Friday, February 28, 2014

Follow the Sun

Today is Friday, February 28, 2014. 

Follow, follow the sun
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done.
Breathe, breathe in the air.
Set your intentions.
Dream with care.
Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun.
So follow, follow the sun,
The direction of the bird,
The direction of love.
Breathe, breathe in the air,
Cherish this moment,
Cherish this breath.
Tomorrow is a new day for everyone,
Brand new moon, brand new sun.
When you feel life coming down on you,
Like a heavy weight.
When you feel this crazy society,
Adding to the strain.
Take a stroll to the nearest waters edge
Remember your place.
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came.
So which way is the wind blowin',
And what does your heart say?
So follow, follow the sun,
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done...

"Follow the Sun," by Xavier Rudd
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

The explanation for why sunflowers always seem to be facing east in the morning and west at sunset is surprisingly prosaic and uninspiring.  It has something to do with the fact that the narrowest part of the stem is the part that is actually growing and experiencing cell expansion, and that the cells grow and expand on one side of the stem, then the other side.  This causes the plant to be lopsided, so it faces one way and then the other.  It's true, though, that plants are sensitive to light and that they have a kind of internal clock, just as humans do.

The sun has long been recognized as a supporter of life on earth.  It brings warmth and light.  It provides energy.  It invigorates and energizes all living things.  In the song lyrics above, we are counseled to follow the sun, to follow life, light, energy. 

We are also advised to know which way the wind is blowing.  In other words, we are to be aware of our surroundings, aware of what is happening around us.  

We are told to breathe in the air and cherish each breath.  To me, that means to stay in the present moment.  

That sounds to me like a great recipe for growth. :-)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I See You

Today is Wednesday, February 26, 2014.

I See You

I see your Beauty,
your Creativity,
your Strength
and your Magnificence.

I see your loving Heart,
I see your Shining Light.

You are a Blessing in my life. 

I See You 

 –Julie Parker 

In certain countries of Africa, such as Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, when people greet each other, they look into each other's eyes.  One of them says, "I see you."  The other responds, "I am here."  The Africans say that the thought behind this is, "Until you see me, I do not exist.  When  you see me, you bring me into existence."  

The eyes are windows to the Soul, so this eye-to-eye greeting is a powerful acknowledgement of the other person as Soul.  Since Soul only exists in the present, this is the finest way to be in the present moment.  Not only is it an acknowledgement of ourselves and others as Soul, but it is also an acknowledgement that we are all connected at the level of Soul.

One of the reasons that the Na'vi people in the movie Avatar were so popular was that their culture was based on this deep recognition of one another.  Many have commented that the Na'vi people in the movie were an allegory for Native Americans, and that's true, but in a larger sense, they are representative of all cultures that recognize the significance of connecting with others at a deep level, and not simply superficially.

The greeting, "Namaste," used in India, is another way to say this.  It means, "I bow to the divine in you."  It is a way to recognize that we are all children of God, that we all carry a Divine essence.  

It's too bad that there are some places here in the United States where it is actually dangerous to look someone in the eye.  We should always be able to look each other in the eye, and no matter what our customary greeting is, we should always acknowledge each other as Soul.  :-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Losing Sight of the Shore

Today is Monday, February 24, 2014.

You sometimes have to lose sight of the shore in order to reach new lands.  –Sue Krebs

 Actually, I think you always do, not just sometimes. 

People here in the United States read in our history books how the Europeans crossed the great oceans between continents.  We know that, most of the time, they sailed near land, within sight of the coastline. In order to get to China by sea, they had to go all the way around Africa and India.  In seeking a more direct sea route, they had to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and they had to lose sight of the shore completely, for weeks. They had no idea that the continents of North America (Turtle Island) and South America existed. The history books only dimly hint at the sailors' fright, but we know that there was always mutiny on their minds as their fear grew. 

Just like those European sailors long ago, we must occasionally go across some kind of divide in our lives where we completely leave the old way of doing things behind in order to arrive at a new way.  Soul is in command, but occasionally Ego threatens mutiny, because it fears what it doesn't know.  

I've actually done this several times in my life, but the last time was as frightening in its way as the very first time.  I was born into a family that moved around a lot, which was actually pretty good practice for me.  Every time we moved to a new house in a new town, I was petrified, dreading the necessity of making new friends and finding my way around a new town and a new school building.   (Every time my dad announce another move, my three siblings shouted, "Yay!" and I started to weep.)

After I graduated from university, I moved to Japan with my husband, lock, stock, and barrel.  The plan was to live there for the rest of whatever, and I was so frightened that my body began to rebel.  I had no menstrual period for months – and no, I was not pregnant.  When the menstrual cycle resumed, it was irregular for the rest of my life.  (It had been perfectly regular before.) 

