Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shedding Fear

Do you let your light shine?
Sometimes fear gets the better of us. We may not realize it has taken hold and is holding us back. Sometimes we do.
How often have you said, "I can't do that because I'm afraid of...." Maybe it's a fear of heights. Maybe it's a fear of confined space. Maybe it's a fear of saying the wrong thing - doing the wrong thing - being criticized or ostracized. Sometimes we just can't take the next step because of a fear that we cannot name. The minute we say "I'm afraid of" or "I can't do that because", we empower our fear. Fear is debilitating.
We will sometimes say it as though everyone should understand and accept that we limit ourselves in this fear. We all have some level of fear. Some level of fear may be necessary for survival.  But it is not good when we hang onto, grow and accept fears that limit our ability to function at full capacity in life. Some level of fearlessness is important for survival and even more important for self actualization.
Shedding needless fear is just about the most important thing we can learn to do. So, how do we determine if our fear is needless?  Look around you. Find people who don't have that fear and find out why they don't. Some of them may have had the same fear you do now. They can tell you how they got over it. And they are likely to tell you it wasn't easy but it was worth it. Ask them what make it worth it.
You can do it too.
Fear diminishes our life. It robs us of experiences we could have. It robs us of accomplishment. And if may even shorten our life by years. It is a source of stress and stress kills. Don't let fear grow!
Try this. When you actually do something that you once feared so much that you wouldn't say this "Once I was too afraid to do this. I am thankful I am no longer too afraid to do it." Then change that to "I am thankful I can do this!"
Let your light shine!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

To be the best me I can be.....

We live in a most amazing time. Sitting in front of our computer screen we can access more information than can be contained in the largest library. We can read history, current news, philosophy, religious beliefs and just about anything that can be imagined. If ever there was an age of enlightenment, it is right in front of us. The opportunity to learn from any of the great masters of any subject is right here - right now.
But opportunity is often overlooked. We learn by stepping outside of our comfort zone. When we hear new ideas and new concepts for the first time, it's hard to understand and make sense of them. We try to fit them into existing categories and if they seem to oppose what we already believe to be true, we have a real problem. Dismiss them or re-consider what we believed was true.
If you are a person with natural curiosity and a desire to learn, it's not quite as difficult. But it is challenging to re-assess your belief system. You have to let go of your ego, open your heart and listen to the universal spirit that is all around you. You have to develop the explorer mindset - the desire to go beyond whatever you have been taught to believe. You have to believe that there is more to know. You have to believe there are places of the spirit that are not yet explained or understood - at least not yet by you.
This is where I find myself. Religion often offends me because it presents itself as having the end all - be all - answers. It's full of doctrine that people repeat like robots with little understanding or concern about the actual meaning behind it. It becomes something to hang onto like a rope in the middle of a river. Don't let go of the rope or you might float somewhere terrible. So, everyone is just hanging onto this rope believing it is saving them from some terrible demise. I'm willing to let go of the rope and discover what's down river. And I'm seeing some great scenery.
We get so caught up in lifelines - hanging onto terms and ways of expressing things - and we cannot see beyond our fears. We can't learn anything if we are certain we already know it all. There are great commonalities across all beliefs and even the belief in no great deity at all. There is something that binds us all. Yes, some have been so damaged that they can no longer see the bond but it is still there nonetheless.
We need to stop poking one another in the eye insisting that there is just this one language - one path - one understanding - one way. I know atheists and agnostics who are more generous and more dedicated to humanity than some religious folk I know. It's not convincing to me to say that  a belief or a prayer will guarantee a greater reward in some afterlife. I cannot believe you can be bitter, judgmental, self centered and self righteous but you pray to God and Jesus - go to church - and you're selected above all others.
I do believe that our spirit, our energy, lives on somehow. But I also recognize that I believe that because I was carefully taught to believe it. It's a theory. It's a guess. My curious explorer self seeks evidence. That "evidence" is not something I can experience with my normal senses. I have to seek with my spirit - my intuition - my ability to "believe" or to suspend disbelief. All things are possible.
What is probable?
What can I live with?
What belief will motivate me to be more, do more today? That is what counts for me. What will inspire me TODAY to be a better person for myself and for those around me? My mission is to be a creator - to make something more each day for myself and those around me. TODAY. I don't need anyone and any thing to dictate that to me. I may be inspired by a message at church. I may be inspired by a story on the news. I may be inspired by an immersive experience observing nature. My spirit seeks inspiration. My spirit seeks collaboration. My spirit seeks truth and understanding. But I trained my spirit to seek these things. TODAY. Tomorrow and the afterlife will come. I don't need a ticket. I don't need a rope. I don't need to poke anyone else in the eye. Though sometimes I want to. I need to be the best me I can be. I need to encourage and inspire others to do the same.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Be careful of the "No Souls"

