LIFE LESSONS

May 22, 2017

 

One of the quotes I come back to repeatedly in my own journey are the words of Iyanla Vanzant who taught me to give thanks for those who get on my last nerve. Each of them in their own way is helping me to learn something about myself. So often, when we find someone difficult to deal with, we focus our energy on how difficult they are.

One of the things I have come to realize is that it often times it is those people who are here to teach me a lesson. Sometimes they are challenging me to look at when in my life I have been that way. As much as I would like to say I have never been a pain in someone’s life, I am sure I have and will be, albeit intentionally or not. Being able to look at what it is I find so difficult helps me to see how I have done something in my own life. When I work on my own forgiveness for ever having been difficult to interact with, I come to realize the person I am interacting with now is not quite as difficult as I had originally imagined.

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MOVIE TEACHERS

May 15, 2017

So often we think about teachers as people, sometimes experiences, even animals. However, sometimes our teachers can be films. It is one of the reasons that several times I have offered a film and spirituality group. It is amazing the spiritual lessons we can learn from a film. Sometimes what we learn is from the storyline, sometimes it is the setting, sometimes the lighting, sometimes the music, sometimes a character.

When I offered this group it was interesting to be sitting in a room full of people who had all just watched the same film, but we all walked away with different things or characters that spoke to us. It is like going to a restaurant and everybody eats the same meal, but different people like different things about it. What you see and take from it is for you and I see and take from it is for me.

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THE LONG HAUL

May 8, 2017

 

Recently in Why the Chicken Crossed the Road, I was reading this story about a student who wanted to be taught the Iron Shirt Exercises. There are a series of exercises used to allow the body’s natural energy to support its structural strength. Dean Sluyter wrote, “There’s a story in Chinese martial-arts tradition about a young man who begs a great Kung-fu master to teach him the Iron Shirt exercises, an esoteric system reputed to make the muscles and organs so strong that they are impervious to blows. The master at first refuses, but finally sets him a kung (a formidable challenge). Pointing to a thick tree, he says, “Pull up that tree and bring it to me; then I’ll teach you Iron Shirt.” After months of futile tugging, the student notices that he can get better leverage if he keeps his back straight. With further experimentation he finds the optimal way to plant his feet. He works on, incrementally adjusting the way he hugs the tree, the way he breathes, the way he visualizes the task. After four years the tree starts to give. Finally he uproots it and lays it at the master’s feet, demanding, ‘Now teach me Iron Shirt!’ ‘Now I don’t have to,’ the master replies. ‘You’ve just learned it.’ ”

There are lessons we learn in life which we learn quickly. There are also lessons that cannot be learned quickly, they are lessons like learning to pull up this tree, that are learned over the long haul. One of the lessons I have learned in life is that there is always more to a job then is written in the job description. The job description can tell you what you are supposed to be doing, but what you actually wind up doing is far more complex then that. I have been working as an adjunct professor for 20 years now and my job description is simple. I teach the two classes assigned to me each semester and offer office hours to my students where they can access me.

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Years ago I remember reading or hearing Iyanla Vanzant say we should give thanks for those who get on our last nerve as they have saved us hours of therapy and thousands of dollars in copays.  That is not the exact quote, but the point I took from it is that those we find the most difficult to deal with often times have invaluable lessons to teach us.

This month, I am reading Mark I Rosen’s book, Thank You for Being Such a Pain. In it he provides strategies for allowing difficult people to be teachers. He tells a story that reminded me of Vanzant’s advice. He wrote:

“There is a story about the mystical teacher Gurdjieff and one of his disciples. The disciple, who lived in the ashram, was strongly disliked by the other disciples for a variety of reasons. When he left, Gurdjieff actually tracked him down and paid him to return, telling the rest of the disciples that the ostracized man was one of their most important teachers.”

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A ROOM OF MY OWN

April 24, 2017

This past month I have come to realize that when I make room for silence in my life, I am creating a room of my own. It is the simplest addition to my home that I can create. There is no building permit needed, no contractors, no designers. All I need to do is sit, be still, and be. In doing so, I create a room which is my ashram. It is my place to just be in communion with the one I call the Ultimate Consciousness. I do not need anything here. I do not need candles, or pillows, or cushions, or furniture. I just need to be still and be in the presence of the Divine.

