Spirit-Led

The month of December is here.  Another year is winding to a close.  Crazy!  Time is moving so fast these days, my brain can barely keep up.  2010 did not bring big changes the way 2009 did.  I think that is for the best.  There is only so much a girl can handle.

My 2010 vision board was filled with spiritual pictures representing prayer, meditation, and contemplation.  My 2010 tarot card was The Hierophant which to me represented a spiritual teacher (whether finding one or being one).  I found a teacher in my friend, Mildred and I did become a teacher to the kids at church.  To an extent though, I let my ego take the wheel back this year.

I meditated less this year then I have in the last three.  What had been a disciplined twice-a-day-every-day practice became a sometimes event.  I let anxiety creep back in at a level I haven’t felt in years.  I spent a lot more time with my thoughts on the future or the past then on the present moment.  Basically, I lost sight of the most important resolution I made last year.

In the coming weeks, I should receive in the mail the letter I wrote to God last year at church.  We do this every year so that we can see what our intentions were and whether or not we allowed them to manifest through us.  I’m pretty sure my intention was to simply let God lead the way.  I wanted to surrender fully and become an instrument.  It’s the same request I made and released into the fire at the Goddess weekend back in June.

Ever since my busy summer, I’ve found that things have been too noisy inside my head to hear that still small voice of God.  I get ideas and I don’t know where they’re coming from.  Is it my ego trying to make something happen or God encouraging me to let something happen?  I really can’t tell!  There was a time when I wrote so assuredly about listening to inner wisdom and knowing the right thing to do.  These days, I don’t seem to know anything.

At the beginning of this week I sat down to meditate.  These days when I do that a thousand thoughts bombard me, but in this particular session I found ample silence to hear something.  It was a pretty clear message that I should have written down because right now I can’t quite recall it.  The gist is that I have tuned God out lately and it’s time to tune back in.  I need to listen with my whole being in each and every moment.

Committing to a spirit-led life isn’t a one time promise you make, it is a daily, hour to hour, minute to minute practice you engage in.  At the end of this year it is ever clear to me that I must re-engage!

Why Are We Doing This Anyway?

Mandy's Chapel at Camp Weed where the Uniteen retreat was heldThe first weekend of October, I went on a Uniteen retreat.  Uniteens is the program for middle-schoolers in Unity churches.  My church just got our Uniteen program started up again and I am one of the leaders.  I must admit I had doubts about going on the retreat.  I have been and will be traveling a lot more than I usually do and this trip at moments felt like too much.  I ended up going though and it was AMAZING!!

From the moment we broke out into our “family groups” and I got to know some of these kids I was just in awe.  These kids were the most open, respectful, fun, confident, compassionate, and well-adjusted people (I said people, not kids) that I’d ever encountered.   The weekend was absolutely joyous!  Out of about 70 kids I only noticed a handful that were not completely with the program (which is all about love) and even those few kids had moments of being loving.

When I think back on my own church experience in middle school, I don’t remember this kind of loving atmosphere.  I remember never quite fitting in and moments of wanting to crawl under a rock or out of my skin.  On this retreat, even the kids who “didn’t quite fit in” were thrilled to be there and seemed to love every minute of it.

In Unity we stress the power of making time for meditation and silence.  We also encourage looking for God everywhere and in everyone.  Kids are introduced to meditation in the Unikids program and those practices continue.  With that being said, of course meditation was part of the retreat.  On Saturday night we did something called a Night Walk.  We were instructed to link hands and walk the path through the woods in complete darkness and silence to the chapel.  I was thrilled by this.  I just knew it would be such a powerful spiritual experience.  Instead, I had three kids behind me who just wouldn’t stop chatting.  I shhhed them 3 times before giving up.  I wasn’t going to break my silence to actually talk to them.

As we neared the end of our walk one of them said “why are we doing this anyway?”  It was then that I realized I hadn’t been spending the weekend with miniature enlightened souls, but kids.  The fact is kids are kids and they just want life to be as fun and easy as possible.  True spiritual understanding doesn’t typically come until you’ve been in the game for a very long time.  We can’t expect our children to receive divine revelations during meditation or to even understand the true meaning of scripture.  But we can give them tools that can help them navigate life and perhaps lead to spiritual growth later on.

