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Monday, December 31, 2007

A Year In Review: Putting It All Together

Welcome to tonight's final installment of our Year In Review series. For more on our individual reviews, see the links below:

The Journey
The Daily Grind

Tonight we will look at the big picture. After looking over all the reviews above, it's time to ask yourself some general questions for you 2008 action plan. You will recognize some of these from before. So, here goes...

1. What actions do I need to incorporate into my daily routine for the best spiritual development?

2. Who are my spiritual family and how will I stay in touch with them?

3. How has my attitude affected my overall spiritual development and what can I do to change it where it's needed?

4. What can I do to build more healthy relationships next year?

5. How can I incorporate daily meditation and prayer in my routine?

6. Will I go to church or attend other spiritual functions?

7. How can I communicate to those I care about when I'm upset in a healthy way?

Well, that's it for tonight. When you wake up, it will be a brand new year, giving you a clean slate and a chance to put your plans into action. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Year in Review: Relationships

We teach people how to treat us. By fostering healthy relationships with others, we are also forging healthy relationships with our Higher Spirit and ourselves.

Many people believe that all you need to do is follow the Golden Rule, and do unto others as you would like them to do for you. But building healthy relationships is more than that.

Whether romantic or not, we have to learn to trust the people in our lives. We do that by not being jealousy or possessive. People need space. Just because someone is with us doesn't mean that they're trashing us behind out backs. And this does apply to friends as well. Good friendships get ruined when we are jealous of what our friends do without us.

Communication is key. Anyone can talk about the weather, or the football games. But we have to be able to talk about what matters to us. And that includes letting someone know when they have said or done something that hurt us.

So, relationships are a large part of our lives. As yourself the following questions:

1. Have I tried to develop close bonds with at least two people than my significant other?

2. Am I patient, considerate and giving to my friends and family? What could I do to improve?

3. Do I gossip about others when they're not around? When does this usually happen and how can I stop?

4. Do I communicate with my friends? Do I address issues as they come up or ignore them? What are some things I can say when upset?

5. Do I keep in touch with my friends? Am I concerned with others and keep up with the latest happenings in their life, or do I only call when I have problems?

6. What can I do to show those in my life I appreciate them?

Now that you have honestly assessed your relationship situation, you are on the way to making an action plan for 2008. Stay tuned tomorrow when we put it all together in our final review.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Year In Review: The Journey

From your attitude to your daily routine, every action you take and attitude you hold affects your ability to be happy. Today we're going to talk about our journey on the spiritual path.

Whether you're three steps on the path or 50, its important to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Even those of us who have been on our journey longer than others still might step to the side from time to time to see if the grass is truly greener on the other side. For me, stepping off the path reminds me why I'm on it in the first place.

So now it's question time. Some of these may be familiar from yesterday's review, so bear with me...

1. Do I meditate and pray? How often and how much?

2. Have I taken the time to explore all my spiritual options? Do I incorporate the ones that work for me?

3. Have I found a spiritual family? How often do I stay in contact with them?

4. Do my actions promote my spiritual beliefs? How? Where can I improve?

5. Do I read books or scripture that relate to my beliefs? How often?

6. Do I attend services relevant to my spiritual beliefs?

7. Do I have a spiritual mentor, someone I know who is willing to help?

8. How have my spiritual beliefs changed me? What else can I do?

Good job! These are some soul-searching questions, and it takes courage to be thorough and answer them honestly. Stay tuned for tomorrow's review!

New Layout

Hope everyone likes the new layout. Please let me know if it is hard to read so I can adjust it if need be.


Friday, December 28, 2007

A Year In Review: The Daily Grind

We talked about actions yesterday, and took a good look at what was working and what wasn't. Today, we are going to talk about actions, too, but it a different context.

A solid daily routine is truly an important building block to spiritual development. With competing interests tugging at us everywhere we turn, from work to family to domestic responsibilities, its easy to start cutting back in the very areas where we should be beefing up.

Thich Nhat Hanh recommends a period of daily sitting meditation for one hour. One hour! That may be easy for a Zen master who lives in a monastery, but for us laypeople, that can be a tough choice. An hour may seem unreasonable, but once we start prioritizing, it really isn't anything more than 1/24th of our day.

To look at building a solid foundation to your spiritual kingdom, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I have a routine? Or is not having a routine my routine?

