Open at the Top

On a recent trip the airline flights were peppered with a variety of weather patterns. The conditions ranged from sunny to snowfall, with spatters of clouds, cold, wind, fog, and rain between. Shelter was readily available. No accidents occurred; only delays…and surprises.

The best surprise arrived during a flight heading north, away from grey fog, cold rain, and gusty winds. The plane climbed in altitude. It arrived in a clear and sunlit world above a puffy land of white clouds, blue sky, and blinding sunshine. I felt my body offer a joyful breath of relief as the plane travelled most of its journey in this bright heaven. I also noticed how my mind relaxed. My initial thought was, “This is what it means to rise above conditions and be ‘open at the top.’ ” Here is how the world and our challenges look when we take them to prayer.

As we connect with Divine Mind and move into Higher Consciousness, a more expansive perspective is possible. We can make this shift in perception through meditation, art, singing or just staring out the window of an airplane miles above the earth. While the details of life need to be addressed in this worldly existence where we live, move, and express our being, the importance of the minutia needn’t consume our every thought. Actually, the more often you visit this elevated viewpoint, the less impact the details may have on your psyche. You may find yourself willing to release control on tightly-gripped projects, allow trusted others to make decisions on your behalf, or just go along with the flow of life.

An “open at the top” mindset allows you to express your individuality and for others to express theirs; for all to accept and allow. It provides you with a new avenue of information to enhance your thinking. Such an experience gives you the opportunity to live an expanded life, in physical expression as well as in consciousness.  You can find serenity in the midst of a crowded airplane during a turbulent flight. You can experience peace within while a family gathering is displaying chaos and confusion around you. In fact, you may find such bliss in prayer that all other experiences so pale in comparison you won’t want your prayer time to end! It doesn’t need to.

Every thought is a prayer. Every loving act of life an expression of God’s presence. Every idea an inspiration of Spirit. Unless you are paying attention, unless you are open to even the most common of experiences, you might miss the messages of that still small voice…

Be open. Be inspired. Be surprised!

Childlike Holidays with Less Stress

The holiday seasons seem to come earlier each year…or maybe just faster. Whatever the case, I’m determined to experience what it offers with the least amount of stress I can. Here are a couple ideas I’ve found helpful to make the season calmer and more serene.

First, do you remember when you would anticipate the holidays with the excitement of the unknown? You knew there would be some kind of good that would present itself. Part of that excitement was the fact that you did not know exactly what would happen. Go there again. Give up knowing how things are ‘supposed to’ turn out. Allow yourself to suspend judgment and pre-determined outcomes of the day. Let yourself be surprised by life! Sit back in childlike wonder and fresh attention to all holiday gatherings. Marvel at the synchronicity of life.

Second, as you allow yourself to be okay with the not knowing, trust that only good will present itself. See the good everywhere. See it in the aunt or uncle that has been distant, ask them what’s been happening in their lives. See the good in the guests who come to your home or that special gathering and offer their help with dinner preparations, even though they don’t know where any dish or utensil is located. See the good in the cousin or nephew who wants to debate every play of the football game, especially if your team is losing. See the good in the after-meal mess and leftovers, even if you’re the only one cleaning up. See the good in all the people who have chosen to come together during this special time, even if this is the only time of year they do it. See the good.

Third, come with a heart filled with love. Release all habits of controlling every aspect of the day, every minute of chaos, and every second of the conversation. Let this be a year of observation, listening, service and devotion. If you don’t have the opportunity to discuss every bit of news you came to share, then contact that person again, later, and do it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see them again anyway, maybe one-on-one, or speak to them on the phone? Make a date to spend time catching up with them, sharing more deeply and earnestly than is possible at a large family gathering. You will both surprise and delight them with the added attention of your interest in their lives. It can truly be a way to bond and grow closer as a family or friend. Feel the love.

Finally, I highly recommend an ‘attitude of gratitude’ – for Thanksgiving, the holidays that follow, or anytime – whether you spend them alone, with one person, or many others. Stay in gratitude for the family you have now and the ancestors that gave you a life path to this moment. Stay in thanksgiving for the abundance that provided you the means by which you are able to read these words. Continue to show appreciation to all who have participated in providing whatever meal you’re able to enjoy on these special occasions, for the transportation that got you there, or the home in which you’re hosting it. Gratitude creates an atmosphere to attract more good into your life.

These are all simple things to do. Whether it’s sharing a meal, grabbing a cup of coffee, or exchanging a present – appreciate that life is offered to you without any strings attached. The fun part is, the more you practice these concepts and the more you give them away, you may not only surprise a few people, you will get back so much more than you give. And what a gift that will be!

