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How Are We Seeing the World?

So many parents I know are saying the same thing: my kids are anxious. They have been in school and are still having a hard time. Or they are only just now going back to school after a year of online school, and they are worried, fearful, and just not themselves.

Here is my response to all of us who are walking through this new world with our kids.

This is so upsetting. And yet so understandable. These kids have been holed up, restricted, everything’s been taken away from them. Society has taught them to be afraid and to be suspicious of others and illness.

And then we say, “But now, go back to school. And be happy. Be normal. Even though you need to stay afraid. But you’re fine. No? What’s wrong with you? Why are you so anxious?”

Seriously? With all our knowledge and statistics and information, we are doing a terrible job of the most important thing: teaching our kids that they are worthy, whole, healthy, vibrant, capable, and strong, no matter what. Unconditionally. Always.

And we can’t just tell them. We have to show them, be for them, examples of connection to goodness, kindness, and abundance. We can teach, but even more, we have to be this ourselves, for they have to discover this for themselves in their own hearts and minds. We have taught them to look around and assess how scary the world is. How mean and awful it is. No. Enough. We see the world not how it is but how we are.

If how we are isn’t bright and grateful and constantly in search of the Good, then how will we find it? How will they? It’s time to stop the madness of lack and fear and begin to rebuild. Our children’s wellness, our wellness, depend on it.

Do I Have Inner Knowing?

Recently, an acquaintance asked our group of coaches and counselors this question: How would we respond to a client who says she doesn’t believe she has “inner knowing?”

This is a good question. Perhaps one of the most important questions.

Why? It’s significant, because inner knowing, or what we might call intuition, an inner voice, or even a sense of our consciousness, is evidence or affirmation of our connection to a greater energy–God, Source, the Divine, however you language it. This client is hardly alone. Many of us question whether we are “gifted” with this wisdom. The reasons are painfully obvious.

We live in a society, culture, world, that often go to great lengths to deny our inner knowing. They tell us all that exists, all that matters, is what our five senses can detect. We learn at an early age to set goals and intentions so that we might achieve the outward appearance of success: financial wealth, lots of stuff, expensive schools, even celebrity and fame. This, we are instructed, is what’s most important. This is what will declare to the world that we are significant. That we matter. And, of course, it will ensure that above all we are happy. Right?

Well, in the words of Brad Pitt in Fight Club, “How’s that working out for you?” Not so well, I expect, mostly because it’s not true. Even those, and perhaps especially those, who have material wealth and success admit none of this ensures happiness and in fact pales in comparison to a much greater attainment: acknowledging, trusting, believing in our true selves, our inner knowing. Our ultimate calling is not to look and seek without; it is to witness and align with our wisdom, which is our connection to God, Source, the Divine. Without this consciousness and depth of understanding, all else is ultimately folly. Sure, we might achieve things and goals; we might even deem ourselves satisfied and happy. But all of this will be like the mere shadows of things, as they are for the prisoners in Plato’s The Cave. They will never be the truest and highest things, which the Good, the wise, the deepest knowing can provide.

Here is the answer (and more) I offered in response to the question above:

You can compassionately and graciously affirm for her that we all have inner knowing; it is inherent to the human experience. The question isn’t, “Do I have it;” the question is, “To what extent do I realize or not realize/experience it, why or why not, and how do I more effectively practice touching this Divine spark in myself?”

Contemplation, reflection, and meditation are excellent ways to touch this awareness, but if she’s not ready for this, if it’s too early in her journey, there are other ways, too. Suggest taking walks in nature, noticing when she experiences something beautiful or joyful. This could be an image, a person, a thought, a piece of music, something delicious she’s eating. Anything that sparks gratitude and joy and offers a momentary high-vibration feeling. Let her know she can use these moments as touchstones and affirmations that her inner knowing is real and present within her.