2. How much television do I watch in one day, one week?

3. Do I pray in the morning and at night? How often do I meditate and for how long?

4. Do I give myself alone time at least once a week?

5. Where can I delegate responsibility? Where should I be helping more?

6. What can I do to make my time more manageable?

7. Am I a morning person or a night person?

Take a deep breath, and get yourself into a state of mindfulness. Ask yourself these questions, and honestly evaluate each one. Take a look at where you can change. TV is called the "plug-in drug," and for good reason. Try spending a week without it, and see how much more productive you become. Television should be a reward, not a necessity.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year in Review: Actions

Yesterday we talked about how attitudes can make a difference in living a spiritual life. Today, we need to look at actions and how these can also affect your spiritual condition.

Take a look at the following questions:

1. Was I kind to everyone I came in contact with?

2. Did my actions reflect an unselfish attitude?

3. Was I giving, or did I always try to protect my own interests?

4. Did I spend time engaging in spiritually and intellectually stimulating activities, or was it all mindless entertainment?

5. Do I attempt to nuture healthy relationships and create strong bonds through my actions?

These questions will give you a jumpstart to assessing your actions and determining a better course for the new year. Actions are important, as they are what other measure us by. All the intentions in the world won't do any good.

Remember, you may judge yourself by your intentions, but the world judges you be your actions.

Spend some time breathing tonight, and while in a mindful state honestly look at your actions. Don't forget to look at the good as well as the bad.

That's all for tonight. Tomorrow we'll discuss another important thing: your daily routine.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Year in Review: An Attitude of Gratitude

Everyday from now until the rest of the year, we will be doing a review of our lives until this point, focusing of a different aspect each day. Tonight's topic is attitude.

Having an "attitude of gratitude" is someting we all should be striving to achieve. Take the time to ask yourselves these simple questions to give yourself an attiiude resolution for the new year:

1. Do I tend to look at the negative aspects of a situation, or is my outlook more balanced?

2. Do I whine and complain, or am I positive?

3. Do I find myself taking on responsibilities and then doing them with a bad disposition because I really don't want to do them?

4. Am I unhappy in general, or just some of the time?

5. Am I dissatisfied with my life, or only certain aspects of it?

6. How do I act around people I do not like or when my friends decide to do things I don't want to do?

Once you answer these questions to yourself, you can make a resolution to change your attitude.

We all have things we don't want to do. But when we go into these things with an attitude of disgust or reluctance, we will never be happy. We must view the things we have to do as important ways to allow us to do the things we want to do.

A general sense of unhappiness is the sign of deeper problems, as no matter how good things get, you will not be satisfied. You need to look at the positive in your life, no matter how hard it may be. Focus on the things that you enjoy, and stop trying to control everything.

So, get going and enjoy everything you do, or at least try to. A good attitude makes life more bearable.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Today is Christmas. I hope you had a great one. For me, I got a chance to slow down and spend time with the people I care about the most. Though my family lives far away, I wasn't homesick this year like last year.

We talked yesterday about being thankful, and I hope you got a chance to show your gratitude today for those you care about. Today I don't want to spend any time giving advice or looking to lessons. Those will resume again tomorrow.

Take the time to kiss someone under the mistletoe today and dance your cares away. We'll be here waiting tomorrow when you come back. Promise.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Slacking Again

Have you noticed how my posts have gotten later and later in the day? I apologize for slacking. My life has become so full as things happen and I keep trying to follow a routine. I hope you are having a great holiday. As for me, lots of good things are going on:

1. My sister had her baby a little less than 3 hours ago.

2. I did not have to do any last minute shopping or wrapping of presents.

3. I got off of work early and have Wednesday off.

4. I won $100 in a contest yesterday that I didn't even know I was in!

As you can see, I have a lot to be grateful for. Count your many blessings, and remember that there are a lot less fortunate than you. Be thankful that you are able to share the season with those you love. Not everyone has that opportunity.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Judge not...

If we are mindful, we will notice when a person gives us a bad feeling. It might not be what they say. Maybe they look like someone we would rather forget. We must look past our judgements. It is the season for caring, which includes caring for those people we would rather not care for.

By suspending judgement, we learn to accept people that we would not have in the past. This is what our Higher Spirit wants for us. There are plenty of people who put up with you, even though they might have been annoyed.

