Thursday, December 30, 2010

World Religions Day


In honor of World Religions Day, January 2nd.


Here at New Dream, we started a new practice in our weekly newsletters. We acknowledge some of the people celebrating high sacred holidays in various spiritual traditions. We do this because we believe all paths lead to the Divine. We are aware that the concept of the Sacred Feminine is a part of many spiritual traditions. We also know the Sacred Feminine existed before any spiritual tradition was created. In a sense, all traditions are children from the womb of the Feminine.


While we state this clearly on our website, I noticed that recently our complaints have increased since we began this practice of honoring many spiritual traditions. When we look at the data from our e-mails broadcasts, we don’t know what people are complaining about. We simply know that some percentage of our readers hit a complaint button available to them through their e-mail software. Because the increase in complaints coincided with our new acknowledgement, I can’t help but wonder if people are “complaining” because we are honoring people within spiritual practices that some of our readers don’t approve. If my speculation is even remotely accurate, I’m saddened by the possibility of what I think I am seeing.


Is there any one of us that is not a child of the Divine? We are the blessed expressions of the Divine exploring itself through the experience of being human. Kahil Gibran expressed it in this way, “They (we) are the sons and the daughters of life longing for itself.” I may or may not agree with another human being’s expression of their Divine self, but who am I to decide my spiritual exploration of the Divine is right and another person’s perception is wrong? Who am I to limit Divine love? What does it say about my limited perceptions, if I am willing to put constraints on the limitless, boundless love of the Divine? What does it say about my own fears and limitations if I am not willing to acknowledge the Divine expression and uniquely sacred journey of another?


There are no others. We, all of us, are the expression of the Divine Oneness exploring what love can be. The best to the worst of us are still children of the Divine. I have not yet discovered that religious preference has anything to do with one’s goodness or rightness. People that carry ill will can be found in every religion. In fact, most of us, if we are really honest with ourselves, would need to admit we have wished ill will upon ourselves and people we know and don’t know, more than once in our lives. Nor have I discovered that there is a significant preponderance of good people within any single religion. They are everywhere. People of good heart, in love with the Divine, living their love through various religious and spiritual practices are everywhere.


I have been fortunate to attend Islamic mosque; Jewish temple; Protestant and Catholic church services; Native American and Wiccan ceremonies; New Thought services; drumming, sounding and healing circles; Hindu Sat Sang; Buddhist ceremony, and more. There was one constant I discovered in every experience—love for the Divine. There is a palpable, unmistakable love that permeates the space when people come together with their hearts open to honor the Divine


Dogma, doctrine, rules, guidelines and beliefs are the form we give ourselves so that we can maneuver through the challenges that come up when we commit to experiencing this Divine love with every fiber of our being. They are guideposts on the journey and can be very useful in that regard, but the real journey is in discovering how deeply we can allow ourselves to know Divine love, not in whether we can follow all the rules of one religion to perfection. The real spiritual journey does not lie in who is better or right. The real journey is in how wide we will allow our sacred hearts to expand


There is a golden rule found in nearly every, if not every, spiritual practice. It is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Let me take this concept a bit further by asking you this, “Are you thinking about others as you would have them think about you?” Life is not just about actions. Life is reflected in what we think about others too. How honest are you willing to be with yourself? Are there some judgments still lurking around in your mind? Are you willing to let them go?


Remember the wisdom of Gandhi, at a time when many Muslims and Hindus were fighting each other and murdering each other in India. Gandhi began fasting and told the people around him he would continue fasting until the fighting stopped. A Hindu man came to him and asked what he could do to encourage Gandhi to eat. The Hindu man was hurt and understandably enraged by his son’s death, blaming the Muslims for killing his son. Gandhi told him to raise an orphaned Muslim child. Gandhi knew that the only way to experience true peace would be through love and compassion for one another.


Jesus told us much the same, as did Buddha, Mother Teresa, Ammachi and every great saint and mystic that has ever lived. I could create a long list of spiritually enlightened people from every major spiritual tradition that have taught us to love, and that love is what truly matters.


