Once I started opening myself to see through the eyes of my heart the divine aspects of life became evident everywhere I looked. A new kind of art appeared as dew on spiderwebs. The whisper of a breeze through a forest of balsam pine stole my breath and held me back from turning the radio on. The many scents of a spring day awakened my own rebirthing. Magic awaited my conscious recognition around every corner.
The keys to this zenith arrived with one simple addition to my daily schedule. Meditation swept me away like Alice down the rabbit hole. I traded a few minutes of house cleaning, reading, or stitchery for a scant hour of bliss by meditating a minimum of five days per week for up to an hour at the same time each day as the sun began its descent. I treated the daily jaunts into my inner depths as an adventure into unexplored territory. As the door opened to my heart so did the wonder and awe I remembered from childhood. The world came alive with color, sound, sensation, and the delicious changing scents of each season. Dreams called forth symbols and offered messages unlike the old mundane wanderings of my resting mind. Loneliness fled as I began to discern a tangible life force in trees, plants, rocks, and water and my heart opened to friendships with all of creation.
Perhaps you don’t have forty-five minutes or an hour to dedicate to meditation yet, most can squeeze out ten or fifteen minutes upon waking or just before sleep. As a species we are far too busy and frenetic these days and time to chill out is not only refreshing and necessary, but also well-earned. Meditation carries an added benefit that it can be done by anyone whether you are religious or not.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Take slow rhythmic breaths, holding for four seconds at the end of the inhale and exhale; once you are comfortable you can increase the pauses to seven seconds. If you are tempted to fall asleep you may try focusing on a point on the inside of your forehead. If you are distracted simply remind yourself to return your focus. Falling asleep is not the end of the world so if you are starting your practice before work or a pending appointment it is probably a good idea to set an alarm with a gentle wake-up sound.
Okay. Now you have opened the door. Whether or not you take the time to meditate, just by reading this you are ready to bring more presence to your day. Here are seven things to watch for or try out once you step over the threshold:
When you are done with this list you may wish to expand to more things in your environment and see on a deeper level. Can you envision a tree as another being? Can you see an ant as a vital part of our ecosystem? There is so much more to daily life than we allow for. As you bring more consciousness and presence to each step throughout the day, you can see and appreciate more which makes for a happier you overall. Try meditation or at least slow down as you move through the day and notice your surroundings. Enjoy the peace that comes with really seeing and being grateful for all you have.
Need some extra guidance? Allow me to do an enlightening and compassionate reading for you!
Blessings on this International Day of Peace!
Love is everywhere.
During my sixty-three years of life on this planet I have come to understand love as something always present in every visible and invisible molecule. I envision the power of love as an electrical current that we can tap into at any time via conscious intent. When we allow ourselves to shut down by becoming too busy, fearful, stressed, or jaded we may lose awareness of the love current, yet we never lose access to it. By choosing to focus on love we awaken our ability to alter or change our environment.
Fifteen years ago I received a challenge from a friend, who for purposes of this article, I will call Jill. “Try focusing on love when you prepare your meal and let me know what happens.”
Yeah, right. I thought this was the strangest thing I had ever heard.
My friend Jill knew I quavered on shaky confidence the first few years fresh out of a troubled eighteen-year marriage and subsequent agonizing divorce. Out of love and concern for my healing Jill’s initial dares were harmless prods inviting me to try odd things I had never tried before. “Come up with a list of people who became famous after age sixty.” The exercise gave me hope that all was not lost as I faced a new beginning in middle age. She suggested “See if you can make a delicious soup using as many root vegetables as you can find,” in order that I might direct some of my energy toward keeping my body healthy, strong, and by way of root vegetables, grounded as I set to putting my life back in order. She heard I liked art and commissioned me to design two paintings among other tasks to bring out the repressed parts of myself.
Most challenging of all for a then sick-to-my-stomach shy, bedraggled person, Jill cast a wider net in hopes that I might tap into and capture my own current of love. “A friend is having a party. Please come and tell her guests stories on her deck. You can do it! It’ll be fun!” Jill’s requests sometimes seemed outrageous, yet I knew her motives were driven by her knowledge of the love current.
Jill and her husband, Earl, who found enjoyable entertainment in my sharing of personal stories around the kitchen table, insisted I was a natural storyteller. Encouraged by their smiles and applause I started writing my own fictional stories. I had just taken my first open-minded baby steps in the direction of personal healing and spiritual growth so, fear-be-damned I forged ahead with Jill and Earl waving their pom-poms all the way. I did everything she suggested including acceptance of the invitation for the deck party storytelling. Fun and storytelling on a stage, with strangers no less, had not yet found a comfortable kinship in my brain. On party night I thought I might be nursing an ulcer, but pain and all I surprised myself with a hilarious adlibbed intro disguised as an old woman wearing a hooded cape and sneakers. Everyone roared and my confidence grew a few sizes larger.