What I love about Unity kids is that the tools they have been given seem to make them better able to take responsibility for their lives and choose positive ways of living and being.  They carry no guilt, shame or burdens from being told they are miserable sinners.  What they do carry is a divine light within them that they are well aware of.  They know that what they put out into the world comes back to them.  It seems they at least shoot for putting out love.  They know that their thoughts matter and they seem to think in a positive manner.

I often wonder about the relevance of church and Unity in my daughters’ lives.  My girls love to go to church, but is it really necessary?  After attending the retreat, I realized I should and will make it a priority for them.  Mark pointed out that maybe the kids were good because they come from good families (Unity people are pretty awesome).  That is true too.  I could teach all of this stuff to my girls at home but there is something really powerful about being with a group that proves this kind of love, acceptance and positivity really does exist!

Breathing Instead of Bailing

In case you haven’t noticed, I trashed the “What No Longer Serves You” post.  Since I decided to return here to this space I didn’t want my bailing out post to be hanging out there anymore.  Obviously, bailing wasn’t the answer to my search.  It reminded me more than anything that I’m still searching and it sucks to not be able to talk about it.  It seems a bit silly, but I realized coming here gives me a sense of purpose.  It exercises my craft but more importantly it exercises my soul.  When I take my reactions and my feelings and I put them into words and out into the world I learn more about who I am and where I’m going.

I physically bailed on this blog on August 27th when I published that last post, but I mentally bailed at the beginning of the summer.  At that point I lost touch with friends (such as Musing Madman) who challenged me and helped guide my spiritual development, I stopped making time for silence, and I let my mind carry me to the future far too often.  I spent oh so many hours dwelling on goals and desires that I fear will never come to fruition.  I let the fears grip me to the point of paralysis.  I let gratitude slide and my breathing become shallow.

I mention breath because it really is a metaphor for life.  Shallow breath usually comes along with anxious feelings and anxious feelings usually accompany shallow thoughts.  When you breathe deeply and consciously, you can’t help but live that way too.  I’m reading the Paul Ferrini book, Silence of the Heart, now.  It begins with a few pages about breath.  It points out that whenever you are upset you can stop and observe that you are not breathing (or not breathing deeply).  If in that moment you take a few deep breaths you will feel some relief from that angst.  “One who breathes is not afraid or overwhelmed by what life presents….”

I hope that this post is the first of many.  I hope I can find solace and inspiration in both the silence and the breath.  I know I have experienced great peace from them in the past.  Yet in the moment, returning to that peace is a challenge that should be easy but strangely isn’t.  I took a minor detour on my path to self-discovery.  I lost myself a bit in fear.  I wanted answers that are simply not ready for me yet.  Now I’m easing my way back to surrender…

Human Behavior

I’m laughing a little as I title this post because there is a Bjork song with the same title and Mark teases our dog by singing it to her.  Lilly is now pretty much conditioned to switch into attack mode as soon as she hears him belt out a note of it.  There was also a period of time where the girls would watch the video on YouTube and Bella found it quite frightening.  In most areas Callee is more like me then her father except when it comes to teasing.  For a long time Callee would say “Hey Bella you want to talk about human behavior?” and Bella would immediately get scared.

But quite frankly, human behavior is scary and I’m not talking about the Bjork video.  We’ve been watching the series The L Word on and off for the last year.  After finishing season 2 we decided it was too cheesy and melodramatic, but ultimately we got reeled back into it and just finished season 3.  During season 3, I just kept thinking and asking “is this how people really are?” The show is focused around a group of women who are all either Lesbian or Bi-sexual.  The real heart of the show lies in their human-ness and the way they react to their life experiences.  Sometimes it is just plain difficult to watch…which is what brought me to my question.  Are people really like these characters?