Sometimes something gets my attention and troubles me. It is like a puzzle that's confounding and I feel a need to solve it, yet know it's not solvable. Mostly it's about trying to understand why a person behaves a certain way. They mystify me. Can there be any logic to how they think?
Some days there seem to be so many instances of lack of reason or logic that it's overwhelming.
How can members of our community perpetrate fraud after fraud for decades and escape accountability?
Why do young people feel a need to bully?
How does anyone loose empathy for another human to the point that they can torture, bomb, be-head, shoot another human being?
How can anyone be anti-abortion AND against birth control?
How can anyone applaud an effort to "repeal and replace" something and NOT know what the replacement is supposed to be?
How can we believe there is no budget to solve problems and watch the waste of thousands, millions, and billions on senseless projects?
As a young teen I remember feeling like I was from a different planet. This world seemed like a very foreign place. It's still a great mystery to me. I may be returning to the conclusion I made then. It seemed to me there were actually only a limited number of people who actually had souls. The rest are born without one. It's not easy sometimes to tell who doesn't have one. So we have to be really careful. The "no-souls" are very tricky. And it's not a good idea to let them know you have one because they will try to steal it. But we need to connect with the people who actually have souls so we have to let ours show. It's like running a gauntlet with "no souls" trying to grab yours as you run toward those who might have a soul too.
Watch for the ones quietly and diligently doing the real work. They are the ones with real souls. They make sense and they create something real and lasting. Meanwhile, the "no souls" are screaming and beating their chests while leaving a path of destruction.

Friday, January 2, 2015

If I had one wish...

If I had one wish, just one, I would wish for every child to have someone special that they know loves them unconditionally. Unconditional love has a profound effect on any life but in those formative years - those years of finding your way in the world - unconditional love gives you hope and security that can carry you through many decades.
When someone loves you unconditionally, you don't want to disappoint them. You know they see your shortcomings. They know about your mistakes. But they keep on loving you. The glow in their eyes never wavers when they see you. You know their love is so deep that nothing will ever take it away. They inspire you to keep trying to be more.
Every child needs to experience that kind of love. My grandparents gave me that. They were close enough to see all my mistakes. I know they worried about my choices. But always in their eyes I saw that deep love that I knew would never go away. They had to be disappointed with me at times but if they expressed it, I don't remember it. I just remember the overwhelming sense of endless love. And though they are long gone, I feel it still.
My grandparents were fun, funny, playful spirits in my young life. And when I have the opportunity to spend time with little people, I remember the spirit they shared with me - the love they showed me. I let out the fun, funny, playful spirit.
Maybe we don't have to wait for those kind of moments. Maybe - no matter what age we are - we can connect with a more fun, funny, playful spirit. Inside, we all have a child that needs loved unconditionally. If I had one wish, just one, perhaps it should be for all of us to be that special someone who knows how to love unconditionally. As we find our way in the world, it would provide hope and security.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Vision

Why do some protests, no matter how large they grow, fail to be a catalyst for change, while others actually become a catalyst for change? The answer is Vision and collective intent.
A protest that is purely focused on being against something but has no vision of something better that can rally masses to focus on a collective intent, will not be sustainable. The impact will be much less because resistance absorbs much of the created energy. The focus is what already exists so all the energy goes toward what exists. Nothing new is being created. If nothing new is created - no vision of what should be - all that will remain when the protests are done is what already exists.
One of the greatest examples of a protest with an amazing vision is our own American Revolution. The colonies grew weary of the diversion of their growing wealth to the mother country - Britain. Great Britain, and most of the world, was then ruled by monarchies. Britain was a powerful empire. The odds of winning a war against this empire were zero.
One document changed the odds - the Declaration of Independence. It provided the colonists with a shared vision and intent. They focused on creating something totally new. The colonists began to fight for something instead of against something. Against all odds, we became a nation founded on the vision of this document - a document whose vision remains elusive in its fulfillment for all. We need to focus on the vision and continue to march toward its fulfillment.
Martin Luther King was a master at providing a vision. His "I have a Dream" speech captivated the hearts of millions in its eloquence and ability to create a shared vision. With that vision, millions had the stamina to chisel away at the injustices that prevented that vision from being reality.
If we want change - large or small - we first need a vision of what can be - what should be. Protesting alone will not succeed. That vision needs mass appeal in order to gain traction. We have to walk toward that vision as if no one is going to stop us. When there is resistance, we have to focus on the vision and not the resistance. March past it. The vision has to be something that lifts the masses.
As we enter into a new year, lets work on our vision. Choose something right in front of you and see it, believe it, feel it the way is should be. Walk in the light of knowing that it will be. See the resistance as a simple test of your commitment. Walk past it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Just One Gift....

