Success and Failure

What we consider failure is merely a rehearsal for success

Belief is the greatest factor in whether or not we succeed in reaching our goals. Whether we believe that we are able to reach them or whether we believe that the tools that we have will bring us to our goals is the determining factor. There is a story about a German troop during World War II that was out of guns. The commander handed each soldier an imaginary weapon and told him that this weapon was superior to any other. He told them that they only had to point it at their enemy and say, “Bang bang” and the enemy would drop down dead. One day the soldier, as he was fighting in the field of battle saw an enemy soldier, pointed his imaginary weapon and said, “Bang bang” and enemy fell down dead. He was so excited that he charged after each enemy soldier that he could find pointing his imaginary weapon and yelling, “Bang bang” and they all dropped like flies.

Soon after he heard the Star Spangled Banner playing in the air, and he knew that the Americans were coming. He was ready, he pointed his imaginary gun at the first American soldier that he saw and yelled, “Bang Bang”, and nothing happened, the soldier kept advancing. He did it again and still the American soldier kept advancing. Soon the German soldier found himself on the ground dying, and as he slowly faded out of consciousness he heard the American soldier saying, “I’m in a Tank I’m in a tank, I’m in a tank I’m in a tank, I’m in a tank, I’m in a tank…”

One way to succeed at reaching our goals is to go forward with the belief that we ourselves are fully capable of reaching that goal. Another way is to believe that we have the tools, the abilities that are needed to reach that goal. A third way is to be so focused on our goals that we do not even consider that we cannot reach them. In this way we do not even acknowledge any obstacles and therefore they are not given the life that they need in order to be obstacles in the first place. This is how many people who do not have any great amount of belief in themselves reach their goals.

The main thing that each of the above ways of succeeding has in common is the fact that they are all moving in the direction of their goal. So long as we move, the Universe will assist us in getting anywhere that we need to go. That forward movement is in itself an act of believing whether or not we are aware of it. We are all given the same keys to success at birth. However we are all given different things to succeed at. There are, as many people who were born with money who do not make anything of their lives in the world, as there are people who are born without money and do.

What we need to achieve, and whatever it is that we want, are not things that come to us from the world it is what we bring from ourselves out to the world. Everyone has a talent. Everyone has that specific talent that is required to achieve whatever it is that they came here to achieve. Sometimes we must know exactly what it is that we want in order to find that particular talent that we each have. Sometimes we have a talent that we do not know what to do with. That may not even be the talent that is immediately connected with our hearts desire. Yet once we connect with our hearts desire, we will find where our talents fit in.
Pope John Paul II wanted to be an entertainer; I recently watched a movie based upon a story that he had written. To creatively enrich the lives of others was his heart’s desire. Through following his desires he was led to the Church. He has now as the Pope, written a book and produced a CD. He did not end up where he planned as a child to be, or even as a young man to be, but it was from following his own plan that fate was able to guide his success in the Master Plan. He certainly was not a failure, yet he is on a much different stage than he had dreamed of.

Success and failure are both part of a process, failure is the means to success, but succeeding is something that does not end with reaching one goal. It is only after reaching one goal that we are able to see the next one. Once we are in sight of our next goal we will fail and fail until we succeed. Again the process will begin.

The fact is that we cannot succeed without failing. Failure is actually nothing but practice. Failure is rehearsal. How would we ever learn to walk if we were afraid of falling? What would happen if we accepted falling down the first time that we tried to walk as a failure? If that were the case we would all be crawling failures. As children there was never any doubt that in order to accomplish whatever it was that we wanted to do be it sitting crawling walking or riding a bike we would have to fall. Falling was not an issue. And we did not stop and count how many times we fell, our eyes were on our goal and we knew that we would reach it.

The sense of failure is really a byproduct of living in comparison to others or to the standards set by others. We were taken from being the best that we could be to being better than someone else is. The thing that impresses me when I hear successful athletes speak is that they usually say that they are not competing with others they are competing with themselves. They seek to better their best. It is this going outside of ourselves, living in comparison to others that causes us to judge ourselves as failures. What we consider as a failure could merely be a redirection. It could be a turn in our path that the Universe intends for us to take. With each step, regardless of where we seem to be, we are gathering what we need for the next. We are gathering the strengths, the tools, and the abilities that we need to go on. The heavier the weight that we lift, the stronger our muscles will become, physically, as well as emotionally. Yet, we never lift it on the first try, it takes time, that is not failure, that is work.

Many people are afraid of failure, so in order to avoid it they do not try. They do not realize that once we take the first step the possibilities before us are endless, but if we do not take a step we will go nowhere. We do not have to know where we are going in order to get there. We are here to find our way. Even if we do not exactly know our destination we can be still certain that we won’t end up on the wrong place. In life anywhere we end up will be right. Sometimes we are guided by a light that we do not even know that we see. The only way to fail is to quit. So long as we keep going the road will lead us to success.
In actuality we are all in the process of succeeding. Some of us have a longer road than others have. If my goal is ten miles away and I am competing with someone whose goal is five miles away, logic says that he will reach his goal before I will. Yet there are two separate things going on here. If the object is to reach ones goal, the winner is the one who reaches his goal. Therefore the only way to win is to keep striving until the goal is reached.

