Working on some spiritual practices in our lives is easier then others. It is easy to think about how to practice kindness, gratitude, joy, kindness, or even play. However thinking about practicing vision requires us to think outside the box. So I was excited when I found the writing of Angeles Arrien, in The Four-Fold Way Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. She offers some concrete steps and things we can do to practice developing our inner visionary. So I thought this week I would share her ideas with you.
"Processes and Reminders: Important Practices to Develop the Inner Visionary
"1. Spend at least fifteen minutes each day in walking meditation. Record your experience in your journal or create a special meditation log.
Accessing the Inner Creator
Accessing the Quality of Creativity
"The purpose of walking meditation is to honor sacred time. This is a time set aside for introspection, contemplation, discovery, and honoring the sacred or divine. Read More
t never ceases to fascinate and inspire me to read the wisdom of those on different, but similar paths to mine. Huston Smith, in his book A Seat at the Table, shared this wisdom from a Hopi Elder. These questions challenge us to critically reflect on our lives and our vision for the world. May we each reflect on these questions this week.
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Read More
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
I have been sitting here today reflecting on the last seven years. It has been a crazy and amazing journey. So many different people have come through our doors. Some have journeyed with us for years, some for a few months, and some just came and left. Each in their own left a mark on me and this ministry. To all of you who have been a part of our journey and evolution, thank you!
I remember when I first started talking to someone about this vision and she said just start it and they will come. What has fascinated me most the last seven years is the messages and emails from people around the world. I was not expecting that my writing would resonate with people from just about every continent in the world. It has allowed me to build relationships with people from places such as the Czech Republic, Liberia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, India, Jamaica, Russia, and Ireland. There is something about knowing that there is a language that resonates with people globally. There is a blessing in knowing that people can come together and feel the presence of the Ultimate. It is a different kind of unity then I have been thinking about all month. Read More
Years ago, when I was in seminary, one of my professors Rev. Dr. Gail Ricciuti, challenged me to think about God as an artist. I fell in love with that idea, partly because it reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books by Martha Hickman called And God Created Squash. She tells the Creation story with a God who has an awesome sense of adventure, play and creativity talking to himself in the Garden of Eden about all that he wants to create. He envisions things and creates them by calling them into being. One inspiration leads to another. For example, God falls in love with the word squash. "I like that name . . . I think I'll use it again. Acorn squash. Butternut squash. Even zucchini squash. I might have a game and call it squash. Or put my hand on something and press down hard and call that squash." This creative process continues until God ends by fashioning some company for himself--something, "well, more like me."
This whole idea of God as an artist was the inspiration for one of my first sermons, called Divine by Design. Here I argued we are Divine by Design because we were designed by the Divine. If we had a label that we wore, some sort of trademark, it would say Divine Design. Read More
The other day, I was sent a story about an interaction between a homeless man and a manager at a Chik-fil-a. The homeless man had come in asking for remnants and anything they might be throwing away. Instead the manager offered to pray with him and then gave him a full meal. It is in these acts of radical hospitality that we practice unity. Whether this story is true or not is not important. What is important is the lesson it teaches about how to practice unity. When we honor the dignity in others and treat them with respect, then we work together in unity to promote love and kindness in the world
The world is full of people like this. The other day as I was in my mart cart waiting to check out at the grocery store, a young boy offered to help take all the groceries out of my cart. While I did not need the help, I could see that this was something he wanted to do and so I graciously accepted. What I learned was this this was a practice his parents were teaching him. Each day he is to do something kind for someone. When he does he gets a kindness sticker on his calendar. When he has a full calendar, his parents do something for him. His mom told me that one month, his act of kindness was to tell his parents they did not need to reward him for being kind. They did anyway. He has learned to work in unity with others to help achieve little goals. Read More
A few years ago, I read a book called The Buddha Walks Into a Bar by Lordo Rinzler. One of the things he offered a practice which helps me to practice unity in my own life. He suggested that when someone is getting on your nerves, that you remember a time when you were like that. Marc Rosen offered a similar lesson in his book Thanksfor Being a Pain. When I practice remembering that I too have been a pain then it allows me to stand in unity and remember they are being just like me.
When someone is irritating me, I say to myself they are being irritating just like me. I think, “This person is irritating, just like me.” It then makes me remember and stand in unity with all those who have ever been irritating. When I judge someone, albeit a compliment or a criticism, I add just like me to the thought. When I think someone is loving and supportive, I think to myself. “This person is loving and generous, just like me.” Doing so reminds me to practice being in unity with all of myself as well as with others. Read More
Recently, I read this story by Richard W. Chilson, in a book called Yeshua of Nazareth: Spiritual Master. Chilson wrote
"I remember an embarrassing incident that brought to mind that the 'enemy' is my brother. I was driving home on the freeway and as I approached my exit a car dawdled in front of me. Too late to pass him; I was stuck following: as usual I was in a hurry. That driver inspired in me a whole slew of invectives. Spewing epithets I pulled up alongside at the stoplight by the exit. I looked over only to discover a dear friend. Instantly the situation changed although I had not done anything public to express my rage, I felt ashamed and guilty. How could I think these things about him? I had seen him as an obstacle, not a brother. It is the same with the other no matter the situation, from the person ahead of us in line, to our age-old enemy. Whoever it is, they have the same concerns, fears, gifts, and shortcomings we all do. Just another human being trying to do their best, a fellow sufferer of life, a brother or sister at heart, at least in the heart of God." Read More
Looking at the title of my blog for today, some of you might be thinking it looks like a mathematical formula. Let me see if I can walk us through this mathematical expression. Metamorphosis is the transformation that occurs in some animals as they move from one state of being to another, like from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Over the course of our lives, we have been in the process of our own transformation, physically and spiritually.
There is a scripture in the New Testament Book of Romans which tells us quite simply do not conform to this world, but be transformed in it by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. Paul’s words challenge us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Read More
What a difference an R can make. It made me think about the story I was once told about how the difference between evolving and revolving is an R. When we keep doing or believing the same thing repeatedly, then we are not evolving. It is as if we are trapped in one of those revolving doors, which we have often seen in a department store. We are just revolving through life and not evolving.
It is reassuring to remember we do not have to believe in or agree to the same things for our entire lives. As we grow and evolve, what we believe should also change. What we believe is in our minds. Those beliefs only have power over us as long as we agree that they are true and give them power in our lives. When we realize they no longer need to reside in our mind, then we can say to them, “you are no longer true” and release them from our Book of Law. Read More
My wife and I have several restoration projects that have been on our things to do list for a long time, some of them years. It is not that we do not have the dream of restoring them, we just have not begun the work of doing so. As I have been thinking about the process of transformation, it dawned on me it was like getting to those projects we have not tackled yet.
The hardest part is getting started and saying today we ARE going to begin work on this project. Our friends have told us the first thing we need to do is strip all the layers of paint and coatings off of the piece we want to refinish. We need to strip it down to the bare wood. We are going to have to strip away all the years of dirt, layers of pain, varnish and anything else that might be on it. Doing so is a lot of work, so we need to really think about how seriously we want to do this. Once we start, then we have to be intentional about getting rid of all the layers and getting to the solid wood that is underneath all these layers. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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.” Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More