Who Am I, Really?

I discovered a simple practice recently – a meditation of sorts – while preparing for sleep. After removing clothing and work jewelry, bathing and teeth-brushing, I paused in the darkness and quiet of the bedroom. My fingers touched my wedding rings and, for whatever reason, I removed them. I then took out the one earring stud I always wear. And lastly, even I find this hard to admit; lastly I put down my cell phone. In that moment, I sensed relief. I stood in the silence, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to feel a weightlessness move throughout my body, detached from any material possessions.

There in the darkness, I asked the question, “Who am I really?” My professional wardrobe, titles and the way I present myself describe how I live in the world, the work I do, the education I’ve attained. My rings define the relationship with my spouse and, in some respects, indicate the parenthood role I’ve filled for most of my life. The earring stud is symbolic of my rebel side, birthed in teenage years and ever-present…as is my tattoo but not so easily removed (or seen). And the cell phone, this ‘smart’ device, is my constant connection to the world, my cyber companion. It’s how I stay plugged in to everyone and everything I care about. The phone is with me everywhere, at all times, and it is the most difficult possession to put down.

The question remains, “Who am I really?” Without all the trappings and jewelry and titles and symbols, without all the electronics, usernames and passwords, how do I define myself? How would I introduce myself to God? My name, bestowed on me by my parents, is simply a human label, helpful in this realm of living. So I immediately released any attachment to my name, which allowed me to let go of my entire past. In my mind’s eye, as my name disappeared, so did my body. All that was left was a buzzing awareness… alone with the Divine Presence of the One Mind. Only the present moment. I breathed.

This blissful state of being was my answer. I am consciousness and energy. I am love and joy and compassion. In this state of awareness, I am truly an expression of God. There is only God. There is nothing else. There doesn’t need to be.

In this state of connection to my true Source of Life, all relationships, though temporary on this plane, are holy and precious; we all come from the same Source. This awareness can resolve any difficulty, forgive any person, release any unpleasant experience, or heal any hurt feelings. Our earthly relationships give us opportunities to grow in consciousness and to practice being God-like. Some of us need a lifetime to get it right; others, not so much.

Yes, I’m still here. I still have work to do. And I am grateful for the glimpse of who I really am.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

A couple of recent experiences brought this saying to my mind: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

According to information found on websites, this adage is said to have originated in the 12th Century, having first been found in Old English Homilies, a volume dated 1175 A.D. The claim is that this is the only English saying to be in continuous use for this long a period. The original proverb was written as Who can give water to the horse that will not drink of its own accord?

So what does this have to do with spirituality? Why am I bringing it up here? I’m truly impressed by how many times this idea can be applied to situations in life and have no doubt that this versatility is the primary reason this saying has survived so long. It’s not just for horses and ranchers.

You can send a child to school, but you can’t make him/her learn. You can do an excellent job at work, but your employer doesn’t have to keep you employed or give you a raise. You can plan meetings and events of the highest quality or the most engaging, but attendance can still be low. You can offer classes that will change lives, but some people just aren’t ready consciously or spiritually for that journey.

But you can still lead. You can still do your best. You can still offer the highest quality products and services that you know how to do. You can be available to teach those who are willing…and that is where your focus needs to be – on the gifts you’re willing to share and with those who are open to receiving the experience.

If your focus and concern is only for the ones who are missing out or not in attendance, then you do not serve those right in front of you or yourself. Not everyone moves through life or their spiritual path at the same pace or with the same interest or intensity. Not everyone wants what you have to offer. That’s just how it is. Offering your gifts is what’s important. Doing the best you know how to do is what brings satisfaction. Gratitude for what is already in your life keeps you in the now moment and satisfies the soul.

You can complain to God all you want, but you are loved anyway!

Aware of Being Aware

A co-worker once told me, “Once you become aware (spiritually), you can never go back to being UNaware.” It didn’t take long to realize the truth of that statement. As consciousness grows and the mind expands, old ideas can no longer fit into that previous mental mold. The mind has been altered. You can never think the same way again. Expansive thinking at its finest! So what do you do when you just want a break from all that expanded consciousness thinking?

The short answer: not much, too bad, get over it. Truly, your thinking will never be the same again. No more blame or playing the victim…at least, not for very long. No more wishing things would change without you having to get involved or take responsibility – either by personal participation or positive prayer. Once you realize the impact of the Universal Law of Cause and Effect and the power of your thoughts – and have increasing experience using them effectively – it’s nearly impossible to wallow in self-pity with the negative results in your life. This realization can be empowering or intimidating or both!

