In the present moment

Bee on flower (orange)When we peel back the layers of unimportant things with which we fill our minds and days, we can free ourselves to just “be” in the moment and benefit from some profound – albeit simple – experiences.

Some of the profound but simple things I enjoyed this past week include:

  1. The smell in the air when it just started to rain on a hot day.
  2. Watching a female cardinal (bird) hopping from branch to branch in a tree.
  3. The busy sound of a bumblebee buzzing around.
  4. While on a shuttle bus, I spotted a lone duck paddling across the middle of a calm river.
  5. A pair of dragonflies flew by me on one of my walks – the first dragonflies I have seen this year!

These all occurred on ordinary days – days that contained the usual duties and tasks, wondering and worry; and yet in these (and other) distinct moments I experienced small moments of joy that were (almost) hidden in plain sight – tucked into everyday circumstances.

The rain smell, busy bird, dragonflies, duck and the bee would have gone on with their missions with or without me. It was my life that was made richer in noticing their presence and welcoming them into my day.

In those brief moments I reconnected with a quiet wisdom. It reminded me that life is much more than peak experiences or deep failures. We will all have times when we ascend great mountains of achievement, and times when we succumb to depths of great sorrow but it is between those milestone moments that the rest of our life unfolds.

If we are lucky enough to figure this out, life-changing joy may be found within the brief instances that make up the everyday experience of our lives.

Give it a try.

What small joys will you find?

Allowing

Sometimes life teaches us through the experience of others. I suspect that at times, we see things more clearly with a little distance. Certainly we are experiencing the same Truths, but when it’s too close, it can sometimes be less obvious to us. Regardless, it’s a good day when we have the opportunity to remember that these principles work, all the time.

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to be reminded that when we are seeking Good, the best action to take is non-action, or what I would classify as “allowing”.

Unbeknownst to me, my grandchildren had learned of an event at the local Toys R Us where the first 50-shoppers would receive free Pokemon gifts, discounts and more. They were beside themselves that the Mother’s Day lunch I had invited them to with their mother/my daughter was going to knock them out of any chance to be in line as one of the first-50 shoppers.

True to their good little hearts, they went along with lunch (I knew there was a desire to go to Toys R Us – I was not made aware of the first-50-shoppers issue) like troopers, and we had a good meal and a nice time together. As we left the restaurant, they asked me if we could all go to Toys R Us. What grandmother do you know can refuse that request? I said, “of course!” and off we went.

We walked into the Toys R Us and apparently the event had been over for a couple hours, so there was no counting of the 50-lucky shoppers. Still, no sad faces or miserable dispositions. I had promised a small purchase for each of them (fidget spinners!) and they also wanted to browse the Pokemon and Beanie Boo items to make their upcoming birthday lists.

As we were combing through the latest Pokemon packs, a Toys R Us employee walked up and asked is if we had been there for the Pokemon event earlier. My daughter and the kids shook their heads, no. He said, “I’ll be right back,” and disappeared toward the front of the store.

He returned a few moments later with a packet of Pokemon goodies for each of them. They were ecstatic, and then he reappeared with 2 more items to add to each bag from the event.

We made our purchases and left the store, and my daughter used the opportunity of the teaching moment at hand.

Remember when you were upset about missing the Pokemon event, and I said that you needed to let it go, and everything would work out one way or another?

The kids nodded their heads.

This is what I was telling you about earlier. Not only did you get the things you wanted, and thought you had missed, but you didn’t even have to ask – those goodies showed up and tapped you on the shoulder!

The kids nodded excitedly, and chattered among themselves as they dug into their goodie bags. I reflected on the profound Truth lesson that had come forth in that simple toy store exchange. My grandchildren had a desire, but life appeared to be placing a barrier in front of that desire. Instead of throwing a temper tantrum, being resentful or miserable; they accepted that it wasn’t going to happen in the timeframe they would prefer,…and they let it go.

We had a nice lunch, they were cheerful, undistracted and delightful companions throughout our meal. I had no idea of the scope of the disappointment that was buried in missing the Pokemon event, that was scheduled to end right as we sat down to lunch.

How often do we put out a desire, and then along comes life – obligations, duties and other people’s schedules – to mess up our forward march toward the “Pokemon goodies” that we want so badly?

Too often we take on the energy of disappointment which influences our perspective. We begin to believe that now we must struggle to achieve our desire, if we’ll ever achieve it at all which makes us even grouchier. We may even take on the Eeyore persona.Eeyore

Oh bother,…

This repels our Good instead of helping us move closer to it. In this Pokemon example, if the kids had hooted and hollered and been miserable throughout our lunch, we would have gone home after eating and not ventured over to Toys R Us.

