December 25, 2007

Courage. This bold word means in essence “take heart.” Like cowardly lions given new hearts by the Oz wizard, we only come to know fearlessness in our lives when we choose to love enough. When we “take heart” fear subsides. When focused in our hearts, we unite with the life force of others. We remember we are One.  We intuitively see reality, beyond fear, beyond anger, beyond suffering. Life is faced with confidence, a word meaning “with trust.” Centered in the divine Healing Presence, we trust that all things work in time for the good.

Without courage we are only left with fear. Fear is a product of separation that causes us to believe that “I am here, you are there, and you have the power to harm me.” Because of fear we cannot see the heart of others.  We cannot call forth their Higher Selves. The “other” is the enemy.  This causes our own hearts to close giving the “enemy” power over our capacity to see good and work for productive change.  

Fear takes very little effort and debilitates our capacity to cope with a situation effectively.  Our hearts close causing us to forget the workings of the Divine. Our minds splinter and fail us blocking our capacity to reason, to discriminate, to maintain dispassion. Next, our minds become weapons for dividing, defending, and conquering. Weakened intellectually, we are forced to simply react like automated machines. Emotionally, impulsive reactions escalate the fear around us. Out of fear, we brandish others with our rage. We diminish ourselves in confusion. We suffocate in grief.  Naturally, our physical actions follow suit and a series of poor choices often follow.

Fearlessness brings us back to courage reminding us to respond to any situation first with our hearts. With the heart we no longer pull away or react. Rather, we pause, remembering who we are as spiritual Beings. We take the time to trust in our innate spiritual center. We take the time to invoke wisdom, discretion, calm, and maturity to help us face the situation before us. We invoke spiritual guidance from those we trust, asking them to teach us to act with harmlessness and right action. Our minds open to insights that allow us to manage effectively what stands before us. Our emotions are poised, confident, and therefore serene. Our brains are alert and oriented towards responding appropriately. Acting “in-spirit” we are energized to confront difficult situations with a determination to succeed despite the odds. 

Take a moment and contrast times the times you acted from fear as well as from fearlessness.  Start by recalling a time you were afraid. Notice the underlying feelings which emerged including those of helplessness, unworthiness, hopelessness, moving free fall out of control. Be in touch with your own level of discomfort in this fearful situation. Notice how much you failed to remember your Divine heritage which would have allowed you to gain insight, calm, poise, and wisdom when handling a difficult matter. Now chose a time when you handled a difficult situation in your life fearlessly. Be aware of the magical moments that emerged such as: gaining a solution you needed just in the nick of time; drawing upon strength you never knew you had; being aided by others when you most needed it; making quick decisions based upon a heightened sensitivity which turned out to be exactly correct; tapping into mystical revelations concerning the nature of the Divine.

At every moment of our lives in every situation we are constantly confronted with this choice. Do I want to live a life of fear? Or, do I want to be fearless? Do I suffer from a lack of confidence causing me to to block the capacity of the Divine to bring me insight? Or, do I actively seek to understand the spiritual lessons which can emerge in the darkest of situations? (These lessons might include humility, a greater sense of compassion, deeper levels of maturity, wisdom, prudence, and so forth). Do I want to react with hatred, bitterness, and despair (which are really all based upon fear)? Or, do I want to act with perspective, detachment, optimism, faith, and spiritual daring in all that befalls me?

Finally, examine for yourself the difference between your choices rooted in fear, and those rooted in fearlessness. Notice how in fear there is a lack of trust in your Divine identity, and a spiritual Self-forgetfulness. Notice how in fearlessness faith, hope, love and a firm conviction in the Healing Presence of your spiritual self guides all your behavior. Conclude by making a silent invocation or prayer inviting the Healing Presence into all areas of your life which hold fear and doubt. At last, choose to remember who you are! You are a Divine spirit! You are love! You are light! You are spiritual daring! You ARE fearlessness! Remember, remember, remember!

