About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Mantras

You are a precious jewel

Jewel

You are a precious jewel. –lady at Lenscrafters

Our true nature is like a precious jewel: although it may be temporarily buried in mud, it remains completely brilliant and unaffected. We simply have to uncover it. –Pema Chödrön

Recently I visited my optometrist, and then went to Lenscrafters to get new lenses for my glasses made–with fabulous results! I can see much more clearly now. That little touch of prism correction is making all the difference.

I had to wait for a bit, and the woman who helped me thanked me for my patience. (This happens fairly regularly now, but I’m pretty sure that no one ever thanked me for my patience before I started meditating.)

We discussed various lens options, and I made my selections. She had me look directly into her eyes so she could measure the location of my retinas, so that my prescription could be exactly aligned with them. We were talking along about Lenscrafter kinds of things, and suddenly she said, “You are a precious jewel.” I thanked her, privately thinking this was a bit over the top, but keeping that opinion strictly to myself!

Back at home, mission accomplished, I sat down with a mug of hot green acai tea, put my feet up, and opened a magazine. The literal transaction of the Tibetan Buddhist honorific Rinpoche, I read, is “precious jewel.”

There it was, the very same phrase again. Perhaps I should pay attention! It crossed my mind that it must be interesting to have a job that requires you to gaze into the windows of others’ souls.

It’s true, you know … I am a precious jewel. We all are. And since you may not be going to Lenscrafters soon yourself, I’ll tell you right now … You are a precious jewel.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I finished tonight, You are a precious jewel.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Advertisements

Unshakable beliefs

Lover

Recently I came across a “Something to think about” question in an old issue of O magazine that made me want to sit down and answer it … “Which of your beliefs are unshakable? In the space below, write the fundamental principles you live by.”

Such an interesting question. I was raised in a fundamentalist environment chock-full of “unshakable beliefs,” virtually none of which I subscribe to at this point in my life. I’ve changed my mind so many times that there isn’t a lot that I like to say I’m absolutely sure of. But I suppose there are a few things …

  • Love is stronger than hate.
  • Karma is for real, and there are no exceptions.
  • Doing the right thing as best I know how is the key to a peaceful mind.
  • Justice does prevail, though it may not be anything like immediate.
  • I live in a benevolent Universe.
  • I chose to be here.
  • I am here to learn.
  • Life is difficult, and also beautiful.
  • I prefer the truth to anything else.
  • Change is constant–you might as well welcome it.
  • Positivity beats negativity.
  • Ego is incompatible with enlightenment.
  • Meditation–preferably twice a day–is essential to my living my best life.
  • Healing is worth the effort.
  • Kindness matters.

How would you answer this question … what are your unshakable beliefs?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The Lover, the last of the cards I made at the archetypes retreat I attended last month.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder

Rumi

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. –Rumi

On New Year’s Eve, I was asked if I’d made any New Year’s resolutions, and I mentioned this quote from Rumi that I’d recently seen and loved.

I think that mostly I’m a lamp, and sometimes a ladder or a lifeboat–but it’s difficult to accurately assess your own contribution, or anyone else’s, for that matter. It’s often impossible to know what impact we’re having, or will have. But it is possible to know whether I’m creating light, or darkness … that much I can tell.

I remember a coworker from years ago who told me she volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline. I’m not sure whether it occurred to me then, but it certainly does now, that she must have had a very particular reason for choosing that volunteer opportunity. She was a lifeboat.

We can, though, be lifeboats without ever knowing it. I’m reminded of an account in Michael Newton’s fascinating Destiny of Souls, which I’ve written about before. (Michael Newton’s story is somewhat similar to Brian Weiss‘s. He was a highly skeptical hypnotherapist who was into science, not new age stuff, when he accidentally regressed a subject to a time frame he didn’t even believe in–one prior to the subject’s current life. His work is different than Weiss’s in that he focuses fairly exclusively on the period between lives, from death to reincarnation.)