When I moved back to the United States, I began a teaching career in Oregon, and moved into an apartment that a family friend secured for me, without having seen it first.  I managed that move slightly better than the last one. 

Four years later, I moved away from my first job in Oregon, I went back to the Midwest without a clue as to what I would do next.  I ended up getting a part-time job and taking a couple of university classes that I needed in order to get a teaching certificate.  The year after that I went to graduate school full-time.  

When I was finished with grad school, I was faced with another big move.  I went to Kansas City to work, but had such a terrible experience there that I retreated to my parents' home in South Dakota. Then I moved to St. Paul, MN, where I found a job that lasted a little over 18 years.  

At the end of that time, I retired, and once again, I had to completely leave behind a whole way of life as I transitioned from working woman in a place where I had lots of friends and a fairly active social life to retiree in a small town on the prairie, with family nearby, but no friends except the ones I have online, and almost no social life to speak of.  

Now I am contemplating another big change in my life.  Hopefully, I will make this next change more gracefully than I have before.  I've certainly had enough practice!  Once again I will leave behind that with which I have become familiar and cross a divide to arrive at a destination in which everything is unfamiliar.  

The last journey will be one that many people dread.  It is one that we have all undertaken, as Soul, but the vast majority of us have no memory of it.  In death, we will cross a great divide from physical life on Earth to life in the worlds of spirit.  Those who have come back from near death experiences tell us that death is like going through a door from one room to another.  We will not cease to exist; we will simply drop the physical body when it is no longer needed.  I hope to make that journey, also, with dignity, grace, and aplomb.  :-)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Did It. I Blogged Every Day for a Whole Year

Today is Saturday, February 22, 2014.

Well, folks, I did it. 

I started this blog on February 21, 2013, with a vow to myself to write a blog entry every day.  I actually started one other blog last April, so have kept myself quite busy publishing not one, but two blog posts each day.  My year for this blog is up today. 

The idea of writing a blog daily for a year came from author Nicole Helget, who has just had her third novel published.  I had promised myself that I was going to write when I retired, but I hadn't yet followed through with my promise.  The blog, with it's self-imposed publishing deadline, provided the perfect means for me to follow through in a timely and measurable way.  

The most obvious benefit of having done a blog post each and every day over the past year has been proving to myself that I can write on demand, and that I can find all kinds of things to write about.  I've developed the habit of writing every day, which is awfully good discipline.  Some of these posts have taken just about all day to churn out.  Others were dashed off in 30-40 minutes.  Some took quite a bit of research to produce, while others came from inside of me.  Some may be seeds of a future book, but all have been good experience. 

Writing a blog has been beneficial in one other important way.  It has facilitated and augmented an inner process that I've been going through, not only transitioning from teacher to writer, but also in many ways rebuilding my life and processing some of the lessons in my life so that I can apply them in a practical way to create my future.  I've been able to process a lot of memories of living in Japan, record and interpret some important dreams, and organize my thoughts on a number of different topics.  I've written about a number of different personal qualities in the past year: love, attachment and detachment, happiness, grace, etc.  I may have seemed like a know-it-all at times, but know that I was writing more for myself than for anyone else.  What I have gained is a sense of clarity about those qualities and their importance in my life. 

I will be continuing this blog in the future, just not every day.  My intention is to post here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week.  The idea is to keep the momentum going, but reduce my blogging just enough to make room in my schedule for other projects.  

My readers haven't left too many comments, so I sometimes wonder how many people are actually reading these blog entries.  The statistics show that a number of them have had several hundred clicks.  Every one has had at least one reader.   In any event, I'd like to thank you, my readers, for following me on this blog.  Without you, this would just be a private journal.  Because of you, this blog is also an opportunity for me to serve others.  :-)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Challenge of Being Vulnerable

Today is Friday, February 21, 2014.

I finally discovered that my greatest fear is not being alone; it's being vulnerable.

Does this hit home?  It sure does, for me.  I've been "alone" (not in a relationship) for over 30 years, now, and it's not that bad at all.  I've occasionally been a bit bored at times when I wanted some company, and inconvenienced when I needed some help with this or that.  But vulnerable?  No, I was never really vulnerable, because I didn't have to show anyone all my faults.  

There was no one at home to notice that I was in a bad mood, and no one to care whether I kept my place clean or not.  There was nobody to notice how late I got up on weekends, or wonder why I was moping around on a Friday night.  Nobody complained if I picked my nose or farted.  There was nobody to argue that I hung the toilet paper the wrong way, and nobody to correct the way I squeezed the toothpaste tube.

For years, there has been no one at home to tell me how wrongheaded my political views were, and no one to criticize the way I dressed.  Nobody told me I spent too much money or wasted too much time fooling around on Facebook.   Nobody said anything negative about my cooking.  Nobody complained that I spent too much time in the bathroom, or that I wasted too much water taking showers.

