Y is for Why… Spirituality A to Z

The more I explore the depths and intricacies of the ego-self, the shadow side, the more discoveries I make toward resolving any challenges it presents to my peace of mind.

One question, learned in early childhood by many of us, and that continues to present itself from time to time, is “Why?” At first glance this might be an innocent enough question.  We seek to discover the reasoning or motivation behind an action, behavior or decision. However, the more I’ve explored this question or any answer it might generate, the more I’ve learned that the ego-self will never be satisfied with the response…any response.

No matter how well a person answers “Why?” – there can always be yet another “Why?” that follows…to infinity. It’s the disbelieving child inside each of us that relentlessly pursues such a line of questioning. It’s that part of us that will never be satisfied with disappointment or past mistakes, which is often when “Why?” comes up.

There is NO adequate answer to the question “Why?” that will ever satisfy the ego’s discontent with the past or what is behind us.

Think about it: do we ask this question when everything has gone well and successfully? Do we dare consider any of the bad when all we see is good? It’s only when we have doubts that this question creeps into our consciousness…and then, repeatedly so. It can be very annoying. It also takes a concerted effort to stop this unproductive habit. Rarely is the question directed in support of or to validate a person’s efforts.

The question “Why?” looks primarily at the past, something that has already occurred and apparently requires some type of justification. You can’t do anything about the past anyway. If amends are needed or restitution is required, you can’t go back and do over what was done. If there are corrections to be made, you start in this moment.

Bring yourself into the NOW. Start by asking, “What can I do in this situation?” or “What change can I make in myself to resolve this matter?” or “What’s the next right step for me to make?” Start from where you are. And sure, maybe an apology is needed or doing some forgiveness work. The act of healing can always use a bit of compassion and understanding.

But posing “Why?” in nearly any situation is like rubbing salt in the wound; it just makes matters worse. It’s coming from the ego’s need to be right, to make someone else wrong, or to lay blame and then shine it in a spotlight so someone gets hurt or feels even worse about themselves. What’s the point? Where’s the love and compassion in that?

For your own peace of mind, ask a different question…and have it be one that starts with anything EXCEPT “Why?”  Then see what your ego-self does with that!

Making Contact

I’m thinking about getting a new phone. It’s been well over two years and I’m due for an upgrade. I’ve also convinced myself that it would be easier to see what I’m doing if the screen was bigger.  Really, I just want a newer phone. Before I head off to the cell phone store, however, I’ve given quite a bit of my attention, time and effort to going through the contacts list on my phone…and my computer…and my internet email account. I want to be sure my contacts are cleaned up, accurate … and then backup the contact list on my phone to another location that is off my phone.

I have a lot of contacts. Due to some magical mistake made during my previous phone upgrade, the technician (or me) managed to double my phone’s contact list. I ended up with over 948 records. I never counted them. I never bothered to clean up my phone’s contact list…until today.

So far I’ve been able to get the list down to 729 726 contacts on my phone. I have another 284 names in my internet account. Some are probably duplicates. Apparently, even with today’s technological advances, getting a phone’s contact list to sync to one or two other depository locations is not an easy proposition. It’s far easier on the spy TV shows than in real life. Even after a trip to the phone store with questions about my situation, the best they could do was reassure me that I wasn’t crazy about what I was trying to do. The only thing is, the process only works one way …not both.

Why all this trouble? Why is it so important?Old_dial_phone

First, I truly value the names that appear on all my various contact lists and I want them to be accurate. They wouldn’t be there unless there was a reason to include them. At one time or another, each name was added with the intent of staying in touch, reaching out, having a conversation. Sometimes it happened…other times, not so much. After years of no communication, I’ve simply forgotten who some of these people are. Quite honestly, if I haven’t contacted them by now (or they, me), it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen any time in the near future.

I didn’t mean to forget their names or the experiences we shared. The entries that were deleted weren’t all personal friends. The list is a combination of customers from a long-ago business, board members of a company where I used to work, recruiters for companies where I applied for jobs, people who visited our church, classmates from college, or someone I found interesting at a party and thought I would contact later. Some of these names have been on my list a really l–o–n–g time. I didn’t want to let them go. But holding on to forgotten memories was serving no one.

