December 13, 2017

It has been several years since I have been on a plane, but I remember the flight attendants always telling us in an emergency to put our oxygen masks on first before helping anyone else. This is similar advice to what I was given during my spiritual formation. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Practicing you this month means we have to remember to put our masks on first. Today, I thought I would share a few practical ways to take care of ourselves in our daily lives.

1.     Unplug from the energy zappers.
We all have people in our lives who are energy zappers. They are those folks who make you feel like increasingly tired the longer you are around them. When you start to feel emotionally, mentally, and even physically drained around certain people, excuse yourself and find a quiet place to be and let your energy level rebuild. This is not to say that those individuals are bad people, just that they zap your energy and your ability to be present for yourself and thus for others. Unplug, put your mask on and breathe.

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December 5, 2017

This morning I was thinking about this month’s spiritual practice. I had this epiphany that my wife has taught me so much about the spiritual practice of you. One of the first things she said to me when we were dating is that she was allergic to makeover queens. She defined them as those people who placed conditions on love. They are those people who say I would love you if _________ (you can fill in the blank).

I am not sure about anyone else, but I have known more than my share of people who have always let me know I was not enough of something or too much of something. I never quite fit their approval just as I was. The reality, I came to understand, is that it didn’t matter what I did, I would never be cast in their storyline because I would never have their unconditional love and acceptance.

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November 28, 2017

Over the last several years I have had the blessing of meeting, or at least chatting, with so many people who have expressed how the meditations of my heart have resonated with their spirits and touched their life. Recently, I have heard from a few more people then I normally do. They have told me how they have shared what I have written with others, who have read my writings and now yearn to get to know me better, like a young woman named Melissa. What I have come to realize is that there is something she feels in my writings which is her golden shadow.  She has all the gifts, talents and abilities within her that she yearns for, through her relationship with me. She has yet to embrace and embody them.

I so understand that feeling because there are numerous writers and speakers whose work I have admired from afar. It is not that I wanted to be them. But I admired what they had and I wanted that. I wanted that thing I saw in them that I could not see within myself. That is what I yearned for, not to be them, but to have the talent for conveying their wisdom in a way that I had not yet believed I could.

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November 21, 2017

I have long appreciated some of the writings and teachings of Ram Dass. I first discovered his writing while reading a cookbook of all things. He had a quote that reminded me that it is through cooking, serving, and feeding that I am able to not only be of service to the Ultimate Consciousness, but also to have that which I yearn for, a deeper relationship with the Divine.

Recently, I had the chance to read some of his writings and thoughts regarding desire. What I appreciated about his writing is how he helped me to understand that what we yearn for is an emotional system. Many of the things we yearn for in life is associated with some emotional or mental desire. They are not things we yearn for spiritually, but things which do not contribute to our overall well-being. So he guides us through a series of exercises to help us detach ourselves from those things we desire and wish we did not.  This week, I thought I would share a few excerpts from his book, Paths to God: Living the Bhagavad Gita.

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November 7, 2017

As I have been thinking about yearning the last week, I have come to the realization that this is not about renouncing or pursuing our desires, that which we yearn for in our lives. Rather, it is about understanding our yearnings and the lessons behind it. As I did, I was reminded of a film I saw almost 30 years ago now, called The Trip to Bountiful.

In this film, Mrs. Watts, a sensitive old woman living in the city with her son and his wife, develops a yearning to visit her family home, now long abandoned, in Bountiful, Texas. Her daughter-in-law interprets this wish as sentimental senility, and she convinces her husband to thwart the old lady’s attempts to take a train or bus to visit her long-abandoned homestead. Mrs. Watts expresses the elemental nature of her longing plainly: ‘I haven’t had my hands in dirt in twenty years. My hands feel the need of dirt.

