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Today’s post was written by my One Spirit sister and colleague, Rev. Barbara Ann Michaels, the Jester of the Peace. It is taken (with permission) from Inspire Me Today, a website created to help you remember how magnificent you truly are with daily inspirational essays, quotes, photos and more from thought leaders worldwide.

To learn more about Rev. Michaels and her services, please visit her website Jester of the Peace.

Change is Our Birthright (via inspiremetoday.com)

Don’t hold anyone to who they used to be, especially yourself. Evolution is all of our birthright. Embrace who you are becoming, as an individual, as a friend, a lover, a family member, and in the roles you play across many communities. Give the same ‘gift of grow’ to everyone you know – and to those you need to let go.

Enjoy how the circles of your life bring out different sides of you. At least once a year (your birthday?), have a gathering where the thing most people have in common is you. The new alliances that form will delight you from the heart out.

It’s your birthday twice a day – on the clock, which works in cycles of 12, just like the calendar. For me, that’s 11:14, a.m. and p.m. Celebrate yourself in what you eat, wear, say, dream, cause, do – and in what you no longer do. Birth each new day of your life with some of that same presence and special outlook that you feel on ‘your day.’ What day isn’t your day?

Don’t worry that you will become selfish and ugly if you make yourself happy first. Your true joy is generous by nature. When you live it, you give it.

You can learn to laugh when things go wrong. Remember some of those things that weren’t funny then, that are funny now? Shorten the distance between then and now. A laugh sets you loose when you think you’re losing.

Your feelings are not a crisis. Getting hit by bus is a crisis. Feelings move through you to move you through. Peace and happiness, fun and confidence, many delicious states of mind – sometimes elusive – are all a choice. When you wax woe, rail against joy, resentful, feeling left out or incapable, remember this: remember to remember to choose to be glad. You can decide again to experience peace and fun as many times as you want; there is no limit on sanity.

Move, make, groove, shake… your creativity is your source and your course.

Surround yourself with people who empower you and encourage you. Safety plus daring equals happiness.

In love, you are not looking for the one who ever delights and excites you, lighting your mad passion with their bionic match. Your true matches, in any kind of love, are the ones you also naturally relax around. Where harmony resounds, ‘true you’ abounds. There, your passion is the hottest fashion.

Don’t protect other people with silence. Often, the more honest you are, the more capable they are.

Learn your family’s stories. You will be surprised.

Talk to strangers. You make the world a safer place when you grace our space with your face.

Count your day in memories. When you lay down, lay out what you experienced. Have fun finding a reason to be grateful for the things you didn’t like, as well as the things you adored.

The present is much more interesting than the past or the future. See you there!

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

International-Womens-Day-2013

Photo courtesy of http://www.levo.com.

Today is the International Day of Women, and so I thought I would mention just a few of the women who have made a major impact on my life. Of course, this is going to leave out a lot of women I know and consider important to me (that’s all the women I know, or have known over the years), and for that I apologize. However, this post would be really, really long if I named them all. 

Going back to the beginning there was my mother Sheila, a beautiful Irish woman if there ever was one, who loved life and her children with equal measure. Her faith engendered mine, and it was she who introduced me to interspirituality and showed me my path to enlightenment. And there was my grandmother, Violet, whose image of a strong, competent business woman I admired then and continue to emulate today.

With the first job I had in the corporate world my supervisor’s name was Sheryl. I did not know much about Sheryl, except that I could see she was quietly making her way in the (man’s) world of finance and big business. I admired her management style—quite different and much more effective than any of the male supervisors. Sheryl was also the first woman I knew who had breast cancer. This was back in the early ‘70’s, way before women’s issues were openly discussed in public, and her willingness to candidly share what was going on with her showed a strength and determination I remember and admire to this day. Sheryl showed me how to walk my path grace-fully.

My first real mentor was Priscilla, my advisor at Prescott College. Priscilla came to me during my darkest days, and her loving kindness sustained me through a period when I felt I had no one else. Her wisdom kept me hanging in at a time when all I wanted was to let go; her support kept me looking for a way back. And it was Priscilla’s probing insight that helped find my path again. “What will it take to make you happy?” she asked me. My search for the answer to that question has given my life purpose ever since that day. If I had to narrow my list of important people in my life down to just one, that one would be Priscilla.