In the spirit of love, we need to learn to accept others. When you feel yourself bothered by a person, you need to look deep within yourself. Why do you feel this way? Is it the person who bothers you, or do they remind you of someone else, even yourself?

Take a deep breath, and say something to yourself like, "may I learn to look upon this person with the same love and tolerance that others look upon me."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Relax...You deserve it

Tonight I am stepping off of my soapbox. No more preaching for me today. With the holidays upon us and feeling drained from a long week, its time to kick my feet up. So I have only three little words of advice. Relax. You deserve it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tapping An Unknown Source

Do you feel beat down? Tired? Worn out? Stressed? All of the above?

If you do, there's no need to worry. Now that we are practicing getting in touch with God (or whatever you want to call it), you no longer need to do it all. And when you need to keep going and don't feel like you have the energy, you can call on your newfound friend to carry you that last mile.

Mindfulness teaches us to be aware at all times. If we are practicing, our energy will not feel like it's been zapped all at once. We can see it coming, like a car accident in the movies. Unlike the movies, however, we have enough time to bail out. We can change.

The most important thing to do when you feel like this is to pray. Share with that group of people you found your feelings. And adjust accordingly.

Don't keep on running until you pull a quad muscle and you're out of the race. Slow down. Don't do what you don't have to. And if you still feel like it's too much, turn it over to your Higher Spirit. Whenever you do this, and sometimes it may be often, you are tapping an unknown source.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Doing the Dishes

Mindfulness is not just about meditation. The goal of mindfulness is to live your entire life in perfect concentration, one task at a time. This can be hard for us Americans, as we learned that multitasking is a way to be efficient. But in truth, you can only do one thing at a time, no matter how many things you are doing at the same time.

Studies show that multitasking actually decreases your efficiency because of your scattered focus. When you are doing something, put your focus on the task at hand. Do not think about tomorrow or last week. We can marry mindfulness with the mundane in everyday tasks like doing dishes.

While most of us are fortunate to have a dishwasher, washing dishes by hand is a good practice. Imagine that you have been entrusted to bathe the baby Buddha. Wash each dish with the care and attention as you would this holy child. Don't forget to keep breathing all along, focusing only on the task at hand.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It All Starts With the Breath

When learning mindfulness, the first place to start is with the breath.

Take a few deep breaths in and out. Notice the rise and fall of your stomach. There are several ways to learn breathing to bring you back to being mindful.

First, keep count of your breath. Start at one, and count one for your inhale and exhale, and increase it to two on your second inhalation. Count all the way up to ten, and then go back to one. By the time you have counted to ten and back, you will be completely relaxed.

This is just one way to cultivate mindfulness through using your breath. You can also do it more simply by taking three deep breaths anytime you feel disturbed.

Thich Nhat Hanh states that an enlightened being lives mindfulness 24 hours a day.

Find your own path to mindfulness. Start breathing today. It all starts with the breath.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Everyday a New Beginning

Every morning when you wake up, look out the window and thank your Higher Spirit that you are blessed with a new day. A new day bring endless possibilities.

You are never stuck living the same old dreary life everyday. Today you can make a difference. You can start over.

It doesn't matter if you are eight or eighty, it's never too late for you to start again. That's what spirituality is all about. But you need to be mindful. Mindful of what is working in your life and what isn't.

Through the spirit of mindfulness, you can change your mood. Or your mind. Or your life. By knowing where your problems are, you have the ability to change them.

Remember that inventory we talked about? Pull it out right now.

Take that list and set 10 goals for yourself for 2008. And don't wait to start working at them. You can do it today, or tomorrow. This gives you time to start building a foundation that will last a lifetime. And just to show you I am walking the talk, I will list my ten goals right now.

My 2008 Goals:

1. Stop trying to control certain areas of my life where I just can't seem to loosen the reigns such as my relationship, my job.

2. Work my way up to at least 30 minutes of meditation and prayer daily.

3. Position myself to be able to work at home by 2009.

4. Attend my local Sangha at least twice a month and get to know other members.

5. Walk in the morning everyday before work.

6. Daily written inventory.

7. Not to take myself too seriously.

8. Save money for a journey to Egypt to visit a friend.

9. Get myself a little more out of debt.

10. Write about my journey daily here.

So, you see that spirituality and life are intertwined, which is why some of my goals seem more mundane. But they have a direct correlation with my spiritual condition, which is why they are so important to include them here.

