Taking Out the Trash

It is everywhere.

You don’t have to go looking for it.

Turn on the news; it doesn’t matter what channel. You’ll find it there.

Scroll through social media; any platform will do. You’ll find it there too; permeating the atmosphere like the stench of rotting garbage.

Anger. Hatred. Violence; the by-products of fear.

There is one very real thing about the stench of over-ripe garbage, and that is that no matter how much deodorizing spray you squirt, no matter how much lemon-scented soap you use, you can’t truly get rid of the smell unless you take out the trash.

Now before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I’m not talking about voting one political party or another in, or out of office. It doesn’t matter WHO gets in. In truth, unless we deal with the underlying fear, it doesn’t matter who wins, WE LOSE. Why? Because we haven’t taken out the garbage. We haven’t dealt with the fear.

Until we deal with the fear, the stench will remain; a constant reminder of the rottenness at the core.

You have heard it said that people fear what they don’t understand.

This is true of EVERYONE who gets angry for a cause.

In the current political climate you have one side you have where individuals’ fears stem from the changes that they see as coming with a progressive platform (they want to take away our guns / kill our unborn babies/ turn everyone gay / give our hard-earned money away to freeloaders/open our boarders up to violent criminals etc.).

On another you have those who’s fears come from the contemplation of a world where conservative views impinge on the inroads progressive platforms have made in the last hundred years (they want to take away our social security/steal our medicare/deny us the right to marry who we want/keep us from affordable health care/deny us the right to love who we want/ attempt to control our bodies / punish us because we are a different skin color or religion etc.).

I’m not saying that the fears on either side are not justified. There are plenty of those on BOTH sides who can give convincing arguments as to why they are right and why everyone else is wrong. But at the end of the day those that act out of fear, even if it is for a “just” cause, have more in common with their opponents than they would like to think.

Why? Because the anger and the hatred and the need to justify one’s position or view point or ideology ALL STEM FROM FEAR.

I’m not saying that the issues being argued are not important. They ARE important, extremely so. This is a pivotal moment for our country and I am not saying that we should sit back and do nothing. I am merely pointing out that no matter what side you take, no matter what your personal views on a subject may be and no matter how justified you may think those views are, if you are acting from a place of fear, you lose.

What I am saying is that we ALL lose if we do not address the fear that lies behind all of the anger and hatred.

Confronting one’s fears is never an easy thing to do. Most people avoid it like the plague.

It is not done by forcing political, social or religious views on those who disagree with you whether by posting angry memes or passing legislature designed to suppress the opposing side.

It is not done by arguing and getting defensive every time someone disagrees with you.

And it is certainly not done by picking up a handy weapon and killing those that you fear.

Fear is not always loud and obnoxious and obvious. It can be insidious. It is pervasive. It hides in just causes and in thinking you have the high moral or intellectual ground in a situation.

In fact, there is only one thing in this world powerful enough to counter fear, and that is love

Yes, love.

Stop wincing, I’m not talking about new age cosmic love; all glitter and unicorns and “good thoughts”. I’m not talking about the kind of love that features in pop songs and teen magazines or indeed romantic love at all.

The kind of love I’m talking about does not look at one’s outward appearance or bank account or position or political ideology, or how many time’s one meditates a week or national identity or religious affiliation or sexual orientation to deem another worthy of being loved.

I’m talking about the kind of love that empowers another to be their best self by believing in their worth as a human being.

I’m talking about the kind of love that fills up your heart and heals you from the inside out.

A person with that kind of love in their heart simply loves. Everyone. Without reservation or judgement.

I’m talking about unconditional love.

To come from a place of unconditional love in every decision that we make as individuals, as communities, and as a country is the only way to counter the fear. And it is the only way to undo the damage that millennia of living from fear has caused.

By living from love we don’t just take out the garbage of our own fears and the innate fears that come from being human, we transform them. We turn those fears into compost; fertilizer that feeds the soul and strengthens the human spirit.

Unconditional love is real.

Living from a place of unconditional love is possible.

It is as simple as choosing in each moment to ask yourself “what would love do?”

And then go out and do it.

-Just Steph. October 30 2018

The Caterpillar Girl

THE CATERPILLAR GIRL

She was going nowhere, this caterpillar girl.  Every day the same.  Inching along her barren  branch. Trying to make sense of a pointless world.

Every day she would wake up and do it all again.  And every night it seemed that she was no closer to her goal (whatever that might be ).  Every night she would curl herself around the stem of a leaf and fall asleep gazing at the stars and dreaming of a future where she had a purpose, where her life had meaning.

And then there came a day when the caterpillar girl knew that it was over.  She couldn’t stand being strongany longer.  That night she curled herself around the stem of a leaf, and this time she allowed herself to let go.

Inch by inch she used her outer skin to weave herself a shell; an armor against a purposeless pointless life.  And once she was enclosed in her safe space she allowed herself to fall apart.  She held onto nothing, allowing herself to finally let go, dissolving into the quantum foam of pure possibilities.

And it was there, in the quiet and the dark of her chrysalis that something began to take shape.  It was here that the caterpillar girl’s  hopes and dreams finally loosened from their mundane routine, began to take on a life of their own, and the foam of possibilities coalesced into exquisite form.

Finally, gasping for breath and still damp with the dew of creation, she climbed out of her self imposed prison and lay quite still, wings spread to dry, basking in the warmth of the sun and ready at last to make her dreams come true.

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Boiling Frogs

“A Miracle is a highly improbably or extraordinary event, development or accomplishment (usually welcome and highly valued) which is not entirely explicable by natural laws. Some people attribute these to divine intervention. Others simply say that they are the result of natural laws which we simply don’t understand yet. One thing is for certain – sometimes it takes a miracle to make you believe in the possibility of them occurring no matter what their origin.” ~ SSHenry

I never used to believe in miracles; not even the kind that can be explained by as-yet unknown natural laws.  I always used to think that either something was possible – or it was not.  Oh I’d heard of miracles, certainly.  But even things like spontaneous cancer remissions could, in my mind, be categorized in the “as-yet unknown natural law” category.  But there is nothing like actually experiencing a miracle to understand its true power.

I can’t go into details; the events that led up to this particular incident are still too raw and close to my heart to share openly.  Suffice it to say that I had found myself in a situation that had become intolerable.  It was like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water.

You know the story; a frog is placed in a pot of tepid water on top of a stove burner.  It doesn’t resist being put in the water because the temperature is comfortable.  Then slowly, bit by bit, the temperature of the water is turned up until the frog quietly boils to death; never complaining or attempting to escape because it acclimates to each miniscule change in the water’s temperature.

I was the frog.  I had, over the years, allowed my life to reach a temperature just short of the boiling point.  Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I simply thought that was the way things were supposed to be.  I didn’t fight it.  But then, rather abruptly, someone pulled the lid off the pot and prodded me into leaving the pot, and I’ll tell you right now, the change in temperature nearly blew my mind, as did the realization of just what I had allowed my life to become as well as what I had been living without; things that were my right; things that no one should have to live without. Then someone tried to put me back into the pot of near-boiling water.

Well, you can imagine what happened; water everywhere; the pot caroming off of cupboards and bouncing around on the floor like an ill-tempered poodle that has been ignored for too long. No, I did not go gentle into that good night.  In fact, I refused to go at all.  In the process of refusing to simply slip back into the boiling water I made a mess of everything around me and scalded those around me in the process.

It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not proud of the mess I made or the pain that I inflicted, but there is something good that came out of it.  No, there is something miraculous that came out of it; not only did I realize just what my life had become and refuse to be prodded into an acceptance of the way things had been, one of those I scalded – in spite of being in intense pain and extremely angry at me for upsetting the pot, was shocked into the realization of just what had been happening, of the pain and discomfort they had been inflicting as well by turning up the temperature (though it wasn’t a calculated infliction of pain). In fact, they were so startled when they realized what had been happening that they tossed out the pot as well as the stove and replaced them with a pond replete with lily pads and soothing reeds and lots of bugs where we can both kick back and relax and forget about things like stoves and pots and even kitchens.

The long and the short of it is that the atmosphere has completely changed.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I regret that it took such an upset and that people got hurt in the process, but the change is, not to put too fine of a point on it, miraculous.

Will it last?  I don’t know. I’d like to think so. But in the meantime, I am definitely going to enjoy the pond and being with someone who appreciates me and is willing to share this lily pad with me in spite of the burns I inflicted; burns that have to hurt like the very devil when immersed in the pond water but which will eventually heal when exposed to the warmth of the sun.

When Only the Moon Howls

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”

~ George Carlin

We’ve all had those nights; nights when logic and reason abandon us to those thoughts that we usually keep locked up deep in the untouchable places of our minds. You know the thoughts I’m talking about.  The kind that we keep locked up so tight that we somehow manage to convince ourselves that we never entertained them.

