Yesterday, Sean was at CHOP for some tests he is required to undergo every three months. One of his appointments was with audiology. The technician, Travis, directed Sean and me to a soundproof room, sat Sean in a chair before a large window, and fitted him with headphones. I sat off to the side behind him. Travis then closed the heavy door and sat at the desk on the other side of the window, facing Sean, from which he played a variety of sounds and words.
For most of the test, Sean was to repeat the words he heard. It was the beginning of the test, though, that caught my attention. Instead of instructing Sean to raise his hand every time he heard a sound, Travis advised, “When you hear the beep, say, ‘Heard it!'” So, for the next few minutes, I watched and listened as all kinds of beeps moved through Sean’s headphones, he loudly proclaimed this response, and Travis offered many a cheerful thumbs-up.
I realized, observing this otherwise simple scene in a room so quiet I could hear my heartbeat, that the relationship between Travis, my son, the beeps, and Sean’s responses was strikingly similar to a more personal relationship: our awareness of, and intimacy with, Source.
When we are connected with Spirit in its purest, most loving form, when we are aligned and in flow, even for a moment, it is as though we are wearing special headphones. We become acutely aware of the energy and information passing through them, through the veil of ego-based projection and low vibrations, to the deepest interior of our true selves. We experience pristine clarity. We consciously, attentively listen. We are alert and attuned and aware. We are in the receiving mode of “pure positive energy” (Abraham).
How can we more frequently and fully cultivate this connection? Simply put, by paying attention to it. What if we decide to become more engaged with this relationship, this process, and respond in a similar way Sean was advised? As we feel the warm sunshine on our face during a walk, “Heard it!” As we cuddle our dog, “Heard it!” As we feel the tenderness of our child’s small hand in ours, “Heard it!” As we listen to a moving piece of music, “Heard it!” Responding this way, out loud or in our hearts, we are affirming that we are in the receiving mode. We are declaring our connection to the Source energy that is simultaneously always calling, and living in, us.
The more often we choose to consciously respond in this way, the more accustomed to listening we become. This is law, after all. This is Law of Attraction and Alignment in their purest forms. What’s more, as we open ever wider and deeper to this energy, we also then become more alert and engaged with Source, expecting to hear, see, and feel the signs and information that surround us in every moment.
Unlike the few minutes of beeps passing through Sean’s headphones, the Grace that invites our attention and response is always calling us. She is constantly speaking, beckoning. The only question is, are we engaged and listening?
Will you put on your headphones today? When you do, get still, create the spaciousness of the soundproof room in your soul, and listen for the beep. Never fear; it will come. And when it does, whether in a whisper or a resounding clang, pronounce, “Heard it!” Source will hear you, too, and as Travis did with Sean, She will offer you an affirming thumbs-up.
The only way to raise our vibration is to reduce our resistance to what is unwanted, find alignment with Source, and allow our energy to flow with it. All wisdom teachers and spiritual traditions describe this as the method of moving towards our true selves, spiritual oneness, and enlightenment.
Until we become practiced in how to find alignment and what this even means, however, it is a concept and practice that can be understandably challenging. With what are we seeking alignment? Is this a manner of just trying to be positive? How am I supposed to do this when I feel terrible? Fearful? Depressed? When what reality is showing me makes me feel sad and hopeless?
To put it simply, we are seeking alignment with the highest vibration energies we can find at any given moment. These include, for example, eagerness, happiness, joy, love, and passion. This is never a matter of just trying to think positively. Saying to ourselves, “I just won’t think about that,” or “I’m only going to think positive thoughts from now on,” never works. As we attempt to talk ourselves into feeling better (but not really yet believing it), we are actually pushing against feeling bad, and so the result is simply more resistance and frustration. Sometimes, when we’re really feeling down and the momentum of lower vibrations such as fear, grief, envy, or unworthiness have gotten hold of us, the best we can reach for might be boredom or contentment. But that’s okay. At least for a while. The most important thing is to allow the energy of emotions to flow in an upward fashion, continuing to elevate until we find joy and love. The more practiced we become, the more quickly the energy will move.
How do we find alignment, though, when our reality, the people, events, situations, in our present, are indeed scary, threatening, depressing, or seemingly hopeless? This is the very essence of living a conscious, awake life, isn’t it? How to live with joy in a world that consistently presents us with challenges and pain is at the very core of all spiritual traditions. So, again, in the simplest of terms, when we look at something that’s hurting us in the “now,” the only way to find alignment is to either find elements of that thing that hurt less and can elevate our vibration (for us and the object of our attention), or to look away entirely–to refocus on something that requires less resistance and allows the energy to flow.