The only way we ever grow is to let go of what is holding us back. The best way to lift up our consciousness is to release the weight of what is keeping us down. Whenever we create a void in life, God/Spirit is more than happy to fill it – usually with something better than we had previously. Sometimes that means deleting names from an old phone list or cleaning the clutter from a life of overwhelm. Other times, it means forgiving ourselves (and others) for saying or doing things we may not even remember properly or fairly.

In all cases, it requires us to be in the present moment…to appreciate what we have here and now…to focus on the Good. As long as I stay in gratitude for the life that is mine, for the friends and family to whom I’m connected, for the gifts I’m given or work long and hard for …as long as I stay in gratitude, everything that’s important will be provided…and more!

I rest assured, knowing that my communication with God is a two-way and direct call, if I but listen to that still, small voice within…no phone required.

Quality of Life

One of the privileges I have as a teacher of Spiritual Principles is that I get to continue to learn them…over and over and over again. As my students are introduced to various spiritual texts, I get to review the pages and passages that opened my eyes and heart the first time I read the writings. I find peace in the highlighted phrases and joy in the scribbles in the margins…and I smile.

On most days those notations are enough to lift my spirit and remind me how lucky I am to have found such a foundation of faith and to practice it through my ministry. On other days I must delve further into the texts for the inspiration that will most certainly uplift my consciousness and release the mental burdens…the heavy weight of my unceasing plans and constant doing-ness…under which I place myself.

You were not made for failure, no matter who you are, nor how much you know, nor what anyone has told you. God is your prosperity. God, the Most High, is your defense. God, the Absolute Good, is your friend.”                                 ~Emma Curtis Hopkins

It is important to remind myself of “first things first” when I start spinning from all the mental activity and ideas circulating in my head. What do I focus on? How much can I really do and do well? What is actually mine to do?  While my current life theme may be “simplicity,” it also must include the element of “balance” to address and achieve those tasks that are mine to complete on a daily or weekly basis…and into the distant future.

My intent is to create a quality of life that is improving and ever-expanding in all directions: spiritual/physical… work/play… home/community… relationships/solitude… activity/rest… learning/teaching… in an evenly-paced and sane approach of longevity and growth. Up until a few years ago, I would get so excited about the possibilities for expansion and the opportunities to learn or do, that I would work myself into an unsustainable frenzy of activity. It would be inevitable that a crash would occur …physically, mentally, emotionally…forcing me to rest, re-evaluate and recover from this self-inflicted abuse of over-doing.

My insatiable desire to learn all I can within this human lifetime, I’m sure, has something to do with my high level of activities, my growing collection of unread books, website searches on a myriad of topics, my eagerness to listen to the wisdom of others (conversations, classes, lectures, etc.), and my misguided enthusiasm to take on more than I can reasonably handle in a given day. Fortunately, I’ve become more aware of this destructive and innate pattern of behavior, and am now able to slow down the mental spinning to a more balanced and consistent forward movement. But more is needed.

clockThankfully, I’m willing to ASK for help, recommendations, suggestions or guidance when I feel lost. An idea, posed by a loving partner with whom I recently shared these darting thoughts, is being implemented, starting today:  Block out my schedule for various activities/tasks throughout the day/week and stick to it!

It sounds simple, right? Balanced? Logical? It’ll be interesting to see how my ego committee mind reacts to this “novel” idea. Yet, you and I both know this is not a new approach. I’ve brought it up before when I shared my work-aholic tendencies and the “power of an hour” concept of achieving things. However, I obviously need more than just an hour-by-hour plan. I’m adding a long-term view for a higher quality of life.

The wonderful part about this idea is that I have the freedom to create the schedule, starting today. The new blocks of time include spending more time with God than with projects, trading technology for daily periods of meditation, working only six days each week (for now), expanding my  exercise options, increasing creative art and gardening activities, and reading more books.  My aim is eventually to take off from work two full, consecutive days each week. Can you imagine that? I do. And so it is!

Discriminating Ideas

I recently saw a film about a well-known American baseball player in the 1940’s. It depicted the challenges of and racism toward a black athlete entering a strictly white sports team. Some parts of the movie were difficult to watch because the hatred was so clearly portrayed. It didn’t seem to matter to the team’s other players that this rookie was a phenomenal athlete or that the team’s improved standings as a result of his playing would benefit all of them. At least…not a first.

