Radical Aliveness

Radically AliveWhat is Radical Aliveness?

Good question.  Knowing what it is to be radically alive is the first key to actually experiencing it.

Sometimes we associate Radical Aliveness with Peak Experiences. Those moments or days that are truly special — like the day you graduate; the day you started your dream job or opened your business; or your wedding day; or the day your baby was born.  You have, no doubt, had at least one of those experiences.

I want you to think back to that day. See if you can recreate how you felt.  Perhaps your heart was blown wide open and love was flowing abundantly.  All your “aliveness” circuits were wide open and joy flowing abundantly.  You were probably fully in the present moment…fully alive to every moment of that day.  You probably worked really hard for that moment.  Perhaps all your talents and skills were utilized…including some you didn’t even know you had.  You may have even felt that that moment was what you were born for. You were connected to a sense of purpose.  These moments are generally seared into our memory for a good reason. Because we were totally, fully, radically alive.

What if we could experience that kind of Peak Experience feeling every day?
I believe we can.  We’re going to explore exactly how to do that.

Now the place to start is to first understand what LIFE itself is.  And I’m not talking about human, physical life.  Physical life comes and goes.  It is temporary and changeable.  All are born and later die.  Flowers blossom, then wither away.  I’m talking about the force, the energy, the essence that is behind the physical and that gives rise to all experience of physical life.  That force or “essence” is unchangeable and eternal.  It is the intelligence…the eternal love intelligence that is behind all, that supports all.   Sometimes refer to it as Divine Energy, or God Force, or Divine Substance.  It’s what we are at our core.  It is our vital essence.

And the more we are conscious of our Source…the more we are connected with this Divine Life Essence…the more we are plugged in, and all our circuits are open…the more vitality and vibrancy can flow through and as us.

So how do we do that?  How do we connect with it and open ourselves to it?  Well, there are certain qualities of this Vibrant Life Essence that, when we know about them and access them, they can be the keys that unlock Radical Aliveness for us. So let’s explore them one-by-one.

  • The first key is Joy.  Joy is a definite component of radical aliveness.  When we are connected with our inner Joy we are connected with Source Energy because Source Energy is Joy.  But let’s be clear that the kind of Joy we’re talking about is without opposite.  True joy is not the opposite of sadness. It’s not a fleeting emotional state. It’s not conditional. It’s not something that is the result of what happens to us. True joy is connected to the heart.  It’s Pure Love Energy. It’s a love of life…a zest for living.  Charles Fillmore, talked about the power of Zeal (one of our 12 Spiritual Powers) as being “the great universal force that impels humankind to spring forth in a field of endeavor and accomplish the seemingly miraculous.”  That sounds like a good definition of Radical Aliveness!
  • Another key to the experience of Radical Aliveness is cultivating gratitude.  When we’re in a “State of Gratitude”…when we are fully appreciating the beauty of nature and all the blessing in our lives, we open to the flow of joy and we feel blessed. We open to the idea that we are so loved by the Infinite and this fills us with a sense of aliveness.  We’re also more fully present, fully attentive to the present moment when we’re in gratitude.  A consistent practice of proactive gratitude…noticing, and then celebrating, all the good in your life daily builds a “State of Gratitude”.
  • Another key to experiencing Radical Aliveness is when we are working in harmony with the Divine Order of things…when we respect the rhythms of life.  Life has definite rhythms. We see that in the change of seasons, the ebb and flow of the tides, the migration of birds.  I never really understood about the rhythms of life when I lived in S. California…there didn’t seem to be any.  But I finally got it when I moved to a place where there’s a change a seasons. When we’re in harmony with the natural rhythms of Divine energy within us, life flows, and we feel a great sense of aliveness.
  • The next key to Radical Aliveness is to do what we can to be at our peak of physical health. When you are at peak health, it’s just plain easier to feel more vibrantly alive, isn’t it?  And a lot of that is in our control.  We can choose what we put in our bodies…choosing foods that are alive…that feed our cells, and nourish our organs.  Daily exercise is vital to our healthy functioning.  And I know a lot of folks say they don’t have time to exercise.  There is a sign up my doctor’s office that I see every time I’m there. It says, “Those who think they don’t have time for exercise now, will eventually have to make time to deal with illness later.”  When we combine healthy eating, plenty of exercise, and plenty of rest, we open to the flow of vitality that supports our physical existence which helps us access Radical Aliveness.
  • But perhaps the largest contributing factor to experiencing Radical Aliveness is when we are living our purpose.  When we’re aligned with, and expressing our purpose, life-energy flows and sustains us miraculously.
    I recently heard someone say that there are 2 most important days in your life…the day you are born and the day you discover why you are born. Have you discovered why you were born?  Are you living your purpose?One way to tell if you are living your purpose is to notice…do you wake up every morning with a smile and can’t wait to get going doing what you’ve come here to do?  Are you sharing your unique gifts, abilities and talents in service to others? Do you do it with love?Pastor Rick Warrren, the author of A Purpose Driven Life talks about it in terms of living a “life of significance” as opposed to just surviving.  A life of meaning and spiritual significance.   Life has meaning when we allow the Divine Spirit within us to direct our life…rather than the ego.  Now, that’s not always an easy thing to do. Our ego thinks it knows what’s important.  It might know how to keep us safe, or get our needs met, but it doesn’t know how to really live.  And it definitely doesn’t know anything about Radical Aliveness.Meher Baba once said, “It’s characteristic of the ego that it takes all that is unimportant as important and all that is important as unimportant.”  When we get our ego out of the way and surrender to a higher Truth…let the Inner Divine lead our life, we find the significance…our purpose.  You always have a choice between listening to the ego (or false self) or listening to the voice of your inner-self self that know you were born for a magnificent purpose.  And when you find that…and live that…life becomes deeply meaningful, fulfilling and miraculous!  That’s Radical Aliveness!

