Can I be at Peace when the Storms come?

zen-stones-1395147656aNVJ. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, spoke and traveled the world for more than fifty years, finally after all those years, he shared his secret.

“I don’t mind what happens,” he said.

He did not elaborate, but the statement implies acceptance of what is, no matter how difficult and even if one will take action in relation to what happened. There is an acceptance, a calmness during every step, every second of the action or non-action.

This means to be content as things are now even in the face of things that are hard for yourself or others, and then when the now changes, to accept again. To be in a state of inner peace, nonresistance or nonjudgement with how things will turn out in the future, but being active and at peace in the moment while traveling the journey- striving toward right action.

Every situation is simply met with the thought or statement, “Is that so?”

Always responding to what the present moment requires while at the same time accepting what is.

The ego wants to go crazy with rage, sadness, and frustration when things never work, when items or money are lost, when sickness, accidents or tragedy strikes, when others or yourself are unkind, dishonest, judgmental, forgetful, abusive or controlling, when basic needs are not met, when the news disappoints, when stress overwhelms, etc. but this is a dysfunctional relationship with the Now and the cause of unnecessary suffering and human drama.

Heal your relationship with the present moment. Decide that it is always your friend. Some may object crying, “What about justice, or what about this or that?” But if all injustice was considered, the Now would never be your friend and one would be in a state of constant misery and pain.

So use your imagination to become friendly toward the Now, welcome it no matter in what disguise it comes, and soon you will see the results. Life becomes friendly towards you; people become helpful, circumstances cooperate.

Don’t focus on accepting the future when things are resolved, but love the circumstances you find yourself in. Never being a victim of circumstance, but rather the ruler over your own life happiness.  Focus on this happiness even as you seek to make the world a better place.

  • Ideas adapted from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth
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How Can I Find Joy?

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A true spiritual teacher helps you connect with what you already know in the depth of your being. Your light within.

It is almost impossible to connect with this peace when your mind is racing or when stimuli is overpowering.

Step away into the stillness within.

Quiet your mind. Breathe. Connect with your inner life force. Feel it in your whole body, your aliveness.

Live mindfully. Notice your words, your actions. Your breath. Be a walking prayer of optimism and goodwill.

Take right actions. Serve, give, clean, work, share, write, read, run, play and love.

Spend quiet time with nature, music, art, stories, and poetry. Schedule it in. 

When your thoughts come, transport them into a brighter world. Construct them with your imagination and visualize the brightness. Make it your reality. Use whatever hopeful images or stories or perspectives elevate yourself.

Can A Sermon Be Meant Just For Me?

girl patientHe said he would die if I left him alone,” I worriedly explained to the nurse. “I have to stay!”  My stepfather, Claude, a minister at a local church, had been run down by a car in the Houston Astrodome parking lot, and it seemed every part of his body had been shattered…

I sat there alone overnight in the near dark of the hospital room looking at Claude’s mangled body. It reminded me of my own mangled life. I had grown up in a home with an abusive parent, leaving me a timid and fearful child. To escape, I married really young. Nine bitter lonely years and two children later my husband revealed a dark secret so repulsive to me I could barely stomach looking at myself in the mirror. How could I have been so blind? We divorced, but the emotional trauma had been firmly embedded in me and my children. One of my children suffered with bipolar disorder so severely that three times she tried to commit suicide. I lost track of how many times she had run away. She turned to drugs.

Sometime around 3a.m. I sat there in the hospital staring at a “man of God” writhing in pain and wondered if he too questioned a loving God and if he also felt abandoned. Then I heard Claude stirring in his bed.  He mumbled and moaned with pain. I reached over to pull the sheet up to his chest. As I slumped back into my chair, he suddenly sat straight up in bed. I was shocked. It usually took two of us to turn him over, and he had not been able to even raise his head alone!

Without a pause, Claude thanked his “audience” and began one of the most amazing sermons I had ever heard. His voice was clear and strong. I frantically glanced around, hoping someone else would come into the room to witness this. No one did. I, alone, was meant to hear.

My stepfather spoke of the importance of using visualization to create a positive state of mind. He urged his invisible audience to use their imaginations to see their circumstances in a better light. He said that seeing things in a positive vein, as if that was the truth, would mirror that perception in reality. Visualization, he went on to say, was a way to bring healing and hope into expression, because seeing things the way one wished they were would cause them to become one’s experience.

For 15 minutes, he eloquently described how thoughts and actions become reality. It was Claude’s voice- his body- that delivered that sermon, but the source of those words was not of this world. I had never heard him utter the word “visualization” before.  He came from a background of traditional practices and these ideas were foreign to a conservative church like his. Even though he acted as if this were one of his usual Sunday sermons, he would never have said these things in his own church.

I chuckled as I imagined the response he would receive if he repeated this sermon to his own congregation, but I was also entranced by it. This sermon, clearly was meant for me. I perched on the edge of my chair eagerly listening, barely breathing for fear of missing even one word. Every sentence was relevant for me. Every word was directed at my attitude toward life. My heartbeat thundered in my ears and my breathing grew shallow.