Eventually, much of the initial bigotry and prejudice amongst team members subsided, thanks to a forward-thinking team owner. The ideas associated with general racial discrimination became more specific over time. They became more discriminating about their discrimination. What an idea!

I find it interesting that two words, so similar in form, can be so different in meaning. Discrimination has synonyms like: bias, favoritism, prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. Discriminating, on the other hand, uses words like: sharp, astute, selected, perspective and discerning. Except for the positioning of the final two letters of each word, they’re identical. So where is all this going?

Any discrimination I have faced in life has not been racially based. Religious, yes. Gender, yes. Economic, yes. Nationality, yes. As a result, those experiences have made me more discriminating, whether I’m close to someone or not. For example, I’ve felt the pangs of religious discrimination from family members; it can come from anywhere. That experience had a significant influence on my efforts today to warmly welcome everyone who chooses to explore New Thought teachings and, in particular, our Spiritual community and church.

Much Good for my personal and Spiritual growth has resulted from those past hurts. I am…

  • more selective about what I share about myself or when I voice my opinion. I don’t need to comment on everything.
  • diligent in keeping an open or objective perspective about the world, to be more accepting of people as they are…neutral, non-judgmental. (It takes a little more effort and sharp focus when the people are closer to you in relationship. )
  • able to separate the person (that child of God) from their misbehavior, which has allowed me to practice forgiveness more readily.
  • an astute observer, noticing details about a person’s words, body movements, voice tone, or other communication methods.  As I really see people, I’m able to notice their vulnerability, their authentic Self, and offer compassion and kindness that connects us at a heart-level, a soul-level, where we recognize we are all part of that Divine Oneness.

These are discriminating ideas that I offer to you now as well. If we were to hone our discriminating skills, using the four bullet points above, we might never experience discrimination again. Think about it. Isn’t it about time?


Claiming My Space – Declaring My Place

I can finally see my office floor! For several months my desk has been surrounded by piles of boxes, files, photo albums, and years of memorabilia. Until recently, I had been slow to unpack, sort, shred, or move the contents of these boxes to where they belonged. However, after I made the commitment to our church’s women’s group, the accountability and deadline I imposed on myself put me into high gear and, with the help of my daughter, I finally claimed my office space as my own.

Little did I know how much I would appreciate opening up the center space and reviewing my possessions, which had been stuck in boxes for so many years. Journals by the dozens, 35mm slides of people I don’t remember from a past photography class, a couple of books I wrote and have yet to publish, and so much more. I shredded bags of old documents that no longer matter. Empty boxes flew out the door as file drawers received their contents. There is much that still needs sorting, but at last there is space…for me.

I feel very fortunate to have a dedicated space of my own and one finally large enough to contain the busyness of my life – past and present interests. It wasn’t that the space hadn’t been there before. It was. I just hadn’t claimed it for myself. And I realize I’ve done that a lot to myself…in the past…up until now. Once I declared a place for myself, my husband and I agreed to plans that benefited both of us and arrangements were made for everything to come into being. It was a relatively simple process; one that I had not bothered to pursue before. I am now taking this experience, this lesson, into other areas of my life.

Part of the delay to take care of myself in this manner, I’m sure, comes from a lifelong practice of taking care of everyone else first. As the “oldest” sibling, as a mother, and even now as a grandmother, plus the type of service-oriented careers I’ve had, created a mindset in me of being more concerned for everyone else’s needs before my own. To do otherwise seemed selfish…up until now. In fact, just the opposite has occurred.

The better I take care of myself, similar to the airline’s example of putting on my own oxygen mask first, the better I can tend to the needs of others. When I declare my place in the world – my world – there are times when I am first and times when I’m not, depending on the situation. However, there is no reason to put myself last in every situation. Thus, I’ve not only claimed my office space, I’m also claiming time to take diligent care of myself…to enjoy my creative hobbies…to visit with family and friends…to take a break or a nap when I feel the need…to engage in work that fills my heart and soul with joy and enthusiasm…to enjoy the NOW moment every day…to share the love for life!