 

You Are Enough

Wayne Dyer

 

The nature of gratitude helps dispel the idea that we do not have enough, that we will never have enough, and that we ourselves are not enough.”
-Wayne Dyer

The beloved late Dr. Wayne Dyer knew a thing or two about the power of gratitude.  And this is one aspect of gratitude that we don’t usually consider, but it can make a huge difference in our lives.  Practicing proactive gratitude can actually help us see and experience that we are enough exactly as we are.  It can counteract the messages that our society thrives on giving us that we are not enough.  It tells us that we aren’t thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough, together enough, sexy enough, rich enough or up-to-date with our gadgets enough.

These messages become embedded in our consciousness at a young age and they tend to stay there until we do something proactive to reverse them.  The thing is, most of us are unaware they’re there.  So they act as a force pushing us into an endless loop of trying to fix ourselves.  We try one diet after another, one shampoo after another, one teeth whitening paste after another, one self-help book after another, one self-improvement course after another, one new gadget after another.  And still it’s not enough.  It leaves us feeling that we will never be enough.

Now, some people might think that’s a good thing.  “Striving for perfection is part of human evolution,” some might feel.  But it isn’t really.  Striving for excellence is a positive endeavor, but constantly striving for perfection just reinforces that message that we are not enough now and we will never really be enough, because perfection doesn’t really exist.

And that constant rumbling in the back of our minds that we are not enough the way we are now, and that our lives are not perfect the way they are now, effects the way we feel about ourselves — and that’s the source of all the trouble.  Believing at our core that we are not good enough causes us to feel that we don’t deserve to be loved; that we don’t deserve to be well-paid; that we don’t deserve to have what we truly desire; that we don’t deserve to be truly happy.  And so we unconsciously repel those good things when they come our way.

For example, let’s say that I am looking for a new job (perhaps, in part, because I feel my current job is not good enough) and I’m looking online at various listings.  I may completely skip right over several that might well be a good fit for me, but in looking at the qualifications I notice that I don’t have everything they’re looking for…whether that’s education or experience or skill sets.  I automatically reject them before I even discover that  I could develop those skills quickly on the job, or maybe having a doctorate is actually not that important to them after all.  But I’ll never know that if I don’t apply. Then, when I show up for an interview at the one job for which I do completely qualify, I still feel somehow inadequate and deep down that I don’t deserve to have something really good in my life. Or, I somehow feel compelled to tell them that I have a hard time with follow-through (or whatever I feel my weakness is.)

When we feel, at our core, that we don’t have enough, or that we are not enough, it shows up in every aspect of our lives — in our relationships, in our ability to finish projects, in our ability enjoy the things we do have, and in our ability to make good decisions about important things.

So, how does something as simple as practicing gratitude help change this whole dynamic? Well, when I make a conscious effort to notice and be grateful for specific good that’s in my life on a daily basis, I eventually begin to believe that my life is pretty darn good right now.  When I am grateful for all that I have, I begin, over time, to feel abundant. That feeling of being abundant leads me to places and experiences where that abundance can grow. When I train myself to notice and be grateful for all of my gifts and talents, it eventually leads me to believe that I am pretty awesome.  When I feel I am pretty awesome I believe that there is nothing I can’t do.

And if there are areas where I can improve, I now believe that I have the power to actually do it…from staying with an exercise program to getting an advance degree.  And as I express my gratitude to the universe for the guidance, wisdom, opportunity and strength I have been given it carries me every step of the way.

You have enough right now. You are enough right now.  Open your vision to see the blessings all around you and the greatness within you.  Focus on it.  Be grateful for it daily and before you know it, that old core belief that you are not enough will disappear; and in its place will be an amazing you living an abundant life.

 

Gratitude Connects us with the Possibilities

possibilities quote dickensonOne of the most tangible ways in which the practice of gratitude can transform our lives is by opening our eyes to the possibilities and opportunities that are all around us…opportunities and possibilities that we did not see before because we were focused on what wasn’t working, on what wrong with everyone and everything.   It’s as if we’ve had blinders on, and the practice of gratitude gently pulls them off. We begin to see a beautiful world full of possibilities.  We begin to see the potential within us.  We begin in see the connectedness of everything, and how everything is working together for our good…if we will but recognize it!

Let’s take a few obvious examples, just to illustrate the point.  Say I was unemployed and couldn’t find a job to save my life.  Now, rather than constantly bemoan my circumstance and blame the government for my predicament I’m practicing gratitude.  I’m thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for as I’m driving down the road.  Suddenly I realize I’m lost.  I find myself on a new street and again, rather than falling prey to anger and blame, I notice what beautiful trees are lining this street. I’m suddenly grateful that I took a wrong turn.  Then I notice that behind the beautiful trees, which I’m grateful for, is a building I never noticed before.  “Oh look, it Burt’s Bees.  Hmmmm, I didn’t know they were headquartered here.  Gee, I wonder if they’re hiring.”  I go in, submit my resume, and in a few days I have a job at the company I’ve always admired.