It’s on nights like these that we wander around the house searching for something; unsure of what it is that we are looking for but finding nothing but frustration and abandoned hopes scattered like overlooked dust bunnies beneath the larger pieces of our mental furniture.

If you are anything like me you wander from room to room; switching on lights, computers, making a cup of hot tea, running a futile Google search (and usually for random phrases that keep running through your mind), perhaps skulking around the yard in hopes of encountering something unusual to keep us occupied, maybe listening to some music or attempting to read a few chapters in your current book until finally you crawl back into bed and close your eyes in hopes that sleep will finally find you.

It is then of course that they come.

But it isn’t sleep that creeps into the silent spaces in your mind.

It isn’t sleep that seeps into the corners of your heart and congeals in oil-slick pools that make your stomach turn over just looking at them.

It is those dark contemplations; those self-doubts and depreciations and fears that we keep locked away in the daylight; buried deep in air tight caskets like so many vampires relegated to the dungeons beneath our waking thoughts.

For some reason they thrive in the moonlight and bask in the play of shadows that fall across the living room floor.  You can see them slithering along the baseboards and skulking in the darkness under the stairs and worming their way across the landscape of your mind.

The impression of teeth; of claws extending from misshapen hands; hands that are reaching out to tear our self worth into shreds with one swipe and stand growling over the carcass of our sanity like a hell hound bent on tearing our soul right out of its shell. It’s enough to paralyze you; to leave you shivering on the couch with a blanket pulled around your shoulders, hunched against the chill of uncertainty and self-loathing, the tea congealing on the coffee table and every creak and groan in the floors and pipes only underscoring the sinister ambiance.

When these nights come – and they will come – you can either cower in fear and hiding your heart from the despair that they generate, or you can embrace them; pull them into the core of your heart and welcome them with open arms as long lost aspects of yourself.

You see, these unlovely thoughts; these fears and doubts and feelings of impotency and despair are just as much a part of you as the practical and upbeat aspects of your daytime self; the one who always knows just the right words to say and who others look to when they are in need of wisdom and emotional support.  Denying the truth will only give them more power each time that they manage to creep beyond the confines of those deep places to which you have relegated them.

If you embrace them however, if you welcome them as a part of yourself that has heretofore gone unacknowledged and greet them with love you will find a strange thing happening.  Like the early morning mist that dissipates as the sun creeps over the horizon, these dark and loathsome thoughts will melt away in the all-forgiving light of you love.  You will see them as they truly are, and they will lose what power they had over your heart and soul and mind.

 

The Empty Shell

“You can’t ask a butterfly to scrunch herself back into her chrysalis or to go back to being a caterpillar just because you’d gotten used to her like that.  What’s worse is when you try to get her to go back because you fear the freedom given to her by her wings.”  ~SSHenry

There are some experiences; some moments in time; that change your life forever.  Perhaps for you it was a major life event such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a close call that shook you right down to the foundations of your soul.  Or maybe it wasn’t a large event at all.  Maybe it was something much more subtle such as a kind word spoken when it was most needed; the touch of a lover’s hand or a breeze that not only ruffled your hair but stirred up something deep down inside you that simply could not be contained.

I’ve had many life-changing moments.  All of us have.  Sometimes it seems as if these moments come so thick and fast that they threaten to overwhelm you.  At other times you feel as if your entire life is on “pause” and all of the moments having stepped out for a drink or something.   At some points in your life it is as if the moments of realization and wonder and change are so few and far between that you’ve pretty much forgotten what they are like before the next one begins to play itself out and have to remind yourself what exactly it is that you are dealing with each time you encounter it.

My most recent (and not surprisingly most profound) life-changing moment to date came the moment that I walked into my house after a two month absence and realized that there was no way that I could go back to being the person I had been when I walked out that door eight weeks earlier.

The details as to why I ended up gone for two months (illness in the family) or what happened while I was gone are not important.  Yes, I had some interesting experiences while I was off on my own for two months dealing with unexpected issues and meeting people I might not otherwise have encountered. But what really matters is that for two solid months I was detached from the life that I had been living up until that moment.

For two months I was separated from all of the small niggling everyday details that we label “reality” and which demand our attention and catch us up in layers upon layers of drama and expectation; layers that we gladly pull around us like a cloak and call “life.”

For two months I was free of those layers.  Getting rid of them was not pleasant. They got stripped away from me rudely leaving me rather raw and feeling as if I had been flayed alive and then washed down in salt water and I felt as if was being completely inundated with issues and problems and responsibilities that I really didn’t want to deal with at that moment in time.

But the point is that for two months I was not just a wife.  Nor was I just a mother or a daughter taking care of her own mother.  For two solid months – I was me.

Just me.

I was not free of obligations or responsibilities (caring for a sick family member brings with it its own responsibilities and expectations).  But for two months I was free of the obligations and responsibilities and expectations in which I had wrapped myself up for the last 22 years; those responsibilities and expectations that come from being a wife and mother and homemaker extraordinaire.

For two solid months was completely and totally myself.

It dawned on me as I was driving home, to wonder just how I would ever be able to go back to living my old life.  But when I pulled into the driveway and saw my house for the first time in eight weeks; when I walked through the door and took one look around me, I knew that it was patently impossible.

I can’t go back to the way things were; ever.  The person who lived that life is gone.

I could feel the shell of her; that old me; waiting for me around every corner.  “Come on” she whispered, holding out the old life as if it were a soft but comfortable pair of sweat pants. “Don’t you want to slip back into this?  This is where you are comfortable.  This is where you belong.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Oh yes it does sweetheart” I whispered back “you have NO idea!”

You see, the old life has a lot going for it.  There are many things that I would like to keep and incorporate into my new reality, but not if it means having to go back to being the person that I was.  The person I have become cannot possibly fit into that old skin. Not without giving up who and what I have become.

It would be like asking a butterfly to scrunch back into her chrysalis.  Or better yet, to turn back time and become a caterpillar again.  It’s not going to happen.  I could pretend, but I’m tired of pretending.

I am simply going to be myself.

My whole self.

I will start again.  Here.  Now.  As myself.  If that is not enough, or more likely if that is too much, then so be it.  I have wings now baby. There’s no reason for me to go back to crawling when I can fly.

The Big Picture

“Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain things have to happen in our lives.  What may be even more difficult to believe is that everything; no matter how seemingly unfair or painful; is part of the larger picture a picture that is being created by a skilled and talented artist who knows exactly what they are doing.” ~ SSHenry

Have you ever watched an artist at work?  I’m not talking about the painter dude on PBS who whips his pictures out in a neat half hour show while talking to his audience about technique.  I’m talking about a painter who is creating something entirely new; something that has never been seen before; something straight out of their imagination.  It’s slow going and sometimes it is not always clear just what they are trying to do.  In fact, watching them step by step can be confusing to say the least.

Layers of primer and base coat colors give way to blotchy looking splotches which slowly meld themselves into vibrantly shaded backgrounds and open spaces.  Bold, angry looking lines and jagged chunks of seemingly pointless blackness become trees and rocks and valleys.

Sometimes it may seem as if the artist is moving quickly with broad strokes blending colors and creating textures in mere minutes.  But then they may let the painting sit for a long period of time while the layers cure, or they may leave one section of the painting to attend to another, leaving the one watching them in frustration as to how things are going to turn out and what exactly it is that is being created.

Sometimes the artist appears to attack the painting, using metal tools to cut through layers of already cured and dried paint in order to lend depth and texture where there was previously only smooth paint.  Sometimes they look as if they are attacking the painting with their brush; jabbing angrily at various patches where an object is slowly taking shape.  Sometimes the brushes slash; at other times they caress so gently and delicately that you could imagine that the artist is making love to the canvass, and sometimes the artist will use a spray bottle of paint thinner to remove entire sections in order to make room for something else.

Confusing?  Yes.  Especially for the one watching the painting take shape, but imagine for a moment that you are not merely watching the painting, but that you are the painting.

Doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?  Doesn’t it feel as if you are being manipulated by some master craftsman; some talented artist who doesn’t take your wishes into account at all but instead is manipulating the situations, events and people in your life in a way that you can’t even begin to understand?

Shall I tell you a secret?

It’s true.  You are being manipulated by a master craftsman; a master artist.  Your life is a canvass; a work in progress and I bet if you close your eyes you can feel the brush strokes on your soul; the colors coming together in vibrantly rich tapestries of detailed light and shadow.

You want to know something else?  This artist is no stranger.  This master artist is no separate and distinct god who is flagrantly manipulating your life for his own purposes.