Nowadays Leslie keeps me on track. Mentor, spiritual director, colleague, friend – whichever hat she’s wearing Leslie is my rock. If I am happy, she’s happy; if I am sad or angry, she is still happy! And she does her best to show me how to regain my equilibrium and get back to a state of . . . well, if not joy, at least contentment. My path is smoother and moving along a lot faster with Leslie on it with me.

So many others I could name. My mother-in-law Tee–open-mindedness and unconditional love personified. Karen, whose willingness to let me join her on her path showed me where mine lay. Jeanne, who walked with me so we could laugh and cry together for a little while. My sisters-in-law Tina and Theresa, who for me exemplify living a life of love and compassion. My sisters at One Spirit and One World, my priestess sisters, and all my many sisters who reside in my world. Historical women, contemporary women, feminists, teachers, friends, family. All those women authors whose writing guided me, uplifted me, taught me, and gave me light along the way. All the unnamed and unknown women I meet every day, whose lessons go unacknowledged but not unappreciated. They all are sisters, my friends, my mentors and teachers; they all are valued and cherished.

international-womens-dayPlease know that I know this above all else: I would not be who I am now if not for all the people in my life. But it is especially all those wonderful, supportive, lovely, and irreplaceable women I have known over the years—named or not—who have made my life richer, have taught me the meaning of living with grace and love.

This is the International Day of Women. Don’t forget the women in your life.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

A Birthday Poem To Me

My birthday is in October, so I wrote this poem in honor of myself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Birthday Poem to Me

I opened my eyes this morning

And looked out upon the world.

Cheerful music in my head

set me all a-whirl.

 

A thousand different thoughts popped up–

like little flags unfurled–

I pondered how the day would go

for this happy birthday girl.

 

Should I make a plan or drift along;

do many things or merely one?

Making plans is tried and true . . .

but spontaneous can be more fun!

 

Shall I go swimming through the sunshine,

or waltzing down the lane;

weaving through the willows,

or dancing in the rain . . . ?

 

My choices are made and now are done.

Life is a merry game.

 

Many Good Thoughts and Blessings,

This Old Crone

I recently began a new adventure that I am very excited about. I have enrolled in a two-year Interfaith Seminary Program offered by One Spirit Learning Alliance.  One Spirit Interfaith Seminary (OSIS) offers everyone an opportunity to learn about the world’s great spiritual traditions and deepen one’s own spiritual life while becoming ordained as an Interfaith Minister. OSIS draws from the resources of the great wisdom teachings, both ancient and modern, to increase appreciation for the diversity of life and to nurture a direct experience of the unity that underlies it (taken from the OSIS website).

As part of the assignments for the first year, we are reading a book by Leonard Felder, Ph.D. called The Ten Challenges: Spiritual Lessons from the Ten Commandments for Creating Meaning, Growth, and Richness Every Day of Your Life. Quite a title! Today’s posting is a paper I wrote reflecting on the first chapter.

 

Reflections on The Ten Challenges, Chapter 1  “Discovering the Still Small Voice Within”

So far, I really am enjoying Felder’s book The Ten Challenges. Right on page one he caught my attention by mentioning that many people are asking the same question I am: how do I create a life that is worthwhile for myself while making a difference for others? He went on to add that our souls are yearning for a clearer perspective on what really matters in life. I have never felt like I fit in anywhere, so I understood immediately Felder’s example of Jenny and Bill and their desire for a meaningful source of identity and satisfaction. Finding a sense of meaning and purpose is exactly why I enrolled in the One Spirit Seminary Program.

