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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Treasures of Adversity

I wrote this article when the financial crisis struck, and even though things seem to be moving forward, we're still in an uphill battle, it seems.  So I think this is still appropriate.

The Treasures of Adversity

         You and I have been witnessing one of the most challenging periods that our country and our world has known in our life time.  I’m sure this is nothing new to you.  We’ve been reading and hearing about the present financial crisis for quite some time now.  In the numerous times I’ve tuned into the news on radio or TV, I’ve been aware of the output of fear that underlies so many broadcasts.  And it’s natural to be emotionally triggered by the state of affairs, especially in the Metro Detroit area, which has been hit particularly hard.  Even if you’re not one of the ones who’s been laid off or lost a job, or has felt butterflies at bill time each month, we all know someone who has.  It would be all but impossible not to be affected by our economy right now, and to stay consistently positive in spite of what we are experiencing.
         With that said, however, it’s possible to see challenges such as these, through a new lens.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that there is knowledge to be gained from any adversity - knowledge that can heal us of our fears and bring us deep and satisfying peace.  Mother Teresa said that the most beautiful flower, the lotus, arises from its roots in the slime and mud at the bottom of the pond, so perhaps we are being called upon to awaken to some higher purpose - to bring a better, more glorious self into play.
         Viewing life events as having significance, purpose and meaning, has always brought greater satisfaction and fulfillment to mankind.  What if we could look upon our financial crisis as a turning point for our world - for ourselves.  What if we could see that all is in a state of perfection, and that we are being given the opportunity to open our eyes and refocus our energy on what matters most - not money and material goods, but spirit, love, connection, and faith.  When life experiences bring us to our knees, we are actually fortunate, because although these may be painful, our souls long for answers we have not yet found.  Maybe we are being led to the greatest treasure of all without really knowing it.  If we open our eyes, become aware, look inside, and tune into our divine guidance, we can become greater masters of our lives, and learn that we are indeed safe in the hands of a higher loving force that is with us at all times.
         What are you learning right now?  With the help of the Divine Spirit inside of you, what do you know you need to learn?  What can your difficulties teach you right now?  Are you a worrier?  Can you replace worry with prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and affirmative thought?  Can you be more aware of how your thoughts affect your reality?  Can you refocus your life’s activities to include more laughter, hugs, and service?  Not only can these activities reduce stress, but they can bring greater aliveness, vitality, health, and comfort.  I believe that all is for our highest good.  With every loss there is a gain, and since our souls are always evolving towards perfect peace, everything that happens to us, happens to spur us on to that place of joy and tranquility.
         So let’s reframe our national crisis.  Let’s see its good intention and its positive nature.  Our world is turning a corner - history is being made, and we each have the opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade.  We need this crisis to search inside, reach upward and to grow ourselves.  If we each follow our inner direction, we will find our way, emerging with our best possible self, and creating magnificence, empowerment, and peace of mind.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Giving up Judgment

Giving up Judgment

                                                                        Laurie Pappas Ph.D.

         The man at the dentist’s office looked self-assured, a business executive who must growl for a living, I thought, as I waited for my appointment.  And then I smiled as I realized that he, too, would be as vulnerable as I was sitting in that dentist’s chair awaiting the shrill sound of the drill and having to relinquish all control to a man he hardly knew.  And I thought to myself, “Isn’t it strange that we’re all human.  We all go to dentists.  We are all helpless babies at one time.  We all die, we all sleep at night and have skin, bones, muscles, etc.  yet, we all judge each other.”  We are constantly sizing each other up, trying to determine whether we are better or worse than the next person when, in reality, we are all made of the same material.
         Life force energy moves through each one of us.  This is the energy of the Universal mind, the force that created each of us to physically manifest uniquely and yet to share like essences.  That essence is a soul, a loving, nurturing, vital soul, which comprises the core of each of us and which is part of the Godforce that pervades all living things.
         Judging others means that we are judging ourselves and forgetting our inner goodness.  If we are unconscious of our own loving inner core, why would we want to see that in others?  It would only remind us that we are lacking in some way.  So we judge others to make ourselves feel better.
         But how many of us can be happy judging one another?  Happiness cannot be found in the harsh world of judgment.  Being happy requires the ability to see the loving essence in each person with whom we come in contact, no matter what their outer appearance may seem like.
         At a conference I attended many years ago, a beautiful and spiritual woman told a story, which demonstrates this powerful truth.  The woman told us that each day when she went to work, she had to take a boat across the water.  The cost of the boat ride was 75 cents, which she always made sure to have in her pocket.  On the other side of the water there sat, day after day, a filthy and unkempt bag man, holding out a tin can for passersby, hoping that someone would be kind that day.  Well, this woman never could bring herself to look at the bag man.  The sight of him scared her and the thought of him disgusted her - until one day.
           She was on her way home from work and was approaching the dock when she reached in her pocket and realized the 75 cents she needed was nowhere to be found.  As a matter of fact, she had no money at all.  Well, she had to get home, so with a deep breath and pounding heart, she made her way to the bag man and asked, “Do you, by any chance, have 75 cents?  I have no money and I need to get home.”  Well, with no hesitation at all, the bag man replied, ”Sure I do!  Here!”  And he reached in his can, pulling out the three quarters she so badly needed.  With that, they both smiled, feeling warmed by the very special encounter that had just taken place.  They then struck up a conversation and eventually became fast friends, opening the doors to happiness that then became a permanent part of their new, but ongoing, relationship.
         If we look for the significance of this story, we can see that the relinquishing of judgment can bring real happiness to all parties involved.  For ourselves, it is the tender and warm feeling of having given something through seeing another’s true essence.  For the others, it is a release from the bonds that have held them prisoner - the bonds which have tightened and established their belief in their own imperfection.
         So, when we catch ourselves in judgment of someone else, let us remember to ask ourselves, “Will this bring us happiness?”  If not, let us call upon our own inner core of love to help us see the beautiful essence of that other being, knowing that if we can manage this, we have done ourselves and the Universe a most wonderful favor.      

