Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Gifts of Spiritual Community

I consider Unity Comox Valley to be a healthy vibrant community. It didn’t grow that way by itself – no one came here and waved the magic wand and said – you are now healthy. When I was attending the Healthy Congregations seminar at the Canadian Unity conference last summer, Martha Creek said something on the first day that got my attention. She said: “There is no such thing as a Healthy Congregation.” Coming from the person who was going to be leading us in a three day seminar of healthy congregations – this took me by surprise. She then went on to say that there are only healthy people … who make healthy congregations. Like a body – the health of the body is determined by the health of the cells. The extent of the health of this congregation is dependent on the health of each one of us. Martha had us do a quick exercise – no thinking – just write down what I see when I picture a healthy congregation. This is what I wrote • Each person learns about themselves • Everyone is a model for each other • New people observe and experience an atmosphere of support & acceptance • A place where each person is supported to grow, shift, understand and love each other and themselves. • And then these 3 words: collaboration, contribution and celebration I came across these markers awhile ago and they struck me as being worthwhile to look at again in view of this series. Each person learns about themselves. At Unity we offer weekly classes or workshops which many of you attend. We use different books and exercises – not to learn about the author or even the material – but to learn about ourselves. The material is hopefully interesting, but the goal is self awareness. Continuously in the classes we find it all comes back to us. Old belief systems, habits, attitudes that we don’t acknowledge run in the background and direct our words and our actions. When these old ways of being are brought into our awareness – into the light – we can choose to continue with them or to let them go. And not just classes - when you join a team – Sunday set up or refreshments or volunteer to do the Thought for the Day – all of these activities are opportunities to learn about yourself. It is only our increasing awareness of ourselves and our thoughts and behaviours that is going to create a better world for all. Everyone is a model for each other Being together helps each one of us become more aware of our words and actions. We are always modeling for each other. No matter what we are doing or saying. We can observe someone and say to ourselves: I would like to have their peace of mind or their lightness of being ……….or we see someone act and we think to ourselves: I hope I never do that. Either way – we are observing and learning from each other. New people observe and experience an atmosphere of support & acceptance. This is one area where we really shine. This is usually one of the first comments I get from a newcomer….how warmly they were greeted and quickly made to feel comfortable. Extensive research has been undertaken to find out the reasons people go back to a church after a first visit. It gives 8 factors and asks them to rate what was the most important factor and the least. I can’t remember all the 8 factors but they are things like: coffee, music, minister, lesson, children’s program, bathrooms…..the number one factor for their return is……….how they were greeted at the door. Before they had any other experience – how they were greeted at the door. I went to visit a huge Unity church in Missouri – over 1,000 people there on a Sunday morning. Missouri is big wide open country so we could see the church building and the turn off the highway and a road leading to the parking lots. As we approached there was a sign that said: first time visitors parking – this way. Gosh – we got our own parking spot – close to the door. That spoke volumes – before we even entered the building we felt welcomed and accepted. Acceptance gives you the space to feel your feelings, say what’s on your mind without being judged or criticized. Because sometimes we just have a bad day or a bad moment. And with a relationship based on acceptance we don’t have to pretend to be who we are not. What a relief. A place where each person is supported to grow, shift, understand and love each other and themselves. Well, that’s a tall order – grow, shift, understand and love – and not only others – but ourselves. This is our spiritual home where we get to practice our principles and be surrounded by those who will love us and support even when we are not living them perfectly. Unconditional love allows us to be who we are without judgment. It is knowing that others will love you even when you are not feeling worthy of it. On the good days and the times when we are struggling. It is a place where others who will remind you of the Truth of your being, someone to pray with you and hold you in the Light when you don’t see it for yourself. One of the greatest gifts of your life is finding a place where people are going to support you in your spiritual unfolding. Not where we are seen for our jobs, our possessions, the outer things. Where we are seen in a different light – the light of love and understanding. When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4 And then I wrote these 3 words: collaboration, contribution and celebration. Collaboration Today we are having a Community Circle – a time to talk about topics that affect us all as a spiritual community. The Board and I actively seek your ideas, input and feedback before