19 April  2016      

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 Farewell Letter
Soraya

 Spirit to Spirit:  Spirit Never Fails
David Thomas

Strategies for Living in the Now
tom walsh

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We send out our energies in the service of others and there comes back to us that which becomes the food for our souls.

Ralph W. Sockman

O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts!

John Keats

In those moments when we forget ourselves--not thinking "Am I happy?", but completely oblivious to our little ego-- we spend a brief but beautiful holiday in heaven.

Eknath Easwaran

  
A note about this article:  Soraya was a Columbian singer/songwriter who lived a sadly short but rich and full life.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31, and she became a strong spokesperson for breast cancer awareness; unfortunately, the disease ended up taking her life when she was just 37.  This is her farewell message to her fans.

Farewell Letter
Soraya

The road hasn't always been easy; nevertheless, hope, dreams and illusions have never left me.  Dreams of which you've always been unconditional accomplices, sometimes walking by my side, singing with me, or carrying my message of hope to those places that I haven't been able to get to.  For that, a thousand thanks.

During this time together, the pages of my internal diary have always been kept active.  Some have been filled with stories that many of you have wanted to share with me through emails or letters, others with experiences that we've lived through together, and still others with personal thoughts born of your generosity.  Of these latter pages, I've had the privilege of sharing some of them in different forms:  my web page, my interviews, my songs, or at my concerts at which your applause fed my heart.  In the end, these pages have stopped being internal and have turned themselves into shared pages, solid and full of sincerity, creating a book that I hope is the answer to many questions that still haven't been asked or answered.

Allowing myself to write my story forced me to confirm that if the material returns are necessary for the daily life, the spiritual returns are those that really have allowed me to live this life.  All of the positive energy, all of the love that one day I succeeded in sharing with you all, I have received in return a million times over.

Thank you for opening your hearts to my music; without your ears, my songs would be only a dream.  My art has always been for you and by you.  I hope that it allows you to feel, to think, to appreciate, to question, to , and above all, to love.

My journey these days is not easy, but I want you to know that your unconditional support has always been in my heart.  I have no doubt that each lived experience, as simple or complicated as it may be, has contributed to the solid base of my existence and has made each moment of my life especially important.  As I said before, I've fulfilled my dream and on this day I couldn't ask for more.

My mission started as a dream and turned into reality because of you.  Today my mission no longer has just my voice, and it grows day by day because of your voices.  It doesn't matter if we had the chance to smile face to face or not; each one of you has been and will always be a blessing to me.

My physical story may arrive at its end, but I'm sure that what exists in all of your hearts will continue for eternity.  I'm confident that my existence will leave tracks in your lives that will benefit the futures of many women, and that the light of my life will spark the light of many more families.

There is no pain in vain because the essence of life consists in transcending it for others and in giving the value of my experience and my fight in order to turn their days into a better existence.  We still haven't reached the goal, but I know that day by day we get closer to it.  I'm not losing this battle today because I know that the battle I've fought isn't in vain, but that it will help to win a bigger battle, the early detection and prevention of this terrible evil.

Now it's your turn to continue with this mission.  I desire from my heart to infect you with my love of life, and that you be a channel that carries to many people this message that may save their lives.  I ask you to understand this opportunity that you now have to prevent an enemy that is able to end your life.

Don't stop fighting!  There's a long road to travel and this battle is worth it.

"When you just listen to the beat of your heart,
You'll find the reason between its rhythm and the silence."

With love,

Soraya
El camino no ha sido siempre fácil, sin embargo la esperanza, los sueños e ilusiones no han dejado nunca de estar presentes. Sueños de los cuales ustedes han sido cómplices incondicionales, algunas veces caminando a mi lado, cantando conmigo, o llevando mi mensaje de esperanza a esos lugares a los que físicamente no he podido llegar. Por eso, mil gracias.

"Durante este tiempo juntos, las páginas de mi diario interno se han mantenido siempre activas. Algunas se han llenado con historias que muchos de ustedes han querido compartir conmigo por medio de e-mails o cartas, otras por experiencias vividas juntos y algunas más por pensamientos personales nacidos de su generosidad. De estas últimas páginas, he tenido el privilegio de compartir algunas en diferentes formas, mi página web, mis entrevistas, mis canciones, o en mis conciertos en donde sus aplausos alimentaban mi corazón. Últimamente estas páginas han dejado de ser internas y se han convertido en páginas compartidas, sólidas y llenas de sinceridad, creando un libro que espero sea la respuesta a muchas preguntas que no han sido aún elaboradas o contestadas.

