Friday, December 27, 2013

Too good not to share....




"In 1588, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan, confiscated the swords, daggers, and spears belonging to every citizen. He announced they would be melted down and used to make a giant Buddha statue. I'd love to see you undertake a comparable transformation in 2014, Capricorn. You shouldn't completely shed all your anger and pugnacity, of course; a certain amount is valuable, especially when you need to rouse yourself to change situations that need to be changed. But it's also true that you could benefit from a reduction in your levels of combativeness. What if you could "melt down" some of your primal rage and use the energy that's made available to build your personal equivalent of a Buddha icon?" --Rob Brezsny, Free Will Astrology (www.freewillastrology.com)


I have shared Rob Brezsny's wisdom on my blog before and felt this one was a gem. If you have never read him, check him out! Even if you are not "into" astrology his horoscopes are insightful and entertaining. Couldn't we all stand to turn some of our rage into Buddhaness? 

Peace & Love always,
Lara

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy in Anicca

"The great thing about JOY is not that it lasts, but that it always comes around again." --The Universe

As I have mentioned, I struggled this time at the ten-day silent meditation retreat I went on last month. One of the things I struggled with, ironically, was the lack of JOY I felt in the discipline and austerity of the program this time.

Normally I am very comfortable with this kind of environment. Discipline. Austerity. To-the-minute timekeeping. These are things at which most mid-western-raised adults excel. Not this time. This time I was hungry for joy, for freedom, even a little bit of excess.

I knew this flew in the face of the idea of anicca, or impermanence.

The whole point of this meditation is to learn not to crave positive feelings and sensations, as well as not to have aversion to negative feelings and sensations, because both have the inherent quality of impermanence, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to feel some JOY.

So on my daily post-lunch walk I was contemplating craving for JOY and The Universe sent me this little gem about JOY, which made me feel JOYful.

And this is the thing that the meditation is getting at. The great thing about JOY is not that it lasts, the great thing about HAPPINESS is not that it lasts, the great thing about anything we perceive as positive is not that it lasts, but that it always comes around again.

AND, the great thing about ANGER, the great thing about PAIN, the great thing about anything we perceive as negative is that it eventually goes away and we are left, once again, with JOY.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Seasonal Review

"The Four Agreements: 1. Be impeccable with your word; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Don’t make assumptions; 4. Always do your best. ” --Don Miguel Ruiz
 
There are certain quotes that come back to me again and again. This one - not so much a quote as a recipe for living - is one of those and it seems particularly appropriate to review it as Christmas week looms.

#2 especially has been on my mind today: Don't Take Anything Personally.

My guides have reminded me of this agreement at exactly the moment I needed it most over the past couple of weeks. When someone I am around is in a bad mood, my first instinct is to think they are mad at me or that I did something to cause their bad mood. How insane is this?

Because of this agreement, instead of reacting to what I presume to be their anger at me, I have asked myself this question:

What if their bad mood has nothing to do with me? 

Just asking this question wakes me up and makes me realize that while there is a small possibility I have done something to make this person mad, it is much more likely that they are tired or had a fight with their spouse or are worried about their job or stressed out about the holidays. And this saves so much time and energy.

I don't have to spin out in a whirlwind of thoughts about what I could have done. I don't have to launch into a mental defense of my actions. I don't have to feel the negative emotions that my monkey mind creates.

Instead I can focus on #4 Doing My Best. To meet them where they are, to not let their bad mood spread and to treat them with lovingkindness in hopes that this will help assuage whatever hurts they are carrying.

If you are interested in learning more about the Four Agreements, there is a great overview here. Try them out this holiday season and let me know how they work for you!

[ Join me in 30 Days of Forgiveness starting January 2nd, 2014! "To err is human; to forgive, divine." (Alexander Pope)]


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Airlines are Right

"Help Yourself First." --S.N. Goenka

In one of his nightly lectures via videotape, S.N. Goenka advised against getting involved in any situation or taking any action until you are feeling equanimous

If you know anything about Vipassana meditation, you know it is all about equanimity. Equanimity is the thing.

Equanimity is defined as, "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation." I like to think of it as getting to neutral.

This advice reminded me of the part in the airline safety speech about putting on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others and made me realize how often I leap into situations when my equanimity is something less than perfect.

This is especially true when my kids are fighting. Nothing gets under my skin like the two of them going at it. Invariably I jump in, blood pressure rising, voice raised, and more often than not, make things worse.

There are certainly times when we need to let our instincts take over and just act, but I don't think this is required as often as we do it.

More often than not, a step backward, a few deep breaths, a few moments in neutral can help us navigate the tricky situations in our lives with much more presence, more consciousness and more equanimity. And that helps everyone.

[ Join me in 30 Days of Forgiveness starting January 2nd, 2014! "To err is human; to forgive, divine." (Alexander Pope)]

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2000

"A Spiritual Catalyst is someone who precipitates change for the betterment of all." --Reverend Karen Lindvig at Seattle Unity Church on December 8, 2013

This quote struck me not in and of itself, but because of the two questions that Reverend Karen posed afterwards:

Who has been a Spiritual Catalyst for you? 

