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I am a minister.

That statement has an air of unreality about it today.

I worked for nine years to get to this point.    When I began nine years ago I didn't think I would end up here.  Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT have minister on my list of things to do.  I hated church, disrespected organized religion, and really thought that the entire system of religious authority and religion needed to be overhauled and revised.  I wanted no part of it.  When I began this journey nine year ago, I simply wanted to enlarge my spiritual life.  I was depressed, and not in a very good place.   I'd been sober for over 15 years and I felt a bit stuck.

So I decided to begin taking classes at my local Center for Spiritual Living (CSL).  I'd taken other classes, and they helped, but there was always something about them that ruffled my feathers.  One class was very valuable in teaching me a great form of meditation, but when they began talking about guarding ourselves from all the dangerous influences when we meditated, I was out of there.  I didn't want a lifestyle where I felt I had to be on guard.  CSL seemed to fit perfectly.  It was spirituality without the New Age woo woo trappings, and without the dogma of more traditional religions.  I loved it, and from the first class I knew that I was going to pursue becoming a Practitioner.

Being a Practitioner in CSL means being a type of coach.  The work interested me, and I knew it would help me.  It takes about two years of prerequisite classes to become eligible for Practitioner classes, which is a two year course of study.  That was the first four years of my journey.  I became a Practitoner and was happy as a clam.  I converted a room behind my photography studio into an area to meet clients and started a life coaching business.

Then the calling began.  They say being a minister is a calling, that no one would ever choose such a thing.  I know it's not like that for everyone, but it is for me.  But when the calling begins, that inner nudge that just won't go away, in fact it gets louder and louder, you have to heed it.  Then the outer nudges began.  People began asking me when I was going to begin ministerial school.  My grandmother came right out and told me I had to go, and offered to pay my tuition.  That's a big deal in a Masters Degree program.  So I heeded the inner and outer calls, and I went.

For almost 5 years, I studied, attended classes in person at the Holmes Institute campus in Santa Rosa, attended other classes via phone and video conference, studied a ton of books, wrote a ton of papers, did about 20 internships, went on student retreats, and immersed myself in my studies.  I used mentors and prayer partners and other Practitioners as my coaches, and opened myself up to all that the program had to offer.

It changed me the same way the 12 steps did back in the beginning of my recovery:  at a very deep profound level, from the inside out.

I got my Masters Degree in June, I successfully paneled and received my license as a CSL minister the first week in August, and yesterday, I was unanimously elected to be the new Spiritual Leader of the Center for Spiritual Living Carson City.

As one of my minister friends likes to say, "what a trip."

So off I go on this journey of being a minister.  I'm excited about my counseling practice, since I've graduated I've been blessed to have a whole new batch of wonderful clients.  And this part time job at CSL allows me to do the others things I love to do:  speak and teach.  So, I'm counseling, speaking and teaching, and life is pretty good!

Now, I'm in a position to help you.    Are you getting a nudge to do something different?  Perhaps it's more like a big push?  Or maybe you are ready for a change in your life?  Do you pay attention to those calls when they come?  Or do you simply push them aside?  What is up for you today?

 

I just began writing my first book.

Yeah, that's a big deal.  Writing a book has been on my list of things to do for a very long time, but school, earning a living, play and a multitude of huge changes meant that particular item on the list has gone undone.  Until now.

I've settled in from all the changes, graduated from school, and now have the time to do some of the things on my to do list.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the title of my book will be (tentatively) Courage to Change.  This came to me in a dream a few weeks back.

Since I made the decision, and then began to act on that decision, all sorts of "coincidences" have popped up.  NOT!  There is no such thing as coincidence, but I've discovered that when I make a decision based on love, not fear, and then act immediately on that decision, I am shown very quickly whether it is the right thing to do.  It feels right!  I'm going for it!