The trouble with what we call our reality is that it demands our attention, doesn’t it? It is very difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to look at the thing that upsets us and at the same time reach for contentment, let alone joy. But just because this is so doesn’t mean it’s not the way. All healers, all wisdom teachers, have revealed that only by seeing wellness when there is illness, showing compassion where there is hate, being a source of light and love where there is darkness and abuse, can these lower, even destructive energies, move and find resolution. It is not that we deny the suffering; we put our attention elsewhere. We decide to feel other than we actually see. For if we understand and accept that energy is constantly in motion and that reality is merely a reflection of our inner truth (our mindset and expectations and preconceptions about life), then it must follow that what we “see” can also shift and change.
This is not just the essence of spirituality, mysticism, and religion. It is also at the very core of science and quantum physics. Most of us have this backwards and upside-down. It’s not the thing we’re observing that determines what comes next. It’s our perception, our energy, that creates a field of infinite possibilities. In other words, that thing can change; it can become whatever we decide it to be. As Einstein declared, “The field is the sole governing agency of the particle.” Infuse the field with fear, the particle will reflect fear. Infuse it with love and the particle will reflect love. It must be so.
In the photograph above, the tree stands strong against the clear blue autumnal sky. The sun shines brilliantly upon it, its rays streaming towards it. Over the past couple of weeks, the top of the tree has become saturated with hues of red and gold and yellow. Most of the lower leaves on this great tree, however, maintain the deep green color reminiscent of reflecting the former reality of hot summer days. They do not yet feel the effects of the fall sun and the transformations and transmutations that the tree is experiencing within its trunk and branches and within the very veins of the leaves themselves.
So what can this tree teach us? If the sun is Source, representing joy and abundance, indeed the “field,” as Einstein describes it, the tree surely reflects each of us as we move through life, seeking alignment with it. As the topmost leaves reach towards the sun and allow the light and heat to penetrate them, they are changed. They are transformed. They are aligned. But what of the lower leaves? They are still green. They would be perfectly right to declare, “What sun? What Source? We don’t feel it. In fact, we don’t believe there is such a thing as the sun. It doesn’t come to us. It might never come to us. Things will never improve for our lot. Some leaves are just lucky. They turn brilliant colors and transform. But we don’t. We are stuck here in eternal greenness.”
And what might the sun answer? “I am always here,” it might say. “I shine everyday. I am warm and bright and calling you every minute. Even on cloudy days, although you might not see me, I am here. The leaves above you have changed, because they are facing me directly. They are reaching towards me and have accepted my warmth and nourishment. But so can you. For I shine on you, too. And in fact, even if you don’t feel my rays directly, this magnificent tree, with which you are integrally connected, does feel my warmth and encouragement. When you are ready, you can begin to feel the light and color and warmth moving through your very cells as well. And when you feel called, you, too, may allow this glorious transformation. For it is yours when you are ready. You already have these glorious colors within you? Did you know that? You were born with them, even if you didn’t know it in your beautiful greenness. They are always there, just as I am. And so you will be changed when you are ready.”
We know this to be so, for what will happen in a period of days and weeks to come? Slowly or rapidly, however the tree decides it to occur, these leaves will soon be transformed. Every leaf will be saturated with autumnal colors, and we will witness this magnificence as a reflection of Source’s powerful flowing through every living thing.
Let this be a vision for us as we seek to understand what alignment is and how we discover it for ourselves. Source, truth, wisdom, God, whatever name we use, is always calling us. In our despair, She is there. In our fear, She is there. In our confusion, She is there. We need only turn towards Her, and allow her light and love to transform our hearts. We must, and are called to, do this for ourselves. For only in first discovering our own alignment, feeling this flow of infinite love and possibilities, can we then share it with others. Only by living in a place of oneness and love, can we fully support them as they journey to their own truth and joy and wellness.
Note: For more on alignment and the Emotional Scale as discussed here, see Abraham Hicks.
I like to run in the mornings, before the sun gets too hot and the Mid-Atlantic humidity sets in.
My route stays pretty much the same. I meander through various neighborhoods, down quiet winding roads, past farms and ponds where geese and ducks waddle around and swim, where swans glide with seeming effortlessness across the water, and then in the park where I follow a paved path, passing people walking their dogs, kids riding bikes, and older couples holding hands.
My hours in nature have always been a refuge for me. I have discovered that time alone in the open air amidst the vistas of farmland, crossing tree-covered bridges, and running through the sun-dappled patches of grass and pebbles allow my soul to breathe. I have always needed solitude and space. I had a therapist ages ago who said to me on my first visit, “You may be small, but you need wide pastures.” He hit that existential nail on the head. Rainy days in the park are the best. It is often expectedly empty. All the smart runners stay home and dry. Every so often, though, I will see another dedicated runner across the field, and I am (ridiculously) disappointed. Rats, I say to myself. I thought I was alone.