You are the artist.

You are the artist and the canvass.

You are simultaneously the paint and the brush; the color and the texture; the light and the shadow.

All of it – all of it is you.

Every decision that you make – or don’t make; every action that you take – or don’t take; everything is part of the grand scheme; the big picture that your higher self is crafting out of your life.

You can fight it.  Of course you can.  You can wail and scream about the unfairness of the knife cutting through your perfectly laid paint layers.  You can gnash your teeth about the angry slashes that are marring up your background or the inexplicable color combinations that don’t go with the decorating scheme you chose for your life, or you can accept that there is a reason for what is happening, even if they don’t make logical sense in the here and now.

Or, you can accept that it is all part and parcel of the big picture.  You may not yet be able to see the picture in its entirety, but you can feel the canvass under your fingertips and smell the oils in the air and trust that you know what it is that you are doing and that as the painting begins to take shape you will feel things fall into place.

As long as you remember that every joy and ecstasy, every misadventure and painful goodbye and heartwarming hello is a necessary step towards the future that you are creating for yourself; as long as you remember that every personally painful experience and heart wrenching moment is adding shadow and depth to a work of art that would otherwise be flat and uninteresting you will be okay.

 

The Enlightened Art of Chasing Rainbows

You’ve run into them, I know you have, those New Age ‘gurus’ who sell a method or process of enlightenment that is “guaranteed” to work.   Well, you have to buy their book or their 10 disc CD set or sign up for their online course (where you get a personal spirit coach and a free reading on your etheric colors).

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not knocking their methods.  In fact, I have read a huge number of “how to” and “self help” books that contain some extraordinarily awesome suggestions; tips and techniques that have definitely made my own spiritual journey far richer and more interesting than it would have been if I’d continued to keep slugging away through the underbrush on my own; forging my own path with absolutely no outside help and only a semi-sharp machete.

I only have one problem when it comes to these sorts of spiritual teachers, and that is the overall attitude that there is just one way to enlightenment – their way – when in truth the process of enlightenment is more like chasing rainbows.

Didn’t you ever chase after a rainbow as a kid?  You can see it, its right there!  And yet, when you get to the point of the rainbow’s origin, what do you find?  Nothing but mist and sunlight; nothing tangible; nothing substantial, and definitely nothing that you can lay your hands on and say “hey look, I’ve got me a rainbow!”  In fact, once you reach the point where the rainbow seemed to touch the ground, chances are that you will have found that it has moved on to the top of the hill; the top of the mountain; always a step ahead of you and just out of reach.

As you get older you learn about how rainbows are made and even the knowledge that it is nothing but raindrops and sunbeams doesn’t deter us.  Even the knowledge that the array of colors is due to the prismatic effect of refraction doesn’t keep us from our goal.  We still try.  We might even consult with others who claim that they know how to pin one down.

Yes, there are teachers who have a grasp on ways to help you see the colors more clearly.  There are those who can give you a step by step description of what each color means and others who will be able to walk you through the process of refraction and be able to discuss the philosophical meaning of rainbows and the importance they play in the human drama, but there is not one teacher out there who can teach you how to lay your hands on that rainbow.  Why?  Because it can’t be done.

That’s right.  There is no such thing as “achieving” enlightenment.  I don’t care how hard you run or how many mountains you climb, you will never “achieve” enlightenment.  There will never be anything that you can hold out and say, “Here is enlightenment.  It is within my grasp.  It is mine.”  Why?  Because enlightenment is not something that you get; it is not something that you get.  Enlightenment is the process of stepping back and discovering that enlightenment was inside of you the entire time.

You are the sun.

You are the rain.

And it is in your heart and mind and soul that the rainbow not only has its origins but where you will find your pot of gold as well.

 

 

Swish and Flick

THE MAGIC OF MANIFESTATION

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you had a magic wand?  Some sort of device that – if used properly – would bring you exactly what you want a la Harry Potter?  Just swish and flick and bingo, it’s yours!  Did you know that you actually possess the ability to do just that?

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, especially when things seem to pile up around you and circumstances (like a broken down car and a crumbling relationship and a pile of bills) tell you otherwise. But what if I were to tell you that you have the ability to control every aspect of your reality; that you have the power to swish and flick that metaphorical wand and create the kind of life that you have always wanted instead of being controlled by circumstances and by those around you?

I still remember the absolute freedom that came the day that I realized that every aspect of my reality was under my control.  That I and I alone was responsible for the reality that I was living.  That there was not some unknown quantity determining whether I would be rewarded or punished for the things I do or thought or said and that everything I was experiencing was the result of those thoughts, feelings and emotions that I had been entertaining.

I’m not going to go into details, not here and now, not yet.  But to suffice it to say that it happened.  After years of searching; after years of attempting to understand how things worked and how some people always seemed to get what they wanted no matter what while others while were always dreaming about it; after reading piles of books and listening to hours and hours of sermons and self-help books and praying to God and charging the Goddess and drawing down the moon, I woke up one morning and suddenly knew.

Talk about totally liberating!  The realization that there is no one that I am required to appease or avoid in order to create the life I had always dreamed of; no one and nothing (but myself) standing in my way; I literally sat down and cried for about a week.  Amazing!  I felt totally liberated.  Simultaneously I had never felt more afraid in all my life.

Yes, it was frightening.

Think about it.  Instead of being able to go ask mommy or daddy or the spirits of the earth or air (depending on your particular religious beliefs) to help make things better or to give you what you want, you suddenly realize that you are both the one doing the wanting and the one who is passing out both the rewards and the punishments.  You are the one who is giving out the gifts and the one who is receiving them.  You are the individual that is dependent on specific needs– and you are the universe that has an unlimited supply of everything and will give to whoever asks you.

This is not to say that there may not be gods or goddesses or elementals; beings that will bring you what you ask for if you ask in the right way or if you do something for them.  Plenty of people believe in them.  My point is that there is something far bigger than any of them; something much larger that contains us all and that we are all equally a part of.

This largeness; this bigness that contains us all is not one entity with a personality and an ego that has to be appeased before it will grant our requests.  It is the power, the source that binds us all together; that gives us life and animation.  It is also the source of creation; all of creation, not just the light and love and purity or innocence, it is also the source of anger and fear and darkness as well and it is readily available for anyone that knows how to tap into it regardless of what they are planning on using it for.  There is just one catch; this power is magnetic.  That is, whatever you create out of it will attract more of itself to you.

Call it Karma; call it ‘cause and effect’; call it the law of attraction; the result is the same.

If I (the individual) dwell on the negative; on the worst things that could happen, then I am going to draw those things to me.  The more I focus on the dark and the negative, the more dark and negative things will be drawn to me. If I dwell on love and light, or on the highest definition of who and what I really am and strive to bring that into my existence, then it will come, bringing more of itself with it; drawing more of the same energy to it.  There’s just one problem.  This source of creation that you or I tap into in order to bring these things into our physical reality, it knows what we are really thinking.

I can’t trick the source (which includes my higher self).  I can talk love and light and happy chirpy birds until I am blue in the face (or until I manifest Snow White, whichever comes first though I know which would send my sanity over the edge) but if in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that it will happen; if I think that it is all a crock; if I am reserving judgment until I see proof, or if (most importantly) I feel that I somehow don’t deserve what it is that I am asking for, then the source, the universe (a.k.a. my higher self) knows it, and since it doesn’t know the difference between expressed thought and unexpressed thought, it will simply give me what it is that I am focusing on the most (either consciously or unconsciously).

This is why mastering everyday mindfulness as well as emotional mindfulness is so very important, because it isn’t just enough to realize that you have the power to control your reality, you have to be constantly aware of your thoughts and feelings and emotions and beliefs in order to bring them into alignment with who and what you really are.

Without awareness you are not in control of your life, but you are being controlled (though not by an outside entity, but by your own beliefs and limitations).  You are not creating situations that will serve you and that will help you to achieve your highest potential and to be a benefit to those around you, you are reacting to things that are happening around you; knee jerk reactions that make you feel overwhelmed and powerless and victimized to the point that you are desperate for someone or something to take the reins and to make sense out of it all.

There is no question about the universe (a.k.a. your higher self) bringing you those things that you are most focused on (whether consciously or unconsciously).  Seriously, take a look around yourself right now.  Take a long hard look at your life, at the people that are in it; your job, your house, your car, your beliefs, your attitude; everything.  Right there at your fingertips you have a snapshot of what you were focused most intently on yesterday, last week, last year or even ten years ago.

If you think carefully about where you were and what you were thinking, you’ll see that I’m right.  You created this reality.  Every aspect of it reflects yesterdays (or last week’s or last year’s) views and hopes and dreams and, yes, fears.

