Sanctuary.

Sanctuary

Where is our sanctuary?  Where is that space we all need to both find strength and peace?  With all the teachers, the methods, the gifted, the people from other dimensions, ascended masters, time travellers, aliens, television and book stars, reincarnated, psychics, shared secrets, special diets, sacred forgotten practices, dreams, special drugs from the rainforest . . . why are we still so lost?  Do you know where your sanctuary is?


“Sanctuary” and “Asylum” have become exchangeable words in our ever maddening stampede to dumb down the entire English language. The difference between the two is one of those slight shadings that manages to take a word and deepens and enriches its meaning.  “Asylum” is what we seek when we are running from something. It is a place where the protection from that something can be much broader than a finite space and has varying degrees of power – often put in place by power.  We are “granted asylum.” “Sanctuary” is more something we seek out when we are looking for something. It was originally intended to mean a religious place but the element of “safety” was eventually added to it and some of its meaning was lost and certainly confused. “Sanctuary” as a spiritual place where we might feel safe suggests that we should seek a religious place that has been created for such a purpose, or a place in nature where we can feel that spirit. It might even be provided by a special shrine or place we create within our home where we go to practice our spiritual endeavours. It refers to a specific contained space that creates a state of being.

Much of what has been presented to us as spiritual or religious has moved the whole journey from being an inner one to being one that engages and involves the outside world. We surrender our self. It has been perhaps, one of the most effective attacks on us as spiritual beings because it has put other people and things in control of our own connection. Continue reading

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Armchair or Life?

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When I got married, many of my peers had an expectation of a good life ahead of them. It never occurred to any of us that we would not have houses and cars, big TV’s and wonderful vacations. Of course we would. Our parents had those things and so would we. Every generation heads off into the world with expectations that include what their parents had.   We all failed to realize our parents worked many years for those things and it was ridiculous for us to feel entitled to them without also working and saving. Life might have taught us some valuable lessons in reality but my generation embraced credit and now a personal debt is an expectation.  No-one waits for anything anymore. Immediate gratification was something we taught our kids with every purchase we made.   So now, we have grandkids who, like us, feel they have a right to everything their parents have, and their disconnect with the hard work that provides those things is almost complete.   Enter the sense of entitlement we all complain about today. Continue reading

This Is How Love Wins.

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The Easter message is that we can be forgiven.  It is that we can change.  We can take our lives, and all the mistakes, and all our troubles, and choose a different path.  We can walk a path that is blessed with the wisdom of the lessons learned, and a better knowing of who we are.

This is how we heal the world.  Forgiveness is not just for us, it is not just a gift given by a man who died on the cross . . .  it is a gift we must extend to others.  Our forgiveness.  We must learn to say, “I forgive you” and to make a space in our lives for people to choose a different path.  We need to support their struggles to learn and grow.  We have to let go of our idea of who they were, and encourage their journey.

All around us are people who have lost their way, who would give anything to have a second chance, to start over with a different ending.   People suffer their losses of loved ones, of jobs, of self and they suffer alone, often further burdened by the judgments of the people who surround them.  We label people with their mistakes.  There goes the “drug addict,” the “drunk,” the “thief,” the “loser.”  She had a baby before she was married.  His wife left him.  He got fired.  Years pass, and still, we hold onto those labels, imprisoning people in their mistakes.

Had their mistakes not been made public, they would be safe and secure with everyone else, judging those whose sins are pinned to them in bright scarlet for all to see. Continue reading

The Breath of Life.

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I wanted to share this with you.  I could not advocate anything more.  Deep breathing is vital to our well-being.

When we are in nature, when we sleep deeply or when we meditate, we breathe deeply and this can enable us to to feel relaxed and calm.  When we are relaxed and calm it impacts our entire body.  Deep breathing signals our brains that we are no longer stressed and we no longer require the amped up body response of fight or flight.

The more stressed we are in our day-to-day the more it impacts our breathing.   It does not take long until we are breathing shallow as a matter of routine.  We don’t even realize that we have stopped breathing into our diaphragm as intended and are only pulling air into chests before expelling it quickly.  It becomes a cycle.  Stress causes us to stop breathing deeply and as we breathe shallow we are reinforcing that we are in stress.

The body’s response to stress is the same as if our life were to be threatened.  Remember those times when you thought there was a monster under your bed as a child, or you thought you heard someone in the house as an adult?  Remember how you stopped (or almost stopped) breathing?  When we live our lives filled with stress our body reacts in the same way.   Our body needs oxygen.  It is vital to our well being.  Stress impacts the central nervous system and causes the hypothalamus in the brain to release cortisone and adrenaline, flooding your body.   From there a whole laundry list of body responses occur as the body tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen occurs, many of which, long term, can end up killing you.

Breathing is life.  Cessation of breathing is death.  It follows that the more deeply we breathe, the more connected to life and health we are.  We give our body, our brains, and our spirits what they need to be able to fully function.