A warm fullness filled my chest, expanding in the room. The deepest love I’d ever known exploded all around me. I tearfully whispered through measured gasps, “Oh my God!”

Just as suddenly as it all began, it ended. He fell back on his pillow and was sleeping once again. I stat motionless-stunned. The voice still echoed in my head, interrupted only by the steady beeping of the hospital monitors in the background.

Now I understood why I had needed to stay that night. I left that experience with a desire to return to the roots of my spiritual understanding. I began to visualize God in everything. And my whole world transformed.

  • Interview with Jodi McDonald and edited by David Paul Doyle in “When God Spoke To Me” 

 

Can You Know Things That Will Happen?

The frigid Michigan wind chilled me to the bone as I hugged my inadequate dress coat tighter and hurried through the darkness to my company’s annual Christmas party at a posh hotel.

I hadn’t looked forward to attending this occasion. It was just another obligation- a component of the treadmill life I led. Parties held for the sole purpose of prescribed merriment are particularly fearful occasions for me, and this one simply mirrored my loneliness as I entered the dimly lit ballroom full of chattering couples and shimmering lights.

The entryway table displayed an array of door prizes. I’d never won a door prize before. I’d never won anything in my life and didn’t expect to, but my eyes gravitated to a handmade teddy bear propped in one corner. Instead of the cute cuddly child’s toy one would expect, this bear was particularly ugly, and my attraction to it was unexplainable.

I didn’t want a teddy bear, and there was no room for such an unnecessary item in my cramped apartment, yet I reached out to pick it up. The moment I touched the bear , a stillness welled with me that seemed to dance apart from all the music and the chatter of the party.

As the party goers faded into the background, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute certainty that this teddy bear belonged to me.  It can only be explained as an unshakeable knowingness that supported not a shred of doubt, not a molecule of uncertainty, as if the ugly little bear was already mine.  Never before have I felt such certainty, such a powerful sense of knowing the outcome of an event before it had unfolded.

Throughout the evening I felt preoccupied by the awe of this experience. I was wondering when the drawing for the door prizes was going to occur so I could receive my teddy bear and leave.

At last the moment arrived as the music stopped and the lights brightened. The emcee began drawing names for the door prizes. As each recipient stepped up to claim his prize, everyone clapped and cheered. Still, the ugly teddy bear remained on the table.

Then I thought I heard my name called and I stood, but it was only after I stood that my name was actually called. And I walked forward to receive the bear that was indeed awarded to me at that moment.

Why had this happened? To have such a powerful knowingness about such an insignificant thing? My sense of awe about winning the bear and hearing my name held an aura of divinity about it.

But why such a waste of divine intervention? The magical encounter faded over time like a dream….I resumed my customary struggle with life that seemed drab, empty, and purposeless, but that experience led me to feel that I needed to pursue a new path to find meaning.

I was alone, lonely, unskilled, unfulfilled and broke. I had prayed to God for guidance before, but now I prayed in earnest, “Please God, I feel trapped here. I want to move to Arizona to be near my son, but I am scared. Should I take the chance without having any clear direction on how to support myself there?” Something inside me shifted, and my inner being began to flood with the identical sense of certainty I’d experienced when I first laid eyes on the teddy bear. I felt a lightness growing from within, and my consciousness became permeated with the secure knowledge that I was moving to Arizona. I knew it as surely as if the move had already been accomplished. It went beyond faith to a knowing.

Without the magic I’d experienced with the teddy bear I would have dismissed this divine guidance. I quit my job the next day, and two weeks later moved to Arizona. There my life bloomed in emotional and spiritual ways.

Today the teddy bear sits high on a shelf overlooking the life my new husband and I share. We have learned to join with God to communicate in  a way that heals any challenges or difficulties that arise and to share that love and learning with others.

  • When God Spoke to Me – a true story by Georgianne Giese, edited by David Paul Doyle.

How Can I Feel Spiritual?

headerphoto1If we are to experience spirituality we need to employ more than the usual empirical, conceptual, and analytical mind. We need to be in tune with our imagination, intuition, and contemplative mind. We need to focus on the spiritual, the transcendent.

Metaphors of parables or poetic thought are often more effective, because metaphors suggest rather than direct. Take for example this poem by Rumi (Barks 1995, 36)

Out beyond ideas…there is a field. I’ll meet you there. 

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.

Spirituality in its purest form is an inner, subjective experience. Pure, non-verbal experience of being is the spiritual field within.

Most religions contain language and practices intended to facilitate experiences of pure being and connection. Individuals often have their own unique interpretations of the tenets of their religion. Each uses the parts that speak to them.  Religion can be a sociocultural program for developing spiritually and for bringing spiritual realizations into everyday life.