Or, say I find myself in a coffee house. It’s very busy and I have to wait in a long line.  Rather than bemoan the inconvenience and stress about how late I am, I silently express my gratitude for the opportunity to have coffee, for soy milk so that lactose intolerant folks like me can still enjoy lattes, for the creative way the place is decorated, for the people around me.  Then, the cute guy in front of me remarks about the weather, or the song they’re playing, and we start up a conversation…which either leads to romance and a relationship or a business opportunity.

Or, I’ve taken my kids to the library to pick out some fun books to read at bedtime. I’m grateful for my children and for this time I get to spend with them. I’m grateful for this library and the people who work here.  As we’re walking through the isles on the way to check out, a self-help book catches my eye.  I pick it up and check it out.  It turns out to be a book that has a significant impact on my life.

I can think of many for examples, and so can you. In fact, if you’d like to share an example from your own life in the comment section below, we’d love to hear it.

We are all deeply connected to possibilities that can turn our lives around in ways we can’t even imagine.  But we’ll miss them all if we’re focused on what’s not working, and who’s to blame.  Gratitude opens our eyes to the connectedness of all things and the abundance of opportunities all around us.

Experiencing True Inner Peace

peaceful stepsThich Nhat Hanh’s book  “Peace is Every Step” begins with an invitation to open to the opportunities present in every day – every 24 hour period.  “What a precious gift!” he says.  “We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.”

And although it seems that some people are able to find more joy a day than others, the truth is that everyone has the same 24 hours…and every morning we wake up we have another opportunity to choose how we want to spend it.  Now I know some of you might be saying, “Well I don’t have a choice I have to work at this job I really don’t like.  Or,  “I have to get up early and make my kids breakfast and pack a lunch and drive them to school, then come back home and do loads of laundry.  I have to do that, that’s not my choice.”  Or is it?

In New Thought we know that on some level every circumstance in our life is our choice.  And certainly how we experience those conditions /situations is most definitely our choice.  We can either choose to be miserable, frustrated, board, unhappy, etc.  Or, we can choose something else.  In this post we’re going to explore that “something else.”  We’re going to explore how we can all choose to participate in the abundance of joy, peace and love that is all around us right now and within us right now…no matter the circumstances of our lives.  And when we can do that…the circumstances begin to shift and take on the shape of our new-found joy.

We, as a culture, spend a great deal of time planning for the future, or working toward some goal that we think will give us a better experience in the future.  But we don’t spend much time in the now, enjoying life right now in this present moment.  You know, when we get to that future that we had planned and worked so hard to have, do we enjoy it as much as we thought we would?  Do we ever finally “arrive”?

So, below are some ways we can really grab life for all it has to offer, and share with life all we have to offer, and live fully as we do…to live from a place of amazing joy and extraordinary peace!

  • The first way we might accomplish that is to start the day with gratitude.  This means that before you get out of bed in the morning, think of one thing…just one thing…you are grateful for.  It could be as simple as the sun streaming in your window, the fact that you had a good rest, or even that you’re alive…you woke up!  Then, as you’re getting ready for the day, continue to think of things to be grateful for…a fresh cup of coffee…clean clothes to put on…indoor plumbing…a warm shower, etc.  When you start your day this way it reminds you that you are truly blessed…that you do indeed live in a friendly universe.
    And really celebrating those things….not just “oh that’s nice”…but feel every fiber of your being celebrating that warm shower, the beautiful songs of the birds outside your window.  Let that gratitude vibrate to your core.  You can’t help but smile.  And the smile sends waves of relaxation throughout your body and sends healing hormones into all your organs.  Having a regular proactive gratitude practice has been proven over and over to have a ton of physiological benefits, from an analgesic effect on the body stimulating the release of the brain’s own morphine-like substances, to better heart functioning, to better sleep, to less depression, to increasing the antibodies in our nose & mouth – which are our first line of defense.Perhaps more importantly though, practicing proactive gratitude shifts our perception – how we look at the world.  We begin to live joyously and open-heartedly and in the present moment.  And that shift can change everything.
  • Another way we can begin to live more fully and become more peace-filled individuals is to engage in what I call “Conscious Living.”  This begins with becoming more conscious of our breathing.  Breathing more slowly, more deeply and more consciously helps us to be in the present moment…fully.  The breath connects us with our heart and with that place within us where we are connected with the Infinite…where the Divine breathes forth life through us and as us.  That one Divine Breath (in Aramaic it’s referred to as Ruha) is the same one we share with everyone else and with everything else on this planet.Now, let’s take that idea a step further and combine our breath with our footsteps as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests in his writings.  “Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth…We walk a little slower than our normal pace, and we coordinate our breathing with our steps. For example, we may take three steps with each in-breath and three steps with each out-breath.”This is a great tool to use and a great image to keep in mind as you walk really anywhere in your daily life.  Our walking to our car in the parking lot has the potential to become a meditation.  So does our walking to the mailbox, or from our car to any destination.  If we consciously coordinate our breath with our steps that will pull us into the now moment…into the peace of the now moment.  It will also help us to feel that connection with Mother Earth.  And our every step can be as a “kiss upon the Earth.”

    Another way we can become more fully present and hence more peace-filled people during our everyday lives is to eat more consciously.  Most of us, when we eat, most of the time we’re either chatting with others while we eat or watching TV or working (I’m guilty) and we so we don’t even taste the food we’re eating.  So we get to the end of a meal and we’re not satisfied.  Well then we need to have desert – maybe that intense load of sugar will get our attention.  We are a multi-tasking culture.  I’m not against multi-tasking per se.  Sometimes (particularly if you are a mom) you need to do it.  Isn’t that what MOM stands for?  Master of Multi-tasking.  But what if we just took one thing and brought our full attention to that thing?  What if we slowed down and were really present to what we’re eating?  Well, we’d develop a healthier relationship with food, that’s for sure.  And we’d be spending a good chunk of time in the present moment – fully enjoying our life.