Nobody told me how inept I was at making or sticking to a budget.  No one criticized my taste in home decorating or called into question my career choices.  I was never hassled about forgetting a birthday or turning the music up too loud.  Nobody hounded me about how much weight I gained over the years or how I wore my hair. 

In short, I rejected the possibility of finding fulfillment in love because of the possibility of being rejected.  In so doing, I gave up the chance to co-create my life with another human being, to be loved, cherished, encouraged, and augmented by someone special.  I passed on the opportunity to grow spiritually by making and keeping a commitment to a significant other.  

I am reminded of the lyrics to an old Barry Manilow song.  You remind me I live in a shell, safe from the past and doing okay, but not very well.  No jolts, no surprises, no crisis arises.  My life goes along as it should.  It's all very nice, but not very good.

It would be easy to go on living the way I have for decades, because I've built up a fair amount of inertia by now.  I haven't had to share space with anyone or modify my behavior for anyone for a long, long time.  I sometimes wonder whether I'm up to the challenge, whether it's even worth the effort to try to find a mate this late in life.  Is it even possible for me to find someone who's willing to overlook my many faults in favor of spending time in my company?

Am I so ingrained in my way of life that I can't make any more changes?  Am I really willing to throw away a chance to do something challenging, but ultimately rewarding just because I may fail?  Can I love someone just as he is in exchange for the possibility of being loved just as I am?  Can I make myself vulnerable one more time, recognizing that my significant other will also be making himself vulnerable to me?  

That's my challenge.  I can do this. :-)

Your Vulnerability Is Your Power

Today is Thursday, February 20, 2014.

Life will try to teach you to retreat from vulnerability. You will get hurt. After all, you are human and being vulnerable is part of the human experience. Your power as a woman lies in your ability to forgive yourself and others who have hurt you. Know there will be a possibility of hurt and stay open anyway. To be vulnerable is to know that risk exists and to give all of you, even though you know the risk. This is the only way to fully experience life. If you want to fully embrace all life has to offer, you must be willing to offer all of you. As a woman you get the choice to heal the hurt and live fully, over and over in your lifetime. Own your vulnerability, choose to heal when you get hurt and embrace all that life has to offer you –Janelle Saar

I have to admit, I have never thought of vulnerability as strength or power before, and I suspect I have lots of company in this regard.  The dictionary definition of the word vulnerable is "susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm."  Somehow, that doesn't sound very powerful to me.

It took a while for me to understand that the power comes not simply in allowing ourselves to be hurt, or when we're being hurt, but after we have been hurt, because that's when we have a chance to 1) learn something from the experience, 2) forgive ourselves and the person who hurt us, and 3) rise above the pain by not allowing it to control our thoughts, words, and actions.   Just as we must not allow anger and fear to dictate our lives, so also we must not allow hurt and pain to gain control over us.  Surely, I must have known this before, but it feels like a revelation, just now.

If you want to experience a gift, you have to unwrap it first.  If you want to read a book, you have to open it.  If you want to eat the food, you have to open the package.  There's no way around it.  If you want to experience life fully, you have to take all the protective wrappings off.   If you want to be seen, known, and loved by others for who you really are, then you have to take off the costume and the mask.  

If you are hurt – and you will be, at one point or other – then you have a chance to balance some karma, learn how to avoid the situation in the future, practice forgiveness, and gain mastery over our emotions, thoughts, words and deeds.  No matter what happens, it's a win-win situation, because we will be given a chance to grow, learn and serve others in this life.  And that's what you came here for, in the first place.  :-) 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Healing the Wounds of Your Heart: Fire Exercise

Today is Wednesday, February 19, 2014.

Most of us have at least a couple of beliefs that hold us back somehow.  These beliefs – often unconscious and unrecognized – limit our potential, our productivity, our careers and relationships, and our physical, mental or emotional health.  There are a lot of people out there who talk about changing beliefs, and there are plenty who are willing to are willing to charge you an arm and a leg to provide you with a Grand Plan for getting rid of these beliefs.  They make it look easy, and they tell you it's a snap, that it won't take much time at all.  That's bullshit.

What's not bullshit is that you can change your beliefs, but it will take time – not just a few days or weeks, but possibly months or even years – and consistent, sincere effort on your part.  It cannot be done for you; you will have to do the work yourself.  You can listen to all kinds of advice, but you have to sift out what you think will work for you and what won't.  

In terms of time, think about this: How long have you held the particular negative belief that you're trying to rid yourself of?  The longer you've held it, the longer it may take to get rid of it. 

Keeping in mind that our subconscious mind works with feelings and images, rather than language, visualization exercises are particularly powerful for reprogramming.  Here is another good exercise for mending your heart.  Read it over and decide whether it will work for you. 

Let an imaginary fire burn away all that is no longer true in your life.  