The years roll by. Sometimes it's all a blur and then there are memories etched in our mind.
Christmas is full of memories. To the young I say - treasure them - build them.
Once I asked Aunt Dorothy about her childhood memories of Christmas. One that stood out was at her Grandma Flemming's large Victorian home in Pittsburgh. It was 1933/4 - several years before my mother was born. She would have been about 9 years old and my Uncle John was just a few years older.  Despite the difficulties of the depression, the family was doing ok. They lived on the Southside of Oil City where my Grandparents had a little neighborhood grocery store. She and Uncle John walked to the Saturday afternoon show at the Latonia every week. They loved the cartoons and movies!
She described a very formal Christmas gathering at Grandma Flemming's house. While my grandparents were modestly successful, the Flemmings were part of the Steel Dynasty of Pittsburgh at that time. They had a huge Christmas tree, she said, that was nearly 2 stories tall. The children were gathered and each received one gift. Her gift was a Mickey Mouse watch. It was probably one of the first Mickey Mouse watches made.
Somewhere in my readings or watching historic programs I recall a statement that FDR may have influenced the kind of Christmas we now know. He was cited as having encouraged people to purchase one gift for loved ones during the depression as an economic stimulus. Prior to this, the tradition was to give home made Christmas gifts.  When I learned this, Aunt Dorothy's story came to mind. They received just one gift and the time was about right for having been inspired by FDR.
Above that, what is striking is that one gift - just one gift - can have meaning that transcends years and years. More than 60 years had passed when Aunt Dorothy told me that story. I believe, at the time, she was the last soul alive from that day in 1933 or 1934. She loved the cartoons and movies of the time. Now, years later, I hear a story about President Roosevelt and remember the story Aunt Dorothy told me about a Mickey Mouse watch she got for Christmas. So many stories of life are interconnected. A day - a memory - can bring us closer.
Let this day be one memory - one gift. It only takes one gift to transcend decades.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Joy of Furry Friends

Pets are so wonderful! They each have their own special little personalities. Each time one enters my life I think there will never be another to top this one. And then the next is just as wonderful in their own unique way.
Molly Mutt Paws is the one with the biggest heart and is the most sensitive. Together we worked through her fears and I didn't learn the likely source of them for years. When she started limping, an x-ray revealed she had pellets in her legs. She had been terribly afraid of children. Perhaps some youngsters.... With lots of love, she has shed her fears. She likes to have responsibilities and assumes them easily. She loves having lessons - sit, stay, up, down, walk slowly, one step.... She is the welcome wagon and the reliable signal of things out of sort like a broken water pipe in the night. The one thing she has never overcome from her young days as a stray is want of food. If it is in her range, she will eat it - whether it's good for her on not. Oddly, however, she often stands back if the cat, Mr. Jeepers, jumps ahead of her at her dish and steals a few bites. She's also respectful of Timid Tobey Sheltie's dish - even draining her own water bowl first, shying away from his unless hers remains empty too long. Her favorite toy is a deflated basketball but she loves stuffed animals too.
Little Timid Tobey is a happy little guy when the situation is familiar and routine. He was about a year old when he came to me and nothing seemed familiar or routine to him. Last summer he discovered his favorite place in the world - Pennwood! When we camp there, he is exuberant and confident - even chasing a bear about 20 times his size! He can guard a tree for hours making sure the squirrel stays in it. In a house full of people, he hides. In the woods, he wants to explore and is very reluctant to leave at the end of the weekend. He's grown into a willingness to learn and learns best by watching his hero Molly. He too has a big heart with a playful spirit. True to his breed, he tends to like to keep track of me. It took time but he learned to trust me and if he's on a leash he willingly follows, even into a room full of people that he'd never venture into alone. Tobey loves his cat friend, Mr. Jeepers. He prefers live friends over toys.
When Jeepers adopted the front porch as home, Tobey was first to actually touch him - nose to nose. It took weeks before I could get close to Jeepers but he kept showing up. He seemed only half tame and yet seemed just as determined to become part of the family. His first night in the house was most remarkable as he and Tobey acted like they were long lost friends - playing and teasing each other  with a gentle trust. Jeepers likes to escape sometimes and Tobey is quick to greet him upon return - knocking him down as if to say "Where have you been!" Jeepers just rolls over - "ok, ok." I still marvel that a cat I thought only half tame adapted so well inside. He will find one of the chairs and lay in a kingly half sleep and sometimes jump on the bed wanting a little attention but otherwise he is very respectful and independent. He seems mostly content with life. Sometimes he snuggles up next to Molly or Tobey. Once in a while he wants to be picked up and fussed with a bit but he's let me know he is NOT a lap kitty. Now I know if he talks to me, it's one of two reasons - he's hungry or he wants some attention. If he talks to me and I ignore him, he'll get under foot to make his point known.  He likes short hugs and fussing - and belly rubs when he lets you know by rolling over when you walk by.
I'm thankful for these furry friends and the joy in learning to understand them.