In the process of changing past priorities, I’ve discovered a lightness to living and the ability to be truly authentic. I’m rediscovering who I am on so many levels. As I learn to love myself better, as a precious child of the Divine, there is room in my life and my heart to connect more deeply with others. Now THAT is truly being of service!

Detoxing My Demeanor

A couple of weeks ago I came down with a seasonal flu or cold or something viral. It kept me in bed for two days (sort of), sleeping and eating vegetables and fruits as much as possible so my body could heal. I love that about the human body. It KNOWS how to fight off infections, viruses, bacteria, etc. if we only provide it with the proper conditions for healing….rest, water, nutrients, positive intention.  So that was my goal. My body recovered pretty fast (I don’t make a very good patient anyway).

While in bed resting, I watched a couple of documentary films about food and healing that included the process of “juicing.” Great idea! In an effort to assist my body back to a healthy state, I started juicing raw fruits and vegetables. You see, I also lost a bit of weight during those five days of illness and I’d prefer they stayed lost. Juicing allows me to take in the nutrients and not the bulk, so I can actually “eat” several helpings of the good stuff – like we’re instructed to do. I am mixing wonderful flavors and really enjoying the added energy, convenient preparation and cleanup, and the variety of foods I now consume. I also started taking 30-minute walks. More excess weight is going away and I’m detoxing in the process.

I wish I could say the process was as quick and effective when it came to my mental attitude in the midst of unnecessary confrontation or challenge. Is there a way to detox my demeanor, too?

I don’t like using the excuse of “I’m not feeling well” as the reason for my occasional sour disposition. I know better. And I certainly don’t like placing blame on others for their rude manners, condescending attitudes, or sarcastic remarks. There are times when I struggle to just let such behavior flow past me or when I’m moved to stop the onslaught and say something. Lately, I’ve been “responding” rather than being reserved. It’s the responses I’d like to change.

Someone reminded me recently how much they “hate” being talked to like they were stupid. I share that sentiment. Yet, I have to catch myself in those challenging moments to not fling back this same stinging dialogue. My ego-self goes into instant defense mode…before my God-self can take a breath, think, and respond – either with silence (for there is power there, too) or with a calm, respectful statement. I don’t like my defensiveness any more than I like being brushed aside. That’s where the detoxing of my mental state, demeanor, comes in. And that is where the simple act of taking a breath may be the key solution.

Just like the juicing machine takes out all the bulk from the raw foods and provides only the juicy nutrients in an easy-to-digest liquid form, taking a breath (or two) before speaking in those tense situations can remove the sarcasm and hurtful sting from words hurled at an unsuspecting target.  A simple breath can cleanse the mind (detox), provide a few seconds of silence (power), and allow only the juicy, respectful, easy-to-accept expression (nutrients) of who you are to be heard and understood. It lowers the negative energy in those tense situations and creates a pool of calm for everyone involved.

Divine Spirit recognizes and connects one person to another, if only for a micro-second, and healing occurs. I feel better already.

Birthday Thoughts

My birthday is this week. I’m almost at the end of another decade. I’ve been sick for a few days, too, so my perspective on life has been a bit skewed. It’s just a nasty cold or something; enough to put me on the pity potty every once in awhile, though I’m determined not to stay there long enough that it leaves rings. My focus has been a bit off. In the midst of my whining this morning, I received a reminder that put things in clearer perspective and shut me up at the same time.

My infant grandson was at the hospital this morning, having minor outpatient surgery. Due to my own coughing and runny nose, I couldn’t be there to help or be part of providing comfort – to child or parents. A friend in another state was having major surgery on his heart – a 6- to 8-hour procedure – that had been quickly scheduled to help him avoid any unexpected heart attacks. There have been devastating crimes across the world this past week, too. And I was complaining about coughing and sneezing?

I need to stay in gratitude. At least I get to HAVE a birthday again. My body is already on the mend through rest, nutrition and time, plus a few herbal cold remedies. I’ll get back to my full routine shortly. Any stress I want to bring on myself is waiting in the wings. I think that’s an important awareness lately – I can attract whatever level of stress and anxiety I desire in my life…or not. If I hold onto anger, all I do is get more angry and ride the downward spiral to emotional oblivion. That’s not how I want to live my life. That’s not the place from where I can make decisions for Good. It’s just too debilitating to live in that negative space. Maybe that’s how this week’s illness got a foothold; it found an opening in my self-pity and wants to prolong feelings of victimhood. Not today, thank you!

