I believe life was meant to be enjoyed. You know that phrase in the Bible, where it says to be as a child? I take that to heart. No, I am not speaking of hanging on to immaturity. I am speaking of enjoying life as children do. They move through their days in awe and wonder and joy. Sometimes I look at my life and the awe almost brings me to my knees. I move through the day and appreciate the beauty of whatever is surrounding me. I feel joy that I can do the things I like to do. A friend told me I could have fun inside a paper bag, and I can. That is joy. I have the ability to find the joy in anything because I have cultivated that joy. But sometimes finding the joy becomes a bit difficult, and that’s what this post is about. It’s about the reasons why you might also be finding it difficult to find the joy, and what to do about it.
I know why it is difficult for me right now to feel the joy. Let me see if I can explain it to you. It has to do with a phenomenon called group consciousness. This phenomenon states that since we are all connected, part of a great whole, the trend of our thinking will affect others, and their thinking will affect us. I learned about this phenomenon while studying a spiritual and philosophical way of life called New Thought, which developed by this very phenomenon of group consciousness back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All of a sudden people in separate parts of the world were all speaking and writing about the same concepts without ever connecting with each other. One of the concepts those early New Thought pioneers were speaking and writing about is Oneness. They were convinced that we are all connected on very deep levels, part of a great One. Ernest Holmes was one of those pioneers and created a New Thought teaching called Science of Mind. It is one of several, and it just happens to be the one I follow and teach. Ernest Holmes is the one who came up with the term group consciousness, but he isn’t the only one who has studied, and strived to prove, the concept. Science has proved it. I will never forget the excitement I felt when I took my first quantum physics class in grad school and discovered that what Holmes had been saying had been proven true by science.
Quantum physics is one of those sciences and they have proven it in repeated experiments. If you don’t believe me, look up the observer effect.
Another item of proof: you may have heard of the hundredth monkey effect. Way back in the 1950s some scientists did a study and discovered that if a certain learned behavior reached 100 monkeys, all of a sudden that behavior jumped across the water and monkeys on nearby islands, who never had physical contact with the first group of monkeys, began doing the same behavior.
One more, this one from an author named Terry Patten, in his book called a New Republic of the Heart: “The popularity of ideas like the “tipping point” or the hundredth-monkey stories are not simply tall tales. As already mentioned, Ken Wilber has pointed to the claim, rooted in the historical evidence of the late 1700s and the American Revolution, that when 10 percent of the population grows into a genuinely higher structure of consciousness, the nature of public agreements and power exchanges can be restructured according to a higher set of (postmonarchical, constitutional, democratic, meritocratic, free-enterprise) rules.”
Unfortunately, that phenomenon works both ways, higher consciousness and lower consciousness. If 10% of the population is living a lower state of consciousness, guess what? We are going to experience evidence of that. Such evidence looks like anger, judgement, close mindedness, rigidity, polarity.
I believe we in America are in a lower state of consciousness right now, and those of us who are aware of such things and believe in group consciousness feel it.
It may feel like grief. I’m sure you’ve felt grief before. All those things you feel when you experience a loss. Things that Elizabeth Kubler Ross identified as stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know I’ve felt all of these in the last couple of years. I bounce around these feelings like one of those giant beach balls being tossed about by people who don’t seem to care where the ball lands or what, or who, it bounces off of.
Now, you may be thinking that this all sounds sort of victimy. To be subject to the consciousness of the populace? Yep, victim. Fortunately, we are at choice as to how to respond to this. We can choose not to buy into the polarity, the judgement, the rigidity, the anger and the close mindedness.
If you are anything like me, you might wake up some mornings just feeling wrong. No apparent reason for it. Just wrong. There is a reason, it’s the group consciousness. Here’s where we can, and should, choose differently.