    In fact, you can have an experience of that right now.  Take a grape.  One grape is all you need for this exercise (make sure it’s a good one and not a squishy one J).   And hold that grape in your hand.  Close your eyes and think about the vine the brought that grape to fruition.  In your mind’s eye see the vine growing from a little sprout to a full grown vine.  See all the cycles that contributed to the growth of that vine: the days of sun and the days the rain came to nurture that plant and bring it to fruition.  See now tiny little buds beginning to sprout.  Again the days of sun and rain help to ripen and sweeten the fruit until it is finally ready for picking.

    Think about who picks those grapes for a moment – probably migrant farm workers. They work so very hard to support their families.  You may want to send a silent blessing to them right now.

    Now, place the grape in your mouth and, before you bite into it, feel the roundness of the fruit in your mouth…the smoothness of the skin. Now bite into it and feel the juice being released.  Is it sweet?  Is it tart? What is the ratio of sweetness to tartness?  Feel the difference in texture between the skin and the inside.  How does it feel going down your throat?

    Okay open your eyes.  But a grape never tasted so good! Now, no one would ever have the time to do this with every morsel of food they eat obviously.  But it does give you an idea of how you can slow down, appreciate the food you are eating and be present to it all when you eat.

  •  The 3rd way we can live more fully and be more peace-filled people is to open to the Infinite Peace within us and give it to others.  If you are a unique emanation of the Infinite One (which you are,) and this Infinite One is the essence of Peace (which it is,) then you are, in fact, Infinite Peace in expression.  It is your very essence.  You may not be experiencing it right now, or at other times during the day, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t what you are.  It means you’re just not connected with it at that moment. The quality of Divine Peace is at your core and the more you connect with it through Spiritual Practice the more often you will experience it in your day to day life.  The more that peace will carry you through difficult times.  Then, when you’ve established a connection with that Peace the charge is to live it – share it with others. To “be” that peace for others.  We must establish it within ourselves first and “be it for others.”  Be a loving, peaceful presence for others.  We do that by consciously connecting with it and through setting our intention to be that.  Set your intention to actually peace the presence of peace for others.
  • That intention will undoubtedly lead you to being of service to others in some way.  And as you are of service to others you want to remember to do it from a place of inner peace.  You want to serve from an awareness that the Infinite Peace of the Universe flows through you in order to share with the world.  It starts at your center and spirals out to others and the world around you.  In this way, you can experience peace in your every step and truly become a “Peace-makers.”

Try some of these ideas for a week. Really integrate them into your daily life.  You will begin to see some very real shifts that originate in your inner being and then out into your experience.

Gratitude and the Gap

Mind the GapIf you’ve ever been in England you’ve seen this expression “Mind the Gap” posted in the underground stations, to alert you to pay attention to the space between the platform and the train. It’s a valid warning, you don’t want to get your foot stuck in the space between, or drop anything down in there…you’ll never see it again.

In Eastern thought, though, the gap is a much desired place to be.  The gap is the space between your thoughts…usually referring to the practice of meditation.  Mystics and yogi’s recognize that no one can simply stop their thoughts, or “will themselves” to quiet their mind.  What we can do though is to widen the distance between our thoughts and cultivate an awareness of that space — to be mindful of the gap and to encourage it.  When we do this, we are rewarded with peace of mind and increasing our ability to hear the voice of the Divine within us, among other things.  The gap is the golden place, where transformation occurs.

The gap that I am thinking about today is also something to be mindful of – and it has the potential of being a golden, transformational time.  It’s a the place we sometimes find ourselves in that’s between no longer accepting an old way of perceiving ourselves and the world — and not yet experiencing the fullness of what we now know to be true.

It’s that place between “no longer” and “not yet”.

For example:  Maybe you no longer accept the idea that you are a victim of circumstance.  Maybe you used to believe that outside circumstances or situations controlled your experience in life.  Perhaps you used to accept that your employment was dependent on a specific company or individual.  Or that your experience of prosperity was determined by your employer.  Maybe you once believed that your ability to love was dependent on another person.   Or that your body is subject to the diseases of old age.  Whenever we have repeated experiences in our lives or an ongoing challenge, we know it is a direct result of what we believe to be true about ourselves.  It’s first a thought… which if continued, becomes a belief, which then becomes our experience.  This is the Law of Cause and Effect, or the Law of Attraction, or the Law of Manifestation.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s exacting.

Anyway, your old ideas about your limited self are now in the past.  You no longer accept that nonsense.  You know that you are a powerful co-creator in life and all that you have ever needed is within you.  You know that the Source of all your good is the Infinite, limitless, unbounded.  This is the Source of all…which created you out of Itself. You are an expression of It, therefore you are already whole and complete, abundant, love-filled, joyous, fulfilled and all of your needs are met now.  You know this in your heart of hearts.  However, you are not yet experiencing that truth in your life.    You are in the gap.

So, what is the “gap” and why is it that we don’t manifest our new consciousness immediately in our lives?  Why do we have to be in a “gap?”

