Tag Archive | spirit

The Joy Is in the Giving

yellow-tulips

One of my favorite sayings of my spiritual mentor, Jane Elizabeth Hart, is “The joy is in the giving.”

It has taken me many years to appreciate this as more than just a pretty platitude–especially moving into the holidays!

Finding joy in giving means to understand that when we are acting only for ourselves, that energy has no where to go but back to ourselves. This is important, to replenish and refresh ourselves sometimes. But when we give freely with joy and loving kindness, that energy ripples out into the far stretches of the universe! For that moment, we have expanded ourselves far outside of where our energy normally resides. It is like an amazing, huge yoga stretch!

Plus, finding joy in giving makes us want to give more—to re-experience that joy, that refreshing stretch beyond ourselves. Once we get out of our box, we don’t want to go back inside that small space!

Recently, I helped some friends pack Christmas gifts for children in other countries. There were several boxes, and as we filled each one, we were silently blessing each toy and piece of candy. I could imagine the love and joy the child would experience as she or he opened the box—an explosion of love and light! I could feel my own energy expanding beyond myself, beyond this country, rippling throughout the planet.

The song I sung in childhood that reminds me of this concept is “Magic Penny”. Do you remember singing that song? Did you ever realize that the magic penny symbolized your own energy, multiplying and supporting you in infinitely greater ways? Here are a few of the lyrics:

Love is something if you give it away;
You’ll end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny:
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

As you give this coming holiday season, no matter how big or small a gift, put your energy of love and joy into it, and don’t let it stop flowing at your gift’s recipient—see that love and joy rippling out, sending a wave of blessing throughout the planet.

The joy is in the giving!

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Are You a Pirate?

There is a fun song on the internet called “You Are a Pirate“. The words are:

Do what you want ‘cause a pirate is free

You are a pirate

Yar-har-fiddle-de-dee

Being a pirate is alright with me

Do what you want ‘cause a pirate is free

You are a pirate.

Repeat continuously, loop-style, ad nauseum.

The song originally comes from a children’s television program in which the town villain disguises himself as a pirate to lure the children away from their good behavior. He makes being a pirate sound fun with his happy pirate song and promises of freedom from discipline and rules. The children, of course, enthusiastically take their places as his crew mates. Who doesn’t want freedom?

On the spiritual path, one of the skills we learn is distinguishing between short-sighted egoic impulses and the true promptings of our soul. We start learning this by more closely observing the thoughts and feelings that arise and incite us to act. When our ego pulls us toward personality freedom, often it can excite us and feel good on a short-term basis. Ego pulls don’t take into consideration the needs of those around us or long-term consequences of our actions. We can liken this to the pirate from the song, and the children who happily followed along.

Soul freedom leads us toward greater responsibility for what is ours to do this lifetime. It also aligns us with our higher potential. Hmm…Not as enticing at first, is it?

Paramahansa Yogananda, the great Indian mystic, once said, “The mind is so powerful, it can make you taste salt and think it is sugar, and when you eat sugar, it can make you think you taste salt.” Our ego pulls are the salt that tastes sweet at first, but then we feel disappointed when we discover it wasn’t what was in our best interest. Our soul promptings taste a bit salty at first, but as we stick with them, how sweet it is! Everything flows better when we are aligned with our soul responsibilities!

How much time and energy do you spend following the piratey impulsiveness of your personality self? How long does that satisfy you?

The children who followed the pirate to his false “freedom” (and were subsequently captured) quickly learned that the rules they ran from actually provided structure so they could play more freely! Likewise, our intuition is there to help us learn the best structure and steps to take to free our souls from ego-captivity, allowing greater energy to flow into a more joyful expression of who we truly are!

Mindful Myth Busting #2: Observing the Mind Is Not the Hard Part


If you’re watching this video or reading this post, you probably already know about mindfulness, the practice of being aware, in the present moment, without judgment. I’m not going to go into the hows of mindfulness so we can focus on busting a myth about it.