Felder asks if, on most days, I find myself feeling distant and skeptical about God. YES. Do I feel a desire to learn more, become closer to my sense of God? YES. Become more active in my practice of spirituality? YES. I have been trying for forty plus years to understand God, religion, and spirituality. Is there a God? Who is He, She, It? What is the Universe? How are God and the Universe related? How do I connect with a father God who let his own son suffer? As a parent, that is something I could never even contemplate, much less condone. There must be a significant, earth-shattering, yet inconceivable reason for such an act, but really, your own Son, tortured and crucified?

As I read more and learned less, I just wound up confused, often angry and always overwhelmed with my own lack of understanding. This made me doubt myself; were my questions an indication of a healthy inquisitiveness, or a serious breach of faith? Did figuring it all out really matter anyway? It did not seem like I knew the right prayers or some magic formula to get my life on track. Maybe it would not even make a difference; maybe we are just born, then we live, and finally we die. If some beneficent, loving Supreme Being created us, why is life so crappy and harsh? Why does it take so much pain, heartbreak, and plain hard work just to get through one day?  It seems like if I do not do every little thing the universe requires, and do it just right, the universe punishes me by not only not giving me what I desire, but also by either providing the opposite bad thing or more of what I am already receiving. It is difficult to ask a god I am not sure I believe in for help.

But enough of this whining and these childish questions. Now is the time to sort it all out and acquire an adult sense of both the Divine and my own spirituality. Taking the positive step of joining the One Spirit program has given me a strong sense of relief, like maybe I am finally going to be able to resolve my doubts and confusion.

I will always have questions, but Felder’s challenges are helpful in clarifying what I need to do to find my own answers. I believe the first step is to stop talking and start listening. I am positive I have a calling to be a channel of communication for the Divine. But I will not become that if I am too busy complaining and refuse to attend to the Divine Presence within. The times I do allow this to happen, when I let my mind rest in my heart, I hear the Shekhinah and know her Presence.

Even though I am not sure about the how’s, what’s, and why’s of some issues, I am confident that  I am a Divine Being of Light, connected to a giving and sustaining Power that is at once a part of, yet greater than, the self. I believe spirituality is discovering and maintaining a relationship with that Power, and the depth of the relationship is directly proportional to both the level of my awareness of the sacredness of the universe, and the degree of my interconnectedness with it. When I remind myself of these beliefs, life is not so bewildering. The questions then become those that Felder asks: what is really holding me back, and what is my next step? Because I do want to be partners with the Divine; the One, who lives deep inside me and can be found within every iota of creation. It is more exciting that I can express, and so encouraging, to be reminded that I am carrying a spark of divine light that can actually help heal the world when I simply learn how to ignite it.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

To learn more about the Interfaith Minister program or other programs offered at One Spirit Learning Alliance, click here: http://www.onespiritinterfaith.org/.

Leonard Felder, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who has written 12 books on Jewish spirituality and personal growth that have sold over 1 million copies and have been translated into 14 languages.  To learn more about Leonard Felder, Ph.D. click here: http://www.hereiamremedies.com/about-the-author.html

It’s been way too long since I posted, so I just had to get something on. I really enjoy putting my thoughts “out there” whether they are reflective and hopefully meaningful to others or simply for my own fun and pleasure.

New York to Dallas by J. D. Robb (Sept., 2011)

I recently read J.D. Robb’s newest Eve Dallas adventure, New York to Dallas. This was pure fun, and I try not to miss her books when they come out as she is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed this entire series on several levels. Of course, the stories are engaging, and they provide a few hours of escape, fantasy, and wishful thinking. But more than that, the characters come alive, the research and bad-guy profiling is thorough, and imagining our world a few years into the future is entertaining. Robb is sort of a mystery, romance, and sci fi writer all rolled into one.

Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb

Ms. Robb’s plots are also well-though out, detailed, and if not always plausible at least they are not unbelievably outlandish and even seem entirely possible in the given situations. But I think what I like best is the characters themselves, or maybe I should say the way the author develops them. There is the typical cast of characters, our heroine Eve and hero Roarke, the faithful sidekick Peabody—and in this case, the sidekick’s sidekick Ian, along with a solid cast of friends and family. All of them have been given solid personalities, and although perhaps a little too good to be true, they are the kinds of people we wish we could be and that we’d want in our lives.