Do you feel that you are a victim of circumstance, that you have no say in the way your life unfolds?  That's not true; throw that belief into the fire!

Do you believe that you cannot make your personal dreams come true?  That's not true; throw that belief into the fire!

Do you believe that you'll never be able to lose weight because of a slow metabolism?  That can be changed!  Throw that old belief into the fire!

Do you believe that you are too old, too fat, too imperfect to find a fulfilling relationship?  That's not true!  Throw that belief into the fire!

Do you believe you can't find love because you're not the person you used to be?   That's not true!  Throw that belief into the fire! 

Do you believe you aren't finding a relationship because all the good men or women are taken?  That's not true! Throw that belief into the fire!

Do you believe that you are unwanted, unloved, and no longer desirable?  That's not true!  Throw that belief into the fire.

I am planning to do this exercise, myself.  It is my hope that someone else among my readers may benefit from the exercise, as well.   May the Blessings Be!   :-)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Healing the Wounds of Your Heart: 15 Golden Steps Exercise

Today is Tuesday, February 18, 2014.

Affirmations are a great way to re-train your subconscious mind.  They are also a great way to heal your heart.  You can say affirmations, or you can write them.  The best ones are very short and therefore easy to remember.  They are always stated in the present tense.  Instead of using an action verb in your affirmation, try using a quality, because when you learn to manifest qualities, the associated actions will follow.  For example, one suggestion is to say or write, "I am happy, healthy, wise and free."  For me, however, it's easiest to work on one quality at a time.

One of the most effective affirmations I have ever done is very simple:  I am love.  I chose to write mine down in a notebook for several weeks.  I wrote, "I am love" in a big, loopy scrawl 15 times each night before going to bed.  (You could do this in the morning if you are a morning person, which I am not.)  

I have written at various times in the past about singing HU, an ancient holy name for God.  You can sing HU while writing your affirmation, or you can sing it while in contemplation.  Take a deep breath, and sing HU (pronounced like "hue") slowly on the out-breath.  When you can no longer sustain the tone, take a deep breath and start again.  Sing HU for 10 t0 20 minutes.

Recently, a friend on Facebook shared a great contemplation exercise to try.  When you go into contemplation, there's no need to sit on the floor or put your legs into an uncomfortable position.  You can sit in any chair, but a simple straight-backed chair works great, or even a stuffed-chair, as long as you can sit up fairly straight in it.  Put your feet on the floor and hold your hands any way you like in your lap.  Close your eyes, and focus your attention on the area between and slightly above your eyebrows: your Third Eye.

In this exercise, you sing HU as you go into contemplation.  You can begin the visualization while singing HU or after you fall silent.  In your mind's eye, see yourself at the bottom of a set 15 of golden stairs going up to heaven.  It is a stairway of a thousand miracles.  As you go up each step, think, say or sing, "I am love."  As you ascend toward the 15th step, feel the joy of a new world of possibilities that are waiting for you.  Feel refreshed and renewed.  You take this feeling of joy with you, and it shines through your very being.

Do this exercise daily for at least a month.  :-)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Healing the Wounds of Your Heart: A Scenario

Today is Monday, February 17, 2014.

Someone posted a cartoon by Zen Pencils that hit pretty close to home the other day.  Zen Pencils comic strips are  illustrated by Gavin Aung Than, who adapts inspirational quotes into cartoons.  There is a new strip about every week.

With apologies to the artist, I'm going to reproduce the cartoon in sections so that I can write around the panels. Hopefully, you will be able to click on each panel to enlarge it a bit, if necessary.  Gavin Aung Than has done a fabulous job of illustrating a basic heartbreak scenario that most of us can relate to well enough to fill in the blanks with details from our own lives.  

In the first panel, it says, "Love anything... and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly be broken."   In this case, it's the guy who suddenly whips out a big knife, stabs the girl's heart, and stomps on it.  From the guy's face, it almost seems as though he's enjoying the process, but in real life, I doubt that's the case.  

I've seen and experienced a number of breakups, and it often seems that the person who initiates the breakup is angry about something.  It sometimes appears to come on all of a sudden, but it's never a sudden thing.  It's a process.  At some point, one person in the relationship wants out, for whatever reason.  The actual point of breakup often seems mocked up.  

It doesn't matter whether you're leaving a relationship, a job, a business partnership, a church, a political party, or a social group.  The person who leaves needs a "reason" to leave that will allow him or her to blame someone else for the breakup.  The person who leaves never seems to blame him- or herself.  So much easier to say, "My boss made me quit," or "My boyfriend is such a jerk," than say something like, "I wasn't right for that job," or "My boyfriend and I didn't get along."  See the difference?  

Anyway, the damage is done and your heart is in shreds.  You know how that feels.