Well first of all, it’s a good thing that ideas in our consciousness do NOT manifest immediately. Think about it.  Think about all the fearful fantasies you have had.  The nightmare scenarios you have imagined for yourself such as, “That bump on my skin is cancer, I know it!” or if you have kids and you temporarily can’t find them, you think, “They’ve been kidnapped!” or perhaps your fearful thoughts about the world, “We’re all gonna die in a nuclear blast!” etc.  Thank God there is a time gap between the thoughts we hold in our minds and what actually manifests — so that we can review it all and make sure that’s what we really want to create.  Most the time we come to our senses and remind ourselves that ultimately, all is well.

So, the buffer zone of the gap gives us a chance to re-examine our beliefs.

Secondly there is the natural order of growth from the formless to the form in this dense, physical universe.  Ernest Holmes once wrote:  “The Truth is instantaneous in its demonstration, taking only such time in Its unfoldment as is inherent in the law of logical and sequential evolution.”

So, then the question becomes:  “Well, what do I do while in the gap?  Is there anything beneficial I can do?”  And, that’s a good question! It’s actually vital.  Because many of us, when we don’t realize we’re in the gap…when we don’t see an immediate response to our prayers, or to our new consciousness…we think that it doesn’t work, and we begin to doubt and fall back into our fears and our negative thinking patterns.  And that just negates the new awareness we’d developed.  It’s like taking one step forward and one step back. Ever have that experience?

So, we want to nurture the environment of the gap while we are in it in order to allow for our new consciousness to emerge from that fertile time.  And we can do that best by practicing proactive gratitude. Here’s what I mean…

You know when you plant seeds in the soil, it takes some time before you see anything happen.  From the surface it looks like nothing is happening.  But, under the surface, a tremendous amount of energy is being expended to release the hidden potential within that seed, to push through the hard shell and then through the soil. That’s the gap experience.   If we water the soil where the seeds are planted we will create a nourishing environment for the seeds to grow.  That’s what gratitude does – it nurtures the environment in the gap that allows for your new consciousness to emerge into experience.

So, looking for things to be grateful for and focusing on those things, and celebrating those things, creates the energetic current that allows for the manifestation.  This is an important, golden time where you want to reaffirm the realizations you have come to regarding your limitless nature and your worthiness of all the good you can imagine for yourself.  You want to water that soil with as much positivity and affirmation as you can.  Practicing proactive gratitude does that.  It gets you to a place where you realize, “yeah…there is a lot of good in my life – look at all this good!  Look at that beautiful sunrise. Look at the abundance all around me.  I’m so grateful for my health…for the things that do work well in my body.  I’m so grateful for my wonderful, supportive friends, and my spiritual community that nurtures and supports my growing awareness.  God must love me…the universe must indeed be for me!”  So you get to a place where an abundance of good just feels natural to you.  And when that happens, the manifestation of your new consciousness is immanent.  It’s a heartbeat away.

Secondly, a very important thing we want to do while in the gap is to surround ourselves with positive people…life-affirming folks who are themselves on a path of spiritual growth.  This is a sensitive time.  We can so easily be influenced by others’ energetic vibrations during this time.  So negative, doubt-filled people are not the ones we want to be hangin’ with when we’re in the gap.  We want to surround ourselves with only those who will affirm our growing awareness with us and can help us see the good that’s in process of manifesting.

So practice proactive gratitude daily, choose who you hang with carefully and remember that this is a fertile time. If you tend to it wisely, you will reap the rich harvest of your new expanded awareness.

Be mindful while in the gap!

Gratitude Grows Joy in our Life

Cultivating gratitude nourishes the seeds of joy in our life. Many people have transformed their lives just by the practice of gratitude alone.  Here’s why: the practice of gratitude rewires us from deep inside.  Where before we were wired to pay attention only to what wasn’t working, to what was wrong, what was missing, we are now wired to notice all the beauty and abundance all around us. We notice all that is right with our lives and all the little miracles that happen every day. We spend more time living in the present moment, appreciating our life. It’s a huge shift in our energy…our vibration is raised and we connect with our inner joy.

That seed is nourished and it grows and begins to bear the fruit of joyful abundance, love, success and fulfillment.

 

A Day in the Life with Gratitude

The practice of gratitude can do so much more for us than simply making us feel good and raising our vibration so that we will attract more good into our life.  The practice of daily proactive gratitude can also help us identify, and keep in the forefront of our minds, what is sacred in our lives.  Gratitude activates the sacredness of “ordinary things” and “ordinary moments.” When it is our intention to seek out and find things and experiences for which to be grateful — when that is our primary focus — it helps us identify the sacred and connect with it!

Let’s take a “day in the life” of Sam to see how this works.  Sam has a habit of focusing on what’s wrong and what’s missing in his life.  It’s 6:30 AM Monday morning and Sam’s alarm goes off at.   His first thought is, “Oh God it’s Monday!  I wish I could sleep in, but I’ve got to get up, get dressed and get to work.  Ugh.”  And he just sort of goes through the motions like he has blinders on, so he doesn’t notice anything other than…the pants he wanted to wear today are dirty. He grumbles.  Then when he gets downstairs to grab something quick to eat he sees he’s out of his favorite cereal. “Must have been the kids.”  Then when he gets into his car he realizes the gas tank is on “E”.  His wife didn’t fill up the gas tank after she drove to the lake yesterday! “Errr!”  Then, of course he’s seeing that there are more and more cars on the road every day, and he’ll be stuck in traffic for awhile.  So he stops to get a coffee at Starbucks and is immediately frustrated when he sees the extra-long line.  By the time he gets into the office he’s seething with negativity.  No wonder no one says “good morning” to him when he walked in.  Finally when he arrives at his desk he finds a huge report laying there that he’s been asked to analyze before the end of the week.