any big decisions are made. One of the key components of our growth and success in the last few years is this atmosphere of collaboration and cooperation between everyone. Contribution We continue to create ways for everyone to contribute. We have various volunteer opportunities, some on-going, some connected with a special event. People who have a specific gift have found ways to share that. Each person’s participation is a contribution – whether it is attending a class, workshop, spiritual cinema, Serenity Service or Sunday service. Your participation in any of these uplifts our entire community and each of us is also uplifted. Unity Comox Valley is a place where we can give. And the last one - Celebration This is a key aspect for me. There has got to be an element of joy and laughter and lightness otherwise – I am not signing up! Over the last 3 years we have had many celebration events. There is a quote from Colossians 3:12 that I love – it says it all: As God’s chosen ones (which is every single one of us) , holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. There is incredible potential in the form called spiritual community. There is unlimited possibility for growing – growing in love, growing in Spirit. Honour this community we have created and always look for ways to nurture and support it and each other. Indeed we are all connected. Heart to heart, soul to soul.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cultivating Inner Peace

We know that peace does not just spontaneously appear – it appears through us………..through each one of us. It is not independent of us – we are the ones who bring peace to any situation or circumstance. Do you remember last week I told the story of the king who was searching for a painting that represented peace? He didn’t choose the tranquil scene of a calm lake and blue sky? It was the one of harsh mountains, the lightening, powerful waterfall and ….right there on the edge of the cliff; a little bird had built her nest and was calmly sitting on her eggs. The truth is that living a life of peace does not mean there is no turmoil, problems, disappointments or pain. It does not mean that everything always goes our way, that everyone magically agrees with us or appreciates us or treats us the way we want to be treated. No, it means that in the midst of all the situations and people that life brings us………we remain calm – peaceful in our hearts. So how do we get this inner peace that sometimes may seem elusive and far away? We might be tempted to think – when we are not peaceful - that we just need to try harder. Can you see how – through our trying – we are creating an environment of “non-peace”? And this is true for anything. We may be trying to be more patient, more kind, more loving, more understanding – any of those things. Just drop the ‘trying’ – it always brings us further away from what we want to attain. Peace is not something we seek or look for or try to get. Peace is part of our spiritual blueprint. It is encoded within us. Our 2nd Unity principle says that as creations of One Source, we inherit all that God is – by whatever name you want to call it. Loving Presence, Spirit, Higher Power. All the attributes of God are within us – right now. We can’t get any more…………; we don’t need to go looking for them. So no need to look or seek. We don’t need to earn it or beg for it. I mean our human selves sometimes do that – O please, God, give me some peace. I have said this many times. And when I do – I don’t chastise myself – creating more ‘non-peace’. I just acknowledge that I have slipped into a fully human experience of wanting ‘somebody else’ to fix it. But this is the power of the Unity teachings – we don’t need anyone else to access this peace or any other of our divine qualities. It is already within us. One Presence, One Power, One activity in my life – God…as love…..as peace…..as strength………….as faith……….as me. So the question is: not how do we find inner peace…………..but what can I do to cultivate, to nurture, to activate the infinite well of peace that is already within me? I have 3 thoughts: The first is from a great teacher and example of peace – Jesus. He identified one the obstacles of inner peace that we humans sometimes engage in. And that is judgment. Criticism. How easy it is to see someone do something and criticize it. In Matthew 7:3 Jesus says: ‘why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?’ A story from the Islamic tradition – a man had 2 sons. One was very pious, devoutly praying every morning, while his brother slept in. One day the pious son complained to his father that while he got up early every morning to fulfill his religious obligations his brother irreverently slept in and neglected his religious duties. His father replied, “better that you remain asleep, then awake to behold the faults of others. Judging others distracts us from looking – at ourselves – which is what I would like to explore now. Martha Creek – the workshop leader at the Canadian Unity conference – posed this question to us many times………… How often do we throw away our peace of mind? How many moments since you woke up this morning – were you not peaceful? Part of the workshop was identifying the situations where we lose our peace. One of Martha’s remarks really resonated with me – this question she asks herself: is this – what is happening right now – is this more important than my peace of mind? A small example – one of many I could offer: I went to a market a couple of days ago and as I was leaving a driver stopped in the parking lot – not sure why – perhaps to wait for someone. So the