authenticity

Our Father Who Art In Heaven

“God is always for us and never against us.”
Dr. Michael Beckwith."
As a little girl, I loved to go to church. I was raised in a small country church and the people became (and still are) like family to me. In Sunday school, I loved to read and act out the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah and the whale among others.Of course, we read stories about Jesus too. But my “kid” mind thought that what was even more amazing than Jesus rising from the dead was that He was born on Christmas and had grown into an adult by Easter three months later! I did figure it out as I got older.

My “kid” mind also believed that God was an old man with a white beard looking down on me from the sky. That’s where Heaven is, isn’t it? Up in the sky? Up there, where it’s all rainbows and unicorns. And Hell is down somewhere, maybe in the center of the earth?

I believed if I was good and followed the rules then I would go to Heaven with all of the good people. And if I was bad and broke the rules I would go to Hell where it’s really hot and I would burn and be miserable forever.

Of course my “kid” mind decided that I definitely wanted to go to Heaven. I love rainbows and unicorns, burning in fire, not so much.

As I got older, I wanted to learn more about the white-bearded man in the sky.

I’ve read numerous books by well known spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, Neal Donald Walsh, Rob Bell and Marianne Williamson. I’ve taken numerous Bible study classes and have had and listened to many hours of conversations with spiritual and Biblical scholars and teachers.

After all of the research and time I have spent pondering the tough questions, I have come to believe one thing for sure. God is NOT a white-bearded man that sits in the clouds and judges every little thing I do.

I don’t remember exactly when I first considered the idea of God not being a figure in the sky. I do know this concept through me for a loop. Everything I had believed as a child was suddenly being questioned. On the other hand, it felt right and I thirsted to learn more.

I can’t tell you who or what God is. I am still on my quest. But I will tell you that I believe my journey is about creating a relationship with God. And I don’t believe it will be complete in my lifetime.

Take a look at your “kid” mind beliefs. Do they still ring true for you today? Do your own research. Talk to people you trust and admire. Read books. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should believe. Use YOUR wisdom. TRUST that still small voice inside.

I know that if we continue to look for God, we will find Him… or Her. I invite you to join me on this journey. May we travel with love, open hearts and patience as we uncover our way to God.

FORGIVE ME NOT

"Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."
 —  Mark Twain
I was recently involved in a conversation of a group of women who live together and we heard how two of the women broke a rule of the house. Consequently, all of the residents were penalized.
It was very easy to empathize with the women who had followed the rules and were angry with this decision.  One of the women who had broken the rules said she had learned her lesson and that it would not happen again.
A couple of the women were angry and had no compassion for those who had broken the rules.  For them, I threw out the possibility of forgiveness.  It was met with a quick and fervent “Hell no!”  It seemed that since they were suffering, they wanted the offenders to suffer by not forgiving them.
Someone stated she didn’t particularly care for the word “forgiveness.”  I asked her what forgiveness meant to her.  
Her response was that it seemed to let the offender off the hook.  
I get what she’s talking about.  When someone says “I’m sorry”  I automatically say “it’s ok.”   
But is it really enough to say “I’m sorry?”   Are we then expected to say, “it’s ok”  and just let it go?
What about those people who refuse to admit they’ve done anything wrong?  Should we forgive them? Who is forgiveness really for?
Rather than rely on my interpretation of the word forgive, I went to the dictionary.  
“Forgive- to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake.”
Was it as simple as that?  Was it as complicated as that?  Just stop feeling angry or resentful? 
This definition says nothing about the other person making amends or even admitting wrong doing.  Forgiveness is simply a choice on the part of the forgiver.  Simple but not easy.
 And why do we choose to hold on to our anger and resentment?
I once had a friend that I decided had done me wrong.  I held on to my anger and resentment for years.  Funny thing is, she went on about her life as I was “punishing” her with my non-forgiveness.  Truthfully, the only one who suffered was me. 
Finally, I had to face the fact that what I really wanted was to be right and for her to be wrong.  And I wanted the world to see this too.  I was happy in my own miserable righteousness.  
Then I realized that the only one I was hurting was me. I finally forgave her (and myself), let go of my anger and resentment and we patched up our friendship.
When we are unforgiving with others we are usually just as unforgiving with ourselves.  This has been the case for me.  
I want to be “right”  so whenever I have judged myself as wrong or bad, I find it very difficult to forgive myself.
The Bible teaches that we should forgive those who wrong us 70 x7 times.  I believe this means that we are to try our best to choose to be open, accepting and loving each time we encounter experiences that trigger our anger and resentment. Even with ourselves.
We can choose to be “right” and hold a grudge. However, forgiveness is a sweet fragrance that releases our anger, resentment and righteousness. Its scent fills our hearts and spirits with love and compassion and sets us free.
 

Power Through Pain

I was diagnosed with shingles around Thanksgiving. While the blisters have long since gone, it is taking longer for the pain to completely dissipate. My doctor informed me that I could have residual pain for up to a year. (For more information about shingles go to http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-topic-overview)

While I would not wish this illness on anyone, it brought some lessons that have been life changing.

Because I had shingles over the holidays, I told myself that I would hunker down and take good care of myself. My plan was that when the first week in January came, I would get back to work and my normal routine. However, my body had something else in mind.

I found that even though the pain had lessened and I was able to take less pain medication, my stamina was low. I was fatigued by 3pm and even if I took a nap, I was exhausted by 7pm.

I was frustrated and wondered what was wrong with me. After all, I “should” be better by now because I had taken good care of myself. Right?

My mind was full of useless internal (and some external) whining. I was thinking about how this wasn’t fair… I was afraid because I needed to get back to work because money doesn’t grow on trees… I began thinking that my family probably thinks I’m a slacker and I just need to suck it up…yada, yada, yada…

Suddenly I could hear Eckhart Tolle’s words ringing in my ears. What if I totally accepted how I felt each moment, no stories, no pity party, no internal dialogue? What if there was no place I needed to be? What if I was exactly where I “should” be?

For that day, I decided to clear my head of all the “shoulds” and judgments. I simply did what I could and what felt right.

And here’s what happened, I connected with a colleague and a friend on the phone, created a good portion of a workshop, ate a delicious and nourishing breakfast and lunch, washed, folded and put away a load of laundry, dusted and vacuumed the living room, showered and wrote this.

As soon as the pressure to be somewhere else was gone, I was free to be exactly where I was. I realized that a lot of my fatigue was caused by me not accepting how I was feeling.

I also realized this is how I do life, I fight it. I worry about what others think. I’m always trying to figure out what will make those around me happy. I battle between what I want to do and what I feel I “should” do. It’s a constant fight, no wonder I’m tired.

By accepting what is, there is nothing to push against. And by listening to my own inner wisdom, I empower myself and rely less on the approval of others. As a consequence, it frees up a lot of mental and physical energy.

Needless to say, this feels great. And this way of being has to be more conducive to healing.
It’s clear this is something that’s simple and powerful but not always easy. And I will continue to practice.