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Beauty in Our Emotions

December 25, 2007

     Emotions are a great gift. Because of our sensory capacity to feel, the world is richer. It has texture. These sensory responses in turn let us know when and how we should act. Emotion is after all, related to motion, or movement. For many of us, emotions are a confusing thing. We sense too much, or not enough. We move in a wild and unskilled manner, leading to compulsive, impulsive, or awkward reactions. Or, we fail to move, making us rigid, frozen, and insensitive to life around us. In many spiritual paths, and in relation to psychological work, emotions become the major “battleground.” “Kill out desire and passion” some religious teachings proclaim. Learn to master the roller coaster ride of your feelings, psychologists often profess. We attempt to control our emotional nature in any way we can, via drugs (Prozac being the latest popular trend), or “mind control” to name a few methods. Or, we seek to rid ourselves of emotions so we can cultivate “good ones,” and eliminate “bad ones.” We seek to do this via catharsis, or positive thinking, or mood pills, or whatever we can think of. Eventually, over time we learn that emotions can neither be controlled, or gotten rid of. Just as the ocean tide is meant to ebb and flow, emotions also are meant to move from state to state, helping us to remain sensitive to the world around us, and teaching us how to act accordingly.

     The idea that somehow or another, we are to have such complete mastery over our emotions, that we are eternally blissful and calm, is a distortion as well. Time and again, people who seek to emulate spiritual leaders discover, that even here, great spiritual teachers have moments of anger, fear, confusion, despair, and so forth. Spiritual seekers are often shocked to discover this about the teachers they emulate. How could this be? Perhaps, it would benefit us, if we moved away from the notion of controlling or mastering our emotions, and tried another way. This way is one of beautifying our emotions. Something which is done primarily out of recognition, acceptance, and refinement over time.

     What is beauty? In a subjective sense, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Still, certain elements which make something beautiful can be localized and built upon. Beauty begins first of all with recognition. When we use the eyes, we see, or recognize something. There is something very powerful in the act of being seen. Everyone thrives under attention, and disintegrates when neglected. The clearer our perception, especially when looked upon with loving intent, the more powerful the response elicited from those who are seen. This ability to see “within” someone, explains why many people may say they find something beautiful which others do not. The second factor has to do with appreciation. To appreciate something means we value it. When we value something, or someone, we spend time with it. The more time spent, the more intimate we become. This leads to qualities of depth, and a sense of the preciousness of something, again enhancing beauty. Another characteristic of beauty is refinement. Refinement requires skill, or training over a long period of time. This enhances the characteristic of light, making it something subtle, delicate, yet rich and full. Hence beauty!

     When working with our emotions, we can beautify them by first recognizing them in a non-judgmental way. Ah! Here is anger again, and sadness, amusement, and so forth. Next, we can appreciate them. Oh, anger lets me know I must do something different in my life. Sadness tells me I am having trouble letting go of something I loved. Amusement reveals to me areas to cultivate for enjoyment and appreciation. Finally, we can refine them. I change my life and release my anger by talking vs. punching it out. I let go by allowing for my grief vs. holding it back and creating depression within me. I cultivate amusement by enjoying things which have more power to endure vs. simply moving from one surface interest to the next. In this method, all emotions are embraced. They are accepted, seen, understood, and worked with consciously. Emotions become wonderful teachers and are embraced, versus controlled, neglected, or resisted, for what they have to offer in enriching our lives.

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Respect for the Physical Body

December 25, 2007

Each of us is endowed with an amazing gift. This gift is our physical body. In and of itself, the physical body can consume a life time of study and experimentation, and still we will remain ignorant of many of its mysteries. The physical body is our first fascination when we are infants. We must learn to master and coordinate many of its functions and put them under conscious control. We discover that the body can be a source of pleasure and pain, leading us early on to seek how we can cultivate the one, and avoid the other. Unfortunately, our early experiences of the body may become surrounded with taboos, compulsions, avoidances, complexes. This can lead over time to a general habit pattern of ignoring the body, taking it for granted, and becoming oddly disconnected from it. The result is that we enter adult life with a great deal of ambivalence regarding our physical bodies. We need them, but often act as if we would rather live without them. This can go on until the body ultimately reacts, primarily through an explosion of disease of some sort, forcing us to pay attention to it.

It is never too late then, to re-discover the beauty and mystery of our physical bodies. In doing so, we can recognize that everything that happens to us in life, affects the physical body somehow. The physical body does its best to serve us, despite the daily impacts and traumas it may sustain. Likewise, we can learn to properly serve it, by developing a healthy attitude of respect and care towards it. This can first be done by learning to love and appreciate your physical body without judgment. No matter what your body looks like, it has attempted to serve you in life. It has done its best to meet your wishes and carry out your demands. The excess weight you may carry is there for the sake of protection. The wrinkles you may see are your victory marks for having made it successfully into maturity. The scars you observe are only there because your body allowed you to take risks in life. Even when the body succumbs to illness, it does so only after many weary efforts of attempting to teach you, perhaps in vain, that your body needs its share of care and consideration. It is time to embrace your physical body.