No, I’m not saying that every genetic defect and every illness were called into being by your higher self. We are human animals after all; inhabited by spirits, (souls if you will) but still subject to the laws of physics, of thermodynamics and the impulsive squirts of hormones that our brains get doused in on a regular basis as they respond to physical stimuli.  It comes with the territory and those are things that we do not have any control over but which we have to learn to live with and to understand.

Where we do have the control, however, is in how we perceive the life that we are living and in what we consciously and intentionally choose to experience and those people and situations that we choose to let into our lives.

Yes, I know, it sounds like some kind of new age mumbo jumbo; some sort of psychobabble or, at the worst, like some kind of magic, though in a way it is magic, just not the kind of magic you might think.

This isn’t the kind of magic where you wave a wand and something suddenly “appears” in your life because you said the right words or mixed up the right ingredients in your cauldron.  This is the kind of magic that works on a far more subtle basis.  This magic is the magic of belief; a magic that works its spell on your mind and, through your mind, makes its impact on your surroundings; aligning things and people and circumstances in such a way that a year from now, or a week from now, or maybe even tomorrow, you will find that what you have been focused on has indeed become your reality.

And if you do look around yourself and you don’t like where your focused thoughts have brought you there is a simple solution; change your focus.  It’s that simple.  Mind you, it requires that you be aware of your thoughts and emotions until they become focused on what you want to create in your life, but once the technique clicks into place you’ll find yourself laughing uncontrollably at how simple it actually is.

So much for magic wands!

Swish and flick baby!

Dances With Butterflies

Do you know how hard it is to ask the universe for something and then to let it happen without trying to help or hinder it?

Yes, I said hinder it.

Heaven only knows that on some level even those who are perfectly clear about asking the universe for what they want; who have mastered the art of creative visualization and who are able to picture clearly and accurately the life that they want find themselves (even if it is on a subconscious level) scared out of their wits and inadvertently (or even intentionally) trying to undo what they have done by sending that energy out into the universe.

Why?  Because they are deathly afraid of getting what they want.  At some deep down level they know that in order for them to get what they have asked for (however necessary it is and regardless of whether or not the time is right) is going to entail change on a very profound and fundamental level.  It is going to shatter their world (a la Humpty Dumpty) and that no matter how many horsemen they assign to the job, things are going to be a bit scrambled for a while.

This is where I am right now.  And I have to admit that I am in danger of getting in my own way.

A while ago I asked the universe to make a change in my life.  The details don’t matter, not really.  What matters is that I thought long and hard about what it was that I wanted. I sketched everything out in writing after I had meditated on the issue. I then used the tools for visualizing the final result and sent the energy out into the universe.  Almost immediately I started seeing results and the first thought out of my head wasn’t “wow, how amazing” or “isn’t synchronicity incredible?”  But rather “Oh my God, what have I done!” This was followed immediately by a wave of worry and concern and “what if’s” that threatened to overwhelm me and succeeded in giving me more than a few sleepless nights.

It was as if suddenly I had been seized with a sudden need to undo what I had done; to scream at the universe to ignore my request, but not because it isn’t time, and not because it isn’t needed, but because in my heart of hearts I understand that things will never be the same again.

In addition I have found myself having to sit on my hands in order not to sabotage the universe at work as it brings me exactly the changes I asked for.  On more than one occasion I have found myself confronted with a situation that was/is the result of the changes being brought about by the universe (at my request).  Usually these present themselves as conflicts and uncomfortable situations as the people involved in the shift adapt to the changes.  Thanks to conditioning and upbringing, my first instinct is to smooth the situation over; to do something to make everyone feel better; to make everyone comfortable.  But that’s just it you see.  Change is anything but comfortable.

Like anyone else I had gotten used to things being the way they were; too comfortable.  My soul had moved on but my body had gotten stuck in its routine, hence the request for change.

You always know when your spirit has moved on (or is trying to move on).  When you focus on your problem or your issue there is no joy.  It feels as if you are wearing a suit of clothes that are too tight.  They itch.  You want more than anything to shuck everything off and go running naked through the rain in order to catch up with your soul which is out dancing with the butterflies.

And so it is that every time I feel the urge to make things better; to make them easier for everyone involved I have to forcibly remind myself that I asked for this.  It’s time.  I need to get out of my own way and let the Universe do its work. The butterflies are waiting.

 

Dancing in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”

There is nothing like a good thunderstorm to stir the soul

Seriously, there is just something about the power of an approaching storm that holds me in absolute awe.  Not terror; awe.  The pure majesty of it; the strength of it; the promise of release in the whipping of the wind and the scent of wonder and possibility that fills my head with its overpowering fragrance; what’s not to be amazed at?

When the dark clouds start rolling in and the pressure starts building and the leaves start turning themselves inside out and glinting silver against a darkening sky, most people head for cover after checking to make sure they’ve rolled up the car windows and brought in the dog.  I on the other hand (and much to my husband’s annoyance) go around throwing open the windows as far as they will go and then head out into the yard to welcome it.

I’ve done this since I was a little girl, and I can remember my grandmother (who was deathly afraid of thunderstorms) calling after me frantically as I’d dash out the back door as the first thunderclap rattled the clouds on the horizon in order to dance like a gypsy around the big blue spruce that grew behind our house.

I’d dance and dance in wild abandon, letting the percussion of the thunder serve as my rhythm and as the wind picked up I’d end up twirling through the tall grass and the lupines that grew on the hill beneath the blue spruce until I’d fall flat on my back and watch the towering clouds in their never-ending patterns take over the sky.

Eventually my gram would send one of my aunts or more often my grandfather out to collect me (he did not have the fear of storms she did) but even so I’d beg him to not to make me go in until the lightning was almost directly overhead, and it was he who taught me to count the spaces between thunderclaps in order to determine their distance and explained why it was that the leaves turned inside out.

Even once I was back inside I’d be glued to the window; staring in amazement at the streaks of lightning and the power of the whipping wind as it would throw the trees into complete disarray.  Of course once the storm front would pass by and it started to seriously rain, I’d lose all interest and wander off in search of other pursuits, but during the storm itself, you couldn’t tear me away.

Even once I started school and learned about weather systems and barometric pressure and electricity and Ben Franklin and his kite (yeah, they still taught that story when I went to school) I still couldn’t seem to shake my fascination with storms.  It didn’t matter how many statistics people would throw at me about the number of people to be hit by lightning every year; or the dangers of flash floods or how expensive it was to replace furniture that had been water damaged because I’d left the bedroom window open while it was raining, the power of storms has never lost their hold over me.

Of course part of the fascination that I had was in the building sensations inside of my own body; how my own energy would build in proportion to the storm itself, and how it would dissipate as the storm would break, with the tension and the excitement pouring out of me like a could burst.

And part of it was the underlying feeling that there was something else lying just beneath the surface of my mind; a bigger, stronger part of me; a knowing of myself that went far beyond the little girl in jeans and braids who was laughing manically while twirling around the spruce tree, because for just a minute I could feel that connection with everyone and everything.

I could feel myself as the wind whipping through the trees and through my hair and filling the sails of the boats on the harbor.  I could see myself as the lightning; as the skin tingling energy that filled the air and lit up the night sky; I could sense myself as everything from the grass between my toes to the huge towering clouds.

For just a moment I was part of something far greater than myself; my little individualistic and independent personhood was gone.  For just a moment I could feel the universe inside me; moving through me.  And maybe, at the heart of it, that is what most people are afraid of.

Perhaps they are not really afraid of the lightning or the flash floods or of losing power.  Maybe it’s not the rain that they are shutting out when they go around closing the windows.  Maybe what they are shutting out isn’t the lightning or the whipping wind or the furniture ruining rain.

Maybe what they are shutting out is the fear of experiencing what they have known (even if subconsciously) all along; that they are part of something far bigger than themselves; that at the fundamental heart of things we are all connected and that all of those things that we feel make us “special” and “different” are just the imaginations of a fevered ego that is trying desperately to justify its reason for being.

Maybe it’s time to stop fearing the storm and throw open the windows.  Or, better yet, perhaps it’s time to go dancing in the rain.

The Butterfly’s Shadow

You probably know the story of the chrysalis effect – how the lowly caterpillar transforms itself into the soup of possibilities out of which emerges the butterfly with its capacity to fly.  But every butterfly cats a shadow, for being a butterfly comes with a price.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of butterflies?  Is it of delicate airy wisps with fragile, colorful wings that soar through sunshine and shadow and feed directly on the nectar of flowers?

Well, I can’t blame you if that is your take on them.  They are lovely creatures, and watching them flutter from flower to flower in a garden or lend their grace to a meadow can be peaceful to the point of transcendence; but what of the darker side of the butterfly’s life?

