Thursday, May 29, 2014

Heart Matters for the Soul

Can we be loving and present without being engulfed by the situation? Can we preserve our own peace of mind without needing to withdraw from the situation? Yes - it is possible! Last week we spoke a little about some of the things that stand in the way of our being a loving expression of the divine. We talked about old patterns of blame and judgment and how we might step back and cultivate a different way of being. A more heart-centric approach to life. Now part 2nd of this 3 part series: We probably all have many special people in our lives who we love very much: siblings, parents, children, nieces, nephews, long time friends. We have experienced the joy and rewards of these relationships. And then there are relationships with those close to us that are challenging and sometimes heart-breaking. How to help? what to say? What to do? Where’s the line between help and enabling? Have a look at this situation……….. Two elderly, enthusiastic women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When the preacher condemned the sin of stealing, they yelled ... “AMEN, BROTHER!" And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying...they jumped to their feet and screamed, "RIGHT ON, BROTHER...TELL IT LIKE IT IS...AMEN!" But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet, and one turned to the other and said, "He's quit preaching and now he's meddlin'." There is a line that each one of us draws………what is helpful – what is meddlin’. Sometimes we see our loved ones do and say things that we know are going to cause them hurt or heartbreak to themselves or others. It’s one thing to read about these situations in the paper or see them on a TV program – but what about when these things are happening to our sister, son, best friend? There is a whole range of situations that appear on the human level and it hurts when we see them in the lives of our loved ones. things like substance abuse, lifestyle choices, partnership choices, mental illness, emotional rollercoaster. Our first response when we see someone in what we think is a ‘bad’ situation – is a natural one – we want to help. We give them strategies to help them change or help them make better choices, or we suggest workshops or programs that we think would be beneficial to them. We may even sign them up or pay for them…….And did that work? Did we get the results we wanted to see? We think we are helping but are we really? There is a great illustration of this in the Old Testament story of Job. We can probably all relate to one or more of these characters……… Some background: Job has been a good man all his life. He has a wife, children, herds of cattle and sheep - a prosperous man in every way. He holds lots of parties; gives to the poor, people come to him for advice. A successful man in every way. Then everything is taken away from him – his family, his possessions and even his health. The part of the story that we are going to explore right now is Job’s friends. The ones that come to comfort him and be with him in this disastrous time of his life. Listen to what they say. Eliphaz – God is doing this to you for a reason. It is not yours to question. When God is ready, He will turn everything around – you need to be patient and wait. Job – show me how your words are of comfort. Bildad – You must have done something! Perhaps your children were sinful, maybe you have been too proud. You have brought this upon yourself. Have you ever used words like – there must be something in your consciousness that attracted this to you. Job – your words are full of the east wind – blowing hot and scorching. “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? Even if it is true that I have erred, my error remains with me”. i.e. You do not need to remind me of what I know. Zophar – You are obstinate and proud. You think you know what is in the mind of God. It would take a miracle to change your life. Job – “If only you would be silent – that would be your wisdom.” Can you see where Job’s friends have totally missed the opportunity to be a presence - presence of Love? In the guise of friendship they have been: • judgmental and critical - you did this to yourself. • condescending – just be patient, you are experiencing this for a reason, its for your own good. • stand-offish – it would take a miracle to fix this mess – good luck. These words are not helpful in any way. Do any of these responses express acceptance, love or helpfulness? They all come from a place of – there is something wrong with you, or you did something wrong. I wonder if any of our loved ones had this experience with our ‘help’………. The words Job’s friends use are harsh and we might think “I would never say something like that’. but I like this story and the wording because it gets our attention and the truth is that in our wanting to make things better, we may have said these same things – maybe not so strongly – it can be very subtle. Maybe the response is not even in words – but in our thoughts and hearts. I finally got this a few years ago as I was trying to give someone dear to me some helpful advice – again, and then I realized….. she knows this, she has heard this before – from me and probably others. And she is not doing it. It’s time to stop. Information is good – I’m not saying we just look on while our loved ones are struggling. We learn from each other – about opportunities, resources. But presenting that information once is enough. If they are going to take the information and use it, they will. The question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we stop ourselves from being dragged down by the situation? Before we get caught in the feelings of anxiety or hopelessness? The first step here is the same one we talked about at the end of last week’s talk – self awareness. Notice our judging voice, our ‘anyone could see that was a mistake’ voice, our ‘why can’t they just __________________’ voice. Remember – this voice can be very subtle. When we notice that we are in that place – only then - can we make a choice to step out of that place. Here is a great observation from Viktor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Beware of your reaction. Grab that space before responding. When we pause, we have the power and the freedom to choose what we do next. Self awareness is paramount. Then - take the whole situation and EVERYONE involved into your heart. do not separate the wrong ones and the rights ones – in Truth, there are no sides. Everyone including ourselves needs to be brought into the field of Love. Remember last week, the story of the weeds and the wheat where Jesus said: do not separate them while they are starting to grow – the wheat will be damaged if we try to yank out the weeds. Suspend judgments. When we tap into the divine energy within, it is possible to transmute discord into harmony, ignorance into wisdom, lack into abundance. Hold the place for healing – not with words or actions or advice or suggestions. – in your heart – create a space – for healing to take place. MEDITATION In the knowing that we are all one in the great heart of God - how do we hold the space for wholeness with one another? How do we unite our hearts and minds in this context of One-ness with Spirit? Myrtle Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, says, “Stop trying so hard …..It is when you are thinking of self that you struggle….No one, not even God, can change you so long as you insist upon looking at and thinking of and worrying what is wrong.” • Quiet - become still, remembering oneness • Release your thoughts of anxiety, worry, concern – see if you have built a wall around you. and that perhaps the same wall you think protects you, also cuts you off from the love of others. • See others in the same awareness – whole. Our attention is on the highest knowing we have. • Remain open and receptive – we do not know the best outcome! We are not asking for anything. That is not our job – our job is to feel our one-ness with God. • Gratitude

