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Aim High and Move Forward

The purpose of life is not to get everything we want. The purpose of life is not to make sure the waters we sail in are smooth all the time. The purpose of life is not to live free of pain and suffering.

The purpose is to become all we can be, to contribute to the world in a meaningful way, to make life better by becoming the best version of ourselves.

How do we do this? Aim high, reach, stretch, and look forward, and do all of this with as much goodness, kindness, and commitment to Truth as you can muster.

What if the mark I’m aiming for isn’t high enough? What if I fail? What if I’m wrong?

So what? The meaning is in the trying. The purpose is to pick something and go for it. Each step will lead to another and another and another.

It is not in the goal that the meaning of life appears. It is in the moving towards it that we uncover our purpose and new ways of expanding and evolving. It is in the inspired action that we discover our true strength.

What Are You Carrying?

Pick up the heaviest thing you can and carry it. –Jordan Peterson

As a mother and a human who is committed to nurturing, nourishing, and comforting others, especially my children, I choose and try everyday to live consciously, mindfully, and with as open a heart as I can. I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be, but I believe in choosing alignment as much as possible and aiming high.

There is admittedly a downside, though, to attending solely to the emotional, mystical, and spiritual realm. Without grounding, we can float away. We don’t want to become shackled by the isness of life, but ignoring it can also lead us to confusion in an arena with no boundaries or markers that show us where we are and where we’re headed.

What can be a useful antidote to getting lost in the ethereal, the chaotic, and an over abundance of limitlessness?

Well, the answer at least in part is focusing on the tangible, the orderly, and doing the next right thing in form. 

Too much “reality” makes us stiff and brittle, but too much transcendence can cause us to feel unable to take action.

Sometimes, we just need to choose to attend to our responsibilities and be useful. Sometimes it’s not the dream state that will assist us, but rather the decision to take the next right action. 

Sometimes, we just need to “pick up the heaviest thing we can and carry it.” 

Maybe this is an actual thing, like taking out the trash, walking the dog, making the bed, or getting the groceries out of the car. Or perhaps we respond metaphorically by having that difficult conversation, attending to a sad child, or visiting our friend in a nursing home. 

The heaviness of the thing can vary too. Maybe the heaviest thing you can lift is a grocery bag filled with strawberries or thanking your mom for picking you up at your friend’s house. Or perhaps the thing is really heavy, like the box of books you’re taking to the new house or calling your sister after a dispute.

The thing, real or figurative, doesn’t matter. The point is we’re attending to something that matters—to us and to others. We are being helpful, useful, and making a difference. 

Strangely enough, it’s in the isness, in the action, that something mystical actually happens: our spirit, our open-heartedness expands and evolves. Chaos and order, creativity and stability are constantly flowing and dancing and moving together. 

This is the life force and journey. Paying attention to this movement is what gives life meaning. 

What are you carrying today?

Dear Children

To all the young people who experience sadness, worry, or fear, this is for you.

Dear Children:

Are you sometimes sad? Worried? Afraid?

You are not broken or disorderd. You are the sensitive souls who feel deeply, see everything, and pay attention to your environment and others in it. This makes you not only incredibly special, but also essential to your friends, family, community, and world.

The question isn’t, how do you stop feeling? The question is, how can you direct these sensitivities in ways that help you feel productive, worthy, and contribute to the world?

Maybe you’re asking, what’s wrong with me? If so, let me tell you as a fellow human on this planet, nothing is wrong with you. You are right where you need to be right now. Whatever you’re feeling is inviting you to more. More, more, more. And asking for more always comes with disquiet, uncertainty, and often sadness or worry.

But this is where you are! You are breaking open to something new. You are being called simultaneously to intimate heart-centeredness and also Christ-inspired connection to people, things, ideas, and energies beyond your immediate ability to actually see them. They are there, though, no doubt. That you are feeling the way you are means you are discerning all that is calling you.

You are strong. You are always connected to Love and God. We see you. We are here for you. And we can’t wait to watch you burst forth into yourself. Again and again and again.

We Are Vast and Evolving

We are becoming all the time.

Sometimes we experience the Dark Night, because we are confused, unsure, even feeling hopeless. Other times, this darkness evokes overwhelm, even paralysis, as Abraham says, because, in the midst of so many choices, even those we don’t yet see, we feel stuck. We freeze. This response is actually a primal one. When in fear or vulnerability, we instinctively know to stay put, not even breathe, so that we might not draw attention to ourselves.

If we can, however, surrender to this feeling and know we can move through it, we could change how we perceive ourselves and the situation. We could, in fact, change everything. We might feel stuck or frozen for a moment (or two or three), but if we could then experience it, witness it as stillness rather than mortal fear and paralysis, we could actually begin to invite the evolution that is calling us.

Nothing grows, evolves, is born without a breaking open. This is how all life, all energy, calls itself forward–calls itself to itself. It is in the darkness, the unknowing, that we can receive the light of all being, which is inherently true, good, and beautiful. This being is simultaneously the vastness and the potential. These essences and energies are in us and calling us all the time.

Let us allow ourselves to see and hear and heed the call of our becoming. Our evolution is inevitable, but we must first align with it in order to become what we are called to be.

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.