El permitirme escribir mi historia me hizo confirmar que si bien las recompensas materiales son necesarias para el diario vivir, las recompensas espirituales son las que realmente me han permitido vivir ésta vida. Toda esa energía positiva, todo ese amor que un día logré compartir con ustedes lo he recibido siempre de vuelta multiplicado en un millón.

Gracias por abrir sus corazones a mi música, sin sus oídos mis canciones serían sólo un sueño. Mi arte ha sido siempre por ustedes y para ustedes. Espero que les permita sentir, pensar, apreciar, cuestionar, añorar y sobre todo, amar.

Mi jornada hoy día no es fácil, pero quiero que sepan que su apoyo incondicional ha estado siempre en mi corazón. No tengo duda que cada experiencia vivida, por simple o complicada que sea, ha contribuido a la sólida base de mi existencia y ha hecho que cada momento de mi vida sea especialmente importante. Como dije antes, he cumplido mi sueño y el día de hoy no puedo pedir más.

Mi misión empezó como un sueño y se convirtió en una realidad por ustedes. Hoy ha dejado de tener sólo mi voz y crece día a día por medio de las suyas. No importa si tuvimos la oportunidad de sonreír cara a cara o no, cada uno de ustedes ha sido y serán siempre una bendición para mí.

Mi historia física puede llegar a su fin, pero estoy segura que la que existe en el corazón de ustedes seguirá presente por la eternidad. Confío en que mi existencia dejará huella en la vida de ustedes beneficiando en un futuro a muchas mujeres y que la luz de mi vida iluminará la de muchas familias más.

"No hay dolor en vano porque la esencia de la vida consiste en trascender en los demás y en regalar el valor de mi experiencia y de mi lucha para hacer de sus días un mejor existir. Aun no alcanzamos la meta, pero se que día a día estamos mas cerca de ella. Hoy no pierdo esta batalla porque sé que lo que he luchado no es en vano, si no que ayudará a vencer una batalla mayor, la de la detección temprana y prevención de este terrible mal.

Ahora les toca a ustedes seguir con nuestra misión. Deseo de corazón contagiarles mi amor a la vida y que seas tú un canal que lleve a mucha gente este mensaje que puede salvarles la vida. Te pido comprendas la oportunidad que tienes ahora de prevenir un enemigo que puede acabar con tu vida.

¡No se dejen vencer! Hay mucho camino que recorrer y esta lucha vale la pena.

"...Cuando sólo escuchas el latido de tu corazón. Encontrarás entre su ritmo y el silencio la razón..."

Con amor,

Soraya
   

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Spirit to Spirit
David Thomas

Spirit Never Fails

Failure is a concept that seems to have been invented by humans to somehow "put us in our place" when we're compared to other human beings.  We often use failure as a way to judge others or especially ourselves--failure points out some sort of defect and allows us to berate that person or judge ourselves harshly. . . or show compassion and help the other person or ourselves to learn something new.

The interesting thing is, though, that "failure" in itself isn't really a true concept.  One way of looking at it from a spiritual perspective is that with each effort that we make that "fails," we learn something new--or even two or three new things.  And when we keep that truth in mind, how can we possibly consider the attempt to be a failure?

I may want to lose five pounds in five weeks, but lose only two in that time.  When I call myself a failure, I'm judging the effort to have been useless.  When I reflect on the effort though and try to figure out why I'm only two pounds lighter rather than five, there can be a lot to learn.  And think about it for just a moment--if we really are spirits who are having a human experience for a limited time, then what could be more important to us than learning all that we can while we're here?

That's not to say that we shouldn't try to succeed at what we do, but it is to say that sometimes we have to redefine what we consider success to be.  It can actually be pretty dangerous to us if we develop an attitude that says, "I don't care if I fail or succeed because there's no such thing as failure."  If we approach our goals in that way, we're probably never going to give our all to them, and probably never approach them with the love and passion necessary to have them turn out in positive ways.  That's never a good way to approach life.

I've failed in relationships, and I almost never learned anything from individual failures.  What ended up happening, though, was that I started to see patterns in my failures--it took a few of them before I started to recognize the patterns, but once I did I was able to modify my behaviors so that I approached relationships in much healthier ways.  Had I "succeeded" in the first relationship, I still would have approached it in the unhealthy and ineffective ways, and there's a good chance the relationship would have been doomed.