This is the point where lots of people start eating comfort food, smoking, drinking, or doing drugs.  Others will fling themselves into their work so that they have no time for anything else.  Some will take up hobbies or volunteer work for the same reason - mostly, to fill time.  Some will pamper themselves endlessly so they don't have to feel sad.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing your work well.  The problem comes when you allow your work to completely crowd out your social life.  Similarly, there is nothing wrong with taking up a hobby or doing volunteer work.  Indeed, when you volunteer, you are focusing on the well-being of others, which can be a very good thing.  The problem comes up when we do these things so that we can avoid processing our pain and letting it go.

When you've had enough of having your heart stomped on, you move to protect it.  In the cartoon, the girl locks up her heart in a chest and never lets it out.  "If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one," says the cartoon.  "Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries.  Avoid all entanglements."

The bottom panel says, "Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.  It will not be broken.  It will become unbreakable, impenetrable... irredeemable..."

In the next panel, the girl meets a guy whose heart has obviously been broken, but at least he's got his heart open.  She's still got hers locked up.  At first, she's threatened and scared, and her face even looks a little angry.  The guy perseveres and gets the girl's attention.  He finally asks her to open her heart, but she refuses, afraid that her heart will be violated once again.  The guy is obviously disappointed, but he probably understands, at least on some level.  I can't tell you how many times this part of the story has played out in my life.  
 The guy finally decides that the girl just isn't ready to open her heart, so he turns to go, but at the last minute, the girl decides to give him the key to her heart... if he still wants it. 
It turns out that he does, so he unlocks her heart and helps her mend it.  Looks like the end of the story, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, it's not, because ultimately, our hearts are never mended by other people.  We have to mend them ourselves.  Others can help, but we have to be willing to do most of the work ourselves.
In the last panels, the guy and gal are in a relationship, but it's not all smooth sailing by any means.  Every time the wind blows the girl starts to flail her arms, sure that she is about to fall.  In the lower left panel, she's got her tongue sticking out, and to me, that's the indication that she's trying hard.  Notice that the guy doesn't actually "save" her.  He simply flies along with her.  She saves herself.  In other words, she does the remaining inner work of healing her heart.  

In the final panel is the quote from C.S. Lewis that the artist has been illustrating:  "To love at all is to be vulnerable." 

Right now I'm in the process of taking my heart out of that box and dusting off the cobwebs.  I'm trying to do some of the mending myself, hoping that I will find someone who is willing to assist me with this process, as I will assist him.  We'll see if this happens.  The worst that can happen is that I get my heart mended, right?   :-)

Heal the Wounds of Your Heart Now

Today is Sunday, February 16, 2014.

You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them."                                                                                                                                            —Iyanla Vanzant

If you've been hurt in the past, that's going to affect your present and future, no question about it.  The inner wound resulting from that traumatic experience will alter your feelings about yourself, drive your relationships with others, and  affect your career.  Iyanla Vanzant has given us a very graphic image of the way past trauma can affect us.  The image of a gaping wound oozing blood and pus not a very pleasant one, to be sure, but certainly one that we can all identify with, and perhaps one that will give some of us the impetus to initiate a healing process.  The time to do this is now, the only time we can ever take action.

Vanzant has listed for us the types of bandages that we tend to use to cover over our inner wounds: food, alcohol, drugs, work, cigarettes and sex.  Be honest with yourself.  Are you using any of these, or even a combination of them, to keep the pain at bay?  If so, it's time to face the music. 

While I was working, one of my bandages of choice was work, and for a long while, now, it's also been food.  Now that I'm retired, I can no longer depend on work to keep me occupied during the day, and I've realized that, because I'm less physically active in retirement, the food is affecting my health and my weight now more than ever.  It's time to get to the root of the problem.  I am simply no longer willing to let the past spoil my present and poison my future.

As an ECKist, one of the things that I can do is called a Spiritual Exercise.  The most basic one is singing HU (pronounced like the word "hue").  There are other exercises you can use in a book called The Spiritual Exercises of ECK, available on Amazon or directly from Eckankar.  The great thing about these is that you don't have to be an ECKist to use the exercises successfully.

Iyanla Vanzant is one of several people who have worked with Oprah Winfrey to create a "Lifeclass" that is presented on the web.  If you want to check this out, click on the link.

Other suggestions: 

Google the words "emotional healing," and you will get a number of good hits to try, written by psychologists, clergy, and medical doctors.  Click on a hit and go for it.

Buy yourself a lined notebook and paste color images that suggest healing to you on the cover of the notebook.  Then start journaling every day for at least 20 minutes a day. 

I wish you well on your journey of healing!  :-)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Enforceable Statements for Parents, Teachers, and Spouses

Today is Saturday, February 15, 2014.

Back in 1977, Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. established their philosophy, called Love and Logic.  They have been teaching it to educators since that time, and one of the outcomes of their philosophy is something called Enforceable Statements.  It's obvious from their website that they have expanded this philosophy to marital relationships, as well.  