Inner knowing isn’t bestowed on us; it emanates from us, from the deepest parts of ourselves, ever connected to God. So if we haven’t yet felt that, sometimes witnessing something inspiring can light that spark and allow us to understand how the knowing flows to and through us. Goodness, Divinity, and the inspired energy of the Holy Spirit are constantly in motion around and in us. When we are conscious of our inner knowing, we are acknowledging the presence of this energy, which awakens us to the present moment and affirms our connection to ourselves and all that is Unified Consciousness. Don’t worry if you feel this part of you is still small or even if you sometimes doubt it. For taking time to witness it, sit with it, attend to it, will nourish this knowing, invite you to expand until you trust in and rely on its wisdom. Your knowing is already complete, because it is eternal, and you are part of this eternity. It is waiting for you to align with it more consistently so that you might experience it in its inherent glory.

The Transcendentals and Philosophy

Why philosophy?

Recently many of my thoughts have been devoted to the contemplation of the Three Transcendentals: Being is defined by what is good, true, and beautiful. And as often occurs when one is particularly mindful of an idea or theme, it is showing up seemingly everywhere. I’m hearing the Transcendentals in videos and lectures, reading about them in literature and essays. Clearly, my attention is tuned to aligning with them in a variety of forms and media.

I share this quotation from Hillsdale College’s Professor Schlueter, which he offers in an inspired online class on Western Philosophy. (If you are interested about such things, I highly recommend it!)

Sit with it. Contemplate it. Does it resonate with you? How does it influence how and what you think?

Oneing with the Sunset

Being reveals Herself in all things.

Our soul is oned to God, unchangeable goodness….(Julian of Norwich)

At a time when we are surrounded by cynicism, when we often feel there is no absolute truth, when everything from politics to religion to education seems upside-down, it’s easy to lose faith and hope in who we are, both as individuals and as a people. BUT here is an anecdote that re-inspired my belief in the goodness of beingness. Yes, it’s a small example, but perhaps it can remind us that when watch and listen for the delicate and profound essence of life, it will reveal itself.

Tonight I decided to walk westward on the promenade in Cape May to catch the sunset. As I approached the end of the walkway that opens onto the beach and reveals a view of the Cape May Lighthouse at the Point, I realized the sun was setting rapidly and I might miss it. I ran to find a spot where I could stand and video the event. And in so doing, I witnessed something wonderful: throngs of people watching and waiting for the blood-orange red orb to drop below the horizon as the lighthouse standing before it stoically shone its great rotating beacon. As the sky turned a Monet palette of red, yellow, violet, and pink and the sun slipped away, people cheered, car horns sounded, and I cried.

Why? Why did we all rally to witness this everyday event? What does this say about us?

I believe, even sometimes in spite of ourselves, we know what’s important. We know what’s truly meaningful. We inherently know what’s good, beautiful, and true (the Three Transcendentals). The sun setting occurs every night, but we know not to take it for granted. Our hearts comprehend the beauty and awe of this event.

For those of us who don’t believe in a higher power, we appreciate the beauty of the colors and the awesomeness of planetary movements.

For those of us who believe in God or Source energy, the sunset is a true manifestation of the Divine, which lives and breathes and moves in all things. It humbles and embraces us. The Divine invites our spirits to merge with Hers, into Herself, feeling a oneness with this sublime eternal energy.

Regardless of why we all gathered tonight to celebrate the sun setting on this Easter Sunday evening, I am grateful to have borne witness to the magnificent sky and to the crowd who cheered it. May this feeling linger in our hearts and inspire us to seek and appreciate all the moments in life that fill our souls with wonder.

Darkness As An Invitation to Refinement

It is in the darkness that the light breaks through and pierces us with deeper knowing and wisdom.

In his podcast, Turning to the Mystics, James Finley discusses mystic St. John of the Cross and how the Dark Night of the Soul invites us to greater depth, clarity, and enlightenment:

[What we are seeking] is not the attainment of something, but rather the love that attains us in our inability to attain it, by taking it to itself and all the unresolved matters of our heart so unexplainably, deeper, deeper, ever deeper. 

[Learning the way of the mystics] is not challenging because it’s academic. It’s challenging, because we’re not used to someone [or something] inviting us to such delicate levels of the interiority of our mind and heart, surrendered over to the presence of God. 

