12 April  2016      

We're well into another week in our lives, and it may be a good idea
to ask ourselves what we're doing to make this week exceptional.  Are
we encouraging others?  Are we staying aware of our surroundings?
Are we doing anything different from the norm?

Born with Love
Marianne Williamson

 Spirit to Spirit:  Under the Surface
David Thomas

Strategies for Taking What Nature Offers
tom walsh

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To have a purpose that is worthwhile, and that is steadily being accomplished, is one of the secrets of a life that is worth living.

Herbert Casson

All people ought to begin with themselves, and make their own happiness first, from which the happiness of the whole world would at last unquestionably follow.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Patience and tenacity of purpose are assets
of infinitely greater value than cleverness.
There is great strength in patiently waiting.
The sun, having set, comes up.  The tide ebbs,
but always flows in again.

Fred van Amburgh

  
Born with Love (Introduction to A Return to Love)
Marianne Williamson

When we were born, we were programmed perfectly.  We had a natural tendency to focus on love.  Our imaginations were creative and flourishing, and we knew how to use them.  We were connected to a world much richer than the one we connect to now, a world full of enchantment and a sense of the miraculous.

So what happened?  Why is it that we reached a certain age, looked around, and the enchantment was gone?

Because we were taught to focus elsewhere.  We were taught to focus elsewhere.  We were taught to think unnaturally.  We were taught a very bad philosophy, a way of looking at the world that contradicts who we are.

We were taught to think thoughts like competition, struggle, sickness, finite resources, limitation, guilt, bad, death, scarcity, and loss.  We began to think these things, and so we began to know them.  We were taught that things like grades, being good enough, money, and doing things the right way, are more important than love.  We were taught that we're separate from other people, that we have to compete to get ahead, that we're not quite good enough the way we are.  We were taught to see the world the way that others had come to see it.  It's as though, as soon as we got here, we were given a sleeping pill.  The thinking of the world, which is not based on love, began pounding in our ears the moment we hit shore.

Love is what we were born with.  fear is what we learned here.  The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.  Love is the essential existential fact.  It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth.  To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.

Meaning doesn't lie in things.  Meaning lies in us.  When we attach value to things that aren't love -- the money, the car, the house, the prestige -- we are loving things that can't love us back.  We are searching for meaning in the meaningless.  Money, of itself, means nothing.  Material things, of themselves, mean nothing.  It's not that they're bad.  It's that they're nothing.

We came here to co-create with God by extending love.  Life spent with any other purpose in mind is meaningless, contrary to our nature, and ultimately painful.  It's as though we've been lost in a dark, parallel universe where things are loved more than people.  We overvalue what we perceive with our physical senses, and undervalue what we know to be true in our hearts.

Love isn't seen with the physical eyes or heard with the physical ears.  The physical sense can't perceive it; it's perceived through another kind of vision.  Metaphysicians call it the Third Eye, esoteric Christians call it the vision of the Holy Spirit, and others call it the Higher Self.  Regardless of what it's called, love requires a different kind of "seeing" than we're used to -- a different kind of knowing or thinking.  Love is the intuitive knowledge of our hearts.  It's a "world beyond" that we all secretly long for.  An ancient memory of this love haunts all of us all the time, and beckons us to return.

Love isn't material.  It's energy.  It's the feeling in a room, a situation, a person.  Money can't buy it.  Sex doesn't guarantee it.  It has nothing at all to do with the physical world, but it can be expressed nonetheless.  We experience it as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, and intimacy.

Fear is our shared lovelessness, our individual and collective hells.  It's a world that seems to press on us from within and without, giving constant false testimony to the meaninglessness of love.  When fear is expressed, we recognize it as anger, abuse, disease, pain, greed, addiction, selfishness, obsession, corruption, violence, and war.

Love is hidden within us.  It cannot be destroyed, but can only be hidden.  The world we knew as children is still buried within our minds.
   
  

Williamson reveals how we each can become a miracle worker by accepting God and by the expression of love in our daily lives.  Whether psychic pain is in the area of relationships, career, or health, she shows us how love is a potent force, the key to inner peace, and how by practicing love we can make our own lives more fulfilling while creating a more peaceful and loving world for our children.

   

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Spirit to Spirit
David Thomas

Under the Surface

Because we are spirits having a human experience, we know just as well as anyone else that what we see in this world and what's really in this world aren't necessarily the same thing.  After all, when people see me, they see a human man who is a certain age, a certain height and weight, with a certain type of face and hair and build.  They don't see the eternal being that I am, the part of me that's been around forever and that will be around for a very long time after this human experience has ended.

And if they don't see me for what I truly am, then what are the odds that I see others as they truly are?