Every time I venture outside for my walks and runs, I learn something new or see something new or think about life in a new way. This is the gift of nature, as many teachers before me have witnessed. Franciscan priest, teacher, and modern-day mystic, Richard Rohr, teaches that (as St. Francis himself believed) nature is the first true scripture. This resonates with me deeply. All of life, its challenges and sufferings and pain and beauty and wonder and joy, is reflected in every element of nature. Every budding wildflower. Every nascent pine cone. Every intricate gossamer-like spider web. They all reflect the spirit of the cosmos.
And so it was again for me today. As I ran down one of the quiet roads past a pond, I could hear the geese in the distance. As I approached the pond, there they were, visiting and swimming and seemingly enjoying the morning. Soon afterwards, I heard mourning doves, cooing and chatting as they do. And then I saw them, sitting happily on a wooden fence, and as I approached, they flew away to perch on a tree branch.
Then quite suddenly, I ran through a veritable valley of perfume. The air was saturated with the scent of honeysuckle and roses. It nearly took my breath away with its beauty and perfection. The fragrance of flowers hovered around me like a morning mist, but invisible to the eye. And it was this inability to see the source of such sweetness that actually heightened my awareness and appreciation of the moment.
I searched around me, but I saw no honeysuckle bushes, no blossoming roses. Unlike the geese and mourning doves that had made their presence known to me, the flowers remained allusive and intangible.
And yet, their perfume affirmed their presence. The joy I felt in being cloaked with their scent was palpable and real and true. Because I felt this deeply, I also trusted they were there around me, somewhere. This knowing was enough. This satisfaction and engagement with ethereal and unseen beauty was enough.
Almost immediately, I realized that this seemingly mundane experience was no less than an affirmation of, and invitation into, deeper faith. Faith in what? In knowing that the “energy that creates worlds” (Abraham) is around and in us at every moment. That God, Source, unitive consciousness, are present in the eternal now, which is the continual outpouring of “beingness” itself. “Faith,” as Abraham tells us, “is believing in something before we see it in its manifested state.” In other words, it is the knowing that the thing, the event, the person, the opportunity are here for us, available to us, even if and when we can’t see them—yet.
I heard the geese and doves and then I saw them playing before me. As we learn to trust and as our faith grows, it is important to have these experiences where the invisible is easily manifested. These experiences teach us to trust our faith—trust our knowing. We learn that we need not second-guess ourselves, fear that what we envision or feel or desire won’t come. These easy, quotidian experiences smooth the resistance along our spiritual paths. We can meditate on a blue bird or on our dream job. We can contemplate a happy interaction at the market or the resolution of illness. They are the same things where energy is concerned. The only question is, am I resisting the manifestation because I don’t believe it will come? Because I don’t have faith?
So when I experienced the honeysuckle and roses and didn’t literally see them, I smiled. I was satisfied, because I knew they were there. Their perfume was a gift—a glorious reminder that I can feel deeply, have a high vibrational emotional response without needing to see the flowers themselves.
These are the everyday moments we are invited to experience and contemplate and in which we can find meaning. “Everything is spiritual,” as Rob Bell writes. “Experiential salvation,” as James Finley when discussing mysticism explains it, is all around us in the world if we choose it. “The fiery power [of Divine love] is hidden in everything that has being,” as Hildegard writes.
I will continue to take my walks and run outside. I hope you find ways to move meaningfully through nature, too, wherever it takes you. The mysteries are always calling us. Spirit, faith, love are always beckoning. Can we try and consistently experience the perfect perfume of a flower and be satisfied, even if we can’t see it? When we can, and the more we can, we will understand that we are truly powerful co-creators in this interconnected universe that is ever unfolding within and around us.
I first published this piece in May of 2019–two weeks after Sean began radiation treatment for medulloblastoma. Every day for six weeks, Sean and I drove an hour each way to and from Philadelphia. Once at CHOP, after we checked in and Sean was prepped for his treatment, I used the 90 minutes or so during his radiation to meditate or write or catch up with a friend on the phone. Most times, though, I used that time to go for a run by the river.
At first, I was self-conscious about exchanging my clogs for running shoes, putting on my knee braces, and strapping my running belt around my waist. By the time I walked through the revolving doors out of the hospital, having added my baseball cap, sunglasses, and earbuds to my ensemble, I looked pretty goofy. But once I reached the running trail, I not only didn’t care, I felt great. I felt like myself. I felt free.
Taking the time to get outside, run, and listen to podcasts became my time for learning, for educating myself about all sorts of things: nutrition for cancer, meditation, conscious parenting, spirituality and Catholic mysticism. I have learned so much since I wrote this piece a year ago. I have so much more to share and to explore with you. But I hope these thoughts will encourage you to find ways, however small, to care more for yourself–now and always.