For you know you have the power within you – always did, always will – to change those situations you would rather not experience any longer. All you need do is “change your thinking…” so you can change the situations over time…Spirit’s time, that is. It can be instant or it can take years. How much energy are you putting into the old paradigm versus the new consciousness? It falls back to you…your thoughts…and being willing to turn over to God what you cannot control.

Is there something you keep experiencing over and over again? Are you getting the same emotional and insane results? The same effects and conditions of the world? Or is the experience slightly different, better than before? What changed…or not?

I’ve had to ask myself these questions several times a day in recent weeks when considering what next direction I want to take for my work. Recent layoffs and the redistribution of workloads has me questioning how much I can continue to take on, if I even want to, and what my options might be if I don’t. Some things I can easily turn over; they’re not in my human realm of control. Other options bring up so much analysis or fear, that I feel paralyzed to make a sane decision. My prayer work is frequent and calming. I’m cautious about which small voice I heed for direction. I take conscious steps in these situations, so I’m making progress…just not as fast as my ego-self prefers. And there’s the challenge… staying securely connected to Spirit so I don’t slip back into old habits.

My consciousness has indeed expanded. My soul-self is evolving. This spiritual life is richer, more supportive, and growing with each challenge. I no longer make decisions or respond in ways as I did in previous decades. I remain vigilant with my spiritual practices. Some days, the emotional turmoil is tearfully painful. I tell myself that the only way to get past the pain is to go through it…to truly resolve this situation so I won’t need to experience it again. That truth gives me hope and a new awareness into the person I’ve become. I will never be the same again.

A Spiritual Practice of Release

I was recently introduced to a spiritual practice that was somewhat familiar, but came with a new name…new to me. This practice has now become a mental obsession! I think about it all the time. I want to implement it, follow through with it, succeed with it. It’s called…clearing.

Clearing can take the form of a variety of release methods. I started by applying this practice to my dining area. For weeks I had been gradually accumulating stuff on or around my dining table. Nothing major and certainly no item that I couldn’t just push aside or lay on the floor if we wanted to use the table for a meal. However, the stuff was building up; it was looking cluttered. I made a commitment to myself that on a certain day I would finally take all that stuff and put it where it belonged and reclaim my dining area.

That day came…and went. The shopping bags containing recent fabric purchases remained in view. The piles of papers were still neatly stacked by subject matter on the table’s surface for quick retrieval, later. Every time I came into the kitchen and looked in the direction of this beautiful but buried table and hutch, my energy diminished. I had broken a commitment with myself and I was reminded of that each day. I couldn’t take it any longer! I prayed for time.

Unexpectedly, but happily, a two-hour block of time and no one around to distract me finally came into my schedule. I quickly moved the fabric purchases in their store bags to where they needed to be. The piles of papers found their way to my office. Knick knacks were put back into position. Art projects and supplies got returned to the hobby storage area. The hutch was dusted. The table was honored with a new centerpiece and decorative runner that replaced the piles of stuff. The entire room was transformed. Not only did I regain use of this inviting space, but my energy returned and I was calm being here. My commitment to myself – to my soul’s need – was fulfilled.

I started using this clearing and release method in other areas of my life. To improve my health and stamina, I’ve managed to release several pounds of weight from my body. My computer files are being reviewed and consolidated; I can find data faster. By gathering similar household items together, I’ve discovered how abundant our life is. We are blessed with numerous and duplicate items, such as cleaning supplies, bath soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper. And how many packs of batteries do we really need for two small flashlights? I’m amazed by our CD music library and DVD movie collection.

I see this clearing practice as a way to let go of what no longer serves me. You can call it downsizing, cleaning or releasing. Once you find, sort or group together possessions in your home, office, garage, basement or car, you will feel gratitude for your material life and/or gain a sense of calm, even abundance, as you sell or give away the excess. The Law of Circulation must occur. The Universe loves a void. The sooner you clear away what no longer serves you, greater Good can come into your life. Get going, start clearing, and be ready to receive!

Memory and Forgiveness…Tools of Inspiration

During the past few weeks, significant events from my past have resurfaced as memories worth noting. What has been so different about the remembering process, however, is that I’ve taken the time to appreciate the dominant ‘feeling’ experienced during each remembered event. Whether it was sad, empowering, scary, motivating or something else, I allow myself to feel what made that particular memory stand out, protected by my stronger and present Observer Self. I question why it is showing up now. Does something still need to be healed?