Oh come now, you didn’t think it was all rainbows and moonbeams did you?  You didn’t think that once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly that its worries are over did you?  That all the bad things in its world would automatically dissipate into the mist of ambrosia and enlightenment?  If so, you may want to think again.

Yes, a butterfly has wings.  Unlike its caterpillar brethren it is not earthbound.  It can choose to soar above all of those things which – when it was in its caterpillar form – were insurmountable obstacles.  But this ability to transcend those things that others find nearly impossible comes inexorably linked with the ability to see more of both the good and the bad, and not only to see them, but to experience them fully.

You see, with the change in its body structure comes a change in metabolism and nutritional needs, including the need for more nutrients such as salts and amino acids; nutrients that can only be found in limited amounts in flower nectars, which is why it is not uncommon to see butterflies ingesting the liquids put out by wet soil, dung and even carrion as well as blood and in some cases even the tears of some birds and mammals in order to supply themselves with the nutrients needed to continue their lives.

Let me be clear, this does not make the butterfly a killer.  It can no more kill another creature than a feather duster could harm a washcloth, but in the course of its existence as a creature of the skies with a wider view of reality, it sees more than its caterpillar brethren.

Not only does it see more – it understands that in order to be what it is; in order to continue to bring love and light and understanding to all it interacts with it cannot simply dine on nectar and drift on obligatory breezes.  It also has to be able to stomach the harsher realities of life.  It has to be able to ingest the pain and the suffering of others in order to transform them into love and light.  It has to be able to get its feelers dirty (metaphorically speaking) in order to enact any real change in the world around it.

More importantly, it has transformed itself from a self-absorbed caterpillar whose only goal is to eat enough leaves to enact its own personal change, into a butterfly; a creature that understands that it is but a part of the larger picture; one strand in the web of life that enables the existence of everything that is.

No, not everything about going through the transformational process from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly is pleasant.  The caterpillar has a far simpler and less complicated life.  The creature in its chrysalis state may know pain, but it does not yet have to deal with the pain of others.  But once the transformation is complete, the hurt can sometimes seem unbearable.  But with the price of admission into the butterfly kingdom comes the joy of knowing that when the negative becomes too much to bear, you can choose to open your wings and fly.

 

 

 

©2012 SSHenry

Trapped in an Infinite Loop

The whole universe is based on rhythms. Everything happens in circles, in spirals.
~John Hartford~

You’ve heard I am sure, of the circle of life. Anyone who has watched Disney’s “The Lion King” has found their eyes misting over at the beauty of that opening number. And while the concept of life renewing itself is a beautiful and moving one, there is another kind of circle that is far less pleasant to contemplate and far more commonplace and definitely a lot more frustrating. You see, I’m betting that you are far better acquainted with that insidious circle that is also known as an infinite loop.

Seriously, doesn’t it feel that way to you sometimes? Don’t you feel as if you keep coming back to the same point in your life; that the universe keeps presenting you with the same situations over and over and over again?

If you are like most people you also find yourself reacting to these repeating patterns in the same way; time after time after time. And each time when you realize that once more you’ve “done it again” you feel like kicking yourself for not having seen what was happening. Well, you don’t have to keep knocking yourself out for repeatedly making the same silly (and sometimes not so silly) mistakes.

And really, though it may seem ridiculous, there actually is a reason that you keep making these same mistakes. There really is a reason why the same situations keep repeating themselves over and over again in your life. It is because there is something you have yet to learn and, obviously, if you keep reacting to the situation in the same way that you have before, you’re never going to get past this point.

There are some people who go an entire lifetime repeating patterns over and over again; falling in love with the same kind of guy (or girl), getting fired from (or quitting) the same kinds of jobs or even sabotaging themselves with the same kind of negative behaviors. The more often they repeat the same series of actions, the deeper the programmed response becomes. Lucky for everyone, there is a way to break out of these repeated patterns.

Believe it or not, repeating patterns and reactions is one area where practicing everyday mindfulness and mastering emotional mindfulness can be put to some seriously practical use.

By becoming aware of your own emotions; of those people and situations that push your buttons and cause you to react, you can step back from the pre-programmed automatic responses that spring into action without you even having to think about them. You can step back from these unwanted emotions and think before you choose to act; take a moment to listen to what your heart has to say instead of simply acting on instinct.

By practicing everyday mindfulness and becoming aware of your surroundings you can also prevent yourself from coming into contact with those things that trigger your negative responses or, if you can’t prevent the actual interaction, at least be aware that you are walking into a situation where you have screwed up in the past.

It is by using your newfound skills in mindfulness that you can break the habit of these repeating patterns and learn the lesson that they have been trying to teach you. Then and only then can you step out of the never-ending circle and take you place on that great spiral that is the road of spiritual evolution.

The End of Your Comfort Zone

 “Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Neil Donald Walsch.

In spite of what every teenager on the planet thinks, it is really almost too easy to find yourself a niche.  It may not be the niche that you thought you would fill when you were 18 and the world was your oyster.  But most of us eventually get tired of going against the grain; of being the only ones who don’t belong somewhere; of being the odd man out, and we end up settling.

We find ourselves a job, a career, a neighborhood, a spouse, a home church or a circle of friends that we feel comfortable with and we allow ourselves to settle for “good enough” or “not that bad” even though the thought of settling for anything but our highest dreams and expectations would have given us the screaming heebie jeebies just a decade earlier. And then we wonder why it is that we become bitter?

Look around you.  People you knew in high school and college; people that had high hopes and brilliant dreams and plans to change the world are now working dead end jobs to pay for the mortgage, their kids’ braces, car payments, a new roof and maybe a once-a-year trip to Orlando or Vegas where they can pretend that they are someone else for a few days; someone who has actually made it.  Someone who didn’t give into the system, who still sees the wonder and the mystery in life; someone who made their dreams come true.

“Oh now, it’s not that bad” I had a friend tell me once.  “My job pays the bills. Our family goes out to eat once a week.  We go on vacation once a year. It’s not a bad life.”

Well, it’s not necessarily a good life either.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing bad about having a home, two cars, three kids, two dogs and a guinea pig named Munch.  There is nothing wrong with being able to afford to go on vacation and being able to pay the mortgage and the car payments.  There is nothing wrong with working 40 hours a week and saving up vacation days so that you can go to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

It may not be a bad life, but that doesn’t mean that you are living.

At its most basic and fundamental level the term “living” means to be alive, not dead; to have an existence.  But there is more to it than that.  To be considered truly living you must also be active, thriving and vigorous, and not just (or necessarily) in body, but in mind and spirit as well.

Are you?

Are you thriving and vigorous in mind and spirit?

Does your work stimulate you?  What about the company that you keep, the books you read, the shows you watch; do they stretch the boundaries of your imagination and challenge your intellect? Do you find yourself waking up each morning with a thrill of anticipation as to what new adventures the day will bring?

If you are like most people, the answer will be no. It’s not because you’re a bad person.  It’s not even because you’re living a bad life.  It’s because you are living within your comfort zone. You’ve found your niche; your space where you can exist and are following Zipf’s law; the principle of least effort that almost all living systems fall into unless they are stimulated by something outside of themselves.

You’ve found a space where you don’t have to struggle or strive, where you don’t have to challenge yourself, where you can watch Monday night football and have enough money after your bills to go out on the weekends and maybe take the kids out for an occasional swim at the lake.

Perhaps in the back of your mind you realize that there is something missing; that there should be more to your life than this; that somewhere along the way you went from dreaming and planning your future to daydreaming about what might have been.

You know what the answer is, don’t you? Yes, you do, but you probably won’t like it.

The answer is to stop living within your comfort zone.

Life – real life – begins at the end of our comfort zone.  It begins at the edge of reasonableness; where the mundane becomes the fantastic; where the accepted and the traditional scoot over to make room for possibilities.

You see, in order to truly live.  In order to grow; in order to become something more than we are; in order to thrive we need to be shaken up.  We need to have our limitations tested; our boundaries breached; our beliefs challenged, and if life doesn’t present us with these challenges, it is up to us to challenge ourselves so that we won’t slip into complacence.

We need to put ourselves in situations where we have to learn new skills; meet new people; come in contact with new ideas and ways of viewing the world and our place within it.

You see, the one constant in the universe is change, and if we refuse to change; if we find that comfortable little niche and tuck ourselves away in it, change will pass us by and we will slowly stagnate until we become everything that we ever hated and never wanted to be.

William Blake once said that “the man who never alters his opinions is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.”  But it isn’t just our opinions that need to be altered; it is the very way that we view life – the very way we view living.

Go ahead – take that first step outside of your comfort zone to where the real living begins – and see just how truly wonderful life can be.

