We all lean towards the easy, but most things require effort. We then go to extremes of effort and ease. Quick fixes and three-day fasts might bring immediate results, but they don’t form habits that lead us to continual progress. Instead, our spiritual practices require moderation—the right amount of effort and ease—to sustain us throughout our lifetime.
Living alone doesn’t mean leaving society or our current surroundings. Instead, as The Buddha taught, living alone means living without the heavy baggage of our past and anxieties of our future. Solitude can’t occur when these ghosts accompany us. Instead, we experience stillness in the present moment, even in the company of others.
Who makes our decisions for us? Do we consider the consequences of our choices? If we make decisions rooted in our sense of entitlement, it might mean someone else loses. It might bring about suffering among our community, which will come back around and cause us suffering. Instead, we trust in karma, recognizing that the intention behind our action results in eventual consequences.
Like a gardener uses old scraps to feed new seedlings, we can use our processed experiences to cultivate something new in our lives. Instead of tucking away our afflictive experiences, we mindfully reflect on them. We recognize what we can learn from them and nurture our new experiences with them.
We get easily lured away from our center by our attachments and vices. We all have them. It’s just a matter of whether we control them or they control us. We take a pause, return to the virtues of our spiritual center, then ask, “is this a wise choice?”
We go to a therapist for our mental health, but what about our spiritual health? That’s the job of a spiritual director. Richard Rohr writes that both can be helpful in leading a healthy, productive life. I would also add a third—someone who knows about healing the body.
Tiger Woods’ car accident would have him suffer leg injuries, and people are doubting the future of his golf career. Having back surgery the same time he did in 2014, I was amazed how quickly he would swing the golf club again. People were amazed that I would finish an Ironman five months after my back surgery. We can never underestimate the power of the human spirit. If Tiger Woods wants to return to professional golf, I have no doubt he will. It might not come quickly, but it will come.
I hate Mondays and the constriction that accompanies it. However, I experience the dread for what it is—just a temporary feeling that will pass just as the moment and the day do. Yes, I still yearn for the weekend when I’m free, but our clinging or aversion to what the moment brings can cause us to lose an opportunity for a new direction.
Confession here: I roll my eyes whenever I see a televangelist whip themselves into an ecstatic state. I can do that, too, if I spin myself around for a few minutes. I can also take drugs to induce visions. But none of these experiences are God. A vision or ecstatic experience isn’t “on demand.” They are gifts, secrets, to encourage us to venture further. We have to be discerning about any of these by reflecting on our internal state before and after them. Has our craving for experience conjured something in our imagination? Or do we feel a sense of vanity afterwards, like we’re somehow more advanced in our spiritual walk than others? Ultimately, as Thomas Merton and John of the Cross tell us, we can’t rely on these experiences as our only means of divine connection. We have to let go of the craving.
If we are in a continual state of growth and renewal, can we do the same with others? Do we see people we know as our picture of them from 20 years ago, or do we see the new, evolved person of today? It’s important for us to experience each person, each scene, each moment as ever-changing. This fluidity allows us to open ourselves to bends in the road.
It’s unhealthy for us to avoid our inner conflicts. Oftentimes we consume too much fake news and live in a positivity echo chamber. Eventually, a situation will inflame the kindling of our resentment, which might bring actual harm to ourselves or others. Instead, we are called to be honest with ourselves and our suffering. Rather than sugarcoat what we feel, we can compassionately tell ourselves when things aren’t ok. Rather than ignore wounds until they get infected, we address them and heal them. It takes courage and honesty.
We often hear the power of gratitude in spiritual circles, but scientists have found that gratitude can motivate you to pursue your goals. When someone does something nice for you, that feeling of gratitude stirs you to do something nice in return. Gratitude gives you the willpower and hope to carry on.
Many hold high expectations about Valentine’s Day, planning special dinners, vacations, or floral deliveries. That’s not love. It’s not a matter of gift-giving or anything material. It’s a recognition and respect of another, wherever they are in their stage of life.
Life can get overwhelming. Sometimes our trials and tribulations can pile up heavy on our hearts. We don’t believe God is near. However, our current feelings about our current state don’t speak much about the whole of our past, present, and future. All feelings are transient, yet God is enduring. Even if we don’t “feel” God, oftentimes it’s because he’s behind us, whispering “just keep going.”
It’s easy to get discouraged and dark, particularly when external circumstances reflect negativity. When this happens, spend time rekindling the flame of love. This means reading or hearing words of encouragement. Find a “go-to” passage that warms you. One of mine is from “The Greatest Salesman in the World.”
It might be easy to love those close to us, but how do we love those who are not? We can at least wish for them to be free from suffering. We can allow a fraction of the love we feel towards those close to us to seep out towards those we don’t know. If we want to feel joy, we can aim to extend this fraction of love. Then, as the Sutta Nipata says, “Your life will bring heaven to earth.”
Many times we suffer twice when we worry. Our thoughts and rumination about something that may or may not occur can do more harm than that something. Practice letting things be in your mind. Allow them to arrive, but refrain from speaking back to them.
We’re often told to “trust our feelings,” but then we’re told that our feelings can mask reality. Which is it? It’s both. To a certain extent, our emotions drive us to do something. When out of control, they drive us out of control. We use time in withdrawal and restraint to sharpen our feelings. We then use reason to help steer our emotions towards things that effect a fruitful life.
People in the US cling to this concept of liberty. We proclaim it when we make choices that defy certain rules or structures. We claim it more as a right rather than a responsibility. We do little to consider the consequences of our choices. Then, when our choice wreaks havoc on our lives or the lives of others, we want to blame others. It’s important for us to own the responsibility of our liberated choices so that we can continually grow as individuals and as a society.
Stress and emotion create a toxic cocktail. They work together to wreak havoc over our lives and the lives of others. We see images and videos of others who have sought control over others when they themselves are uncontrollable. We must take measures to harness them so they don’t control us. We can use them as fuel for our actions, using reason as the reins.
Many people go about their lives restless, never knowing the meaning of their circumstances. If we look closely, we might recognize that through our suffering we find our purpose. We can use our voice to complain about our circumstances, or we can use it to inspire others to see through them. We all have a voice, a purpose. Do we use it for our personal gain or for the benefit of the world?
The law of attraction has benefits in that it opens your eyes in ways they might have been closed. However, we can’t be too fixed on the outcome. Even in prayer, we easily get frustrated when our prayers aren’t answered in ways we expect. But each time we ask, we get what we most need at the right moment.
Trees might seem still, but they are continually in a state of change. So are we. When our lives seem still and don’t appear to be moving on the outside, this state of stillness is important on the inside. We should embrace each moment for what it is, learn from it, and open ourselves when it’s time to grow, flourish, let go, or remain still.
When we engage in our efforts, we expect to see progress, particularly when we see quick progress in others. However, we don’t know the story of others. Instead, we should remember what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us: “Trust in the slow work of God.” Timing is always perfect, even if we are impatient.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes about how each of us can participate in the work of God. It doesn’t mean abandoning the work of our own soul. Instead, if we are mindful, we can make each act a small piece in the betterment of ourselves and the world. This is because we are all woven together in this intricate web. What we choose to weave is integral to the whole.