In the account I’m thinking of, when the subject completed his life, he learned that one of the most important accomplishments of his lifetime occurred when he stopped one day on the street to comfort a woman who was crying in despair. Had he been asked to list his accomplishments, that day wouldn’t have even crossed his mind–but on that day, he was a lifeboat.

How we interact with other people is key, but I believe being a lifeboat applies to all sentient beings, such as the many cats and dogs who cross our paths. I brake for squirrels and birds, and the life of every lizard in my garden is important. Caring for animals who need our help, even keeping an organic garden, is another way to be a lifeboat.

Being a ladder is, I think, a bit tricky. To me, it is saying, Here’s a possible next step, a higher vibration, love rather than fear, a way to lift yourself higher, to move forward. But in every case, the choice to see by the light of the lamp, to step into the lifeboat or onto the ladder, is not ours. People, even animals–who in my experience are often easier to reach–can and do refuse the light and the help at hand.

Even so and nonetheless–be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.

There will be days when, to put it bluntly, it will seem that no one is interested in your light. There will be days when people overtly choose the darkness. That can be heartbreaking–but shedding light in darkness is its own reward.

If you persist, there will also come a day when you find out you’ve made a difference–that someone has seen by your light, stayed afloat, climbed a rung of your ladder. That is a truly wonderful day.

Whichever kind of day it is, each day of this new year, I want to be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.

This post is illustrated by the SoulCollage card I made today.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

So safe, and so loved

Safe

Last night, late in the evening, we had a thunderstorm–and my dog Gracie hates thunderstorms. She runs around barking at the storm, and she is not kidding; she gets an adrenaline rush and her heart beats faster. I completely get this. I know she lived outside for awhile before she came to me to be fostered–and never left. (She had been seized in a 5000-dog puppy mill raid. She had escaped the wire cages inside, and was living with other dogs outside. Virtually all the other dogs were bigger, as the mill specialized in Huskies and Beagles, and all the outside dogs were fed and watered from two bowls.)

I have read the advice not to comfort dogs during storms, and I believe it to be (and this is putting it mildly) utter nonsense. Gracie had nestled into a spot next to me on the soft quilt on my bed, but I decided to pick her up and hold her (she’s a very small Sheltie) while I reminded her that now, she is so safe, and so loved, and has nothing to fear from storms. She rested her head on my shoulder, and as the thunder continued in the distance, went to sleep and began to dream animal dreams.

As I held her, having recently reflected on the year now gone, I had a sense of being held myself, in the arms of the Universe, angels, guides, and ancestors. I think we are all, ultimately, so safe, and so loved.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, So safe, so loved.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Stretch yourself

Stretch

Lately I’ve been noticing that as I get older, a flexible, limber body doesn’t come for free anymore. Last night as I spent time stretching, the subject of the SoulCollage card I made today came to me.

I’m challenging myself to stretch this week in as many different ways as possible–and I hope you’ll join me (and share your experience here in the comments section, if you like). Here are 10 ideas to get us both started …