Authentic Living 101: Rediscovering Your Joy

In today’s world living authentically is quite the challenge.  Part of the challenge – indeed a good bit of it – is in dealing with a society that encourages conformity almost to the point of worshipfulness.

Oh don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of choices when it comes to purchases; to styles and entertainments; to political ideologies and religions and genres of reading material.  We can choose from a plethora of car models or types of furniture or computer software or talk radio stations every day but the point is that if you don’t choose one at all; if you choose not to choose or (heaven forbid) choose something that is not on society’s ‘acceptable’ or ‘recommended’ list; if you don’t toe the line when it comes to society’s expectations for what you should be doing, you run the chance of being ostracized.

It’s an interesting conundrum.  You get plenty of encouragement to express your individuality, but if you don’t choose correctly you run the risk of being ostracized, and heaven only knows that people have a fear of being considered different; of being shunned or ignored by others; of not being accepted, and so they will do anything to fit in; to feel as if they belong.

Worse yet, this is not something that is only put on us by our society.  There are layers of conformity laid down all throughout our culture.  We are subjected to the expectations of our governments, our educational systems, our religions and even our families.  Everyone, it seems, is expecting something from us.

Indeed, the idea of being exactly who and what you really are is not only discouraged by society in general, but most people can’t even begin to tell you where the real ‘them’ begins, because they have immersed themselves so completely in the expectations of others that they have lost track of their authentic self years ago.  The trick comes in rediscovering who and what you really are.

The First Step to Living an Authentic Life

Living an authentic life is living a real life; a genuine life; a life where your physical reality and your soul purpose are in alignment.  It means living the life you were born to live, and even if you have buried that authentic self under layers of expectations and commitments, you can rest assured that your authentic self is still there, just waiting for you to rediscover it, and the first step is simpler than you might expect; it comes from rediscovering your joy.

Do you remember joy?  I’m not talking about happiness here.  Happiness is a choice.  You can choose to be happy in spite of your circumstances, you can also allow outside circumstances to increase (or decrease) your happiness.  Joy is something else altogether.

Pure, unadulterated joy is what you experience when you are doing something that completely and totally engages every part of your being.  It is what happens when you are free of constraints and restrictions and are able to fully experience everything that is happening at this exact moment in time.  It is what happens when you are able to open yourself up completely; so completely that time actually ceases to exist and you find yourself suspended in one absolute and perfect moment of now.

You can see true joy in the face of a small child who has brushed off the restraining hands of an adult and is doing exactly what they wanted to do.

You can see pure joy in the face of an athlete as they hit that moment where everything drops away and where they are completely and totally aware of every cell and fiber in their body working in synchronization with every other cell and fiber.

You can see unadulterated joy in the face of an artist or writer as they become one with their work; in the face of the monk who has slipped into a pure state of awareness during meditation and in the face of a lover as the world around them dissolves into heat and light.

It is in rediscovering your joy that you will take your first step towards living an authentic life, for those things that bring us joy are directly connected to our higher self; to our soul purpose, and by pursing them; by engaging in those activities you will reconnect with who and what you really are.  But how do you begin to find what it is that brings you joy?

Rediscovering Your Joy

The problem is, of course, that everyone is different, and the activity or object that instills joy in one person may not be what triggers it for another, which means that no one can tell you what it is that brings you joy, they can only explain how to find joy for yourself.

It’s actually far simpler than you might imagine rediscovering your joy is simply a matter of remembering those things; those activities; those ideas that completely engaged your attention.  Mind you this may involve go back to when you were young; to when you had fewer obligations and responsibilities; to when you acted spontaneously and without consideration of the feelings of others.  Keep a pen nearby when you are thinking about this and write down those things that come to mind.

Did singing in the choir raise your spirit through the roof?  Did you get chills when you stood on stage and said your lines to spontaneous applause and laughter?  Was it laying on the warm grass on a summer afternoon that touched your heart?  Or maybe it was the wind blowing through your hair as you ran pell-mell down a hill or through a field, or maybe it was the colors of a spectacular sunset that took your breath away.

Write them down.  Write them all down.

Chances are that with some thought you will be able to list a number of things that you can remember brought you joy.  But it is not enough simply to remember those things that brought you joy.  In order to live an authentic life, you have to be able to live your joy.  You have to be able to act from your heart without fear of censure or criticism. Then and only then will you have taken the first step towards living an authentic life.

 

‘Tis the Season

Christmas is in the air. The houses are decked out with twinkle lights and the stores are packed with shoppers scrambling for last minute Christmas gifts. There are ornaments on the trees and wreathes on the doors. We talk of Santa and reindeer and sleigh rides and serve up eggnog and fruitcake to our guests while we enjoy Christmas music on the radio. But what are we doing? More to the point; why are we doing it?

There are those who celebrate Christmas purely as a secular holiday, a time to get together with friends and family and exchange gifts and go to parties, and then there are those who celebrate the sister holiday of Hanukkah, which is the Jewish celebration of lights in honor of the re-dedication of the second temple in the 2nd century B.C.E. and still others that celebrate it as the time when Jesus Christ was born; when Mary and Joseph went to answer the call of Caesar to be counted and Mary gave birth to her son in a stable because there was no room in the Inn.

You have to admit that the Christmas story of Jesus being born in the stable and worshiped by Sheppard’s and wise men is a wonderful story; a bit inaccurate as to timing and details mind you (temperatures in the Middle East can be extremely cold during the winter and shepherds kept their flocks tucked well away in sheep pens or folds during the nights of the coldest time of the year, not to mention the fact that there is historical evidence that Jesus was actually born in September, not December) but still wonderful for all of that; a story full of hope and inspiration as is the old Pagan celebration of Yule, the twelve day celebration (from whence we get our “12 Days of Christmas” stories) whose focal point is Solstice Night, the longest night of the year; the night when the sun (in the form of the Oak or Sun King – the Giver of Life) is “reborn” and grows day by day to fulfill the promise of life-giving warmth.

When Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire it only made logical sense to adapt local holidays and give them a Christian twist so that more individuals would be brought into the fold. Hence the rebirth of the Oak King became the birth of Jesus, the evergreen branches used by the Celts to represent the eternal aspect of the Divine in each of us became the Christmas trees and wreathes that we bring into our homes every December and the Mistletoe which in Christian lore represents the love the conquers death was to the Druids the seed of the Divine and a necessary part of the ritual to re-birth the sun and the candles of Hanukkah work their way into the festivals of light celebrated in Christian Churches.

Everywhere you see the symbolism; the connections between the old traditions and the new. But one thing that the Pagan and Christian and Judaic traditions have in common is the fact that all of the mid-December traditions celebrate a time of rebirth and renewal and a time to celebrate the year gone by and prepare for the year to come, and what better way to do this than to rid yourself of all of the negativity that has accumulated in your life over the last year?

Take a look at your life; at those physical objects that you have incorporated into your world for whatever reason. Look closely at those ideas, beliefs, traditions and relationships that have become a part of you and ask yourself whether or not they reflect the highest representation of who and what you truly are; if they serve to help you live a soul-full and authentic life. If not, use this next week; this Yule week between the Solstice and New Year’s to purge your life of everything that could possibly be holding you back.

So regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or Yule or Hanukkah, or simply view this as a nice holiday and a chance to take some time off of work; why not take advantage of the season? Go ahead, claim the promise of rebirth and renewal in your own life; in your own heart; and as the days begin once more to lengthen, celebrate the year to come and everything that it has to offer.

Soul Alignment

Do you ever get the feeling that there is something not quite right about your life; that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing; that your everyday reality is out of synch with your soul purpose?

Just like when your car needs an alignment, you can feel when your everyday life and your soul purpose are out of synch with each other.   The vehicle (in this case your life) does not steer as smoothly as it should.  You can have the noblest dreams; the best laid plans; but something always seems to happen, but something always seems to happen that mucks things up.  Every time you try to get to a certain location something wrenches you in another direction; events conspire to bog you down; circumstances align to trip you up; people fail you, and hopes and plans and dreams get dashed to pieces and you feel like throwing your hands into the air and giving up and screaming “What’s the point?”

What Does it Mean?

If you find yourself contending with these sorts of scenarios regularly, it is not an indication that you are a bad person or that you have been singled out by the universe for punishment or torture.  It is not even a sign that you are being manipulated by outside sources such as angles or demons or closet Marxists.  It is, however, a sure sign that your life is out of alignment with your soul purpose and that you are in need of a serious synchronization.

Sounds big doesn’t it?  Sounds like something that you might need an exorcism for – or at least the advice of a Shaman, or spiritual counselor.  But believe it or not, it is actually a very simple process and one that each and every one of us is capable of undertaking.  In fact, you can probably get to work on it as soon as you finish reading this.

