October 29, 2009
When we are lost, we typically look at a map to figure out where we are and how to get to our
chosen destination. This works well, assuming that there is a map of the territory in which we find ourselves, and assuming that we know our destination. However, this is not always the case. At
this time in human history, we are all venturing into uncharted territory, whether we know it or not. And as individuals, we may find ourselves covering ground that our predecessors never even knew
existed. When we look to them for guidance, they often come up short. Not knowing exactly where we are, we find ourselves unsure of which way to go, and eventually the uneasy feeling that we are
lost presents itself.
The beauty of being lost is the same thing that makes it scary—it asks us to look within ourselves to find the way. If we have no map, we must go on instinct, relying on our inner compass to show us which way to go. This can be scary because so much seems to be riding on it. We fear we might go too far in the wrong direction, or become paralyzed and make no progress at all. And yet, this is the very challenge we need to develop our ability to trust ourselves. We are also learning to trust that the universe will support and guide us. We may believe this intellectually, but it is only through experience that it becomes knowledge of the heart. Learning to be okay with being lost and trusting that we will be guided, we begin our journey.
We can support ourselves by confirming that we don't need to know exactly where we are going in order to take our first steps. We are learning to feel our own way, rather than following an established path, and in doing so we learn to trust ourselves. It is this trust that connects us to the universe and reminds us that no matter how lost we feel, and even as we journey, on the inner level we are already home.
October 28, 2009
Energy to Spare
Knowing Your Limits
Every human life is defined, to some extent, by limits. No one person is capable
of fulfilling every possibility. We are all born with unique aptitudes and sensitivities, and it is these qualities that largely determine the paths we will travel in life. What invigorates,
excites, and inspires one individual may exhaust or overwhelm another. When we understand what we as individuals are capable of reasonably handling, we gradually learn to accept that we have
control over our wellbeing. Yet determining where our limits lie can be difficult, as it is likely we have been told time and again that the discomfort, fatigue, and stress we felt while engaging
in activities outside the range of our comfort zones was all in our heads. If you have never before given thought to the notion of personal limits, creating a list of those tasks and situations
that leave you feeling drained can give you insight into your own.
You will know definitively that you are operating within your limits when you have the necessary energy and drive to address your personal and professional commitments. This is not to say you should not push yourself or work to extend the range of your capabilities. The wisdom you gain through dynamic self-examination will give you the tools you need to create an individual life strategy that allows you to achieve your goals without compromising yourself or your needs. The limits you honor by focusing your energy on what you can do rather than what you cannot do will not interfere with your ambitions unless you allow them to interfere. You can thrive within your limits, actively shape your circumstances, and avoid anguish by simply recognizing that certain aspects of life nourish you while others drain you, and doing your best to perceive the fine line between applying yourself diligently and overworking yourself.
You may be surprised to discover that your limits change over time. Your willingness to accept these limits as they reveal themselves to you can smooth your passage through life and give you the means to flourish.
October 26, 2009
Starting from Empty
We are all familiar with the metaphorical story of two people looking at the same glass and one perceiving it as half-full while the other sees it as half-empty. As much as we've heard this, it's still a valuable exercise to really observe our minds and notice whether we are engaged in half-full or half-empty thinking. People will refer to themselves as being of one type or the other as if it was a permanent characteristic, but we are all capable of shifting into a half-full consciousness if we simply make the effort.
When we look at our lives with half-empty consciousness, we perceive a lack and think that the other half of what we want is missing. We are coming from a position of expectation and entitlement. On the other hand, when we look at our lives as half-full we perceive fullness. It is as if we recognize that our cup could be fully empty and so we are grateful for what we see as bounty—not something we expect or believe we are owed, but a gift. In half-full consciousness, we count our blessings. When we look at our lives we see all the elements that are in place and all the things we do have. This doesn't necessarily mean we don't seek more, but we seek from a place of fullness instead of from a place of lack. This fullness draws positive energy into our lives and often attracts more abundance.
