Renewal & Possibilities

Renewal: New Possibilities

Spring is just beginning here in the northern hemisphere—the season of renewal and new possibilities. A small plot of land across from the complex where I live is blanketed with a floral violet-colored ground cover. It does so spot-on every year at this time, and it always takes my breath away. Daffodils and crocuses are beginning to blossom.

I know—the Covid-19 pandemic continues to linger and keep our lives in check. But we’ve come a long way through a very dark period of our lives—for many of us with great suffering and loss. Yet, there is hope for returning to some level of normalcy in the air, and the season of spring helps to fuel this.

“We grin and bear it ’cause the nights are long.
I hope that somethin’ better comes along.”

— The Muppets

What’s Next?

What will the coming months and year ahead really be like? When will we feel confident that we can see and hug our loved ones and friends freely again? When will life feel normal again—or will it ever? Most importantly – however things do unfold – what new possibilities are ahead for each of us?

There is a spiritual practice of Visioning developed by Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith of the Agape International Spiritual Center that might just help with this. It’s designed to help us create a more expansive idea of our lives than what we currently have—going beyond our limited perspectives and experiences by opening us to a higher vision. This is not about catching a vision and setting out to make it happen with goals, actions, etc. Rather, this Visioning is a meditative practice to clear some space for deep listening to Divine Wisdom within. In this space we can pose a series of inquiring questions: What must I release? What must I embrace or embody? What must I become?

Release and let go

This first inquiry invites us to clear out what is not needed, has completed its’ purpose, or is limiting us in some way. Is it time to let go of a relationship? Perhaps there are old habits, attitudes or beliefs that are no longer life affirming. Anything that does not serve the fulfillment of the possibilities and a new vision deserves consideration. It can even be old stuff we have hanging around, or old clothes we no longer wear and may never wear again. Releasing creates a vacuum, or perhaps we could refer to it as a womb of potentiality.

The spring season of renewal is a natural time for doing spring cleaning, or organizing, such as the garage or basement. It’s also the time to clean up the garden to prepare it for new growth. Whether you sit in quite meditation, go for long walks in nature and or tend to your home and garden, allow this to be time of reflection, of sorting and clearing the soil of your consciousness. These are all mindful actions that can serve this process.

Embrace your scars

Embrace Your Scars and Imperfections

“Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

gounded beingI was in the midst of writing this article when the COVID-19 virus epidemic was declared a pandemic. Our Illinois’ governor mandated a “stay-at-home” order for all non-essential service employees. Much of my work halted, and like everyone, I was trying to adjust to the effects of isolation and uncertainty. I reluctantly cancelled my June Greek Island yoga retreat. And, I wondered when, or if, I’d get to dance Tango again! But my spiritual teachings and practices helped calm me with an inner knowing. No matter what happens on the surface of our lives, there is an unshakeable ground of being that is eternally present.

As the saying goes, we must “look for the silver lining.” We can choose to shine light on the positives that arise during, and because of, this pandemic. We can also embrace the residual scars that reveal the underlying strength, beauty and wisdom that emerges as healing inevitably pervades.


Gold and silver

I was so disappointed when a treasured statue of embracing dancers broke into many pieces last year.  I thought maybe I could glue it together, or better yet find a new one like it on the Internet. When my search proved fruitless, I consulted an expert on how to repair this item. His fee was far too expensive, but he told me how I might do it myself. Because it was made of a soft soapstone, he cautioned that fragments could easily chip off. I gingerly glued the first two pieces together and waited many days before continuing with the next piece. When I finally got it all together, I was delighted to see it whole again—even though its imperfections were noticeable because of missing fragments.

Several weeks later, still admiring my accomplishment, I remembered referencing the Japanese art of Kintsugi in one of my articles many years ago, entitled, “Living the Wabi-Sabi Way.” When a piece of pottery has broken, the areas of breakage are mended with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Highlighting the cracks and repairs simply represents an event in the life of the object, and thus becomes a symbol of its fragility, strength and beauty.

embrace your scars Aha, I will paint the seams and imperfections with gold paint! As I did so, ideas began to flow on writing about Kintsugi as metaphor for life. Embracing our flaws, scars and imperfections offers us the opportunity to acknowledge our true strength, beauty and wisdom that comprise our essential wholeness.