Beating the "Out of Work" Blues

Beating the “Out of Work” Blues

            Right now I know several people out of work.  It would be hard to live in our Metro Detroit area without encountering someone who’s lost his/her job in the past couple of years, and we all recognize the strife, turmoil and instability this can cause.
It’s one of life’s more difficult challenges, for sure.
            I find that it’s easier to cope with adversity if we can find meaning and purpose in it.  When we can do that, we can often emerge stronger, wiser and more fulfilled.  Personally, adversity has always been my impetus to learn more about myself, my world, and the power within me.  It has also driven me to make new choices or decisions, which I wouldn’t have considered before. In short, it has always made me a better, more improved version of myself.
            My experience has shown me that there’s a God-Force or higher power, which resides within each of us. This miraculous energy can help us through absolutely anything and everything!   When we touch upon this amazing force, we realize that everything we need in order to create safety (in this case employment and/or financial security) is at our fingertips.  The mind is our gift from this Divine source and is the most powerful instrument we have.  Why not use it to our greatest advantage?
            Our minds are capable of choosing thoughts that create good feelings and good outcomes, while discarding those that create the opposite.  Therefore, with the help of this God-power, we can discover wonderful ways to use our minds that provide us sustenance and propel us forward.  When coping with job loss and the ensuing search for employment and peace of mind, I’ve found that the following “mind tools” to be immensely beneficial!
            First, why not change your view of our situation and look upon this as an opportunity?  Instead of thinking that you’re a failure or a loser for being laid off (or fired), let’s consider other options.  Maybe you didn’t like this job anyway and the Divine, in its infinite intelligence, is creating a work situation that uses your talents and gifts more effectively or enjoyably.  Or perhaps you haven’t really liked the people you’ve been working with, and you’re being moved into a friendlier environment where there are people with whom you have more in common, or with whom you’re supposed to work for some reason.  Maybe you’ve always worried about having enough money; now you’re being asked to trust and know that you will be led to prosperity, in order to learn the truth that you really are abundant, if only you will believe it.  Could it be that this challenge will make you more courageous and strength-filled?  Or, might this be happening so that you can later help others in the same position?
            Secondly, you can stay in the present moment without continuously worrying about your future.  You can rope your mind into the NOW, and take this one day, one hour, or one minute at a time.  You can handle this in small increments.  You don’t have to solve everything right here and right now.
            Thirdly, you can refuse to quit!  You can always scream, stomp your feet or cry your tears, but you can choose to keep on keepin’ on, to continue to send out resumes, connect with people, make contacts where possible, and believe in possibilities!
            Lastly, you can accept your situation with grace and gratitude for what you do have.  You can choose to look for and be thankful for all the good you see in your life, and remember that “spring always follows winter;” this condition is only temporary.  You can remind yourself often that you’re not alone – that there are others who are facing similar circumstances and you can find them and talk with them if you want.  And you can remember that others have gone through this before and come out of it all the wiser.
             There’s a reason for everything that happens.   Trust that something amazing will emerge from this, and that soon you’ll be able to look back with greater understanding, knowledge, empowerment, and peace.