With many of Jill’s dares under my belt, she came up with the “put love in the food” challenge after I told her about my desire to pay another friend back for helping me with some home repairs by making him a nice vegetarian meal; a friend who happened to have been one of the strangers in the audience on the auspicious evening of my storytelling debut one year prior. After nursing some healthy skepticism, I decided to give Jill’s latest challenge a whirl. If a veteran shy person could make twenty-five people laugh at a party after enduring a long, grueling divorce, anything was possible. Still, the skeptic in me devised a scientific test sure to debunk the crazy idea that focusing on love would make any kind of impact. Only one of my dishes would receive a concentration of mindful, loving intent…the one I least expected to earn rave reviews.
The menu consisted of a veggie sandwich on homemade bread, garden veggie soup, carrot salad, and fresh berry pie on a homemade shortbread crust. I spent the morning whipping together the abundance of ingredients each recipe required in silence, but with a mind full of useless chatter as I always had in the past. Before I gathered the four simple ingredients for the carrot salad, I found a favorite CD that brings out my happy, slapped it into the player, and got to work. I danced around the kitchen measuring, shredding, and stirring, while chanting “Love, Love, Love!” In my mind’s eye I urged little red hearts and love-filled memories to play out in living color. If nothing else I had more fun making that simple carrot salad than I had ever had in my life!
My guest arrived hungry and I set each dish on the table with flourish, first the soup followed by bread, sandwich fixings, and carrot salad. If I do say so myself everything matched my gourmet standard and tickled my taste buds the way fresh-made recipes tend to do. The surprise came when my guest exclaimed over and over again, “Oh! WHAT is in this carrot salad? It’s dee-licious!” He asked for a second helping and later dove for the bowl a third and fourth time, continuing to marvel at the simplest of all the recipes. As we scraped up the last bites of berry pie, my friend still babbled on about what I considered a humble, run-of-the-mill carrot salad.
These experiences made a believer out of me on many counts. I learned that positive intention goes a long way toward a successful outcome, whether it be at work or in play. We can draw love out of people and situations or create our own infusion to inject into whatever needs an extra boost. Jill’s belief in me, her love, and quirky requests encouraged me to move forward and stretch myself into realms I never imagined possible. In mid-life my courage swelled, manufactured by tapping into the love current and a desire to live life as I had not allowed previously. Love helped me ride the waves of my personal quest and kept me from being swallowed up by fear.
I realized that if love can transform a modest carrot salad into an exquisite ambrosia fit for a king, love can transform anything. Love is the stuff we are made of and we can conjure up love’s magic any time we so choose.
What magic will you do with the love current, now that you know its power?
We long to understand ourselves and the world, and our spiritual preferences are personal and varied. We can choose our own path and allow others to do the same...
As a minister’s daughter who moved away from organized religion, finding my spiritual path has been the most important goal of my life. One of the many ways people define themselves is by their belief systems or lack thereof. One might say they are religious, spiritual but not religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic, or somewhere in-between. Our spiritual lives are formed out of the human desire to understand ourselves in the context of a changing and oftentimes chaotic world.
“Religious” is clear; you subscribe to a set of predetermined precepts or dogma as prescribed by one of thousands of structured religions. There is usually a God or gods and goddesses in the equation and most include the characteristics of faith, belief, worship, and creed. At their conception different people in different parts of the world formed religious beliefs and codes from their own views of the world and the cosmos, and often from their fears. Though religions vary, many share common guidelines for moral behavior. None are wrong and at the same time many try to force others to believe the precepts or dogmas of a single structure. That’s not cool in my book and the failure rate is high. Trust me, I knocked on plenty of doors passing out Bibles in my early days and learned that people will believe what they want to believe.
“Spiritual but not religious” can take many forms depending on what you grew up with and how you have processed the difference between what you were taught and what you now believe. You may have gained new insights, departed from your religion of origin and yet, still cling to certain religious ideologies.
“Spiritual” can also take many forms as in “religious and spiritual” or “spiritual but not religious” but tends to move further away from strictly what you have been taught and closer to mature recognition of universal themes among religions, mutual respect, interdependence, and mindfulness of natural laws – those indisputable commandments provided by Mother Earth and our environment. What we do to ourselves we do to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.
An atheist is defined as someone who lacks belief in a God or being higher than oneself. An agnostic is someone who disbelieves in any kind of God or gods and also rejects the idea of anything existing beyond what they can see with their mortal eyes, though either may sit in wonder at a sunset or the vastness of an ocean. It seems to me that an atheist or an agnostic might still define themselves as spiritual if they pass their choices through the heart and do no harm to others, similar to a degree to the original intent of most religious and spiritual practices.
I have often been defined by others as being “SO spiritual” and the sentiment feels off-putting, as though I am in some way above the ordinary. To me the word “spiritual” is simply one more way to label a person when it is used in that way. When we label we separate ourselves from each other. The word “spirituality” on the other hand is something we can claim as our own chosen path that strives to make us better humans. If I am a spiritual person, you too are a spiritual person if our mutual aim is to make the lives of ourselves AND the lives of others of equal higher caliber with respect and compassion, though our “rules” may be different. When we claim our own spirituality there is no need to reject others for not thinking and feeling the way we do. We can talk about our own path and what works for us and it is okay for others to follow a dissimilar path.