We're in a process of learning and discovering while we're here on this planet, and both learning and discovering involve following false leads sometimes, taking the wrong road and ending up somewhere we never intended on getting to.  That's okay.  Sometimes, some of our most important discoveries come in places we never expected to be, but where we end up anyway.  And that's one of the nice things about life--it teaches us whether we're following a successful plan or not.  And very often, our supposed "failures" help us to get more out of life than anything else ever could have.

If all that I say here is true, then what we have to work on more than anything else, it seems, is our tolerance for failure, in ourselves and in others.  If our kids try to be good, but fail, then we have to look for the lesson in that reality--the lesson for the kids and for us.  If I try to write a novel and fail at doing so, I have to look at what I got out of the experience that will allow me to grow and develop as a person.

I've "failed" at many things in my life--I can't play the guitar or piano well, though I've tried; I can't skate on rollerblades well, though I've tried; I've had some business ideas that never got off the ground; and on and on.  But I've always noticed that some of my later successes have come because of lessons that I learned in my earlier "failures"--in other words, I have knowledge and wisdom to pull from that I wouldn't have had without those failures.  So they aren't really failures at all, are they?
   

   

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We distinguish the excellent person from the common person
by saying that the former is the one who makes great demands
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Jose Ortega y Gasset

   

 

Strategies for Living in the Now

Over and over again, in many different contexts, I hear the concept repeated:  we need to be present in the current moment if we're to get all we can out of life.  We need to be aware of who and what are with us right here and right now, rather than focusing on the past or the present.  Focusing on the past can lead to a lot of second-guessing and regret, while focusing on the future can keep us in a state of anticipation instead of appreciation-- anxiety and fear instead of engagement and learning.

These days we seem to be obsessed with pulling ourselves away from the "right here" part of the Now.  We allow ourselves to become addicted to our technological devices that constantly pull us away from our surroundings:  as soon as we get a phone call from someone who's somewhere else, we no longer are focused on our surroundings, but start thinking about something somewhere else.  The people around us fade into the background instead of remaining in the foreground, where they really should be.  When we go online to check out Facebook or any of the other social media sites, we're focusing on things that are posted by people who aren't where we are, and we take our minds away from the here and now.

I love keeping in touch with people whom I don't see regularly through Facebook, but I make a strong effort to limit my time there because I know that the here and now are much more important than the posts from people who are living different realities than I am.  I owe the people around me my attention, and I will give it to them.

   

Each new moment presents an
opportunity for conscious choice.
We can choose to let go of the past.
We can choose to be here now.
We can choose to accept
responsibility for ourselves. . . .
We can choose to awaken.
Or we can choose to remain asleep
and unconscious.

Leonard Jacobson

   
I've read zillions of articles and paragraphs and sentences and books telling me that I have to live in the Now if I want to be happy, but almost none of them addresses how to do so.  So I'll try to address it.  First of all, the three words that seem most important to me concerning the now are mindfulness, awareness, and acceptance.  One of Leonard's words belongs there, too, I think:  choice.  But our choices will be determined by our level of acceptance and awareness; without them, our choices will remain unconscious, for the most part.

One thing that I do regularly is to take stock of my present situation.  Where am I?  I look around and notice things that I'm really grateful for.  Right now, for example, in my living room, I see several pieces of furniture that I really like, books that I love reading, music that I love hearing, plants that make the room more livable for me, pictures on the walls, and a television set and some movies that we watch sometimes.  Seeing these things make me realize that even though things may get tight now and then, we really are quite wealthy when compared to people in the rest of the world.  It makes me aware of just how many opportunities are available to us right here and right now.

Beyond what I can see, I have a wife who is a very loving and caring person, step-children who are also very caring people, parents who live far away but who still love me, a brother and sister who both love me, friends in different parts of the country and world, and places that I can visit when I want to in the future, once I make the decision to do so.

Once I take stock of my situation, I get more specific.  What task is before me right now?  Grading papers?  Working on the website?  Taking a quick nap?  Washing the dishes?  Contacting a friend?  One of the things that keeps us somewhat frozen sometimes is having too much to do, but there's a solution for that that I practice regularly.  Whenever I have five tasks in front of me, I sit down and write them down so that I have a clear idea of what's facing me and when it needs to be done.  Then I prioritize them based on when they need to be done and how much work they are.  I then tackle the most important one, and this allows me to completely forget the other four until I'm done.  This is important because I'm able to give my full attention to the task at hand, without worrying about the others--worrying about them would take my mind to the future and cause anxiety.  But I know they'll get done as soon as I'm done with task one, so they're no longer a cause of anxiety.
    