As we begin this year of 2011, perhaps we could join together in discovering just how deep our love can be. Are we willing to discover who we have deemed as other, from ourselves, and as a result we have judged them to be lesser (or even greater) than ourselves? Are we willing surrender the judgments as we discover them, whether they are judgments about people of different spiritual traditions from our own, our boss, our spouse, or co-workers and friends we don’t understand? Are we willing to discover the limitless capacity of love that we as Divine expressions can truly be?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gratitude—The Most Powerful Prayer—Perfect Holiday Prayer


If the only prayer you say in your life is “thank you,” that would suffice. —Meister Eckhart Tolle

There is a powerful truth in Eckhart Tolle’s words. When we are grateful, we feel full. In that moment, we do not seek for anything more. We are happy, complete and limitlessly fulfilled, and that is when we are in the true presence of the Divine. Inviting yourself to become the most grateful person you know is a most enjoyable way to turn daily activities into devotions of Divine awareness.

Growing up Catholic, I do not remember very much emphasis on gratitude. As a teacher, I now understand that those rituals in which we offered prayers of “blessed be” to saints that had gone before us was a way of blessing their lives in gratitude. But because the language was not common, nor the intention of the prayers explained, I did not realize that by opening my heart I could have felt the flood of delight that gratitude can bring.

We certainly said grace at our evening meals, but I can’t say that reciting the same rote prayer every night opened my heart in gratitude. We said the prayer together as a family and passed the food. It didn’t occur to me that plants’ and animals’ lives were surrendered so that I could live. I didn’t recognize that the Mother Earth was providing for my physical needs and that her life-force was sustaining mine. If I had, I might have been more specific and heart-felt in offering my prayers of gratitude before I ate.

It wasn’t until I experienced my first Native sweat lodge, where we were invited to share our prayers of personal gratitude, that I discovered the power of this prayer. I marveled as my heart opened wide and tears fell with each word of thanks I offered in that lodge. Life itself became holy to me. Rabbi Harold Kushner describes this experience so beautifully:

Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted--a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.

Gratitude nurtures and elevates spiritual consciousness. I don’t think it is possible to utter an honest, heart-felt prayer of gratitude to God, a person, an animal, the earth or even yourself, without feeling the magnificent fulfillment of the Divine pulsing within you. In gratitude, you realize that all life forms are expressions of Divine creation. In gratitude that comes directly from the heart, you transcend the limits of your mind’s perceptions into direct experience of the Divine. If you chose one prayer to pray throughout your lifetime, gratitude would be a powerful prayer to choose.

If you are not used to offering prayers of gratitude, consider saying a prayer of thanks in the morning when you wake up and again before you go to sleep. This anchors gratitude into the two most significant transition periods of your day.

If you already offer prayers of thanks in the morning and at night, try adding more prayers before each meal blessing the lives of the food and water that nurtures your body. Then bless and give thanks for your body and the unique experiences of your expression as a Divine being.

If you pray at meals and in the evening and morning, you may be ready for gratitude as an ongoing practice. When something troubles you, give thanks for its gifts. When you are involved in a mundane task, give thanks for the way in which the task blesses your life. When you are hoping for something, be in gratitude for the blessings that have not yet arrived. Consider being in awareness of the hidden gifts that may not look like gifts on the outside—the will of the Divine blessing your life in unobvious ways. And as Rabbi Kushner suggests, “see the holiness in the things you take for granted.”

In my own experience, it has mattered little whether my gratitude was offered to a Father or Mother God, my best friend, a sales clerk I didn’t know, a person I disliked, a tree that provided me with shelter, money I received, or if I simply felt grateful for a piece of art that inspired me. All of life is of Divine origin and creation. It is not to what or how the gratitude is conveyed that matters, it is the feeling of gratitude that opens the doorway to Divine awareness.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Unwrap Yourself in Love


Every now and then, I catch myself comparing what I have or have not accomplished in relationship to what someone else has done. I become aware of what makes other people special, while missing what makes me uniquely wonderful. I believe these moments provide a wonderful opportunity to recognize the gift of who I truly am.

If you have ever shared these feelings, or with the coming new year, if you tend to get depressed by everything you think you have not done or become, I invite you to join me in noticing the wonder of you. I suggest choosing a time of day, perhaps either in the morning or evening, when you pause to unwrap yourself like a child receiving a gift, and notice what is unique, special and wonderful about you.

Perhaps you would like to do this in the child-like awe of receiving a box in the mail, knowing that there is a very special present, or in this case—presence—inside. Your delight and enthusiasm in getting to the “presence” will make this delightfully fun. Give yourself permission to enter into the joy of discovery, savoring and loving every moment of the unwrapping.

Begin by taking off the layers of doubt, frustration, unworthiness, concern, and anything that feels like binding. They serve a purpose in helping you experience even greater self-awareness and deeper love. You could tear them out roughly, but that would be painful and would miss the service the provide, so gratefully take them off as though you were removing postal paper, tape and a shipping box—appreciating their function and excited to discover what is inside.