My grandson is already on the road to recovery; he’s quite a tough little guy. He hasn’t had any of the after-surgery issues his parents were warned about. As for my distant friend, the prognosis is good, too. Surgery went well. The road to recovery will be long, but he will recover. And tomorrow I will be one step closer to experiencing the perfection of breathing without pain or coughing or sneezing and wheezing. I’ll be able to get through the day with perhaps only one nap instead of two or three. Plus, it’ll be my birthday.

I’ll have the day to reflect and contemplate…how far I’ve come and where do I want to go from here? Do I like who I am…who I’m becoming? I notice I’m stronger, more authentic, compassionate, tolerant, more loving and forgiving … of myself and others. As long as I remember this about myself, it allows me to face the ugliness, anger and fear of the world with more courage and objectivity. As long as I stay focused on the inherent Good of Life, I can recover from pain more quickly so I can truly be a more positive influence in the world and for my family.

My personal mission is to “Learn, Teach and Serve” …from a Spiritual source and with Power for Good. That, now, will be my mantra and focus. Next year, we’ll review and see how far I’ve come. Happy Birthday to me!

Deciding Long-Term

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get ‘it’ all down…how to live this thing called Life successfully enough that I don’t need to have so many do-over’s or RE-awakenings. Like making decisions. I make several a day: what to eat or wear; which project to work on first; scheduling appointments, what music or movie to enjoy, etc. I’m grateful that I get to choose such things for my life. These types of decisions don’t have major significant consequences, but there are others that do…others that have long-term effects.

What I’ve been RE-awakened to are some decisions I made several years ago that seemed insignificant at the time. This has to do with my landscape plans and the large trees I decided to plant. When the trees went in I knew full well how large they could get, how wide they would be, and how and where their deep roots might grow and wander. The thing is I had no plans to be living on this property by the time they became a concern. Well, plans change and here I am, facing the consequences of my former landscape decisions.

In the Science of Mind textbook (p. 388.4) Ernest Holmes writes: “And so we prepare not to die, but to live.” This now is a great reminder about what perspective to have when making decisions of any kind, but especially long-term ones.

Had I made my previous tree-planting decisions with the thought of being the person who would now be trimming, or even eliminating, one large tree (and several smaller ones), I definitely would have made different choices. One of the key influences to my decision-making process is that, up until recent months, I moved homes every two to four years. Sometimes, I moved more often than that. The idea of living in one place long enough to actually watch a tree mature and become a nuisance was entirely foreign to me. Now, it’s rather comforting to imagine that possibility.

I have this vision of growing ancient in this home…of tending gardens and planting perennials… of building sandboxes and playing with many grandchildren on the swing set of our children… of hearing each floor squeak get louder each winter… of crafting from piles of endless stored supplies… of actually sitting on the front deck to watch the sunrise in the summer… and a myriad of other activities as the years float by. With such a vision before me, the decisions I make now are for the long-term. Thus, they are made with greater forethought and consideration than in years past… the way I wished I had made them to begin with when I planted all these trees.

I will make a formal amends to the trees that now must be cut down to stop the damage to my home’s roof and foundation. And I’ve learned to make better choices in every area of my life as a result of this experience… as some decisions are certain to outlive my mortal body. For now, I “…prepare not to die, but to live” a long, healthy and wisdom-filled life.

Many Hats…One Design

During a recent prayer session with a practitioner student, I was gifted with clarity into a behavioral habit I’ve developed rather consciously over the past couple of decades. I’m happy to say that the inspiration from that session included a resolution to make significant changes…to create and live a new way of being.

My approach to life has always been to have a backup plan. In this way, I have a “back door” escape, just in case the idea fails, plans don’t work out, or people let me down. What this has done, however, is to keep me from FULLY engaging in life. I participate, but only at a surface level. Sometimes it even allows me to hide out from life. Since I’m not totally engaged, there’s less chance of getting hurt, feeling failure, or even taking full responsibility – good or bad – for whatever the results might be. This approach, I reasoned, protected my heart and feelings from pain and disappointment of my own shortcomings or those of other people involved. Fortunately, I’m not operating from this perspective any longer.