I’m sure they were hoping that Grammy would buy them some small goodie (it’s a grandmother thing), and that helped to ease some of the disappointment at missing the “surprise goodies” promised to the first 50 shoppers. This ease set up an energy of allowing instead of an energy of repelling. They knew that Good was going to come their way, and so they relaxed and just let it happen.

This Good (defined in elementary school terms) was the acquisition of a small toy (the fidget spinner) and they were pleased as punch that Grammy was ready and willing to get them each this newest toy craze (< $6). But none of us would have predicted that the goodie bags would stalk us in the toy aisles and be delivered into their hands!

The lesson is obvious: get clear on what we desire. Know that it will come our way, and let go of the HOW – really let go! Letting go, or allowing, means as Mike Dooley puts it, that we keep our fingers out of the “cursed hows“. We resist the urge to micromanage the events that unfold in front of us, and we trust that the intention for Good we have put out into the Universe will be returned to us.

Edwene Gaines reminds us that in the Christian Bible we are guided to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.… [Matthew 18:2-4]

In metaphysical circles the Kingdom of Heaven is known to be what we create right here, right now. So if we want to see more Good in our own right-here-right-now, the instructions are clear:

  • follow the lead of small children who let go of micromanaging, and live with deep and abiding trust that their Good is on its way.

And so it is.

(C) 2017 Practitioner's Path

Be careful little tongue what you say

Many years ago when I was a young child in rural Ohio, I learned a song in Sunday School. Thanks to the wonders of 21st century technology, I can share that song with ease:

I think there have been some verses added since I was a kid, but the general song remains the same.

I thought of this song earlier this week when I read an article in The Atlantic that should make honest New Thought leaders stop and think about how they want to portray (& market) the tenets of their message.

The article, titled “The American Health Care Act’s Prosperity Gospel” highlights an evangelical perspective that inches very close to some of the most core teachings in religious science/New Thought.

“…[the] close association of morality and health, with the idea that “good lives” produce good health, is just a recasting of the prosperity gospel.”

And it’s not a popular position to take as millions of the most vulnerable in the United States are facing a health care crisis of immense proportions.

“Well, we’re certainly not evangelicals!”

Centers for Spiritual Living ministers and practitioners may know that they’re not evangelicals; but their message might be hard to parse from the religious right as they ALSO teach that right thinking is the answer to all of life’s ills and problems.

That’s not much of a departure from the evangelical prosperity gospel proponents who “…[reject] the role of science in public health and [encourage] a view that faith, virtue, and good works could be enough to secure healing.” (from The Atlantic article linked above)

The current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue rose to power on a message that grew out of a platform that is closely linked to this ill-begotten thinking: that “…if you’re still a wreck, that’s your fault.”

This is not far from a lot of the teachings in metaphysical churches today. While the Trinity is not preached, consciousness is. I need more than 2 hands to count the number of times I have heard or been told that the problem at hand could be fixed if I (or the person with the problem) had the right consciousness.

“It’s all consciousness. If you get your consciousness straight, your problem will resolve itself”  [response by a leader in a national New Thought organization when presented with facts about a situation]

And that, friends, sounds an awful lot like the prosperity gospel that is slipping out of GOP mouths as they talk about people and healthcare:

[The AHCA] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” Brooks claimed. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.” [GOP Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL)]

I still believe that there’s a lot of good that New Thought and metaphysical organizations can do in the world, but it’s going to be lost in the backlash to the Trump agenda if the leadership isn’t strong enough to make some changes and soon.

The sad part, and what I fear will be lost in the backlash, is that there’s a definite benefit to thinking positive, looking for the good in situations, and taking action in the direction of our goals. The problem lies in the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people. And when we teach people that these bad things only happen to bad people (or people who just can’t get their consciousness in order), we aren’t helping anyone. In fact, we are doing more harm than good.

I wrote about this earlier in a blog on Emerson, where I explored the lack of critical inquiry into his life and perspective in the religious science community while they held him up as a model in a spiritual tradition based in large part on his teachings.

I firmly and strongly believe that most New Thought teachers want to help people. It’s time for them to step back and reexamine the foundations of the movement they are aligned with, and to take bold steps forward to preserve the good that is found in New Thought, and perhaps most importantly – to acknowledge that there have been some poorly-constructed theories passed on for generations that need to be revised, or discarded.

It’s not too late, but change of this magnitude requires a strength that not everyone has for the task at hand. Only time will tell.

Nano-gratitude

carbon-nanotubes-400pxNanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.