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone (especially a child) where you got pulled into making a control statement that you could not enforce?  (Example: If you –fill in the blank–, I'm going to –fill in the blank–.)  Your child or student (or your spouse!) resisted and did exactly what you told him or her not to do, thereby regaining control of the situation.

You ended up looking foolish when you couldn't carry out your threat, didn't you?  Don't worry, we all get into these situations from time to time. 

Fay and Cline have developed Enforceable Statements as a way to "share control" with the person you are arguing with, so that the other person is less likely to resist.  The result is that you avoid getting into an argument where you are trying to control a situation that you really have no control over.   Instead of making threats, tell the person what you will do or what you will allow, rather than just telling them what to do.  Set limits, in other words. 

Here are some examples of Love and Logic Enforceable Statements: 
  • Breakfast is served until 7:30. Get all you need to hold you till lunch.
  • My car is leaving at 8 a.m.
  • I'll listen as soon as your voice is as calm as mine.
  • I'll be happy to listen to you as soon as your father and I are finished talking.
  • I keep the toys I have to pick up. You can keep the ones you pick up.
  • I'll lend you the car if you are willing to make a deposit equal to the insurance deductible.
  • I'll lend you money if you have collateral.
  • I'll reimburse you for your college tuition for those classes in which you earn a "B" or above.
The trick, I think, is to keep your promise.  If you tell kids you will give them some money and they uphold their end of the bargain, then don't suddenly plead poverty.   If you tell them you will take them somewhere in the car when their homework is done, then do it right away and don't put it off.  If you plan to leave at 8:00 a.m. sharp, then do so – knowing that if the other person is late, you will have to deal with their anger at least once – and don't get conned into feeling sorry for them.

The point to get across to the person you're dealing with is that they do have a choice.  Keep in mind that you will have to respect their choices, and especially with kids, you will have to prove that to them.  As well, if you are dealing with an adult or a teenager, they may start making some enforceable statements of their own, and you will have to deal with that.

There is nothing really new about enforceable statements.  Fay and Cline have simply packaged and marketed a concept that all good parents and teachers already know, but sometimes lose sight of.  Their website has some free articles for parents and teachers, as well as some information about how to request training or attend conferences where Fay and Cline are speaking.  There are also support materials for training facilitators.

The important thing to remember is that you can never really power another person down, whether it is one of your kids, a student, or your significant other.  You can set limits beyond which you are not prepared to go, and you can make promises as long as you can actually keep them, but you must give other people a choice, and be prepared to accept their decision.  

Political tyrants may seem all-powerful, but much of what they do is based on fear of losing control.  Eventually, they do lose control, and if you've watched the news, you know that they often end up dying in an undignified manner, if not a horrific one.   

It's not easy to share power with others, but this is something we have all come into this life to learn. With respect to kids, how are you going to teach them responsibility if you don't give them some?  :-)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On Valentine's Day, Express Gratitude for People and Things That You Love

Today is Friday, February 14, 2014.

As a former teacher, I associate Valentine's Day with eagerly-anticipated classroom parties, red and pink candy, and child-friendly Valentine cards.  Valentine's Day is right up there with Halloween and Christmas as an exciting time for kids, especially since schools nowadays ensure that each and every student gets the same number of valentines as everyone else.  Gone are the days when the class pest or the socially awkward child gets fewer – or no – Valentines in his or her mailbox.  

As someone who has been single for a good long time, since 1981, to be exact, I haven't had much use for the romantic side of this holiday.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's great if you have someone special who actually remembers to get you something nice, but basically, for singles, this holiday can be rather painful: Singles Awareness Day.  Normally I am able to focus on the kid aspect, but a number of years ago, I was a little depressed and feeling sorry for myself on February 14.  It was a school day, and I remember being at "breakfast duty" before school started.  My job was to watch the kids get off the bus in the morning and see to it that they formed an orderly line for breakfast.  One other teacher shared this duty with me.

There was one little first-grader that I enjoyed watching every morning.  He was a little black kid with very short hair, a ready smile, and boundless energy.  When he got off the bus this particular day, I could tell that he was excited.  As he ran toward the door, it was obvious that he was drawing breath to say something important to us.  As he breezed past us, he shouted in a loud voice, "HAPPYYYYYY THANKSGIVINGGGGGG!"

Of course, we had expected him to say, "Happy Valentine's Day," so it took my colleague and me a couple of heartbeats to recover from the cognitive dissonance before we started to laugh.  The laughter broke up my bad mood and set the tone for the rest of the day.  

Later, I realized that this was a "waking dream."  A waking dream is an event in our daily lives that seems to have just a bit more significance than usual.  In my case, I had been feeling depressed because I didn't have anyone special to celebrate Valentine's Day with, but the little first-grade student reminded me in a very charming way that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and focus on all the love that I was being given by my friends, my family, and my students.  