I hear from a lot of people that having even a five minute mindfulness practice — or any kind of meditation practice — is too hard because they don’t like to sit and listen to their minds go wild, that that is hard to watch.

But, that’s the point, right? How can we support ourselves day to day if we don’t know what’s swimming around in our head all the time, guiding our behavior when we’re not looking?

If we break it down, it’s not hard to sit and listen to that chatter; most of us can do that. The hard part is having compassion for ourselves and what we carry around with us all the time–those thoughts and emotions that float through our awareness in that five minute practice! That is the non-judgment piece of mindfulness: compassion.

So how do we stop judging ourselves? We are all so good at it! Most of us are experts at finding what’s wrong with everything about ourselves. Learning how to judge ourselves less and display more self-compassion is a practice in itself.

First we have to be aware that we are judging ourselves. A mindfulness practice is great to help us be aware of that. We sit and notice what thoughts float by, then we notice how quickly we jump in with a judgment about that thought. When we can gently observe the judgment, we let it dissipate instead of adding thought power to it.

In our mindfulness practice, we know that we are to notice even the judgment and let it pass, gently bringing our attention back to our anchor: image, breath, word, mantra, sound, etc.

But if you find that you frequently gt caught up in a negative space of judging yourself throughout the day, you might need a little extra backup for yourself more often as you shift from that judging mindset to a more compassionate one.

When you catch yourself in negative self-talk — putting yourself down, criticizing yourself, and so forth — notice that it’s happening, take a belly breath, and ask yourself, “If I had compassion for myself right now, how would this look?”
Most of the time, even just the fantasy of being gentle and kind to yourself feels so much more relaxed and peaceful than a self-judgmental head space.

The simple question, “ If I had compassion for myself, how would this look?” allows us — our real, solid Selves — to take back a little bit of control from the swirling brain commotion that is happening in that moment.

As you continue or recommence your mindfulness or other meditation practice, remember that compassion is the key for gently and efficiently retraining your mind to be more present, aware and non-judgmental throughout the day.

Thanks for watching!

 

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Mindful Myth Busting #1: A Blank Mind Is Not the Purpose

If you chose to watch this video, you probably already know something about mindfulness, so I’m not going to into that in detail, except to say that it’s the practice of being present, aware, and without judgment.

In the classes, workshops, and retreats that I lead, I work with people to begin a practice of five minutes of daily mindfulness meditation. What often happens is that people soon get discouraged with their practice because they can’t still their minds for five minutes, then give up the practice altogether!

That’s so sad, because the point of mindfulness is not all about achieving a blank mind—it’s to train the mind to not react so quickly and unconsciously to the myriad of thoughts and emotions that pop into our minds and bodies in a given moment. We can have brief moments of a quiet mind, and perhaps after years of practice, our minds are much quieter than they used to be. But that takes a lot of practice, and most of us aren’t there yet. In the meantime, we practice and practice and practice!

Every moment, thoughts and feelings are coming and going in our minds. When we’re unaware of them, they inevitably drag us in one direction or another. If I’m working at my desk and suddenly start thinking about the doughnut s in the kitchenette down the hall, I can notice that thought—be aware of it—and remind myself that doughnut s are not the kind of food I want in my body; and besides, I don’t even like doughnut s!

If I’m not present with those doughnut  thoughts, they will dance in and out of my head for a few minutes before I feel compelled to go have a doughnut  that I don’t even like!

Our actions and attitudes follow our thinking!

Whatever spends time in our heads guides the rest of us!

When we do our mindfulness practice—or any type of meditation practice—we are doing just that: Practicing. We are practicing observing our thoughts as they come and go. We have our anchor or focal point that we bring our attention back to gently, noticing our minds wandering, then bring our minds back again.

It’s like lifting weights. We don’t go to the gym, lift one repletion, then think we’re done and now should be able to lift 500 pounds! We repeat those exercises a couple dozen times, several times a week, slowly building those muscles.