Unity and peace will never come if you’re always seeking vindication. People will always wrong us, and if we can’t find an attitude of peace and unity until justice is served, we’re placing our agency for peace outside of us. Instead, if we approach our thoughts and actions in the spirit of unity and reconciliation, we can inspire others to do the same. In that sense, justice will be served because truth and conscience will burn bright like the sun.
While we’re enduring great suffering, we feel like God is not with us. Our suffering demands God to heal us. Even in our deepest suffering, God is infused in us. We cannot sense God because He is not “out there,” but “in here.”
As many celebrate the life and teaching of Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s important to also look at how he viewed peace. He believed peace is not accepting the status quo, but recognizing the tension and using peaceful means to arrive at a desired outcome. In his view, peace is both a means and an outcome.
Starting something new or breaking out of routine can bring on anxiety. Our minds grow fearful as thoughts of failure want to dominate. But God is with us always, whether we want Him there or not. By keeping the virtues of peace, compassion and service in mind, we can find courage knowing that by trying, we can’t fail.
Social media and reality TV seem to enjoy mimicking the drama of narrative fiction. Rather than live the mundane, live in moderation, they thrive on extremes. This isn’t reality. What happens is many of us are looking for the next viral moment. Our media teaches us that living a balanced life doesn’t get the attention we desire. However, spiritual traditions tell us to seek moderation, balance, and humility. We avoid extremes because they are not sustainable.
I’m still reeling at the rainbow of emotions I’ve experienced the past four days. My dog received the care he needed in spite of a $4000 hospital bill. Social media might receive criticism for inciting cynicism and rage, but I was reminded how it also can be used for good. I’m thankful that my family and friends could reach out to me in my time of need.
It’s remarkable how keen our focus is during moments of great suffering. All our senses, thoughts, and actions are directed towards the present moment. We cannot think about anything else, even if we want to. These moments teach us how to accept each moment, either good or bad. I’m headed to the vet emergency room. Say a prayer for my dog.
In a country that praises the freedom of speech, we don’t practice much discernment in the consequences of our words. All spiritual traditions tell us something about how we should speak and receive one another. Rather than use words to “win,” we use words to further truth, not profit or power. Our words do matter, and we should not be surprised if unhealthy conflict results by using words that incite harm.
How crazy people can be claiming their culture, their identity, their God as “theirs,” as if it’s something they can possess? We even see our material possessions as “mine,” not “yours.” When we consider things from a spiritual perspective, we all belong to one another. We all belong to God. Rabindranath Tagore makes an interesting metaphor—that we are all rivers longing to meet the sea.
Many cultures emphasize more—more power, more wealth, more things. We’re easily led to believe that bigger is better, and we should seek to expand our acquisitions. But joy can start as small as a mustard seed. It can sprout from simple things. Rather than spread wide, joy can spread deep, taking root within.
The story of the magi who visited Jesus is one of my favorites. What would inspire these men—of course we’re not sure there were three OR they were all men. The magi had seen in the stars that a king had been born. They traveled a great distance and brought gifts to an infant. They knew something others did not—that there was something magnificent happening. I always wonder what great things are happening right under our noses that we’re missing because we aren’t looking through a spiritual lens.
Many of us couldn’t wait for 2020 to be over, as if putting up a new calendar will magically change things. Beginning a new year is only a shared mental construction. If we wanted, we could have begun a new year a month ago. If we see each day, each moment as an opportunity to begin again, we can experience the freshness each moment has to offer.
In times of great change or great stagnation, we face the fear of uncertainty. We easily get caught up in the panic and don’t pause for the teaching each moment has to offer. There is a unity in all things, and that unity whispers us a promise: “Everything will be ok.”
When everything is quickly available at the flick of a fingertip, we struggle and ache when we have to wait. When our desires aren’t immediately gratified, we don’t see what preparation is necessary for us to receive. If we skip steps and receive our gift prematurely, the outcome might not be what we desired.
The internet allows our words to spread all over the world. Some words, particularly those that arouse controversy, are amplified, contributing to pain rather than peace. Rather than speaking without consideration, Khalil Gibran tells us to let the spirit guide our tongue and shape our words. Those are words that pierce the heart and endure well beyond the conversation.
Perhaps one of the reasons I’m still single in my 50s is that I spent most of my 20s and 30s chasing after men who were wrong for me. I was addicted to the thrill of the chase and the brief exhilaration of acquisition. With most of these relationships, I would be left broken-hearted and empty-handed. When we live in a state of clinging and acquiring, we aren’t free. The object of our desires imprisons us.
We often talk about the “stress” of the holidays, but can we complain about that now? Instead, we mourn NOT having our many social gatherings. Just think—you probably won’t have to battle holiday weight gain in January! Yet still, we are uneasy when we can’t find peace in being alone. However, Henri Nouwen writes that by finding our quiet center, we can develop a sense of authenticity that we carry into our relationships with others.
Although meditation has become popular in mainstream society as a means of stress reduction, it’s important to understand where it progresses. Yes, it calms the waves of stress, but we eventually recognize that these waves are part of the large ocean of connectedness to others. We develop a sense of authenticity that implores us to manifest this in the world.
Can you gaze upon something you love without a running mental commentary? Evelyn Underhill, in her writing about contemplation, implores us to experience Reality without labels or frames. Instead, we immerse ourselves in loving the object of contemplation, such as an animal or flower. This immersion not only connects us to the object, but also to the rest of the world.
We get easily caught up in our routines to the point that we live life on autopilot, lacking awareness. We assume everything is taken care of, and we take things for granted. But do we know where we’re going? Is this taking us in the right direction? The Katha Upanishad reminds us that we allow our senses to drive our lives out of control. Rather than living life on autopilot, we live moment to moment, making mindful choices along a bumpy ride.
This is a visualization I recorded for InsightTimer.com. Visualization can be an effective way to guide the mind, particularly when the mind wants to dart off in various directions. This meditation takes us to the mountains, where we listen closely to what messages they want to communicate with us. Fireplace and mountain wind sound effects by SoundIdeasCom and sounddogs, respectively, available at Pond5.
What do we do when we encounter something beautiful? We might want to take a picture or compare it with other things. We shower it with excessive rhetoric rather than experience beauty for what it is. This is a call for mysticism, or experiencing reality untainted. Evelyn Underhill’s “Practical Mysticism” calls us towards mysticism.
I honestly wonder how many people, particularly business and political leaders, can look at themselves in the mirror while lying and breaking laws. Unless you’re a psychopath who has no regard for right and wrong, our conscience elicits our sense of guilt. If we shrug off our sense of guilt, we continue down a slippery slope of hurting others and eventually ourselves. A healthy balance of guilt motivates us to change course in our behavior.
Oftentimes we hear “Dark Night of the Soul” as a euphemism for depression. Although the symptoms are very similar, the Dark Night of the Soul is means of spiritual growth. You might not recognize it until you’re on the other side. St. John of the Cross wrote about this spiritual maturation in his book, Dark Night of the Soul. It is a time when your old ways no longer give you sensory pleasure. You experience an aridity, but you also feel a deep sense of grounding. You know you’re being led even though you have no evidence of it.
When life always goes the way we expect, we don’t see the many things we take for granted. It is when things fall apart that we’re forced to piece together some semblance of normalcy. We recognize that all things are in a continual state of change, and so are the things we take for granted. Therefore , this moment-to-moment awareness can show us certain gifts that we don’t slow down enough to see.