His whole week is shot before it really begins.  Where are the sacred places and moments in that person’s life?  Where’s the joy in his life?  Maybe he can find some on the weekend, but probably not since he has developed a habit of seeing only what’s missing and what’s wrong.  Not a life worth living really, is it?

Now let’s say this same person has indeed developed a practice of proactive gratitude. Let’s look at his Monday morning from that perspective. 6:30 AM…his alarm goes off.  His first thought is, “Oh Thank God I had such a good sleep, I think I only woke up once in the night.” Then he looks over at his wife sleeping next to him and he’s immediately grateful he’s sharing his life with someone. Then he thinks about his two kids who are just waking up to go to school and he’s grateful they are safely in their beds and are healthy. Even before he gets out of bed he realizes how blessed his life is.  Then when he goes to his closet and notices his favorite pants are dirty he continues to look around and notices a pair he hasn’t worn in a long time because he just hasn’t seen them.  He feels good when he puts those on and they still fit.  In fact, they look pretty good. Then, when he goes downstairs and discovers his favorite cereal is gone, he’s grateful to discover some English muffins in the refrigerator. He hasn’t had an English muffin in a long time and is grateful to rediscover how much he enjoys it.  Next, when Sam get’s into his car and discovers he’s out of gas, he thinks about his wife using the car to go to the lake and feels happy knowing she had such a great time with the kids there…which also allowed him alone time where he could watch back-to-back football games uninterrupted. This just fills his heart with more love and gratitude as he fills the tank.

Then on his way to work he’s feeling so grateful to live in such a beautiful part of the country where there is beauty on both sides of the road the entire way to work.  As he is forced to slow down because of all the traffic, he just has more time to enjoy each individual tree and be grateful for it. He soon feels the sacredness of life all around him.  Then when he stops at Starbucks and gets in the long line, he strikes up a casual conversation with the guy in front of him. And because his positive attitude is so infectious the other guy’s mood begins to brighten.  As they talk they find that they work in the same industry, have clients in common, and end up trading contact info which may turn into increased business for both of them.

Sam’s now humming with this high vibration as he walks through the office doors. People can’t help but notice and as he greets them with a big smile and a “good morning!” He’s just shared his positive energy with everyone there which in turn, affects their day, which in turn ultimately has a positive effect on the business…which keeps him employed.  Finally as he sits down at his desk and sees the gigantic report — he’s tempted to get discouraged and feel overwhelmed, but he remembers to take a moment before he reacts.

What is also sacred is that moment between what happens to us, and how we react to it.  It could be just a split second, but if we take that time and remember it can be a sacred moment…it can be the moment we allow the Divine to enter our thinking and our feeling, and ask that wisdom to inform how we respond to what is happening to us.  That, in and of itself, can transform our lives.

So, Sam does this and gradually sees that in this report he’ll find useful information there which will somehow bless him and others, all the while his skills and expertise will be exercised for the good of all concerned.  And he begins to tackle it with gusto.  And he’s filled with gratitude generally about being employed, knowing that some of his friends are not.

Sam’s day, and entire week is certain to reveal more and more blessings as he moves through it, because his high vibration is attracting more and more good.

Two different experiences rightSame circumstances…same events…but what a different experience!  All of this is possible because he has trained himself to seek out and find the blessing in all situations.  He’s trained himself to begin each day by looking for something to be grateful for.  He has trained himself to see possibility.  Which life would you want to live?

Most would say the second one!  And you can have that life right now, just by making the decision to practice daily proactive gratitude…by making the decision to look for the blessings and see the sacredness in “ordinary” things…every day of your life.

Practical Mysticism

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

This was Thomas Merton’s accounting of a mystical experience he had in 1958.  Quite the experience, right?  And quite the realization that accompanied that experience!  

But mystical experiences do not need to be this intense to cause a shift in our awareness.  In fact, they can range anywhere on a wide spectrum of, at one end, the real intense, cosmic-consciousness kinds of experience, and on the other end, the more subtle experiences.  More often than not, mystical experiences are much more subtle, and sometimes go unmarked.  Let’s call these subtler ones “opening our mystic-heart.”

You might have a mystic-heart experience in those moments where, say…you and a loved one share a deep connection…a true “heart-moment” and you lose track of time and place.  Or, in a moment you are looking at the sky – the sunset maybe, or just clouds moving across the sky and you are in a state of awe…again losing a sense of location and time.  Those moments become transcendent.  It could also happen in those moments where you drift off and catch just a glimpse of another dimension…or some insight comes to you directly from Source, and you suddenly have a strong realization about something.  Those are all mystic-heart experiences, and what we’re really experiencing in those moments is our natural state…the Divine beings that we are.   It’s this “being human” thing that fools us into thinking that we are locked in the limitations of time and space and that we are just a physical body.  This is not our natural state.  We’re just here for awhile expressing in this human dimension….and hopefully bringing our love and sharing our gifts with the world.  That’s really what we’re all here for, right?

Wayne Teasdall, explains what mysticism is in his book, The Mystic Heart: “Mystical wisdom enlarges our understanding and gives us access to the experience of ultimate reality – to the principles governing existence.  Mysticism grants us a picture of the totality; it is the most precious wisdom we have.”