Nanotechnology has been celebrated as a 21st century phenomenon, even though the concepts have been in development since the post-WWII era. Defined as the study and application of very small things, the concept is applied across all aspects of science, engineering, biology, medicine and more.

And “very small” is,…SMALL! For mathematics wizards, the nanometer is one-billioneth (10-9) of a meter. Here are statistics to provide context:

  • A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
  • A strand of human DNA  is 2.5 nanometers in diameter
  • There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch
  • A human hair is approximately 80,000- 100,000 nanometers wide
  • A single gold atom is about a third of a nanometer in diameter
  • On a comparative scale, if the diameter of a marble was one nanometer; the diameter of the Earth would be about one meter
  • One nanometer is about as long as your fingernail grows in one second

So, what does this topic of nanotechnology have to do with GRATITUDE?

Spiritual teachers talk a lot about gratitude, and for good reason: having a predisposition toward being grateful helps rewire our perspective so that we see more things to be grateful about, which helps tilt our general outlook on life toward the positive.

This is a great practice to develop, but how often do we look beyond being grateful for all the awesome stuff that comes our way and see the really little blessings; the everyday things that, on their own aren’t much to speak of, but when strung together make life a little better?

I refer to things like clean sheets, a warm house (or cool house if it’s hot outside); food in the fridge, clean clothes in the closet, a washer and dryer in your house (no laundromat runs!) – all of these are wonderful plusses in modern life and things we should never take for granted, especially as there are many people in our own neighborhoods who do not enjoy all of these conveniences.

And yet I’m talking about going beyond even these examples.

I am encouraging spiritual adventurers to look to the even more mundane to find pleasure; the opportunities to feel nano-gratitude for things that are on such a small scale that we would be tempted to overlook them.

Here are a few examples:

  • being waved into a long line of traffic for an easy merge
  • a last-minute cancelled meeting that gives back an hour of the day
  • an unexpected compliment
  • a shared piece of chocolate (or other treat)
  • an unexpected and convenient parking space
  • waking up for work and then realizing I get to sleep for 2 more hours 🙂
  • finding a hidden can of cat food so the cats can have breakfast & I can go to the store after I drink my coffee
  • the feel of a fresh, Spring breeze on my face
  • a random favor or kindness
  • watching children play
  • smelling the air after a rainstorm

In science, nanotechnology achieves almost miraculous results, as highlighted in this video. In our lives, nano-gratitude can work a similar magic.

Happiness and joy are peaks in life, while pain and sorrow are valleys. In between there are the regular, everyday experiences that usually don’t incite much of a response. If we focus only on the peaks and valleys, our lives swing wildly between the extremes.

When we can learn to mine the peace, contentment, and simple pleasures in the small moments of life; we are coating our lives with a magical substance (gratitude) that can string a series of ordinary days into an extraordinarily blessed life.

(C) 2017 Practitioner's Path

 

The Wisdom of Walking Away

KungFu shadowA friend shared this story recently and it resonated with me on a deep level.

A young man and his father both studied martial arts. The father was a Black Belt instructor/trainer, which is a significant level of achievement. His son was an up and coming martial arts practitioner as well, and as young men often do, he began to feel his power.

At age 16, the son began to taunt his father, telling him that it was HIS time, and that he (the father) was moving past his prime. If you’ve ever had a teen-aged son, this behavior may sound familiar 🙂

The father finally gave in, and said: “2pm on Sunday, in the back yard – I will teach you a lesson“.

The son was PUMPED because he just knew that it was time to show his father who was boss – at least as it came to martial arts skill and strength.

Sunday came, and the son prepared for what he was certain would be a colossal smack down of “the old man”.

At 2pm he went out into the yard, stretching – getting ready for the match.

2:05 – 2:10 – 2:15 – 2:30 and no sign of his father.

He went in the house and called his father, who answered his cell phone. He was actually several hours away at a pre-planned conference that had been on his calendar for many months (in other words, when the father set the 2pm Sunday time, he knew he would not be around).

When the father got home later that night, his son was upset.

I thought you were going to teach me a lesson! Why did you blow me off!?” the son asked in frustration.

I told you that I would teach you a lesson, and I did,” the father explained. “In martial arts, when you have the opportunity to avoid a conflict, do so.”

This is good advice for life outside of the martial arts.

How often are we “invited” into conflict at work, in our families or in our social circles? It usually does not take the form of an official fight with date and time, but shows up as disagreements, irritations and opposition.

Most of the time, we willingly show up, and either engage actively or smile and employ passive aggressive techniques. Sometimes we decide to go deep and plot our enemy’s demise from a covert position so to gain the advantage with a surprise attack. Regardless of the approach, it’s a zero-sum-game if a peaceful life is our goal.