Knowing that there's so much under the surface of everyone is an incredibly freeing knowledge.  When I know this for sure, I can see an angry person and see much more than that--I can see a spirit struggling with this experience and giving into the fear of loss or change and having that fear be transformed into anger, an outward expression of fear and frustration rather than an inward one.  When I see a person who seems to be arrogant, I know that the spirit inside that person is also dealing with fears that come from being human, and that the spirit hasn't come far enough yet to be able to deal with people in ways that don't come off as negative.  An arrogant person is often simply trying to put themselves above others because he or she is afraid that others see him or her as inferior, so that person simply pretends to be superior, while inside that person is often dealing with a huge inferiority complex.

And very often, the human part of the equation turns that pretend superiority into a belief, and actually starts to feel superior to others.  It's a very vicious series of events and decisions.

When we look at a tree, we can know that there's so much going on inside that tree that we may never comprehend all that's happening.  Water is being sent from the roots to the leaves; bark is growing and falling off; the tree itself is growing bigger; the leaves are taking in sunlight and giving off oxygen--and who knows how many other amazing processes are going on in there?  Since we know for sure that we are not what we appear to be on the surface, can't we be pretty sure that a tree isn't exactly what it appears to be on the surface?  Of course we can, and we can marvel at the wonder of the complexity of the tree, of all the trees and bushes and plants around us.

If we refuse to acknowledge our spirituality, though, there's a good chance that we'll never feel the sense of wonder that we get when we recognize that something we see is far deeper and much more complex than what our eyes are allowing us to perceive.  The world becomes flat and drab and normal, and our place in the world can't be nearly as special if we don't see the world as special.  When we do acknowledge our spirituality, we can see other elements of the world as the mysteries that they are--flowers and trees that come from tiny seeds, people and animals who are created from a combination of extremely small sperm and eggs, mountains that arose when tectonic plates smashed together, and so on and on.

Under the surface, my knowledge and perspective and intuition are amazing, yet almost no one sees those things on the human level.  Under the surface, you understand things that almost no one else understands, and you see and feel with amazing clarity.  But people see you as "just" another person in a crowd.  When we live from the spiritual level, though, we recognize that all of the other people we see are amazingly insightful and loving and miraculous beings, and our world becomes richer when we actually recognize just how fantastic our fellow "human" creatures are.
   

   

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A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth.  Instead
of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give
us hopes of eternal youth in a better world.

Lydia Maria Child

   

 

Strategies for Taking What Nature Offers

I must have a connection with Nature, or I feel a huge loss in my life.  There's something about Nature that adds a richness to my life that I'm really unable to describe--it fills my spirit in ways that make me feel deeply a connection to life and the world around us that gives me peace and makes me feel a unity that is very special, indeed.

I don't think it's a coincidence that almost all great teachers have focused strongly on Nature as a source of renewal and of learning about ourselves and our lives.  Think about it--we wouldn't even be alive if plants didn't produce the oxygen we need to survive, and everything that we eat is at one level or another a product of Nature (although some companies seem bound and determined to produce food that's mostly chemical!).  Without forests and rivers and deserts and prairies, most of the life on this planet would cease to exist, and the great circle of life would be not only diminished, but probably eliminated completely.

But we've pulled ourselves away from Nature, locked ourselves in these boxes that we call home, with many of us rarely exposing ourselves and our spirits to the natural world at all.  We may eat a carrot, yet never touch the soil in which it's grown.  We can eat an apple without ever seeing the tree upon which it grows.  We can have pictures of flowers on the walls or even buy live flowers for our living rooms, but not see those flowers in their natural states.

And because of this lack of connection with Nature, we don't nourish our souls with the gifts that Nature gives us.  We don't breathe in the forest air or feel the soil on our hands or feel the cool, clear water of a river on our skin.  We don't remind ourselves of the cycles of life, a reminder that can definitely help us to deal with stress and adversity in our lives.  We don't remind ourselves that we, too, are an essential part of Nature, and that we do have an important place in this world, mostly because we've chosen not to acknowledge that place and fill it in ways that we should.

   

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of
strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something
infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature--the assurance
that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

Rachel Carson

   
Easily the most important thing that we can do if we want to feel the benefits of Nature is to get outdoors for longer than it takes to walk to our cars.  Taking a walk on a city street is nothing near the same thing as taking a walk in a forest, yet just being outdoors, using our legs and our lungs and our arms to walk in the fresh air and to see and hear the world around us is a start.  The air outside may not be as clean and fresh as the air in a forest, but it is air that circulates regularly and that isn't the same air that was there yesterday.  We may walk by trees and grass and gardens, and if we take the time to acknowledge their beauty and their benefit to us, we're starting to understand our connection with Nature.