If the object is to beat someone else, there is no winning because competition can never be fair. There will always be another someone else. Someone will always have an advantage and someone else will always have a disadvantage. There are no equal playing fields, yet the ultimate playing field is always equal. We can all reach our goals. We can use competition to help push ourselves, or to help keep ourselves motivated. We should not use it to compare or to judge our success or failure.

Living in comparison is not living. Sometimes as an astrologer, I will look at a chart and thank God that it is not mine. Yet I know how many astrologers look at my chart and feel the same way. Nothing is one size fits all. Each life is tailor made for only the person who is living it. I could no more handle what someone else endures as I could find happiness in what makes someone else happy. My life would be empty for anyone else who tried to live it, for it is my reality and everyone’s illusion. There is no point in comparison.
If something makes you happy I cannot assume that it will make me happy. It does not mean that there is something wrong with me. If your shoes are not comfortable on my feet it does not mean that there is something wrong with my feet.

We need to find within ourselves what makes us happy. We need to find within ourselves what it is that we want. Somehow, we need to start with our childhood and filter out what others told us was right for us and seek deep inside for what we know feels right. The guarantee is that if we seek we shall find. If we intend to find what our hearts desire is, it will be shown to us. Our task, our journey is to find our way to that hearts desire. We just have to accept the fact that it is out there for us. We will reach it if we sincerely desire it.
The greatest guarantee of success is to find ones road and to travel it. We each have a road and a destination, and each road leads to that destination. Success is promised to us. It is there, we just have to keep going and not give up. More than anything we must not compare ourselves to others. We should find hope in the successes of others not lose our hope because of them. The Universe gave us each exactly what we need. All we have to do is find a way to activate it.

What is the measure of success after all? It is not what we have but what we feel about what we have. Success is not measured in the things that we own but in the life that we live. Success is not in our pockets but in our hearts. More than anything else, the person with the greatest success is one who has the most to take with him when he leaves.

The Relay Race

My life is
Like a relay race
God gave my soul
Love
My soul passed it on
To the infant
Who added form
And passed it on
To the child
Who added faith
And passed it on
To the adolescent
Who added hope
And passed it on
To the young mother
Who added consistency
And passed it on
To the woman
Who added acceptance
And passed it on
To who I am now
To add gratitude
And will pass it on
To the me
Who crosses the
Finish line

Changing our lives

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
Confucius, BC 551-479, Chinese

We may not like the course our lives have taken and feel that a radical change is needed. Perhaps we decide that we need to change our economic level, or that we need a change in our lifestyle. Then we pull out our affirmations and/or our prayers and begin the process.

While it is true that we manifest our own reality, we do not accomplish this in a vacuum. If we are going to survive in these times ahead of us, we will have to understand that it takes two halves to make a whole; there are two forces at work in the accomplishment of every task. Everything that you do whether it is acting from an inner thrust will or reacting to external occurrence – is one half of the equation. It is the act of throwing the ball, of placing the mail in the box, or hitting the send key on the computer. The other half is the energy which guides our action to a given destination. By destination I mean outcome. Some of us never act, whatever we do is an automatic response to stimulus that we either brought with us into this life from past lives, or were conditioned by a repeated act in the past of this life.

If, for example in your past life you suffered deeply from conditions of poverty – in this life you will act towards money and material possessions as though you had experienced this suffering yesterday. You might instinctively hoard, regardless of how generous you would like to be. After a past life regression, or simply a conscious act which is counter to your instinct, then you are actively taking control of your own actions, so, although you are not now, master of your life – you are master of your actions. Many people have past lives in which they were murdered or tortured for speaking out. If that happened to you, you would find that when it comes time to speak up or speak out, you are gripped by an overwhelming fear. In fact, any time that we find ourselves in an outwardly nonthreatening situation and feel overwhelming fear or anger – we are reacting to something that has no relevance in this life but came from the past. Understanding this motivation and acting upon it will aid us in acting consciously – it will not, however, change the fact that the outcome is not a direct result of our actions alone.

There is mounting undeniable evidence that we come in to each life to fulfill a plan that if not chosen was at least understood and accepted by each of our souls. I liken it to a giant mechanical clock with infinite gears. Each gear revolves and as it does so it turns many other gears. Those gears in turn cause the turning of many other gears. Yet each gear is not the same size and does not revolve exactly like every other gear. It is that difference, however slight it may seem, that makes the every gear from the tiniest to the largest equally critical in the functioning of the whole clock of Time. Each of our lives is made up of experiences and the totality of our individual experiences becomes our gear. The specific turning of each gear, in essence, turns the entire clock. We are able to incarnate when our needs and the needs of the whole are a match. Our experiences connect the gears and not our actions because it is the experiences which connect us to others. Soul growth comes as our experiences change our perception of life, but the whole clock, of which each gear is a part manifests our physical reality based upon the outcome of our experiences as we as a whole perceive it.

Because each outcome is equally necessary regardless of the size of the gear that generates it, each outcome is determined by the Source who is able to see and know the purpose and destiny of the entire clock. That higher Presence determining each and every outcome is influenced by the growth of the all of the souls in gear during a cycle of incarnations. What this means is that as each of us change our attitudes that energy combines with the energy of other souls in the process of the same change and all of the outcomes begin to evolve as well in a higher direction.

