Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stimulating a Grateful Heart

Yesterday, one of our ministerial students shared something profound he heard at a recent spiritual gathering. It is one of those wisdoms we should learn when we are very young and then spend our lives putting it into practice. The sentiment went like this—you should never leave a conversation with someone thinking badly about someone else.

Simple and profound, isn't it? There is a Cherokee tenet of a similar flavor that reminds us to "Speak only about the good of others." I know from experience that when this tenet is put into practice within a community, the gifts each individual brings to the whole become seen, reinforced and honored. Imagine living in a community where more attention is given to your strengths than is given to your perceived flaws. Imagine how much more gratitude wells up from within you when you are focusing on each other's gifts and how you are helping each other grow spiritually.

At SpiritQuest, an annual gathering for people wanting to experience Native ceremonies, we put this tenet into practice for a week. Because many of us in camp are holding space for people who are questing, we make a commitment to maintain peace and harmony with each other in camp. By maintaining sacred harmony, we are creating a safe energetic space in which our questers can dive deeply into the Mystery.

Because we are human, issues do arise—our own as well as issues our questers may be resolving in their journeys into the sacred, and then reflected through us within the camp. We know that as we bring those issues into resolution as a community, we are creating the sacred container for our questers' healing. As a result, we endeavor with great dedication to recognize and resolve the issues that come up to be healed.

More than once, I have seen someone make their way to the sacred fire to quietly pray and meditate with the emotions stirring within them. Many times, I have seen two people take a walk together to share from their hearts what they are experiencing, and listen with their hearts until together they find peace. Sometimes, an individual needs a little help sorting through their experiences and emotions, so they find someone they trust to listen and offer counsel.

When we are having a particularly difficult time with someone, we follow this general guideline. Let's say I am frustrated with someone else. It is understood I many need to speak to a third party individual about what I am experiencing—not to make the person wrong or to try to change them. Rather, I speak about my frustration in order to understand the lesson my frustration is teaching me. I seek to understand what perceptions or actions I need to engage for myself, so that I can live in harmony with the one who is frustrating me.

The person, who is listening to me sort through my frustration and dilemma, is in effect, being asked to remain neutral and to help me find my way. It would be inappropriate for either of us to leave the conversation with ill thoughts about the person I am frustrated with, because the issue is not about them. This issue is about how I am being triggered. In integrity, I address how I am being triggered and what I need to do about it.

The year that we adopted this approach, the gossip and backstabbing that had previously been taking place in the background during our ceremonial week disappeared. With this approach, we do not gloss over problems, nor do we turn them into dramas with perceived enemies. We use our problems as means for personal transformation, and in doing so create a sanctuary of sacred space. In that sacred space, we can become grateful for the challenges (and the individuals presenting them) so that we can transcend.

Imagine with me, will you, a world where we take responsibility for ourselves in such a way? Imagine what it would be like to create a world where each of us received less criticism and more acknowledgment for our talents and contributions to our community. Imagine living in a world where you never leave a conversation with someone thinking badly about someone else. And what would the world be like if we went one step further, making sure that at the end of our conversations, someone felt better about themselves because they had been acknowledged for who they are, the challenges they are overcoming, and the gifts they bring to the world?

During this Thanksgiving holiday, I will be making sure I take ownership for what I am feeling without making someone else wrong. I will be thanking the very people who intentionally or unintentionally are challenging me to grow. I will also be focusing my attention on the talents and gifts people bring into my life and thanking them for being who they are, meeting their challenges, and being a part of my life. I know the kind of community this practice creates, so I gladly make this commitment to focus my attention this Thanksgiving week in stimulating my grateful heart. Will you join me?

For a prayer to stimulate the awakening of your grateful heart, I recommend the morning prayer, if you have not read it yet at:,38.0.html

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Waiting for What Is Right

My husband and I recently sold our home—the one with the deer and rabbits visiting us regularly. It is challenging to say goodbye to all of our four-legged friends, but it is time to move on, and we will hold their precious spirits in our hearts as we look for our next "just-right" home.