What are you waiting for? Get going, and comment here with your 2008 goals. Good Luck.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Back to Basics

In recovery, complacency is a recipe for disaster and a frequent topic of discussion. We talk about "getting back to basics" regularly.

As the follower of a spiritual path, I've let other mundane concerns get in the way and started to feel like I'm running on empty. So last night, I took my inventory, did some meditation, read and even prayed on my knees. When I got up this morning I got down on my knees and prayed again. I had an awesome day.

So I encourage you not to follow my example. Don't be complacent. Get back to basics everyday by praying, meditating, reading and doing inventory. You may not always have a great day, but you will start yourself out on the right foot and feel a whole lot better.

Remember that it takes about a month to build a new habit, so don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right at first. Just keep trying until you do these things without even thinking about it. Healthy habits are important and the results are spectacular.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Make Failure Work for You

In her Pushcart essay, Joyce Carol Oates talks about the truth in failure. She speaks of success as something fleeting, a kind of high you ride on until it crashes and burns. Of course, she was talking in the context of writing, but there is something we all can learn from this.

Failure, at first glance, may seem humiliating, but it actually teaches us humility. You can't be full of ego when your plans have turned to dust. Humility is an important leveller, reminding us that we are not better than others.

There is another important aspect to failure. Failure teaches us what doesn't work, clearing the way for success in the future. Without failure, not only would the path not be cleared for success, we wouldn't appreciate it if we had it.

The agonizing misery of failure is what makes success so sweet.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Telephone Meditation

Do you ever find yourself cringing everytime the telephone rings?

By practicing mindfulness, we can learn to treat the telephone differently. We learn in Buddhism that the sound of a bell is a sacred one, and we should treat all bells, even ringing phones the same way.

The next time your phone rings, instead of grabbing it the instant you see who it is, let it ring 3 times. As it rings, take a couple of deep breaths in and out and then smile as you answer the phone and say hello.

You'll be amazed at how much different the phone call goes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Losing Your Religion

While the goal of this blog is to learn to be more spiritual, something should be said about religion.

Now, before we get started, there is a huge difference between religion and spirituality. One can have one without having the other. Religion relates to a set of values and morals you share with a group, while spirituality is a way of expressing those values and morals in everyday life.

With that bring said, I want to emphasize that I am not here to convert anyone. Whether you choose to identify with a religion or not, I think with all the negativity surrounding religion it is important to focus on the positive aspects. So, what can religion do for you?

Religion allows you to learn in a group setting. A spiritual journey is fun, but it's even more fun when you have others to share it with. In addition, you get to learn from those more advanced than you and teach those who may not have yet traveled as far down the path as you.

It provides a safe place to ask questions. You don't have to worry about feeling stupid, or getting answers outside of your beliefs.

When you have problems, the elders also serve as counselors. You are protected by their vows of privacy.

So whether you pray to Jehovah, Allah or Buddha, find a group of like-minded people that you can meet with and share your joys and pains with. Life is not meant to be a solitary activity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Little Patience Goes a Long Way

During the holidays, people seem to be going non-stop. From Thanksgiving to the end of the year, there are endless parties and sales. People get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to be patient and kind.

As for me, I have been working non-stop for no apparent reason, hence the later posting times. I've come down with a cold I can't seem to shake, and my patience is wearing thin.

As a social worker, now is the time of the year when my clients are most in need and more angry than ever. I get called everything from an angel to a something else we won't mention here, being told I am personally responsible for their holiday tragedies. I have to be the bearer of bad news, and some people handle it better than others.

Today I realized something. Lately I have not dealt with everyone in the loving and patient way I wouuld want to be handled with. I seem to have forgotten in my daily journey that compassion and lovingkindness are the virtures that I am working for. In Buddhism, these are the highest qualities in a person. On my dresser I have a statue of the Boddhisatva Kwan Yin to remind me of this. Maybe I ought to take her to work.

So, this season, when you feel your temper rising, take a deep breath. Smile. And remember to be patient. Not everyone is as fortunate as you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do Something Spiritual Everyday

Tonight while folding laundry, there came a knock at the door.