Outside of religious preaching, prayer, testimonies, hymns, scripture and rituals some people find spirituality in service, relationships, touch, books, movies, music, meditation, dreams, gardening, promptings, insight, stillness, yoga, hiking, sunsets, birds, mountains, trees, unity, families, children, elderly, feasting, fasting, animals, light, water, flowers, challenges, trials, sacrifice, knowing, hard work, candles, chanting, dancing, singing, clean living, etc.

When these activities are done with a focus on spiritual experience and a shift in transcendent consciousness we can have a mystical experience.

Mystical experiences can occur during intentional practices or intentional living that can be designed to create conditions conducive to transcendent experiences.

Williams James wrote:

One may say truly, I think, that personal religious experience has its roots and center in mystical states of consciousness… Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness we call it, is but one type, while all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.  (James [1905] 2005, 313)

  • Spirituality and Aging by Atchley

How Can I Find My Stillness Within?

0814meditation04The practice of mindfulness helps us “be where we are.”  Anchoring the attention in present moment reality, acknowledging whatever we are experiencing and letting it be, helps us to let go of reliving stressful memories from the past and imagining stressful situations that may or may not become a reality in the future.   Mindfulness is the skill of “being where you are.”

Sylvia Boorstein defines mindfulness as “the aware, balanced acceptance of present experience . . . opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it”.   The body with its sensory experience is an excellent anchor for present moment awareness because it cannot exist in the past or in the future.  Thus, whenever we come back to the body, we come back to the present in which there is probably no problem.

–Adapted from Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven Hayes, PhD

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Create moments of stillness in the midst of activity. Stopped at a traffic light? Waiting in line? Riding the bus?

Value these times as an opportunity to close your eyes and go within or say a little prayer. “Wherever you go, in the midst of movement and activity, carry your stillness within you.”                                               — Deepak Chopra

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Expand the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression.  Follow the breath now as if your whole body is breathing – holding it all in this slightly softer, more spacious awareness.  Let go of the need to do anything about what you are experiencing and just allow yourself to be.

from Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, Segal, Williams, and Teasdale [2002]  

How Can I See The Good When All I See Are Flaws?

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There’s an old story about a group of monks living with their master in a Tibetan monastery. Their lives were disciplined and dedicated, and the atmosphere in which they lived harmonious and peaceful. People from villages far and wide flocked to the monastery to bask in the warmth of such a loving spiritual environment.
Then one day the master departed his earthly form. At first the monks continued on as they had in the past, but after a time, the discipline and devotion that had been hallmarks of their daily routine slackened. The number of villagers coming through the doors each day began to drop, and little by little, the monastery fell into a state of disrepair.

Soon the monks were bickering among themselves, some pointing fingers of blame, others filled with guilt. The energy within the monastery walls crackled with animosity.
Finally, the senior monk could take it no longer. Hearing that a spiritual master lived as a hermit two days walk away, the monk wasted no time in seeking him out. Finding the master in his forest hermitage, the monk told him of the sad state the monastery had fallen into and asked his advice.

The master smiled. “There is one living among you who is the incarnation of God. Because God is being disrespected by those around the Incarnated One, God will not show Godself, and the monastery will remain in disrepair.” With those words spoken, the master fell silent and would say no more.

All the way back to the monastery, the monk wondered which of his brothers might be the Incarnated One.

“Perhaps it is Brother Jaspar who does our cooking,” the monk said aloud. But then a second later thought, “No, it can’t be him. He is sloppy and ill tempered and the food he prepares is tasteless.”

“Perhaps our gardener, Brother Timor, is the one,” he then thought. This consideration, too, was quickly followed by denial. “Of course not” he said aloud. “God is not lazy and would never let weeds take over a lettuce patch the way Brother Timor has.”

Finally, after dismissing each and every one of his brothers for this fault or that, the senior monk realized there were none left. Knowing it had to be one of the monks because the master had said it was, he worried over it a bit before a new thought dawned. “Could it be that the Holy One has chosen to display a fault in order to disguise Godself?” he wondered. “Of course it could! That must be it!”

Reaching the monastery, he immediately told his brothers what the master had said and all were just as astonished as he had been to learn the Divine was living among them.
Since each knew it was not himself who was God Incarnate, each began to study his brothers carefully, all trying to determine who among them was the Holy One. But all any of them could see were the faults and failings of the others. If God was in their midst, the Holy One was doing a fine job of hiding Godself. Finding the Incarnated One among such rubble would be difficult, indeed.

 If God insisted on remaining hidden, then they had no recourse but to treat each monk as if he were the Holy One.

Each so concentrated on seeing God in the other that soon their hearts filled with such love for one another the chains of negativity that held them bound fell away. As time passed, they began seeing God not just in each other, but in everyone and everything. Days were spent in joyful reverence, rejoicing in the Presence of the Holy One. The monastery radiated this joy like a beacon and soon the villagers returned, streaming through the doors as they had before, seeking to be touched by the love and devotion present there.

It was some time later that the senior monk decided to pay the master another visit to thank him for the secret he had revealed.

“Did you discover the identity of the Incarnated One?” the master asked.

“We did,” the senior monk replied. “We found God residing in all of us.”

The master smiled.