Inspiration

How To Make Your New Year’s Dreams Come True

PHOTO BY PETER SPEROWith a new year upon us thoughts surrounding the future are at an all time high.  Resolutions, hopes, worries, dreams, and plans for the coming year are at the forefront of our collective mind.  What new year’s resolutions are you setting for yourself?

Each year I create a list of resolutions that go something like this:
1. Meditate every day.
2.  Practice Yoga every day.
3.  Learn how to cook.
4.  See a movie every week.

I’ve heard of people following their resolutions for a few days, a couple of weeks, even months.  But at the end of each year we often realize we have in some way abandoned our resolutions and then go about making new ones.

My experience differs slightly in that I don’t even begin to practice my resolutions.  I make the list, and enjoy myself in the process, but never actually set about the task of enacting the new lifestyle I have envisioned.

There is hope yet for those of us who have no commitment to new year’s resolutions!  I find that I accomplish the truest desires of my heart, live the lifestyle I dream about, and find new strength to pursue goals the more I forget about future altogether and pay attention to the moment I am living in.

When I enjoy the sunlight streaming through my shades in the morning, appreciate each sip of coffee, and feel the snow crunch beneath every step on my walk to the bus, I end up living the life I’ve imagined.  To a mind that lives on past and future this present moment awareness is meaningless.  Yet all positive and fruitful action arises from being completely present to your immediate experience, and creates your future from the miraculous consequences of that positive energy.

Switching your attention from the thinking mind to present moment experience creates an almost alchemical reaction. Anxiety and stagnation are transmuted into peace and prosperity.

This year I resolve to allow myself to be right where I am, and I wish the same for you.

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Peace

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

It is with a heart full of gratitude for you and your loving presence that I offer a gift of relaxation this Christmas.  The video below is a guided relaxation, Shavasana, by yours truly with photography and music by Peter Spero.  Thank you to Swami Satchidananda whose version of Shavasana this is based upon, and for many of the wise words and lessons included within it.

Click here for a free download of the audio version of Shavasana with Katie Spero.

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Inspiration

Why I Changed My Mind About Sam Harris

A few weeks ago my aunt Nancy sent me a video that blew me away.  I was about to share it when I discovered the speaker was none other than Sam Harris, a popular critic of religion.

That same evening after I decided posting something by Harris wouldn’t be in keeping with my own views and intentions of peace and unity, I posted an entirely different video and received an email that another blogger had “liked” it along with a list of popular posts to check on their blog.  The first post I saw written by this blogger was entitled, “Atheist Sam Harris changed my perception of him forever when he said this.”  I was led right back to the video I had tried to stay away from.

I was snapped out of my identification with my own views, along with the thoughts and opinions I had attached Sam Harris to. Human beings are not the thoughts they think, the opinions they hold, or the perceptions others have of them.  My perception of who another person is will never come close to the reality of their being.  Now, after letting go of the need to know who Sam Harris is, it is clear to see that attaching myself to a judgement about another person will cut me off from experiencing the gifts they offer to the world.

It is with an open mind, and understanding heart, that I gladly share this beautiful moment of presence:

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spirituality

Guest Post: Why Greg Spero Doesn’t Fear Dying

photo by peter speroI was a little girl with many fears.  I wouldn’t go on escalators, or boats, and retreated to the basement every time the wind blew.  As I grew up I went about the business of letting go of these fears one by one, but at the root of each issue I knew I was afraid of dying.  That fear too can be shed, just like a childhood fear of natural disasters.

Let Yourself Learn’s first guest author, Greg Spero, offers a shifted perspective on death and existence:

Why I Don’t Fear Dying

By Greg Spero

I killed an ant this morning. I wondered if he suffered.
Did he stay alive for a few seconds after I crushed his body?
Did he twitch and realize that he was leaving his consciousness?
Did he briefly mourn over how he failed in his mission to bring food to the queen?
How long did this take?
A second?
A millisecond?
Did it take a billion years?
Or a billion times that?

Let’s call that timeframe an eon.

Where did the ant’s particles go?
Maybe the earth ran into the sun and the molecules exploded in bursts of energy.
Where did that energy go?
What planet did it hit?
Did a piece of the ant become a the energy in a new life form?
Did a piece of the energy from the molecule of that ant become me, eons later?

Well, of course it did. After all, what was that piece of energy doing before it was the molecule of the ant?

A billion rays of light from a billion stars from a billion destroyed planets from a billion ants went into each molecule that made up the ant I killed. And the energy from that ant will, and has already, become that which will spread infinitely throughout the universe for the rest of time, which will go on for eons times eons times eons, further than we can comprehend.