My room is not external, although it could happen in a physical room. It is a room within myself. It is one that only I and the Divine are allowed to enter. It is a room constructed by holy silence. It is here where I tap into a strength that prevents the noises of life from being heard. It is a space where the only things I can hear is my breathing, my feelings, and the whispers of the Sacred. It is as if I am in one of those soundproof booths and all I can hear is what I can hear, nothing more, nothing less.

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DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?

April 18, 2017

Last week in my personal journal, Stirring my Spiritual Waters, I wrote about The Silent Space  One of the things I wrote about was how I can sit in my dining room and gaze out into the garden and soak in the silence.  Yesterday, as I was sitting in my dining room and gazing out into the garden I realized that I was watching a performance, or perhaps it was a praise and worship service being led by the various inhabitants of our garden. The windows prevented me from physically hearing anything that was really going on in the garden or the sounds which things were actually making, but I could sit, watch, and hear on a different level.

One of the first things I noticed was that I had two wind chimes hanging in one of our trees in the backyard. I had remembered having someone hang one of them for me, but had no memory of this second one. This one was different and sparkled every time the sun shone on it in just the right way, it reflected a rainbow out on to the green blades of grass. Both of them moved with the wind and even though I could not hear the sounds, I could watch the chimes move and in my mind, I could hear these beautiful sounds singing to my soul.

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SILENCE IS A BRIDGE

April 10, 2017

At Love & Inspiration yesterday morning, I commented about how silence is a bridge, not a barrier. Silence becomes the bridge through which we traverse the abyss to the Divine who dwells in the deepest of our internal sanctuaries. It is the noise which are the barriers, which distract us and prevent us from making spaces and places for silence.

When create spaces of silence, we create a space for us to be ourselves and to journey to the inner sanctuaries within us where the Divine dwells. Being intentional about creating space in our lives for silence, is like honoring the Sabbath. It is radical and counter-cultural. It is about us creating margins in our life where we can just sit and be.

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SILENCE AND TEA

April 3, 2017

I always tell folks that it takes a long time to grow an old friend. Friendships require time. It takes time to develop the kind of intimacy with someone where you can stand with them in silence and still enjoy the company. Silence, waiting, time and respect for the other’s space are all elements of friendship.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is our silence. My days are filled with me talking to people in some way, shape, or form. So the greatest gift my wife can give me sometimes is the gift of silence. The time to just be and not have to speak. We can sit next to each other and just be. Even though we may not be speaking a word, the communication is powerful and loving.

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CHANGING THE IMAGES

March 27, 2017

Years ago, in one of my women studies texts I read someone talking about how we learn how to glorify and imitate our oppressors. We see so much of this in everyday life. We look at behaviors, actions, and language we would never use, or so we say and then we do. I remember friends of mine who are black and gay going to look at an apartment. The landlord, also black, once seeing them said we do not rent to your kind. The your kind here was them being gay. Yet this was language that was once, and sometimes still is, to deny service to non-Euromericans. This landlord was imitating his oppressors.

This ability to do so can become a part of anyone’s life. Jae Woong Kim, in Polishing the Diamond, Enlightening the Mind, shares the following story. “Long ago, many bandits roamed the mountains, and they often captured monks. It was said that, less than three years after their capture, the monks began to commit the same crimes, crimes to which they once had been vehemently opposed.

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EMBRACING THE DARKNESS

March 20, 2017

During this month of practicing acknowledging and embracing our shadows, I have been moved by so many people who have shared their stories with me and of those who have talked about how they have and are learning how to Dance with their Dragon . Recently, the following story was shared with me. about how we can use our shadows to walk in the fullness of who we are. The story in its fullness can be found on The Huffington Post, but here is what Royce Young wrote on his FB page.

The other night, before I left for New Orleans, I was watching my beautiful wife sleep peacefully on the couch.

I looked at her laying there, her belly big with our daughter kicking away, a daughter that won’t live more than a few days, and it just overwhelmed me of how incredible this woman is. I’m a writer so when I’m feeling something, I tend to have to write it down. So I pulled out my phone and started writing what I was thinking.

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