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October 31, 2017

Although this film came out a few years ago, it was just recently that I got to learn more about it and what it has to teach us about the mysterious ways God works in and through our lives. For those who know nothing about this film, it is the story of a man Paul Edgecombe who was once the block supervisor of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary Death row, nicknamed “The Green Mile,” because of the color of the linoleum. It is his story about the transformative power one of his inmates, John Coffey, a 6 ft 8 inch powerfully built black man had on his life. Coffey had been convicted of raping and murdering two small white girls.

Throughout this story we watch as Paul comes to realize that John possesses gifts that defy his understanding. He cures Paul of a urinary tract infection. He cures the warden’s wife of an inoperable brain tumor. John also has the gift of seeing things. When touched by the man who had raped and murdered the young girls he saw the event. By the end of the story, we know that those healed by John gained an unnaturally long lifespan. He saw John’s ghost at the scene when he was holding his wife while she died.

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October 18, 2017

I have always wondered why we spend so much time trying to understand and explain that which has already told us we cannot explain. Why is it that we are not okay with not being able to explain God. Why is it not okay to just say I do not know.

The more I try to conceptualize and theorize about this force many call God, the more I realize we will never be able to do more, in this realm, then have experiences which allow us to know we have just had an encounter with the Divine. For some it is enough that we sit in those moments where we know we have experienced the presence of the Divine.

One of the liberating lessons I have learned from my study of Toltec Wisdom is that it is what it is nothing more, nothing less. What if we sat with our experiences with the Divine in that way, not making more or less of the experience then it is. When we do are we not in some way dishonoring the authenticity and uniqueness of that experience. If we dishonor the experience, are we also dishonoring the Divine.

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October 3, 2017

Growing up in a Jewish household, there were a few stories my Bubby used to tell me which continue to shape me today. One story was about how when we are born God would take you to a field that was covered with bundles. The bundle signified the troubles that you picked up to bring with you to Earth. The teaching from the rabbis was that if God were to bring you back to that field at the time of your death to pick another bundle, you would pick the same one.  We would not do anything differently.

Sometimes we think we have to come up with a plan for our lives. We don’t the plan is there, we just have to stop and listen. I remember about 16 years ago being in a space in my life where I felt as if my life was in a shamble. I was going through multiple losses, which included my mother’s death, the end of a 9-year relationship, and the near passing of my son. It was a challenging time and I did not understand anything that was going on. I remember telling God that I was tired of trying to figure it out, so as the song says lead me, guide me, and order my steps in your way and then the magic started happening.

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September 26, 2017

Years ago, the spiritual director I was working with talked with me about a Japanese form of self-defense called aikido. She talked with me about how when we are surprised and thrown off guard, we want to fight or free. We want to narrow our world and our vision to create this protective force around us. Rather than do so, she suggested I practice what she called “soft eyes.” Practicing soft eyes meant that I challenged myself to expand rather than contract my view of the world.

When we open our eyes, and allow ourselves to see the greatness of the world and the grace which surrounds us, it softens our heart, mind, and soul. Rather than want to resist or run when taken by surprise, practicing wonder allows us to open ourselves up to the great mystery of the world.

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August 28, 2017

There is a Buddhist story I love and would like to share with you this week. It is, as the title suggests, about a group of six blind men and an elephant. Whenever I think about practicing vision, this story reminds me how our vision is shaped by the perspective we are. It limits and shapes what we see and what we do not. I know I have shared this story before in the past, but some stories are worth sharing again.

Long ago six old men lived in a village in India. Each was born blind. The other villagers loved the old men and kept them away from harm. Since the blind men could not see the world for themselves, they had to imagine many of its wonders. They listened carefully to the stories told by travelers to learn what they could about life outside the village.

The men were curious about many of the stories they heard, but they were most curious about elephants. They were told that elephants could trample forests, carry huge burdens, and frighten young and old with their loud trumpet calls. But they also knew that the Rajah’s daughter rode an elephant when she traveled in her father’s kingdom. Would the Rajah let his daughter get near such a dangerous creature?

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