Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Religion and Spirituality

"I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality. Religion I take to be concerned with belief in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another--an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of meta-physical or philosophical reality, including perhaps an idea of heaven or hell. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual, prayers and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit--such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which bring happiness to both self and others."

"The unifying characteristic of the qualities I have described as 'spiritual' may be said to be some level of concern for others' well-being. . . . And when we think about them, we see that each of the qualities noted is defined by an implicit concern for others' well-being. Moreover, the one who is compassionate, loving, patient, tolerant, forgiving, and so on to some extent recognizes the potential impact of their actions on others and orders their conduct accordingly. Thus spiritual practice according to this description involves, on the one hand, acting out of concern for others' well-being. On the other, it entails transforming ourselves so that we become more readily disposed to do so. To speak of spiritual practice in any terms other than these is meaningless."  --The Dalai Lama in Ethics for the New Millennium

I like this definition of spirituality and how it differs from religion.  I would add the element of connection to self/soul to it, though.  My spiritual journey has that aspect as its main focus, and it's only then that I can be concerned with the qualities that bring happiness to others.  It goes back to that precept of loving yourself first.  We need, perhaps, to nourish our own self-worth, love, and kindness in order to be in a place where we can effectively give those things to others freely. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Believe, Begin, Become

I saw these three words, "Believe, Begin, Become," on the side of a city bus today on my way to the gym. They were, I believe, an ad for a local college, but they struck me as the perfect ad for living life. This does involve change, by the way, as mentioned in the previous post.  But, for those who are faint-hearted about change, this does give you some direction you can perhaps get used to.  Don't think for a minute that you can control it, but you can put the intention out to the universe or God and watch it work for you.

Believe! The Little Engine That Could kept telling himself, "I think I can, I think I can," and, of course, he did it. Even better is "I can do it."  See yourself as that successful college student, or happy partner in a relationship, or athlete crossing that finish line.  Visualize it completely, with all five senses.  What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like?  Build that vision, and believe it fully.  All great things start with a vision, but you have to believe it to fix it in your mind and heart.  Don't let doubt or negative thoughts derail you.  Of course they will try to sneak in, but dismiss them and forget them.  Come back to the vision and the belief.  Remember the movie, Rudy? The young man from a family of steel workers had the dream of going to Notre Dame and playing football.  He believed he could, so he walked up to the door of Notre Dame University and told them.  He wasn't deterred by his size, his lack of preparation for college, or his background.  For those who haven't seen the film, I won't tell you what happens.  But until you have the vision and believe it, only random, crazy things happen to you, not for you.

The first step is always the hardest, but it's a lot easier if you believe.  Make that phone call, fill out that application, talk to someone who can help you, do your research, get the first few words out of your mouth.  Beginning takes just one small step, word, or action.  Energy is put into motion and things start happening rapidly for you.  There is not a right or wrong decision, there is just a decision to begin and then it all unfolds before you.

You'll BECOME who or what you want to become by keeping your focus. Keep your eye on the prize and it will be yours, or you will become it! Day by day, step by step. Sometimes we become something or someone so gradually, we don't notice it until something cause our eyes and minds to open and we think, "Wow! I guess I really am (respected/successful/professional/whatever)!"  Then you truly live it. Well done.

"Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it. " --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 23, 2012

Keep Moving

It is 2012, and all the spiritualists, mystics, astrologers, and shamans tell us this is a Year of Change. In fact, everything is changing, and it's happening rapidly.  If you don't face it and embrace it, you'll be left behind, caught in a time warp, or maybe just disappear. 

My favorite poster on Facebook today said this: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."  I firmly believe this and have been a proponent for many years.  "If the horse is dead, dismount." "What doesn't grow, dies."  "The only thing you can count on for sure is change."

I'm always surprised when people say they don't like change (or they show it in various ways), because I personally love change.  "I had to move out of Illinois or die of boredom," I've told many people.  So Europe became my home for the next twenty years.  Routine, to me, is boring.  I have to change it up.  One time I was given five sections of the same class to teach.  The principal thought he/she was doing me a favor by giving me only one preparation.  I about went crazy!  By the fifth section, I had re-written the textbook and challenged everything in it.  When I get bored, I travel, get out of town, out of the country, anything!  This keep me sane, and, I believe, youthens me (I refuse to age; I youthen.). 

Because the universe is constantly changing, if we don't change, too, we will have problems--unhappiness, discontent, boredom, inertia, even depression.  Surprisingly, some people have anxiety over having to change.  To me, that's the excitement of living!  How boring to stay the same or have your life stay the same! But, taken out of their familiarity, even if it is producing any of those problems, these people resist, falter, fight, or flee.  What they don't understand is you can't go back.  You can only move forward, and the sooner you face it and embrace it, the happier you will be. 

A big part of change involves self-growth, and perhaps that is what frightens people who resist change. "God buries the purpose for our life within us, and our excitement and self-growth lies in discovering and identifying it," write Ron Roth. And, "God's plan is for us to reinvent ourselves and our work constantly as we go along."  So, I, for one, am excited about discovering my purpose, my work!  Although teaching was the purpose and work of the first part of my life, I am now seeking my next purpose and work.  This is a very exciting prospect, as I think it will have to do with healing and energy as an outgrowth of my experience with meditation and Reiki. I can feel things moving in my life and I willingly am embracing them.

Change is inevitable and it's a good thing.  (Maybe that's why I'm a liberal, too.)  We are all energy beings wrapped up in physical bodies.  And energy is never still; it's moving.  It's vibrational. The way I understand it, our energy is centered in our chakras, which are a series of cone-shaped vortices which spin and vibrate and make up our core energy. They are three-dimensional and extend well into the body from our spine (nervous system), spinning around a central column like large wheels that spiral out.  What I have learned in meditation and Reiki is that we can feel and even control this energy to heal ourselves and others, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So, I am embracing this quest to learn how to do this.  And this blog will chronicle my journey, my change, and perhaps it will nudge someone else to "face it and embrace it."  Change is a good thing, a breath of fresh air, a new light.

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
(Percy Shelley, "Ode to the West Wind")