Where Spirituality Loses Ground
The crossroads where we fall away from the spiritual path onto a rocky road is when we start telling others that our spirituality is the only way and they are wrong for theirs. The road gets even rockier when we are hypocritical. By veering away from the dogma we say we believe make us better humans, doing the very things our religion or practice instructs us NOT to do, we taint our spiritual lives with lies. Spirituality is a very personal thing and to that end there are easily as many spiritual paths as there are people! Perhaps it was meant that way, for us to each have different experiences, that we might share our individual experiences with each other and grow from the sharing instead of being at odds and arguing over who is right.
How spiritual are we if our religion teaches us the Golden Rule – a maxim taught by many religions and cultures – and we treat others as lesser beings based on race, gender identity, political affiliation, or other petty grounds? How spiritual are we if we ignore the fact that even within one religion, using Christianity as an example, there are a multitude of translations of sacred text? The Holy Bible has been translated into 636 languages and within those languages there are nuances that can change meaning from one language to the next. There are over one hundred versions of the Bible in the English language alone and many of the translations conflict. The majority of these translations leave out several of the original books, removed from public access at the Council of Nicea where, under the leadership of Roman Emperor Constantine, a relatively small group of men decided what to keep and what to hide away in an archive. Those who did not agree with certain portions of included text were exiled and/or excommunicated. From this perspective we can see that the idea of one and only one true spiritual way is created in the mind, rather than in the heart.
The Path of Mysticism
We are all on different levels of learning in this earth school as well as having had varied learning experiences. If forced to define my spiritual path I would call myself a mystic. I don’t take things at face value, nor do I believe everything I read, hear, or am told because there are too many conflicting ideas. I ask questions, LOTS of questions and process the answers through my heart and soul. Though I was raised in a Christian belief system, certain things did not make sense and too many variables of belief existed from church to church within the same religion. At the same time, I have come to appreciate my early religious training and that of others and can now walk into any place of worship and feel comfortable without having to change who I am. I am my own spiritual experiment and I base my path on personal experiences which often include things of a paranormal nature. Personal experience is not belief, it is knowing truth as it is offered to you as one cell in a greater whole.
The mystical path is not for those who seek a predictable universe because trusting your personal mystical experiences will most likely lead you away from dogma and into realms that offer no promise, explanation, or proof. Mysticism is the way of the unknown and can leave you with more questions than answers. It is a way of resurrecting your innate intuition and finding your place as one small piece of nature. Mysticism’s only requirement is personal responsibility and deep respect for all living things. It invites you to realize the original source of your views and feelings so you can heal the recurring circumstances, reactions, or beliefs that keep you stuck in your personal life and your life as a world citizen. The way of the mystic points inward and does not rely on outward dictates. It is a way of awe, wonder, and uncovering the wisdom and magic that life holds. It is a way to remember who you were before society shaped and molded you and the way of mystics does not usually fit into any organized system or group. Though it sounds like an austere way of life, mystics are often playful, imaginative, and fun to be around.
How to Find Your Spirituality
If spiritual status quo is no longer fulfilling, if you are skeptical or something just doesn’t feel right about your current spiritual path, trust that feeling. A wise Christian elder told me to drive around my neighborhood and stop in front of churches, sit there for a few minutes, and see how I felt. I am certain her vision was for me to only visit different Christian denominations until I found one that felt right, rather than including temples, mosques, and ashrams, but it was a step in the right direction. A wise Native American once told me to try many religions and experience different traditions so when an unfamiliar tradition appeared on my path I steered toward it to learn and discern.
Finding your personal spiritual path can be a lonely journey since a majority of people wish to keep things status quo and there will be those who reject anything else. You will be led to people who accept and love you for who you are, though they may also hold alternate views. You will find you can be in the company of people of different traditions and can listen to their views without needing to impose or enforce your own. You will use “I” statements as you tell others about your path.
No matter what path you follow, people will see what they will see in you, based on their own level of openness, understanding, and compassion. No one I have ever met has beaten life’s emotional ups and downs in total. Many hide behind their belief system as a way of pointing fingers at others, a wheel spinning practice that imprisons them in turmoil.
Once you have healed any obstacles to a more expansive perspective and sampled a variety of traditions you can decide which path is the best one for you. As you grow your views may change and evolve. I’ve known a few who came full circle and made a relaxed re-entry into their original religion with an attitude of acceptance and “To each his own” toward other religions and traditions. As long as you are in relationship to others and this earth, life gets easier as you formulate your own spiritual life and allow others to do the same.
Ultimately spirituality is a compass that helps us navigate life and in my view we are all heading toward the same place. I keep a small symbol in my mind to remind me of this, a whirlwind contained in a circle like a wheel with curvy spokes. If viewed from the side this appears as many paths leading up the side of a mountain. Considering the vast diversity of human spiritual ideals, the best we can strive for is to walk beside each other and help each other up when we stumble. Choose your spoke and one day we will meet at the top.
If you are unsure and want some guidance regarding your spiritual path, I am happy to do a reading for you so you can gain clarity!