Don’t skip the sacred

Feeling a bit unsettled these days?  Could you use an anchor in the storm of daily life, especially with all the stuff that’s on tv and social media? One way to experience a greater sense of calm is to return to the sacred. And by sacred I mean… well, a lot of things.

Sacred, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For example, breakfast at the dining room table is sacred to me.  I don’t always take the time to do it, but when I do, I can feel the Peace all around me. It’s in the setting of the table, preparing a nice little meal, sitting down and paying attention to the ritual of nourishing myself. It invokes beauty, gratitude, stillness and practicing the Presence of God.  All this makes breakfast time sacred to me and that makes a big difference in how I feel about myself and how I experience the world around me.

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What is sacred to you?  It can be most anything, but most likely it’s that something that you’ve thought about doing but keep putting off. Maybe it’s a traditionally sacred activity like going to church, singing kirtan or reading scripture. For you it might be an early morning walk on the beach, saying grace at dinner or creating an altar in your bedroom.

There are no rules around what is sacred. What matters is what is sacred to you and that you start practicing it in your daily life. Because bringing the sacred back into your awareness is always a good idea.  I promise it will do wonders to ease your mind, settle your stomach and help you find the mental and emotional calmness your heart is calling for.

Because I’d rather feel angry than helpless

I was thinking about how much anger people are expressing. How easily I’m angered these days. Out of nowhere I can get really agitated, really easily. Especially on social media. I think it’s because I’d rather feel angry than helpless.

Helpless is lower on the emotional scale. It’s down there with fearful and depressed. And like most people I know, I prefer anger to fear. (And why not since anger feels more powerful than fear.) But the truth is I can do better than anger. I can reach for the higher, more powerful feelings like faith, inspiration, gratitude and love.

Of course, it’s not easy to let go of fear or anger, especially when I’m caught up in such emotions. But I have control over how I feel. Emotions come from thoughts and I can choose my thoughts. It takes practice, but I can do it.  And in today’s world, I feel called to do it.

So yes, I’d rather feel angry than helpless. But I don’t have to stay angry. With practice, awareness and discipline I can make my way up the scale of emotions to where I really want to be: speaking, acting and expressing from a place of empowerment, inspiration, compassion and love.

What will you ask for this Christmas?

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Christmas has been called “the Season of Giving.” And rightly so with all the gift-giving, meal-preparation, hospitality and love we extend to our families and friends.  But if you’re on the front lines, doing the bulk of the shopping, baking, cleaning, wrapping, organizing, etc I’d like to offer you a suggestion for this holiday season:

Consider asking for what you most want and need.

Hey, many of us are really good at giving.  We’ve been doing that for years. So asking for ourselves can be really, really uncomfortable.  Besides, we prefer to be in control and asking puts us in a place of vulnerability — with a potential for disappointment.

But here’s the thing: asking is an excellent spiritual practice.  It opens us up to a new perspective.  It stretches our comfort zone.  Asking allows us to practice trust and authenticity and flexibility.  It also gives others the opportunity to provide love and support to us in more tangible ways.

So what might asking look like for you?  Asking might be making a gift list (like the ones we used to write to Santa) that lets others know what we’d really like to find under the tree.  Asking might mean requesting that others take over some of the holiday tasks and responsibilities.  Or asking could be as simple as stating our needs in the moment, like “I need a hand with this” or “I’m not able to do that this year” or (my personal favorite) “I need a nap!”

It’s also important to ask ourselves what we need and to listen to our answers.  What would make this year’s celebrations flow more easily and gracefully for me?  What needs to happen for me to feel like this was a meaningful time?  How can I open my heart a bit more to really take in all this season has to offer me?

Take some time in the next week to ask for what you want and need.  It may feel really uncomfortable or even selfish.  And that’s okay.  You’re practicing a new way of being which will open your heart and mind to more of who you really are —  and that’s a gift that keeps on giving well beyond the holidays.

Next up: How well do you receive what others are trying to give you?

 

Thanksgiving…and beyond

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

Feeling abundant? Blessed? Full of hope and possibilities for a bright and expansive future?  If so, excellent.  If not, there’s a great opportunity this week to shift into a new way of experiencing life on Earth:

Thanksgiving.