Take the time when you are driving, riding the bus, walking to work, sitting in a meeting … to just consider your breathing.  Check that you are taking air right down deep into your belly.  Practice taking it in slowly, holding it, and slowly releasing.  Relax your body as you exhale, releasing all your tensions.  Let go of your worries.  Just breathe in and out.  As we become more mindful of our breathing, even just for a few minutes each day, we begin to see a noticeable difference.  Just a simple cycle pattern of breathing can reset our batteries and remind us to relax.

Here is the cycle I use:

Become aware of your breath, breathe normally in and out.

1. Breathe in to the count of 10 – slowly.
2. Hold to the count of 10 – slowly.
3. Release to the count of  10 – slowly.
Repeat 1 -3, 3 times.

Breathe normally for a half dozen breaths.

1. Breathe in to the count of 12 – slowly.
2. Hold to the count of 12 – slowly.
3. Release to the count of  12 – slowly.
Repeat 1 -3, 3 times.

Breathe normally.

You can up the number of your count as your ability to breathe deeply improves.  This alone will help you to relax, refocus your mind and therefore help you to concentrate on the task at hand.  The stress and jitteriness that you may feel when you try to meditate or go to sleep often occurs because you are breathing in a very shallow manner.  Using the method I have outlined can also help you to relax your body so that you can focus on meditation or it can help you drift off to sleep.  It is a wonderful, healthy and simple way for you to take back the control of your “self” that our day-to-day stressful lives continually erode from us.

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I am His Hands. He is My Eyes.

Some people see limits where other people see possibilities.  Some people say, “I can’t” when others always “can.”  Some people give up and others never quit trying.

Somewhere in the pain of life we find our path.  We fight against our circumstances which are always more than we ever knew.  We curse God.  We hurt the people we love the most.  We run until we realize we can never outrun ourselves and there is nothing to do but to sit with those circumstances and learn the lessons.

How lonely we all are in our own lives, swinging away at our demons and fighting off the monsters that stalk us through the night.  How much easier life would be if we could only stop working so hard at keeping up our image that all of life’s lessons seem to assert as the only thing worth fighting for.  We have to be strong.  We have to be successful.  We have to be perfect… even when all we want to do is cry. Continue reading

My Valentine.

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Here is my heart. I am reaffirming that I intend to invest it into my life and the people that I interact with. It is the best part of who I am. When I can put aside all the noise that distracts me from listening, it speaks to me of truth and hope. It always leads me to the light.

Someday, I hope to be worthy of the heart that I was given, that I might be able to live a life totally devoted to its well-being, but for now, all I can do is to reaffirm that I am working on it. I care about the world around me. I care about the people in it. I care about my friends and family. I care about you.

Someday we may live in a world where everyone lives by the wisdom of their hearts. We might care for one another, support on another, encourage each person to be and do everything they possibly can. It will probably not happen in my lifetime but I do know, unless I do my part here and now, it will never happen.

So, I intend to love. I intend to love even when I am faced with a world filled with hate. I intend to love the unloved and to lift them up in any way I can. I will continue to allow myself to feel love, even when it is so intense that it moves me to tears. Sometimes that experience is one of beauty, but often it is one of great pain. When I see others suffer, I feel so deeply that I know that it is love building a bridge between their experience and mine. There is no separation when love is the bridge that connects us all. We should never be afraid to open ourselves to truly understand other people’s lives. Without that bridge, we are all just weapons that will eventually affect war on each other.

So here is my Valentine’s heart. It is not the love of romance. It is a love more abiding. It is love with connection, with compassion, and with healing. I want to love the world. I want to feel that I am loved in return. I want this for all of us.

Possibilities

Ask a roomful of people to consider a toothpick within a 2 minutes timeframe, to come up with as many uses for it as they can think of, other than the purpose for what it is made, and you will be amazed. The combined ideas will create a long list. Some of the ideas will be common in most people’s responses and some will be unique to maybe one or two people. That group of people will be pleased with their efforts.

Now, if you were to replace those people with a new roomful of people and ask them to do the same thing BUT you show them the first room’s list, you will end up with even more suggestions.

Brainstorming is a very useful tool when a company needs to get the creative juices flowing. It is a great way to stimulate new ideas for answers to problems that are not responding to the usual answers. But this practice also demonstrates how we see things. We often only see the purpose for which we think (our education, our upbringing, our beliefs)it has been created. In the exercises above you will always have those people who struggle to come up with any other ideas, or who produce only a couple more than the original use for which it was intended. And yet others produce a list full of really different ideas that everyone can agree, would work. Should an object not be perfect, it is often considered useless and is discarded. In the example above, if you opened the box and found a broken toothpick, most of us would throw it away. Some might even take the whole box back to the store and demand our money back. Continue reading