HOW TO BLOOM

 

I don’t happen to believe that people who are truly spiritual are even aware of their spirituality. And here I am writing a spiritual blog, stumbling from one lesson to the next, inviting you to come with me. But, I think that’s the point. In sharing our stories of imperfect stumbling and discovery, we are sharing the most vulnerable and important part of ourselves, and are exercising our spirituality.

So much of our spiritual lesson is loss, and dealing with it. We are bulbs stuck in the dark, yearning to see the light and open. But, when we finally blossom, the light is glaring, and we feel exposed, and maybe afraid. There are prettier blooms out there! We have left the safety of the dark soil behind.

That is loss. Life requires us to shed the things we can’t carry or that belong to someone else on our journey.

Sometimes, we’re presented with the necessity masquerading as an option, to shed people, or bad habits, or a way of coping with life that is fearful, critical, or foolish. I personally can fill in the blank with 100 different things that don’t get me anywhere spiritually or anywhere else. They’re stupid habits, that provide momentary comfort, that are ridiculously hard to drop! It’s even more difficult to opt out of certain relationships in the realization that you have changed beyond them and they just don’t want the new you—they want the old version. All of these things or circumstances are innocuous in and of themselves, but they can eat up other options, even a calling.

Sometimes, the lesson is more brutal, as someone who occupies a chamber of our very heart is ripped from our lives. How to make sense of the brutal pain? I’m watching someone I love go through this now. Why did it happen? No mortal can answer the question.

I don’t think God is doing something to us or taking the things we lean on to make us grow. I think we can’t help but grow, if we let the tears out and let them water us like rain, letting our hearts open to the sunlight that’s still there, and always has been. 

DON’T FEAR THE THRESHOLD!

sunflowerblog

God has opened a lot of doors for me in my life. But, not a single one of these opportunities looked like a door at the time. They looked like failure. They looked like defeat. They looked like unbearable conflict and loss, eventually driving me from that particular situation to find something more peaceful. They looked like sudden physical limitations, springing from nowhere, that forced me to limit and change my focus. They always looked like crisis and change. And pain.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I see that these events that I perceived as horrible at the time, were answers to my own prayers for direction, deliverance and other things. They were thresholds.

My entire writing career resulted from being fired from a job as a lawyer. I had been charging down the legal path for decades at full tilt with success, which blinded me to the unpleasant changes happening in my life and my personality. Law is a great venue for believing the fantasy of control: if I just work harder and longer… what I want or what my client wants will be mine.

I had two very young children at the time. My daughter was 4 and my son was 2, and I never saw them. They were in bed when I went to work in the morning and in bed when I got home. Their father had to take care of almost everything, while I worked sometimes until 4 am answering e-mails, worked on holidays, worked on weekends. I was in pursuit of “ success’, and was going to crack this code, if I just worked harder.

One day, I was at work, of course, and I got a call from our nanny, frantic because she was at the hospital ER with my son, and they would not let her check him in. He had fallen down a flight of stone stairs. He was ok after some emergency surgery to put his teeth back in his mouth, and fortunately I was able to be there with him through this ordeal he doesn’t even remember.

This was a huge signpost that I missed. But, my subconscious was working on me. I did not want to give up being a parent to be a professional anything. My love for the job never really returned after that, and it was just a matter of time before my employer saw it. It was humiliating and painful and horribly unjustified I thought at the time. After all, who worked harder for these people?

It was merely a threshold God was asking me to go through. I began writing in journals to get my myriad emotions out. The emotions erupted in the form of poetry. It took all of these events for me to remember that I had originally wanted to write. I finally remembered that I had started writing poems at age ten.

God had returned me to who I really was, and I had fought him every step of the way.

I started a poetry blog, which led to a book, which led to this blog. I may have been a lawyer by trade, but in my heart, I was always an artist, with the soul of a poet. God had returned me to myself by erecting a threshold, and creating circumstances that urged me to walk through.

In retrospect, he was removing obstacles from my path, which a large portion of the time was I. My ambition. My will. My hunger for approval.

What a God! …Every God direction is road- tested. Everyone who runs to him makes it…You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm.

Psalm 18, Message Version.

 

We don’t suffer because of what happens to us. We suffer because we struggle against it. That struggle is based on what our thoughts tell us about where we are versus where we should be. But our thoughts lie to us. All the time. Our minds lie to us, because we want our will instead of God’s, and we tell ourselves stories justifying it.