You know, that one day out of the 365, designated as a holiday for expressing gratitude for all the good in our lives.  That day when we as a nation take time to focus on our blessings.

What a great opportunity! ‘Cause here’s the thing: we experience abundance and blessings in our daily lives as we pay attention to the abundance and blessings already happening in our daily lives.  (AKA we get more of what we’re focusing on.)

From a metaphysical perspective it looks like this: when we give our attention to what we have and practice feeling grateful for it, we begin to vibrate in alignment with an energy of abundance. And that attracts more to us. Similarly, when we focus on what’s missing and feel anger/frustration/fear over what we don’t have, we vibrate with that energy — and experience more scarcity.

It really is up to us where we put our attention and, consequently, what shows up for us in our experience.

So why not use this national holiday as a jumping off point to more gratitude?  Take advantage of the energy of millions of others vibrating around the country in appreciation!

And then on Friday begin looking for, finding, and feeling grateful for all the blessings that have been right under your nose the other 364 days of the year.

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. (Matthew 25:29, NIV Bible)

Year one: done.

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Thirty weeks of classes completed.  Whew.

I just finished up the Year One classroom requirements of the course I’m taking on Higher Consciousness.

Thirty weeks of reading, writing, sharing and soul-searching.

Thirty weeks of going deeper, expanding further, loving more.  Wow.  That was intense.

Here’s a taste of what I’ve learned:

  • Old habits (and old thinking) die hard
  • I know myself when I see me
  • Whenever I turn away from myself & God it feels really uncomfortable
  • I have the power to adjust my perspective – and my peace of mind – whenever I’m ready
  • If I’m not ready, it’s for a good reason and I can take a closer look at that
  • I have all the tools I need to raise my awareness and, by the way, I’m not doing any of this on my own
  • Love is the ever-expanding impulse of the Universe, always available to me, always expressing Itself through me

I’d forgotten how good it is to be a student and how well I integrate new things into my life!

Next stop: San Diego for the final weekend retreat of Year One with my daughter Amy (who also completed thirty weeks of classes) to pull this all together and celebrate our accomplishments.

And while we’re there, we’ll visit my son Andrew in Redlands!

I’m in love with another man!

Reprinted from an earlier blogpost, in honor of John Muir and Earth Day.

Ok, I admit it:  I’m in love with another man.  His name is John Muir, the Scottish-born American naturalist whose unwavering devotion to the natural world led to the establishment of the National Parks system.  Yes, my husband Matt is aware of my infatuation and he’s cool with it.  He also admires Muir and what he stands for — plus I think he really digs Muir’s beard.

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John Muir (4/21/38 – 12/24/14)

Anyway, I borrowed Ken Burns’ documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea from the library and last night we watched the first DVD.  Wow!  Never mind the incredible cinematography of Yosemite and Yellowstone!  Never mind the rich history of how these breath-taking landscapes were saved for posterity by genius visionaries such as Muir!  What bowled me over was the deeply spiritual motivation behind Muir’s love for the American wilderness — and his vision of how others (us!) would benefit and come closer to God by spending time in nature.  I believe that what he shared about the spiritual needs of the human heart — and how reconnecting with Nature can meet those needs — is profound and relevant for us especially today.

My heart skipped a beat when I heard Muir’s advice about retreating to the woods to reconnect with Spirit:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once and awhile,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”

And similarly:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength
to body and soul alike.”

And finally, his words, published in 1901, offer spiritual relief to so many overwhelmed and over-stressed Americans today:

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people
are beginning to find out
that going to the mountains is going home;
that wildness is a necessity;
and that mountain parks and reservations are useful
not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers,
but as fountains of life.”

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 Yosemite National Park

Here was a man, naturalist, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club, who helped set aside millions of acres of pristine wilderness for the good of the Earth as well as the health and well-being of the American people.

As we continue through the remainder of April, celebrating the Earth and all its glories, I encourage you to fall in love.  Not necessarily with John Muir, although I’d understand if you did!  Fall in love with Nature, with this beautiful, magnificent, wildly wonderful planet Earth that we call home.