Standing naked in front of a full length mirror, you may see many things your mind would prefer changing. These changes can be made in a number of ways, many of them obvious to us, yet still resisted. We can change our diets. We can increase our level of exercise. We can resort if need be to cosmetic surgery. We can use creams, and vitamins, and other body enhancing aids. We can take the appropriate medications and rest necessary to heal a physical ailment. We can utilize medical people, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutritional consultants, physical fitness trainers, martial arts people, and numerous professionals specializing in a variety of approaches both mainstream and “New Age.” All of these people can benefit us, but none of them can really heal the body, if we continue to be at war with it in our hearts.

We are our physical bodies! Though we are ultimately spirit and much vaster than the physical body, the body represents in time and space our only gateway into the manifest world. To be at peace with the physical body, we must desire to know it, as we would a dear and cherished lover and/or friend. You can will the body to do your bidding, but it will eventually rebel, unless you do so lovingly and harmoniously. The most important gift you can give your body, is the gift of loving support and affection. Feet, legs, arms, hands, torso, face, skin, muscles, bones, nervous system, circulatory system, lymphatic system, organs of all kinds, glands. Begin to discover the wonder of your body! As we no longer resist the body, and start to befriend it, something wonderful happens. It responds. In turn, we begin to “carry ourselves” and our “bodies” differently. An aura of respect prevails. This body is our temple! And in acknowledging this, we and others begin to see our bodies differently. Perhaps the body is OK after all!

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Benefits of Meditation

December 25, 2007

In the deepest sense, meditation is perhaps the most powerful tool at our disposal. Since meditation is often equated with mystical or magical processes, it is too easily discounted and demeaned. Yet, meditation practices have remained essential to every truly creative and spiritual person throughout history. In short, the benefits of meditation are enormous! Some of the benefits of meditation can already be inferred from reviewing the basic definitions previously given. The most obvious ones include reducing stress through relaxation, and facilitating concentration by bringing the mind into sharper focus. These benefits are obvious because of their immediate impacts. The primary purpose of meditation goes far beyond this. Meditation is a primarily a technical process by which we alchemize and change our fundamental identity. Like the caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, meditation is the tool by which we transform into an entirely new way of Being. Through it we gain concrete revelations regarding the nature of Spirit, and our essential immortality. This is the highest goal meditation can offer. It is also the last result we are likely to achieve. Before this takes place, many other advantages are progressively built in along the way. Let us briefly review these:

1. Producing a reasonable amount of physical well-being so there is health and vitality in the physical instrument. 

2. Creating a state of calm, joy, and optimism in the emotional instrument so problems and opportunities can be faced with courage and right action. 

3. Bringing peace of mind, discrimination, and “mindfulness” to the mental faculties so life can be seen clearly, allowing for reasonable and correct evaluation of reality. 

4. Coordinating an individual’s thinking, feeling, and acting components so he or she can more effectively carry out specific goals and intentions. 

5. Changing the identification of the individual from an egotistical focus, towards awakening and becoming receptive to the identity of being a soul. 

6. Producing continual transferences of identity so the individual continues to expand in conscious awareness. 

7. Facilitating the state of equilibrium at any one level by stabilizing the new vibration so an individual can embody and become the new level of identification. 

8. Allowing for the insights which help produce the means to be creative at whatever new level of identification one has reached. 

     Meditation involves an evolutionary process. As you can see, each benefit above builds on the one preceding it.  Though not every level needs to be mastered, proficiency is essential if we are to gain (and in return give) the most from meditative exercises.  As we progress throughout this course, we will deepen our understanding of primarily the first four benefits listed.  This is because they are the ones most readily grasped and applied by practitioners of meditation.  The majority of readings, questions, and multi-media meditations you encounter will help you achieve greater mastery along these lines.  Once you are able to ground your basic understanding and practice of these first four steps, you can move onto mastering the remaining steps in other advanced courses along these lines.  

Study Guide Questions for Consideration.

(Please answer the following questions to evaluate how you relate to the above).  

  1. Consider what benefits you hope to gain from pursuing meditation practice.  Evaluate your motivations and reasons behind this.