Our lives are always lived in context. As children, our lives are lived within the context of our families, whose lives are lived within the context of their community, which functions within the context of the nation and so on. We can only change our lives within the context in which they are playing out. What we can change is the way in which we live our lives. Today, we must all acknowledge the economic, social and environmental context in which our lives are playing out. When we seek a change in our lives, what we are seeking, all that we are ever seeking is happiness. It cannot be found if we are hungry, in physical pain or lack shelter , but if we are not lacking in those basic needs, happiness is available in abundance. It is as simple as beginning with a glass that is half full rather than half empty. Happiness will never become a state of being until we are satisfied, until we have enough.

So long as we seek more, we will be dissatisfied with what we have. As long as we are dissatisfied with what we have, happiness will elude us. Within the context of the world today, we must change our focus from having more to becoming more. What we have falls into the category of ‘outcome’. It is not a result of what we have created, or earned in the material world, all of that is only what we have been given. Who we are, who we have become and who we will become is the only outcome that is totally within our control. As we become greater human beings by increasing our reflection of the spiritual being within, we infect others with our growth and they in turn grow. As we grow spiritually we change the context of the world in which we live. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were faces of the Civil Rights Movement. But the changes that occurred were the result of changes in the hearts and souls of hundreds of thousand Americans who, regardless of race, felt a need to move in the direction of truth. It was a subtle change in the hearts of many that moved the country in a different direction, from separatism towards a greater union. This was not the result of technological or material growth, but of spiritual evolution. It was this Spiritual growth, led by a few great leaders, who would have been unable to lead had it not been for that vast number of individuals who had already become in their hearts, the change before the leaders led to manifest in the world. Change in the whole is accomplished through the inner changes of thousands, perhaps even millions. We cannot be led into evolution, it is an inner process. Just as we cannot change our lives without the inner process being complete. Otherwise we just change place.

We are seekers by nature. We are creators by nature. It is our nature to love, because our true nature is that of God. The energy of fulfillment, of happiness, of self-worth comes to us through the strength and power of our creations. Our creations feed us as we ourselves feed our Creator. However, that sense of happiness, of fulfillment eludes us when we seek it through creations in the material world. There are three reasons for this. The first reason is that when our creation is material, it is perishable. It makes no difference if we create a business, an empire; a better paying job, an invention, wealth, higher social status or a new and improved body, everything in the material world has a shelf life. The second reason is that whatever we build becomes the launching pad for someone to build it better. In the material world that which does not fade on its own will be destroyed by the competition. The third and most important reason is that deep within our souls, in that same place where we ultimately find our happiness and sense of fulfillment, lives the knowledge that we were not really in control of the final product. The true credit for the outcome belongs to some power other than us.

Our actions reflect who we are. What we seek reflects what we value. What we hold on to reflects what we treasure. And whatever we cannot live without becomes the master that we serve. One day I decided to run away from home with my friend Beverly, we were about eleven years old. When it came time to go, she changed her mind. She said that it didn’t matter where she went, because, “Wherever I go – I go”.

Changing our neighborhood, changing our social or financial status, changing our marital status are all illusory changes. They may change the view, but not the perspective of the viewer. We tend to need what we have, rather than have what we need. So whatever we have we become dependent on. Material things go from ‘it would be nice to have’ directly to ‘can’t live without’ the moment that we have them. That which we cannot live without possesses us.

An actor needs a role in order to perform. A role needs a play in order to exist. And as each role is essential to the evolving plotline of a play, each role is in some way essential to the evolution of the person as an actor. We are all souls inhabiting roles in the play called life. The role that we play cannot just change or end because the actor has lost interest. However, an actor can change a role from within, changing a villain to a sympathetic character without changing the lines, only by changing the delivery. This subtle, inner change of the character can open up new directions for the character that may alter not only the actor’s experience of the play, but the way in which the other actors play their parts, and finally the experience of the audience. The ending may be the same, but these subtle changes could take the sequel into a whole new direction.

For us to change this we must fully understand the reason that we chose the role that we are living. It is not that we cannot change our lives; however, it is not something we can do without true knowledge of ourselves, and the reasons for our choices. Most of the time, we are not working with the knowledge of, or the Spiritual reasons for, where our lives are at this moment. Without that knowledge, how can we change? We do not change our lives from the outside in, but from the inside out.

For us to change from the inside we must understand what is going on inside. Why were these experiences set up in the first place? The truth is, that when the work is done, the lessons learned and the understanding lived – we need no more for ourselves than food, water, and shelter to be as happy as the laughing Buddha. Once we have completed the work, we no longer want for ourselves. Usually, we tell ourselves that happiness must be there – simply because it is not here. Obviously, if it’s not here – it’s there. But the truth is that here is the only place that happiness and all of those other things can ever be because we only move from one here to another.

So it is incumbent on us to know, first, why we came here now, then what the particular circumstances of this’ here’ and this ‘now’ have within them for us, because there is a strong chance that whatever we are searching for is here now, and if it is not, then the key to opening the box that contains it definitely is. The Universe does not waste. Every drop of rain contains an answer for anyone willing to take the time to look. It is only through the challenges that we have faced and will face ahead of us that we can find the treasure we came to unearth. If we perceive that life just happens to us, and that is all that we get from it, we will never know where we are.