Dear Diary

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For years and years, I’ve kept a diary.  I could line a few bookshelves with notebooks and journals full of my chicken-scratch.  And the vast majority of what I’ve written is an account of my past, of what happened that day or that week, during that vacation or on that trip.

But lately I’ve started writing about something different in my diary: my future.

Lately, I’m documenting events as if they’ve already happened.  I’m writing imaginary entries, playing a sort of literary make-believe, and it’s helping me become clearer about what I want and what it feels like to already have it.

And producing some excellent results!  For example, last week I was writing about an imaginary consulting job that used my administration and organizational skills to help people create programs and outreach.  I got into the details of it so deeply that I could actually feel the excitement of being in the groove, helping others bring together the nuts and bolts of their vision.  And first thing Monday morning I got a job offer to do just that: work with someone long-term to bring to fruition a non-profit focused on kids and the environment!  Cool, huh?

Funny how for years I spent time writing about the past, about what had already happened in my life.  Lots of reinforcing what is instead of opening up to what’s to come. Our minds are so powerful and so creative.  All we need to do is focus on what we want more of.  God is always doing a new thing, always expanding our experience, inviting us to use our imaginations and open up to the flow of Life!

Take Action: experiment with this for yourself.  Pull out your diary or journal and, for one week, write about something you want in your life, as if it’s already occurred.  Use your imagination to describe what it’s like to have this in your life right now.  Get into the details!  Then feel the gratitude and appreciation of your imagined reality.  And watch what shows up!

Plan B

I always have a choice:
I can try to figure it out
or project what might happen
or problem-solve
or worry.

Or I can trust and know
that I have everything I need today
and I’ll have everything I need tomorrow
and when I choose to be happy
life is really enjoyable.

I’m going with Plan B.

The Body – a guest blog by Amy Hollis

I had a series of three bummer moments this week about my weight. I stepped on a scale for the first time in a few months (PSA: Don’t do this), saw an old photo of myself from high school, and tried on a dress I haven’t worn since August. All signs lead to diet. So naturally I grabbed for the chocolate. My complicated relationship with food and body image has been one I’ve kept fairly under control health-wise throughout my life, but it has still plagued me emotionally on a regular basis. So, just as I have done many times before, I watched an inspirational documentary about the flaws of the Standard American Diet (known colloquially as S.A.D.), talked with my husband about removing all sugar from our house (he was not excited), and sat down with my journal to make yet another diet and exercise plan.

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As I opened my journal I remembered that my study in class this week is, coincidentally enough, on the Body. I am currently studying at the Center for Spiritual Living and, as is often the case, my weekly study topic matched up perfectly with my current life situation. I began to read for class about the Body and its alternative definition: pretty much anything in your human experience, both visible and invisible is considered ‘Body’. While reading, I was reminded of something I know so well: “If the body is to be permanently well, the mind must be in poise; it must be peaceful and happy.” Basically, if I want to change the outside, I have to first change the inside.

 
No matter how many miles I run, no matter how many vegetables I juice, no matter how many cookies I don’t eat, my body will not change (or at least, will not remain changed), until my mind does. It all begins in the mind. For me, that means becoming aware of my connection with Source; seeing myself the way God sees me. But for you it may be visualizing the best body nature could create or imagining the joy that floods over you as you healthfully walk your daughter down the aisle. Whatever it is that I want to shift in my life (my body, my work, my finances, my relationships), it needs to first shift in my mind. Once my mind has shifted, creative energy can flow and lasting change will soon follow.

 
So, instead of a physical diet and exercise plan, my journal is now filled with a mental diet and exercise plan. Reduce my intake of negative thoughts, self criticisms, and old beliefs. Thrive on a diet of self-love, spiritual practice, and supportive people. Begin each day with ten reps of gratitude and twenty minutes of meditation. Don’t get me wrong, my physical behavior will certainly need to shift as well, but that will happen naturally if I truly change my mind. My mind must change first. I am positive that if I count my meditations like I count my miles, my body and (even more importantly) my mind will naturally arrive at their most healthy state.

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Amy Hollis is president of Grains of Truth, Inc whose first venture is Govinda’s, a vegetarian bakery and cafe opening in Gainesville, FL.  Amy is Kathy’s favorite daughter.