Gratitude has a magic effect on the heart. Melody Beattie writes, 

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

A web site devoted to kids' activities gives instructions for making a gratitude tree.  The idea is that Valentine's Day is more meaningful for kids if you move away from the romantic aspect of the day and focus on what we love and what we are grateful for.

Photo credit: The Nurture Store
Find some branches without leaves (pretty easy in the northern states) to use as the tree, and get a vase ready with some clear glass stones to hold the branches in place.  You can fill the vase with water, too, to keep the branches from drying out.  

Have the kids make hearts using construction paper, wrapping paper, paper doilies, or anything else you wish to use.  On the back of each heart, have kids write (or dictate to you) things, activities, or people that they love.  Start each sentence with, "I love..." 

You can make this a family activity, with each person contributing two or three things.  You can also make extra blank hearts for house guests to write something to add to the tree.  (For next year: send one to Grandma and ask her to write on it and send it back for your tree.)

Make a small hole with a hole punch in each heart and thread a thin, red ribbon through the hole.  Tie the hearts onto the tree with the ribbon.  :-)

Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends and family! 

Photo credit: CrossEarth on Etsy

Ask, Believe, Receive: Part 2

Today is Thursday, February 13, 2014.

Nothing can happen unless you do all three. Everything can happen if you do: "The Holy Spirit will give us all that we need. First we must learn to expect the best in life, and be willing to plan and work for it. Second, we need a clear mental picture of what we desire. Third, this picture is to be maintained constantly, with the certainty that Divine Spirit will supply any rightful desire. Fourth, there must be gratitude for every good thing received".  —Harold Klemp
The Language of Soul

Yesterday I wrote about asking for what we want, believing that we can get it, and recognizing and receiving God's blessings.  I used a couple of Bible verses as quotes.  Later, a friend sent me a quote from my own spiritual teacher, Sri Harold Klemp, the Mahanta, the Living ECK Master, the spiritual leader of my religion, Eckankar.  This quote is not only very clear and easy to understand, but it also illustrates several key points. 

1)  We are never too unworthy to expect the best life has to offer.  God loves us unconditionally and wants us to do well in life.

2)  Divine Spirit will take care of our every need.  Not necessarily our every desire, but our every need, both large and small.  Notice that Sri Harold says Holy Spirit will fulfill every rightful desire.  I talked about this a bit yesterday.  Our request must be for the highest good of ourselves and others around us.  Our request must be something that will uplift, rather than destroy or detract. 

3)  It's not enough to just pray for it.  We have to plan for it and work for it.  We have to meet God halfway.  When we have done our part, it's so much easier to accept the blessings, because we know we deserve them.

4)  The asking should not only be done in words, but in mental pictures. This is how the Universe operates.  Mental pictures are very powerful communication tools, and they help to program our subconscious minds, as well.   The mental picture must be clear and held constantly for a period of time – it may be days, weeks, months or even years, depending on what you are asking for.

5)   Gratitude is a key ingredient.  A grateful heart generates a feeling of abundance, and when we express this feeling, we project it out into the world and the Universe responds by bringing more abundance into our lives.   :-)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ask, Believe, Receive

Today is Wednesday, February 12, 2014.  

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.   –Matthew 7:7

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  –Matthew 21:22.

There's a fine line when we speak of asking for things in prayer.  There's the danger of oversimplification on the one hand, and the danger of over-complicating things on the other hand.  As usual, the truth of the matter seems to be somewhere in between.

Let's look at these three words: ask, believe, receive.

Why do we have to ask for what we want, when God supposedly already knows?

The reason is that you have absolutely free will, and God will do nothing to abridge that right or take away the gift in any way, shape or form.  If you want help, you have to ask for it, because that signals your permission for God to get in your space.  You have to agree on some level (even unconsciously) for help to be given.  Conscious agreement is best, and the more consciously you live your life, the more God waits for your conscious consent.  

Here's an example:  You feed a baby because you know he or she is hungry.  The baby will generally signal hunger by crying.  The baby doesn't have the words to think this thought out and express it in words, but you get the signal.  The agreement on the baby's part is purely subconscious at this point, but there is definitely an agreement.  (If the baby doesn't want food, he or she will refuse to eat it.)  In the same way, occasionally, we don't actually have to ask for something in words.  Say you're drowning and you can't even scream for help.  Still, you may be thinking, "Help!"  God hears that and can respond.  But again, Soul must be in agreement.