There is no punishment and no reward on earth from above. Life is not about punishment or rewards from the standpoint of the Creator. It is about experience. When things go well, we are not being rewarded for past good actions and when things go wrong we are not being punished for past bad actions. In either case, there is something that we have to learn, something that we have to pick up and include in our treasury of knowledge and growth. If it were that simple—either punishment or reward—then all of those who we consider good, would have good things happen to them and all those we consider bad, would have bad things happen to them, but, as we well know, that is not the case. How many times have we heard people say, “Bad things happen to good people.” Life is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. When we are in school, there are no fair subjects and no unfair subjects; there are no fair tests or unfair tests. The fairness of a test is based on the perception and level of preparedness of the person taking the test. It is the same with life. Things are unfair when we are not prepared to handle them and fair when we are.
To change our lives effectively, we must understand them thoroughly, and be prepared with the knowledge obtained through each experience both good and bad. This requires being conscious and not a victim. It requires a willingness to examine life, not just experience it. If we keep being hit with balls that come from out of nowhere, we must learn to catch them or learn to duck—something must be learned. If we are being taught to catch and we keep ducking, the balls won’t stop coming. If we are being taught to duck and we keep catching, the balls won’t stop coming. If we don’t take time to figure out why the balls keep coming, we cannot stop them. But, if we do figure out why they are coming and either master the lesson or make a conscious soul connected decision to put it off, we can change.

If we are not this, if we are not these bodies and these egos then these bodies and these egos must have some symbolic purpose. That is the way it is with our lives. If we want to have a different set of experiences, then we must discern the original purpose; the original function. If we want to change the play, the story, we must first understand our own role in it. Then we must change our approach to that role so that change will transform the approach of the other souls to their roles and to the character that we play. This change will travel forward until ultimately the play becomes a new one.
When children are born, we are struck early on with the realization that there is a very well defined personality in there. There are reactions based, at the least, upon some innate set of beliefs defining the world. Babies have responses to people and to outside stimuli that are not just like every other baby. Some babies respond to the world in ways that just could not have been observed in the limited environment in which they exist. We bring into each life a core belief. It could be what we died in our past life believing, it could be imprinted from many lives of being stuck in the same pattern, it could be exacerbated or just reinforced by the thoughts and feelings of the mother during pregnancy, or it could be an innate Spiritual knowledge. We could bring in the lessons learned at the end of our last life rather than the reaction to the experiences. Wherever it comes from, it is the preamble to our life’s story. It is the filter through which we interpret the world around us and the experiences that we have. It is the key to understanding our perception of and our responses to the world and our experiences in it. Often it is difficult to uncover because it is imprinted in our psyche in the womb, or at least before words. So it is like a knee jerk response, hit the knee the leg goes up, no thought required, and because no thought is required it cannot be filtered.

My father suffered from Parkinson’s disease from before I was born. It went untreated until my mid-teens when my father finally acknowledged it. However, it had been slowly breaking down his ability to think, he lost large periods of time which we never knew of because he had never been in the habit of coming home every night. When I was fourteen he had very little money left and we moved from a large house with five bedrooms to a small house with two. My sister’s core belief was “who a person is – is based on what a person has. One’s chance of survival is in proportion to one’s image”. So, she carried this in from her past life, and in the womb she knew that she was not wanted by my mother who tried everything that she could to accidentally miscarry. Coming in with this belief, reinforced by her experience in my mother’s womb, added the belief that the world was not safe for her. The fact that my mother fell instantly in love with her the moment that she was born, had no effect on her core belief. She saw every experience through the filter of a threat, and responded as one would to being threatened. She relied on the façade of wealth that she was born into to intimidate or impress. She never worked in school – never sought to be anything because her belief was that on her own merits she would fail. When our family moved from having more than many to having less than most, my sister, at the age of ten years old, was pushed her over the edge. Her life deteriorated and she just went from one bad situation to another. It did not matter where she was or what opportunities were ahead of her, she saw the world as chairs being moved around in the same unsafe room, and reacted accordingly. Perhaps she could have sought help, but you can’t seek help when you believe that it is your image of superiority and nothing more that keeps you safe. To seek help would be to admit imperfection which in turn would invite destruction.

Our core beliefs are not simple; they are as intricate as the myriad of past experiences which created them. Still, there is a theme. One theme may be that the opposite sex can’t be trusted; another theme may be that to be seen as standing out in any area is dangerous. It could be that the soul brought in the belief that survival depended on being in control. Some souls are not as influenced by past lives as they are influenced by their core spiritual selves. Whatever these beliefs are, they are the colors of our lives for better or for worse. Everyone walks the same streets our experiences of those streets are personalized by the colors that we bring to them. My core belief – the one thing that I have come to realize that is written in stone for me is that the Source, All-That-Is, the Presence, the energy that we often refer to as God, is Love itself, it is Goodness beyond measure, and the only and ultimate source of all wisdom. I believe that it is the energy and ultimate creator of every experience that we have for eternity. For me, this has always meant that although my life has had a plethora of disappointments, losses, rejection and apparent failure, I have sailed through each storm unaffected because the water under my boat has been calm. I have faced every challenge as an opportunity to gain something that would outweigh the price. Even when, as now, I wonder why I have been so blessed as to have been given such an overflowing reservoir of growth opportunities, my mind is immediately guided to see how much love has entered my life from unexpected sources.