Recognizing and appreciating the beauty of Nature is one of the ways that we can definitely nourish our spirits.  Part of this effect comes from simply the aesthetic beauty of a tree, a flower, a sunset, a landscape, an animal or an insect.  When we realize that we are constantly surrounded by beauty and functionality and that all of this beauty works together to create consistent cycles upon which we can depend fully, we can understand that the stresses and anxieties that we experience tend to pale in comparison to the amazingly complex yet constant cycles that keep the natural world always flowing, always alive.

Taking part in these cycles also can help us to be happier and healthier.  Anyone who has planted anything as a seed and watched it grow into something else knows a bit more about the cycles of life.  That person is often going to be able to find more patience with someone else who hasn't reached a certain level of maturity yet.  Instead of being angry at that person, someone who has watched and participated in the cycles of nature can more easily see that we people, too, are driven and directed by cycles.  Just as we can't expect an infant to be able to set the table, we also can't expect an adolescent to do something that he or she simply isn't able yet to do.  A farmer knows that you can't harvest anything until it's ready to be harvested, while many parents expect their kids to be able to do anything they decide the kids should do.  It's a recipe for disaster.
    

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will but listen.


George Washington Carver

    
If we listen to Nature, we are also improving our lives, usually without spending a single cent--we're just giving our time and attention to something that is there always.  What will we hear?  We'll hear the breezes, the songs of the birds, the waves and the rivers, the falling rain or snow or ice, the noises of the insects, the barking of dogs or the howls of coyotes, the bugling of elk.  And when we hear such things, our minds will be tuned into the authenticity of the sound--we can trust it, for the source of the sound has neither need nor desire to impress or to deceive.  I love to listen to the sound of a running brook or waves on a beach on a cd, for the sound reminds me that there's much more to this world--on a much broader and deeper scale--than the trials and tribulations of my present day.  The sounds of Nature can relax us (unless it's a bear roaring as it chases you, of course), and remind us that human beings are not the be-all and end-all of existence.  The sounds can put us in our place--as a part of Nature, even though we spend such a huge portion of our time separating ourselves from Nature.

Sometimes we think that if we're not immersed in Nature, then we can't benefit from it.  But that's not necessarily so.  Improving our lives through our connection with Nature can easily be done on a very small scale in the middle of an urban area.  Houseplants are a wonderful way of reminding ourselves of just how important plants are to us; walks in the park help to keep our minds on the more eternal things in life--those trees that you see probably have been on this planet longer than you have, and those birds and squirrels aren't worried about drama or jobs or relationships.  It's a mistake to avoid this kind of input into our lives thinking that it's not enough--it certainly is better than nothing at all!
   

People are incomprehensible without Nature, and Nature
is incomprehensible apart from people. For the delicate
loveliness of the flower is as much in the human eye as
in its own fragile petals, and the splendor of the
heavens as much in the imagination that kindles at the
touch of their glory as in the shining of countless worlds.

Hamilton  Wright Mabie

   
Be in Nature.  Experience the peace and quiet and patience of trees, and watch animals and birds and insects in their natural places.  Breathe deeply of the air of the forest, and listen to the wind rustling through the leaves above and around you.  You can enjoy Nature a great deal if you simply search it out, whether you go to a forest or the desert or a beach.  If you can find a way to participate in Nature by helping to clean up a forest path or growing some seedlings or taking care of an animal, you can do that, too.  The most important thing is to actively seek out contact with Nature, time when it's just you and Nature with no cell phones, no Internet, no other distractions that keep you from experiencing the majesty of your surroundings.  A relationship with Nature is easy to forge, but one must seek it out--it doesn't just happen.

I leave you with some very nice words from Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay entitled "Nature": 
"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature.  Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. His intercourse with heaven and earth, becomes part of his daily food. In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, -- he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me."

   
More on expectations.

   

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And once the storm is over, you wonít remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.  You wonít even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain.  When you come out of the storm, you wonít be the same person who walked in.  Thatís what this stormís all about.

Haruki Murakami

  
Desiderata
Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons--they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be careful.
Strive to be happy.

Life is a series of choices and as all ideas in this manifested universe are divided as opposites, we can choose the negative ego approach or the positive spiritual approach. . . . From the negative ego approach we learn that we will suffer until we balance our actions and bring our lives into harmony with the laws that govern the universe.  This is called the law of hard knocks or karma.  With the positive spiritual approach we choose to live in obedience to God's will, to live in harmony with universal laws without being pushed into it.  This can be called the school of grace.

Cheryl Canfield

   
  

The biggest secret of self-esteem is this:
Begin to appreciate other people more, show respect
for any human being merely because he or she is
a child of God and therefore a "thing of value."

Maxwell Maltz

    

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