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Today is March 4.....March Fourth....FORTH!

Are you marching forth today?

I love it when dates line up like this.  It gives me a time to play with the words a bit.  And it serves as a metaphor.

To march means to walk with a regular tread, in a deliberate manner.  When I was a kid, I played clarinet in a marching band.  I remember the parades...we would prepare ourselves by rehearsing the music, then rehearsing and marching at the same time.  Then the day would come when it was time to execute what we had learned and rehearsed.  We would put on the band uniforms and proceed to the staging area.  No matter what we were feeling or what the weather was, we marched.  And we marched towards a goal, the end of the parade.   During the parade I remember I wasn't thinking too much about the end goal.  I was thinking more about keeping in step and playing the right notes along the way.  One step and one note at a time.  Sometimes a little dance might be done.  Sometimes we marched in place so we didn't run into the group in front of us.  And I had my team members to support me, so if I somehow lost step I could glance to my right or left and see which foot needed to be forward.

I've found life to be a bit like this.....preparation, execution, focus and seeking support along the way.

We prepare not so much by rehearsing, but by visioning, dreaming, figuring out who we are and what we want.  Classes and coaching services are excellent for figuring this out.  Then we execute:  there might be a timeline, written out steps to take.  We keep our focus by using affirmations and meditation, and support comes in the form of talking with others, sharing what is going on with us.  And sometimes support comes in the form of resting, taking another class, reading a new book.

For me, the important part is the focus.  I sometimes lose my focus.  I get discouraged.  This is when the support is really important.  I use a coach to remind me of what my goal is. I use classes to learn new ways to reach my goals.  And sometimes I use classes because I've realized that I need a new goal.  Or a new way to reach my goal.

And I continue to march forward, no matter what.

Are you continuing your march?  Today might be a good day to review where you are in your own personal march, and adjust your steps as needed.

 

DSC_4341I’m sure you’ve all heard the analogy of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It is a perfect analogy, a very good metaphor for us in our lives. The caterpillar goes about it’s business and then one day, change begins. It begins to build a cocoon, and then inside the cocoon, becomes literally mush, a messy gooey lump of mush. This process continues, until one day a beautiful butterfly bursts forth to fly and frolic in the breezes. The caterpillar does not fight the process, nor does it try to rush it. And if someone, in their misguided compassion, tries to help it, the caterpillar will die. It needs to be left alone to do the process it was meant to do. ...continue reading "5 Steps to Turn into a Butterfly"

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?

 

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!

DSC_0726

There are laws in our world that tell us that what we see, observe and feel about what is out there is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves.

There was a time when I would have seen a view like this and thought it was ugly.  Now, I look at this view and admire the serenity, the wide open spaces, and yes, the beauty.

It took some healing to get to this place.  This image is of the Carson Valley, in Nevada.  Nevada is my home state and it was once a place I literally fled from in the middle of the night. Now I once again live here.  The healing took a long time, but I can tell you it feels much better to be able to be here and experience this place with joy and appreciation, rather than fear and all the unpleasant attitudes that go along with that fear.

If you are seeing and experiencing life as anything less than joyful, perhaps some healing is in order.  And if you are reading this post and thinking about it, it might just be a message that it is indeed time to heal.  There are no accidents in life!

Healing is possible, but if you are anything like me, the process is much easier when done with support.  Find a counselor or a  life coach with specific training in this area to help you see the beauty!

 

imageLike art, all of life is a collaboration.  It's a collaboration of choices.  This artist chose chairs for the canvas, a restaurant to display the art, and a type of paint that would adhere well to the wood of the chair to produce these lovely works of art.  And there is the bonus of functionality to this art.

All the elements work together, and they came together because of the choices of the artist.  And the artist made these choices, and not some others, because of a combination of the intent to create the beautiful chairs as well as the skill to implement that intent.

Life is like that.  We are continually making choices, and implementing them, sometimes with a lot of skill, and sometimes...not so much skill.   But the choice, the intent, is always there.  We can choose consciously, or by default, but the choice is always there.  If we choose by default, the art of our life may seem a bit unorganized, or non-productive, or scattered, or maybe it just doesn't work.  Like a piece of art that just didn't come together well.

Perhaps it is time to choose with conscious awareness, which is the initial step in the process of collaboration.

Here are a few tips to ensure success in the collaboration process:

  1. Remember that choices are not meant to be a reaction to life, but instead a proactive tool to create.  Do not make choices nor act on those choices when in reactive mode.  Instead, pause for all long as it takes.
  2. Choosing wisely happens when you are aware of what your are thinking and feeling, and what your beliefs are.  This takes instrospection.  Take time every day to check in with yourself and notice what is happening inside of you.
  3. Choosing wisely happens when you are calm and at peace.  If you aren't calm and at peace, I highly recommend the practice of meditation.  If you don't know how to meditate, or don't feel as if you are successful at it, take a class or hire a coach to teach you.
  4. If you don't feel as if you have choices in life, get some help.
  5. Once the choices are made, act on them by using tools and skills to implement those choices.  Just as an artist begins by learning the basics of his craft, then building upon those skills, so do we begin by learning the basics of life and building on them, ever enlarging our skill set.  You can learn new skills by taking a class, reading a book, hiring a coach or joining a support group.

Affirmation:  I choose wisely today, from a place of peace and calm, and implement my choices to create the wonderful work of art that is my life!

 

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