Mindfulness builds the muscle of the mind so that our conscious awareness is more in charge of us than our unconscious thoughts and emotions that pop in and out of our minds all the time.

Maybe you already have a meditation practice, or maybe you’ve come in and out of one. Either way, remember that while a quiet mind is wonderful, the practice of observing the busy mind and bringing it back to your anchor is how your mind’s focus and attention muscle is built!

In a five minute daily practice, if you have to gently redirect your mind 1,000 times, that is success!

Cooperating with the Bigger Picture

My dadI spent two weeks in July helping my dad and mom after my dad had major surgery. I felt grateful enough for being able to be there for them, but the experience of his light and courage topped the experience! My only real job was to cooperate with the bigger picture.

Before I arrived, I prepared myself for my dad to be incapacitated for the whole time I was there, with tubes coming out of him every which way. Indeed, he had a lot to overcome following his successful surgery! But by my second week there—two weeks after his surgery—he was home, walking around, looking and feeling better than he did before the procedure!

My dad’s courage, will, and perseverance shined through him, even on his frustrating days. He took every day in stride, joked with the medical staff, and displayed a positive, stoic determination that wouldn’t have allowed any other outcome!

My job was simple—stay above my own emotions. Fear had no place near him! Being human, of course I experienced it; but there was no space for that around him.

Fortunately, I had already worked my release process—a couple of times before I arrived!—using the “Seven Steps for Moving through Difficulties” formula I talk about all the time. Doing that helped me be less attached to the outcome I wanted—for him to survive and be whole again, even minus an esophagus!

But he is a soul in evolution, and this was his call to make, not mine! I had to get myself out of the way; I had to be prepared for any possible outcome. I released him to his highest good, knowing that whatever the outcome, that was the most efficient route for his soul journey. The most peace I felt was when I was simply in the moment with him, loving and appreciating his soul with no expectations or demands.

There were ups and downs through the process: How much cancer was there? Did they get it all? (They did!) Irregular heartbeat. Infection. Difficulties eating, and so forth. Each time something new arose, I had to be steady and not lose myself in fear, sadness, or hopelessness. Each time I grabbed hold of a faith I didn’t know was there—not a faith in some god that would give me what I wanted. Rather, faith in his beautiful, wise Soul that knew what it was doing—no matter what!

By the time I left, my dad was laughing, eating, walking and enjoying his newfound health! His healing process will continue for a while, but what a great start to that journey!

Where else in my life can I trust the bigger picture rather than my own puny ideas of what should or should not take place? Where in your life can you trust the bigger picture? It is always there! Trust it. Look for it. Let go of your ideas of outcomes and embrace the plan that is in place for the highest good for all concerned. Cooperate with the process!

How Meditation Supports Your Soul Evolution — Part 2: How Do I Meditate?

Now that you are excited about the benefits you will receive from an ongoing meditation practice, the next step is to begin making part of your daily routine. Here’s step-by-step support for your budding meditation practice:

1. Make a commitment to yourself. Five minutes a day? Ten? Thirty? One hour? Commit to a meditation practice, no matter what daily quantity, for three months; then decide if you like it or not.

2. Choose your meditation space. Make it nurturing, comfortable, simple, relaxing, and peaceful. Use this same space each time you meditate.

3. Choose your meditation time. Meditating at the same time every day builds an automatic response into your mind and body. Your whole self begins to cooperate when you sit down for your time!

4. Find a spiritual symbol that resonates with you. Why? A symbol that is steeped in tradition or meaning for you will magnetize your innate spirituality.