Looking for a new place to live has its challenges, as I'm sure you can relate. In our case, merging the needs and desires of two people into a single, committed choice is bit of a journey. My husband's tastes run ultra modern and mine run toward the french-country side. Finding a home and decorating it have proven to give us the most visible evidence of our differences. We see much of the world similarly—except when it comes to our home. Fortunately, we find a bridge in our taste because I also happen to have a zen-streak that accommodates his love of clean lines. He on the other hand, has become accustomed to baskets and plants around the house, as well as occasional table linens.

Even with the ways we have learned to adapt, we still bump into each others differences. We discovered this before we moved into our first home together, so here is the agreement we made before we began looking. When we choose a home, we both have to feel comfortable and inspired by it. Before anything is purchased for the house, we both have to like it. That means, we agree to wait until we discover something that pleases both of us.

In our recent house looking, this does involve some degree of frustration as one of us falls in love with a house that the other one can't stand. It takes quite a bit of trust and non-attachment to let go of a house one of us really likes, surrendering to discovering something greater that suits both of us. The process demands patience because we often need to look for a while before we find something that works. Yet, when we find that "just-right" house, we experience a sense of significant accomplishment, because we have manifested something that transcends, and is even ultimately more satisfying than, our individual desires.

A few weeks ago, I took some feelings of impatience with waiting about another matter into my meditation—holding it in compassion for resolution. A gentle voice from deep within finally found me when my mind had grown still and my emotions had calmed. The voice said, "Sometimes you are waiting for what is right." I came out of the meditation freed from some of my impatience as I remembered the many wonderful people and experiences throughout my life that I had waited for. As we search for houses, I am again reminded of the wisdom of this meditation. Sometimes we are waiting for what is right.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When Family and Friends Aren't Supporting You in Your Purpose

Some years ago, I attended a conference and one of the speakers shared something about support that has stayed with me ever since. He explained that when you are doing what you know you must do, not everyone you know supports you. In fact, some of the people you may get the least support from are your family and friends. He went on to explain there is a reason for this. The people who are closest to you are most afraid for you. Their words or attitudes of discouragement are very likely the reflections of their doubts that they would be safe if they made the choice you are making.

In spiritual reflection, we could take this one step further. Their doubts may be the reflection of your own doubts. In either case, the way to break free from other people's doubts relies on breaking free from our own.

Martha Sinetar, in her book Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood shares her own experience with her family when she decided to write this book. The family was not very supportive in the beginning. Her husband was not entirely sure it was a good idea nor very encouraging, and her children weren't very thrilled about doing a few more chores so that mom had time to write.

You can imagine how frustrating this was for Sinetar. But she knew she needed to write the book, so she made a commitment to herself and made a stand with her family. The sentiment with her family went something like this — if you want to eat, you will do your share of the cooking and make your own lunches. If you want a clean house, you will do your share of the dishes and cleaning. If you want clean clothes, you will wash them.

Well, you can imagine the response—revolution. She found herself washing her own plate to eat from, stepping over piles of dirty, get the picture. She didn't waiver. She didn't tell them what they had to do, nor did she make a federal case out of it when they didn't support her by doing more of the household chores. She simply did what she said she was going to do—write—with fair warning to her family that she was going to be much less available to take care of the household.

She could have listened to her husband's fear that this was not a good idea. She could have continued to take care of the household and slowly eeked out her book—sometime—maybe. Instead, Sintar did what she was here to do — write a book that has helped thousands of people gain clarity for and commit to their life purposes.

Of course our family members can have good advice for us and listening to their concerns can be helpful. If you are about to invest a lot of money, you might want to listen to some sound advice before doing that. If you are about to purchase a high maintenance car, after saying you wanted a low-maintenance one, and your partner or friend points that out, you might want to listen. We often do need the perspectives of the people who love us in order to find balance in our lives and make wise choices.

I'm talking about the times our loved ones are reflecting our own doubts or their fears that are not based in solid intuition or sagely experience. There are times when you simply know, deep down in your being, what you need to do, and one of the best ways to move through the reflections of doubts is with clear, peaceful, committed resolve.

It is said that Mother Teresa had the following written on her wall at her home for children in Calcutta, India,
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Read the rest of Mother Teresa's "Do It Anyway" at Universal Prayers at the New Dream Foundation Forums:,38.0.html