  1. Make a monetary gift you wouldn’t otherwise have made. A couple of fun ideas are making a Kiva loan, or adopting a child for Christmas through a program such as Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. (Be aware that they have more gift requests to choose from, if those on display don’t appeal to you. I like to dig for low-tech requests like a tea set or doll’s chair … the kinds of things I liked to play with myself back in the day!)
  2. Instead of an e-mail or electronic conversation–nice as those can be–send a beautiful card with a hand-written note to someone you care about. The best e-mail you’ve ever sent has never been given pride of place on anyone’s mantel, but your card probably will be. This year I got a lovely Halloween card from someone who’s sworn off Christmas cards–and it’s on my mantel as I write. Bonus points for needing an extra sheet of paper to finish your note!
  3. Instead of running one more errand–let’s face it, the to-do list is everlasting and will never truly be completed no matter what we do–take time to enjoy something beautiful. Take in a museum show, watch ice skaters (or be one of them!), visit a sculpture garden.
  4. If you see homeless people as you go about your business, keep food in your car to share with those who are looking for it (I keep protein bars in fun flavors), along with an encouraging word.
  5. Be kind to an animal. Stock treats for the neighbor’s cat who likes to say hello, or take your dogs to the dog park. If there’s a stray animal nearby, make sure it has food, take it to the vet (and be sure they check for a microchip!), see about finding it a home or getting it back to the home it already has. Or, if you have room, adopt a dog or cat. If you’ve never done it (or even if you have), it’s a tremendously rewarding experience, and guaranteed to stretch you.
  6. Have a little more in-depth conversation with someone you interact with on a casual basis–your barista, someone on the elevator at work, a neighbor. You never know when a few kind words may change the course of someone’s life. A simple kindness could be among the most impactful things you ever do.
  7. Express something you might normally keep to yourself. Voice a compliment. Thank someone who’s been important in your life. You could write a letter to your alumni magazine, for example, expressing appreciation for your professors and your college experience.
  8. Put an electronic device away–for an hour, the day, the weekend. Remember what life was like before you had a smartphone, a GPS, a TV (OK, maybe I’m the only one who remembers what life was like without TV!), or a laptop. It won’t kill you, I promise!
  9. Do something different. Go crazy–change your drink order or your route home. Try a new restaurant or ethnic cuisine; cook a new dish. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tasted before. (If you’ve never had a pomelo, they’re in season now, and they are fabulous!) Jump out of an airplane, if you’ve always wanted to.
  10. When you’re just about to say No, if you suspect it’s out of unhelpful fear, say Yes instead.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Say something

Fawn

Last night, following the Ferguson grand jury’s failure to indict, there was a peaceful protest here, quite close to where I ate lunch today. The protesters started their march at police headquarters, and ended it by marching onto a major highway–and then sitting down. The police appear to have done their job well–closing the highway to ensure the safety of the protesters, and remaining calm. Eight protesters were arrested late in the evening.

Due to my news blackout, I didn’t know about the protest, but as is always the case, when something important happens, I do hear about it. Several of my lunch companions were discussing the protest–all in unfavorable terms. They felt that shutting down a highway–a highway!–was taking things a step too far.

I said, Well, it sounds peaceful–was that the case? And they admitted it was, but continued to shake their heads over the highway–the highway! I began to wonder if highways were sacred in some way I had never realized …

Then one woman said, I just don’t get it. What happened in Ferguson had nothing to do with them.

Say what?!

I said, Well, I get it. There’s a huge amount of fear out there, on the part of cops and other people, and black people are ending up dead because of it. That’s just not cool.

And, of course, what’s also just not cool is that over and over, it seems to be consequence-free.

“It has nothing to do with them” is something I’ve heard before from her. It seems she has not yet taken the opportunity to learn that we are all connected–that what hurts one of us hurts all of us. She doesn’t understand why, for example, someone who has no children would be concerned about a children’s issue to the point of being genuinely upset. So I wasn’t surprised to hear this again.

But from my perspective (and I’m sure I’m not alone), if you’re black, it takes about a millisecond to make the connection: Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me.

And if you’re not black, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize, If I were black, Michael Brown could’ve been my son. My grandson. My brother. Or me. And … why is it again that in 2014, 151 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the color of a person’s skin (a temporary condition, as souls have no color) continues to be so important that it can mean the difference between life and death?

For the record, any peaceful protest of injustice, hatred, loss of life, and fear is alright by me. Please, shut down a highway. Do it early, do it often. Do whatever it takes to get people’s attention.

As you go about your business in my country or any country, as you hear people expressing fear of the (supposed) other, hatred, prejudice, harsh judgment, or indifference to suffering–and they will–I hope you’ll say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect. What I said today wasn’t perfect, but I’m glad I said something anyway. I do think it helps to speak from love rather than anger. I believe it helps to say something.

Imagine if hate were always challenged. If lack of empathy were always met with compassion. If misunderstanding were always countered with thoughtfulness. If those labeled “other” were always relabeled “one of us.”

All of that is possible–if you say something. When we say something.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card of my throat chakra totem (a fawn), Opening the gate.