I believe we have a responsibility to choose differently. Because to give in to the group consciousness means to accept the shit that is going on, and that I will not do. And neither should you. If you believe that life is meant to be lived in joy, then you will also take responsibility for being one of the hundred monkeys. Or one of the 10%. Do not buy into the group consciousness. Refuse to live from a base of fear. Instead contemplate what it could be like, feel like, to live a life based in love. Refuse to wrap yourself in a cocoon of suspicion. Instead, realize that all that suspicion simply shuts out any possibility of joyful living, and strive to be vulnerable. Yes, I said vulnerable. There is a way to be vulnerable without opening ourselves up to harm. The vulnerability I’m speaking of is a sort of open mindedness. A willingness to explore a different way to be, so as to experience a better life. Refuse to judge, condemn, belittle. Instead cultivate compassion for yourself and others. Deny the sadness that you feel and replace it with happiness. Refuse to judge anyone, for anything. Refuse to shame other people. Refuse to claim a side. Refuse to be angry. Refuse to be close minded. Instead, cultivate compassion. Nurture open mindedness. Actively pursue an attitude of gratitude. Explore different ways of communicating so that you can have healthy conversations with people who think differently than you do.
If enough of us do these things, we can and will change the world.
I became very aware a long time ago that life tends to imitate nature. I used to go and sit on the east shore of Lake Tahoe and watch the storms come in, because in that area, the storms almost always came from the west. As I watched the clouds move in, I would think about the clouds of life moving in. Storms sometimes bring with them great destruction. The weight of the snow and the high winds topple trees and power lines and damage buildings. The storms come through in winter and we do the best we can to clean up the messes as we go, clearing driveways and sidewalks of snow. But what happens when there is so much snow that there is no longer any place to put it? What happens in life when there are so many storms that crisis fatigue sets in? What happens when all hope is lost, when faith disappears? We do the same thing that we do when winter sets in. ...continue reading "Find and Focus on the Beauty in the Change"
I remember what life used to be like when I did not have a daily practice of going within and connecting. It was like being a dandelion in the wind. I got blown here and there, bits and pieces of me scattered everywhere. I could have been beautiful, but I didn't appreciate myself, and consequently others didn't either. I ended up being a thin little stem, fragile, victim of life, and destined for an early grave. Then a miracle happened. I made a change. A lot of changes actually. But they all stemmed from one series of thoughts: "I don't know what is wrong but something is definitely very wrong. And it has to change, because life wasn't meant to be like this." And I became willing to consider other ways of living. That one moment began what was to become a way of life that today is based in simple inward-focused practices that I do...every day. From that foundation, I have a life of choice, freedom based in personal responsibility, and joy. Much much joy. It's a funny thing about joy: there is the kind that is fleeting, based on outside stuff. That's more like happiness. It comes and goes. This kind of joy is not conditional upon outside stuff, so it is steady. It just is. As a result of fully embracing a life based in spiritual practice, I am now in a position where I can show others how to live such a life. Are you ready? Are you ready to embrace a way of living which will provide you with joy, peace and power? This can be your destiny. This can be a reality for you in the coming year. Set one intention for yourself for the coming year: to spend time every day utilizing one or two of the spiritual practices mentioned in my upcoming new book. There are 12 of them: introspection, connection, day dreaming, mindfulness, gratitude, prayer, treatment, contemplation, journaling, meditation, discipline, helping others, and Forgiveness. Every day. No matter what. And watch your life unfold. Don't let this New Year be like every other one, where you make resolutions that very quickly get set aside due to life and the whim of an undisciplined mind. Let this year be different. I can show you how. Sign up here:
Now, you may be thinking that you don't need someone to show you how to day dream. Well, did you know there are positive ways to day dream, and not so positive ways? You may be thinking that everyone knows how to say thank you. A gratitude practice goes much deeper than that.
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You may be thinking that you can skip the prayer one. What if I told you that there was a different, and more effective, way to pray than beseeching to an outside god whom you may or may not believe in? Or if you do believe in god, perhaps you think It won't hear your prayers? Or that you don't deserve to have them answered? None of those things is true.
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And what about that practice called treatment? What is that? Some sort of medical treatment? Nope. It is a formula, designed to add power to your prayers. It works!
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You may be thinking that there is someone you will never forgive. Check out my previous blog posts on forgiveness and then assess whether or not you want to avail yourself of this extremely powerful practice.
Sign up now for the BEST 2018 EVER!