Saturday, May 24, 2014

HEART MATTERS FOR THE SOUL: Blame to Gain

“What good is it if someone gains the whole world, but loses their soul?” Matthew 16:26 Taking care of matters of the heart results in a life of fulfillment and soul satisfaction. It also means activating our divine strength and being willing to build a bridge from the commonplace and “it’s good enough” to a life experience of being Spirit led and Spirit fed. Blame to Gain The old paradigm of black and white, us and them, is shifting and thank goodness! We can see the signs all around us that what is emerging now is a re-introduction of matters of the heart. The aspect of each of us that is expansive, inclusive and bigger than the paradigm of dualistic thinking. Every day, life brings us many opportunities to get lost in actions that can pull us away from our hearts. One of the biggest ways is through relationships. We are all in relationship with each other in hundreds of ways from the person in the grocery store line, to someone on the bus, to our next door neighbour and the ones that can really challenge us – our family members! Sometimes we handle these challenges beautifully and lovingly and sometimes we don’t. And where did we learn our skills? In the households in which we grew up. Remember: “if we were raised by human beings we were raised imperfectly” (Dr. Rev. Gary Simmons) As young children we observed, absorbed and learned: How were decisions made? how is conflict handled? How was right and wrong determined? This is probably a scenario we all faced as children. A chair is broken. One parents notices and says the words that send us all into a panic: “who did it?” Then depending on the dynamics of the moment, the sibling factor, there could be all kinds of responses: • point fingers – “she did it” what’s that called? (blame) • “I didn’t do it” denial • “oh – is it broken?” - plead ignorance • “it’s been like that for a long time” (diversion) these strategies…… • blame • claiming ignorance • diversion • denial are ways children learn to cope naturally and innocently. Now, what happens when we are adults and haven’t rethought this model? We play it through unconsciously. We have a default position. If something goes ‘wrong’ we can approach it one of 2 ways And its interesting to notice which is your default position.We blame someone else OR we blame ourselves. What do we do if we are in the ‘blame others’ mode? • Judgment, criticism, finger pointing, • self righteousness, aggressive, • gather evidence • bring up the past What are some of the signs we are in the ‘blame ourselves’ mode? • Unworthiness, guilt, shame • Shut down, withdraw • bring up the past Can you see how none of this is creating a heart space for connection, empathy, compassion. This kind of dualistic thinking – them or us – serves no one. Gandhi noted: An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. What’s the alternative? How can we move from blame to a more enlightened way of being that is inclusive and expansive and heart centered? What new ways of being can we adopt so that we don’t ‘lose our soul’ – our hearts - when something goes sideways. There are 3 ways that come to mind that will help us make this shift. The first step is always self awareness – watch how we act or react when something goes sideways. Know if you tend to be a ‘they’re to blame’ or ‘I’m to blame’ person Blame – either way - always takes us farther away from what we need. Gratitude Cultivate the ability to feel genuine gratitude for the situation or person Gratitude is a heart-centric activity, it doesn’t require words or actions to the other person – it is to cause a shift in YOU. It is impossible to maintain an attitude of blame when we are opening ourselves from the heart. Forgiveness – to self or others It takes energy to hold blame and releasing that energy frees us to take a more creative empowering approach to resolution. Unity principles also provide us with a teaching that helps shift our focus We see each other as an expression of the divine. We can be part of the change we want to see if we are willing to change too. We can grow in our wisdom and understanding and cultivate a place where heart matters.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Is it Up or Is it Down?