We love our traditions because they give us comfort in the midst of chaos. COVID-19 has upended many of our traditions, creating a lot of additional suffering and uncertainty. However, this might be a good moment to ask ourselves what traditions need to change. Have we become so attached to the routine of our tradition that we forgot what’s at the heart of it? This time might open us to new traditions if we stop resisting.
When life gives us trials, it can be difficult to endure. The noonday demon tells us to quit—that it’s not worth it. When the end seems too far in sight and the noonday demon tempts you, remember that you’re building resilience. You’re building mental strength to endure future races. Visualize the finish line in mind, shrug off the noonday demon, and finish the race. The world is counting on you.
Thomas Merton sums up much of my life’s perspective in his book, “New Seeds of Contemplation.” His words ring true today. He writes that when we see the world as divided, it’s only a projection of our internal division. In battling others, we’re only compromising our own values. We might not recognize it because we don’t spend enough time in solitude. Solitude allows us to reconnect ourselves where we’ve become compromised. It’s not about living in a place where we’re always right. Instead we reconcile ourselves with where we’ve been wrong. Then we can see the world with a new perspective—one that seeks unity over division. Sorry I seemed to ramble again. Sleep was scant because one of my dogs was coughing all night.
The serenity prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous is one we all can employ during our times of struggle. It’s important not to suffer twice by resisting what is happening. Instead, we examine what can be done in each moment. In some cases, there is a small thing we can do. In others, we accept what it is without adding more anxiety. It might seem overwhelming to think about how long you can endure in your suffering. But we can tell ourselves, “I can accept this moment,” and, as those in AA believe, we take things one day at a time.
People can be really cruel to one another on social media, or any place where they don’t interact with others face-to-face. You can take them personally, or you can see them as lines in a play, where the other is merely playing a role. Good or bad, these words don’t define you. If anything, it shows the other person’s projection of wounds. In the book, In Search of Wisdom, the writers tell us that inner peace can never come when you rely on the opinions of others. In the same vein, we should choose our own words carefully, choosing words that bear truth and compassion.
Certain days can be difficult to endure. You don’t see light anywhere, and the path just seems long with no end in sight. You grow tired, thinking, “I have no fight left.” But Hope whispers in your ear, “Just keep going.” Hope can come in the form of a memory of someone dear or of a dog who finds joy in simplicity. Hope isn’t an escape hatch but rather a small drink of water when the spirit is thirsty.
It can be difficult to be grateful when we're in a state of anxiety, clinging, or desire. We want so badly to get what we want, or we're angry because life isn't working out the way we'd planned. We can be grateful for one thing--our breath. Our breath is a kind servant, giving us life-giving oxygen. This meditation allows you to focus on your breath to induce a state of calm. Then, you send the calm back to the world in your exhale.
Music: "New Mindfulness" by Chris Collins at indiemusicbox.com
We might strive to get what we want, but ultimately that’s never enough. When we mindlessly indulge in our egoic desires, we live a life that swings between satisfaction and dissatisfaction. We can still this pendulum by living beyond our hyperindividualism. This means recognizing that the world moves much more easily when we surrender to its movement. This means that the option we demanded for ourselves might not be best for all those involved. The universe chooses the path of sustaining itself, and it favors interdependence. Readings here are taken from The Aspen Institute’s Relationist Manifesto, which was conceived by New York Times writer David Brooks. You can find this manifesto on the Aspen Institute’s website.
My heart was truly moved this morning reading an article from Lion’s Roar about the US election result. Hearing these Buddhist leaders resonate their teachings with our current state of affairs is what we all need. We all have a role in weaving the fabric of society back together. Once your emotional reaction subsides, stay awake. There is work to be done.
We engage in a lot of testing and measures to gauge change in our physical health or intellectual progress, but how about spiritual or emotional growth? If you look back a few months or years, have you learned from your mistakes? Have you transformed through your suffering? It’s important for us to take time to reflect on our growth so we aren’t winding up circling back to past mistakes.
No one on this planet is truly “self-made.” If not for the hundreds, thousands, or millions of people who have had to work to create conditions for one’s success, the person would not be successful. One person not attending to their task can create a ripple of conditions for another’s failure. This suggests our interdependence. Rather than allow an inflated ego to give ourselves the credit, we should consider the many others whose shoulders we needed to stand on to even reach that ladder of success. In gratitude for others, we then pay it forward and help others live their dreams.
It is easy to get caught up in collective delusion, especially when it feeds our desire to belong. But can we look deeply within to see how our desires and impulses influence our behavior? Are we chasing after something abstract without looking at the concrete? Do we rely on others for our esteem and worth, fearing and distracting ourselves from the Voice of Truth? James Allen writes how important it is for us to spend time in solitude so that we can ask ourselves, “What is really going on here?” Sorry I seem to be rambling—I’ve had little to no sleep last night.
The tension of uncertainty can be quite overwhelming. Personally, I feel it in my chest. I recognize it coming, and I also notice when I layer it with more unproductive thoughts. Then I ask myself, “who’s in charge here?” As much as we can’t control the chaos in the world, we can be more productive and proactive when we take charge of our own self. Rather than ruminate over the past or fear for our future, we can accept what we’re feeling in this moment. This becomes training as we navigate through important decisions in our lives. And sometimes, honestly, it helps to just change the TV channel.
The force of truth or love live on in spite of conflicts in our families and nations, Gandhi had written. Although history often cites series of conflicts, the mundane element of compromise is often overlooked. Our egos want to win, but that only breeds more resentment and division. Do we want peace, or do we just want to be right?
We might be beloved and admired in our spiritual or religious communities, but how are we outside of them? Do we abandon our teachings and participate in the suffering of the world? While it’s important to heal your own soul, it’s equally important to engage in our unique role in healing the world of its suffering.
You might have heard the parable of two wolves that battle inside us all. But another version of it, perhaps the more authentic one, ends a little differently. Rather than “feed” or “starve” the “dark” wolf of jealousy or rage, we investigate the nature of it. Perhaps it’s a suppressed reaction to an event long ago that never healed. Or it might be an appropriate response to a current situation. Through inquiry, we harness the emotion and choose the most appropriate response that results in healing not only ourselves, but also others.
I cannot say I’m a “good” Christian. Instead, I’m a “wild” one. I seek spiritual truth in all religious and spiritual disciplines and how they heal the body, mind and spirit. But in the continual process of healing, I know I have a purpose in healing the world. So do you. Your purpose might differ from mine because your gifts are different from mine. Joan Chittister asks us, “What will you do here and now, in this world, in our time?”
When we are consumed with our own needs, we believe the world is limited in its resources, so we compete with others for fame, fortune, love, and power. However, when we offer our gifts to the world in service to God and others, we can recognize the world’s abundance. According to the Upanishads, we must go to those in need, seeing the Lord of Love in all living things.
As more people live their lives without a spiritual grounding, they might ask, “What drives people to believe in some spiritual or divine entity?” Are they living a lie? Are they just crazy? If you look at the accounts of some (not all, because some are truly crazy), you have to open up to the possibility that there might be some energy, some force, that binds or connects us all. Gandhi’s belief in God inspired him to liberate India from British Rule. Was he living a lie? Was he crazy? His writing about his own faith in God is very warming, particularly in our current state of chaos.