person in front of me stopped, and waited and waited…..and then when she saw the stopped driver was not going to move, she started to back up so that she could go around the stopped driver. So I honked – I don’t think she knew I was behind her. And so on until finally the stopped driver – still waiting for something or someone, reluctantly moved out of the way and into a parking spot. Well, I had a few opinions of the situation and as I drove away I was mulling them over and over. Why did they do that? Couldn’t they just park like everyone else? And fortunately – it only took me about a minute to ask myself: I am willing to give up my peace of mind for this situation? No, my peace of mind is more important than this parking lot incident. And I continued to enjoy my drive and the beautiful day; sunshine and the farms. I was able to restore my peace – in me. See how quickly and easily it can happen? It’s not only the big things that may throw us a curve ball – but little day to day happenings like this. Catching ourselves – gently – leaving our peace is really important. And when you catch it you could ask yourself this - is my peace of mind is more important than this? It’s the best gift we can give ourselves! And everyone around us! The third thought about maintaining a peaceful presence is to keep our prayer and meditation practice a regular part of our day – whether for a few minutes of quiet time in the morning or a reflective walk or a time for settling before you go to sleep. There are many techniques – find one that works for you. We are surrounded by a busy and loud…………….we hear, see and are exposed to all kinds of situations, words, activities……….every hour. When do we stop to reconnect with our divine nature? To rest in the infinite? To find our way home. I said I had a short story from a wise old bear…………..Winnie the Pooh, which demonstrates this perfectly. Rabbit, Pooh and Piglet have taken a walk in the forest and have become lost, wandering in circles for hours, discussing how to get home. Finally Rabbit leaves. Pooh and Piglet wait for a while and then Pooh says: “Now then Piglet, let’s go home.” “But Pooh,” cried Piglet, “do you know the way?” “No”, said Pooh. “But there are twelve pots of honey in my cupboard and they’ve been calling to me for hours. I couldn’t hear them properly before, because Rabbit would talk, but if nobody says anything except those twelve pots, I think Piglet, I shall know where they are calling from. Come on, let’s go.” We spend quiet time in meditation for ourselves – to shift our awareness from the everyday buy-ness to the truth of our being – our spiritual nature. We spend time in the silence to align and harmonize our minds with God Mind. to access all the good that is already us. Its up to each one of us to practice peace – to be a presence of peace in all circumstances. Peace in our neighborhoods, our country and the world – really does begin with us – let’s do our part.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Peace in the Home

When I graduated from high school I moved to New York City and got a job and an apartment. I wanted to find somewhere to volunteer so I called the crisis centre and after talking to them for awhile, offered to take some shifts on the phone lines. This was 1970 and what I didn’t know then was that this was only one of two crisis lines in the US. There was no training – or it was on the job training, common sense and compassion. I stayed there for 2 years until one of my co-workers came to me and showed me some information about a college, run by the Quakers that sent its students to different cultures around the world to study. Now that has always been a passion of mine. I wanted to study and learn but I didn’t want to sit in a classroom and write papers and read textbooks. I had wanted to go to India since I was about 13 years old. It wanted to meet people from other cultures, religions and backgrounds and learn from them. And live with them. I was accepted into the college and that is what eventually brought me to Canada four years later. I learned a lot about myself and about people in those years. I learned that what is acceptable and part of everyday life in one culture can be taken as an insult or threat in another culture. When I went to Kenya to study I was placed in a small village where no one spoke English. And so I learned to speak Swahili from several of the villagers who took it upon themselves to be my tutors. One of the first things I learned was how to greet someone. Jambo – habari yako? Mzuri sana. Habari watoto? So I asked how are you? How are your children? How are your cows? Habari wangombe? Have the rains been good? And so on – for perhaps 5 minutes or more. And with each question the person being greeted is happier and happier to know me. After a few months, as my Swahili improved, a villager very respectfully asked me – why are white people so rude? What do you mean? They just walk up to you and say “how do you get here?” or “What time is it?”