There stood two men from the church my husband and I occasionally visit, inviting us to a special service on Sunday and to let us know church would be starting early this Sunday.

I apologized for our absence lately and told them we had been working a lot. I then shut my door, finished with the laundry, and got to work on my writing projects for the night. When I was done, I shut the laptop without even thinking about posting to the blog.

Then I thought to myself, what am I doing with myself?

I write everyday about becoing more spiritual, but yet I am not practicing what I preach. For me, there is lots I should be doing and very little I actually am doing.

So, instead of beating myself up, I opened up my laptop and wrote this post. At least, I am now thinking, I am doing at least one thing spiritual. Sharing my experience with you is one thing.

But the nightly inventory and lack of attendance at both my Buddhist Sangha and Baptist Church Service is another.

So tonight, dear friends, my advice is simple. Even if you don't do everything you are suppossed to, at least do one thing spiritual everyday to keep your spiritual muscles working.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Give In to Win

Ah, the American Dream. The belief that you can get whatever you want out of life as long as you work hard enough for it. But what happens when you can't seem to make things work out, no matter how hard you work? Do you give up?

Well, in a sense, yes.

That's where faith comes in. There are plenty of things in life that we may not have all the answers to. Instead of working harder to figure it out, we have to give up, in a sense. You must admit that you cannot figure it out.

But your Higher Spirit can.

We must believe that is something is meant to be, God (or whatever you choose to call him, her or it) will figure it out for you. And you doon't have to do a thing! If I made a list of all the things I couldn't figure out but came out okay, it would look something like this.

1. Career
2. Marriage
3. Bad habits
4. Financial Issues

When I look back at the list, I realize that the things I "gave up" on were the most major issues in my life. Notice the list doesn't say, "What I am going to have for dinner on March 16th, 2004." Those decisions I can handle myself. But when it comes to the big things, I gotta give up and give it to God.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Out With The Old, In With the New

As the year winds down to a close, now is the time to finish things you may have started. Look around...

Do you have projects you have started but not finished? Now's the time to do it.

Or maybe you never got around to spring cleaning and have a lot of stuff you never use laying around the house. Why not give them to a shelter or charity? Gently used items can make great gifts for those who don't have much.

Now's the time to clean out your insides, too, both spiritually and physically.

Try a detox diet to help you get healthy for the New Year and get a leg up on your resolutions. Go gently, doing some yoga and eating healthy. Stay away from fad detox diets such as purging or long-term fasting. That will only make matter worse.

Spiritually, it's time to do a year in review. This is similar to the nightly inventory you have been doing, but looks at the entire year. Write it all down, reviewing it with a close friend who shares your goals. This will give you some fodder for your New Year's Resolutions.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Letting Spirit Work Through You

What are you good at? Maybe you like to draw, paint or sing. Maybe you think you don't have a creative bone in your body. But chances are, there is something you don't know about yourself. Our Higher Spirit, whatever you choose to call him, her or it, has given you a gift to express yourself. You just don't know it yet.

Spend some time trying new things. Whether it be singing, dancing, or painting, spend some time doing things that appeal to you. Or maybe they don't. But you'll never know until you try.

My uncle, a mechanic, told me about a custom endtable he made for his boss. His boss, who he says already have everything, is a racing enthusiast. So he covered it with racing posters and put some little toy cars underneath a glass top. I was amazed at the creativity and detail that went into his gift.

I like to take pictures. I find cheap and unusual frames at places like Marshall's in the clearance section and make framed portraits for people. I did a three portrait series in a simple black frame for my grandmother of the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC. She loved it.

Scrapbooks are another hobby of mine. I love to make them, and this year I am doing one as a Christmas gift. They are rather time consuming, but its a great way to show my love for another.

My Higher Spirit works through me and allows me to show love for others through creative gifts. I'm blessed by the fact that not only do I love to write and take pictures, I'm musically inclined. I love to sing, and when I get really stressed out, nothing makes me feel better than playing on my keyboard. Even when I feel like I can't write another word, like tonight, somehow, somewhere, I get the energy to keep on writing.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Engaged Spirituality

In response to the atrocities of the Vietnam War, Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh set up a school for social work. He believed that part of his faith included standing up for what he believed in. One monk set himself on fire in protest. Thus, Engaged Buddhism, or the fusion of Buddhism with activism and social causes, was born.