What seems to dominate the character’s lives is FEAR.  Almost every move they make comes from that place.  One character sees her girlfriend flirting with some men and she runs over to her ex’s house and spends the night.  When the truth comes out she apologizes by saying that this is just who she is.  Her MO is to be an insecure womanizer…change isn’t in the cards.  The girlfriend is terribly hurt but instead of communicating and forgiving she seeks revenge by also cheating.  You watch these two characters react, react, react until they have completely undone all the good between them and have no relationship left.

Another couple has a daughter and are deciding to split up.  They scream, yell, and curse at one another as the little toddler sits on the floor and watches.  They each threaten the other with getting sole custody of the little girl.  They can’t seem to find any peace, they are too busy blaming one another for the demise of their partnership.

In this show the characters make all sorts of decisions trying to make themselves feel better.  Each one seeks outside of themselves.  When faced with the loss of a friend they cling to the nearest warm body and make irrational commitments.  At times when meeting their fears they give up, too unsure of their ability to follow through.  When people challenge them they defend themselves with anger as their uniform.  They let every emotion lead them down a different road.  And still in the midst of the chaos, it is never their own choices that led them there…always someone else’s fault.

I do believe that the show illustrates what a lot of people are really like (although with some added Hollywood drama).  I know that I’ve been like this at various times in my life.  I have been guilty of seeking revenge.  I’ve been guilty of making assumptions about what other people were thinking or saying in respect to me.  I’ve been incredibly insecure at times.  I’ve been clingy after experiencing a loss.  I’ve lashed out at people who love me.  I’ve been a quitter and at times even a little self-destructive.  I’ve looked to the world to fix me.  And I’ve probably, at least on an occasion or two, blamed someone else when it didn’t.

Luckily I now have a tool that helps to lift me, even if in brief intervals, out of the madness of my humanity.  Because I seek within and find moments of silence, I’ve learned to see my old patterns and break them.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an MO that stays with me forever.  Life is about growth and change that cannot be found outside of us…

Dolls

I have been thinking about this post for five days.  I haven’t sat down to write it because for me it was a huge click, one I’m not sure I can put into words or really explain.  I’m sitting here now, my hands on the keys, sort of hoping it will write itself.

Through the internet I’ve met some great people.  They are people I’d never come face to face with or have the opportunity to get to know otherwise.  One of those people I’ve mentioned before and you met last week through his click story.  I knew the first time I read Opinionated Gift’s blog that he was going to be one of my teachers.  I did not, however, think it would be through his fascination with a TV program.  So I’d like to dedicate this post to him and thank him for my most recent spiritual click that came b/c I watched the first season of his favorite show.

As you know one of the great spiritual teachers that I study, read and feel guided by is Joel S. Goldsmith.  I’ve been reading his books for over a year now and in nearly everyone of them he talks about Reality.  He says that the only thing that is REAL is God.  And God is not some outside force looking down upon us and intervening in our lives on occasion to either punish or reward us.  He tells us God is the moving force in everything, that the very core of our being is God.  We are an extension of God.  We are God in expression.  That is what is real about us.  When our bodies die, that part of our being lives on.  Our very essence is God and God is eternal.

As he delves further into this idea he says that everything else is more or less hypnotism.  It’s real to us only because we believe in it.  We are programed to believe that we are people with bodies and brains and problems to solve.  We have created this illusory life with people who love us and hate us, help us or make our lives more complicated.  But if a bomb dropped on our heads tomorrow all of that would be gone.  But would we be gone?  Some people say yes, if a bomb drops on my head life stops…the end.  But Joel (and me) say no!  In that moment the veil is lifted and we are infinitely aware of the hypnotism we have been released from.  In that moment we see and become the Reality which is Spirit.  It is the very definition of Omnipresent and Omnipotent.

So I’ve been reading this and intellectually buying it for over a year now.  Yet, I had no way of illustrating why I believe it or why it makes sense to me.  That is until I started watching OG’s favorite show, Dollhouse.  In this show there is a large corporations that offers people the opportunity to make lots of money and escape from the pasts that are haunting them.  They sign a contract and the company erases their memories and life.  Once they have signed themselves over and become “actives” they are rented by ultra-wealthy clients to play roles in their lives.  In some instances it is prostitution, in others it is something completely different.  But the clients “order” their perfect “Doll” and the scientist in charge fills the order and programs the person with a whole new identity.  When the “actives” wake up they really believe they are this new person.  In between gigs they are wiped clean and walk around like pleasant zombies not really feeling or expressing anything.

