Leo Tolstoy on God

LEO TOLSTOY ON GOD: "When you look inside yourself, you see what is called 'your own self' or your soul. You cannot touch it or see it or understand it, but you know it is there. And this part of yourself--that which you cannot understand--is what is called God. God is both around us and inside of us--in our souls.

The more you understand that you are at one with God, the more you will understand that you are at one with all His worldly manifestations."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: Bringing "Heaven" on Earth.

We're having a dream. 

In that dream, there's a garden filled with every imaginable flower. In the middle of the garden, there's a cascading waterfall, and we feel only joy, happiness and tranquility while slowly floating through the beds of flowers. 

Then we awaken. We realize that this dream is of our concept of "heaven."

But what if that dream were a waking one? What if such a dream could be created in your life?
Would you want to  bring that bit of heaven here on Earth and enjoy it for all time?
This 30,000 square-foot house in Bel-Air, Calif., has four swimming pools, 
spa-like amenities and bullet-proof windows. (Credit: Splash News..) 
According to news reports, purchase of the home is reportedly 
being considered by the entertainment couple noted below.
That's the question most of us should keep uppermost in our minds, as we go about our tasks each day, striving...some of us scheming...as to how we can get more and more beautiful "stuff" into our lives. 

The lifestyles of many people are ever evolving and the ordinary practice of living and creating a life is being taken into the stratosphere. If we're not conscious of what we're doing, we, too, may aim for the "stars" without really knowing or understanding why and what we are doing. We may just think it's the "thing" to do. 

One such example of reaching into the stratosphere of today's prevailing lifestyle is a piece I recently read: it was the union of a billionaire's daughter to another billionaire's son. The wedding reportedly cost $7.7 million; small change for this couple, when the level of extravagance is factored in. 

  • Five hundred thousand flowers, (500,000), arrayed the wedding and reception venues. 
  • Guests' names etched onto stars, visible as they walked into the reception. 
 (See the wedding details recapped here: 2017 Russian Oligarch's Oscar-Inspired Wedding)
Juxtapose that wedding to the everyday living of another American power couple in the entertainment field: 
  • A $1 million a month rental property for a vacation spot.
  • An $80, 000 tiara for their first-born daughter
  • A $2,100 rosary. 
This couple, still being relatively young, has many years left to cultivate new lifestyle habits. (See the piece on the couple's lifestyle here: How JayZ and Beyonce' Live.) And another couple? Here's this: ("Edible Gold Birthday Cake.")
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this way of living...if you have the consciousness to dream it...achieve it...and sustain it.
The dark queen of opulence: Magia 2000
Where it gets tricky for many of us, though, is when we lose the consciousness to sustain it. Because to stay in the consciousness of sustaining the lifestyle of extravagance, we must believe that we're also entitled to this life and way of living. 
    Magia 2000
  • If we were born into such extravagance... we know no other life.
  • If we've earned it and made billions... we'll have no issues maintaining it.
    But for those of us striving for this lifestyle... without the consciousness of feeling 
    "entitled" to it... that's where trouble can start for us. Riches are not to be carried lightly:
    • We have to have the consciousness to feel entitled to walk down the aisle with hundreds of thousand of roses and other flowers at our wedding. If we don't have the right consciousness to truly believe we are entitled to these things, we can certainly fall under the massive weight...financially, emotionally and physically... of carrying such extreme displays of wealth. 
    • Even being born into wealth doesn't guarantee we may not eventually feel the emptiness of it all. 
    There's nothing ...absolutely nothing...wrong with growing rich. 

    Go for it! Many have gone from rags to riches and have ended up leaving great legacies for their families and future generations.

    Here's the thing, though: 
    Know what you're stepping into and the burden you give with that legacy. 

    It's then we may begin to deeply appreciate the wisdom of truly rich folks, like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others who have signed pledges to give away most of their wealth.("The Giving Pledge.")

    The humility of these folks may seem strange to those without the consciousness that allows these truly rich people to walk away from wealth and not burden their kids with it. Yet, if we have the consciousness to appreciate these folks, we would have to believe that these rich men and women love their kids very much. They love their kids so much that they are wise enough to know the true value of wealth. So, they give it all away. 

    Warren Buffett's daughter, Susan, did not know until she was in her 20s that her father was one of the richest men in the world. Read this: "Susan Buffett Finding Out Her Father Was Rich."

    Materialism, defined (here) by The Dalai Lama, as "expensive cars, big houses..." are "all illusions and of the mind," he says. (The Dalai Lama Speaks With Maria Shriver On Materialism.)

