will feel more at home. I know there are many cases in which other cultures have adopted new influences willingly, but that hasn’t always been the case. Look at the way we came to the Americas, for example, and imposed our will, ruthlessly, on the Native people.

All right, that was in the past, or somebody’s ancestors who did that, but are we aware of ways in which this pattern persists even today? Perhaps even through us? Do we have the courage to change it personally, nationally, and culturally?

I once heard the races likened to the elements. The white race was associated with fire; the red race with the earth, the black race with water and the yellow race with the wind. The speaker demonstrated the advancements of each race as associated with these elements. If we played with this concept a bit, we might ask, “What is the nature of fire?” It does have a way of consuming everything in its path, doesn’t it—at least until its path is stopped? It also provides light and enlightenment, warmth, purification, and all the beautiful ways in which we relate to fire.

Perhaps, if those of us who have Caucasian blood would be willing to consider our historical patterns, even our fire-like qualities, we might find reason to more consciously consider the choices we make and their effects on others—like hurting my husband’s feelings as I attempted to change a really good and thoughtful man into one that made me more comfortable. He deserves better than to be consumed in my desire to control everything. He deserves my warmth and light.

Now, can women, and men, of every race engage in this behavior of trying to change others, even against their will? Sure. And we do. After all, we are the human race before all other races, and in today’s world we are not so homogeneous. Yet still, if we have the courage, I hold that it can be helpful to consider our patterns of behavior in terms of their potential cultural and historical roots. For me, recognizing patterns and consciously changing them helps me in fulfilling my greatest potential as a spiritual human being.

Let me be clear, I am not saying my red blood is better than my white blood, or that one race or culture is better than another. Every culture brings its unique gifts and challenges into the mix of humanity. I am suggesting that my willingness to change my husband is a bit arrogant and quite disrespectful, and that I have seen this kind of disrespect played out in many ways—personally, nationally and culturally.

I understand that I have experienced both sides of disrespect. I am the one who has been disrespectful and have also been disrespected. When I look to the root of disrespect, what I observe is that in this energy there is a dishonoring of an individual's (or a group or culture's) perceptions of the world and life; an unwillingness to create space for diversity; a willingness to impose one’s will on someone else—to try to fundamentally change the beliefs of someone else so that we will be more comfortable, blurring the lines of distinction and ultimately creating greater disharmony. Tolerance for diversity and loving acceptance of self and others is forgotten.

I am willing to do my part—to heal my wounds from the inside out. How do I heal this? Personally, I take it into the Creation Meditation that I have shared with you at the Forums. I hold myself in compassionate respect and will do so until it is no longer an aching need within me. When I feel my self-respect in its fullness, I know I will no longer need to play out the dramas around respect. When I accept others and myself in our completeness—compassionately recognizing the warts and the beauty—I enter into a state of holy and sacred awareness. Therefore, I choose to use my discomfort to help me enter more deeply into sacred space.

If you would like to join me in this journey of sacred acceptance of self and others, visit this webpage and read the Creation Meditation. I’ll meet you in the ethers and together we will do our part to heal this ancient wound. http://newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php/topic,75.0.html

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why do we wait so long to do what we know we need to do?

A friend and I were discussing this question recently, because I have noticed that there are times when I say a prayer asking for guidance, receive the guidance, and then seem to wait to put anything into action. Now I have been known to argue with the guidance I have received and that has consistently ended up being a big waste of time. But, this is different. This question came up because I realize I get the guidance, and I’m not arguing—I’m just not acting.

I know that sometimes I need to receive the guidance three or four times from various sources before I realize that it is indeed guidance. That is understandable. Sometimes the concept is new enough or subtle enough in its delivery that it isn’t obvious, so I need my spiritual shoulder to be shaken a few times before I realize my guidance is waking me up.

I’m talking about those moments when I know I have received guidance and it is clear to me, yet I put off taking any action. I’m not alone out here with this phenomenon am I?

A question like this haunts me until I address it, so I kept exploring. “Why do I procrastinate when I have received the guidance I ask for?” I mused with my friend “Ok, sometimes I need confirmation. The concept is so new; I want to be really sure. And sometimes I’m darned afraid. Other times, I know I need partners and I’m watching for them. Still other times, the guidance requires action I’ve got to fit in to my schedule. Or I’m waiting for some miraculous occurrence that launches me into action. I’m also aware of the marketing guideline that most people need to receive a message nine times before they are likely to take action. I recognize these reasons for inaction, and I have ways for addressing them. Yet, there are times, I address the concerns, fears and limits and I’m still procrastinating. What is it?”

In my conversation with my friend I had a flash of insight about living on planet earth. One of the gifts of living on earth is that there is time between the moment we have a creative thought and its full implementation in becoming reality. For example, when I decided I wanted to become a Special Education teacher many years ago, first I had the inspiration, second I talked to a college counselor, and then I talked to my parents about helping me apply for a scholarship. I researched colleges, filled out and submitted applications……. You know the rest of the story. It was years before I was certified and teaching my first students. The process took time.

Is it possible that we are conditioned for things to take time? Time between inspiration and creation can be good. As a parent, pregnancy gives you time to prepare. If you are angry with someone and you wish them ill, there is time to recant that thought and replace it with something more compassionate. Have you ever had a reactive thought you wish you hadn’t? Here on earth, we have time here to get really clear. In fact, we frequently find ourselves needing to reinforce the clarity and passion of our desires so that the universe knows we mean it.