If you would like to begin to make the shift into half-full consciousness, try imagining your life as an empty glass. This is your life without all the people you know, the work you do, your home, or your current state of physical wellbeing. This is just an empty, open space waiting to be filled. Once you have that feeling of openness in your mind, begin filling it with all the people, things, and places that make up your life. You may be surprised to find your glass overflowing.
October 27, 2009
Reaffirming Our Integrity
Every thought we think and every action we take has an effect on the world around us. To be
aware of this is to be conscious of our impact on the people in our lives. Sometimes we just want to do what we want to do, but considering the full ramifications of our actions can be an important
part of our spiritual growth and awareness. At first, being more conscious requires effort, but once we have made it a habit, it becomes second nature. The more we practice this awareness of
others, the more we find ourselves in easy alignment with our integrity.
Our thoughts are an important place to begin this practice because our thoughts are the seeds of our actions. It is not necessary or beneficial to obsessively monitor all our thoughts, but we can perhaps choose one thought or action per day and simply notice if we are in alignment with this experience of integrity. For example, we may find ourselves replaying a negative encounter with someone in our minds. We may think that this doesn't affect the person about whom we are thinking, but the laws of energy tell us that it does. When we hold someone negatively in our minds, we risk trapping them in negativity. If we were this person, we might wish for forgiveness and release. We can offer this by simply letting go of the negative thought and replacing it with a wish for healing on that person's behalf.
With regard to our actions, we may have something difficult to express to someone. Taking the time to consider how we would feel if we were in his or her shoes will enable us to communicate more sensitively than we would if we just expressed ourselves from our own perspective. When we modify our approach by taking someone else's feelings into account, we bring benefit to that person and ourselves equally. The more we do this, the more we reaffirm our integrity and the integrity of our relationship to the world.
October 23, 2009
Exploring Our Readiness
It could be argued that life is more about the time spent waiting for something to happen than it is about something happening. What this means is that the big events in our lives are preceded by many days and nights of dreaming, planning, organizing, and waiting. The times of waiting in between the big events actually constitute the majority of our lives. These in-between times are anything but uneventful. In fact, they are rich with possibility and filled with opportunities for reflection and preparation. Like a pregnant woman awaiting the birth of her child, we have a finite period of time in which to prepare internally and externally for the upcoming event that will define a new chapter in our lives.
When we find ourselves in an in-between time, we often can't help but feel impatient for the impending event. We just want to get to the future and have the new baby, the new job, or the new house. And yet, there is a reason a pregnancy takes nine months to fulfill itself. Nature provides the expectant parents with this time so that they can prepare the nest. This preparation plays out on many levels. Materially, a space must be created in the home and resources must be set aside for the baby's future; psychologically, a shift must occur in which the psyches of both parents agree to be responsible for a new life in the world; and emotionally, the heart must open wider to embrace and fulfill a new love.
Whenever you find yourself in such a time of waiting, you might want spend time exploring your material, psychological, and emotional readiness. For example, if you are preparing to move to a new city, you could make a list of things you'd like to do in the city you will be leaving behind, and go to your favorite places and spend time with old friends. This way, you will remain fully engaged in the present as you await your future, savoring the in-between time as a vital experience in itself.
October 22, 2009
Empathy in Action
An Experiment in Gratitude
Sometimes we forget to take the time to recognize the richness that defines our lives. This may
be because many of the messages we encounter as we go about our affairs prompt us to think about what we don't have rather than all the abundance we do enjoy. Consequently, our gratitude exists in
perpetual conflict with our desire for more, whether we crave time, convenience, wealth, or enlightenment. Yet understanding and truly appreciating our blessings can be as simple as walking a mile
in another's shoes for a short period of time. Because many of us lead comparatively insular lives, we may not comprehend the full scope of our prosperity that is relative to our sisters and
brothers in humanity.