. so rude. They don’t care about you or your family or your animals. I had many experiences like this in Africa and in India and even in my four months in a little isolated valley in West Virginia – where I visited people in their homes…had electricity and all the modern conveniences but still used outhouses. And when I expressed some surprise at that, their response was: Why on earth would I want to do that in my home? How can people live like that? So learning about other cultures and how people lived and how they viewed each other and how they viewed me - made a big impact on me. And I could see the misunderstandings and the prejudice and the fear that takes root when people aren’t willing to or unable to see others as equally valued as what is familiar to them. And why? Because other people, other ways of life, or activities are unfamiliar to them. They are unknown and there is no point of connection or common ground – no relationship. It is easy to fear the unknown. We all do. To hold it away from us. To judge and criticize it. One of the things I love about spending time in India is that people love to talk and share ideas and learn from each other. Our western way of being - not taking time to talk and learn from each other is a great mystery to them. When they see how isolated we live – and how even in restaurants when people are sitting close to each other they do not speak to each other. Every encounter is an opportunity to learn something. Any topic is fair game: life, death, birth, religion, old age, war, disease, marriage…… Even standing by the side of the road, waiting to cross usually leads to a short conversation or maybe a longer one or an invitation to chai in their home or shop. These are the small things that build understanding – that create connection – that sustain community and in the long run – peace. When we feel safe and understood it is easier to be a presence of peace. When we get to know our neighbours – we don’t even have to like them! But when we know something about them, we find it easier to stay out of judgment, criticism and condemnation. Lao-tzu – 2500 years ago said: If there is to be peace in the world, There must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, There must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, There must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, There must be peace in the home. So how is your ‘peace in the home’? within you right now, right here? How can we create peace around us? We can’t………this story illustrates what our job really is. There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all the pictures. But there were only two he really liked, and he had to choose between them. One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for peaceful towering mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace. The other picture had mountains, too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky, from which rain fell and in which lightning played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the king looked closely, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest - in perfect peace. The king chose the second picture and this is what he said: “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

All Our Spiritual "Parts"

Last Sunday was Father’s Day and I wanted to take some time to honour the divine masculine. We know that honoring our spiritual nature is not confined a few days out of the year, so we can do that any time. There are two things for us to look at: 1. how we can transform our thoughts regarding our experiences of our earthly fathers AND/OR 2. how we can transform our thoughts of a masculine God. First, a question. Have you ever taken the time to reflect on your spiritual journey? Looking back – way you’ve grown, things that have happened in your life. There are usually ah-ha moments when we are hit with a tremendous insight or understanding. And these we remember ands being pivotal on our path of spiritual growth and expression. And we can remember where we were, who was there, what was said, what happened. But what about before we even aware that we are on a spiritual journey? We may also remember some special insight that we had when we didn’t even know we were on a spiritual path. When we were just doing what we always did, not aware that Spirit was at work in our lives. Emilie Cady says “spirit is always tapping at our hearts” – trying to get us to pay attention and wake up to who and what we really are. But there was a huge chunk of my life when I wasn’t really paying attention. One of those occasions for me was Father’s day, probably around 1989. I had been going to Unity for about 18 months and enjoying the experience. It was a great way to get away from my hectic single mom life and have a couple of hours with adults – and the service wasn’t too bad either. But on this Father’s day the minister talked about the attributes of our earthly fathers and the attributes of God as Father. On Mother’s Day he had talked about Mother God and on this day he was talking about Father God. And as he described the qualities of the divine masculine I realized something – these were exactly the same qualities I was expecting from my earthly father! And how disappointed I had been because he never lived up to my expectations. I went out into the parking lot and sat in my car and suddenly got – deep down inside, how unfair it was for me to expect this kind of perfection from my dad. And what a huge relief it was to just let him be a human being. As soon as I made this shift it was so easy to forgive him and release myself from all that disappointment I had been carrying around for so many years. I was so happy – so light – so free. I could accept him just for who he was – a human being doing the best he could. I could love him unconditionally. It changed everything. I could visit with him and talk with him and listen to him, without expectation – with only love. This realization was only part one – because the other half was – since I let my dad off the hook – where could I direct my whole heart and soul? to my creator. My spiritual parent. God would always be there for me. God always has my highest interests at heart. God