When things don’t go our way, we sometimes adopt a selfish perspective by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” This implies that as a result of this disappointment, you will be rewarded next time. However, we often don’t see what needs to be learned from this disappointment. It might be something about ourselves or an understanding of how this disappointment fits into the web of life. Instead, we can say, “All things serve a purpose,” knowing that this disappointment is a piece of the larger, multidimensional puzzle.
Anthony de Mello’s book, The Way to Love, has had a profound influence on my life. He introduced me to the concept of attachment, particularly how they become obstacles to our joy. In this passage, he relates the Christian story of how the rich man cannot enter the kingdom of God because he’s attached to his wealth. Only by dropping our attachments can we experience joy. Sorry for the few pauses in my reading, my light was fading and I was struggling to see! That’s perhaps a metaphor I’ll save for next time.
The actor Chris Evans, who played Captain America, recently created an Instagram account to help promote his political information website, A Starting Point. What is interesting, though, is that his Instagram promotes his love for simple things, such as his dog and the changing of the leaves. We need more role models like this—people who show us that life is more than our personal gain. We need more role models who propagate decency, humility, and compassion. These role models can normalize human values that build community and peace, making materialistic and selfish values irrelevant. Let’s cling to these positive role models and eschew the ones that want to divide us.
The most popular concept of yoga is someone, usually a thin, white female, contorting her body in an unnatural position inaccessible to 99.9% of the population. Some might believe it’s a religion so they eschew it without the slightest bit of inquiry. If you look back at some of the ancient texts that informed the varieties of yoga practices, you’ll understand that it’s less about what’s on the outside and more about what’s on the inside. Yoga, therefore, cannot be conveyed in an Instagram image.
If you have a little more time, here's a little longer podcast episode that will settle your mind, body and spirit. Savasana is also called "corpse pose," and it's typically done at the end of a yoga practice. It's a time to restore and cultivate healing. Lie down on your back and settle into this time of relaxation. Music: "Enlightenment" by Chris Collins at indiemusic.com. Collins is one of my favorite meditation composers.
We often hear Christians cite John 14:6 as a means of excluding those who don’t believe. But what does Jesus mean when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life?” It means living a life of compassion, truth, forgiveness, and service of others. It’s about putting others’ interests before our own, especially if they are in need. Gandhi said, “Your Christians aren’t very Christ-like” because he himself recognized what Jesus meant by “the way...”
Relationships can become toxic when one person controls the decisions. Our attachments to approval, being right, or being loved can seize control of us, preventing us from being free. Once we recognize how our attachments influence our decisions, we make choices that benefit not only us, but also others. Freedom happens when we respect ourselves and others.
When we begin a relationship, we become mesmerized by the great “high.” However, once the honeymoon is over, that’s where the work begins. We deepen our relationship in a continual process of growth and renewal. However, it’s easy to get stuck in the sensory experience and believe THAT is the relationship. So it is with our relationship with God. Our “born again” conversion experience might be great, but we don’t remain there. As Alan Jones writes, we must walk the Via Dolorosa, experiencing the growing pains of a relationship that deepens and solidifies over time. Jones asks, “Do I worship God, or do I worship my experience of God?”
Early church leaders recognize acedia as one of the vices that plague humankind. It strikes during the midpoint of a journey, where the beginning and end seem nowhere in sight. Evagrius (I keep pronouncing his name wrong, including here) called it the “Noonday Demon” that makes the day seem too long to endure. Rather than escape, he tells us to recognize it as a temptation to abandon our journey. Once recognized, it loosens its grip on us so we can continue our journey.
I’m reading a beautiful letter from a man who is a great role model of humility. The letter is rather long, but it is a careful, thoughtful appeal for all people to come together and care for one another. He calls for a new culture of dialogue, mutual cooperation, and reciprocal understanding. Can we drop our sense of righteous indignation and heal our communal suffering?
This is the one-year anniversary of Brad4d Savasana. In this year, I’ve learned that expectations can easily limit and frustrate. When we give away what comes freely without any expectation of anything in return, we can find that the well is always abundant. This podcast has become my audio rough draft of my written work, which you can find at https://medium.com/@mbbrad4d
On this Feast of St. Francis, we recognize that we are stewards of all living things on Mother Earth. St. Francis honors the elements of the earth as sisters and brothers in his Canticle of the Sun. Why not treat our natural family with care and love?
Hermann Hesse contemplates the autumn of his life, questioning how distant goals can steal the joy of each moment. We recognize that each moment is a season in itself, birthing something new, ripening what is sown, or harvesting our fruit. Sometimes the beauty of the moment is letting go.
What would happen if we repeated the same behaviors accepting the same results? If we know something we do brings us suffering, why do we continue? How do we bounce back from failure if we do nothing to improve?
We often bring our attachments into our conflicts with others. We tell others they are wrong while we’re fixed in our own mind of being right. We try to bully others into adopting our perspective. Instead, why not be magnetic and allow others to be attracted to your point of view? This allows you to be detached from changing someone else while showing in your own life how peace can exist.
The Social Dilemma really shocked me. Although I knew the tech companies were gathering data about me, I didn’t have a full understanding how persuasive technology worked. There are a lot of bad actors out there who are sowing discord in our minds and communities. We can be more mindful about what we choose to post ourselves, noticing how it reflects our own state of mind. However, we can also spend time in silence and question who we are outside of these virtual communities. Consider it an intermittent fast that can loosen your grip on the addicting technologies.
We are given a life to live, and when we encounter problems, we must refer to our instruction manual. These are teachings written inside our hearts, passed down through the many scriptures in various spiritual traditions. Yet we eschew them for the temporal, material, superficial teachings popular in modern media. The purveyors of these teachings profit from our problems while failing to point us to the transcendent teachings within. The answers are always found in spiritual teachings—why not have a look at them?
Alan Jones wrote a book relating the spiritual walk to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy.’ We live so much of our lives in a state of restless anticipation, and we seek relief from things that don’t satisfy. Eventually we must face our hell to find paradise. Note: I screwed up Dante’s order. First is inferno, then purgatorio, then Paradiso.
Gandhi coined the term “satyagraha” to indicate his philosophy of change. It’s loosely translated as “soul force,” employed by Dr. King. Some will use “nonviolent resistance” or “passive resistance,” but it’s much more than that. It’s about unity on the soul level. It’s less about changing people’s minds and more about moving people’s spirits.
Hope is that flicker of light, of goodness, that continues to burn in spite of darkness. We might feel hope is lost, but if we drop our attachments and desires for a specific outcome, we use our hands to cultivate that hope. We can do this if we all share our light of hope. This light of hope reveals the evil that lurks in the darkness. Our collective hope can light up a nation and a world.
Communication in relationships is important, but sometimes relationships can be cultivated beyond words. It’s not always necessary to speak, especially if we’re doing most of it. I found discursive prayers to be difficult because I felt I was doing more talking than listening. Instead, I chose to be silent for a while, letting the Holy Spirit speak beyond words.
Let’s face it—there aren’t many leaders in politics, business or society who are role models of love. Although we all have a dark side with which we need to reconcile, we must remember not to let our dark side become who we are, even if it temporarily gives us profit. Ultimately, love always prevails. You can be a light, a role model of love.
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were Hollywood’s power couple many years ago. After their breakup, Lopez took her broken heart to the Dr. Phil show. They spoke of the ideal partner as “a soft place to fall.” Although that might appeal to the romantics, it’s not a prescription for an everlasting relationship that is life-giving for both.