Gratefully, I’m often able to verbally express to my husband, family member or close friend what happened ‘back then’ and how it impacted my life up to the present moment. I give myself permission to track the behavior patterns that came from a particular experience. Then, upon deeper reflection, to determine if those behavior patterns still serve me as the person I am today. If not, what can I do to fully heal and release the past? What else do I need to do to re-pattern my behavior so I can move forward in a more uplifting manner? What Good came from that experience? There is Good in everything that happens; sometimes it just takes a long time to see what it is/was. 

Not surprising to me anymore, forgiveness is a key component for releasing the past and honoring it as an integral part of who you’ve become, and starting anew toward a vision of expanded living and higher consciousness. Forgiveness – of self, of others, or of patterns of behavior – does not mean we have to forget what happened. We can learn from all of it! Forgiveness does not mean we want to hang out with someone who abused us or that we approve of their behavior. Forgiveness does not create relationship with them. Perhaps we could have participated in a different way or wished we would have been stronger or kinder in some long-ago moment.

Forgiveness does open our heart and mind to connect with Divine Love. Forgiveness is an inside job. It’s to heal that which is in you that needs release so you can focus on the vision of your future self. If we try to totally block out a certain memory, we block out a piece of ourselves, our personal past. I know there are experiences I would never have chosen for myself. Yet, as difficult as they may have been…those experiences created the me I am today. And I like this NOW person.

I see memories and the forgiveness process as valuable Tools of Inspiration. Whether it was 50 years or 5 minutes ago, each memory provides a gift that supports me toward the vision of who I want to become. With this loving mindset, I look forward to witnessing what comes up from the past to teach me something about my today self. I now live life more fully, immersed in the present experience, knowing it will someday be a memory that inspires and supports a version of me not yet created, but a perfect me that  already exists in the mind of God.

Vision Work: Mental Activity or Real Thinking?

In the Science of Mind philosophy, great emphasis is placed on thought and creating through your word. Since I’m currently doing a lot of “visioning” for my next stage of life, creating through my word has become very important. Thus, when I heard the following statement recently, it gave me pause about how I think: “Just because you’re having mental activity, doesn’t mean you’re thinking. Thinking is creative.” (Mary Morrissey)

Ernest Holmes, recognized as the founder of Religious Science, writes volumes about our thinking processes, whether consciously or sub(un)consciously. He encourages us to “learn how to think abundantly” and “instead of thinking of the problem, think of the answer…principles never have problems.” When we’re faced with a challenge and get all out of balance by it, it’s simply the Universe showing us an opportunity to resolve, a way to grow and to gain more knowledge, perhaps wisdom, too. In his book “The Science of Getting Rich,” Wallace D. Wattles claims that “…sustained and consecutive thought…is the hardest work in the world.” I agree with him.

It can be very easy to get thrown off-track. The power of the unconscious mind (ego), race consciousness, daily media updates about the negative state of the world, and even concerned friends can plant seeds of doubt, even fear, in our thinking about what needs to be done in certain situations – yours, theirs or a common goal. However, if we continue to think about the current circumstance, rather than raise our thinking vibration to the resolution level, our problems cannot be solved. We’ll just keep going around in circles, creating more of the same form. Albert Einstein taught us this when he said, “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

What I’ve noticed by being in the world is that, generally, those who are most tapped into Divine Mind are the most difficult to disturb by any problem or uncertainty. And that is as it should be. The more we study and become immersed in living according to these Truth Principles, the more aware we become of our thinking habits, and the more we incorporate the belief that what we think about with regularity becomes our reality … then the more careful we are about who we hang out with, what we watch or listen to in the media, and WHAT we think, say and do. We hold our precious and sacred life vision before us and move accordingly in the world; not be of the world.

To solve any challenge or create your next vision, you must raise your thoughts, your thinking and words; lift them up to and come from First Cause. Be open to possibilities from ANY direction so you can recognize them in consciousness, active or otherwise, and use a Spiritual filter to decide what’s for your highest and best expression. (It’s important to differentiate between inspiration from Divine Source or advice from ego.) You may have to modify your habits, change your use of certain phrases, or take risks. If your vision is one based on Love and Good – for yourself and others – make that the focus of your thinking. “Life is a mirror reflecting your images of thought.” (Ernest Holmes)

So… if your vision is at least possible, what one thing would you do today to support it? Think about it.

My Community, My Family

“Community” has been at the forefront of my consciousness lately. Whether it’s recovering from the recent layoffs at my office or attracting new people to our church. Community can be defined and experienced in many ways.