If you find taking an inventory of your life's blessings difficult, consider the ease with which you nourish your body and mind, feed your family, move from place to place, and attend to tasks at hand. For a great number of people, activities you may take for granted, such as attaining an education, buying healthy food, commuting to work, or keeping a clean house, represent great challenges. To experience firsthand the complex tests others face as a matter of course in their daily lives, try living without the amenities you most often take for granted. This can be a great experiment to undertake with your entire family or a classroom. Understanding working poverty can be as easy as endeavoring to buy nutritious foods with a budget of $100 for the week. If you own a car, relying on public transportation for even just a day can help you see the true value of the comfort and conveniences others do without. As you explore a life without things you may normally take for granted,! ask yourself for how long you could endure.
The compassionate gratitude that floods your heart when you come to fully realize your abundance may awaken pangs of guilt in your heart. Be aware, however, that the purpose of such an experiment is to open your heart further in gratitude and compassion. This awareness can help you attain a deeper level of gratitude that will allow you to savor and, above all, appreciate your life with renewed grace.
October 12, 2009
Expressions of the Heart
Creating Meaningful Homemade Gifts
The gifts we craft with our own hands are often the most significant because the love that drove us to create is infused in the products of our creation. And the recipients of these homemade offerings receive a token of our willingness to invest ourselves in their joy. Allow these ideas to inspire you:
1. When you craft a beautifully decorated prayer box (or jar) for loved ones, you give them the gift of spiritual awareness. As you share this gift, explain that it should serve as a receptacle for their hopes, dreams, and loves—as well as worries—and thus a reminder of who they were, are, and will someday be.
2. If you love journaling, share your writing joy with family and friends by giving each a unique, handmade personal journal. A simple spiral notebook dressed up with paper, fabric, photographs, or other embellishments will give your loved ones a special place to record their private thoughts.
3. Erase the distance between yourself and your far away loved ones by presenting each with a photo journal documenting how your life has changed in the past year. Or introduce them to your locale with a homemade guidebook that highlights everything you love about your town or city.
4. When you sew medicine bags for the people you care about, you can rest assured your gift will always be close to their hearts. A small pouch can be filled with many meditative or symbolic items, such as quartz crystals, sage, or magical objects.
5. A progressive photo album, wherein pictures tell the story of your relationships from the past up to the present, can be a simple yet poignant reminder of the many wonderful experiences you and your loved ones have shared over the years.
6. Give the gift of serenity with a guided meditation you create and record to CD or tape. Your loved ones will take pleasure in being led through tranquil landscapes by the soothing sound of your voice.
7. Hand-crafted ornaments that can be hung on trees, in windows, and on walls afford you an opportunity to surround the important people in your life with beauty. Whether you prefer to work with clay, crystals, fabric, baked dough, or natural objects, your gift can serve as a calming focal point in your loved ones' homes.
Whether you choose to give a gift or simply share your friendship and love, remember that it is
the intention behind the thought that is most important.
October 1, 2009
Serving the Higher Self
In most spiritual circles, the ego gets a pretty bad rap. The reason for this is that the ego, to some extent, is the principle in our psyches that separates us from one another, while spirit is the principle that shows us that no such separation exists. Sometimes the ego is depicted as an almost demonic figure that keeps us from realizing our true nature. But at its most basic, the ego is simply a tool that helps us organize the various aspects of our personality so that we can function in the world. In this sense, the ego is simply a way for us to understand and attend to ourselves at the same time as we understand and attend to the world around us. The ego is a tool that we use to navigate the world.
Perhaps the problem is that the ego sometimes gets out of control. This happens when the higher self loses control of the psyche. The psyche then falls under the leadership of the ego, an entity that was never meant to lead. The ego is meant to be definitively in the service of the higher self. When this relationship is functioning, the ego is a useful intermediary representing the whole self but not thinking that it is the whole self. Then, it is almost as if the ego is the self playfully pretending to be the separate entity called "I." Like an actor, the ego plays the roles that the world asks us to play in order to be part of the program. In this way, the ego can be a tool enabling us to be in the world but not of it.
As long as we are in touch with our higher selves, our egos are not a threat. They are simply
useful tools in the service of spirit. We keep our egos in check when we continually nurture our awareness of who we really are. Then our egos are free to serve without trying ineffectually to
rule. It is healthy to have ego, but like all things in life, ego functions best when it is in balance and harmony with your whole self.