AND

For whom have you been a Spiritual Catalyst? 

The first one was easy. Whenever I think of someone who has pushed me to expand, who has opened up the world of Spirit to me, I always think about my sister-in-law.

When I first met her I thought she was bat-shit crazy. She did my numerology at Thanksgiving, sent me on a shamanic journey the first time we went to visit her and gave me a psychic reading for my birthday.

I was pissed. I DID NOT want to have the reading. When she brought her friend "the Psychic" over to our house my attitude was, "Let's just get this over with."
 
Within minutes of starting my reading, I was crying, and by the time it was over I was hugging them both and making a list in my head of everyone I knew who I wanted to have a reading.

When my sister was diagnosed with Cancer a few short months later, I advised her to call my sister-in-law's friend. That reading gave her hope, and a roadmap for living a life that didn't include dying of Cancer.

I would not be where I am today if it were not for my sister-in-law acting as a Spiritual Catalyst, even in the face of my fear and confusion (and sometimes even a bit of eye-rolling) whenever she introduced me to the latest thing she was exploring.

The second question gave me pause.

I can certainly think of a few people for whom I may have acted as a Spiritual Catalyst - either for better or for worse, since it does often seem to work in one of those two ways - but if I am honest, more often than not, I keep my spiritual side on the DL.

Not many people who know me know the extent to which I am into the woo-woo thing. It's not something I talk about openly or share easily, especially with people who I think may not be into spirituality or God.

Answering this question honestly made me realize that I am wasting a lot of time and many, many opportunities to be a Spiritual Catalyst for others and that this is something I want to change.

I WANT to share what I have learned in the seventeen years since that first numerology reading, or I wouldn't be writing this blog. In order to do that I have to "come out" to my friends and acquaintances, I have to start sharing more of who I really am on Facebook and tweeting more often about what I am up to.

And, I have to get out there in the world and BE that Spiritual Catalyst for other people.

So, in the spirit of being a Spiritual Catalyst I am announcing today that starting on January 2nd,  2014 I will be hosting an event I am calling 30 Days of Forgiveness.

Over the 30-day period from January 2nd to January 31st I will be doing daily forgiveness work using a writing exercise specifically designed for this purpose and I invite you to join me.

I imagine hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of people, all starting off the year with a clean slate, a clear mind and an open heart as a result of dedicating thirty days to forgiving those who we feel have wronged us and to forgiving ourselves for the ways in which we have wronged others. What an impact we could make on the world!

I can't wait to get started and I hope that you will join me. Watch this site (and Facebook and Twitter!) for more information.

[NB Two quick things:

1) This quote has the distinct honor of being the 2000th quote that I have written down since I started writing quotes down in earnest (sometime back in 2005). It took me around six years to accumulate 1000 quotes and about two and a half years to rack up 1000 more so I am guessing I will reach 3000 sometime in 2016...

2) A SHOUT OUT & BIG THANKS to my sister-in-law for being a Spiritual Catalyst for me in this lifetime. There have been countless others, but you were the first and I am ever grateful. Love you!]

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life Mastery

"You are the master of your own life; you are the master of your own future." --Gautama the Buddha

One of many quotes from the retreat whose basic message is: you create your reality.

What the Buddha is saying here is that we decide each day, each moment what kind of life we want to live by HOW we live it. By how we act. By how we think. By how we treat others. By how we treat ourselves.

Decide what kind of life you want to live and then plant the seeds of that life.

At the retreat S.N. Goenka told a story during one of the nightly video-taped discourses, about a man who planted seeds from the Neem tree (known for its bitter fruit) on his land. When the tree grew and began to produce fruit he was very upset that the fruit it produced was bitter and not sweet like sugar cane.

Of course we are meant to laugh at this man for his foolishness, but are we any different?

We lie, we cheat, we steal (in large or in small ways), we give into anger and then we want life to reward us with people who tell us the truth, deal honestly with us in business and speak kindly to us.

But that's just not the way it works.

We reap what we sow, either in this lifetime or another. Better to sow seeds of love, compassion, truth and kindness and reap the sweet fruit of these virtues than to sow anger, hatred and lies and reap the bitter fruit of those seeds.

In this way we truly become the master of our own life; the master of our own future.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Smiling helps :)

While sitting for hours - HOURS - in meditation during my most-recent Vipassana retreat, I remembered something I read recently in Malcolm Gladwell's book, "blink" - that our bodies don't know the difference between a fake smile and a real smile.

That when we smile, certain chemicals are released, certain reactions take place, in our body that make us feel good and our body does the same things when we fake a smile.

While observing my breath for what seemed like the 40th hour in a row, I decided to give it a try and - low and behold -  it works! 

When I started to smile, my mind calmed down, my body relaxed and I could turn my attention to my meditation once again, instead of focusing on the pain, discomfort and sometimes overwhelming boredom I felt.

Smiling, even when I was faking it, really did help.