Do you believe that expectations are premeditated resentments? I posted this question on Facebook and you would not believe the responses I received! Obviously this is a hot topic!
So much so that I've created a workshop around it! You should attend this workshop:
- If you believe in the statement
- If you believe in it but feel as if there may be some built in limitations there
- If you don't believe in the statement
- If you want to explore some other ways to think about things than what is "normal" for you.
The timing of this workshop is not an accident. I purposely scheduled it for just before the holiday season because I know there are many people who tend to have some expectations about the holidays, and I know that sometimes those expectations are not met.
Plus, this workshop has a bonus: two ways to restore or create some sacredness into your holiday season...we will explore gratitude and rebirth within us during the last portion of this workshop.
Three hours, $25....that's the commitment I am asking of you. In return, you will get knowledge and skills that will last you a lifetime. And you won't even have to leave the comfort of your home to attend! Register and I will email you the link to attend the class via Zoom. Zoom is very much like Sype, only a bit easier to use.
I hope to see you there! Thursday, November 16, from 6-9 PM
Let's face it: there is a LOT of shit going on in the world these days. It's global, regional, local and in your face. At least it is that way for me. Every day I log on to find some asinine thing done by some politician, or another instance of racism, misogyny or hatred, or another weather related disaster of epic proportions. Then my phone begins to chime with text messages and phone calls: another client having a crisis, a friend diagnosed with a life threatening illness, another with a drug addicted child. How much more can we take?
Unfortunately, no one knows the answer to that. I certainly don't. But I do have some helpful hints to handle it all.
Here are some symptoms which may indicate crisis fatigue: lack of energy, sadness, anxiety, lack of motivation, anger...lots of it, or a feeling that you just want to hide under the covers until it all goes away.
Hiding under the covers may help for a little while, but it doesn't really work for a long term solution, and it doesn't look like the politicians are going to grow up anytime soon. The weather related disasters just seem to keep on coming. I don't know that racism and misogyny will ever go away.
What are we to do?
Here are some things that might help:
- Acknowledge the feelings. Denying them isn't going to help. Stuffing them doesn't help. You can acknowledge them without acting on them.
- Talk about it with someone who won't try and fix you but will just listen with compassion. You don't need fixing, but talking helps. We are only as sick as our secrets, so don't keep this shit secret.
- Be of service. Donate or volunteer.
- Stay in the present moment. Don't project into the future and don't fret about the past.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat right, rest plenty, and let yourself cry if that is what wants to happen.
- Enjoy the simple things in life, and be grateful for them. Hug your loved ones, pet your critters, or a neighbor's critters. Bake cookies.
And finally, remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone.
I am a minister
I woke up this morning after a wonderful night's sleep in a bunk bed in a vacation rental in San Clemente, CA. I am here at a Minister's Gathering.
I am a minister!
This still blows me away a little bit. Last night our leaders took a brief moment to thank us for answering the call. They take every opportunity to do that. Indeed, they create opportunities to do that.
On the one hand, it evokes all sorts of warm wonderful goodness in me, that they would so go out of their way to thank us every chance they get. On the other, it makes me wonder, not for the first time, what on earth I have gotten myself into. Is being a minister such a really hard job that they feel the need to get all gushy with gratitude every time they get a group of us together?
It can't be any harder than being a wedding photographer.
Let's examine this: As a wedding photographer, I have to know some things technically. How to light any given situation so that the images look good, and the people in them look good. How to pose any body shape so it looks good. How to set my f-stop and shutter and flash unit to emphasize what I want, hide what I don't, and make everything look nice and balanced. And I have to do it quickly, easily, calmly, with all that wedding energy swirling around me: protective fathers, anxious mothers, hopeful brides, and the general mood of excited yet fearful anticipation.
Not so hard. Well, not now it isn't hard. When I first began doing weddings, it was hard. My partner knew not to try and speak to me on Saturday mornings. Even though I might not have to be at a wedding till 3 that afternoon, I needed the entire morning to rest and prepare. And I would come home so tired at night that I would be in tears. Literally. It's not like that now. I've been doing that for so many years that all it takes to prepare is some meditation, some reminders about what is important, another check of my equipment, and off I go. And I've set my fstops and shutters speeds and lights so many times that I can set them up right the first time and do what I came to do: make wonderful wedding images. No matter what.