Unlike getting your car aligned, bringing your life and your soul purpose into alignment does not require a trip into the garage.  It does not even require a weekend meditation retreat or year spent in Nepal or Tibet.  But for all that it is a relatively straight forward and simple process, there are relatively few people on the planet whose lives are in full alignment with their soul purpose and when they are it is unmistakable.

For these people, everything just seems to fall into place.  Everything works. Events and circumstances come about which always seem to be exactly those things that are supposed to happen and which happen at exactly the right moment in time.  Their lives look like a dream to the rest of us.  They may not be rich and famous, but they are happy; they are at peace; they have passion and purpose and are living their lives with joy and verve.  Their energy and enthusiasm draws people in and makes you feel as if the world is a better place for them having been there.

So how can you become one of these people?  How can you go from a life where everything seems to be at odds to one where everything seems to fit?  The answer, of course, is to bring your life into alignment with your soul purpose.
But first, of course, it helps to understand just what your soul purpose is.

A person’s soul purpose is the reason that they have been put on this planet; the purpose for which they have agreed to be here, in this body, and in this particular lifetime.  It is something that only they are capable of doing, for only their exact circumstances and upbringing have prepared them for this particular job.

So, how do you find out what your soul purpose is?  The first order of business is to take a look at your natural gifts and abilities for they will be a clear indicator of what direction you should be headed in.   I’m not talking about things that you have been trained to do and that are by necessity a part of your job.  Take a look at your natural abilities; those talents that you were born with and that are as easy for you as breathing.

Types of Natural Gifts and Abilities

These gifts can take on a variety of different types.  For instance, some people are natural healers.  They have a knack for always knowing just the right things to do or say that will make people feel better either physically or emotionally.

Then there are those who are natural teachers.  A natural teacher has the ability to take a complex topic and break it down in such a way that someone else can understand it easily; they may do this in a number of ways (talking, writing, storytelling) but the effect is the same; people learn easily from them.

Some, however, are naturally knowledgeable.  I’m not talking about know-it-alls (who simply think they know everything).  Truly knowledgeable individuals simply have the answers.  You ask them a question and they have an answer, as if they have a direct conduit to some vast knowledge source.

There are also those who are natural creators; their artistic and creative abilities are insatiable and they are always coming up with new ideas for things whether they are paintings, recipes, craft ideas, sculptures, machines or stories.

Or you may be a planner; someone who is great at coming up with a way to get things done, who knows how to organize people and resources in the best way to actually get things accomplished.  Or maybe you are a doer; a person who likes to implement the plans that others come up with and are great at working with your hands.

The Problem and the Solution

The problem is that thanks to a society and culture that put an emphasis on those things that bring the most material satisfaction we have a serious disconnect between what we are supposed to be doing (and what society and those around us expect us to do) and those things that we came here to accomplish.   In fact, this disconnect is so extreme that sometimes it seems impossible that it can ever be brought into alignment and that we will be stuck in this no-man’s-land forever.

But this is not the case, there really is a solution to the problem; something that can cut through all of the expectations that are piled up on us every day; those things that keep us from pursuing our true callings; from finding and living our true purpose.

The way to bring our lives into alignment with our soul purpose is to get in touch with that inner voice and that lives inside of each of us; the one that gives us that gut instinct to do things a certain way.  Unfortunately this is usually the instinct and voice we ignore because so many times it goes contrary to what logic and reason (or even societal expectations) would have you believe is the right thing to do.

By listening to this voice; by following its advice, you can start bringing your life into alignment with your soul purpose; making decisions that will allow you to live an authentic life; one that is lived from the heart.

The Only Place to Start

At the heart of everything mankind believes in, there are two very fundamental principles; Thought and Action.

You see it everywhere; in everyone; clear as anything. The majority of people fall into one of two camps.

There are those that fall into the camp of wanting to take action – now – against something, someone, anyone. Who or what shall we fight against? Well, who or what is the perceived threat? Well, let’s take action then. Something has to be done. Plans are laid – battle cries are sounded. But somehow or another there never seems to be any clear-cut thought behind the action. There is no motivation for actual follow through, simply the pressing need to DO.

And then there are those that sit back and twiddle their navels. No action is needed. Ever. It’s all in your head. Everything. Everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be. There IS no enemy. There IS no threat. No action is needed because the universe has everything well in hand. Visualize whirled peas. Love is the answer. Sit back and let love change the world.  And that is all fine and good, except that it never does.

Of course there are those in the middle who look at both sides, throw up their hands and say “what the hell ever – there’s no reasoning with either of you” and go back to their daily lives, but more often than not they usually end up coming back eventually; back to their religion, or to a cause or to someplace where they can feel as if they are actually a part of something.

So where is the disconnect? Why is it that the each side of the coin can never see the other? THEY ARE THE SAME COIN.

But it is a coin.

And coins have to be spent to be of any good to anyone.

Oh, they’re pretty enough mounted up in a frame on the wall, all nicely polished with pretty labels describing where they came from and how much they are worth. Or in the bank, accumulating interest, all safe and secure. You also see them lying in gutters, the bottoms of fountains, and stuck underneath the seats of vehicles alongside the cheeseburger wrapper from last week and last year’s map of Cleveland. It’s so easy to lose them in good intentions.

But money (pardon the expression) is like manure. It isn’t worth a thing unless it’s spread around encouraging young things to grow.

And that, you see, is the disconnect, and the question that needs answering; what are we spending the coin on?

The answer is not to simply sit around and wait for the universe to sort it out – because WE are the universe. But neither is the answer to focus on some evil power or entity outside of ourselves. The answer is not even to focus on the external problems (poverty, disease, disempowerment, abuse, violence, hatred – in all of its myriad forms) – because, believe it or not THEY ARE NOT THE REAL PROBLEM. They are the symptoms; symptoms of the real disease.

The disease is fear. It is the fear of not being able to control our circumstances, of having things done for us, and to us that we do not want and didn’t ask for. All the external symptoms of the disease are curable – yes. But not by attacking them. That does nothing but feed the fear; make it stronger. And those who are afraid will react – you got it – out of fear. It’s a never-ending cycle.

So what do we do, sit back and twiddle our navels and trust that things will work out as they are supposed to? (Sounds a tad bit like pre-determinism to me). Of COUSE we take action, but it’s not the kind of action most would suppose, because you’re not attacking the symptoms. You are taking what the navel twiddlers found out during their meditation sessions (but didn’t know what to DO with) and applying it to every aspect of your being – every aspect of your life.

You see, love IS the answer, that’s the force that holds the universe together, and the universe WILL sort everything out and, since you are the universe, it’s up to you to do the sorting. And since we have determined what the disease is (the disease that is causing all the symptoms that we despise so very much) the action is to inoculate ourselves against the fear. Cut it out of our souls and replace it with the only thing that can make us whole…unconditional and unadulterated love.

I’m not talking all rainbows and roses here. Love is not always pretty, and when it’s healing the wounds caused by fear and hatred and self-doubt it can be downright painful. But it’s the only place to start.

We can heal the world; but only if we heal ourselves first. Once we have healed ourselves – THEN we can start helping others, pointing them towards the same sort of healing. Until fear is gone from inside of each of us – we will NEVER be rid of it in the world.

We can change the world; but only by changing ourselves – and our perceptions of the world around us and only by combining thought and action and putting them to work in our own lives.

Who You Are Choosing To Be

Anyone who has been exposed to modern spirituality for any length of time is sure to have encountered the phrase that “you are making your own reality.”

I’ve spoken with countless people, who support or argue as to whether or not this is possible and I am always fascinated with their interpretation of the phrase.  The complexities of their reasoning astound me whether they are for it or against it, and while I’m not here to argue the validity of the statement, I am here to explain in a little more detail just what, exactly “creating your own reality” means to me.

From my perspective, the phrase “creating my own reality” means that I am continually, by thought word and action choosing the circumstances that come into my life.

In other words, today’s thoughts, words and actions become tomorrow’s experiences and reality; the ultimate example of the law of attraction at work in daily life.

If I choose today to be angry and judgmental, then I have no reason to complain when tomorrow I am confronted with angry and judgmental people.  I have, by today’s actions, drawn those people to me.

If I chose yesterday to live in fear of all the horrible things that could possibly happen to me or be suspicious of someone’s attitude or character, then I should not be surprised when today something horrible actually does happen, or someone whom I was suspicious of decides to act in exactly the same way that I “suspected” that they would.