The other related behavior, and which I have become very good at carrying out, is “changing hats.” I can speak to one person about marketing projects and deadlines, another about financial administration or team communication, another about massage and wellness tips, and still someone else about options to their spiritual path. In each case, I would put on “my hat” for each appropriate role (marketing professional, business manager, massage therapist, or minister and teacher, respectively), and then spoke from that perspective. I began to notice that my voice tone changed depending on which “hat” I was wearing or what needed to be addressed. I projected different personas. Many of us do this; there’s nothing really wrong with this communication technique. It’s just not the way I choose to express who I am any longer.

The truth is, I have all these capabilities bundled up inside this one magnificent being of spirit, brain and body – known as me. I’ve lived long enough to accumulate academic education, worldly knowledge, and wisdom from life experiences that give me some expertise in certain matters.  What I don’t know about something I can learn or rely on experts to advise me. I know that I don’t know all there is to know – and I’m okay with that.

The change I’m making – and what I’ve recently been inspired to do through powerful prayer and meditation practices – is to come from Source in all situations…to lead with the heart, with love. This means coming from my authentic, spiritual, heart-centered, compassionate, and strong nature God-self. I have all the Power of God available to my every thought and prayer, as much as I’m willing to accept. I trust with absolute certainty that the life I’m living is filled with Good and Love, no matter how it might look in the moment. I know the person I’m becoming will continue to evolve through all eternity, in one form or another. The only way I can hurt is if I let outside circumstances dominate and control my thinking.

A change of hats is no longer necessary. There is no need for a backup plan. I AM the plan.

Getting Satisfaction

I love working with my hands. Always have. It allows me to express artistically and it doesn’t matter the project. I can find satisfaction in any form and endeavor.

I enjoy the physical demands of gardening and transforming a landscape with my ideas and suitable plants. I’m in absolute bliss by the smell of fresh cut wood and sawdust. I’m delightfully challenged by the intricacy of tile cutting and then grouting them into walls or floors. I can spend hours in the store touching fabrics, selecting patterns, and then creating fashion and home décor projects. My latest hand-oriented interests include stringing beads into jewelry and fashion, decluttering, organizing, installing shelves, and eliminating life’s excess possessions, as well as lots of writing and computer work. As each project is completed, new inspirations take their place. Every one brings its own level of satisfaction and growth.

Levels of satisfaction vary in their intensity. It could be as subtle as an approving glance and a smile as you walk through your freshly-painted room. It may be sitting at the edge of a weed-free flower bed as you breathe in the wet dirt and the scent of freshly mowed grass. Perhaps you stack, re-sort and re-organize (over several hours) the garage contents on newly installed shelves, to visualize all the possible arrangements. Other displays of personal satisfaction and contentment range from fluffing pillows a dozen times in a newly decorated room… to pushing the computer’s ENTER key when an article is ready for publication… to supporting a friend through a tough challenge… to dragging a family member into a room to look at your latest organizational endeavor.

Whether you have a desire to tackle mountainous goals in business… live in service to others…  create artistic forms…  or learn how to simply be still in the silence for five minutes…  it can happen – one step at a time. Yes, you CAN get satisfaction from the simplest things in life to the most challenging. And it looks different to each of us.

I believe satisfaction, true contentment, is simply feeling peaceful, knowing you gave it your best effort in this particular time and place with all the skills you have right now. It’s becoming your fullest and best YOU in each moment. It’s that quiet happiness that wells up from deep within and just fills your entire being from the inside out. Your mind and body radiate with light and love – the love of God in expression as you with all your talents and creativity, all your mistakes and corrections, all your confidences and insecurities. This unlimited Divine Love doesn’t judge and It never ends. It is complete within Itself…gentle and supportive, encouraging and uplifting. God requires nothing from you…ever.

I love working with my hands and the peace it brings to my life. It allows me to witness my spiritual growth in an outward manner. I get to become Love…and connect with God in a very personal way. Sigh. As soon as I hit the ENTER key, I think I’ll just sit here for awhile…and smile.