Wounded, broken

Inevitably, circumstances shift and change and sometimes life seems to fall apart. Stuff happens, often catching us off guard. A relationship goes sour, a job is lost or put on furlough, finances take a hit—or we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic!  While we are not made of ceramic, our emotions and thoughts can become rigid and corruptible (corrupt comes from the Latin word corruptus, meaning broken in pieces).

When the future becomes uncertain, we can fall into self-pity and victimization leaving us feeling utterly alone and broken. However, what has been broken or lost has the potential to be repaired or recovered. With appropriate resources a relationship may be repaired, a new job found, physical and economic health restored—maybe even better than before. If a void still remains, this creates space for new possibilities and opportunities…a chance to create life anew.

Suffering is a natural part of the human experience; experience that is essentially impermanent. We won’t live in this flawed and imperfect body forever—the surgence of COVID-19 has made this very clear. We don’t need to hide our wounds and scars or pretend nothing happened—any more than we need to ruminate over the past. Every scar has a story behind it, reminding us of a challenge overcome, a battle survived or even a funny moment in our lives. The key is to learn and grow from the experience, knowing that the hurt is over and to not let emotional scars linger as the story.

Emerging strength

Phoenix Often, we need to seemingly lose everything before we can rise from the ashes like the resiliency of the Phoenix. George Mumford, an aspiring basketball player at the University of Massachusetts, had injuries that forced him give up the game he loved. Pain medications led to heroin as emptiness left him spiraling downward. Finally, after turning to mindfulness meditation and getting clean, he was called to help Coach Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls, a team in crisis after the departure of Michael Jordan. Mumford has since coached a roster of champion clients from Olympians to corporate individuals.

Moving through challenging times makes us stronger. It’s a strength that emerges from within—our connection with our truest self, our core of being. Just as a physical wound heals from the inside out, there is an inner strength within each of us that arises to help us heal. The stronger we become with each circumstance, the greater ease we bring to each new challenge. We can heal collectively as well.

As I write this, I hear of all kinds of people throughout the world who are volunteering in various creative capacities to help us move through this pandemic.

Nelson Mandela recalled a time when he was reading a newspaper while flying with other passengers in a 20-seat aircraft. Suddenly one of the propellers began to sputter and stop. A sense of unease filled the cabin with concern that the other engine would keep running so the plane could safely land. Mandela continued to read his paper as though everything would be fine. Later, passengers remarked on how much his calmness helped them. What Mandela embodied and demonstrated is something we have within us—an unshakeable calmness and ease of being that cannot be broken or shattered and is always present.

Beauty and wisdom revealed

Embrace your scarsJapanese aesthetics value marks of wear from use of an object, and find beauty in what has been broken. In Kintsugi art, when a piece is missing from a ceramic bowl, a fragment from another broken object is fashioned to fill the void. We do this with broken bodies. When a leg is lost a new one can be attached to replace it. Rather than hiding the prosthetic, some people allow it to be freely visible as though wearing it as a badge of honor. Isn’t this an authentic display of inner strength and beauty?

It’s often said that when we bring something into the light, we see it more clearly. This is true of the flaws, blemishes and imperfections of our bodies as well as our lives. Regrets, lost opportunities and hurts, when left to harbor inside, can fester and cause more suffering. However, if we shine a light on them gilding them with our reflections on what we have learned, we begin to put ourselves back together.  We can then accept our true uniqueness—imperfections, deficiencies, challenges, warts and all.

The wisdom of Kintsugi also teaches that acceptance of change is inevitable.  There is a part of us that holds our authentic beauty, that is not broken, accepts everything and forgives our perceived brokenness.  When we can truly forgive ourselves, our inner beauty radiates. Thus, forgiveness brings us back to wholeness.

Life’s golden journey

vein of goldThe healing of our brokenness is sealed with a vein of gold that shines out from the core of our authentic beingness. We only need to regularly open our hearts, rest back and steep in this ground of being with whatever inner practice works for us—meditation, nature, connecting with a loved one. Our life journey then becomes a reflection of that golden vein which nourishes not only us, but interconnects with others throughout the world, the earth itself and the Divine Universe. The COVID Pandemic has brought us to our knees.

keywords

What Are Your Keywords?