  2. Why in your opinion are the first four steps listed above considered so important as foundation to advanced meditative work?

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90 Day Challenge to a Better You and Life Starts Again Jan 14th, 2008!

December 24, 2007

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Surviving the Holidays – From Despair to Love

December 17, 2007

It’s the holidays.  A time of joy and excitement for many.  Families come together.  Festivities abound.  Prosperous people share gifts to celebrate their abundance.  Laughter, light, and good times are had by all involved. 

Yet, this is not true for everyone.  For many the holidays evoke a deep despair.  Memories leap forward of families that are broken and in disrepair.  Feelings of failure and shame surface over not having provided for those you love.  For some even the basics of food, clothing, and shelter are painfully out of reach.  Worst of all a toxic loneliness may fill every pore of your being creating a horrible sensation of lacking love.  It is as if the simplest gestures of human kindness, a hug, a smile, a bit of holiday cheer, don’t even exist for you.  All of this can make the holidays the very worst time of year.   So, how does one survive?  Especially when you live with stark realities that make this not a very pleasant time at all?  You could ignore it.  Or, wish it away.  You might even try thinking positive.  And, of course there is also that wonderful technique of listing and expressing gratitude for what you do have in your life.   

But, even I know, with all my psychological skill and training, these techniques quite bluntly don’t always work.  They don’t put food in your mouth.  They don’t reunite you with a loved one you are separated from.  They don’t remedy the fact that you are lucky at best to have any present to give to someone you care deeply about.  And, try as you might they may still not ease the loneliness, grief, shame, and despair lurking about inside and all around you. That is why I believe it is best to wipe away the popular conception of this holiday season and dive deeper into what the holidays are really all about. 

For this is a season of darkness and light.  In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the time of the Winter Solstice, when days are shortest and nights last longer.  It is natural for all to seem dark and bleak.  In many ways it literally is.  Yet, during this time of night, where pain and loss are often factors, humanity has created festivals of light.  Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah.  All bring the light in one way or another.  By touching into the true spirit of these three festivals, light and love can be reborn in your life.      

Let’s begin with Christmas.  Rarely do we see the story that inspired Christmas on the television and in the movies anymore this time of year.  And, even if we do, we can feel oddly disconnected from it due to the heavy emphasis on Santa Clause and materialism.  Yet, Christmas is all about a story of those who had nothing.  Of those who if they chose could linger in justified despair.  Mary, pregnant with child.  Joseph her husband, concerned with the fact that he had no understanding of how he was to provide food, shelter, or even safety for his wife and child to be.  Two homeless, pauper, beggars wondering about in the night seeking a way to go. What in the world did they have to celebrate?  What would lift Joseph from his shame of not knowing how to provide for and protect well those he loved the most?  What would lift Mary from her fear of being forced to give birth in who knows what dark corner of this universe?   

Ironically, the child they birthed in a stable with animals as the main witnesses to the event, would not grow up to a life of great prosperity.  Eventually, that child would experience a brutal torture and death.  How in the world could such a story inspire so much and become the very foundation of this Christmas holiday season?  The answer is simple, but let me first reflect on two other holidays celebrated this time of year as well.  

Hanukkah.  Eight candles on a Menorah symbolizing a very dark time for a people long aware of suffering and pain.  Despite a legacy of turmoil they remained devout to their faith.  Of special meaning was the Temple — the place that allowed these people, the Jews, to come together to worship their God, read their holy books, and find peace and solace together.  Sadly, as is all too often the case in human history, oppressive and abusive tactics were used by those in power and of a different faith.  The Jews were massacred, Judaism was outlawed, and a statue of the Greek God Zeus was erected inside the Temple itself.  Only years later would the remaining Jews find a way to win back their temple.  The lighting of the Menorah is a memory of that victory, symbolizing as well the right to worship the Divine in a way that inspires one the most.     

And, Kwanzaa.  A modern holiday also involving symbols of light.  Rooted in the African-American civil rights movement, it honors the history of a people who (like the Jews and Christians) had experienced hundreds of years of oppression and brutality.  Only in very recent times has this oppression and brutality begun to be recognized and in very marginal ways been lifted.   