When we master walking away, we become a Black Belt in life.

I’ve often heard that “living well is the best revenge“. Living well – and learning how to walk away – is also the best gift we can give ourselves across a lifetime.

 

(C) Practitioner's Path 2017

The nature of life

On several walks this weekend I noticed the proliferation of seed pods on sidewalks, in flower beds – everywhere I looked.

The Abundance of these pods, which are essentially seeds that can produce more of the host or parent plant that released them, reminded me of Ernest Holmes’ perspective on life:

“Life is not static. It is forever dynamic, forever creating,…”

For whatever reason, humans have taken a generally negative approach to the events in life, forgetting or overlooking the great, natural impulse toward life, not death; toward success, not failure; toward more, and not less.

The trees that release hundreds, if not thousands of seed pods each Spring do so in the knowing that the life they represent in the now will be passed on. They don’t hope that life will continue, that some of those seeds will take root and grow – they have a deep knowing that it will happen, because it’s the Law.

Too often we humans take the opposite approach. We forget the lessons of nature, and we put out 1 seed pod (idea, effort). We tentatively put this idea or effort out into the world, and if it gets stepped on, blown away, swept up in the trash,…we say “Oh bothernothing I do ever works out.

And we give up.

We miss the Truth about life when we so easily give up. The trees, bushes, plants and other flora produce multiple seeds and pods every Spring. They drop and release them to the world, knowing that some will get stepped on, others will be blown away and even swept up and discarded as trash. Still, there is a deep knowing within all of natural life that some will NOT find that fate, and will fall on fertile soil, settle in and take root.

We can change our everyday experience if we will become more aligned with Nature. In the Christian Bible St. Paul counseled that we should “pray without ceasing“.

If we look at prayer as the affirmation of what we desire, praying without ceasing is believing in the best outcomes at all times.

While we want to be careful not to become a “Polly Anna”, detached from the realities of life; we can still balance our approach with an understanding that the scales of life are tipped in our favor. We simply need to be willing to see this Truth and most importantly: keep showing up, stepping up, reaching out and giving to the world and to this process called Life.

And when we do, we will be able to look back and see that, yes – some of our efforts were stepped on, blown away or swept into the garbage; but others fell into good soil, took root and grew into beautiful, productive and generous “trees” that will continue to propagate in each Spring season.

(C) Practitioner's Path 2017

Random blessings

Humans possess this wonderful ability to think and dream and wonder about our place in the world, but it’s a mixed blessing. While it enables us to plan and strive for something greater; it can also set us up at times to feel “less than” or like we’re missing out.

One way to avoid these feelings is to find joy in the everyday occurrences that we experience. I was reminded of this last week when I pulled into the grocery store parking lot at lunchtime. I was feeling a little grouchy that day, and as I got out of my car I noticed a gathering of nondescript brown birds hopping around the car that was parked in front of me.

Each of these birds had something bright and colorful in its beak. It looked odd enough that I had to get a closer look.

It turned out that someone had spilled a generous amount of rainbow-colored Goldfish crackers on the ground between 2 cars. These birds had discovered the jackpot for parking lot birds: tiny crackers!

Goldfish

While these birds are generally more tolerant of humans than others, this crew was so distracted by the colorful windfall that they were nonplussed by traffic and passing grocery carts.

I watched them for a few minutes and my mood lifted. These little birds were not comparing their lot in life with the pigeons across town, or the bald eagles featured on web cams, or even the cardinals in the park down the street: they were simply enjoying the heck out of the moment and those rainbow colored crackers.

Now I realize that birds don’t really think about things like that or have TV sets to watch webcams, but that does not negate the powerful lesson that emerged from that moment of bird joy.

Our lifetimes are made up of a (hopefully very long!) series of days. Some of these days are mundane while others are really big deals. Some days just happen in the way that days can, while others we plan for with great interest and attention. And still other days start out as just-another-day,…until someone spills rainbow Goldfish in the middle of the place and things instantly move from whatever to WOW!

This is life. When we learn to embrace the joy that accompanies the random blessings that show up in our lives, we soak up an energy that has the power to sustain us on the less than days, and even put a smile on our face when we’re grouchy.

Achieving happiness in life is really quite simple: the birds know it. We know it too, but sometimes need a little help to remember. And so it was only fitting that this wisdom reminder came to me in the middle of an otherwise average day, turning it into an extraordinary day – thanks to a posse of birds and some colorful crackers.

 

(C) 2017 Practitioners Path