knows my inner most thoughts and dreams. God is my protector. God is only good and all good. God will never let me down. This was a huge awakening for me. At the Mother’s Day service we talked about some of the attributes of the divine feminine. Love, compassion, encouragement, support, nurturing, creativity I think we have really done ourselves a great disservice – by looking at the divine feminine – which is very prominent these days………..and then only seeing the earthly qualities of the masculine. Do you see how we are missing half the picture if we explore the feminine as sacred and then leave the masculine as mundane? I would like to explore 2 aspects of the divine masculine: Strength and Wisdom First strength – as we are talking about spiritual qualities, we are not talking about physical strength. But what does spiritual strength mean? A few years ago there were some very popular prints of lighthouses and huge waves. I have a copy of my favourite one in my office at home. It is the one of the huge wave swirling and breaking around the lighthouse. At the bottom of the lighthouse in the doorway, is the lighthouse keeper, standing calmly, hands in pockets. While towering over and behind him is the green white water of a terrifying wave. I have a copy of this one because it reminds me how I can be. The lighthouse to me represents strength . Steadfast, secure, solid. Non-resistant And it reminds me that no matter how wild and crazy things look – I can remain safe and secure in the strength of God’s presence. We have a song we sing: “God the still point of the circle, round whom all creation turns.” God is where everything has its beginning and end. Like the hub of a wheel – it spins, but does not move much. It is the stabilizing force of all the spokes and all the outer activity. And since we are spiritual beings, we all have the capacity to express these qualities. They are not dependent on the body we are born with – these are inherently part of each one of us. We each have this stable hub within us. Each of us can probably remember at least one time when we held firm, when we were steadfast, not swayed by seeming obstacles. Then we were exhibiting or using our power of divine strength. And wisdom – spiritual wisdom. We all use of mental wisdom: intellectual, analytical, reasoning, judgment. But there is another level of wisdom – spiritual wisdom - based on spiritual principles – coming from a place of our highest knowing. It is the ability to look beyond appearances or limiting concepts of the worldly view. If you can remember a time when you knew – not because you figured it out or reasoned it, but from the Christ of your being – you just ‘knew’ something. This was you using one of your masculine divine powers. We all have the same potential within us. We can use our spiritual powers to enhance our lives and make the world a better place for all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Honoring the Divine Feminine

How many people here have ever encouraged someone…….supported or nurtured someone…… mentored another? How many gave birth to a work of art………. a business……a building? All of us. Everyone has fulfilled a role that embraces some of the attributes of the feminine. Its not about what type of body you were born into or what you do for a living. It’s about the essential nature of each one of us. Yesterday I was on the phone with my sister who lives in the same town as our mom. I was appalled to suddenly realise that I had not sent our mom a mother’s day card! And we got talking about these cards in the store and how they really did not represent the mom we grew up with. Fortunately we came from a family – well, our mom raised us this way – to make our own cards and gifts. So my sister said she had made a card for our mom because – the cards in the store were nothing like our mom. Our mom is great – but she did not have fresh baked cookies waiting for us when we came home from school or anticipate all my needs or was smiling and cheerful every moment. And she would be the first to agree! When I first began to get serious about understanding the divine feminine – one of the first gifts was - I was able to let my mom be a human being – with the frailties and shortcomings that all of us human beings have. It brought me a deep sense of peace – which felt much better for me….and, my accepting of my mom - just the way she was, had a wonderful lightening affect on our relationship. Everyone one was birthed by your mother. For that we can all give thanks. We all can hold our mothers in the highest regard even if the ONLY thing they did was give birth to us. If our relationship with them ended at that very moment – we still have everything to be grateful for – for they gave us the most amazing thing – the gift of life. HH Dalai Lama reminds us of the value of our precious human life. There are millions of life forms on this planet – and human beings are a very small percentage of it. It is a precious gift to be born a human being. If we look deeply into all the spiritual traditions around the world we will see the interplay between the feminine and masculine. This is certainly the case in India with its profusion of gods and goddesses. It is impossible to escape India’s long tradition of honouring the masculine and feminine faces of God. On the road, every few feet there will be a shrine or temple or little carved statute. These give everyone an opportunity to take a moment and give thanks to the aspect of the divine that each of these represents. The small roadside shrines are often little structures that shelter a carving where