After 27 years of doing photography, I got this. And yet, I also know that, given the nature of the beast, I need to keep on my toes: to continue my studies, make sure I am physically fit enough to chase a bride up a mountain side or down to the beach, carrying 50 pounds of equipment, and I need to remember that every bride is unique and special and not take anything for granted.
As a minister, what do I do? Well, let's see. I need to know some things technically. Only it isn't a piece of equipment I need to know, it's people and spiritual principles.
I need to be able to remember and grab hold of any given spiritual principle at any moment, based on what the person in front of me has brought to the table. And I need to do it when they are in attack mode because they are having an issue in their life and instead of looking at that issue, they've made it about me. I need to remember not to take it personally.
I need to sound profound. Every Sunday, no matter what.
I need to be able to, in the middle of the grocery store aisle, set aside my shopping and answer the call of a congregant in need who needs to talk.
I need to be able to inspire a team of mostly volunteer workers, over and over again.
I need to be an effective administrator. I need to know marketing and PR.
I need to set boundaries, and keep them. I need to stay in balance. I need to continue my spiritual studies. I need to take enough time off, and know when to say "no." And I need to remember my own humanness, and not be so hard on myself when I fall short of all those very lofty "needs" I just listed.
And I need to keep physically fit, because it's a holistic thing, and if I'm not physically fit things might be a bit out of balance. And I need to remember that every person I encounter is an individual, with their own unique way of expressing things, and their own needs and wants and desires, and their own expectations of what I can or should do to meet those needs.
And I need to do it, and make a living wage, in spite of many people's expectations that I do this work for free.
Hmmmm....no matter they are always thanking me for answering the call.
And yet, there is some sort of magic here. Some sort of wonderful elusive thing that tells me I am in the right place. It tells me I can do this, it tells me I am up to the challenge. I approach this new career with excitement and energy and a joy of living and a continued search for fresh knowledge and new insights, because that is the way I approach everything in life. And they told me in ministerial school that the way I do one thing is the way I do everything.
So I'm here at my very first Minister's Gathering, excited and grateful beyond measure. Today we will have a session on having difficult conversations, and some fun with stretching our spiritual muscles with spoon bending, and a bonfire, complete with smores. And lots of fellowship, and sharing and good stuff. And yes, I am a Minister, and I am up to the task!
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.
It is New Year's Eve, and I have already begun seeing lots of posts on Facebook and hearing comments from quite a few people that they are saying, "goodbye and good riddance" to 2013. The general feeling seems to be that 2013 was not a good year.
I'd like to present a different take on it. There are more productive ways to ensure success in the New Year. Here's a few of those ways:
- Don't regret the past. It really is true that what you think creates more of what you are thinking about. Regretting the past is a real good way to experience more of the same.
- If 2013 really wasn't a good year for you, view it as a stepping stone or part of a process to get where you want to go. Look forward in the direction of your dreams, not behind you.
- Do some inner work. No matter how you are feeling about 2013, doing some inner work will allow you to move into 2014 with enthusiasm. Ask yourself some tough questions: why? how? what could I do differently? Be gentle with yourself while you are doing this.
- Be grateful. Make a gratitude list of what you are grateful for in 2013. Did you know that gratitude increases life satisfaction? If you make a gratitude list every day, you will experience more satisfaction with your life.
- Don't do the New Year's Resolutions thing. They don't work. Instead, do some visualizaiton. Picture yourself as how you want to be. Don't loose sight of that picture. Think about that picture every day. As you go about your day, ask yourself if the action you are about to take is a step towards that picture you have in your mind, or a step away from that picture.
- And if your life truly isn't the way you want it to be, if you really think 2013 sucked and you just want to move on, consider that if you don't do something differently, 2014 is going to be more of the same. Harsh language? Perhaps. But you are not a victim of circumstances or anything else. You are an empowered being who may need some help to realize that. Spiritual counseling can help you navigate your way from victim to empowerment.
2014 can be the best beginning of the rest of your life! Happy New Year!