We’re being called to the Dark Night, this deprivation of finite consolation….[in which] we might taste the infinite consolation of God, whether that’s happening to us, or it might not be happening to us just yet. But [we] know that the transformative artistry of this love, like the Tao…rings down to the lowest places giving life to everything.

The same transformative energy is present in all the modalities of our life….in any transformative process where you’ve been accessed by a love for some deep, deep thing that asks everything of you [in the same] way as artist, the poet, the musician, teacher, healer, [and] solitary. There’s something like an expansive depth that’s opened up to you. You lean into it and it’s calling you to itself, and you can follow it but not without a price, because you have to be willing to forgo and not get caught up in the pleasures and pastimes and diversions that would water down the fidelity to the transformations that you’re being called to. This is the refinement of experiential self-knowledge and love that St. John of the Cross and all the mystics are inviting us to. Let us be sensitive to these matters.

Transformation can come to us in many ways. We can discover it through a heightened awareness of goodness, beauty, and truth (known as the Three Transcendentals), which reveals the divinity in all things, or it can come through the Dark Night, when it seems none of these exist. This is “deprivation” at such an extreme that we can only experience chaos and emptiness.

Yet, it is in this darkness, as Finley explains, that we are invited to “lean into” what appears to be nothingness, for it is here that, perhaps unbeknownst to us, the Divine resides and calls us to something deeper. Unlike the light, which is captivating and moving and alluring in its brilliance, the darkness is at once more jarring and also more subtle. As we are reeling during a trauma or in suffering, it simultaneously calls us to “delicate levels of interiority of our mind and heart.” It asks us to submit to a “refinement of experiential self-knowledge and love.” This is consciousness at such a heightened awareness that most of us are unaware of it most of the time. It is only when the darkness overtakes us, severely limiting our senses and rational mind, that we are able to obtain a greater spiritual sensitivity.

In other words, in our confusion and upset, the Divine calls us in a deep way that “asks everything” of us. Only when we become aware that nothing in the physical world, no attachments, no material things, can calm or satisfy us, will we ultimately discern that Love alone will nourish us. This energy, which is God, oneness consciousness, Source, is eternal. The Divine is always inviting us to seek Her, dwell with Her, integrate Her into our hearts.

When the darkness comes to us, may we surrender to it. May we witness it as an invitation to something more. For only in our willingness to sit in and be surrounded by it will we discover that the light is actually in us.

What is Right About This?

When we find ourselves in a situation where we have failed to voice our opinion, when we are overridden by another whose argument, at the moment, is stronger, louder, or simply seems more compelling than our own, the resulting feelings can be those of grief, shame, and regret.

But if, even in our emotional hangover, we can begin to look at this circumstance from the perspective of Source, and if we believe in Divine right action, then we can move in the direction of shifting our focus.

If we have sufficiently integrated the idea that “the Universe is rigged for our expansion” (Rob Bell), then we might ask with refreshing relief, even curiosity, “Why might this be right ? What will happen next?”

The event or the decision that at first caused our self-deprecation, doubt, and uneasiness, now ascends and merges into the atmosphere of pure potentiality and the abundance and “rightness” of what is to come. Our suffering is a result of believing that we somehow failed ourselves or others; that even though we had all the information we needed to make a decision or a choice, we dropped the proverbial ball. We fell short of the success we so wanted to achieve. But, once we humbly acknowledge that at any given time we only have some of the information, that the Universe is expanding and shifting gears in ways we cannot know, only then can we move from worry or fear or suffering to trust. We can then trust that the pure potentiality, the myriad particles of energy and information that are beyond our conception or understanding, will deliver to us the alignment we most desire.

We don’t need to understand how it will all work out. We just need to trust and know that it will. This is not a Pollyanna, head-in-the-clouds, wishful-thinking approach. No. This is a thoughtful surrendering to the “isness” of our “reality”–a reality that is ultimately shaped by how we choose to see it.

We surrender and then decide to rest in the knowing that the Universe is forging a path towards our further expansion and greatness. And it will reveal itself to us when we are ready to witness it.