In my 20s and 30s, I would write letters to myself to offer hope in my darkest days. I would promise to open them a few months later and contemplate my growth since then. In 2006, just after a bitter breakup, I wrote a love letter to my future partner. Reading it now made me realize what I wanted in a significant other I actually needed to cultivate within myself. You can be the author of your own love story of yourself.
The Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) sits deep in the heart of Virginia. Its motto is “One Truth, many paths.” How often do we bicker on the periphery without recognizing what’s deep in the heart of the argument? Saying that we are “saved,” “woke,” or “chosen” sets up more division and exclusivity. Rather than having a clenched fist, we should extend our open hand.
In a world that seems to be broken, it’s easy to fall back in despair. Instead, we can remain steadfast in our faith and hope. We look deep in our community and ask, “What small act can I do to keep hope alive?” These small acts of hope can build upon one another. Small acts of hope around the world can illuminate the world.
If you read about some of the great spiritual role models in history, you’ll know that there was something that drove their actions. Oftentimes their role was to shake up the status quo when people became complacent. As so many people turn away from religious practice, I can’t help but wonder who will emerge as our spiritual role models? Who will lead the people through spirit, rather than desire for power?
All living beings experience suffering. How we react to suffering is our choice. We can resist our suffering, which can bring on more suffering, or we can investigate it as birthing a new way of being. Many great leaders have emerged because their suffering brought them great purpose. In the case of this pandemic, will we return to our old lives and routines, or will we find a new way of living and being?
In a culture that thrives on accumulating material possessions, we attribute power to those who have “the most.” We create false idols out of people who have great power, wealth, and fame. But the great religious traditions say that material possessions inhibit our ability to connect with the divine. The difference between a religion and a cult is the religious leader sacrifices himself for the sake of others.
It’s easy to get caught up in our drama. Can we step outside of it a few moments each day and reflect? We revisit ways in which we might have spoken untruth or acted carelessly, and we aim to do better next time. We also revisit moments where our thoughts, words, and actions have brought divine joy. By practicing this “Examen,” we recalibrate ourselves and remember our True North.
We mistake boasting for confidence. We attribute material success to our own doing, and oftentimes we forget how our privilege might have gotten us there. If our ego gets out of hand, God leaves us to our vices, which eventually leads to ruin. Therefore, when we boast, we should recognize that all things are fleeting. Even if we are in a high place, we should respect those in low places, because God loves them equally.
When we don’t investigate what we believe, we might be led down a path of untruth that might seem honest and noble. Lance Armstrong felt compelled to maintain his untruth because the ends justified the means. But does that mean it’s ok to be dishonest? What about the people who believed the lies? How do we know the truth if we don’t invest in knowing it? Or are we more attached to proving others wrong than accept the possibility that we might not be right? Sorry I rambled a bit.
Political leaders and legal professionals like to employ many words, but they do little to effect change. Three words that Jacob Blake’s mother said are the most necessary: “Search your hearts.” Julia Jackson’s words transcends her frustration and pain to appeal to something deeper within all of us—our hearts. This is the message we all need—to ask ourselves if we want to continue hurting ourselves and others, or if we want to heal.
It’s easy to react to others’ anger or disrespect with a similar response. However, this results in a power game, where peace will never be the result. Instead, we can respond with “Namaste” or “jai bhagwan.” Both sayings recognize the divine being in others and ourselves. They also serve as a wake-up call for others to remember that we all possess that divine spark.
We often assume that contemplatives and those who enjoy solitude don’t want to be a part of the world. It is in solitude that we gather our strength and our vision. It is in quiet contemplation that we let go of the material vision that wants to bear upon us. When we return, we inspire this vision—the way of unity that transcends division and transforms others. This passage is from Thomas Merton’s Inner Experience.
If you sit outside before dawn, you hear the quiet before the first bird sings. It gives us hope that a new day is dawning. This bird is like a prophet, singing in the dark, with no care of who listens. It sings because that is its mission—to awaken the world who has fallen asleep.
When we get overwhelmed with the state of the world or the state of our lives, it’s important to take time in sanctuary. Whether it’s a physical space in your abode or a brief traffic light, time in sanctuary can recalibrate our thinking. We sit quietly with our deep breath, receiving the gifts to steady us.
We seek pleasure in worldly things, believing these things can relieve our suffering. But the more we accumulate, the more attached we become. Thomas Merton suggests that our experience with God is inversely proportionate to our attachments.
You don’t have to take holy orders to become a monk in ordinary life. If you have a longing that fails to be satisfied with material or temporary things, it could be a call to experience God. Contemplation is this experience, and although many writers have tried to express it, it, like God, can only be revealed when the student is ready.
It’s easy to get caught up with media that nourishes our seeds of afflictive emotions. If that is the case, we shouldn’t be surprised if we react to others—and ourselves—with these afflictive emotions. If we can instead catch ourselves in these moments and say, “I don’t have time for this,” we can nourish the seeds of compassion and truth.
Many will eschew “mainstream religion” because it has “too many rules.” But we recognize that certain rules guide us on the road of life. Rather than criticize those who attend religious institutions, we should recognize the areas in our life where we need discipline.
Many of us are told to “follow your passion.” However, this fails to tie us with a deeper purpose. At a graduation speech several years ago, Walter Isaacson told the graduates to “Aim higher,” and tie our passion to service to others. Rather than be consumed with our own needs, why not start each day by asking, “How can I serve?”
Many spiritual traditions will use their texts to open their hearts to The Divine. This episode employs Lectio Divina from the Christian tradition. The passages are drawn from the book, “Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings” by Richard Hooper. If you’re interested in interfaith dialogue, this book does a marvelous job in bringing these faith traditions together.
Kahlil Gibran wrote compelling imaginings about Jesus from the perspective of those who encountered him. This passage illuminates how Jesus loved the “unseen” in Mary Magdalene. Her meeting Jesus made her realize that she had separated herself from her spirit. We can use this passage to ask ourselves if we, too, have forgotten our spirit, causing us to look to external things to bring us temporary satisfaction. Instead, we can remember and love the unseen in not only ourselves, but also others.
The power of positive thinking is strong, but it’s important to investigate our thoughts. Even if we have a “burning desire” for something, the law of attraction cannot fill a void of which you are unaware. For instance, if you desire an expensive car, what void do you believe this will fill? A desire to be popular or accepted? A car might bring temporal acceptance, but it will only introduce craving as your need goes unfulfilled. Instead, focus on what you “really” want, but also focus on how this can be of service to others. That way, your offering to the River of Life, which is rich and abundant. James Allen’s “As a Man Thinketh” tells us to really investigate the nature and power of our thoughts.
In southern Virginia, the Yogaville community has a beautiful shrine called LOTUS, which stands for Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. It suggests there is “one truth, many paths.” Richard Hooper echoes this sentiment in his book, “Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-Tzu; The Parallel Sayings.” Sometimes the truth is hidden in the present moment if we open our eyes to see.
Do our words emerge from the depth of our hearts—the silence? Or are they rooted in our desires to win an argument? Cultivating silence in our everyday experiences allow us to speak with integrity and meaning. This passage from Thomas Merton tells us that silence is the “mother of all speech,” the formless before the formed.