I guess what I really like though, is the way Eve Dallas has matured over the years. Always a staunch pillar of justice, she pulls no punches where right and wrong are concerned. She has authority, the respect of her colleagues as both a woman and a cop, and a firm grasp on reality. Lt. Eve Dallas practically defines the word “integrity.” Eve stands for something; in her world, she stands for those who can no longer stand for themselves. She respects the humanity of the dead, no matter who they were. Good, bad, young, old, victim, criminal—when it is all said and done, Eve stands for the powerless.

Yet, the rigid views and rough edges Eve starts out with undergo a tempering process as she works her way through case after case. Eve never wavers in her commitment to the dead, but she begins to acquire a respect and appreciation for the living as well. What makes the difference for Eve is finding the perfect person to support her as she learns how to navigate the ins and outs of life as a responsible grown-up. When she meets future husband Roarke, Eve finds unexpected love. Eve already knows all about death, but it is their love, freely given and received, that enables her to discover what life is all about.

Without going into too much detail—there are after all approximately 33 novels plus short stories—Eve Dallas had a traumatic childhood.  Abused in every way possible, love-deprived, without even a name, Eve made it through the system and into the Police Academy to become the best homicide detective in New York City. Somehow she was able to hold onto her innate sense of fairness, even while chasing down some of the most depraved killers in the city and struggling through vivid, incapacitating nightmares of incest, rape, and starvation at the hands of her father. She is at once capable and efficient on the outside and yet battles fear and insecurity on the inside. Until she finds love. That’s when Eve begins to smooth off the rough edges and develop into a mature, giving, and emotionally present woman. Her story as it unfolds in the pages of the series is the tale of a woman finding her own power even as she restores it to those who can no longer claim it for themselves.

Like many of us, Eve does not feel she can either truly love or be loved. She is afraid of the vulnerability it takes to accept and return genuine love. When she finally acknowledges her love for Roarke, she has to then find the strength to believe that she is deserving of his love. Once she gets past that hurdle, she takes the next step by extending her love to those around her. It is harder to accept their love back, but she grows into it little by little. As she progresses through the books, Eve gradually acquires some stability in her life; only her nightmares remain to keep her off balance, and by the end of the latest book, she is finally coming to grips with those.

Dr. Roger Walsh

Although is sounds terribly cliché-ish to say that love conquers all, this is exactly what happens. In his book Essential Spirituality, Philosopher and psychiatrist Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D describes love as “a source of meaning for countless people, a goal for which millions live and die, and a force that shapes countries and cultures.” He goes on to add that mature love is based on sufficiency, wholeness, overflowing fullness, and joy. It is more than physical attraction and infatuation. Romantic love, when deep and true, is like a spiritual love: it “has no desire to get but only to give, no goal except to awaken itself within others, no need except to share itself.” This is the kind of love Eve Dallas discovers and grows into. And I am romantic enough to believe in it and enjoy it both in fiction and real life.

Eve and Roarke fictionally personify the power of real human beings who love unconditionally. As we watch them grow through and with each other, they model a love that all humans can aspire to; a love that is at once profound, boundless, and beneficial (Walsh). They portray love as it is meant to be: the most powerful and important of human emotions and abilities.

“Love has the power to awaken us,” says Walsh.

J.D. Robb says the same thing. That’s why I just love her books.

Many good thoughts and blessings,

This Old Crone

References

- Robb, J.D. New York to Dallas. Penguin Group, In Death Series #33, September 2011.

Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.

- Walsh, Roger. Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices to Awaken Heart and Mind, with a foreword by The Dalai Lama. John Wiley & Sons, 1999, pages 72-75.

Why Patience Pays Off

I received this short essay from DailyGood.org and thought it was worth passing on. (“DailyGood promotes positive and uplifting news around the world to more than 100,000 subscribers through daily and weekly newsletters.”)


The author, Viral Mehta, is the co-founder of CharityFocus.org. CharityFocus is a volunteer-run organization that has delivered millions of dollars of web-related services to the nonprofit world for free, and now creatively leverages web technologies for collaborative and transformational giving. CharityFocus’s 300K members incubate compassionate action in a multitude of ways and its inspiration portals get 100M hits a year.

Viral’s original post can be found at www.huffingtonpost.com.

 

Why Patience Pays Off

As a kid, patience was not my thing. In fifth grade, when Mr. Gardner asked a question, my hand would often shoot up in enthusiasm. After giving me a few opportunities, he would try to give other students a chance. My hand, though, would remain in the air, and after some time, I’d impatiently start waving it around; at some point, that move got dubbed, “The Viral.” Then, there was the time I enrolled in drumming classes. I was excited to jam, but all we were allowed to do in the first class was practice one beat over and over again. I never went back.

I would’ve done terribly in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. In this classic study, researchers gave children a choice between one marshmallow right away, or two later. The results showed that those who could wait 15 minutes ended up scoring 210 points higher on the SAT. Break down the word patience and it actually traces back to the Latin “pati,” which means “to suffer, endure.” This is the popular interpretation, and one that leaves us in awe of stories like that of the frail, landless Indian farmer who painstakingly moved a mountain. This man chiseled away solo for 22 years, until he finally created a 1 km long, 16-ft-wide, passage connecting his village to vital resources like hospitals. So clearly, delaying gratification or bearing up under pain have their benefits. But a deeper exploration of patience goes beyond risk and reward. Cultivating patience keeps us from being stuck to preconceived notions, and helps us let go of our fixation on outcomes. We come to accept that we don’t always or immediately know what is best, and learn to recognize that our reality is in constant flux. Patience elevates our understanding of deeper truths and helps us transcend our limited views. And therein lies its virtue.

Consider this powerful quote by Lao Tzu: “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles, and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” We might think of “waiting” as taking time, but it’s actually less about clock time and more about inner space. Of course, there are moments when our immediate gut-level response to a situation is a flash of intuition that can be trusted, moments when it’s crystal clear what needs to be done. But at other times, an experience stirs up some of that inner mud, and at those times, patience engages us in the process of becoming still. An unclear mind, one in which right action isn’t obvious, isn’t a “bad” thing. Wisdom, after all, develops at the edges of our understanding. Our fundamental questions can frustrate us, or create a positive sense of wonder and possibility. The challenge is to develop enough stillness to allow the questions to pose themselves without judgment. This is where patience comes in. Needing answers isn’t the point — patience is in finding value in the questions, in and of themselves. The root word for question, after all, is “quest,” and so this spirit of adventure is embedded within true questioning.

That’s not to say that answers aren’t important. They do come, but often not the ones we’d expect, and often ones that open up to even deeper questions. In this way, those moments of fuzziness, when dealt with patiently, become opportunities to turn our boundaries into edges of exploration. When we think we know, we expect to find a solution in the direction in which we are looking; when we don’t know where to look, we remain open to all directions. But remaining open and “unmoving,” as Lao Tzu suggests, isn’t about being passive or lacking conviction. There’s lots of committed activity happening beneath the surface — it takes great effort and discipline to remain alert to what’s happening within. This sharp alertness awakens us to the power of the subtle: the mental seeds we sow become the roots of our skillful words and actions. And it is patience which creates that inner space. First, the mud — our unexamined reactions and habituated patterns of interpretation — rises to the surface, but then eventually it settles. Our view clears. We find that those initial, rigid interpretations relax and a multiplicity of perspectives emerge. We start to see in a way that is more real, more whole, more true, and we become more free to consciously choose our actions.

Through it all, the journey of patience is rooted in knowing that our current reality inevitably gives way to change. But change won’t always happen when we think it should, and patience with ourselves comes from accepting that there are things we can control and things we can’t. And though we must make diligent efforts to keep pushing the boundaries of our awareness and to deepen our ability to rest comfortably in the present moment, how fast we develop isn’t up to us. That same fifth grader who couldn’t wait to blurt out answers, now sees the value of meeting questions with a heart of patience. Patience, then, is a kind withholding of judgment and of conclusion, a valiant invitation for our evolution to unfold just as it needs to.

–Viral Mehta, Co-founder CharityFocus.org 

Many good thoughts and blessings to you.

This Old Crone

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

That’s what my mother used to tell me, and it remains true today.

I’ve been thinking  about Mother’s advice a lot lately, and I guess because I have, I have been receiving a lot of input from the Universe pertaining to the subject of complaining.

Caroline Myss

It all started with a message from Caroline Myss

Caroline is conducting a workshop called Addiction: Explored as an Archetypal Journey Toward Personal Empowerment in August. She believes that the struggle with addictions may be one of the foremost defining health challenges of our age, and as indicated, her subject is addictions—but not those generally associated with the addicted personality: drugs, alcohol, food, and sex. Caroline maintains that there is a secondary ring and even a third ring of habits that most people would not even consider addictions. Among these more subtle obsessions is—you guessed it—complaining.

Complaining is, of course, a catch-all phrase for negative behavior; included with complaining are bad habits such as blaming, criticizing, whining, nagging, griping, moaning, worrying, suffering, and just generally acting like a victim.

Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks

Many well-known and respected authors and speakers have addressed how destructive complaining can be. For example, therapists Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks discuss the dangers of blaming and complaining in their Conscious Partnering Course. They claim that “blame and criticism is the #1 reason why relationships fail. Most couples split up, family members stop talking or business partnerships fail because one or both of the parties gets tired of being blamed or criticized.” In another section they go on to say that:

Unconscious manifestation thrives on complaining. We keep our childhood programming in place by complaining to willing listeners that we’ve been victimized. When people challenge us to take charge of our lives, we often get defensive and argue that our limiting beliefs are valid and necessary.

I also received a similar message from spiritual self-help teacher Arielle Ford. In her latest Soulmate Secret newsletter (#110, July 5, 2011), she writes that some people are addicted to suffering. They have lived in the pain of their “poor me” story for so long that they just can’t let it go, not even aware that they are attached to suffering. Arielle makes a point I agree with completely:

Suffering is optional. Suffering is a choice. Suffering comes from your story about what is happening in your life and less about what is actually happening. What is happening is simply what is happening. The suffering part comes from all your interpretations and meanings about the experience. Change your story and the way you are interpreting reality and you begin to change your reality. When you change your reality within yourself you shift your experience of your reality outside. Once you understand this, you only suffer if you choose to.

Of course, we all know that criticizing someone else is really a way of excusing our own behavior. It is too uncomfortable to blame ourselves because then we might have to take a close look inside—and we just might not like what we see.

These teachers do have suggestions for how to correct our negative habits, or even avoid them all together.

Caroline Myss

In her Addictions workshop, addiction will be explored as journey of personal empowerment. The tools she offers are:

    • Discussion of certain archetypes that have a particularly dominant influence.
    • Discussion of the nature of possession and what it means to “be possessed.”
    • Methods and practices for moving out of the addictive cycle.
    • Exercises aimed at doing personal work for a new perspective on addiction.

Arielle Ford:

Life is too short to waste spent suffering.

    • Accept what is.
    • Embrace your current experience.
    • Focus on what you can control.
    • Embrace change.
    • Take full responsibility for your current reality and give up blame.
    • Be grateful.
    • Tell the truth.

The Hendricks

If you want to stop your unconscious patterns cold, stop complaining. Put yourself on a radical complaint-fast for one day.

    • Discover what you complain about.
    • Don’t let a single complaint out of your mouth.
    • Discover the people you complain to (people who willingly listen to your complaints over and over).
    • Commit to a life completely free of complaints; speak the following sentence aloud, from the bottom of your heart:
      • I,___________, commit to a complaint-free life.
    • As you flow through your week, float this affirmation through your mind and body:
      • Blessings flow in the areas of my life I used to complain about.

In my next posting I want to tell you about a little book I read called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

It’s been out awhile so you may have read it already. However, I think it’s worth a mention in connection with this discussion of negative behaviors and self-limiting beliefs—where they come from and what to do about them. In the meantime . . .

Blessings,

This Old Crone

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