There's also the problem of what we ask for and why we are asking for it. Sure, you can ask for a sporty red convertible or a million dollars, but what are you going to do with it?  Will the car make you a better person?  Will you serve God with the money?  Or will those things just end up making you spoiled and vain?  Maybe you came into this lifetime to learn some humility, and so you only have enough money to buy a Hugo car.   Or maybe you came into this lifetime to learn discipline and responsibility, but you've frittered away all your money.  Now you want more?  Why?  So you can fritter that away, too?  God knows better!  And remember that when you came into this lifetime, you, as Soul, were in agreement with certain lessons.  If this is your lifetime to learn humility, you agreed to it beforehand.  Same goes for learning discipline, responsibility, and a host of other things.

Why do we have to change our subconscious beliefs in order to receive God's help?

Lots of people don't ask because they think they're unworthy, or they think their request is unimportant, or that they don't want to bother God with little things.  You have to do the inner work necessary to change your deeply-held subconscious beliefs that keep you from asking for what you want.  You have to believe that you are worthy of God's love. And you have to believe that God will help you.

The impetus for this subconscious change has to come from you.  Why?  God is training you to be a strong individual who can help to do God's will in the world.  If you have everything handed to you on a platter, you aren't going to be very strong, are you?  

A lot of people believe in God, kind of, but they seem to feel that God was a lot more active in Bible times than nowadays.  One thing that people back then had that we lack today is the feeling that they could communicate directly with God.  It was a two-way communication. Not only did people talk to God back then, but they listened and they heard God speak.  People don't hear God speak today because they don't even listen! Or they don't recognize when God is communicating with them.

Even when they do listen, many people assume that God is going to speak in a certain way.  God has a lot of ways to communicate with us, many of which are pretty surprising.  God speaks to us in dreams, in the words of a song on the radio, in the words on a sign on the side of the highway, in the words of a friend or a stranger.  God gives us little nudges, little intuitive bits of information that we end up discounting because they didn't come from our rational minds.  Also, the answer may not come right away.  We must be patient and wait upon God's reply.  Everything is in Divine order, and things happen in God's time, not on our time schedule.

People also assume that if God's answer is "yes," then they're going to get exactly what they asked for.  Nope, you're going to get what you need and you're going to get it God's way, not your way.  If God always gave you everything you wanted, you'd be pretty spoiled, now, wouldn't you?  Usually, God's way is so much more than you ever thought to ask for!  Remember that God has a lot more information than you do, and God knows exactly what would be for your highest good, as well as the good of others.  Once in a while, people do get exactly what they asked for – and then they realize that they asked for the wrong thing!  Or they left out one small but important detail.  It's best to ask for things in a general sense, and leave the details to Divine Spirit.

The best way to ask for something is to use "non-directed prayer."  There was a study done once with non-directed prayer.  Some mold was put on a plate of gel, then given a quick alcohol rinse to shock it.  A line was drawn down the center of the plate.  People prayed for one side only.  Instead of asking God to make the mold grow (directed prayer, where you tell God what to do), they used non-directed prayer.  They said, "God, Thy will be done."  In other words, they submitted their will to God's will.  If it was God's will, then the mold would grow.  And grow it did.  (The non-prayed-for side did not grow.)  After that, an experiment was done where they used directed prayer for one side and non-directed prayer for the other side.  The results were that the non-directed prayer side grew better than the directed prayer side. 

So you have to believe that God will answer the prayer, but that the answer, whatever it is, will be for your highest good.  (And "no" is sometimes for your highest good.  Get over it.)   Some people I know asked God to let a person with a terminal illness live, and the person did live a little longer – but the person also ended up suffering longer, too.  Why did the people pray for the person to live longer?  For themselves, not for the person who was ill! 

Why do people have so much trouble receiving God's help?  

Actually, I've already answered that above. People believe that they are unworthy, or that if God's answer doesn't come exactly the way they are expecting it, it doesn't count, somehow.  They don't recognize the help when it comes.  

You've probably heard this story, but it bears repeating:  

There was a flood in the town, and one man went up on his rooftop and started to pray to God to be saved.  Soon a man came by in a rowboat and shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."

The stranded man shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me."  The rowboat went on to help others who were stranded.

Then a motorboat came by. The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."

To this the stranded man replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith."  The motorboat went on to help others.

Finally, a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."

The stranded man yelled, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith."  The helicopter pilot reluctantly flew away.

When the water rose above the rooftop, the man drowned. He went to Heaven. 

"I had such faith in you," he told God, "but you didn't save me from drowning.  Why?" 

God said, "I did try to save you, three times.  I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter.  You refused all three offers of help!" 

That was, of course, because the man had foolishly expected God's help to come in a certain way.  He wanted direct help from God, maybe some kind of special miracle, when God had already arranged to help the man through normal channels. 

*** *** ***

To recap, we must ask for what we want, if it is for our highest good, and allow Divine Spirit to fill in the details of our request with exactly what we need. 

We must believe that God will provide for our every need, no matter how large or small. 

 We must receive what we are given, confident that even though it may not be what we were expecting, it is perfect for us, and it is enough.  :-)