So...you can expect to see a lot of blog posts about change as I move through the creation of this book.  Here is a quote I just came across.  It is from Julie Tallard Johnson, writing in The Zero Point Agreement:

"... we have a tendency to respond in a patterned and limited way to our circumstances. Therefore, we often remain blind to the possibilities inherent in the situation. In these impoverished circumstances, blinded by our habitual view, when there is a strawberry or even more to reach for, we still don't see it. This is because our own perspective and history limit us.... Our past agreements and beliefs and our supporting assumptions based on our history prevent us from taking risks, reaching out, and making something remarkable happen."

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What is your definition of success?

Is it wealth?  Or maybe perfect health?  Or maybe a full and fun family life?  Maybe your definition of success is a great career.

Traditional definitions of success say that it is the completion of a goal.  Well...yes, there's that.

But I invite you to consider that all of those things are simply the result of what true success is.

I invite you to consider that true success is, instead, a much deeper thing.  True success is about a deep appreciation for all of life.  I say that success is about being able to appreciate and have gratitude, no matter what.  It is easy to have gratitude for a beautiful sunset.  But is it easy to appreciate that sunset when you have a life threatening illness?  Or when someone in your family does?  Or when  you've just lost your job?

I'm not advocating going into spiritual bypass and ignoring life stuff.  Things happen, and we have a responsibility to take care of them, and if there is a loss involved, to do a grieving process that will serve us and allow us to move on without anger or remorse.

What I'm saying is that success is more about our attitude than anything else.  Yes, take care of business, but have an attitude of gratitude while you are doing it.  Yes, cry if you need to, but maintain that inner feeling of peace while you are doing it.

The Law of Attraction says that we attract what we most think about.  I don't know about you, but I make it a point to think about things that make me feel peaceful inside.  I take care of business:  I cry when I need to, I get angry when I need to, I process my losses and celebrate my gains, but through it all there is an  underlying peace, a deep well of gratitude for what is.

It wasn't always like that.  Life didn't used to be about gratitude, no matter what.  It was about getting, about guarding, about staying safe, about beating the competition, about looking good according to society's definition of good.  That did not feel very successful.

I'm successful now.  Am I independently wealthy?  No.  Do I have perfect health?  No.  Does shit happen?  Yep, in spades.  But through it all, I am grateful, at peace inside, and I have faith.

How did I get there?  I call it spiritual practices.  A combination of meditation, introspection and regular time in nature.  And regular consultations with coaches and mentors.

If you are successful, great!  Whatever your definition of success is.  But if you don't feel like you are successful, you may want to consider making a change in your life.  I can help.  Contact me to schedule a free consultation to find out how.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that last weekend I went and participated in a ritual that was a culmination of 9 years of study:  I got a Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies.

Before the graduation ceremony began, we were told by a very wise man that we would wake up the day after the ceremony and everything would be different.

He was right, although it began for me the evening of the graduation.  I feel a need to confess:  I was plagued with waves of total and complete unworthiness.  I do not know if that ever stops, but I do know what to do with it.  Sunday morning I made a phone call, and we stopped that nonsense  right then and there.  (if you've ever doubted the power of spiritual counseling, you can use this as an example)  Today, on Monday, I am filled with excitement for the future.

I was asked on Saturday, what's next?  Well, what's next is I get to dive into it!  I've been wanting to expand my private practice, I've been wanting to design and facilitate more workshops, I've been wanting to speak at more places.

So that's what's next!  I'm excited!  I hope you are too!

 

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This is going to be a long post.  I'm not sorry, but I did want to warn you.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up, and after my morning meditation and spiritual practices, shower and breakfast, I will finish packing and take off for a celebration on Saturday in Santa Rosa, California.

I'll be getting my Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies.

It is, quite frankly, blowing my mind.

It has been a nine year journey to that celebration on Saturday.  When I began that journey, I had no clue where it would end.  I am reminded of a saying that I will distort for purposes of this little story:  A Masters Degree wasn't even a gleam in my eye when I began this particular journey.

I just wanted to be happier.