 

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

When it seems that I have tried everything and am beating my head against a brick wall, I am. There is no door there anymore. It’s scary, but all I need do is pray, look for the prompts, and take the next step in faith. It isn’t the end. It isn’t a death. It is only a threshold. Don’t fear the threshold; fear the cage that forms around us when we refuse to go through, struggling and fighting what is, and therefore, what could be.

 

IT’S HOLY WEEK! GET DOWN WITH YOUR ” BAD” SELF.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do not fear mistakes, there are none.

Miles Davis

This is my favorite quote in the world. What liberation lies in those words! Are there really ” flaws” or mistakes for someone submitting their will to God, every day or even more often? Let’s unpack this a little further.

As a reformed guilt and unworthiness addict, I’ve looked back on my life, and come to the opinion that these words are quite literally true. That is not to say, that there are no sins or missteps, but even my biggest missteps were not only not fatal, but led me back to Jesus and my true path.

I love Emmet Fox’s definition of meekness; as in: blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

He describes this rare quality as the mental attitude of being teachable. To me, that is the definition of true humility, not focusing on my unworthiness to the exclusion of all else.

Well, if we are to be teachable and humble, then presumably, there are lessons to be received and learned, and we will be given ample opportunities to practice. It’s an Internship that never ends. Aren’t we to assume that our infinite Maker knows these missteps/ lessons in advance and intends them for our ultimate good, according to his divine timing?

If I focus on mistakes and flaws in a self- shaming way, other people become my God, because they have the power to label my behavior or me a mistake. But, if I view these “ flaws” and “ mistakes” as lessons I get to learn with my God right there, teaching me, it’s a positive, expansive experience. I can rejoice in my progress, however small.

birdy

Don’t put your spiritual growth in someone else’s hands. We all need trusted advisors and friends who will tell us the truth, but none of us needs our own personal Chorus of Doom. Sadly, there are folks to whom this is their whole job in life: pointing out others’ flaws and mistakes. You know whom I mean: The Oh! Bless your heart! You are so crazy/ naive/ inexperienced/ wrong/ But, I’ll pray for you Folks. Turn your back and run as fast as you can. As Marc & Angel Chernoff point out in their marvelous book, 1000 + Little Things Happy Successful people Do differently, we are the average of all the people we hang out with.  We can’t help but be affected by people who only see our flaws or can’t see that we aren’t failing at all.

 

Interesting to me is The Talmud’s interpretation of the verse ” if a leader has sinned.” The Talmud interprets ” if” to be derived from the word ” fortunate”. The Torah values truth above all else.

If our leaders establish a precedent for truth, we would be fortunate to have them as…role models, and would not hesitate to admit when we’re wrong. Truth sets us free to correct mistakes.

Schlomo Ressler

 

And the freedom to correct our mistakes and move beyond them, seeking God’s guidance, is that spiritual flowering others call growth.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means so much more than what it says on the surface! What we perceive as awful missteps that trigger shame may be inspirational in the eye of their beholder. They may be beautiful in the eye of our Creator, because we were obedient to what we perceived as his will:)

A spiritual journey really is a terrible thing to waste.

Me. 

Happy Easter and Passover !

 

 

 

7 WAYS TO TAKE FLIGHT IN YOUR OWN LIFE

flyingbirds

 

 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…

Lift up your eyes all around, and see

and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult.

Isaiah 60

 

Image supplied with permission by David Eyestone

 

Thank God my friends don’t treat me like I treat myself!

My friends somehow see the me I don’t see.

Why do so many of us find it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves?

Where do we get the idea that driving ourselves relentlessly towards perfection and flogging ourselves for our failings is the best way to go?

I had to finally break wide open to finally let up on myself and discover that gentleness works. The above quotation is the beginning of the cure for this spiritual malady because it stands in stark contrast to the lie at the root of it all: I AM NOT ENOUGH.

Here are some tools to take the weight off your wings:

 

1) Let yourself take off and soar and realize that the belief that it is wrong to do so, is lie #2. If a loving God created you, then hobbling yourself is denigrating something that God made and loves. Quit judging yourself. It isn’t your job. Fire your inner critic and run him or her out of town.

2) If it is true that nothing can separate us from our loving creator, it must also be true that there is no mistake I can make that will separate me from Him or the flight plan he has set out for me, and if that is true, then a host of wonderful things follow:

  1. a) There is no such thing as too late. There is no such thing as too old. There is no such thing as technologically obsolete. There is no such thing as too young or inexperienced. These things do not apply to your Plan. You can be what God wants you to be, because you already are. He doesn’t make mistakes.
  2. b) God loves me unconditionally and he made me. If that is true, then he has compassion on me. If that is true, then I am deserving of compassion and gentleness from everyone including myself. This concept was so alien to me; I had to teach myself how to do it, with the following exercise. This may seem ridiculous, but this daily practice has transformed me by teaching me compassion and love for myself: I face myself in the mirror every day, look myself directly in the eyes and say, Baby girl, God loves you and so do I. I see you. I hear you, and I will never let you down again.

In other words, I treat myself as a loving Higher Power would. If I was created by something divine, I have a purpose, and am worthy of love and affection and joy right now- not when I finally have mastered Everything.

3) Dare to suck and forge ahead. Redefine success as daily progress, not perfection. I haven’t seen Shakespeare’s first poem, but I bet it probably sucked. Those on their deathbeds regret the things they never dared to say or do, not the things not performed perfectly.

Remember the 10, 000 hour rule. I read a book recently that pointed out that behind each and every singular, supposedly unique success story like Bill Gates or Steve jobs was a common trait: each of these geniuses and stellar successes had spent 10,000 hours practicing and honing their craft before they reached critical mass. None was truly an overnight success story.

So keep going, keep practicing, keep singing, playing, writing or programming. It is impossible to fail as long as you are still learning, growing and trying.

Embrace joy instead of perfectionism. The two are almost mutually exclusive. Leave perfection for living saints, dead martyrs and maybe Martha Stewart. Psychotherapy is expensive and treating yourself like a machine will eventually require a major tune up.

4) Ask God instead of beating yourself up. Even if you don’t believe, ask God to change you, instead of using willpower to try and change yourself. In any event, it takes the fear out of your head, and puts it someplace where you can forget it, pause, and shift your attention to what is great in the present moment.

5) Want to be popular and well loved? The kindest thing you can do for your fellow man is be gentle with yourself. If we are rigid and unforgiving of ourselves, imagine how we might judge others. In any case, the constant ” I am an undeserving worm ” recitations are a pain to be around and, as the philosopher, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.

6) The past is just a story we tell ourselves (from the movie, Her) The fact that you weren’t perfect in the past doesn’t mean that you aren’t exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Regret is premature. We don’t know how everything is going to work out. Miracles are the things that happen outside of your carefully prepared plan. Take a forensic look back on your life, looking for God’s breadcrumbs. How many “ mistakes’ and detours turned out to be blessed course-corrections?

7) If God never wastes a hurt, as I was told when I was in a great deal of pain, then maybe C.S. Lewis was right. Pain is the megaphone of God. Might as well ask, what is the gift or the lesson in this situation?

I will never be old enough to stop making mistakes, and if I look back with objectivity, those ” mistakes ” were the catalysts to growth, and a necessary change in direction. Labeling myself unkindly is libeling myself, because it isn’t true. Clipping my own wings, hurts me, doesn’t help anyone else and doesn’t glorify my Creator.

 

 

GUILT. (DON’T SHOULD ON YOURSELF!)

nightwithmoon

 

You don’t have to suffer continual chaos in order to grow.

John C. Lilly

 

It’s so unseemly when we should on ourselves! Yet for almost all of us, except for perhaps those on Capitol Hill, guilt seems to be the Great Common Denominator. We torture ourselves with it, sabotage ourselves with it, spend millions of dollars in therapy because of it, and warp our religious heritage because of it.

I spent more than half my life dragging my own personal Old Testament Tribunal with me everywhere I went: finding myself guilty and choosing my own punishment, until I escaped because I learned I was treating the wrong things reverently.

One day recently, I was watching television. During the holidays, certain commercials play on what seems like a continuous loop. I saw the one showing the abused and neglected kittens and puppies, with the sad, pleading eyes. Only $19.50 a month would save them. “ I should save them!” I thought. I felt like a personal failure for not taking all of them home. Before, I knew it, I was in the middle of a second commercial for the Wounded Warrior Project. Only $19.50 could pay for a caretaker for one of these magnificent warriors. “ I should do this! They fought for my freedom!” Before I could even reach for my check book, a third commercial appeared about becoming the benefactor of a starving child in a far- away country for only $19.50.

By the time the three ads finished running, I was convinced that the Pergo floor my chair rested upon would open up and my immediate descent to Hell would begin. I felt guilty that I was confused as to which charity I could afford to give that money. I felt guilty that I actually assessed my budget and whether it would support this monthly commitment.

Then, I remembered that I am supposed to tithe 10 percent to my church, and if I gave to these charities, I would not be able to do that. The bonus of legalism had crept into the mix in the span of 3 minutes. Guilt had led me down a labyrinthine rabbit-hole to a place where God would be mad at me for giving money to the less fortunate, because to do so, would lessen my tithe. I had should on myself until I couldn’t see straight. I had confused compassion for those who are hurting, with being the source of that pain. Did God send these confused and guilty feelings? No. I generated them in my own spinning little brain in response to a thing created by humans, designed to move other humans to gratitude and compassion.

 

What is the remedy for this dire state of affairs? A little bit of irreverence– enough to gain a fresh perspective.

Guilt is a serious subject because I take myself way too seriously. It stems from the delusional and arrogant belief that I should be perfect and be all things to all people, and when I don’t meet this standard, I fail.I realized that I suffered because I chose to punish myself with guilt. It was an albatross I was voluntarily strapping to my back.

I finally got that guilt is always a choice and that shoulding on myself isn’t ever divine. It is exactly what the expression implies: a decision to denigrate and punish myself for human failings. A loving Creator, who created me to be me, would never give me the near constant message that I was not enough. I no longer believe that God has a smite button he longs to hit whenever I fall short of the mark. I believe I cause most of my own suffering, with my beliefs and attitudes, and that God does not want me to take on his job of judging or punishing. I believe my Higher Power rejoices in my progress and the fact that I am imperfect and fearful enough to constantly seek him and his guidance. He rejoices in forgiving me.

Guilt does not lead to spiritual growth or transformation; it prevents it. It keeps us regretting the past and fearing the future and robs us of peace and the ability to fully give ourselves to others in the present. True remorse and a desire to obtain forgiveness for our wrongs brings us closer to our Creator, while guilt causes us to run and hide from our Creator and those we may have wronged, because we haven’t acknowledged these mistakes and decided to make amends and do better. God’s grace is inexhaustible.

 

For we are his workmanship, created … for good works, which God prepared beforehand. Does this sound like a creature to be should upon?

Ephesians 2:10.

 

 

MISTAKES. WHAT IF THEY DON’T REALLY EXIST? BOOK EXCERPT

butterflyDSC_2085Image provided with permission by David Eyestone 

What would you regret, if there were no mistakes? Whom would you feel bitter towards if there were no mistakes? Would it be easier to forgive yourself or others? What risks would you take? What dreams would you follow? Where and how would you spend your money?

Consider this for just a moment: What if the age of parables and miracles did not end with the writing and compiling of the sacred texts that now are the bible? If all things are possible for God, isn’t this possible?

 

I believe we are all living parables to show and illustrate the wonderful and sacred variety of personhood, and to show with our far- from- perfect- lives, that any experience, any emotion, and any tragedy can lead us or others to divine transformation.

Jesus used parables in the Bible to allow each person to hear what they needed to hear from the story. What if your life was just such a parable? What if your life served to teach and inspire others, perhaps many others, mistakes and all? Would the things you consider mistakes still really be mistakes? Would you still regret them? Would it be easier to forgive yourself for not being perfect? What if it was those very “missteps” that made you relatable to others and made them want to learn from your experiences? If God knows what we are going to do before we do it, then is anything a mistake?

 

If my ordinary life is a parable, then a whole host of wonderful things is also true: It means that God alone has authority over my life and its ultimate purpose. It means that every life is both essential and sacred because it was designed by God to enlighten and transform others. And that means that every emotion, every roadblock, every misstep and challenge we experience is as sacred as any temple, no matter how it may look on the outside. Sacred because it may be the very thing that lifts someone else out of despair, and sets him or her on their own path. What mortal man can say otherwise?

Who can predict what will be the transformational catalysts in another person’s life? It’s all in the angle. How can we know where a person is going, if we don’t know where they have been? If what I see of another person is simply based on the angle and light (i.e. my interpretation), then I don’t have the whole picture.

 

It’s worth considering.