The Dalai Lama continues this tradition with the peaceful protests of the treatment of Tibetans by the Chinese. He takes every opportunity possible when traveling to speak out about the plight of his people.

As spiritual people, we can practice our own Engaged Spirituality. We can stand up for what we believe is right, protesting human trafficking and other violations of civil rights. We can use our position as consumers to boycott companies that use slave labor or environmentally unfriendly practices.

Raising the awareness of others and taking responsibility to let peace grow in and shine through us will make you a shining exaple for many years to come.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Importance of the Evening Ritual

Now that you know some of the important characteristics of a spiritual person, it is time to learn some of the habits you can use to build your spiritual muscles.

The evening ritual is an important part of becoming spiritual. So, how does it work?

Every night before going to sleep, get in the habit of taking some time to reflect. First, say a prayer of thanks, and don't forget to pray for those who have made you angry.

Next, spend some time writing about your day. What did you do well? How did it make you feel? What went wrong? How did you feel then?

Finally, spend some time in meditation. Start off slow, maybe only five minutes, but try to work up to 30 each night. Pick a topic, or just concentrate on your breath.

Afterwards, you may go to sleep, but now is also a good time to do some reading on a spiritual topic of your choosing.

The benefits are endless. Meditation promotes restful sleep. Reflecting on the day allows your subconscious mind to work on it when you sleep. Writing is very therapeutic.
Photo courtesy of Eastop at (Stock XChng)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Selflessness Brings Spiritual Growth

We've mentioned the importance of building character and obstacles to mindfulness. The one charasteristic we have left out is selflessness.

The Dalai Lama says that the goal of humanity is to increase happiness and avoid suffering. One of the best ways to do this is to put the welfare of others ahead of your own. This means doing the right thing even when it is uncomfortable, or you won't get what you want.

This isn't the same as martyrdom. Selflessness means taking care of yourself as well because others are depending on you.

By focusing on the needs of others, you will find that you don't need as much as you thought. Alot of what we call "needs" are actually "wants." Helping others makes you appreciative of what you do have. When I think that my life is the worst, all I have to do is look at the fact that I have alot more than other people do.

Giving to others makes you feel good. It's not the same fading feeling as when I buy that new purse or a pair of shoes. I get true satisfaction and a feeling of calm from putting others first.

Tis' the season to be giving. There are tons of things you can do: volunteer at a local soup kitchen, pass out blankets to the homeless, donate used clothing and shoes to local shelters, or buy a gift for a family or child in need.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three Obstacles to Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Simply put, mindfulness is described as "to live fully in the present moment." In this age of multi-tasking and competing information, this is not so easy to do. So what are some things that take away from being mindful?

1. Multi-tasking: It is hard to be fully present when you are presently doing 20 things at once. Slow down and take it one step at a time.

2. Daydreaming: You cannot be in the present when you are thinking about the future. There is nothing wrong with planning ahead, but when your head's in the clouds it can be hard to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

3. Rushing: Even if you are only doing things one at a time, if you do them too fast you aren't really there when you do them. You are too busy thinking about the next big thing.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Being Spiritual Doesn't Always Mean Being So Spiritual After All

Before enlightenment...
chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment....
chop wood, carry water.

The concept of "bring spiritual" puzzles people. They imagine a guru on a mountaintop, burning incense and chanting all day. But the truth is, that being spiritual isn't all about those things. A lot of everyday, mundane stuff makes you more spiritual.

Like yesterday's post, many of the qualities of good character are also qualities you will find in a spiritual person. A person who is spiritual in nature will also:

1. Keep their commitments. They will be where they say they will when they say they will.

2. Be diplomatic. Confrontation, though a popular way to resolve conflicts, will be avoided at all costs.

3. Take their time. Spiritual people move at their own pace. Their trust and faith keep them from the rushing that many people do, especially around this time of year.

4. Be compassionate. An open heart and true empathy for others is an indicator of a great spirit.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Building Blocks of Good Character

One of the keys to spiritual development is character building. Good character is the foundation of a spiritual life, and takes time to develop. Those who aspire to build character, instead of an empire, will be rewarded many times over during the course of their lifetime.

So what's important in developing character? The following characteristics build strong character like calcium builds strong bones.