5. Find a methodology that works best for you. Try a few of these to find out your own meditation style preference:

a. Perhaps a guided meditation would help keep you focused. There are CDs, mp3 recordings, YouTube videos, and even smartphone aps with all sorts of guided meditations. Find two or three that you like so you can use them interchangeably.

b. Centering prayer is a wonderful tool for a busy mind! Take a prayer that resonates with you, and recite it slowly to help you quiet your mind. Repeat slowly and sincerely throughout your time.

c. Mindfulness is the practice of observing your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and breath, with detachment, non-judgment, and compassion. Being present with what is, without having a conversation about it in your head, is an excellent and very portable meditation practice.

d. Visualization is a method often found in guided meditations, but you can create your own. Imagine yourself spreading out of your body, filling the room you are in, then stretching through your whole house, then neighborhood, then city, then state, then country, then throughout the entire planet, then universe! Sit in that expanded state without inner comment.

e. Group meditation is a great way to keep your commitment to yourself. Although it may not be feasible to meditate with a group every day, once a week—or even once or twice a month—has great value. You receive a vibration boost from others when everyone is generating energy for the common purpose of meditation.

6. Keep a journal. Meditation is going to awaken you to new ideas, experiences, and insights. Writing them down helps assimilate those new understandings into your consciousness.

7. Practice every day, no matter what! Some days, your meditation will feel extraordinary, or maybe it won’t. Either way, trust that something is happening, even if you aren’t consciously aware of it. Go back and remind yourself of the benefits of your practice. Let it be okay that you don’t feel enlightened at the end of your first month. Meditation is like brushing your teeth—you just gotta keep doing it for the best results!

Now give it a try! You will be grateful that you gave yourself this gift of a meditative life!

Spirituality and Counseling

Spirituality is the essence of the counseling process.  It positively affects healing, supports the sense of hope and good outcome, and is a source of comfort and insight along the way.  Your spirituality is the ideal your therapist holds for you as you move through the challenges that brought you to counseling.  Your religious or spiritual worldview—or personal ethic—helps you make the changes that heal your life.

How do we know that spirituality is essential to personal growth?

As we explore the body, emotions and thoughts, we find that our true identity is in none of these.  There is a greater part of us that can make changes in each of these areas, and sees them as temporary at best.  For example, we know that we can help relieve physical pain by altering how we think about it.  Through this, we discover that we are more than just our bodies.  We also know that our emotions are reactions to a thought, belief or attitude that that we are holding.  From this, we discover that we are more than our feelings.  When we examine our thoughts, we find that some are true while others are not.  We also find that we can change a thinking pattern from “I am not strong enough to go through this,” to “I have all that I need to achieve my goal,” which opens us to new choices in our life.  As a result, we discover that we are more than our thoughts.

What, then, are we?

We are something greater than the self that we know.  We are that inner strength, wisdom, compassion, acceptance and joy that we hold as an ideal.  Our spiritual nature is that which urges us to reach out for help, to find encouragement for moving through difficult situations, and to be truthful with ourselves, even when no one is looking.

When we feel out of touch with our ideal self, we may feel a loss of hope or motivation to give our best to our daily tasks.  At times, it is difficult to see beyond our problems, and we feel out of integrity with our thoughts, feelings and behavior.  Our bodies may ache from stress.  Our emotions may not make sense to us.  Our thoughts may seem unpredictable, even a little frightening.  We may believe we are our problem.  Our awareness of this disconnect comes from our spiritual nature, urging us to try something different to resolve our difficulties.  We can then look within ourselves and make the adjustments necessary to pull us back into alignment with who we really are.  Yet, sometimes we need more—an outside observer who can look objectively at our situation and offer guidance.

Your therapist is trained to hold a picture of you as capable, healthy and whole, even when you feel you aren’t.  She or he is there to remind you of your spiritual nature, to help you regain hope and your sense of inner balance.  This vision can only be held from the vantage point of your ideal self, not your physical, emotional or mental levels, which are changing and are not you.

Through counseling, you are supported in awakening to your inherent talents and abilities.  Your ideal self is within you.  It is accessible and it belongs to you.  Listen to its promptings and let it move you forward in life.

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