When my parents lost everything I like my sister, had to confront the loss of face. After the immediate feeling of a knife in my gut at seeing our new home, the thoughts that ran through my mind were of how much stronger I would feel in my skin after this test. The most crucial step in changing our lives is asking ourselves what feelings, or fears motivate us. What do we believe causes us to be accepted and what causes us to be rejected? What does our world look like to us? What does it feel like to us? What possible reasons could one continuously end up in the same bad situation if you remove deserving it, earning it, poor judgment, and bad choices? What do we believe will happen if we do _____________ and why we believe that? Every experience under the sun contains a gift, and usually the difficult experiences contain an opportunity to see our own power, an opportunity to see that we are loved and therefore worth loving, that love is love from wherever it comes, or an opportunity to once and for all free us from past, outdated beliefs that constantly limit us.

When my sister finally lost everything that she hid behind, including her ability to maintain her façade, her only choice was to walk through her fears, for the sake of her children, and to attempt to build a life on her own with only who she is and not who she was with, or what she had. With each step she found that who she was seemed to be much greater than she ever believed. From here, she was free to finally step in the light as herself. Even having fewer things than she once had, she has what she never had before and that is herself. It did not happen because she changed her life, it happened because life changed her view. More often than not, if we do the work, we find that we can only change places and change circumstances so many times before all places and all circumstances feel the same. But if we are willing to change our view – then we automatically change our living, and if we change our living our lives move to new heights.

Wherever We Seek God We Will Find Him

brush drawing on blue primed paper
Image via Wikipedia

Once upon a time there was a very religious community.  The members
gathered everyday to worship God under the guidance of their wise
spiritual teacher.  The people were truly God fearing and followed all
of Gods’ Laws.  But their leader had a son whose actions troubled the
group.

One day the boy, who was four years old, lost his dog.  After
searching all day, he sat down in a field crying and as he cried, he
noticed a leaf on the ground near his feet.  He happened to be staring
at the leaf while he was crying and for the safe return of his dog. 
Two days later the dog was returned healthy and happy.  The boy
attributed this miracle to the leaf and ran out to the field to find
it.  Once he found the leaf he began praying to the leaf every day and
carrying it with him wherever he went – he even brought the leaf to bed.

The congregation became concerned by the actions of this child and
spoke to his father.  The father simply replied, “It is his path”.  And
the congregation went away disappointed.

Soon, the leaf became worn and dry and it crumbled.  The boy was
devastated and cried to his father.  His father simply took him back to
the field where he found the leaf and said, “Son, look there, that is
the tree from which your leaf came, see the thousands of other leaves
it also bears, if not for the tree, you would not have had your leaf. 
The boy was overcome with awe at the sight of the tree full of leaves
and began to worship the tree, going to it and praying everyday with
love and thanksgiving for the life of his dog.

Again, the congregation became concerned by the actions of this
child and spoke to his father.  The father simply replied, “It is his
path”.  And the congregation went away disappointed.

A few months later the tree became diseased and had to be cut down. 
And once again the child was distraught beyond consolation.  His father
again led the boy to the field and said, “You see this field, this is
the field from which your tree and all of these others have come, and
it is the field from which your tree grew, from which your leaf grew
that saved your dog.  So the boy, once again in awe of the expanse of
trees and leaves produced by this field began to lie in the field on
the dirt and the grass and pray every day in love and thanksgiving to
the field.

Once again, the congregation became concerned by the actions of this
child and spoke to his father.  Once again, father simply replied, “It
is his path”.  And the congregation went away disappointed.

Shortly after this, the field was sold to a developer who dug up all
the trees and covered the field with concrete and buildings.  Now the
boy was beyond himself with loss and desperation, there was no more
field, so there would be no more trees, no more leaves and no more
miracles.  His father calmly took him out into the road and said, “Son,
look around you, the earth is covered with fields of trees, with leaves
– all come from the earth and the earth comes from God, the Bible says,
in Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. 
God is the Source from which all things are born.  It is God who
created the earth upon which your field grew, from which your tree
grew, from which your leaf grew.  All things come from God and all
things contain God in the form of His messengers.  You prayed to the
angel in the leaf, who sent your message to the angel in the tree, who
sent your message to the angel in the field, who sent your message to
the angel in the earth – who whispered your prayer to God – and because
God heard your prayer from  the leaf, your dog was returned.  So the
boy said, “From now on I will honor God and His Angels by giving thanks
to everything and everyone on earth, but I will send my deepest prayers
to God who is the eternal Source of all.”

The boy grew up to assume his father’s role as teacher, but his
congregation expanded greatly because his journey taught him to
understand and therefore teach, that all paths were created by God to
lead us Home.