Last weekend I was away at Long Beach with my family. And we had a perfect weekend. was it sunny the whole time – no. was it rainy the whole time – no. did all our personalities mesh together all the time – no. what made it a perfect weekend? our willingness to claim it. Getting together a trip like this takes some organization – 5 people, 3 locations 12 meals, 4 days of activities, living together in one house. We were prepared and………… we were flexible. Being west coast people, we brought rain clothes and shorts. Sandals and hiking boots. Nutritious meals and smores. It poured when we were hiking deep in the rainforest – we could hear the rain overhead in the canopy. The afternoon we wanted to spend on the beach – it was sunny and even hot. It was perfect. I really enjoyed the 2 sunny days we had last week. Got out my summer dresses, painted my toenails and wore sandals – yay! I was hoping it would be sunny for a few days and a gardener friend of mine was so happy to see the clouds and rain because she had just transplanted her seedlings and it would be just what they needed. remember the line from Paul Simon song: one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. How do we live with that truth? Can we embrace both the floor and the ceiling? We may think we need to bring balance into the picture – that’s a word I am really enjoying exploring – because where would balance be in the floor and ceiling model. Halfway between? That doesn’t sound doable. It really is a matter of shifting from one to the other. Enjoying the experience and strengths of one place AND recognizing when we have been neglecting the other side so that we can shift and experience the other. We need both – we can’t have ceilings without floors. But let’s leave that metaphor and look at one an example for one we all experience. You have heard this many times – we are each a unique expression of God, or the divine. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, thoughts. Even in the same family – each child has a unique perspective on ‘what happened’. I remember being so shocked to find this out when my brother and I were talking in our 30’s. do you remember when..no, it didn’t happen like that – this is how it was. we were both there – we both remember the incident. It wasn’t a matter of disagreement – it was a matter of realization that we had each had an experience that was unique to us. There was no argument – we just both listened to each other and were amazed that the story could be so different when we were both in the same room at the same time. Our uniqueness is our strength – we each bring something different to wherever we go. Each one of us is important. That’s a great thing to remember about ourselves. Now what happens if we live entirely in this realm? I’m unique, I’m special, there’s nobody like me. It’s all about ‘me’. Very little thought or consideration for others. We act or speak without thinking about the impact. We take action, thinking only of ourselves, what we want. Not what they may be feeling or thinking. Can you see how if we dwell in that place we can easily fall into selfishness, callousness, insensitivity? What is the other teaching that we hold in juxtaposition to ‘we are each different’? we are all one. Let’s go to that side of the equation. We have so many things in common. We are alive, breathing beings. Human beings. We all need food, safety, security, love. We have all experienced physical pain and emotional pain. We all have parents – whether or not we even knew who they were, or they are with us today. We are social creatures. We see ourselves in relationship with others. We know that we do not act in isolation. We can see the effect of our words and actions on other people. We are starting to see in a big way the effect of our actions on mother earth. Now what happens if we live entirely in this realm? we lose touch with who we are – our identity. We don’t honour or recognize our differences. Our actions are based on what is best for everyone else. We let other people and circumstances determine what we do or how we think. How we feel. Can you see that each of these two things: individuality and oneness – are good. are necessary? Are important. They are not opposites – right or wrong, good or bad. We need both of them – not one or the other. And you know what happens when we stay too long in one or the other. We start experiencing the downsides: selfishness, insensitivity or……….losing ourselves, wanting only what everyone else wants, codependency. And that’s good when we notice that. because that’s the clue that we are putting roots down in one or the other - getting stuck. And its time to move to the other side. the tension between these two truths will always be there. When do we stand up for ourselves, when do we accede to others? I invite you to be OK with tension – watch for it – it will let you know when it is time to move. We are one and we are individuals. Both of these perspectives are valid and real. If we embrace one and ignore the other, something will be lost – part of the picture will be hidden. So let’s see if we can stay open to this question: is it up or is it down? yes!