We’ve been in the South of France now, in Marnac at Annie’s house, for four (or is it three or five) days… I’m not sure. Without a set schedule acting as a clock, ticking away the seconds of our lives, time is already seeming to run together; like trying to recall buildings or fields which have zoomed by on your left and right after hours of driving along an unfamiliar road. At a certain point sights and memory becomes blurred and you just remember that you passed them, when and where seems inconsequential.
It is delusional to assume that we will be alive tomorrow. The reality of life is, first of all, that it’s short; secondly, death will surely find us all. In order to get the most out of each day we must live in each moment, our eyes and heart firmly fixed on the beauty and life that is here, right now, and that is inviting each of us to participate by being present and grateful. When we are living in the present the world and our existence is not only a more beautiful place but we experience a greater openness to adventure and to following the desires of our heart. If we aren’t always looking toward tomorrow then tomorrow’s fears have no hold on us; worry is rarely a side-effect of living consciously.
It’s a glorious thing when life goes smoothly. When all our endeavors seem to succeed, the family is great, our health is in order, and all our needs (and most of our wants) are met in abundance. I don’t despise an easy season or take them for granted because, as is the nature of seasons, they do not last forever. These times of life, when we seem to be cruising are great, but they are not where growth, change, or personal development occur in greatest measure.
No two lessons are learned more quickly when one embarks on the spiritual journey than, first, time is infinite and is no finite resource (if it really exists or is of any consequence at all) and secondarily, money, being anything but eternal in nature, is simply a tool for trading and should be paid no more attention to than bread, or nails, or any other possibly trade-oriented commodity. To be caught up in time is to be worrisome and wearied, whereas a fixation on money keeps one trapped in a perpetual prison of “not enough”, and strangely, the more money people get the more they seem to obsess over it, making the logical decision to not care about it at all if you desire freedom!
Water moves and exists in specific forms and patterns. It has been said that water travels along the path of least resistance. This may be true, but one must not confuse this tendency with laziness or complacency. Water, chooses the path it does because of an adherence to its essential nature; it must flow. It's with great sensitivity that water courses, escapes, nourishes, and carves out new paths. A person who lives the watercourse way does so with a Spirit sensitive to the gentle tug of Life leading it forward.
Death is not antithetical to life. Death is not evil. Death, as we experience it, whether physical or experiencing some sort of emotional or spiritual death, is simply an aspect of the cycle of life; a stage among stages, a season among seasons. The sooner we understand that death is a part of life the sooner we can stop fighting or fearing it as something that must be destroyed or overcome.
There is no reality outside of relationship. Love is tasted by knowing a Lover and through loving another. Life is accentuated by death. Peace is magnified through turmoil. Creature, Creator, Created; the delicious harmonizing of Beauty that we understand as God and Reality is being continually and constantly invented and we participate to the degree that we are aware of the interplay and interdependence of all things.
There is much nonsense floating around out there, that heaven is some place in the sky… floating around out there. When we think about it much at all we realize that the idea of “heaven” and attempting to conceptualize it is difficult, it’s hard to wrap our minds around. Thinking about heaven is generally fruitless simply because heaven is not something meant to be thought of but to be experienced, tasted and enjoyed. Heaven may be more accurately described as a state of being rather than a place. And that state of existence is fully here, now, available to all. As long as we see heaven and earth as separate, the “spiritual” somehow removed from the “physical”, we will never experience the fullness of reality as it was meant to be enjoyed and we will most certainly not understand many if not most of the teachings of Jesus and other great spiritual teachers from throughout history.
Economy as we know it, as is most widely understood and implemented in society, is one of managing wealth and exchanging goods. A system of “getting", of acquiring what is needed or desired. Giving is only a means to an end in such a system, one side of the exchange, and has nothing to do with generosity or goodness. This understanding of economy differs greatly from spirituality and the internal journey but it needn’t by necessity. There is a way of integrating our physical world and systems with the spiritual; living and thinking in such a way that the physical and spiritual realms combine to create a state that can accurately and truly be described as heaven on earth. There are differences in perspective of operating in either a worldly or spiritually oriented economy though both are participating in the natural, physical realm.
We live in a world where process is often not enjoyed and valued. If you’re aiming to be a business person you had better be successful right away… at the ripe age of 24... fresh out of college. Want to be an artist? It feels in the beginning as if we must advance from student to master in the blink of an eye. Be prolific and prodigious or nothing at all. Creatives, myself included, are often more concerned about the message of our work before we even learn to use the basics of our medium to speak clearly.This lack of process doesn’t apply only to careers and creatives either. Are you hurt or hurting? Well, put on a brave face, think happy thoughts, and pop some ibuprofen.Whatever you do don’t rest. Don’t show any weakness or vulnerability. The world has no time for those who lag behind. It takes grit to get ahead and life is all about getting ahead… right?