people can place marigolds or incense and say a prayer. I often stopped at these small shrines to take a moment to connect with the divine and leave an offering. You can imagine my surprise when I leaned in to look at the statute and there was – Mother Mary and baby Jesus. She represents faith and grace and has many devotees all around the world. The divine feminine in western form. The Egyptian goddess Isis was worshipped as Queen of the Heaven. She was considered a physician – a model of healing and recovery. Of helping us move through the cycles of loss and grief and back into life in its fullest expression. The Chinese Goddess Kuan Yin is a Bodhisattva who represents mercy and compassion. She hears the cries of the world and is sometimes pictured with many heads and many arms as she watches, listens for and extends her helping hands to all. In order to be truly whole, whether we are women or men, we must embrace both the male and feminine aspects of the divine. I really enjoyed this metaphor – let’s bring them both to the table. Spiritually… we want both aspects showing up – not one or the other. It is possible for us to ignore or dismiss one or the other – but it is our own loss. Why not invite both to the table and in so doing activate our full divine creative potential? As we begin to understand our divine nature more fully we can appreciate even more, the gifts that the divine feminine and the divine masculine bring. At certain times one may be more prominent than the other, but as our awareness increases we can call both into play and create something much more powerful than we could of, if we continuously leave one or the other out. It is with this consciousness of the value of both that we bring balance, harmony and greatness into our lives, into our relationships with others and into our relationship with our mother earth.

Friday, April 27, 2012

40 Gifts in 40 Days

40 Gifts in 40 Days. The invitation is to give a gift every day for 40 days. For example – I started working with this program a few weeks ago and these are 2 of my gifts: helping an elderly woman snap the lid on her coffee cup. I just learned how to this recently without spilling the cup – and so it felt good to help someone else do this and at the same time we had a brief chat about her being in town to visit her ill sister. I felt so good about that – I left without my coffee and had to turn around in the parking lot and go back and get it! A few Sundays ago I was given the flowers from the service. On Wednesday as I was leaving the house to go to the Wednesday group I thought – I could share these flowers. The bouquet is so large. I separated half the bouquet and brought them with me. Can you see how simple that is? Small things with great love as Mother Therese said. It is the simple small gifts that show people you care. Giving strengthens our connection with others – both strangers and loved ones. Giving brings us home to the Truth – that there is enough. That together we have all we need. There is a beautifully told story of feeding the 5,000 in the gospel of John. John 6:5 When Jesus looked up and was a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Phillip answered him, “Eight months wages would not buy enough bread to each one to have a bite!” Another disciple, Andrew, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many.?” Jesus said “Have the people sit down” and in some of the gospels he says in groups of four or five. This story is packed with metaphors……….. But for today we will focus on what is going on when it looks like there is nothing and you end up with more than enough. When we read the story and understand the situation we can see right away there is no human solution to the situation. There are too many people and no amount of money will buy enough bread for everyone to eat. That is usually our first response to a situation – use our human thinking to assess…and often the answer is – can’t do it, it’s impossible. And who steps up with the bread? A child. Innocent and generous. When we can express that childlike nature in ourselves – we don’t get stuck in the ‘can’t’. We take a step in the direction of a solution. Very powerful action. The commentary to this verse says that the disciples probably had more than the child – everyone travelled with a little bit of bread. But the difference is - they had already decided it would not be enough, so they did not even offer. And the truth is: If we offer nothing, we will have nothing. When we give from our abundance, we can never be depleted or empty. If you start feeling resentful – ask yourself: am I giving out of duty? Or guilt? Am I giving more than I am comfortable with? Am I giving in order to get something in return? Authentic giving always leaves us refreshed and revitalized – not empty. During the next 40 days wake up each morning setting the intention of finding a place to give. Know that this day an opportunity will come to you to give. There is no need to plan and try to make it happen - I would invite you to just see what comes to you. That is part of this experience – you will see how powerful your intention, your intention to find the perfect place to give is. We know that it is impossible for you to give and not receive. We are participating in an energy exchange. We are always blessed by the experience. Here is a prayer you can take into your time of prayer and meditation each day. You will notice that this prayer is not an appeal for something. It is only a reminder of what we need to remember - of what we may have forgotten. I Am One with Infinite Source. This is the way we start