Humility: A friend describes humilty as "an honest, accurate, self-appraisal." It's the opposite of big-shotism. Develop humility by doing nice things and not telling anyone about it.

Generousity: An open heart opens the door to character. You don't have to be rich, or get rid of all your material possessions. Give your time, money, or whatever you have to those in need to sharpen this skill.

Simplicity: We like to make ourselves feel important by being sophisticated. By cutting back on complexity, we will find that good character is more important. We don't always need the latest gadgets or to engage in complex arguements to feel more important.

Honesty: No one thinks a car salesman is the best example of good character. Why? Because all those slick tricks aren't honest. No one thinks of a liar as a good person. Stop lying to others, and more importantly, stop lying to yourself. It's essential.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Wear Your Red Ribbon Today

Today is World AIDS Day. Take a moment to pray for those sick and suffering from this disease and those trying to find a cure.

This is all for today in respect for the people mentioned above.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Do Money and Spirituality Mix?

Recently, a local husband-wife pastor team was asked to disclose their personal finances to the IRS. They own 6 houses, including a mansion at a very prestigous address, several companies, and more. They earned most of this by doing the "Lord's Work."

Some church members stated they know about their extravagant lifestyle and approve of it. They said that they were "working for the King" and should present themselves as so. But did this televangelist duo go to far?

Things like this give religion, any religion, a bad name. When the leaders of a church, temple, or other organization are shown in a bad light, people begin to disbelieve. Historically, this is typical.

The Catholic Church used to sell indulgences, where one could buy their way into heaven.

The church mentioned above took donations by credit card. How one can preach financial responsibility while swiping members' VISAs is beyond me. The Bible states that one cannot serve two masters: money and God.

But there is a place for money in spirituality. Twelve-Step Groups call it "self-sufficiency," and decline outside contributions. Buddhism uses the term Dana, or genorousity, and ask for contributions to expenses. Christians tithe, or give 10% of their income to the church.

Giving to one's faith fosters responsbility and accountability. No one should be left to bear the financial burdens alone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A little bit about faith...

What is faith? Where does it come from??

Faith to me is the belief in something I cannot hear, touch, smell, taste or see. My faith grows when I make through tremendous obstacles, and still have just enough energy to get the job done. (Kinda like today. I wasn't going to post or work on paying projects.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "We are born believing. A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears apples."

That sums it up for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cultivating Humility for the Holidays

The holiday season is supposed to be the season for giving. But sometimes it seems that this is when the craziness sets in. Egos get bigger, people vie for position by having huge Christmas light displays. giving the best gifts, having the biggest parties, or making the best food. All this chaos takes away from the true spirit of the holidays, pushing humility out the window.

Kahlil Gibran says that "the smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention." You don't have to have a new wing of the local hospital names after you, or host a dinner party for 100 homeless families. In fact, the best acts of humility are often small and unnoticed. Here are 10 things to can do to start on this humble path:

1. Give to a charity in the name Anonymous.
2. Do something nice for someone everyday and not tell anyone about it.
3. Pick up trash from a local park.
4. Make small gifts or crafts and leave them in a public area with a sign saying, "Free, take one."
5. Help a child get up after falling down.
6. Smile at everyone you come across during the day, whether you know them or not.
7. Leave a bag of groceries at someone's door with a note saying Happy Holidays.
8. Donate travel-size toiletries to the local homeless shelter.
9. Adopt a child through a charity and don't tell anyone about it.
10. Leave wrapped gifts under a tree in a homeless shelter or other facility without marking who they are from.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Care and Feeding of the Soul: book list

Check out these books...

The Thich Nhat Hanh Collection by Thich Nhat Hanh
Simple Abundance by Sarah ban Breathnach
Alcoholics Anonymous
Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Know God by Deepak Chopra
How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by HH the Dalai Lama
A Woman's Worth by Marianne Williamson

Even Grown Men Pray

Prayer is an important part of my daily life. I didn't realize the importance of it until I had serious problems with someone at work. This person tried to get me fired and treated me like I was worthless.

One day, I was so upset, I went to my car and prayed for him to have all the happiness he deserved. I did this daily, and our relationship changed. I learned an important lesson about the power of prayer.

So, how does one pray?

The most important thing to remember when praying is that it is not like making a list for Santa Claus. We are not to pray for selfish things. As a matter of fact, it is best not to pray for ourselves at all except for the knowledge of God's Will.