Self-control is a topic rarely spoken of. It’s not a popular subject whether that be in regards to magazine “how to” articles, in sermons from pulpits, or in the pages of the latest book from your favorite self-help guru. Why? Because it’s difficult. Too often the words “self-control” cause us to conjure up ideas of sacrifice, abstinence, etc. Although these things are not wrong in themselves, there is something dreadfully lacking in a definition of self-control that is simply demanding that we try harder. In my experience, trying harder doesn’t hardly ever work (in regard to self-control) and even when it does it is a momentary victory, sure to be followed, eventually, with failure. We don’t need to get more motivated, we need a paradigm shift.
Discovering what it is that needs to change in our own hearts, lives, motives and actions is the key to exploring and eventually discovering peace; not only personal, internal peace but peace with others and with the world at large.
My eyes met meaningfully those of the two homeless individuals I was talking with this past week as we spoke on the side of the road. Their faces lit up with joy, not because I was giving them money (at that point I had shared none) but because I was giving them time. We spoke as humans, as people, with laughter and smiles… as friends. Throughout the rest of the morning I engaged a handful of other folks as I ran errands, picked up a breakfast burrito, etc. and every one of them was a delight. As I strolled to my car after exchanging words of deliberate kindness with the checkout guy at the local coop a thought exploded into my mind and heart that released instant, sustained and uncontainable joy, “People are wonderful!”
We too often bear the heavy burden of the expectations of others around day after day. The way we live, interact, speak, posture and present ourselves is largely to appear a certain way for certain people at a certain time. If you need an example, take a quick look at whatever social media feed you might be plugged into. Why is it that everyone is always and only posting content that shows them in the best light? The image they enjoy most of themselves; not their whole self, just the part they like, or more accurately, that they think others will like. (If you’re one of the people who mopes around social media hoping for some word of consolation or if you don’t have social media and harbor secret feelings of superiority for not participating, don’t worry, this topic still applies to you) This post isn’t about social media, it’s about social pressure.
We are all just a part of a larger picture; each of us individual cells of a greater organism called Life. Everything we do affects everything else. Every thought, decision, word, and action is of consequence. When I think of prayer these days my ideas and, more importantly, my reality and experience is rooted in interconnectedness and harmony. I can feel it. When my life is aligned in such a way that I am resonating with the rest of creation there is an innate, soul deep knowledge that I am in alignment with my purpose and the larger purpose, the “Purpose of God.” This is what I experience now as prayer.
Last night as I laid awake listening to the sound of ocean waves crashing, and oversized, jungle racoons rummaging through cans and other throwaway items outside our room, I couldn't get the words, "Onward and Upward", out of my head. I think they were the closing remarks of an email my dad sent me recently. I can't place the exact origin, when and where the phrase entered my life, but it was a stimulus of thought until the wee hours of this morning.
It’s sometimes easier to look down upon yourself than to bear the burden of Joy that is the result of believing, even knowing, that you are loved and worthy of love. There is responsibility that comes with the knowledge that you’re perfectly and eternally loved; that you are essentially good and loveable.
It’s through the little things that change occurs. The world is quietly altered by one act of love, relentlessly followed by another, then another. Not only the world but our own lives as well. We are too often duped into believing that in order to make a difference we need to do something “big”, which, quite honestly, doesn’t seem to be in the cards for most people. No, the way to transformation, whether global and societal or personal, is not through fame, acclaim, or some radical new self-help living formula; making a difference is accomplished through steadfastness of heart. By never ceasing in being Light, living Love, and existing as a witness to and living testimony of the Beauty and Grace that permeates the entire universe.
I haven’t had a bad day in over twelve years. I don’t have bad days… I simply do not believe in their existence. People have often found that hard to understand; interrogated me to see if I’d actually had something great happen that day or wondered aloud at the possibility that I had apparently suffered no trauma or difficult experience over the past years. Although I have encountered trials like all the rest, I’ve put into effect certain practices that, while not able to stave off the difficulties of life (these are inevitable), are capable of keeping one in a place of overall contentment and joy… in short, keep you “having a great day”.
To the degree that we see ourselves as separate, whether from other people, creation or God, is the degree of our blindness. The world, both physical and beyond-physical, is in utter and perfect unity and much of the spiritual journey is one of waking up to that Unity.