prayer – with a statement of Truth – reminds us of our true nature. As a radiating center of Divine Love I stand in the fullness of abundance and prosperity. – again – another Truth reminder statement My mind and heart are open to the power of Divine Energy - healing my body, harmonizing my emotions and renewing my mind. We are open – nothing can happen when we are closed – it is only with our permission and participation that we are changed by our experience. I easily release and let go of all beliefs and attitudes that stand in the way of my fully experiencing the richness of the universe of which I am a part. release statement – we are letting go and making room for something else, also remembering that we are One with our good. My good comes to me through all channels, some expected and some a delightful surprise. I cooperate fully with the law of circulation: I give and receive generously and joyfully - plenty to share and plenty to spare. Again – a reminder to open ourselves up to all possibilities, not just those we can imagine right now. I am so grateful that my good is not restricted to what I can see right now – I want to make room for the ‘unexpected’. Have fun with this project and share how you have been uplifted by this experience.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Goodwill

In October Joseph and I went to India for the third time. Each time we go we think it will be the last – because frankly – India is a very challenging place to live. And perhaps that is what draws us back – because of the way the culture bumps into us – rubs against us – pushes us – makes us think and pay attention. But each time we do go - we are more at ease. What looked like absolute chaos on our first trip now makes sense and what we still don’t understand we have learned to accept. Our trip started with the Tibetan Buddhist refugees in the Himalayas. We really enjoy the unique culture and environment the Tibetans have created outside their homeland. I visited with some of the Buddhist nuns I have known from our first trip six years ago and we were happy to be there when HH Dalai Lama returned to town and we were able to see him in person. We visited the temples and were welcomed and accepted everywhere we went. We then went to Amritsar which is the spiritual home to all the Sikhs and walked around the Golden Temple and went inside to listen to the reading of the sacred text. One Sikh made a point to welcome us and let us know that this temple belongs to everyone. “When you walk in it is no longer a Sikh temple – it is your temple. No matter what your religion – this is your holy place.” What a welcome is that! And so we took his words to heart and made ourselves at home. We walked, we sat quietly and prayed, we had a meal in the kitchen that serves over 10,000 people a day, we watched the visible devotion of thousands of people. The rest of our trip we spent in the company of Hindus and Muslims. We visited temples, shrines and mosques and sacred places everywhere we travelled. There are hundreds if not thousands of these all over India. There are holy rivers and hundreds of sacred places along the rivers, there are gods in the mountains, in lakes, in hot springs, in caves and we visited many many of them. In India there doesn’t seem to be any distinction between every day life and religion. They are totally enmeshed with each other. Every few blocks there is at least one shrine dedicated to an aspect of God. Some take up the whole block and some are just a few feet square right on the edge of the road. Some of these small shrines have become popular and little additions are added – places to put flowers or candles. While we were in one town there was a notice that shrines that were obstructing the flow of traffic needed to be looked after and brought back to the original size. Our experience there was certainly coloured by the fact that we chose to stay in ashrams and religious communities. When we travel in India we are not sightseeing and trying to fit in as many exotic or interesting places as possible - a 10 or 14 day tour and rushing from the Taj Mahal to the Golden Temple to shopping in Mumbai. Instead we chose a few places and settled in for a few weeks at each one so we can make friends and have some meaningful conversations with people. Although what we find is that these philosophical conversations can happen any time any place and quite quickly – even over a cup of chai. These philosophical or religious conversations happen naturally because it is part of their culture. Here we have a kind of unspoken ban on speaking about religion or beliefs or God. It is certainly not encouraged. In India its an open lively topic and one we were happy to engage in. We never saw or heard quarrels or disagreements between religions, only acceptance and acknowledgment of differences and a genuine curiosity to learn and understand more. One of the ashram guest houses we stayed in had reminders of the spiritual life everywhere. On the landing near the water station there was a poster about water and its spiritual qualities and health giving attributes. On the landing between the 3 and 4 floors was a poster reminding us to pay attention to our bodies as we climbed the stairs, to feel our legs and our lungs and heart. Acknowledge this physical body that is carrying us around in this physical plane. On the door of each room was a word – a quality. Our room had the word “trust” on it. I would pause before I opened the door and take a moment to contemplate “trust”. These words are not religious words – as the Dalai Lama says they are basic human values.