We love distraction, particularly if we’re addicted to our emotional drama. We also love to muddy the water of our lives when we believe that our excesses can bring inner peace. Thomas Merton says that this is illusion. Those who thrive on distraction fear the truth that silence can bring. Instead, we can welcome silence into our minds and hearts, knowing that it is where God’s voice is heard.
Eric Whitacre was featured on “CBS Sunday Morning,” highlighting his remarkable music talents. His song, “Sing Gently,” brings 17,000 voices from all over the world. Each voice plays a role in creating the magic. Each voice sings with the intention of joining others in perfect harmony. In our society, many voices want to stand out for the purpose of being heard, rather than to bring harmony. Can we be a voice that sings gently, bringing peace and unity in a society that is singing off-key?
Our technologies make it easy to escape our current reality, but it also prevents us from learning what the present moment can teach us about ourselves. Do we hold unrealistic expectations that are only fulfilled in our fantasy? Our ability to come home to ourselves and our imperfections allows us to learn lessons, particularly about how we relate to ourselves and others.
On this day, the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, we contemplate who she was, rather than who we want her to be. Oftentimes we don’t like uncertainty, preferring the manifest over the unmanifest. But the mystery, the unmanifest, is pregnant with potential. Can we sit with uncertainty, rather than rush to an answer that might not be the right one?
We applaud extremes. We are somewhat envious of those in the circus. We implicitly tell ourselves that we must be extreme to be accepted and approved by others. Yet we come home to ourselves and cannot accept our mundane life. This makes us more anxious and unsatisfied with ourselves. However, inner peace can be found not by external acclaim, validation, or compensation. It can be found with our acceptance of the mundane and ordinary.
In a society that takes comfort in separation and dualism, it might be discomforting to see God in people and things we do not like. God is infinite and all-pervasive, connecting all things. Kabbalah is one of many mystical teachings that recognize the existence of God in all things.
When I see immense houses in neighborhoods much wealthier than mine, I wonder how someone needs that much space. After watching a documentary featuring Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a conservationist, I felt the urgency in preserving our forests. We might feel powerless in battling government and business to slow climate change, but we can do our part in refraining from excess.
As a former news photographer, it was my job to capture moments in a short amount of time. But how often do we rush through our experiences in hopes of capturing the moments to share on social media? Rather than view our moments through our cell phone cameras, why not experience things first, and truly live in the moment?
Thomas Merton gave this powerful speech criticizing politics, business and media for dividing the nation. His words in 1964 still ring true today. A minor oops in my recording of this—the book by Mirabai Starr is called “Wild Mercy.”
When we hold onto our anger, it might be difficult to forgive. We might believe that we are victims of injustice, but ultimately we must make an account of how we treat others. Those who have gone forth plead with us to make amends on earth, before it’s too late.
Each moment has a beautiful teaching. It can be difficult to find if we’re focused too much on a destination or too mired in our problems. The present moment can give us a new perspective if we are open to it.
Conflicts might be resolved through laws or social norms, but they don’t resolve the conflict within. The Dalai Lama called for a spiritual revolution in his 1999 book, “Ethics for a New Millennium.” He describes the necessity of transcending our self-centered nature to live in peace with others.
Our anger can be like a wild horse driving our chariot. We allow our anger to seize control, and we say or do things out of our hot state. But peace doesn’t result. It only facilitates more unhealthy expressions of anger. We have the power to choose differently.
The result of self-help is not to stay in the level of self, but to do your part in healing the world. Although so many in society are just getting by in a level of unawareness, you can join the critical mass in making the world a better place.
We might be tempted to act out in our times of sorrow and grief, allowing them to turn to rage. But John 11:35, the shortest passage in the Bible, says, “Jesus wept.” Although he could have performed his miracle at the moment he heard about the death of his friend, he allowed himself to grieve. This showed the humanity of Jesus that exists in all of us. Sometimes the best response when others are hurting is compassion.
When the world appears in a state of conflict, it can immobilize us. But we can change the world one act at a time. This quote has been attributed to St. Francis: “ start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, then you find yourself doing the impossible.“ You can do one act of kindness, compassion or peace today.
We might experience a great “high” in some relationships, but we have to be careful not to become addicted to them. The “high” is not the relationship, and the relationship hasn’t soured if we don’t experience it. Instead, it might be drawing us deeper.
Rather than doing what we can to avoid suffering, why not investigate what it can teach us? With a little curiosity and mindfulness, we can practice sitting with suffering, knowing that we are never suffering alone.
If you wake up early enough and open your window, the birds will sing you a beautiful song. We often can't hear them after the rest of the world wakes up. Listening to the birds is a great teaching of mindfulness and simplicity. It is there for us every day.
The tension we might be feeling during lockdown awakens our need to belong. Rather than allow this need to fester, recognize that by letting go of our needs and attachments, we find a deep connection to all.
Our attachments can send us into destructive patterns if we don’t recognize them before they take root. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that the chase can result in clouding our ability to make wise choices.
As we grow anxious in waiting for our lives to be restored to “normal,” we are called to practice patience. Though difficult, practicing patience sustains us through trying times and prepares our hearts for joy. This passage is from Henri Nouwen.
Many believe that God is “out there” or “up there.” God is omnipresent, so God can be experienced in the present moment. It’s a matter of surrendering our hearts and expectations of where God “should” be.
If we don’t walk in awareness, it’s easy to become reactive about our environment. We make ourselves victims rather than co-creators of our experience. But if we look objectively at what is going on, we recognize where our actions contribute to a sometimes unpleasant result. Our noticing is the first step to change.
Many of us are growing especially anxious, especially if we’re still required to stay home. Instead of bringing instant gratification to our suffering, can we allow it to teach us? Pema Chödrön’s book, “Comfortable with Uncertainty,” teaches us about a loneliness that can purify.
We often make judgments about the world based on a limited perspective. Even in our current reality, we choose to take in those elements that support our beliefs. Sometimes we need to take a step back, see the forest rather than fixate on one tree.
It amazes me how judgmental some (not all) religious people can be. While being steadfast in keeping their traditions, they eschew other practices as “wrong.” If we experience God differently than someone else, who are we to say they are “wrong?” Is God not bigger than the framework of one religious tradition?
Many are growing restless because we are not accepting what the present moment can teach us. In the past month, have you taken some time in quiet reflection? Henri Nouwen writes how destructive our lives can be without a quiet center.
Many spiritual traditions see God as One—nondual. Out of the nondual comes dualistic concepts—male/female, sun/moon, light/dark. The Prashna Upanishad describes creation, and it tells us which path is the wiser choice.
The HBO show “Newsroom” speculates what a cable news program would look like if it neglected the sensational. It provides a critique of what happens when we allow our emotions and selective perceptions to dictate what we see. If we strip away the sensational and reflect deep on our reactions, we might see things a little more clearly and act with awareness.
We yearn for community particularly when we don’t have it. We see ourselves as separate, but we are part of a whole. Emerson writes that the “wise silence” that connects us can be accessed at any given moment.
After Jesus died on the cross, Mary Magdalene was concerned about his proper burial. Just before the Sabbath, she goes with Joseph of Arimathea to anoint him. She and other women were with him at his crucifixion and burial, remaining steadfast in their faith and love. What would you do?
Christians recognize Good Friday as the day Christ was crucified. Although the story of the crucifixion is well known, we might not know Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant. If you can imagine Jesus in this role, this passage is pretty powerful.