God created the world with enough diversity that every being on it
could find something or someone to believe in.  God knew that there is
nothing on earth, whether it is a blade of grass, a human being, a
mosquito, or a brick of gold that does not contain God.  That there is
nothing that man can worship in, in which he does not worship in God. 
Knowing all, God knows that all things on earth will pass, all form
will give way, and everything with a beginning will also have an end. 
But what has no beginning and no end is our search for union with our
Source, and no end to our need to know ourselves and from where we have
come.  In the same way that God created us to know and experience
Himself.  So God places before us a leaf – in which He is, and then a
tree – in which He is, or a statue or a book – in which He is, knowing,
that so long as we seeking signs and forms of Him in the world that is
wholly of Him, we will continue to seek until we find Him – who is in
every atom of the Universe and within whom, the entire universe is but
a tiny atom.   So when you criticize the beliefs of others as not the
right belief, remember that there is no belief that is not created by
God and so there is no belief, except a belief in God.  Just remember
the leaf.

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The Only Real World Is The One Within

Man should discover his own reality and not thwart himself. For he has his self as his only friend, or as his only enemy. A person has the self as friend when he has conquered himself, But if he rejects his own reality, the self will war against him. Hinduism.
Bhagavad-Gita 6.5-6
There is a children’s tale about a woman who felt that her house was too small, so she went to a wise man to advise her, and he told her to bring in one animal to live in her house. Each time she felt the house growing smaller, she was advised to bring one more animal into the house, when the house was so crowded that she could no longer move, she was told to take them all out of the house. When she did this, her house seemed large and roomy, and she was grateful for the space that she had.

The house did not change. Her perception of the house changed and the same house that she once hated became a house for which she felt gratitude. That gratitude opened her to feeling joy. Imagine for a moment, that it rains for two weeks straight how beautiful and joyous you feel on the day you look out and see the blue sky and a brightly shining sun. We spend our lives wanting what other people have, the job that provides for the house on the hill, the job that pays for the Porsche or the Mercedes, instead of the job that affords you the junkyard reject on wheels that you are driving. Imagine that you walk in today and you get your pink slip. Now you can’t even pay for the junkyard wreck let alone your rent, food, children’s clothes etc. Go one step further and imagine that the phone rings and they offer you the same job back. Now you don’t care about the house on the hill, you don’t care about the Porsche or the Mercedes, instead you thank God for that phone call, and that dirty office, or that lousy cash register which shines like a brand new penny!!
For a time, generally in proportion to the time that you spent without the job, you are grateful for every difficult day that you go to work and you don’t even give a second thought to what it doesn’t give you because you are so grateful to have what it does. I had some jewelry that had meant so much to me when I received it, but, as time went on, it became stale and valueless to me. Then one day the jewelry was gone, I panicked, and when, after two days of searching, I found it, it was like the first day I had ever laid eyes on it. I felt such overwhelming joy and gratitude that it was actually mine. All of these things, the sun, the sky, the job, the car, those things that shone for one moment in your life and now were dull, overlooked and underappreciated, like the basic fact that you woke up and saw one more day, are always the same as they are in empty situations, like cups to be filled by you with whatever you choose—gratitude and joy or resentment and sorrow. This is life, a chain of consecutive experiences void of emotion until we fill them with whichever emotions we choose.

Man struggles to find life outside himself, unaware that the life he is seeking is within him.’
Kahlil Gibran

Whether we believe that the things occurring in our lives are pre-determined or the result of our free will really doesn’t matter in the end. The indisputable choice that we have is what emotions we fill our experiences with. This is where our free will is at it’s purest. Things don’t fill us with joy or sadness—we fill them. Life doesn’t emote—we do. We enliven our world, we color it, first as individuals, then as generations, as societies, as a species, and finally as souls. Even so, the world in which we are born has been colored, to some extent, by those who have preceded us, our personal world, our subjective world—the world that is there for our particular journey is, for all intents and purposes, colorless and formless until we give it color and form; until we label each person and each experience good, bad, painful or joyful.

‘We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them.’ Kahlil Gibran

My daughter, Lia, told me that she could deal with anything so long as she could label it. This is because “out there” is meaningless until we bring it inside, label, and classify it. We must give it meaning and color within our own description of the world. When we are young, we learn language—we learn the descriptions of the impressions that we receive from the outside world. We are told that a certain object is a table, that a table is a flat surface supported by four legs. In our brain which is our personal computer, we are not able to make infer that all flat surfaces with four legs are tables. Our brains take the labels that we are given for the object as a whole, then they dissect the object into its parts. By doing this, our brains can automatically make connections to things that are the same as or different than.

Labeling and classifying becomes more difficult when we deal with intangibles, such as experiences. When we are very young we dissect, label, and classify experiences in the same way as we do everything else—we record what we are told and what we see, i.e., the reactions of our parents, who are our first teachers, to the appropriate stimuli. When we are faced with situations that our brains tell us match one of the experiences to which we have a recorded parental response, we mimic that response. Whenever we feel a contradictory response coming from within ourselves, we push it away as inappropriate relying on the blueprint of the world that we received as children.