This may seem like it is a no-win situation, that yesterday’s fear generates today’s bad circumstance and will lead to more of the same tomorrow, but that isn’t necessarily so.  You CAN break out of this cycle simply by changing the way that you react to a situation.  And yes,   this works even if the initial fear or circumstances were generated by someone on the outside doing something bad to you (such as what happens when the victim is a child or other vulnerable individual), for even though you did not choose the initial circumstance but had it forced on you, you CAN choose to react differently.  This is how it works;

Instead of reacting to today’s negative occurrence with more fear and suspicion; with more judgments and anger, you can choose to change how you respond to a circumstance.  You can choose to see that circumstance as an opportunity to break out of your cycle of negativity and act from the highest expression of who you choose to be.

Do you WANT fear and anger and negativity?  Then by all means continue to act and react in the way you have been acting and reacting, but if you truly wish to make YOUR world (not anyone else’s world – just your own world) a better place, then you can change the way that you view your world.  You can change the way that you react to negative occurrences and in doing so you can create a far better world for yourself and those around you.

It takes time.  It takes practice.  And most of all, it takes attention being paid to every thought and word and action to ensure that you don’t revert back to the habit of reacting negatively to negative circumstances.  But sooner than you can imagine, you’ll begin to see your life begin to reflect the highest expression of who you choose to be.

For Such a Time as This

All around us the world is changing; its energy is changing; moving; shifting; preparing for an upheaval of unimaginable proportions.

You are aware of these changes. You can feel them. Everyone is aware of them at some level. Everyone can feel them whether they realize it or not.

Even for those who deny it, the energy will out. It makes itself known; felt; understood, and it will use whatever means; whatever emotions and feelings it has available. It may make itself known as a nagging annoyance; as an insatiable restlessness; as a need to find something (though you may not know what it is you are looking for); as a persistent and underlying anger; as moments of uncontrolled rage against the injustice of it all (though you may not be entirely sure what you are raging against); as a low grade apprehension that keeps your insides churning with the knowledge that something is about to happen; or even as outright fear.

Human nature being what it is most people will try to find reason for these emotions; someone or something that they can point to and say “Look – they are to blame!” or “Here is the reason that everything is falling apart!” Then they proceed to find a way to reason it out; to justify it for themselves. They can’t help the way that they feel because they are being controlled/manipulated/influenced by outside persons or forces.

But all it amounts to is YOUR reaction to the changes in energy that you feel; the result of your fighting the changes in the energy that you feel; and it is not even energy that you have any control over. It simply IS.

This change in Earth’s energy simply IS.

It is time.

That is all.

And we happen to be living here in one of the most monumental times of Earth’s history; standing on the brink of an evolutionary shift so profound that it cannot be described; only felt and experienced.

It cannot be avoided.

It cannot be ‘fixed.’

This is exactly what is supposed to be happening and you can’t ‘fix’ it because this IS the fix. These changes in energy are what is going to set things right. The upheavals in everything from societal standards to plate tectonics are part of the cure; as is your being here.

You being here; you being here now – at this particular moment in time – is part of the cure.

You chose to be here during one of the greatest evolutionary shifts in earth’s history. Yes. You chose it. You may not remember doing the choosing, but you did or you would not be here.

Some of you chose to be here because you were curious and wanted a ringside seat; others because they wanted to experience it for themselves – wanted to get in on the action – take the ride if you will; and some few because they wanted to contribute in some way, shape or form to this restructuring. Then of course there are those who are contributing to the changes in ways that have been building over many lifetimes with the knowledge that it would come to this in the end.

But it isn’t the end, and that is the whole point.

No matter how scared you may be; no matter how angry you may feel at your life being turned upside down or inside out; no matter that you have forgotten as to why you are here, and how this is part of what is supposed to happen right here and now; it doesn’t matter.

It’s time to take a step back from the anger.

It’s time to take a step back from the fear.

It’s time to take a step back from the emotional upheavals and remember that this is part of something much bigger; YOU are part of something much bigger.
Take a step back, and then take a deep breath.

Stop fighting the changes – even if you feel that they are changing you. Let them. This is part of the process.

Stop fighting the emotions that these changes are generating and LET THEM GO.
Let go of the anger. Let go of the fear. Let go of the hatred and the rage and the irritation and the restlessness. Let it all go.

Feel the changes as they occur; observe them; let them move through you, but don’t become attached to them; don’t let your emotions get stirred up by them. Let them do what they are here to do, even if what they are doing is inside of you.

These changes are going to happen, no matter if we fight them or not, and resisting them will only cause us pain. We knew this was going to happen. In fact, we’ve been planning on it.

So relax and let it be.

You came here for such a time as this.

The Abyss

You! Yes you, there, the one standing on the edge of the abyss!

No, don’t look over your shoulder, I’m not standing behind you. How could I be? There’s a sheer cliff face behind you.

No, it doesn’t matter where I am – would you knock it off? It doesn’t matter who I am, it really doesn’t. I just need you to be quiet for a minute and listen to me.

Why? Did you actually ask me why? Oh please! You’re the one standing on the edge of an abyss, a sheer cliff at your back, and nothing but bottomless emptiness in front of you, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, not a clue as to what to do next and you’re asking a disembodied voice that’s trying to help you as to why you should listen to it?

You know what I should do? I should just leave, right now. Leave you to your contemplations of the horrors that may or may not lie in wait for you should you jump or fall or be pushed off your precarious perch, how dreadfully dangerous the winds that are buffeting you are and how you’re afraid that you may loose your grip accidentally, or how hopeless your situation is since the cliff face is sheer, offering no toe-holds to climb back up, and you haven’t been able to get the attention of anyone at the top of the cliff who could help you.

But I’m not going to leave, even though it aggravates me to see you trembling there in indecision when it is perfectly clear what’s going to happen. But I forget, you are so wrapped up in clinging to your ledge that you’re not taking time to see the big picture. I understand how being on a ledge as you are would be distracting. But what I can’t understand is why it is you actually seem to be enjoying your predicament.

Well, you certainly talk about it enough, how scared you are, how nervous you are about what comes next, all the things that influenced you to this point, how uncomfortable you are, how much your cuts and scrapes hurt, how you managed to end up here….ah, that one is the worst! I mean, look at you! It’s obvious how you got here. You left your normal, everyday life, picked up your backpack of hopes and dreams and struck off up the mountain of possibilities and followed your spiritual path until it led you here.

Yes, you heard me right. The path you chose to follow led you here. You and no one else, is responsible for where you’re standing right now. I don’t care how many maps you consulted. I don’t care how many other people you asked for directions, or how many people you followed or how many detours you took to get here. And don’t moan and groan about how it must be the path’s fault that you are in this precarious position. You are the one who was walking it. You’re the one who took that final step – the step that sent you over the edge.

You still remember it, don’t you, the moment when the path crumbled in front of you and you felt yourself falling over the edge of the cliff. But then you caught yourself, just barely caught yourself, a bare toe-hold here on this last ledge of sanity.

And so, here you stand, your back pressed against solid rock, the reality of what you’ve experienced so far, what you’ve encountered, as unarguably real as the stone beneath your fingers. In front of you the abyss awaits, its unknown depths holding unknown joys – or horrors, and the winds of change and circumstance keep threatening to loosen your hold on this last shred of reality. What’s worse, your hands are starting to sweat with nervousness (or is it excitement?) and you find your grip slipping by centimeters.

I bet you’d give anything for a rope right now, wouldn’t you?

And who knows, maybe if you wait long enough you’ll be able to get someone’s attention and they’ll send down a rope to help you up. Of course you might be waiting for a very long time.

And even if they did, where would you be? All the paths lead to this abyss – there’s no way to go further up without crossing it. You are to be commended actually, for having made it this far. So many people only follow the path until they find a comfortable place and then leave it to take up permanent residence.

You could, provided you are offered that rope, go back up to the top of the cliff and retrace your steps back down the mountain, or at least far enough down it so that you feel safe; undoing all the work of months, or years of searching. Or you could stay there at the top of the cliff, within view of the abyss. You could stay there and invent a nice reality for yourself, something that sounds probable, about how this is really the top of the mountain, or at least as far as we can expect to go in this lifetime.

Of course you could choose to remain where you are, teetering on the edge of sanity, worrying yourself to death about what is going to happen when the inevitable happens and you loose your grip and go plummeting into the depths.

Or, you can jump.

You can let go of your desperate finger hold on reality and step off into the unknown, trusting that the universe knows what it is doing or it wouldn’t have brought you here.

I guess what it all boils down to is one question:

How badly do you want it?

How badly do you want to know what lies at the summit?

How badly do you want to see the view from the top?

How badly do you want to remain trembling here on the brink, clinging to your last shreds of sanity and wondering what comes next?

So, you can wait for help.

Wait to fall.

Or jump.