Ignatian contemplation has us enter into stories in scripture, using our imagination as part of prayer. Through practice, we see what message God wants us to hear. This passage is read on Palm Sunday—when Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.
It can be disconcerting to see those who choose a path of greed and deceit arise to power, perverting the Word of God to suit their selfish ways. The Book of Proverbs reminds us that those who choose the upright path will ultimately prevail, because God prevails.
We might crave community and belonging, but do our groups help us and nurture our growth? Thomas Keating tells us to be mindful of the groups to which we conform, especially if the groups serve chiefly those in power.
Bells are often used in mindfulness training to help with one-pointed attention. Here’s a meditation with a random bell. If you listen closely, you’ll hear Girl Dog shake her collar after the first bell. If you listen even more closely, you’ll hear my essential oil diffuser. It’s not always perfect, but life never is!
Being alone when we don’t chose can be a struggle. However, if we wrestle with the false ideas of ourselves, eventually these ideas dissipate. Then you are left with your authentic self, who is indeed connected spiritually with others who have done the same.
Thomas Merton recognized the unity among us during a shopping trip in Louisville. Can we see ourselves in others? Can we see how others shine like the sun as we grasp for the last pack of toilet paper?
The story about two wolves has been somewhat modified to express duality—the good and evil within. But the true Native American story suggests that the black wolf represents courage when it is needed. If we “starve” the black wolf, we fail to see what the dark parts of ourselves can teach us, bringing wholeness and healing.
Our efforts in self-help are moot if we don’t let go of the behaviors, substances, or relationships that cause our suffering. But it doesn’t stop with us. Once we begin our healing journey, we must aid others in healing their suffering.
Wellness addresses balance of mind, body and spirit. If one is “sick,” the other two will resonate and respond. We might work hard to achieve a healthy body, but if our mind is not healthy, we might never be satisfied with our progress.
Certain roles we play and identities we choose can help us feel a sense of belonging. These roles and identities can also keep us spiritually stuck, preventing us from our unique path. Joshua Harris, a former Christian pastor and writer, recently announced he was no longer a Christian in his concept of the term. However, it is possible that, by abandoning his former identity, he might be more Christ-like.
As our routines become disrupted these next few months, it’s important to recognize that we’re all in this together. Rather than complaining about our boredom, let’s take some moments to acknowledge how disconnected we’ve become from our hearts and minds.
Lectio Divina is a method of entering deeply into sacred texts. You hear a passage four times, each step settles deeper within. The fourth step finishes with contemplation, where you remain in silence and allow God to respond.
We struggle with this moment when it is uncomfortable, but we also cling to this moment when it is filled with pleasure. However, each moment passes, giving life to the next moment. This moment contributes to your awakening...if you accept it.
It’s important for us to take a look at how certain behaviors, substances and people can limit our ability to see more clearly. It’s recognizing how our taking things to extremes can cause us pain. If we take notice, we might remember a time when we didn’t have this attachment, and we could get on with our lives just fine.
Thomas Merton often echoes Thoreau in his appreciation of nature. How often we go through life hurried without appreciating the beauty of dawn. Merton describes how the birds, each morning, ask God permission to “be.” God responds, “yes.”
The world wants to tell us we’re “perfect,” or that “perfection” is a goal to be achieved. But perfection keeps us fixed in one moment, limiting our awareness of the changing, impermanent nature of things.
Ruiz’s First Agreement says “be impeccable with your word.” Ultimately what you feel within will find life through your words. If you have love within, negative words can’t take root within, and you don’t feel the need to spread rumors or misinformation.
If we seek to separate and divide ourselves from one another, why do we resist being alone? Thoreau says as our planet is connected to the Milky Way, we are all connected to one another. However, we choose to distract ourselves from the source of life with “outlying and transient circumstances.”
Living in Philadelphia is challenging for me because of the traffic. However, my resistance to sitting in a traffic jam is a reminder of how I’m not accepting the present moment. These reminders are good teachings in resilience.
Chogyam Trungpa writes about the discipline of the warrior in his book, “Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.” Warriors work for a cause greater than themselves, and therefore they must abandon the ego.
We see the embrace of meditation and contemplation in 14th century Christianity in works such as “The Cloud of Unknowing.” The book that follows, “The Book of Privy Counseling,” advances this prayer of quiet, of moving beyond defining God.
So many of us seek answers outside ourselves, but the questions themselves might be meaningless if we don’t look within. Some books have the ability to shake us up, turning the questions inward. Choose those.
The Dalai Lama calls for us to come together in spiritual dialogue—to recognize what we have in common. The natural world gives evidence of a force that lives around us and within us, connecting all of us.
When a loved one is sick, you adopt a mindset to help you cope and accept. Mine is “quid hoc ad aeternitatum,” which means, “what is this in light of eternity?” You make choices that are enduring and don’t waste time or energy on trivial matters.
How often do we speak from the ego? Sometimes it’s best to choose silence, especially if our ego wants to “win” an argument or bring down someone else. James Allen writes about how those who have inner strength will choose silence over empty words.
Who are you outside of the labels and identities society has created? Who are you when you’re alone? You might have done self-examination several years ago, but you might have evolved. It’s important for us to be aware of how our reactions and perceptions affect others so we can continue to effect positive change in the world.
A lot of traditions note that we seek pleasure and avoid pain. This is common among many people. However, joy is something more deep-seated, rather than fleeting pleasure. Joy exists in both pleasure and pain because it connects us to something much more eternal. This passage is from Rufus Jones' "The Inner Life."
It’s important to seek help when we need it, but we have to put in the necessary effort ourselves. Escaping or demanding others to change won’t bring us closer to healing ourselves. We must do the inner work.
When we don’t feel we are enough, the world reflects this idea back to us. This mindset makes us vulnerable to media and messages that persuade us that approval can be bought. However, if we imagine we’re enough, we make choices that benefit ourselves and others. You can read the text version of this at https://medium.com/@mbbrad4d
Hope can help bring a positive light that helps us in a given moment. We have to refrain from placing hope on a particular outcome, especially if it brings us out of what the present moment can teach us. This passage is from Thich Nhat Hanh.
How often do we live life on autopilot? We get into the car, insisting on filling the silence with music or other audio. We also reach for our phones during moments of waiting, filling empty spaces with entertainment. We lose our ability to focus and accept the mundane if we don’t practice cultivating them.
When feeling anxious or depressed about things we lack or crave, we can get stuck in this mind state, which brings more lack and craving. Taking a few moments to focus our attention on what we DO have can help us shift out of our negative mindset, even if it is just for a moment. However, with practice and consistency, we allow gratitude to be a balm for what aches our hearts.
We can adopt a religious or spiritual practice, but it’s important to reflect on our own lives. According to St. Teresa of Avila, humility grounds us and gives us proper perspective. However, she says, sometimes we are called to fly.
Our religious practice might seem strange to others because it is different from their own. But it is not wrong if it cultivated compassion and honors a divine connection among humanity. Here’s a passage from a foreword from the Dalai Lama in the book, “The Mystic Heart” by Wayne Teasdale.
As I watch a movie about the existence of angels, it calls to mind some of the things that I believe. Your beliefs might not have evidence, but ask yourself—do your beliefs inspire you to be a kinder, more peaceful person to others? Do your beliefs bring you a state of calm?