Notice that beneath all of the outside packaging, there is a pretty layer of wrapping. This is the layer of your caring, kindness, talents, and unique expression. Notice that this layer has been lovingly created and is worth your admiration and appreciation. It is a present unto itself, so give yourself time to fully enjoy this aspect of you. And even this layer needs to be taken off, if you are going to get to the true present that you are.

Now, in heart-felt expectation, open up you. Notice what is there. Your very presence is absolute love—timeless, endless, limitless—love. Everything you ever wanted is right here in you. You are the fulfillment of lifetimes of searching and lifetimes of creating the perfect gift. Enjoy the gift of you with all of your senses--nner and outer ones. Be in the joy of your own presence. The Divine has expressed itself in the most beautiful way—through you. You are the most precious gift you could ever want.

May you and those you love enjoy the gifts of this Holiday season, and may you especially delight in the gift that you are.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Volunteers Make the World Wonderful While Developing Their Skills

Celebrating Volunteers On Universal Volunteer Day

This December, many of us are celebrating volunteers. Volunteers are those very special people that create time in their lives to support someone, an organization or a cause that they believe in. I’ve been a volunteer since I was a teenager and I still am. I absolutely believe that because of volunteers many people in need and Mother Earth get necessary help that would otherwise be left undone. You can find a special prayer of thanks for volunteering at: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/forums/index.php?topic=1591.0

I discovered years ago that volunteering was extremely rewarding. Most recipients of my volunteerism over the years seemed to really understand that I was giving from my heart, and that I was giving from my most precious gifts—time and talent. It felt great to be appreciated. Plus, I typically learned new skills that I later used for earning income. I made new friends, developed expertise I could put in a resume, and felt great about myself, knowing I was making a tangible difference in the world. I realized my life was blessed by many volunteers, and volunteering in return was a way that I could give back for what I had been given, strengthening the circle of caring and compassion.

In the process of volunteering, I learned that before I complained about something, I’d better first consider what I was going to do about it. Was I willing to volunteer my time in changing what troubled me? If I didn’t have time to volunteer, was I willing to make a financial contribution toward the change I wanted to see? Volunteering taught me to do more than tell other people what I thought they should do to make life better. It taught me to personally be accountable for making the world a great place to live.

Some years ago, I managed a 100-person volunteer program for a non-profit organization. I loved working with volunteers. Because I understood how valuable volunteering was for the organization and how important it is to enjoy your volunteer work, I interviewed volunteers in the same way I interviewed staff for hire. I interviewed potential volunteers about their passions, interests, availability and needs. Then I created volunteer opportunities that matched their talents, aspirations and time availability. In that way, we were both assured they would enjoy their volunteer contributions as much as the non-profit enjoyed their assistance. You can get an idea about how we do this now at New Dream Foundation: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/volunteering.htm

Every person that asks to volunteer New Dream Foundation is personally interviewed. We discover what you love to do and what skills you would like to develop in furthering your career or personal development. Then we tailor-make a position for you. You can see some of our volunteers and their specially created positions at: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/community.htm. And if you would like to pay a compliment to our team members, please leave your comment at the end of this article. I’m sure they would be thrilled to know that you appreciate their efforts in providing you with meaningful experiences in your exploration of the Sacred Feminine.

NDF runs completely on volunteer efforts. That’s right. No one gets paid here. It is true that when someone purchases a product or service through NDF, one or more of our volunteers typically get a little bit of compensation. But no one makes a living through any NDF offering. Everything from the web-site to the tele-ceremonies, radio programs and the articles you read are being created and supported by volunteers. The voice of the Sacred Feminine in the world receives support because men and women share their time freely in support of their profound belief in the importance of the Sacred Feminine being recognized and honored for planetary balance.

If you have been thinking about sharing some of your talents with New Dream, we would love the opportunity to get to know you better. Just visit us at our Volunteering Page on our website and follow the steps. One of our volunteers will e-mail you to set up a phone call for a chat. It all begins with getting to know you better.

If you are sharing your volunteer time for something else that you believe in, let us say, “Thank you for making a difference in the world.” We’d like to offer you a little gift as our way of saying thanks for sharing so freely from yourself. Please join me, Reverend Misa, and some of the NDF team on Sunday, December 5 at 5:45 pm Pacific time, for a special tele-meditation and blessing. The number to call is:

Conference dial-in number: (951) 262-4343
Participant access code: 864981

Holding you in my heart with gratitude for all you give to the world,
Reverend Misa