Though gift giving exists in all these three festivals, gifts do not reflect the real meaning, or Spirit, of this time of year.  So, what in the world is this holiday season really all about?  Unlike the modern day emphasis where gifts and good times are used to insulate people from the pain and suffering of many in the world, these holidays invite us down a different path.  They ask us to become more, not less, aware of the suffering all around us.  They ask us to remember that there are many who do not have families to turn to.  Physical or emotional separation has cut them off from what was meant to be a vital source of love.  Others struggle for food, clothing, and shelter.  Though they try to cope well with this, it is much harder to do so in the midst of a season that wants to emphasize only plenty and prosperity.  As I write this oppression and cruelty still exist all around the globe, and far too few of us are truly experiencing love, compassion, peace on Earth, or goodwill. Yet, out of darkness comes light.  It is not simply the light of hope that we are seeking to ignite as we light Hanukkah and Kwanzaa candles, or reflect on events that happened on a starry, starry Christmas night so long ago.  It is the light of love that we are here to birth.   

So, here are gifts of love I encourage you give at this time of year.  I believe these gifts go far beyond “toys for tots” and canned goods and turkeys for hungry families.   

The Gift of Family. If you are blessed with a close and loving family, decide to add one person into your family circle this time of year and share with them the love you feel.  As you include them give them the gift of healing that I describe below. 

If you are estranged from your family, reach out!  You are not alone.  If you feel suicidal (suicides increase dramatically at this time of year) call a suicide hotline.  Here are two: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).  If you are depressed, get help.  Seek out a doctor if you need medication and can afford it.  If you cannot, reaching out to others is even more important.  If you are woman, find a way to talk out your feelings with someone.  Use the numbers above to share your crisis if you feel no one is there.  If you are a man, sharing your problems can evoke feelings of shame.  Attempt to go beyond this and focus on finding those who can give you an action plan to help turn your life around.    

The Gift of Healing. If you are blessed with a good feeling this time of year, remember this is the holiday of goodwill.  Will yourself to share those good feelings by offering support to those who are filled with shame and fear at this time of year.  Men tend to feel shame more than fear, especially over not being able to provide for and protect their families, as they would have hoped to.  Women tend to experience fear more than shame, especially the fear that they will be abandoned and left alone in their struggle to cope.   

If you are struggling with dark and negative feelings, acknowledge them.  They are legitimate.  Don’t try to wish them away.  They are there to teach you.  If you feel shame, find someone safe to talk to who can give you insight and offer solutions to help you lift out of your current life situation.  If you feel fear, do anything to avoid being alone.  Go to a church, synagogue, or mosque.  Stop hiding and let other people see and acknowledge you.  Find those who will offer you compassion and share your struggle with them.  Let them support you, even if it just comes only in the way of a smile and a hug.    

The Gift of Prosperity.  If you are presently experiencing prosperous conditions at this time in your life, look at your habits of consumption.  Ask yourself, “Do I really need everything I acquire?”  Consider if you are using whatever you have in a positive way, or simply wasting what you spend money on because you don’t sufficiently use or appreciate it.  Next, open your heart. Try to be more conscious of the people who are out there experiencing financial lack.  Avoid simply feeling grateful for your own abundance.  Consider that as a recipient of that abundance you are here to serve others and help them acquire more of what they need as well. 

If you are presently experiencing an adverse financial time, strategize and get support.  There are more options for help out there than you know of.  If need be tap into social service resources.  Consider debt consolidation.  Look for work in a field that will help you make more money.  Evaluate whether you think you are worthy of prosperity and get rid of any beliefs that may cause you to feel you are not.  If you are part of a lower economic group, become politically active.  Assert your basic rights to food, clothing, and shelter.  You deserve it.    T

he Gift of Love. And, here it is.  The greatest gift of all.  The gift this holiday season is really all about.  Love is best shown through compassion.  Compassion is the willingness to acknowledge and embrace the pain of others without triggering into your own emotional reactions of guilt, shame, and fear.  Compassion helps people heal.  Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all help us remember that ultimately we are here to heal the suffering of others.  That is the spiritual message of this holiday season.  More than any other time of year, this is the season for contribution, not consumption.  Contribute your love through a hug, a smile, a look, or a of simple kindness.  Best of all, show you care by opening your heart and feeling empathy for your own suffering, and the suffering of others.  Then you will know at the deepest level, what we are intended to realize at this most holy time of year.

 Thank you for reading this article.  If you have found this inspiring, or know someone who would benefit from it, I invite you to pass it along.   Dr. Lisa Lovewww.doctorlisalove.com

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December 10, 2007

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