We want to cultivate these mystic moments and encourage them, because with each mystic-heart opening, our vibration is lifted and we’re a little freer of the shackles human limitation.  With each mystic-heart moment, we become a little more awake.

But the how still remains, right?  How do we achieve this? How do we cultivate cosmic-consciousness?

William Blake gave us a clue when he wrote:  “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is—Infinite.”

So it’s not about trying to achieve something at all.  It’s about cleaning the gunk from our windows so we can see reality!  It’s about purifying our vision so we can see our oneness with the Infinite.

Well, there are ways we can “cleanse the windows through which we see the world.”  And, by the way, these are not just my methods…these are across the board, time-tested methods going all the way back to the Tao Te Ching, and to St. Teresa, and to Evelyn Underhill who wrote the guide to “Practical Mysticism” back in the 1920’s. This is just my personal interpretation of it.

1. Open your heart wide.  Spirit resides within all of nature and It also resides within the center of each and every one of us…even if some are doing a good job of covering it up!  Therefore, search for the Spirit in everything and in everyone.   You’ll find it if you keep looking.  Also, allow God to love you.   The Infinite loves you so totally and unconditionally…exactly as you are right now.   You are beloved.  Let it in.  Allow yourself to feel loved.  Let it fill your heart and soul.  The following affirmation might be helpful to do in the morning, and right before falling to sleep at night.

I consciously open to the Cosmic Power of Love within my heart.  I see Spirit in everything and everyone.  I accept that God loves me totally and completely right now.  I am a beloved, Radiant One.

2.  The second way is to: Get comfortable with the questions…with wondering.

William Martin says in The Sage’s Tao Te Ching.  “Some see answers as strong and questions as weak…But I tell you the truth: The happy person is not the one with all the answers.  Each new question is an affirmation of the delight of living.”

Do you want more delight in living?  Then begin to get more comfortable with not knowing the answers to everything.  Become more comfortable with the unknown, the undefinable edges…the why…the mystery.  That’s what mystics do.  It’s the same root word.  The arrogance that comes from one thinking he or she has all the answers is what leads to fundamentalism, and rigid institutions, and politics.  Lots of people get hurt over one side thinking they have all the answers.   You see this playing out all over the Middle East.  You see it here in the halls of congress.  Each side thinking they know what’s best for the country…and for everyone.  And they won’t even pretend to listen to what the other side has to say.  What comes from knowing all the answers to everything?  Pain and suffering.  Those are extreme example of course, but we all do it on a smaller scale.  We think we know the answers to a lot of things.

So, we want to get more comfortable with wondering.  We can practice this by wondering how the Divine will unfold in someone’s life – maybe someone you’ve been thinking about, or praying about — and not thinking you know what would be best for them.  Or, wondering how big the universe is..how expansive is it?  Or, what it’s like in the afterlife.  We can also wondering how we can be both human and Divine at the same time.  And don’t look for answers!!  Just be in the question.  What an amazing mystery life is!

3.  Refuse to pre-judge anything. This is such a habit with us human beings.  We do it so much we don’t even know we’re prejudging.  Someone asks us if we want to go see a movie and we say “no, I don’t like genre of film, or that actor.  I won’t see it.”  Or we’re invited to a party and we say, “no, I won’t know anyone there and it would be awkward.”  Or we refuse to try the Uni Sushi on the menu because it looks weird and we’re certain we won’t like that.  Or worse, we refuse to talk to, and get to know someone, because of the way they’re dressed or the way they talk.  We’ve prejudging him or her.  Whenever we’re tempted to say no, or turn our backs, or refuse to participate in something, it could be a clue that we’re pre-judging.  So, see if you can catch yourself, and instead stay open.  “Hmmmm, I don’t really know what this experience will be like, but I’m not going to pre-judge it.  I’m gonna remain open and see what gifts there are in it for me.”

4.  We want to put aside the endless classification of things.  And also refuse to accept anything for what it first appears to be.  This tendency to classify and categorize happens more the older, and more knowledgeable we get.  We look at the world and when we see things we don’t really see them.  We see a name in our head.  Oh, that’s a cardinal. Yes, I know what that is.  The male is bright red and the female is more brown.  Rather than…oh my God!  Look at that gorgeous bird!  It’s so brilliantly red!!  It’s exquisite!!!  We do this with flowers too.  Those things that have just come up my garden are iris’s – black irises.  The first time I saw anything like that, it took my breath away.  It’s impossibly deeply purple! Now, that I know what they are, I can dismiss them with a “oh that;s a black iris.”   And the fragrant smell that’s in the air right now in North Carolina? That’s honeysuckle.  I’d never smelled that until I came here, and when I did the first time, it was like heavenly ambrosia.  I thought I died and gone to heaven. Then someone told me what it was, and now, it’s like…oh yeah, that’s honeysuckle.

There’s something about naming and classifying something that just sucks all the magic out of it.   How can we get back to the magic of it? How can we regain that sense of awe we had when we first encountered something we didn’t know what it was?   I was thinking about this the other day.  One way I thought of is to have a baby.  With a new baby you get to re-experience life all over again with it…everything is awesome.  They are in total awe of everything that first year.  But alas, that doesn’t last. They quickly grow into teenagers! And then, everything is boring.  So, not a good plan.