Rev. Michael Beckwith has his definition of community – communicate in unity. That can be talking things out, no matter how difficult the subject, or working together on a special project. Community is spending time at a business gathering or church service, just getting to know the people who are there and letting them get to know you. Isn’t that why we come together? To support each other for as long as we can?

Some of our members have been part of the PCCRS church community for a long time; others have joined in just the last year or two. What keeps us coming together? 

I used to think it was the minister and his/her style of delivering the Sunday message, and for some that may be the draw initially. Or maybe it was the music that filled the cracks of consciousness and made the Sunday experience one of rich harmony. Perhaps it’s the opportunity to serve and overcome challenges. But ministers come and go, presentation styles vary, problems get resolved, and even musicians move on to greater compositions.

The folks that are dedicated to a particular community don’t really come for those reasons. They’re here for each other. The minister, the message, the music, the challenges, even the treats and coffee…those are all just details. These can be important details because that’s what we’ve become accustomed to. But it doesn’t take much of a change or a shake-up to find out what’s really important in a community – it’s the people.

When a company lets go of several employees at the same time, those still holding jobs also hold onto each other and cherish the time they had with the ones saying ‘good-bye.’ When people come and go from a congregation, we miss them, welcome them back when they visit, and release them again, holding them in friendship inside our cherished memories. It doesn’t take a deep meditation practice to recognize the cycles of life apply to the coming and going in a community, too.

Community is what brings us back to the church in which we’ve grown as spiritual individuals. Community is an intangible, unseen bond that helps us recognize who we are within certain human circles. Community is what causes us to wear name badges that identify us with a particular group. Community is where we find love and support when life seems unusually challenging. Community helps us find strength to get up, dust ourselves off, and even laugh at our mistakes and trials as we move forward with greater awareness in a new and better direction. Community is our family of choice.

We don’t always have a say as to who will be part of our family, our community. All we can do is love the ones who are here.

Who’s Up for Some Tentmaking?

I came across a word that both challenged and intrigued me…tentmaking. As I understand it, tentmaking is when a “man of the cloth” engaged in a full-time profession of some kind in order to support his living expenses, yet followed a calling to minister, preach and tend to the spiritual needs of a church community

During my ministerial studies I came across a word that both challenged and intrigued me…tentmaking. As I understand it, tentmaking is when a “man of the cloth” engaged in a full-time profession of some kind in order to support his living expenses, yet followed a calling to minister, preach and tend to the spiritual needs of a church community…a community that, for whatever reason, could not provide financially for a full-time minister or it just wasn’t their practice to do so. Hence, the minister had a job to support himself and was a “volunteer” to his church; he donated his leadership and religious direction to the local flock because he (or she) was compelled by God to do so.

This term came to my mind again today as I prepared to go forward into a new, full-time job. I go into this work experience with a heart of service for at least two purposes:  1) so I can once again contribute financially to the life my husband and I have created these past 15 years, and also to our future; and 2) so I will be able to contribute to or support my spiritual calling, this ministry that guides me and provides a higher vision for my life…this purpose fills my heart and soul, bringing connection to others, igniting a faith that resides deep within (whatever name of religion it’s called).

“The pain pushes until the vision pulls.”

It has been somewhat a painful and challenging journey during the past year of job-hunting, self-evaluation, self-judgment, (im)patience and faith. I held a different picture in mind of what my paid income would look like, who I would work for, and how much I would need to make. I resisted the idea of “going back to work” in the “corporate world.” Then the seed was planted with one word – tentmaking – and a shift occurred.

It’s been done for centuries by devout men and women. Even today in the Mormon church, the bishops (spiritual leaders) have paid careers or businesses separate from their responsibilities or calling to serve their religion, and they commit to a specific term of service (about 3 years) in their turn. Baha’i groups accept donations only from those dedicated to their faith and there is no ministerial hierarchy or leadership in individual churches; its members step forward to coordinate, preach and run their centers or local study groups.

Now I’m not against ministers being paid for their work. Our culture proudly touts specializations in every profession and some churches, especially larger ones, need a dedicated leader to keep it altogether for as long as they’re able. Doing a sermon well takes many hours of research and preparation to present a 20-30 minute talk, something for which a minister usually gets paid to do.

I’ve heard it said that a minister’s career lasts about 3-5 years. It’s challenging, demanding and rewarding work. I’m intrigued to find out if utilizing a tentmaking approach will allow me to serve far beyond the average career span.