I began my journey by taking classes at my local Center for Spiritual Living.  I was in a place in my life where I knew that there was something more.  I wanted to discover that something more.  So I began taking classes.

I really just wanted to be happier.

I ended up gettting what is called a Practitioner's License.  It's a type of spiritual counselor.  That was a bonus.  I was happier, and I set up a private practice, helping other people to be happier.

Life went on.

Then, the opportunity to go to Holmes Institute presented itself.   Holmes Institute is a multi-faceted sort of program:    graduates not only get a Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies, but they are trained to be spiritual leaders, with emphasis in spiritual psychology, philosophy, science and religion, of all types.  And, graduates become ministers with Centers for Spiritual Living.

I didn't even like church when I began attending Holmes Institute.  Now I give a talk every Sunday, in a Center for Spiritual Living.

And I'm getting a Masters Degree.

I'm still happier.  And more at peace.  Each class I have taken has changed me at a fundamental level.  And I've discovered that something more.

And I'm getting a Masters Degree!

Wow.

What is making it even more "wow" is the celebration itself.  I have people in my life who are driving for five hours to Santa Rosa to watch me get this degree.  I am honored, surprised and truly humbled by that.

There are nine of us graduating.  The choir and band at this celebration numbers at about 80.  I expect it to be a packed house at the Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa, which seats about 500 or so.  I like a big party, and this promises to be one of the biggest.

The emails have been flying back and forth the last few weeks.  The wonderful people who have been putting this thing together and us, the nine graduates, have discussed seating protocol, processional protocol and punctuation protocol. We've revised wording on the program, and been admonished to be there promptly for rehearsal.

My dad, a retired CSL minister, is presenting me.  Yesterday they sent him an email telling him he had three minutes to do so.  Imagine giving a minister three minutes to say anything!  This should be fun.  The other ministers presenting the other graduates also have three minutes each.  I know most of those ministers.  Like I said, this should be fun.

I've done my nails, all 20 of them.  I got some pink highlights put in my hair, and my hairdresser gave me a tiara to wear during the ceremony.  I bought a special dress to wear under my robe.  I don't typically wear dresses.  I'm trying to decide whether to wear my cool cowboy boots or a more comfortable pair of shoes.  My fiance made the cowboy boots, I love them, but I'm going to be on my feet a long time on Saturday.

This is important stuff!  Never mind the nine years of study, or the academic achievement that no one else in my family has ever done, or the incredible training I have, or deep and profound connection I have to god or the something more I've discovered.  It's all about the shoes....and the pink hair....and the tiara.

Actually, it's about the whole package.  All of it.  I'm so excited!  I'm so grateful!  I'm so honored!

Wow.  Just wow.

If you've read this far, thank you!  If  you feel moved to write a comment I'd love to read it and respond to it.....after this incredible weekend is over.

Bye for now!

 

Today is a big anniversary day for me. On this day in 1996, three things happened: I closed escrow on my house and moved in, and my divorce was final. Two years later, in 1998, my mother made her transition.

I am reminded of this quote I recently found in a book I am reading: "when transcendence of our personal history takes precedence over intimacy with our personal history, spiritual bypassing is inevitable. To not be intimate with our past-to not be deeply and thoroughly acquainted with our conditioning and its originating factors-keeps it undigested and therefore very much present, regardless of our apparently capacity for rising above it. Instead of trying to get beyond our personal history, we need to learn to relate to it with as much clarity and compassion as possible, so that it serves rather than obstructs our healing and awakening." From the book Spiritual Bypassing, by Robert Augustus Masters.

What this means is that I can look back on all the events in my life, having achieved intimacy with them, and know that they were not something to move beyond, but something to relate to with compassion. In this way, they are the events in my life, but not present in a way that causes me grief or distress. I feel only gratitude for these events.