Many people have a fear of dying. But I don’t. Because I will never die, and neither will you. That ant was not living. Nor was he dying. He was simply existing. He was not himself, nor was he something else. He was simply the universe, incarnate in a form that we think we recognize as an individual piece, when in reality, our recognition spans a limited moment in an infinite cycle of energy.

The ant I killed is a human, in another time.
The ant I killed is me, in another time.
The ant I killed is everything, in another time.
And so is everything else.
So are you.
So am I.

We are lucky to be conscious in this moment, observing the reality around us, and existing, enjoying, emoting, loving, hating, feeling, lusting, living in the brief time between what we recognize as the existence and nonexistence of our consciousness. Yet, birth and death have nothing to do with existence and nonexistence.

Birth and death are a brief passing place that we recognize because outside of those boundaries we can’t interact with our immediate surroundings in the way to which we are accustomed in this life.

What happened with the ant’s body could very well happen with something deeper than the body; an energy that exists that we can’t pinpoint, from which some draw the idea of God, and some draw the idea of Buddha nature. Another energy, other than what we see physically, that will also be recycled infinitely throughout existence.

Or maybe that energy is the same as the energy that makes up the molecules of the ant I killed.

Maybe it’s all the same.

Maybe the infinite expansion of time before and after this moment allows for every piece of energy in the universe to exist as every incarnation of every possible thing and being in all the universe, including what we see, our family, friends, the bed on which I sit, the other ants scattered about the outside of my house, the solar system, and the universe. Maybe my consciousness is actually just a small piece of the universe as it infinitely reincarnates in every possible formation and has infinitely reincarnated in every possible formation for all of time.

The ant I killed is not a self. It is the universe.
And so am I.
And so are you.
I don’t worry about dying. Because I am not alive. I simply am, and will be for the rest of time.

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Peace

3 Ways To Be At Peace Now

IMG_0992Today driving back to Chicago from my parents’ house in the suburbs I was particularly cautious because of the dark flurry-filled highway.  Night was fast approaching on my drive home and by the time I reached the city streets there was no longer any sunlight to aid me.

When I had stopped at a light on Lincoln Avenue I glanced out the car door window.  Suddenly I realized it was not a low-visibility snowy evening, but a crisp clear night.  At this I instinctively prompted the wiper fluid.  Lo and behold I had been unnecessarily struggling from something I had expected even before I got in the car, a night where the air was filled with snow, which would be difficult to drive in.  The night air was as clear as it had been on any cold cloudless night in Chicago and I just did not realize all I had to do was clean the windshield.

Just as I needed to clean the lens through which my highway journey was viewed, any successful moment starts with clarity of mind and perspective.  I had been feeling stress during the week about situations with my cold apartment and a blown fuse, and the prospect of work that had to be done.

Every time I thought I was making some progress, something else would come up and require my attention.  As I began to flounder I realized that before anything could be done, like decisions, work, and planning, I first had to relax into a state of peace and perspective.  My actions were not yielding positive results.  The results were expressing the energy with which I had produced them. 

So before you try to fix a situation so that you can be at peace, remember that the only way to create the success you want is to first be at peace and then go about doing whatever it is you have to do. You need to go beyond the mind to untangle yourself from the thoughts that are creating the dis-ease.

When I arrived home I received a “Present Moment Reminder” email from Eckhart Tolle stating the three things you can do to become peaceful at any given moment, “Wherever you are, be there totally.  If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options:  remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally,” Eckhart Tolle.

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Inspiration

When are you “just now?”

In this inspiring video Ryan Levinson teaches a powerful lesson in what it means to truly exist in the present moment, and how he is able to get there.

Take a moment today to find what brings you utterly into the present moment.  That experience of presence can teach you what it feels like to be right where you are, instead of in past or future thoughts.  After experiencing a profound oneness with the present moment, it will be easier to practice present moment awareness in all aspects of life.

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consciousness

What I Know About You

Katie, Joey, and GregA few weeks ago I heard a speaker on education, but instead of learning about adolescent behavior I was taught a lesson in the behavior of my own mind.  A person in the back of the auditorium had been chatting throughout the session, and my mind was not okay with it.  Instead of focusing on that which I had showed up for, my thoughts were preoccupied with judgement.  Even afterwards when the event had passed and was no more than a thought in my mind, I chose to keep the memory of a person I deemed “rude” alive through further internal judgement, not to mention commiserating with my friend who had also noticed this slight disruption.

In my last post I celebrated the incomprehensible mystery that is every individual human being.  When my mind was busy judging a person for behavior I felt was unacceptable I was operating completely unaware of this intrinsic truth.