Martin Luther King gave his life in service of a greater mission. Great leaders transcend their ego and seek to bridge people, cultures, and nations. James Taylor echoes this sentiment in his song, Shed A Little Light, which starts with the words, “Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King.”
As many people’s New Year’s resolutions begin to wane, we can always begin again. Rather than setting a date to do something, why not start now? If you don’t succeed today, take heart—you can always start again tomorrow, or in an hour.
We can try to prove someone wrong, we can argue our point of view, or we can throw a tantrum or bully others to get our way. It means nothing if it doesn’t bring us together. Our political, religious or cultural views may differ, but we can remember that we are all connected through our spirit.
Ram Dass’ Love, Serve, Remember Foundation keeps his spirit alive by reposting his blogs, articles and archives. This is a letter of encouragement to keep our hearts open to compassionate action in the world.
This passage from the Mundaka Upanishad honors how deep, how wide is the Lord of Love. Although this part of Indian spirituality, it resonates the Psalms of David. This translation is by Eknath Easwaran
Most of us might be aware of our physical bodies, especially when we experience pain. Have you developed an awareness of your “inner body?” This passage from Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” gives us a simple method of becoming aware of our energy body.
Although we might find comfort with others, it’s important for us to spend time alone. The ego finds it uncomfortable, but our authentic self breathes fresh air, unencumbered from societal expectations. This passage is from Osho’s book, “Love, Freedom, and Aloneness.”
I find it interesting that so many people are attached to traditions that no longer serve. They hold fast and cling to things that no longer serve a purpose. Anthony de Mello echoes this sentiment in this parable.
Life can seem like a roller coaster. We encounter a thrill ride of ups and downs. The Yoga Sutras remind us that if we want to shine our inner light, we should seek balance, not letting the thrills disturb our inner calm.
During times of excess, we feel the need to “do without” to restore a sense of balance in our lives. Deepak Chopra emphasizes that we should look at our lives and communities with this same sense of wholeness. This passage is from “The Shadow Effect.”
In our desire to fit in or conform, we often suppress our creative spirit. The more we suppress, the more unfulfilled we will feel. Martha Graham offered these beautiful words of inspiration to one of her students.
Rituals and routines are roads that provide us with a means for living, whether they are as simple as a routine of getting ready for work or a family ritual to maintain the family’s identity. It’s always important, though, for us to ask which routines help us grow, and which keep us fixed in a mindset rooted in a culture that no longer exists.
Rather than trying to persuade or force your point of view, practice contemplating the basic human-heartedness that connects us all. This passage is from Gaylord Ferguson in the collection of essays, “Radical Compassion.”
Raise your hand if you’re impatient! So many times we demand things to happen before they (or we) are ready. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us to awaken to the “new spirit gradually forming within you.”
C.S. Lewis writes about aspects of morality in his book, “Mere Christianity.” He never judges, and he writes honestly of the human condition. This passage echoes the current issues of division in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Covering up our dark side, or our shadow, can cause us much pain and anxiety because it doesn’t allow us to live authentically. Debbie Ford, before her passing, wrote how important it is for us to “become intimate with our shadow.” This passage is from “The Shadow Effect,” a book that she co-wrote with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson.
In a society that offers infinite distractions, it’s most important for us to consider the bliss that can be found in “ananda,” the bliss of being. This is a passage from “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.
The Chandogya Upanishad has some thematic parallels to the Gospel of John. Both speak, “In the beginning...” You can hear themes of loving one another. I also seem to like saying “certainly” this morning. Call it “end-of-semester” brain clog.
It’s ironic how we abandon dogma associated with religion, yet we adopt various dogmatic practices when it comes to the physical body. Although US culture emphasizes the physical, yoga is more about the inward journey.
The Tao Te Ching has many teachings on leadership. This episode reads two versions—one from Stephen Mitchell and the other from Andy Smallman. Contemplate how this teaching could apply to our leaders today.
When you approach the world with kindness, the world approaches you likewise. Andy Smallman’s Tao of Kindness embraces the Tao Te Ching through this lens of kindness. You can read this work at https://kindliving.net/tao/. If you listen closely, you can hear my girl dog sniffing around for her chewie.
It’s important to evaluate information you take in because it affects your opinions and beliefs. Often we take in information that conforms to our beliefs because it makes us comfortable. The yoga sutras discusses the importance of pramana, or correct perception of our environment. Nicolai Bachman defines pramana in a concrete way.
One text that is often conflated with depression is "Dark Night of the Soul" by St. John of the Cross. However, this spiritual text is a call for a deeper faith. His poem "The Ascent of the Mount" describes how it's important to let go of the sensual in order to obtain the spiritual. Much of his work echoes the Buddhist principle of non-attachment.
Rather than react to situations that bring about our anger, it might be a call for us to recognize how we might be continually creating situations that stir up anger. Thubden Chodron writes about how our actions--and reactions--affect others.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with schedules and to-do lists, but it’s equally important to recognize our connection to a higher purpose. This passage from Lama Surya Das is a reminder for us to see our connection to others and the Big Picture of our lives.
Andy Smallman breathes the Tao Te Ching using 21st Century language. His efforts to promote kindness in our world can bring peace within ourselves and our communities. You can find his work at https://kindliving.net/tao/
Although we might say, "honesty is the best policy," do we abide by it? Leo Tolstoy speaks about truth many times in his "Wise Thoughts for Every Day." Truth isn't as much of a policy that we engage here or there, but it is a means of being. We should live in truth and act in honest, authentic ways. By doing this, we set a good example for others.
Our minds often carry the busyness of our lives into a meditation practice. Sometimes it helps to center yourself with some sacred words. This is one practice of centering—Lectio Divina—which has been practiced for centuries. Give yourself a few moments during the last reading to savor contemplation.
When we encounter difficulties with others, meditating on compassion can put our hearts at ease. This metta meditation generates compassion for ourselves, those we love, those for whom we feel indifference, and those with whom we struggle. Then we send this compassion to the world.
St Therese de Lisieux had a strong, inspiring devotion to Christ. She prayed and participated in church not because she had to, but because her love attracted her. She felt “drawn” to God, so she chose love over fear.
Thomas Merton wrote about spiritual truth that resonates with many religious and spiritual traditions. Here’s a passage about how frustration ensues when we demand for the world to bend to our selfish desires.
Marianne Williamson’s book, “Healing the Soul of America,” focuses on a spiritual approach to politics—one that’s grounded in humanity rather than division. We know that fulfillment based on materialism is temporal, so she suggests a different, more sustainable, approach.
Many of us struggle with loneliness, looking for someone or something to take our loneliness away. Henri Nouwen Writes about loneliness in his book “Reaching Out.” Loneliness is a condition that we all experience, but by facing this loneliness, we can transform it into a blissful experience of solitude.
Leo Tolstoy is better known for “War and Peace,” but it is said that he kept a series of essays by his bedside. This collection of essays, compiled in “Wise Thoughts for Every Day,” speak eternal truth about faith, pride, justice, and work. This episode is about pride, and it comes from the translation by Peter Sekirin.
In a busy and distracted world, sometimes we forget that we have a purpose to fulfill. John Henry Newman reminds us that we all have a mission in our lives unique to us, whether we attend to it or not.
Why add to the negativity in this world? You can take the advice of Og Mandino, who said, “Greet this day with love in your heart.” This mantra can begin melting a negative state and help attract more positive moments—or at least help you notice them.