Self-care, self-love, conscious attention to spirit, whatever we call these practices, are essential to maintaining our alignment with Source and abundance. They are not optional. Living a rich, conscious, connected life requires this kind of attention to self. All wisdom teachers and mystics emphasize the importance of finding quiet in our lives–time apart from the noise and business of the everyday. These are the times we focus on looking and going within ourselves. Only by consciously connecting to this interior spaciousness will we then be prepared to re-enter “ordinary” life. Only when we have witnessed, touched, and calibrated to the serenity and expansiveness within ourselves are we able to be fully present with, and manage, life’s daily activity and struggles.
Find ways to honor yourself both for yourself and for those around you, who might then follow your example. Imagine what the world would be like if we all gave ourselves permission to love, care for, and curate the Divine spark within us. The world would shine brightly indeed, and we would feel truly free.
The term, “self-care,” has become almost trendy now, right? It’s strange how such a basic, essential concept now seems new or alternative. Alternative to what, exactly? Martyrdom? Self-abandonment? Here’s why it’s so vital.
Of course, especially when a sick child or loved one needs us, we need to attend to our own health and wellness; if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t care for others. This is obvious. But there are more expansive, even karmic, reasons to mind our minds and our bodies.
When we attend to our emotional, spiritual, and physical health, we are not only literally caring for ourselves, but we are also caring for the energy we emit, the atmosphere we create and offer others. We can’t fool the universe, saying, “I’m fine! Really, I’m great,” when we know we feel empty or sad or are suffering inside.
In the same way, our kids and those close to us know, too, when we’re just putting on a happy face. We cannot hide the energy we carry with us. The electromagnetic field of our heart (5,000 times stronger than that of our brains) communicates the authenticity of our energy.
And perhaps most importantly, when we attend to ourselves, we are also sharing with others, including our kids, that we value their own self-care. When my children see me taking time to exercise, meditate, learn, and create (all activities that are essential to my daily happiness and sense of purpose), they understand that they, too, are autonomous, independent, and worthy of participating in the activities that fill up their souls.
So, is self-care selfish? Yes. Yes, it is. And it is also life-sustaining, liberating, and actually the most loving action we can take to create an optimal environment of love and compassion.
We are journeying towards greater consciousness, self-awareness, and understanding of ourselves and others. We acknowledge the triggers, the hard things, the contrast (as Abraham Hicks calls it), and then we shift and grow and level-up (as Martha Beck refers to it). We begin to evolve, perhaps even change–not in our fundamental nature, but rather, in our ability to discern that the very core of our humanness flows from the Divinity sprouting in the very depths of our hearts. Source, God placed it there. It existed before our form took shape around it. Like the energy that birthed the essence of our souls, we, too, are eternal.
So, why are we hard on ourselves? We struggle, because this evolution is not a linear progression. Rather, it mirrors the spiral of the sacred nautilus. We begin in the center, and as we gain experience, both painful and joyous, we follow the turns of the spiral, moving further away from the central point. We don’t however, lose sight of that beginning place. It is always in view, as are the turns we have already traveled.
Inherent in this journey, then, is our ability to witness our trials and mis-steps among our joys and successes. And when we witness them, like weeds sprouting impertinently among our carefully curated flowers, we feel sad and frustrated. We might even lose faith and hope. We are experiencing self-doubt.
We wonder, why we are here again? We ask ourselves, didn’t we learn this already? And then we self-chastise for all the things: we’re not good enough, smart enough, evolved enough, worthy enough. If we stay here too long, we lose our way. We slow our pace within the spiral. We are looking so intently on the lack and what we are calling failures that we cannot continue the journey with faithful clarity.
However, once we discern where we are, when we are able to see the “as is” of our reality at any point in time, we can choose to reshape these thoughts. We must remember that even though we can see these “faults” or shortcomings in our past, we are able to witness them with compassion. We view them for what they are, because we have moved through and past them. We can only see these elements of ourselves, because we have journeyed further up the spiral. As if on a tall stairway, we are looking down at these parts of ourselves that constitute who we were earlier in our travels. We feel “less than,” because we can still see and perhaps even feel these pinched parts of ourselves. But we are not the same as we were earlier in the spiral. We are actually not at all in the same place. We have evolved. And we will continue to elevate and grow.
Self-doubt will indeed reveal herself repeatedly on our journey. We will notice her, perhaps even say hello. We need not hold her hand, however. We don’t need to sit with her for hours. We can if we wish, maybe when we take a break on the journey and rest awhile. But that’s all.
And in discerning that it is we who decide how often to gaze at or walk with self-doubt, we ultimately acknowledge that we are free. That our journey, however, long, is our own, and we alone will decide how to take the next right step.