Have you ever noticed the highlighted words in an Internet article or blog? These are known as keywords, terms that are used to classify or organize digital content or to facilitate an online search for information. Prior to digital technology, on which we all depend these days, keyword referred to a significant or memorable term in the title, abstract, or text of a print document used as the index entry. Keyword is also widely used to mean a word or concept of great significance.

Continue reading

second chance

Second Chances

“The should road…the could road…the one day road… the someday road…
should only ever be taken in moderation, and on your way to the MUST road.”

Elle Luna, from The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

 Life circumstances rarely happen by chance, and in some of our endeavors the first go-around may be riddled with misfortune, making a second chance seem impossible. Yet all first acts contain seeds of second, third, and even a multitude of chances to try again—to grow, change, and transform throughout one’s life journey. However, like in any garden, in order to blossom or bear fruit, these seeds need to be cultivated with proper soil, water, and nutrients, or they lie dormant. Continue reading

Let Go and Start Anew

I can’t think of anything more devastating than an earthquake that causes loss of tens ofHaitian Earthquake thousands of lives, loved ones, limbs, livelihoods and homes for an entire country. The initial response is to sift through the rubble looking for any signs of life, then useful objects and mementos. Finding the spirit and determination to pick up the pieces and start anew takes enormous courage and fortitude. Our Haitian friends have weathered revolutions, hurricanes, government suppression – and yet there continues to be a spirit and will to start over.

We all face losses and disappointments throughout our lives, ruptured relationships, unsatisfying jobs, no promotion, missed opportunities and lost dreams. How can we emerge from our plight with a renewed vision to start down a new path, embrace the hope of creating something new, and forge something better?

Ruminating stuckness

When things go awry or we experience loss, our minds can flood with a downward spiralRodin's "Thinker" of painful thoughts ranging from rejection, worry, fear, to regret and low self-esteem. Our mind utters familiar messages: “I’m not good enough,” “not loveable,” “not talented,”  “not successful.” “I’ll never find love and companionship, a good job, fulfillment, peace – or be free of pain.” “Why me?” “Why has God forsaken me?” “Why do I have to suffer?” “I can’t bear to be alone in the world.”

Could have, should have thoughts can ruminate constantly. We tell ourselves, “Surely this is all a dream. He or she will change their mind or the situation will all go back to the way things were. I’ll wait. The phone will soon ring and things will all be better.”  When the phone doesn’t ring, more hurt and even anger sets in. It can become a never-ending vicious cycle, like a hamster on a treadmill that goes nowhere. That is your fate until you face the finality and decide to step off the treadmill.

Make peace with your past

Make Peace with PastThe spirit to start anew is available to everyone when we learn to let go of the old – relationship, job, way of life or whatever has you tied to the past. It’s not easy and it takes courage. But the payoff is finding that life still holds joy and gifts that abound and that can free your spirit to soar in unimaginable ways.

As I reflect over my own life, it is filled with losses – relationships, jobs, creative projects, endeavors that fell flat or for some reason just ended. Looking back with today’s eyes, I know I could have handled many things better. But I also know that I did the best I could with what I was capable of at the time. Each loss has taught me lessons making the next disappointment a little easier to handle.

I truly believe that we all do the best we can in any given situation. The challenge is to know when and how to let go so we have the resilience and strength to channel our energies in a new direction.

Read more: Processes to help you “Let Go and Start Anew.”

Souls Calling

Put Your Soul’s Calling into Action

(Part 3 of a series. See also: Follow Your Soul’s Calling and
Soul Reflections on Long Winter Nights

In this articles series we’ve explored how to uncover your soul’s calling by tapping you’re your spiritual GPS system. This soul-searching process is not a one time shot, but an ongoing process. Each time you enter into this process you can go deeper and achieve more clarity.

You don’t have to wait for the low energy season of winter to do this, however. Each month at the time of the new moon (opposite the full moon) the lowered energy is conducive to doing spiritual introspection.  But just like the season of winter turns into the action oriented growing seasons of spring and summer, you have the opportunity to ride the tide of nature and put your soul-searching into action so you can fulfill your soul’s calling.

When you’ve done your inner work you are ready to take the next step in deciding how you want your life to look and what you need to do to make that happen in 2010. Engage your GPS to design an overarching theme that speaks to your soul’s calling for what you want to accomplish in the coming year.

Anchor your calling

Create a phrase, like an affirmation or mantra, to describe the essence. My phrase is, “I find passion and meaning in life – and celebrate the “real me”!” This mantra describes how I live and the meaningful work I do in coaching, teaching, writing, and interviewing and recording people’s stories. Yours might be, “I bring passion and creativity to my work and my family.” “I care for my spirit with healthy eating and yoga practice.” “My work helps make the world a better place.” “Everyday I find meaning and love in my life.”

You may want to strategically place an object, photograph, or the phrase itself as a reminder to keep you focused on your calling. Start and end your day with this phrase and think of it periodically during the day, especially when handling challenges, to help you stay focused on your dreams and goals.

Create an action plan

1.    Start with the end in mind. Write down what you really want. Be specific – desired weight, income, job description, debt-reduction plan, vacation, etc.

2.   Put in time-frames for achieving your goals or dreams.

3.   Use visual and auditory cures to keep you focused: anchors, motivational or spiritual CD’s. Sharing with supportive friends.

Accountability factor
Most people never achieve their goals and dreams. The real challenge is in maintaining accountability. Who or what will help you stay true to your goals so you can welcome opportunities and live true to your inner guidance? Most of us need others to provide support and cheer us on. A spouse, partner, sibling, friend, coach or counselor can help you stay on course.

When you work with your spiritual GPS system to connect with your heart’s desire for your soul’s calling, you create an inner accountability. You think it, feel it, breathe it and live it. When you follow your soul’s calling, you know that you and your life matters, and that you make a difference every day.

Let the coming year be the time you choose to start anew. You have a clean slate to make a fresh start. You are the inventor of your life. What do you aspire to this year? May it be true to the real you!

Questions to ponder

*   Do you know your calling?

*   Hare you anchored it?

*   Do you have a plan?

*   Have you established a support/accountablity system?

If not, let’s talk. Your future begins NOW.

(Part 3 of a series. See also: Follow Your Soul’s Calling and
Soul Reflections on Long Winter Nights

Your passions

Follow Your Soul’s Calling

Part 1 of a series. See also: Soul Reflections for Long Winter Nights
and Put your Soul’s Calling into Action

 

It’s not just a new year but a new decade as well. Life is waiting with new opportunities for you. You have a choice to live more aligned with the real you and what your soul is calling you to do, or stay on the same course as before. This is an important checkpoint to ask: What’s happened for you over the last decade? What have you accomplished and what have you missed?

It’s also a time to ask what do you really WANT for your life? What’s the REAL story? What’s your DREAM? What are you doing with your life? These are questions I want you to consider as you read this series of articles.

In the vast immensity of the universe, our existence is like a mere spark – hardly noticeable. Yet there is a Divine spark that animates us all. In the words of Jane Goodall, You make a difference every day. You matter and life is important.It’s never too late to make a life course correction or even move in a whole new direction and make a difference in your small part of the world.

What is your Soul’s calling?
Metaphorically speaking, your soul holds your deepest truths. It’s your authentic self that often lies beneath layers of excess baggage that weighs you down and holds you back from realizing an abundant life – a life that is true to your dreams. It’s the part of you that cries out to maximize your gifts and talents. It’s the expression of your deepest purpose and your heart’s desire. It’s also home to your spiritual GPS.

Tap your spiritual GPS
You have an inner guidance system, your spiritual GPS,  that holds the truth about who you really are at your core. This system connects to your Higher Power and provides instructions and guidelines for making better choices that will lead you down rewarding pathways. However, it can’t really speak to you if your dark inner closets are cluttered with unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals, long-lasting hurts and regrets. Brush off the cobwebs of those dreams and goals and examine them in the light for future potential.

Hurts and regrets can require an ongoing process of forgiveness work – for yourself and others. The more you do this work, the easier you are able to adapt to future situations. Adaptation is an important trait for navigating our modern, changing world. I was in a very loving relationship for several years, one that seemed destined for life. Then suddenly it was over. This experience challenged me to walk my talk. After all, if I teach others to live every precious moment, then I must do the same. Within a remarkably short time, I was able to restore myself to wholeness — with cherished memories and no regrets. Doing the inner work frees you to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Questions to Ponder

*    Do you want to discover your soul’s calling in the coming year?
*    Have you cleared the clutter of unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals and long-lasting hurts?
*    Are you ready to use your spiritual GPS to gain guidance in discovering your heart’s desire?

Read next in series: Soul Reflections on a Long Winter’s Night