As a spiritual coach, I was originally taught that, unlike in traditional forms of counseling, the story is irrelevant. Now I know the story is important, but only as a beginning. We must become intimate with our stories in order to release the energy around them. And in order to become intimate with them, we need to explore them with compassion, not blame, shame or guilt. We simply hold a light to them and expose them, thus allowing the healing to begin. Denying them only gives them more power to continue to hurt us. Becoming intimate with them allows us to acknowledge them and then make informed choices: we can either base our current decisions and thought processes on what happened in the past (filtered through a very inaccurate memory bank) or we can base our current decisions and thought processes on who we are today.

I am grateful that today I have become intimate with my past, and that I base today's decisions and thought processes on today, not the past.

KAL_1496Mother Nature can serve as an excellent metaphor for us.  I used to sit on the east shore of Lake Tahoe and watch the coming storms.  They always came from the west, and from my perch, I could literally see those big storm clouds approaching.  I knew that when they arrived, they would bring wind, lots of snow, and sometimes changes in the landscape.  One storm brought winds so high that the boulders along the shoreline were budged, many storms meant fallen trees.  No matter what, the storms always passed, and then I would have to clear the snow, wait for the electricity to come back on, and move on.

Our lives operate much the same way.  Storms come, and we are left to either react or respond after they leave.  I choose response rather than reaction today, how about you?

Reaction is that knee jerk, unthinking thing we do as a result of storms.  Reaction is usually not pretty:  it is full of melodrama and frustration.  I call it "banging my spoon on my high chair."

Response, on the other hand, is usually dignified and carries with it a certain strength and power that is unshakable.

How do we get to response rather than reaction?  There are a couple of spiritual practices that I have found invaluable.  One is introspection.  There is a very good reason that every faith and every mystery school and every wisdom tradition and every spiritual path tells us to know ourselves.  It is powerful stuff.  And yes, I do know how scary that can be, to simply go within and sit with yourself and discover.  While today I don't find that journey scary, it was at first and I didn't do it alone.  I had a guide who was very supportive in holding the light while I dug.

The other spiritual practice I have found very helpful is to pause when agitated.  This means that when something happens, I don't say anything, I don't do anything.  Except retreat.  I retreat to my safe place, which now is within me.  I take a look, I grieve the loss, I use my guide to talk it over, then I respond.  You can bet that after doing my own work, my response serves me much better than a reaction.

If you have some clouds in your life, take a step back.  Do the inner work, and be all means use a guide if you need to.  Coaches and mentors are all good for this.  Allow yourself to grieve, take as long of a pause as you need, then respond.

And if you need a guide, call me!

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© Image Angels

Those clouds in the photo can be a metaphor for the clouds in our lives.  As a photographer, I seek out clouds, for those incredible rays of sun and beautiful sunsets would never happen without them.  In much the same way, our lives would not be happening the way they are without the clouds.  If you acknowledge and express gratitude for the clouds in your life, it can open up a whole new world of gifts, just like the rays of sunshine bursting forth in the photo.

Take a look at the clouds in your life, not with regret, shame or blame, but with gratitude and forgiveness, and you will allow your light to shine in much the same way as the clouds in the photo allow the light to shine.

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photo credit:  ISS Expedition 12 Crew, NASA (the photo is of a space suit, filled with old clothes. This image was created in 2006)

"Leap and the net will appear."

This quote by Julia Cameron is one of my favorites.  It reminds me of my own self imposed limitations, and what I have to do to remove those limitations.

You may identify with experiencing road blocks of prevention on your journey.  Perhaps it may seem as if everywhere you turn the answer is no.  Or perhaps it may seem like you just can't get a break.  Or maybe, just maybe, an opportunity for change is being presented to you and you don't want to take it because, well, no one likes change, right?

But I look at these times as times when the net has appeared.  I am being told to leap, to think outside the box, to be and then do something different.

If I am getting a no answer everywhere I turn, then I am asking the wrong questions.  If I'm not getting a break, I may need to look at my right to be a victim.  Harsh words, I know, but when coupled with compassion, they are also very freeing.  And if an opportunity for change is presented, this is the time when I can take a step back and ask why this opportunity has been presented?  Is it really time for a change?  And if so, what will the change look like?