Open the doors of your heart

Doors

Open the doors of your heart.

The moment I heard this during meditation this past week, I knew it would be the theme of my next SoulCollage card.

Today I started looking through the many door images I’ve collected, pulling a few, but nothing really resonating yet. I realized I needed a background image, and that’s when I found these beautiful vintage elevator doors. This one resonated.

“Those are some serious doors,” I thought. Indeed they are. Certain kinds of upbringings come with inevitable consequences of one kind or another, in my view. I’ve written before about releasing bitterness; this image confronted me with another consequence: guardedness.

I know that the time has come to throw those doors open for good. I truly don’t need them anymore.

How to receive inner guidance

lighthouse 2

You will be guided into port, out of the storm.

During a recent meditation, this sentence popped into my head. Whenever I feel as though there’s something I have to tackle alone, I find it comforting to think of the support system I have that’s invisible to me–angels, guides, ancestors, my higher self–all looking out for me, wanting the best for me.

A few days later I had lunch with a relative, who was telling me that she’d connected the dots between an optional medication and a deal-breaker side effect, and had stopped taking it. I mentioned how I like to consult my gut instinct when making decisions, and she said that she had had misgivings, but overrode them because she was determined to take the medication anyway due to other factors. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, you gotta stop that.”

I know, because I used to approach life in just that way … and it turns out that when you’re bullheaded, when you ignore your gut, when you don’t ask questions, when you barely listen to anyone (let alone your true self), when your ego is firmly in the driver’s seat, when you go so far as to override your conscience because you’re stubbornly determined to do what you want to do no matter what, life just doesn’t go terribly well. You end up doing the wrong things. You end up doing things you regret. You end up at dead ends rather than on your right path … you end up stuck and unhappy, mired in inertia. (And of course, there are worse things than inertia–you could be headed off a cliff.) This approach is not the secret to a happy life. I know this very well.

All of this got me thinking about the usefulness of inner guidance. I truly believe that the beginning of wisdom is beginning to listen–to your higher self, to your gut instinct, to guidance, to your conscience. And to listen, you must be still. Cultivating stillness frees us from the tyranny of thought and ego, and allows us to make contact with the touchstone of truth and wisdom whenever it’s needed. And if you’re anything like me, that need is pretty constant.

Especially when I’m at work, I like to check in with my inner guidance a number of times a day. Is this the right way to respond? I might ask before sending an e-mail. Am I missing something here?

Very often when I make mistakes, I realize that I had a background awareness of something being amiss that I chose to ignore. The more I listen, the more I investigate, the more questions I ask, the fewer mistakes I make, and the less I do that I later regret doing. I don’t have many significant regrets, but I do have some, so it’s a little late to have a regret-free life. But I believe that by listening, by not rushing headlong, by taking decisions deliberately, many regrets can be avoided. In fact, it’s possible to come to the end of the day, or week, and hopefully a lifetime, and be able to say, I did well.

But first you have to be still enough so you can hear. For me, meditation has been the key to becoming still, and creating gaps in the flow of thoughts through my mind that allow wisdom and guidance to enter. To my mind, one of the most significant benefits of meditation is this space it opens up, allowing us to make better decisions in each moment, which in turn facilitates our being our best selves.

It also really helps to stop sweating the small stuff. If you’re worried about your imperfect nose, or static cling, or whatever completely insignificant “problem” du jour the advertising industry would like to create major concern about in order to move product, all of that is taking up mindspace that could simply be clear. Getting older really seems to help–and thank God for that!

In that clear, still space, I like to listen, to ask my question, to tune in. If I’m not sure of the right fork in the road (literally or figuratively, actually), I like to ask myself whatever the question is, and then quietly wait for the answer. If I’m still not sure–sometimes at this point I have conflicting thoughts–then I save the question for meditation later. After meditating for awhile, which creates a truly clear space for an answer to arise, I ask the question again.