Teresa of Avila told her pupils, “I do not require of you to form great and curious considerations in your understanding.  I require of you no more than to look.”  I think she meant to gaze with a new and cleansed vision on the same things we’ve been looking at and dismissing with a, “oh, well that’s a (fill in the blank.)”  What we really need to do is to transcend the intellect…that part of us that wants to classify and categorize.  And then get into a state of gratitude for what we’re encountering.  This is how we can experience things as if for the first time.   Gratitude is how we get into direct communication with life itself…and experience the miracle of the creation, on piece at a time!  It takes practice.  (See other articles on this blogsite on how to practice proactive gratitude.)

5.  Finally…and here’s the tough one…surrender.  Surrender to Spirit.  That means, surrender that all-mighty ego!  And it often feels like death.  But it’s only when we surrender our little self (die to the small self) that the Infinite has room and can move in, fill us with ecstatic love, Divine Life Energy, and enfold all our activities in the one unifying “cosmic context.

This surrendering rarely occurs completely all at once.  Those it does happen to this way often experience a “dark night of the soul.” For many mystics, their illumination came at the very end of their “dark night of the soul.”   Some of you may have already experienced that.

For most of us though, we can do this gradually and gently.  Nothing wrong with that!  We can encourage a gradual letting go of the ego and surrendering to Spirit by affirming every morning:

I step back and let God lead the way. (Or,) I step back and let Love lead the way.

And then check ourselves throughout the day.  Is that my ego responding to this, or is it the Love within me?   If it’s the ego, we have the freedom to then, choose again.

In the moments when we can keep our heart’s open, and see things anew, and refuse to pre-judge anything, and soften our rigidity and let our Love lead the way….in those moments…we open to and can experience the Mystic Heart!

It’s No Mystery

It’s no mystery that practicing proactive gratitude transforms our lives.  There’s no big esoteric, metaphysical phenomenon happening here.  It’s really quite simple.  Here’s how it works…

You make a conscious choice to pull your attention away from all that’s going badly in your life, and begin to focus on all the great stuff…things you normally overlook, or take for granted.  As you do, your mood begins to brighten.  As you continue to do this, your attitude begins to change.  You’re happier, more open to experience and more vibrantly alive.  As that happens, the people around you begin to respond to you differently.  They want to be around you. Your relationships begin to improve.  Your friends want to introduce you to other people. They want to share things with you.  You start finding out about opportunities you never would have known about.  Rather than being pessimistic about your chances with people and/or opportunities, you are suddenly more confident and willing to step out of your comfort zone.  Before long, more opportunities….the right opportunities…begin to come your way.

No mystery…just the realization of the natural law of cause and effect.

Don’t believe me?  Try it for a week and see for yourself.  You must have a commitment to the practice though.  Begin in the morning as you’re getting out of bed — find one thing to be grateful for. Then when you’re brushing your teeth, find another.  As you’re having your coffee, find another.  When you’re in the shower, find another thing to be grateful for.  As you’re heading out the door, find another.  And on and on throughout the day, continue to look for things to be grateful for.  When people around you are finding every reason to complain, you be the one to find something in that situation that is a blessing.  Others may pooh-pooh you at first, but stay with it.  They’ll begin to want to hang around you.  Just being around you makes them feel better, and they won’t even know why.

Keep this up every day for one week.  Then, please share your experiences with me and all the readers here.

I’m so grateful for your willingness to try this!

Gratitude and the Box

The reason a consistent practice of gratitude is such a powerful tool to transform our lives is because it connects us to our Source.  It connects us directly to the Infinite Organizing Power of the Universe (whether you call it God, Infinite Intelligence, Universal Love or whatever.)  Gratitude helps us emerge from the little box we’ve been squeezing ourselves into and opens our eyes to an amazing world where we are loved, where there is harmony and order, wholeness, and limitless good.   

These boxes come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are labeled “I’m a victim” others, “nothing works out for me” or “I’m not good enough” and still others “I’ve got to push real hard to make things go the way I want them to.”  What is your box labeled? We all have them.  It’s simply a part of the consciousness of humanity. Some of us have made our boxes really elaborate!

 But when we begin a practice of gratitude, we begin to peek out of our box and see that, in fact, there may be beauty all around us. We begin to notice that there may be an underlying order and harmony in our lives. We begin to understand that we may, in fact, be Sourced by the Infinite and that Source is limitless.  It’s not always completely obvious…we may have to look real hard to find it. Sometimes we can see only the possibility of limitless good.  Or we see it working in other’s lives and we open to the idea that it may actually be possible in ours as well.

And then sometimes we discount it, rationalize it, disown it and go back into our little box.  After all, it’s comfortable in there.  We’ve grown accustomed to it.  We’ve spend our whole lives there.  So it takes effort to open the box again, and then still more effort to keep it open.  That effort is a daily practice of proactive gratitude (click here for a reminder of what those steps are).  When we practice daily proactive gratitude we are keeping the box open.  We are “owning” the good all around us.  As we do this, we are actually activating the possibility in our lives of that which we had only caught a glimpse of while we were peeking out of our box.  We are activating the possibility, so that that possibility becomes a manifest reality.  The possibility of opportunity becomes opportunity. The possibility of harmony becomes the reality of order and purpose in our lives. The possibility of limitless good becomes the reality of increased prosperity.

Once that possibility has become an actuality in our lives…once we see and live in “Divine grace”…we can no longer go back into that little box.  We’ve outgrown it for good. We are now living in gratitude every day.  And that’s when magic happens.

It all start though by just peeking out of the box…noticing the blessings, noticing the good in our lives…celebrating the good, and documenting the good by writing it down daily.  That’s our practice. That’s the practice that liberates us from the box and allows us to experience an amazing life.