Forgive me if I sound overly Christian, that is part of my background. But when you pray, it does not have to be to Jesus. It can be Buddha, Allah, or whatever your idea of God is. Don't let terms such as God scare you away from prayer.

So when you pray, you are asking for the ability to stay out of your own way and do what your God would like you to do. You can ask for healing and love for specific people, and as in my example above, I find it helpful to pray for people that you are angry at.

This is just a small primer on prayer, use it at your discretion.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Loving the Unlovable

In Meditations on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh squarely faces the issue of returning to Vietnam to try to heal the damage caused by war. He tells his colleagues that the people there will not be easy to love, nor will they be very happy to see them. In my own experience I find this to be true.

When I donate money to a charity, I choose how and where to give my money. When I volunteer at a local shelter or other service, I choose who I am going to help and how I will help them. People are generally appreciative of the work you do.

But as a career social worker, I do not get to choose who I will help and how. I am on the other end of a ringing phone and do not get to choose when to pick it up and how to help the people I speak with. Many of them are unlovable, to say the least, and are not happy to be speaking with me. I resolve their issues as quickly and easily as possible, which means that I have to tell a lot of people what they don't want to hear. But what I have learned is that it is possible to love the unlovable. Learn how you can do the same if you are caught in this situation:

1. Do not return anger with anger. Be stern, but don't be hostile. People are usually frustrated and have gotten the runaround. Be patient and ignore negative comments.

2. Be sympathetic. I could not imagine have several small children and no means to support them. Many women have been abused or abandoned. Put yourself in their shoes.

3. Don't tolerate abusive language. If someone is verbally abusive, you have the right to warn them that you will end the conversation. Helping someone does not mean you have to be a doormat.

4. Practice lovingkindness meditation. Practicing this meditation before working with those less fortunate may not alleviate the problems, but will make people easier to bear.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm back

After a long hiatus (sorry guys) I am back on the blog. Stay tuned for new posts on meditation, spirituality, and other topics!

The Subtle Art of Self-Sabotage

Your life is going great. You've been going to the gym every morning, retiring at a reasonable hour, and making sure you don't say or do anything to hurt others. All your laundry is folded and pressed, and you've been finishing your work on time.

Then one day, you just don't feel like going to the gym. You decide you deserve a day off. After all, you've been working so hard. The next day, you decide that you can slack off a bit at the job. You've been doing so well...why should you be the only one in the company who works this hard?

Fast forward. It's two months later, and you don't even remember what the inside of your gym looks like. You are so far behind at work that you've been working late every night for the past two weeks, which has also kept you from getting that mountain of laundry out of the way.

What happened?

Self-sabotage seems inevitable to some. When everything in your life is going great, all of a sudden you start indulging in behavior which undermines all the hard work you have put in.

For some of us, success is too uncomfortable. Therefore, we subconsciously wreck everything great we have built up for ourselves. So how do we stop self-sabatoge from dashing our picture-perfect life?

1. Know your limits. Some people self-destruct because they have taken on too much. You do not have to be so busy that you don't have any time for some unstructured fun. Don't forgive to give yourself to permission to change your plans as needed. Flexibility is acceptable as long as it doesn't turn in to a permanent reason to slack off.

2. Don't beat yourself up. Let's say you miss one night of exercise. That's fine, as long as you don't make yourself feel guilty and try to punish yourself by adding extra time somewhere else or taking away one of your fun activities. IF you make a mistake, as you will, simply pick yourself back up and start again. No need to give yourself 100 lashes.

3. Prioritize and Practice. Make sure that you plan the priority things first and all other stuff later. By practicing your schedule, you will see what is important and what isn't, and can plan around that. Some people use a three step system: must do, should do and it can wait. Allow yourself some wiggle room by asking, "how important is this, really?"

Remember that every moment of your life needn't be planned; allow yourself time to do nothing or have fun. Give yourself permission to relax. And when that old "I can do it later" chimes in, think of the consequences.

eHow Articles-Recovery and Meditation

Check out my articles recently published on eHow:
Working Step Ten (AA)
How to Make a Twelfth-Step Call
How to work Step Four
Working Step Nine
How to Perform Lovingkindness Meditation
How to Attend a Buddhist Sangha