Unfortunately, sometimes negative self-talk can get in the way of hearing the voice of wisdom, the voice of love. That’s where discernment comes in. This is my mantra whenever I feel that what I’m hearing may be the voice of fear, or the voice of ego …

I ask that all input be filtered through my higher self, including my own.

Of course, sometimes our inner guidance is delivering an authentic message of fear–This person cannot be trusted. You’re in danger. Get out of here now.

I don’t second-guess a message like this. There’s no harm in being somewhere else, or in taking a different elevator. And you never know when listening to your gut could save your life. Friends tell me that a mutual acquaintance makes the hair on the back of their necks stand up, gives them the creeps. I don’t get that from him–but I don’t question for a moment that they do, or try to change their minds.

For me, this is why it’s such a good idea to get generalized fears and prejudices out of your mind and heart–so that you can hear and feel clearly a specific fear when it arises. You may not be able to explain it; you probably won’t be. But it’s well worth listening to.

I like to look someone in the eyes to see if I can trust him or her, at least for the next few minutes. I do this when I see a homeless person with a sign (I keep energy bars in the car for this purpose). It’s also great for all types of interviews.

Of course, the need for true fear is rare. Far more often, all is well, and listening to the voice of love is all we truly need. As long as we’re in touch with the voice of wisdom, love, and truth, I really believe that each of us is the very best person to determine what’s truly right for us.

Do you perhaps have a burning question right now? Is there something you really need to know? Don’t be afraid to wrestle with the angel if you need to. But most of the time, in my experience, getting still and asking the question will yield the answer you need.

You are the ultimate arbiter of what’s right for you. Seek within.

All is well

All is well

All is well.

There are changes, and all is well.

More changes are coming, good ones. You will see.

“All is well.” This is the perennial #1 tune on my inner guidance channel. It is always the first thing I hear. I have come to understand that it is always true.

There may be changes, there may be difficulties, there may be storms. But all is well.

Awhile back at work, layoffs were announced, to occur over the next 6 months. They began immediately, department by department. Some really key people have been cut. People who were a joy to see and interact with. People who had depth and breadth of knowledge that is virtually unmatched. People whom I would make a point of saying goodbye to if I left myself are now gone.

Last Friday was another layoff day, this time in my own group. I got to work, saw unhappy faces, and heard rumblings that today was the day. When I heard that a friend and former manager was among those affected, it felt like someone had died. In all, nearly 40 people in my larger department were affected.

A couple of people cracked callous jokes; I was seriously unamused. (I suppose occasions that call for empathy must be quite trying for those who care only about themselves.) When all of us survivors were sprung for the day, it was a real relief.

I’ve been there myself, once as part of a WARN layoff. Careers go on; you find the way forward. You do what must be done. There is undeniable loss, and also gain.

All is well.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, All is well. 

Walk up to Life’s feast

Feast

I woke this morning with a picture in my mind–I suppose it was the tail end of a dream. Another person had cooked for me, and laid out before me many different dishes–a feast. I was tasting one of them and saying, “Oh, that is so good!”

This reminded me of the advice I received during a guided meditation from my sacral chakra totem, a leopard

Don’t be timid–walk up to life’s feast.

To me, that’s an entirely accurate description of what life is meant to be. I feel frustrated sometimes by the focus on the aspect of life that is suffering, or a “vale of tears,” in some traditions.

On the one hand, I do believe that suffering, or the possibility of suffering, is a key aspect of why we come here, why we incarnate. There are lessons that can’t be learned in paradise, and they are the ones we come here to learn.

At the same time, I believe suffering is often a clue that we’re going about life in an unskillful way.

I suspect that the possibility of suffering heightens the joy and pleasure we experience here, just as bitter, sour, and umami flavors enhance and enrich sweetness. (I’m thinking here of dark chocolate, lemon bars, and a wonderful and memorable chocolate-foie gras soup I had while traveling last December.)

But in addition to all we come here to learn, I believe we also come here to enjoy ourselves, to partake of Life’s feast.

Let’s dig in!

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Life’s feast. I wish I had one of those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes to bite into right now!

 

%d bloggers like this: