Tag Archive | grace

These Are My Graces…

beautiful-cloud-heart

Yesterday, was my father’s birthday. He passed 4 years ago and so with the day brings a deep sense of melancholy, and yet… all I feel is JOY at the myriad of ways his spirit shines through me every moment of every day.

Today, I am in more physical pain then I have been in years. Meds have been changed, symptoms flared, and yet… all I feel is GRATITUDE that I am able to be with my closest family today; the ones who do not expect me to be anything other than me.

A couple days ago a dearest friend called in deep distress over the sudden loss of her closest mate, her dog. And my mind reeled with the age old question, “Do we close ourselves off to love to protect against the pain of loss?” And yet… all I feel is BLESSED at the way every being in my life has shaped me; has made me a better person. I have lost a lot… and yet I have also lived a life full of love.

Today, I turn on the news and once again bear witness to the tragedies of war and famine, death and disease, throughout the world, and yet… all I see is STRENGTH in the faces of my brethren, and the little acts of KINDNESS that are woven through the stories of strife.

THESE ARE MY GRACES…

The way I live my life… the way I view the world.

Threaded through my heart, coloring all that I see.

Influencing the way I treat others, and in turn, the deep compassion in which I am treated.

It is seeing a world full of ABUNDANCE instead of loss.

Grace, no longer reserved for just the Christian community… it is there, right there. Every Where. For every one of us.

Ripe for the picking.

Grace is not a thing you can earn, or deserve, or create, or even lose.

You do not have to be “redeemed” by grace; we are all gifts of grace.

It is always there. It is in the sparkle of newly fallen snow, blanketing the world in a clean, new slate.

It is in a child’s smile as they crack open from ear to ear at the mere sight of you.

It is in the gentle pressure of two hands as they encircle you in love, in support, in comfort.

It is the feeling in your heart when you give of yourself, passing the grace, to another.

It surprises us. When we are at the end of our ropes, Grace appears with an extension piece to help us get our feet placed firmly on the ground again.

It astounds us. A reminder that “no matter how tragic or bleak things get, the bad simply can’t shut out all the good, the dark can’t squeeze out all the light.”

It is our safety net: woven from the hands of loved ones, the history of passed ones, the memories of times survived, the hope that there will always be a brighter day ahead, and the knowledge that this too shall pass, and that in this moment, grace shimmers below the surface of everything.

And although GRACE is an unexpected, yet utterly amazing, gift waiting to be opened anew each day, you can still be an active participant in grace….

Pull grace into your life. Tonight at dinner, invite everyone to share their best “Grace Story.” This a great way to express gratitude for the ways grace has graced your life; and to role-model this attitude for others, especially children.

Be a witness to Grace’s magic. We’ve all heard of Bird Watchers, now it’s time to become a “Grace Watcher!” Keep a grace journal, where you document the ways grace has worked or appeared in your life each day. Review it at the end of the week and be uplifted.

Be a Giver of Grace. Look around today. Who in your life needs to be reminded that grace is still working in their lives; who needs to be uplifted by a moment of grace? Is there a way you can pass the grace this Thanksgiving, without that person ever knowing where it came from? Challenge yourself to this. It will be surprisingly rewarding: doing a random act of grace just because.

Turn yourself over to grace. Choose a day during the upcoming holiday season where you put your calculated “To-Do List” down for a day. Let grace guide your day instead. Trust that what needs to get done, will.

And most importantly, be open to grace. Center yourself each day with a short mantra. Mine is, “May my mind, eyes and heart be open today to seeing and receiving the gifts of grace that cross my path.” The challenge comes in accepting the gift of grace in whatever form it comes. No “return to sender.” Remember if at first I doesn’t seem like the right fit, try again. Grace often appears in unexpected ways and at unexpected times, and yet it is always just what you need in the moment to get by.

“The winds of grace are always blowing,

but you have to raise the sail.”

{Ramakrishna}

Advertisements

Chasing The Elusive “WHY ME?”


Inevitably, at some point in time, after receiving the news that one is facing a long-term or chronic illness/disease, comes the elusive question of ,”WHY?!” For some, this may be a fleeting call to arms, for others, it becomes a constant refrain of, “Why?” or “Why me?” or even “Why, God, why?

During my last hospital stay, the progressive pastor of my family’s church came to visit me. After the necessary check-ins were taken care of, he turned toward me, and simply asked, “Do you ever find yourself questioning ‘why?’.” I have wondered since what direction he was taking the conversation in, if he had any expectation of what my answer would be. But this has been fleeting, because in all truth, I think he was just curious.

In that instant, though, there was no hesitation; I didn’t even pause before responding: “Yes. I am sure I have asked, ‘why?’ at some point in this long journey. But I have quickly discovered that this is a fruitless pursuit; a question without an answer; a path that only leads me to remaining stuck in the miserable moment.”

But that conversation has left me with equal curiosity. What is the point in asking, “Why me?” in the face of any number of events (I’ve heard this turn of phrase applied to everything from an unexpected car repair bill to a diagnosis of cancer), when one could just as equally be asking, “Why not me?”

The relentless lamenting over the “why” produces an on-going cycle of strife and depression. How could it not? There are no (satisfactory) answers to this perennial question. But there are concrete, solution-oriented, answers to the question of “What next?” We don’t know the why, yet we do know the how. It’s what we do with the how in the now that defines us.

I know I am sick. I know that there is currently no cure for my autoimmune condition(s). I know that my disease will continue to progress, causing a ripple effect that may require future surgeries and invasive procedures. I know that the mountain of daily meds I take to treat my diseases and conditions also create an equal amount of unpleasant side-effects; and that it is difficult to separate the two apart.

But I also know that I am a fighter. I am creative in the face of challenges. I discover new pathways when faced with a seemingly impassable road block. I am a giver of light, love and energy. My mantra is “Hope.” I know that I do not have to face this life alone, unless I choose to isolate. Which I do not.

This is where I can put in action the “What next?!”

Each surgery may chip away at the person I used to be. But that’s the key, used to be. Not the person I am now. Life is not stagnant and neither am I. In the course of my conversation with the pastor, I shared my views on the River of Grace that flows through me, receiving energy from beyond, recharging my own Soul Beacon, before continuing to flow out into other souls around me.

He smiled and said, that sounds like what Jesus speaks of in the bible, “Our Well-Spring,” that source of God that flows through each and every one of us, just waiting to be tapped into.

I have heard many people refer to this well-spring in their own words. I have heard it be called: Universal Energy, Chi (Qi), Kundalini, Indomitable Spirit, God’s Grace, Life Force, Eternal Flame, and many other monikers.

For me, it is my River of Grace. Because a river is an ever-flowing body of water, that both draws from many sources (is not a singular entity) and pours itself into (nourishing) many other bodies of water. Rivers are not stagnant, they are an ever-changing and evolving path through life. And water is our life’s breath; we cannot survive without it and 2/3rds of our bodies are made of it.

My River is a well that never runs dry. Yet, it is my responsibility to drink from it, to pull from it to renew my spirit when it is lagging.

Which brings me to the Grace part. I think of grace as a gift. As the ability to look for the light in a sea of darkness. To see beauty and gratitude, no matter what the situation. To ask “what’s my next step” instead of getting stuck on the repetitive refrain of “why?!?”

And then I decide to look up the official definition: Grace: “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration” (Meriam-Webster). To merit something, is to earn it. You don’t need to do anything to earn, or to deserve, grace. It’s there for all of us. A gift from beyond ourselves, to regenerate the mind, body and spirit.

We have all experienced unexplained loss, devastating, mind-numbing losses. We have all had to endure unnecessary pain, physical, emotional and/or metal. Or had to witness, powerless, as a loved one is faced these. We have all encountered enumerable challenges, obstacles and sudden change.

These experiences are what define us. It is what has defined me.

But I have also chosen not to have them be the all of me. They are one part of my story. They are U-turns on the path of my life. And instead of sitting down in the middle of the road and stopping, staring befuddled behind, below, and around me. I’ve decided to look straight ahead. To tap into my River of Grace and chart a new course.

This attitude has carried me and allowed me to see my life as full of opportunities. To say, “What next.” Instead allowing myself to feel victimized, always the punchline, left lamenting the “why?”

Think of one area in your life where you can flip your knee-jerk response of “why?” on its head. Start small. See how this one shift in attitude affects your whole day. Your whole week. Your attitude and out-look on the things that come next.

And if you already embrace an attitude of “what next,” please share your experiences so that they may inspire and encourage others!

Little “Seeds” of Hope

friendship-quotes-picturesIn the darkest of hours, a small beam of light will appear at the end of a long tunnel of pain, suffering, and sadness. Two choices lie before you: 1 – face this light, walk towards it, and let it grow into a beacon of hope and faith. Or 2 – turn your back on the light, shrouding yourself in darkness, the known place of suffering seeming safer than the unknown possibility of hope… of taking a leap of faith.

I experienced this very cross roads just last Saturday. I woke once again in deep, unrelenting pain, with a throbbing sadness in my heart for all that transpired over the previous 10 days.  I felt defeated. I felt lost. I wanted to move forward, but I didn’t know how. And, let’s face it, there was that part of me, as well, that wanted to stay stuck right where I was. I felt tired of “fighting,” of constantly pushing through the pain and misery. I witnessed others embracing this place and dwelling in it. And I actually saw benefits to this option.  The biggest of which would be that people would finally recognize, that just because I can see the beacon of light in the darkest of times, doesn’t mean that I don’t also experience pain, and disappointment, and suffering. They are not exclusive.

I had just settled into my comfy chair when the doorbell rang. Upon answering, I discovered an unexpected visitor on my porch.  A supportive friend and champion, she intuitively knew to take a moment out of her day to bring lightness into mine. She hadn’t intended to bother me, only wishing to leave a small package and note in my mailbox. But my mailman had foiled her plans, ringing the bell just before her arrival.

Exactly as it was meant to be.

Inside this “Delicate! Do not squish” package lay three, half-dollar size, whelk-egg-cases-and-teeny-contentsoval seed pods. Transparent, with a little seed inside. Shake. Shake. My friend takes one and gently begins to coax this “seed” out. And lo and behold, it is not a seed after all!  It is this miraculous gift from the sea, the teeniest, tiniest conch shell I have ever laid eyes on (a mere 2-3 mm long!).

I gasp in surprise as my heart swells with wonder and awe.

She explains that upon discovering these years ago on the beach, she researched their origin, learning that conch shells are born by the thousands in connected translucent “cocoons” (often called a “Mermaid’s Necklace”). After a dozen years, they mature into the large conch shells we all covet finding on southern beaches.

conch shell symbolismLater, I researched them further and found that conch is also one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism and “represents the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma [“natural law”], which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others.” (Wikipedia)

And that’s how I felt; as if I was awakening from a deep slumber of depression. And for the welfare of myself and others, I needed to face that beacon of light.

I was reminded of Helen Keller’s wise words: “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”

And the gift didn’t stop there; she nudged me to read her note …

“When I’ve been through tough times, I have trouble seeing anything besides my pain.  These [shells] can’t heal your suffering, of course, but I hope they remind you that the universe is full of joy and beauty and awe inspiring creations at the same time.  I hope you find moments where you can access that joy.  Please know that, even in your toughest times, you yourself are a source of joy, inspiration and an example of how beautiful God’s creations are to me and to countless others.”

I felt shaken awake. Flashes of beauty and moments of grace began to pass through my mind and heart. Just in the past week, during the period of my deepest pain, I was gifted access to that Universal Joy; I had not fully shut down. There was a crack in my soul just waiting to be re-opened. And, here was an unexpected angel, pushing her way through!

Her words brought welcomed tears and memories of past experiences where life and death, beauty and sadness coexisted in my life. I shared with her another time of deep sadness, when my mother in law collapsed suddenly from invading cancer and passed away 10 days later. My husband and I rushed back from Boston and never left her side. During this time, we would find ourselves sitting outside at the hospital staff picnic table, all hours of the day, situated right outside the birthing center. As my beloved second mother was lying 7 floors above in hospice, we were witnessing couples and families rushing in to bring new life into the world just below her.

And we couldn’t help but feel peace in the light of God’s grace, the universal cycle of life and energy.

There is no pleasure without pain.

There are two sides to every coin.

I made a choice on Saturday to walk towards the light.  This does not mean that my pain, or frustration, or anger, or sadness are gone.  It just means I no longer give them permission to consume my life.

I am actively seeking out moments of grace, of joy, of hope, and of healing. These are the foundation blocks to my continued survival.

I did not arrive at this conclusion alone. Because my “God” wears skin; meaning I see the God in you as I see the God in myself. And when that spirit knocks on my door, I am choosing to answer it.

I am choosing to let the light in.

You Are a Spark of the Divine

people-climbing-helping-each-other

“Imagine a tiny spark of the essence of God existing deep within each of us, like a tiny flickering candle within this dark room.  If our minds and emotions are distracted by the competing spotlights of greed and wealth, jealousy and lust, pain and depression, elation and euphoria, or even thought itself, we become blinded from seeing the tiny flickering candle in the center of our atman, our soul.” [Spoken by a character in Breathe of God, while describing the foundation of Hinduism and subsequently many religions, based on The Upanishads]

A dear friend commented on my post, Shine On, Soul Beacons, Shine On (click link), stating that she sees her energy as the Divine that flows through her and outward, keeping her replenished.  And I heartily agree! But she also mentioned concern over giving her energy away (depleting herself) or taking on the energy of other’s (not wanting to take on negative, fearful, hurtful energy).  This is a concern I’ve heard echoed by others, so I thought it was a good place to start a dialogue.

I picture my energy source as a “River of Grace,” an ever-flowing stream of Universal love and energy.  Yet any river will go stagnant if it is stuck in one place.  Therefore, by letting it flow outwards and shine on others (no matter who they are), I am constantly keeping my divine river charged with healing energy.  This is much harder to explain than to experience!  So you will have to practice you own techniques and see what is best for you (see starting point at end of post).

I warn against pre-determining who has positive energy that you want to share in versus those you see as containing negative energy you want to stay away from.  I found that those with the most negative, caustic outlooks are the ones who are hurting the most; who most desperately need someone to see them, and share their light and love.  It is not up to us to decide who “deserves” the light of the divine.  A person’s exterior rarely reflects the true nature of what lies beneath. (Think about yourself, with chronic illness, and the oft-heard comment, “but you look so good!”).  No one wants to be pre-judged by their “cover.”

There is no “giving your energy away to the extent of depletion.”  The divine source is endless!  The problem lies in each of us living in fear of this imagined depletion, and keeping the light of our Soul Beacons all to ourselves. 

Rabbi Laurence Kushner wrote, “If everything is connected to everything else, than everyone is ultimately responsible for everything.  The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts.  We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.”

This is not a burden, it is a gift!  We are there for others, as they are there for us.

I’d like to leave you with some final “food for thought:” a simple exercise you can attempt at any time…

Next time you go to the store, notice if you feel harried or overwhelmed.  Many times we move through the store as zombies; trying to “get on” with this chore so we can start living our “real” lives.  Instead of looking as your trip to the store just a place to pick up food fuel for your body, try to look for opportunities to re-fuel your Soul Beacon, too.

The best place to do this is in the check-out lane.  Watch the cashier while you’re waiting in line.  Observe the interactions.  Most times, there is little if no eye contact between cashier and customer.  The customer may even be complaining or perhaps even ignoring the cashier, tapping their foot in exasperation.

There are so many moments in our life where we are only waiting for the next moment when our life will begin, instead of seeing each moment as a possible beginning. 

Use this lesson as a new beginning.  When it’s your turn at the cash register, greet the cashier by name and ask them how they are doing.  Perhaps make a sympathetic comment about how busy they are today or that they look like they could use a break. If you don’t know how to pronounce their name, use that as a starting point (“What an unusual name.  How do you pronounce it? Oh, hi ________, that’s very pretty!”)  You will be amazed at the physical transformation in this person that has changed from a “cashier” into a “human being.”

Treat this person as you would want to be treated.  No matter how hurried you are, think about this pretty thankless job this person is doing; one that makes your life easier.  As you engage them in conversation, notice how much quicker the time goes.  And even more importantly, notice the physical change in the cashier.  Most times they start to stand straighter, make eye contact and smile. 

Now this is the most important part of the exercise: when the transaction is complete, say “Thank you” and their name.  If nothing else, just doing this one part will make a difference.  For both of you.

As you leave, you may want to look back.  I am always amazed at how differently the cashier now approaches the next customer… with a warm greeting, with a proud stance.  That’s their Soul Beacon recharged, now shining their light on another.

Notice yourself.  How do you feel?  That’s your Soul Beacon glowing brightly.  Not only did you shine your light on another when you were feeling depleted, that light recharged their energy and, in return, they shone back on you, recharging your own energy source.

This is a simple yet very clear way to see energy in action… being passed from one, back to another, and on to the next.  You’ve started a chain reaction.  The more you practice this (at the bank, gas station, restaurants, etc.) the more natural it will become. And, soon, you will notice that others around you are exhibiting similar, positive energy-interactions. . .  because this process is contagious. 

“Divine abundance follows the laws of service and generosity.  Give and then receive.  Give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”  (Paramahansa Yogananda)

A Cosmic Connection~All Through the Power of Prayer

Image

Creator~

Help me spread your light wherever I go.

Flood my soul with your spirit and life.

Penetrate and possess my whole being so that

my life may only be a radiance of yours.

Shine through me and be so in me so that every soul

I know will feel your presence in my soul

AMEN

The other night a friend called me in deep despair.  She was coming undone and I felt useless as to a means in which to help her.  I listened to her.  I made gentle suggestions.  I validated her feelings.  Nothing seemed to help.

She hung up suddenly.  “Oh, I’ve got to go.” Click. And silence. I sat stunned to my spot, receiver still dangling from my hand.  Did I say enough?  Could I have done more?  Is she okay?  I was filled with doubt and worry.  My husband came in at this moment and upon inquiry I shared my concerns with him.  He reassured me that I did the best I could.  That unfortunately no one can take away another’s pain.  That growth comes at the edge of despair, change at the end of our comfort zone. 

I knew all this.  And yet … wasn’t there something else I could do?

I sat there feeling utterly helpless, when the answer tickled my mind… “pray for her,” this thought whispered.  It was the simplest of solutions, yet the one so often easily dismissed; an abstract, intuitive way instead of an “I’m going to grab a hammer and nail your heart back together” way!

So here I sat, feeling completely powerless, when I realized I did have control over something.  I couldn’t reach across the phone lines and “fix” her side, but I could take immediate action on mine.

I knew that the best gift I could give her in that moment was to just hold the space with her.  To let her know she was not alone.  I did not even know the details of what had triggered this onslaught of emotions, but I could understand the feelings that had gushed forth.  I could create a space where she didn’t have to stem the flow of this tsunami alone.

What happened next still gives me chills…

I quieted my mind and centered my heart and spirit.  I set my intention and asked the Universe for help.  I pictured my friend, curled up in a tight ball, waves of anxiety, fear and loneliness radiating from her.  I focused on this auric ball of clashing colors and slowly transformed them into a harmonic circle of light and love, pulsating in soothing hues to the rhythm of her slowing heartbeat.  I pictured her blanketed in a quilt of comfort, woven from all the love of the Universe, God, Goddess, her spirit guides, angels, friends and family.  I poured forth deep healing energies from my core; picturing my own Soul Beacon enlightening hers; highlighting the path back to her own center.

Sometime during this meditation, I became so deeply relaxed that I actually fell asleep.  My dream was filled with warmth and swirling threads of gossamer light circling around me.  When I awoke, I felt as if my friend and I had rocked each other to sleep.  I felt her strength grow.  I pictured her feeling grounded and cared for.  I breathed my wish of peace for her into Goddesses’ ears and I closed my prayer.

The rest was now truly out of my hands.  But I now had faith, knowing that I had done my part.  She would be carried through whatever trials were in her way.

It wasn’t until 3 days later that she shared her experience of that night with me …

I had texted her a message similar to above about “holding the space for her,” but that was all.  She told me she had received this much later that night, but upon checking the time stamp, was stunned to learn the synchronicity in timing of my prayer, coinciding with her miracle; one that occurred in the midst of her anguish:

After she hung up the phone with me, she laid her head on her window sill and sobbed.  She felt desperate.  She felt ill-equipped to care for herself in that moment, let alone for her two young children that were in the house with her.  All she craved was for someone to take care of her for once.

Her wish must have been carried on the winds, for her prayer was answered.

A short time later, she was sitting in her chair, despondent.  She heard someone come into her room and assumed it was her youngest child.  For she was the intuitive one, and would often respond to her mother’s needs and emotions, offering up comfort and cuddles.

But as she looked up, she discovered it was her older daughter; a child with sensitive needs who would most often pull the emotional tide in her own direction.   But, not this time.

This time, she came to comfort her mom.  She told her she loved her.  She offered her a hug.

They wound up snuggling on the bed together, honestly expressing their feelings, building a new layer of trust between them.  And they both fell asleep.

My friend awoke off and on and in the end found a book to read while she stayed wrapped up in the warmth of her daughter.  When her child awoke, she looked up, and lovingly smiled.  That’s all it took.

My friend told me that this was a turning point for her.  She felt like a miracle of insight had occurred. Over the next couple of days, she realized that she had been living in a frantic state, hovering on the chasm of chaos.  Yet when she took a back seat and let God guide the way, she provided for her.  And when she let go of the expectations of “how” she wanted her prayer to be answered, she became open to embracing the unexpected way in which God did heed her prayer… by providing the gift of compassion and love from a daughter to a mother.

Once she finished her tale, I shared with her my prayer experience.  Our timelines were in perfect sync.  All that could be said was silence.  We sent up a small prayer of gratitude for this gift of cosmic connection.

So remember, when someone you love is suffering (physically, mentally, financially, etc.) and you feel like you can’t find any tools in which to help them,  everything you need is already with you, at any time:  The Power-tool of Prayer. Reach into your heart and mind and pull it out, dust it off and try it out for a change.  You don’t even have to pray to a specific god.  You just have to set your intention and ask for help, guidance and insight.  Don’t imagine the outcome, only the processes of embracing whatever gifts or messages that will be presented to you.

All you have to do is help hold the space.