I remember hearing from a dear spiritual teacher of mine, many years ago, that summer was the time for personal spiritual growth work. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what the time was for any other season, so that must mean that it meant something meaningful for me. 🙂 I know that I was curious as to how that was supposed to work; at the time my young daughter was in school and summer meant that, as ‘The Mom’, my job description included scheduling her time while she was out of school for the summer holidays. How was I supposed to concentrate on my spiritual growth when the organizing aspect of parenting was in full swing in the summertime? At the time I assessed that since my wise and wonderful teacher didn’t have children, she may not have had the full picture as to how full summer was for parents!
(printed in the New Spirit Journal March 2007)
In addition to the stress of our everyday lives – family, jobs, finances, we also witness world events like hunger, AIDS, war, and natural disasters. It can be overwhelming to our emotional, physical and mental well-being when we consider all that is going on in our lives and the world. As a Certified Intuitive Counselor, I work with many people who are trying to deal with feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and helplessness caused by events in their lives or in the world.
(printed in the New Spirit Journal October 2008)
If you believe a spiritual life is part of being a balanced person in this world and are already on your path, you know cultivating compassion is part of the journey. There are a number of great books out there on the value of compassion, but integrating a pragmatic approach into your everyday life often feels much more complicated than the books might lead you to believe.
There’s a wonderful story that has been attributed to the Native American Cherokee Indians. The story is about a boy who notices that his grandfather wears a beautiful pendant that is a wolf with two heads. When he asks his grandfather what the two headed wolf pendant means, his grandfather stops what he is doing and sits down with his grandson. He tells his grandson that life has many difficult times. The grandfather tells the boy that when these times occur it is as if there are two wolves battling inside him. One is very angry, aggressive and acts out of fear. This wolf wants to fight, control the situation and be right all the time. The Other is very compassionate, collaborative and acts out of love. This wolf loves life, is respectful of self and other and lives in peace. These two wolves are always in conflict. The little boy asks, “Dear Grandfather, which wolf wins?” And the grandfather replies: “Dearest son of my son, the wolf that wins is the one I feed’.
Some people hate life the way it is and try to change the world and themselves so they will feel better. Those of us who have been around the block a few times realize that we can’t change the world. This is a given; it is as easy to change the world as it is to hold back the spring flooding of a river’s delta! All the energy that goes into changing something that is most likely impossible; whether it is the world or our lives’ dismantling events is really wasted energy. If we can relax (use less energy) into accepting life as it is and ourselves just the way we are, we have more energy at our fingertips to engage in areas of our lives that have more potential of change. Another common waste of energy is the belief that it is helpful to push our pain away or try to get rid of it, Rather than pushing the pain away, what if you put that energy into being your authentic self which is inclusive of being congruent with your standards of integrity?
Many of us spend half of our lives living the life we were told to and the other half learning how to let that go and become who we really are. To create a fulfilling life, we need to understand who we are, how to get what we need, and what gets in the way of that process. Birthing the self means bringing that authentic self into being.
When I wrote the title of this month’s essay I noticed how I wanted to put a qualifier before the word ‘times’; like difficult, or challenging or bad or chaotic. But if I do that, I’m aware that I am hedging myself into a an attitude of interpretation and that hedging is probably not doing these times any justice.
Let’s go radical this Valentine’s! Let’s make it a priority to ask OURSELVES to be our valentine. Why should we do that? This is where my thoughts are going this Valentine’s Day.
One of the foundational components (or, as I am apt to coin them, core threads) in my work with people is the idea of radical self acceptance. An ordinary motivation for people to choose the work of self inquiry is wrapped up in the packaging of a low self esteem. It is a common occurrence to see that someone is their own worst critic and the challenge of the work of personal growth is an attitude adjustment from self judgment to self acceptance. Another common motivation that draws people to their personal spiritual work is the deep desire to serve; to serve in a way that allows service to be offered easily without an attachment to an outcome. Detachment from outcomes comes only as a result of a deep acceptance of one’s self. I can only love fully if I accept myself. By loving myself and having compassion for all of me, I am better equipped for loving others.
I don’t know about you, but I know that I have made many New Year’s resolutions over the years. For myself though, both personally and as the professional observer I am as a spiritual director, there’s a standard hitch that generally affects all New Year’s resolutions: we are lucky if our excellent intentions last out the month of January! Why is this and how can we optimize our success at achieving the goals we set?
Here we are heading down the path to Winter’s Solstice which will happen on December 21st. In my view all the holiday celebrations center around the age old reality that this is the dark time, the time that the sun shines on us the shortest and we have the darkness to enfold us.
For many of us this is a time we dread. If you live in the north, you have the very real reality of how it gets dark very early and stays dark so much later in the morning. You might look at this as problem, a time where you get depressed and tired all the time. It might be a time that you actually hate, wishing and wanting it to go away; to have the light days of summer come around again, NOW!