Sometimes, I think I’m just waiting to see if the action my guidance is suggesting feels like it will be worth the effort I sense it will take. And here is the irony. If I act immediately on the guidance I receive, the process usually takes less effort. My wondering and pondering if I have the energy and courage to do it is taking up precious energy and making it the effort I’m concerned it will be. If I just do it, less energy is required! So guess who is listening and acting immediately now?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

When Life Feels Overwhelming, What Choices Do You Make?

Tell the truth now! When you feel overwhelmed do you tend to duck and hide from the world? Or do you get angry at the least little "extra" request? Do you begin making ultimatums to everyone around you in order to try to take control? Do you run away by allowing yourself to be distracted? Do you blame other people for overwhelming you? Do you go on the attack, protecting every square inch of your time and energy?

I can admit it. I have done it all. (My husband can vouch for that.) Here is the thing about overwhelm. When you feel it you are already out of balance and you are likely to react rather than respond consciously. The trick is to respond before overwhelm hits. The opportunity in spiritual growth is to remain in the flow. Grabbing for the banks of life’s stream and trying make everything stand still often leads to tension and submersion.

Recently, Jim, Ariann and I from the New Dream Foundation met for our ten-year planning retreat. We began with a meditation and within seconds, the Retreat Center room was filled with spirits from the other side, all ready to help us. Oh, I love all those good spirits, but I’ve got to admit, seeing so many of them at a planning retreat was making me a little nervous. In my experience, when you get big help, you have something big to do. It was a fair case for overwhelm.

Instead of running scared, we decided to trust in the compassionate, loving presence of the spirits in the room with us. We had already committed to our sacred work, and they were there to support our commitment to the Divine.

As the weekend progressed, we put on paper the dreams for the Foundation we had been carrying in our hearts. The total of these dreams could easily overwhelm anyone, but we felt reassured by the help we felt from the supportive spirits on the other side of the veil.

It is a big vision, but then it had to be. It is a vision for the world—a vision where each person’s unique spiritual path is honored—a vision where people of various spiritual traditions or people without a specific spiritual tradition can find each other—create support for each other spiritually and physically, and reach out in service to people of the world in greater need. That’s a big vision and one worth living for.

When I got home, I felt the urge to panic with all we had decided to put into action. Before the panic grabbed hold too hard, I stepped back, slowed myself way down, and asked myself, “What are the best uses of my talents, and who are the people I can best serve?” I considered every area of my life, and thoughtfully made some decisions about where and how I diffuse my energy in less than efficient ways.

I looked at how I could use my talents and skills to serve people more effectively and efficiently—ultimately serving more people better. I strengthened my commitment to creating enough time for personal play, romance, exercise and rest, because keeping in balance is key to preventing overwhelm.

I do have my moments when panic creeps in and I quickly call myself back into balance—back into flow with the world, the universe and the Divine. There is time for everything that is truly important when I find my flow.

To enjoy a prayer to help you feel yourself flowing, visit: http://newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php?action=post;board=38.0

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Responding to Financial and Political Chaos

With the current financial and political climate, it is easy to feel the fearful energy that has arisen. As I see it, we have a couple of choices. We can either succumb to the fears or we can use the current conditions to raise our consciousness.

Some years ago, just before I accepted my apprenticeship to become an ordained minister, I decided there were two significant ways that I could personally make the greatest difference for the planet. Given my skills and talents, I debated between becoming a politician or a spiritual supporter. You know what I chose.

I have a tremendous respect for politicians. They are faced with some of the most challenging ethical, moral and practical decisions a human could face. And while they are supposed to represent their constituents, they also have their campaign funders and their own conscience to consider with every vote they make. There are days I simply shake my head in wonder that I ever contemplated that path of service.

I chose to embrace spirituality as my path because it seemed to me then, as it still does today, that if we are going to improve the quality of life on this planet, we must first improve the quality of our spiritual awareness. If we are going to raise in consciousness, we need to become morally and ethically responsible, awakened beings who value our various religious traditions and spiritual practices, while coming together to uphold the rights and virtues of all beings. I held then as I do now, that if we could recognize the Divine in all living things, we would live differently. We would be more compassionate, responsible, thoughtful, respectful......you get the idea.

Regularly I witness individuals courageously accepting their challenges and using them to become more awakened, more compassionate people. Each person who does this is transforming not only themselves - but the world. I have so much respect for every person I meet who is "doing the work"—the inner manifestation of the world they want to see.

A very wise woman in one of my classes said the other night, "The transformation of the world begins with the self." I can attest to that. I see it every year at SpiritQuest and during retreats when groups of people gather together to do their inner work and then participate in group activities. They are just as kind, compassionate, creative and respectful as you could ever hope people could be.

Many years ago, I had a vision that has guided my life. In the vision I saw many people inside a gleaming white bubble of light. They were laughing, eating, creating together in absolute joy. People stood outside the bubble looking in. They were welcome enter at any time—the only criteria being that they needed to be able to sustain this joy.

That is the world I am committed to creating. The chaos will just have to step aside.

For more insights about how to support our politicians in this challenging time, read the recent article at Namaste News at the Forums: Namaste News