Inspiration

Dear Alchemists, Notice What You Make

ImagineConsider all that your consciousness has taken in this year. The facts and figures, news stories, challenges, experiences, human interactions.  You are an expert witness to this creation day in and day out.

What are you bringing forth into this world each day?  When I think back to the un-work related conversations I hear at work, most of them fall into the category of “the horrors of existence.”  We discuss the worst things imaginable, often with lamentations for a broken world.  This is not being well informed. Knowing what is going on with other people and languishing in their misery are two very different things.

The mind can toil forever over a problem it can’t solve, which is precisely why it tries to keep these conversations going.  If the voice in your head is telling you that these conversations will help find a solution, that is because it doesn’t know life-changing solutions arise from a still and quiet mind.

In the coming year let us shift our attention from what is coming at us to what we are sending out.  Let us resolve this year to imagine better.  If we put out encouragement, kindness, hope, and love in equal measure to the complaining and agonizing that are all too commonplace, we will start to see our small pockets of existence transform from base metal into gold.

What you put out into the world is not dependent on your happiness or optimism.  It is a conscious effort to make manifest the deepest desires of your heart.  You are an alchemist; your thoughts and feelings transform your world. Make a choice to use that power to beautify all that you see.

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Inspiration

A Diet We Can Believe In

KindnessIt often feels like there are a million reasons to be grieving.  Celebration and gratitude can seem out of place in a world desperately in need of love and healing.  But to foster love we need to lean in more than ever to celebrating life.  For healing we need to lean in to gratitude.  We can take our hearts, so tender from imbibing all of the world’s pain, and use that softness to bring forth the sweet fragrance of forgiveness, understanding, gentleness, and caring.

Thoughts about what is going wrong are like candy to mind; addictive, enjoyable, and they eventually make us sick.  Thanksgiving is chance to practice replacing those thoughts with the fruit and vegetables of the mind which are thoughts of thankfulness and gratitude.

There are so many small things that I forget to be thankful for that are truly miracles to experience.  For example, I can walk and talk, my digestive system works well and my body is healthy, I can sing and dance, I can gaze at the moon on clear nights, I can hear birdsongs in the early morning.  These thoughts are seldom mulled over in my mind the way worries are.  So this holiday season I’m going on a mind diet; less candy, more fruits and vegetables.  You can do this too by noticing what thoughts are most consistently running through your mind and making a choice to consume thoughts of thanks instead of complaints.

On a personal note, I have to tell you all how thankful I am every day for the community here at Let Yourself Learn, for this opportunity to delve more deeply into the ocean of living with you all, and for your love and support which permeate my every day.  Bless you truly, and good luck with your holiday mind diet!

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Inspiration

“There is no situation to which miracles do not apply,” ACIM

NatureThe only time a miracle can occur is now. Past and future occur as thoughts, and miracles are not the result of thinking. Stay in this moment, it is the place where all new things are born. And when your mind begins to drag you along on a habitual train of thought, remind yourself why the now is worth it and watch for the miracle.

 

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Inspiration

Was it worth it?

Light of Truth Universal ShrineI don’t know how it happened, but all of the sudden I’m back in the city full of its noises, lights, tumult, and excitement.  In my mind I’m still walking beneath a blanket of stars to a dark meditation hall, watching Swamis dressed in orange quietly manipulate their patterns of breath.

At the Satchidananda Ashram inner peace is laid out before you as a banquet for an honored guest.  There is no end to the forms in which it is presented.  Hatha Yoga, pranayama, meditation, selfless service in places like a kitchen or farm, immersion in nature, chanting, study of holy texts, and the loving-kindness of friends are all abundantly offered as pathways to the peace within.

And while it had never been so easy to have a joyful open heart, the sweet Swami guiding me through my month made it very clear; nothing outside will change, only your perspective will change.

Gurudev's KitchenBeing back in Chicago I understand these words more clearly than I did immersed in the sacred space of the ashram.  Everything is the same.  People are the same. Work is the same. The loud noises that wake me when I’m trying to sleep are the same. Even the thoughts in my mind are the same.  But the fog clouding the lens of my heart has been wiped clear so that I can surrender to the infinite love that pervades all things.

Of course while that may sound quite romantic, in practice it isn’t.  It means waking up hours before work to sit cross-legged, feet completely asleep, in the silence before dawn.  It means doing a half hour of poses and breathing even when my mind is asking me to skip it and take a nap.  It means convincing the voice in my head it can have some more chocolate tomorrow, but not today.  It means looking at what is happening with my own mind when someone is upsetting me, and letting go of judgement.  It means relinquishing the misguided hope that something “out there” will make me happy.  (And I still haven’t kicked that coffee habit.)

Loving Friends!Each moment is another chance for this practice.  What I learned living this way for a month is that it is worth it.  There is nothing in this world worth more than inner peace.  And, in the words of Eckhart Tolle, “If peace is really what you want, then you will choose peace.”

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Inspiration

Party More

Joey's GraduationThis weekend I had the great privilege of celebrating my baby brother’s graduation from college. Then came Mother’s Day.  Celebrations transformed both of those days.

This month also marks the six-month anniversary of my brain surgery. And while I didn’t have a party for that, I must confess that I’ve been celebrating its anniversary every single month since it happened. I celebrate mainly within myself, congratulating myself, feeling grateful for the passing months. But I also excitedly exclaim to my boyfriend about it every 5th of the month. So what difference does it make?

Continual celebration for any reason makes each day more memorable as well as more fulfilling. To me celebration is the practice of aligning your perspective with the reality of life. It is easy to think to yourself, “Every day is a precious gift to be treasured.” But that is just a thought in the mind not yet born into the reality of experience. When you celebrate you are acting out the reality of the sacredness of the now. You are honoring existence. And in the process of aligning yourself with this perspective, you uncover the latent joy within.

Find something to celebrate today. Did you wake up this morning? Did you go to work? Did you share a smile with another person? You experienced the miracle that is conscious existence. Celebrate it in whatever way you personally enjoy. Eat a wonderful meal, make a toast, share time with someone you love, dance to your favorite song. Instead of making your worries, thoughts about the future, and painful stories the center of your attention today, create a reason to celebrate. It will move you ever closer to a state of joy and peace, and you may find that celebration begets further celebration.

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Inspiration

Advice I Give Myself

SoulYou are on the right track.

You may not want to hear that, especially if you’re experiencing disappointment, regret, or pain in any form.  But learning from your life situation, however it presents itself, is made exponentially easier when you don’t waste time playing mind games with it.

Those mind games can be wishing life were different, thinking about all of the things you could have done differently, and wondering why other people have it so good.  These are all ways in which the thinking mind distracts you from the task at hand, which is to accept your life situation as if you had chosen it so that you can get down to the business of inner growth.  Because in the end, you’d be learning the same lessons no matter how the outer circumstances of life were presented.

Most importantly, remember that we are all classmates.  We all go to the same school, we’re on the same team.  It may be hard to watch others around you trying and failing, and bumping into you in the hallways.  But we’re all learning.  So no matter where your life situation takes you, arm yourself with compassion for yourself and everyone else.

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Inspiration

Feel Your Way Out Of The Dark

Feel GoodA desire to feel better than you currently feel is itself an acknowledgment that your current experience has the ability to change.

When I was younger feeling bad took an eternity.  Now it is more like an alarm clock telling me that I want to feel better.  I may press the snooze button again and again, but the second I decide to wake up how I feel changes.

There may be many rungs on the emotional ladder between how you feel now and how you desire to feel.  Don’t try to jump all the way to the top and fall victim to gravity.  Take each step as a victory.  Feeling bored feels better than despair.  Feeling annoyed feels better than feeling afraid.  We all know how we desire to feel, and we all have the power to let how we feel guide us toward what we desire.

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