How do we foster compassion for other human beings when it is so easy to reduce them into nothing more than thoughts in our heads?  The following video with author Karen Armstrong, on Super Soul Sunday, offers concrete tools for experiencing the depth of inherent mystery within all people:

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You

The Greatest Mystery

What preconceived notions do you have about yourself and others?  What assumptions do you make about other people? Today I am reminded by Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that we are each an unfathomable mystery.  When you let go of the need to know who you are, and who others are, you become open to experiencing the majesty and wonder of the reality of our existence.

By Peter Spero

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spirituality

The One Where I Admit I Know Nothing

Photo by Peter SperoWhere do your actions arise from?  I notice that a great majority of my actions are first thoughts.  Sometimes the actions occur so rapidly that I haven’t yet voiced the thoughts in my mind.  Sometimes I assume I’m acting from present moment awareness, when in reality I am reacting to a thought.  This raises the question, what actions would arise if unprovoked by thoughts and assumptions?

There are many things I know in my mind.  I know that the present moment is the only place of true power.  I know I only exist right now and will only ever experience this singular now.  But just as my actions often arise from thoughts, these truths during periods of my life become only thoughts in my head.

When these spiritual truths are mere thoughts for me I lack all understanding of them; I don’t know what it truly is to live from a place of presence, to act unprovoked by thought, to live free from fear.  My mind becomes extremely preoccupied with past and future, and that causes stress and anxiety.  Sometimes I’m so afraid I can’t do anything at all.

So what?

By Peter SperoI could say that this is where the universe comes in to provide a sign of its reigning presence in my existence and that grace will descend and enable me to let go of all the fear and identification that I grip onto as if my life depended on it.  I often speak and learn from comfort.  But as “fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys,” as Dickens puts it, I feel it is helpful to express the state of my consciousness in a moment such as this where it seems to burn dimly, when my consciousness lies in the glaring gap between my beliefs and my state of being.

Spiritual truths, when they are just thoughts in your head, cannot change your life experience.  Spiritual truths are to be tried, tested, explored, turned upside down, and contended with.

Do you already know that the now is where all peace and joy reside?  That won’t mean anything to you until you make an honest effort to test the theory.  I can look back at occasions of true presence in my life and know that I had real, miraculous, and deep experiences of peace and oneness with the universe.  Yet even now as I look back they are but thoughts in my head.  Helpful pointers maybe, but bearing no weight on my current state of consciousness lest I practice that which brought me there in the first place.  Lest I practice presence.

Photo by Peter SperoI occasionally find that I keep myself distracted from the moment because of the underlying fear within that I would encounter in such a moment of stillness.  Yet I know that I do not want fear, and that the facing of it is the only way it will dissipate.  There is no way around it.  I can only go through.

What do you avoid facing in the stillness of the present moment?  What will happen to you if you face it?

Even if it seems unpleasant or unbearable, you will not die.  You won’t go anywhere.  But that which you had been avoiding through thoughts, emotions, past and future stories, habits, addictions, and to-do lists, will inevitably disappear in the light of your presence.  Your true self will always remain.

There is a catch: this concept will remain a mere concept, void of any real meaning, until it is tried, tested, and experienced.

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spirituality

What is better than happiness?

PHOTO BY PETER SPERO

What is happiness?  Why does it seem so elusive?  I think the fleetingness of the goal called “happiness” is due to happiness being attached to outer circumstance.  Things and experiences cause the high-energy feeling of happiness.  Since life often doesn’t go according to plan, and happiness is dependent on a favorable experience, happiness disappears when a less than desirable situation arises.

There is good news for the feeling of happiness though.  Happiness is an outer reflection of a powerful state of being.  States of being cannot be dissolved, they are unalterably present, but can be obscured and covered up by layers of identification with thoughts and feelings.  The state of being which happiness pales in comparison to is joy.  As Tolle and many other teachers maintain, states of peace and joy, which are our natural states of being, are always available within, regardless of situation.

When I received this week’s “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” I felt like Swami Satchidananda was offering permission to be happy.  Allowing yourself to enjoy a situation helps to uncover the state of joy within.  When Swami Satchidananda talks about joy and happiness it is clear that regardless of terms, and even though he talks about Yoga practice in particular, that the truth towards which he points is the key to a higher state of consciousness available in all of life’s situations.  Experiencing life from the state of joy is a profound spiritual lesson:

“You forgot to be like children. You may think that spirituality means to be serious, morose; that you can’t smile or laugh. That’s not spirituality. Your spirit should [be] filled with happiness, joy, dancing, singing, and dancing. Don’t be gloomy. That’s not the kind of spirituality we want in the name of Yoga. You should always be exuding happiness and joy—a positive spirit. Work itself should be a play. The Yoga practices should be playful and uplifting. There’s nothing overly serious about it all. God created the world as a playground. Allow the joy to come out. What is serious in this? We all come, gather together, live for awhile, and when the time comes, say goodbye and go. Within that period, can’t we be happy? God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Swami Satchidananda

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