In a lot of ways this is how we are in our lives.  We define who we are by what we tell ourselves and what loved ones and society tells us.  We believe we are stuck in these roles and this is what life is.  The catch is we can change our lives and the fastest way to do that is to connect with what is REAL.  We don’t have to die to understand our eternal nature.  If we are quiet and attentive enough we can hear the small voice and acknowledge the intuitive tugs.  If we stop being so busy and take the time to listen we can be “in this world but not of it.”

Again, Dollhouse has done an excellent job of illustrating another point.  Echo is the main character and is, of course, an “active.”  The difference with Echo is that the hypnotism hasn’t fully worked on her.  The part of her that is REAL sends her flashes of memories and insights.  She uses this information for good in her roles.  She evolves in a way that none of the other “actives” evolve.  She is connected and in touch with her essence.  I haven’t watched the whole series but it seems that she has a big destiny and a crucial role.  Her intuition, soul, or spirit within is leading her down the right path and she is following without truly knowing why.

Our lives on this earth are programs.  I think a lot of it comes with us before we are born.  I like to believe that we are given the opportunity to create the program before we enter.  Once we are born the programming comes from a lot of different places.  Our families, schools, media, laws, history, friends, and governments add to our programming.  None of it is set in stone though.  If we seek the inner voice and quiet the outer voices we may find a destiny that we couldn’t quite imagine.  If we are brave enough to put the programming aside and follow the guidance, even without definitive answers, we may create a better or more positive life experience.

*I haven’t seen season 2 of Dollhouse.  I let another Dollhouse fan and friend read this and although he didn’t give me any clues as to what happens to Echo in season 2, it is possible I am completely wrong about her.  So if you’re reading this and you know that, please no spoilers.  In either case, my interpretation of Echo helped me better understand Joel’s teachings.

Thank You Alanis

I used to listen to Alanis Morissette with my best friend in college.  I never owned the CD (the one with You Oughta Know on it) but Kristin did and we were together enough that I burned out on it as if it was my own.  All of those songs were so great and Alanis got extremely popular and then very overplayed and disappeared for a while.  She came back a couple of years later with this new song called Thank You.  It was catchy and I sang along to it although I never truly got it.  The line “Thank you India” threw me the most.  At the time I didn’t know the significance of India and why people would travel there.

What I now know is that some people travel to India to visit ashrams and study with Gurus.  A true Guru is a mystic that has reached enlightenment and the realization of their oneness with God.  They will often have a following of individuals, much like Jesus did with his disciples.  But you don’t have to be a follower of any particular Guru to visit an ashram in India or elsewhere.  You can go just for the experience of spending days or weeks in sacred silence and  studying yoga or meditation.  The idea of taking a trip like this to India is very appealing to me.  But since it will be years before I am able to participate in that kind of experience (probably after the girls are adults), I carve out my “India” time where I can.  I spend 20-40 minutes a day in silent meditation, I attend retreats and workshops (I even got to go to an ashram here in Florida and meet and listen to Yogi Amrit Desai), I do Yoga and chanting from time to time, read lots of spiritual books, and do my very best to notice God working in my life.

Last weekend I visited Kristin and she told me that she’d listened to Thank You and that it reminded her of me.  She played it for me.  It had been years since I’d heard the song.  I got chills listening to it.  Below are the lyrics and I’ve put in bold letters those that spoke to me the most.  To me, life is about raising your consciousness and opening up to what is real in this life (which in my opinion is God and Love).  You learn how to do this through every experience, good and bad.  That’s what I get from this song….

How about getting off of these antibiotics
How about stopping eating when I’m filled up
How about them transparent dangling carrots
How about that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you
How about grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

The moment I let go of it was
The moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it was
The moment I touched down

How about no longer being masochistic
How about remembering your divinity
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How about not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence