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.
The beginning of the spiritual journey, often filled with excitement, zeal and spiritual “work” is quite different from the path that leads to deeper, richer, spiritual maturity.
It’s easy to become afraid in the dark. The place or time when our senses seem to have failed us and, regardless of the often irrational nature of our fears, we are yet afraid. Not being able to see can leave us feeling alone. Fear of the unknown is a formidable foe, whether in the natural, about the future or in a spiritual, most inner and secret sense.
We can make a habit of pursuing truth and Beauty. Too often, conditioned by the system in which we're immersed, we can see only what is wrong, be it in the world, others or even in ourselves and our own lives. Our eye can become bad, incapable of seeing beyond the veils of darkness and despair.
I had the desire to write something to you all today, you with whom I share space and relationship, whether personally and directly or via the virtual world, but it was difficult to know where to begin. Oftentimes the more clearly we experience Reality the more difficult it is to speak about it. Because of the vastness and unimaginable, unspeakable nature of God, The Transcendent, the Divine, etc. it becomes nearly impossible to arrive at words, or even a conclusion for that matter, that appropriately or even closely describes the experience of said God. It is true that all words about this experience are by necessity metaphors. To speak about that which is beyond words is and will always be, if not fruitless, at least an almost laughable endeavor. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to speak…
Gratefulness is a key, a mechanism, for opening our eyes to the fullness of Beauty embodied in all creation. It transforms us from the inside out. If you see Beauty everywhere it is impossible not to recognize and call it forth in yourself as well. As our gratefulness increases so correspondingly does our compassion, hope and love. We begin see light surrounding us instead of darkness and every breeze, embrace, or sun on our skin is a fresh opportunity to appreciate and deeply participate in what is truly a beautiful Life.
I’m an honest person, but I have told a million little (and not so little) lies in my life. I have faith but doubt nearly all that I know continually. I’m quite confident in who I am as an individual yet make decisions constantly based on how others will view me. These seeming contradictions are no cause of dismay for me. Now more than ever before I have become comfortable in my humanness, brokenness, or “sin”, as it is often referred to. Without it I could not enjoy grace.
The difference between being awake or asleep spiritually is much the same as it is to be so physically. To be conscious and taking in the world through eyes opened wide is to be awake, alert. Although staying awake is largely a decision, waking up at all is a force of nature, biology, or spiritually speaking, of God.
American climber and artist Coulter Prehm's work is stunningly detailed. Trained through a classic methodology, the New Mexico-based portrait painter can often spend twenty sessions working with a subject to complete a piece.
I firmly believe, as I’m sure many of you do, that every human life is created purposefully and for a purpose. Every soul is literally pulsating with calling and the searching for our individual reason for being is a shared pursuit of nearly everyone on the planet. Discovering our purpose in God has sometimes been portrayed as a sort of quest, during which the treasure we are seeking is always just beyond our reach or hidden where, if we are honest, it seems only the lucky or “chosen” ever find it.