Many people live as if life were a dress rehearsal for some later date.
It isn't.  In fact, no one has a guarantee that he or she will be here
tomorrow.  Now is the only time we have, and the only time that we
have any control over.  When our attention is in the present moment,
we push fear from our minds. . . . Practice keeping your attention
on the here and now.  Your efforts will pay great dividends.


Richard Carlson

    
Much of my strategy for being present in the moment depends on things that I make a conscious decision not to do.  I don't carry a cell phone with me because whenever I get a call from someone else who's somewhere else, my mind is taken away from where I am.  If I'm with a friend and my wife calls to talk about something at home, my mind is no longer there in my present situation, and that's not fair to my friend or to me.  Human beings survived fine for thousands of years without cell phones, and these little pieces of technology are causing much more damage than they are being helpful--I may be able to get information from my phone, but when I'm on it I'm not able to learn any wisdom from the people who are with me.  I lose the chance to talk about their lives, their thoughts and ideas, their dreams and fears.  I lose the chance to contribute to their lives by being a good listener.  I've squandered a great opportunity in the here and now.

I also don't allow myself to think too much about the past or the future.  When I start to do so, I check myself because it's usually not very productive.  Sometimes I'll have a nice memory of something that happened in the past, and there's no problem with allowing that memory to wash over me and make me smile.  It's one way of enjoying the present moment.  The problem is with the thoughts that bring stress and anger and resentment and regret.  Those are the thoughts that I stop in their tracks because they're damaging my ability to live my life.  If I felt good five minutes ago but I'm now filled with anger because of something that happened five years ago, then I am not living my life fully in the present moment.  It's important to have strategies in place to deal with such thoughts.  In my case, reading often helps, becoming focused on something completely different, or even watching an episode of a funny television show or talking to someone about their lives.

It's very, very easy to worry about the future, too, but that worry doesn't do anything to change the course that our lives take in the future.  If something terrible may happen tomorrow, I can either spend my present moment preparing for it--but not worrying about it--or finding something else to do, trusting that I'll be able to deal with it when it gets here tomorrow.  I've been able to deal with a lot of difficult things in my life--I'll be able to deal with this, too.  Perhaps I may spend my now asking a friend for advice on how to deal with it if it happens, or reading up on how others have dealt with similar situations.  If I think I may run out of money in three weeks, I can examine ways to cut my spending and to earn more money in other ways.  Spending the present moment in active preparation is much different that spending the present moment worrying about what may or may not happen.
   

People who are “being” are fully present.  They are totally engaged in
the moment.  This engagement includes an easy appreciation and sense
of connection with whomever or whatever they are relating to at the time.
These people are aware of a job well done or a difficulty surmounted and
will respect and often acknowledge the person who has accomplished it.
“Being” is a state of heart and mind that is receptive
and able to listen carefully.

Sallirae Henderson

   
Sometimes it seems that getting the most out of our Now is strictly a mental matter, something that if we want to accomplish, we need to have control over our minds and thoughts.  For the most part, that's true.  But there is a physical element to it, too--we can take actions that will make us feel more alive, more connected to the present moments as they present themselves.  If I'm feeling a lack of energy, maybe I need to go for a walk--even if it's raining or windy.  Some of the most enjoyable walks I've ever taken have been in the rain.  Perhaps cleaning the house will energize me, at the same time that I'm accomplishing a task that I know needs to be done.  Perhaps right here and right now I can apologize to someone I've wronged, an act that will clear any guilt that I've been feeling.  While I almost never watch television programs when they're broadcast, my wife and I have a select few on dvd that allow us to watch uplifting or simply entertaining episodes to raise our spirits--enjoying other people's creations is a completely legitimate way of enjoying our lives, as long as we don't allow them to become addictions.

All in all, there are many ways that we can make the most of our present moments, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that each moment is different, and each moment brings us a different set of opportunities to make the most of it.  Once we're aware and mindful enough to recognize what they are, we can start using them to make sure that our present moments are ones that contribute to our lives and our happiness--not take away from them.

   
More on now.

   

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The praises of others may be of use
in teaching us not what we are,
but what we ought to be.

Augustus Hare

  
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands,
   like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own, it too could
wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records. . . 
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands,
and it flows out of you
into everything you touch.  You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it, and in that way, be known.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from "So Much Happiness"

   
  

The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to everyone the
reflection of our own faces. Frown at it, and it in turn will look
sourly on you; laugh at it and with it, and it is
a jolly, kind companion.

William Makepeace Thackeray

    

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