The net comes from my own inner work, specifically that inner work that connects me to a god of my understanding and inner work that allows me to truly know myself.  When I do this inner work, I can trust those calls to change, because I know that on the other side of uncertainty is the wide open vastness of life, catching me in all its beauty.

When I first saw the photo which accompanies this post, I thought "how wonderful that humankind can now do those kinds of things."  Yes, I tend to be a bit naive and trusting at times.  When I read the caption and realized it was a stuffed space suite which burned in the earth's atmosphere, I knew it would be a perfect illustration for this post.  We should never leap without a net.  Yes, it will appear, but only when we do the inner work. There is a power and a force for good that is activated when we do the inner work.  That power and force for good is the net.  Activate it now, and then take your leap.  And let me know where you land!

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Setting and reaching goals is a bit like searching for and seeing a rainbow:  first you have to know the rainbow is there, then you have to do what it necessary to find it.  With goals, first you have to explore:  what do you want the goal to be?  Is is achievable?  Is it true for you?  Does it exist?

And then, once you find the rainbow (achieve your goal), what next?  What's in the pot at the end of the rainbow?

Here's a little primer on setting and achieving goals.

  1. 1.  The first thing to remember is that goals are achieved from the inside out.  A good example of this is that New Year's Resolution you set about three months ago.  How are you doing on that?  If you aren't doing so well, don't worry.  Simply setting a resolution rarely works.  It's a very shallow inside step, but it doesn't go far enough.  Go further by setting your consciousness.  What is your ultimate goal?  If it is losing weight, for example, don't just set a resolution to lose 30 pounds.  First ask why you want to lose 30 pounds.  Is it because someone told you to do so?  If so, that's not a very effective motivator.  Is it because you've been told your entire life that the ideal weight is 100 pounds?  Ask yourself if that is really realistic.  Search within to find the real motivation for wanting to lose 30 pounds.  If you want to lose 30 pounds because that weight is limiting you in some way, or for a legitimate health reason, then go for it.  Then go deeper.   Going deeper means visualizing what it would mean to lose that 30 pounds.  Imagine yourself needing new clothes, because the old ones no longer fit.  Imagine yourself having more energy, and moving with greater ease, perhaps breathing a bit better, maybe having lower blood pressure.  Imagine how good you will feel weighing 30 pounds less.  Imagine enjoying that low fat meal, knowing how much your body loves it.  Notice I didn't say to imagine how bad you feel now, or how tight your clothes are now, or how you can't walk up the hill without stopping to rest.  Keep it positive.  We really are what we think and embody, and we really manifest what we think and embody, so embody positivity, not negativity.  Then align your thoughts with that vision.  If the thoughts don't match the vision, change the thoughts.  If you have a lifetime of thinking a certain way, this won't happen effortlessly, but it can be done.  It may be a matter of changing one thought at a time, over and over again.
  2. Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done, or you aren't doing it right, or you've been 30 pounds overweight your entire life, what makes you think you can do it this time?  Or anything else negative.  That may be their perspective, but it says more about them than you.  Remember the sage advice from Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements:  "don't take anything personally."
  3. Do find at least one person to support you in your journey.  This may be a friend, mentor or coach.  Call on them regularly.  Set an appointment to talk at least once per week for the duration of your goal achieving journey.  Follow through, and let them know how you are doing.
  4. When discouragement sets in, repeat steps 1 through 3.

When the goal is reached, when you have the pot at the end of the rainbow, celebrate!  Give yourself a pat on the back, shout out your achievement, and take a moment to rest in that achievement, just as you would take a moment to simply observe the rainbow.

The bigger the goal, the more you will have to use these tools repeatedly, and the longer you will want to take celebrating the achievement before moving on to the next goal.

What have your experiences been with goal setting?  I'd love to hear them!