As children, we live in the world of our families. We spend the major portion of our time with them and so, we live in their world. Our survival instincts tell us that we must know and understand the world in which we live. More than a thing or an experience, life is a language. As children we learn the words, the idioms, the nuances of the languages of those around me. That language tells us where to go and what to do so we may find our way around and live as best we can within their world. As we approach our teens, we find ourselves spending the better part of our time in a new world, the world of our peers. And because of the large amount of time that we spend, because of the dictates of life at this point, within our peer group, we must create a new language, one which is distinct enough to distinguish one world from the other. This is generally opposite to the language that we grew up with. This new language is contrary to the language of our family environment not because it is a period of rebellion, but because of evolutionary design. We refuse to acknowledge our initial language, the one given to us by our parents, simply because we are unable to maintain two contradictory beliefs. The language of our parents is a combination of the language of the greater whole, the society within which we live, the language of their generation, and their own personal language.

When we move into our peer group, we learn the language of our own generations, and the idioms of our own peer society. It is only after we have an understanding of all of these languages that we are able to confidently begin to develop, and respond to a reality based upon own personally formed languages. During these teen years we slowly develop a language that comes from our personal responses as they are weighed against the database that we now have of prior learned responses from our families, our peer groups, our teachers and advisors, and the greater society around us. As we develop own languages, we gravitate towards others whose languages are the same as, or similar to ours. We develop a religious language, a philosophical language, a moral language—a language that as clearly as possible distinguishes good from bad, dangerous from safe, and happy from sad. It is vital to understand that it is in our personal language, and not in the object or experience being defined by that language, that our feelings and emotional responses are defined.

When I was young, in my personal language, marriage meant happily ever after. My definition of marriage included love, security, and escape from sadness. From watching my struggle as a single mother to support my daughter Tana and myself, Tana was led to define the word children, in her language, as sacrifice and burden. I only told her how much I loved her, but still, from observing my struggle, she developed her own personal language to describe, and thus create, her reality of motherhood.

The world out there is not alive until we animate it with our personal definitions, our personal language. Nothing out there can make us feel one way or another. The feelings that we get from anyone, anything, or any experience don’t lie within the person, thing, or experience but they lie within ourselves, within our languages and the descriptions that our languages give to them. Often, we will say, or hear someone else say, “I just don’t know how to react to that”. This is because it is a situation to which the person has not yet defined and thus, has not yet attributed an emotion. Or, someone will exclaim, “Oh, that’s what that was!” and immediately they will replay the scene in their minds so that they can label, define and feel the appropriate reaction. Life is a coloring book with only the lines drawn in and we can choose whatever colors we want to fill in the pages. Or, life can be viewed as a book filled with Rorschach images, and it is up to us to write the story for each page.

It is possible for life to be fated, and at the same time, it can be true that we create our own reality. These terms are not contradictory. In life, fate means that we don’t chose the stage, the scenery or the props with which we have to work. We have to utilize what is there. We don’t choose our entrances or our exits. But within those limits, we live, and how we live our lives is determined by the language we use to define reality. There is no such thing as objective reality. And our subjective reality can either be determined by consensus or by personal design. To create our own reality we need to siphon off reach inside, find our own language, our own meaning, and use it. What has been a life well lived, or life wasted lies in the definition and not the life. We must stop seeking the definitions of others when it comes to living our own lives. God has planted within our souls the keys to the kingdom. Those keys are the symbols of the language of our individual souls. Out there may or may not be real. It may or may not be predetermined. Reality, however, is personal, and our definition of it determines the quality of our lives. We can choose to accept the consensus defined reality, or define it for ourselves. If we define it for ourselves, we will never outgrow it, because it will grow with us. We will suffer if we expect to do what others define as the right thing at all times. If our reality is defined by others, simply keeping up with their language of right and wrong will be stressful enough in itself. There is a difference between being right and being true. More times than not, right is defined by consensus, but true, is the cornerstone of integrity and it is defined by self alone. We can be certain to be true at all times, if we live by a reality that is defined by our truth.

My grandmother’s language was designed around two words, usefulness and independence. Indulgence and dependence were at the core of my mother’s language. Within the same week, both my mother and my grandmother became wheelchair bound. My grandmother was destroyed by it. In her language, my grandmother’s wheelchair caused her to be dependent and useless. Her disability placed her into an environment where her language rendered her unable to communicate with herself. Because the foundation of her language defined everything in terms of black or white, she couldn’t label and therefore couldn’t understand this new situation. Before she could begin to function, to heal, she had to learn an entirely new language—an entirely new language for describing – coloring – her life. Once she did this, once she allowed for the expansion of her own language to allow for her physical limitation, rather than exclude it, she found that she could be almost as useful and independent as she had once been. For my mother, the loss of her ability to walk fit perfectly into the language of her reality. It required no adjustments or redefinitions.

Life, out there, is neither good nor bad. It is incapable of doing anything to us. It doesn’t have the power to make us feel happy or sad, valuable, useless, lovable, unlovable, beautiful, ugly, smart, stupid, fat, or thin. We can expect nothing of life and life expects nothing of us. Our lives are determined by the quality of our living. That quality is derived from our personal language, the labels, the meanings with which we color the props and the backdrops of our living. Out there has no effect on us, it’s in here.

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Living in the Flow

The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all [i.e., nothing producing karma]. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 4.19-21

I have a friend who is constantly in an uproar. She had the most difficult time dealing with change, in spite of the fact that life is nothing but change. She always felt that somehow she was in the wrong place, either physically or in life. She was either angry at life, or angry with herself most of the time. She was convinced that she had landed in the wrong place and was unable to accept her life. One day, a woman, from whom she would never normally have accepted advice, told her that the reason her life seemed so miserable and mine did not was because I was able to flow. That statement hit her like a ton of bricks. I think that, at that moment, she realized that the quality of our lives has nothing to do with life itself, but how we approach it. However my life was going and wherever I happened to be, it was my belief that everything was as it should be. I felt, that if I am here, here is where I am meant to be.

I frustrated her every time that I said it. I have always considered myself to be very lazy and really averse to suffering. So, it always seemed simpler and less painful to accept my life as it is rather than to suffer, by resisting the circumstances that obviously exist. It has always just seemed logical to me to play the cards that I have been dealt rather than wasting time and energy, especially emotional energy, fighting what is, because I don’t like it. That, in my opinion, is like beating an impenetrable wall because it is in my way, rather than just looking for a way around it. My philosophy is to acknowledge its existence, and then seek a way around it, and if one cannot be found, then I accept that there is a good purpose for it being there. I prefer to use my time and energy rather than waste it. I am lazy!

The saddest thing about mankind is that we suffer our greatest pain because we won’t face, and accept the inevitable. We waste so much of our time and energy fighting against the inevitable seasons of life, that we leave little time or energy for living. We spend forty-five percent of our time regretting the past and forty five percent of our lives worrying about the future and only ten percent of our time living in the present. It’s hard to imagine what the quality of our lives would be, if only we realized that now is our life.

Each moment evaporates as soon as we experience it. Each “Now” is at once the past, present, and the future. Life is a series of beginnings and endings, some causing joy and some causing pain. Always, as long as we are on the earth, we can look forward to both joys and sorrows, hellos and goodbyes, successes and failures, rising up and falling down, and births and deaths. This will go on as long as the sun rises and the sun sets. A friend is made a friend is lost, an enemy is defeated while a new enemy is making his way to our door. A nation will rise and that same nation will fall. A race of people will rule, and that same race will serve, all in its season. A race will flourish for a time, and then it will be wiped out. Just as each species will flourish for a time and in time become extinct. And what happens has nothing to do with how wise one is, nor how righteous one is, it has only to do with their season. Here on earth, there is no justice, no fairness, but we will, in the end be judged fairly by God. There is no righteous man who has never sinned and no sinner who has never acted righteously, therefore man cannot judge man.

So, what we can do, while living under the sun, is follow the advice in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14:

13. Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight which he hath made crooked? 14. In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; yea, God hath made the one side by side with the other, to the end that man should not find out anything that shall be after him.

Life is a rainbow of colors, some are our favorites and some we don’t particularly like, but we are here to try them all. God creates all of life for us. However many yesterdays we have had, they have mostly been forgotten. However many tomorrows we will have, they are impossible to know. Yet, what we do have is life. We have its flow, with all of the beginnings and all of the endings-all of the seasons. We do not mourn summer when winter comes, and we do not mourn spring when summer comes. This is because we are certain that they will come again. We do not mourn the sun when it sets because we are certain that it will rise, but the truth is that we cannot be certain that it will rise for us. If we believe in God, then we must know that God has no favorites. There is no life in the universe that is more or less important to God than ours. So, whatever happens in our lives is a gift from the one who loves us unconditionally. We must live with the knowledge that first: everything is good, and second: nothing dies, nothing ends, and nothing is born, except form. Spirit is everlasting. Believing this lessens pain, it lessens the sense of loss because that sense of loss is immediately replaced with the anticipation of what will be born in place of what has outworn its usefulness. Life contains no vacuums. Even a circle only appears to be solid. In fact, under a microscope it would be seen as many tiny connected dots, beginnings and endings. And whether or not we choose to accept what happens in our lives will have absolutely no effect on whether or not it happens. If we hate rain, it will still rain.

Life is meant to be lived, and living is experiencing life. Experiencing life with the firm belief that it is only real in this moment. Love with all of your heart, every moment and every experience that it contains. So often we look back at times in our past, when we were so distracted by the things that upset us that we lost those precious moments with those whom we have loved-moments that we can never recapture. Other times we look back and find that those things we were so upset about turned out to be gifts of immeasurable magnitude. We should accept the life that we have been given as being perfect, not because we are perfect, perfect implies a state of completion; and we are not required to be perfect. We are, in each moment, in the process of becoming. We should accept our lives as perfect because the Creator, who gave them to us to live -is perfect.

There are many things in our lives that we can’t change, but those things that we can’t change are meant as gifts from which to learn. Sometimes our lessons come from overcoming, and in those times we will be shown the way to overcome, other times our lessons come from simply enduring and during those times we will be prevented from finding any way to overcome. Yet, whichever way it is meant to be, in the end we will find that it is good. Each life is a puzzle, and we have to put the pieces together. What is important to remember is that life is a puzzle that comes with all the pieces, no matter how difficult the puzzle is that we have been given, we have been given all of the pieces and they will all fit. Life consists of putting the pieces together, and examining and understanding the picture as it grows with each piece. When we have finally put all of the pieces together, it is time for this life to end, so that we may be given a new life with a whole new set of pieces to put together. Each puzzle is a perfect work of art, our creation. We need to have the faith in God and in His work to flow with life and pour our joy into it without counting what we get back in return. Because what we get, is the chance to live it.