    Then, there are those "not so rich" dads who do what they do for their children to simply make the passage of their time on Earth more enjoyable. 
    Serena Williams' dad, Richard Williams, was not rich when he taught her and her sister, Venus, the intricacies of tennis, leading them both to world-class status. After reading this piece, (Serena Williams' First Million Dollar Check), we will understand that this seemingly "poor" dad instilled in his daughters much deeper values than earning money. 

    Warren Buffett, a rich dad

    Richard Williams, a poor dad. 

    Both the rich dad and poor dad 
    demonstrating values beyond money: LOVE
    Our consciousness about money should also be about the flow of money. Whether we have a lot of it or not, whether we can give it all away and earn more or not, our consciousness about money must center around how we include others in the flow of things.
    Costco shopping: Alleuia time for many
     because of the value

    Bill Gates can afford to be cheap, ("Bill Gates Wears A $10 Watch."), as we all love a bargain, and Bill already has the consciousness to know that he contributes to the flow of life in much higher ways. But then there are so many among us proud to say they have accumulated a lot of money, yet would not give a dime to someone begging on the streets for a meal. (And no, despite pieces like this "Why You Shouldn't Give Money To Homeless People." that you see from time to time, homeless people are not trying to scam you. Most of them are desperate and need help, regardless of how they became homeless.) Or, they are always 
    proud to note that they have received this or that item "for free," without thinking of the cost to the other, or even thinking in any way they can contribute to the free flow of that "freedom" to others. For example, spending money at a local car wash keeps many young people employed, as in their diligence, they buff and shine your car. Eating out at places beyond fast food restaurants when you can afford to do so also keeps those restaurant employees working. These are small ways to live well and also stay in conscious flow of money circulating to others.   

    For those wanting to live an extraordinary life, without going to the stratosphere, here's an idea of havng a form of heaven while still on Earth:"Warren Buffett Donates $3.7 Billion To Charity"

    Photos Credit: UNILAD Adventure Magazine 
    Remember, too, the truly best things in life can be enjoyed without "possessing.
    "Those who are awake live in a constant state of amazement."
    Jack Kornfield (via Gratefulness.org)


    Friday, June 30, 2017

    The Mystery of Life: "What's 'Round The Corner?"

    EDITOR'S NOTE All scenic photos this post- Geology Page on Facebook
    Top  photo: Fingal's Cave, Scotland (cont'd at bottom of post)
    "It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between."  Diane Ackerman: A Natural History 
    Most of us make choices each day that should provide long term security for ourselves and our families. Yet, even with the best of planning, none of us can be sure what lies around the corner...waiting... as a surprise experience for us.

    If we think about life in a mostly positive way, we'd expect that whatever lies ahead to be pleasant and adding joy to our days. If we have a tendency to negativity, we can live in fear of what may lie ahead. 

    This is the area of life...this living with the mystery of life...that separates the faithful from those who are atheist or agnostic. 

    But then, again, there's grace. 

    Grace is the unexpected happening that takes a seemingly negative person, or even a positive-leaning person, into a different level of being. We can be moved from extremely dire circumstances into one of hope and joy, by a single act of grace.
    So an obvious question for most of us: how do we acquire grace or get grace to show up more and more in our lives?

    That question may challenge many of us for most of our lives....if we are undiscerning. 

    Grace may seem to occur in our lives at random times, i.e. at times we didn't know how an answer to our prayer could manifest. Then, out of nowhere, grace showed up transforming a bad or negative experience into a very good, or excellent, outcome. To us then, grace may seem like a miracle. 

    But for those who study the actions of God, we learn that grace shows up most often in the lives of those who believe in a power greater than him or herself.

    When we are able to leave space in our lives for a superior power to take over, after all of our own exhausted efforts have failed: we leave room for God to act; we receive grace. 

    When we believe that God is the foundation of all that we do, we do receive more frequent "acts of grace."

    Grace is not arbitrary:
    "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all those things will be added unto you,"

    Matthew 6:33

    It is difficult even for those who believe in God to believe absolutely in his showing up for us at those times when we most need him. That's because the human mind is conditioned to know what's ahead with a fair amount of certainty. When we don't know or can't predict with a high level of certainty what will happen, fear and anxiety result. 

    Fear: false evidence appearing real. And there's lots of this evidence around to support our negative thoughts. Anxiety is the physical manifestation of that fear. Once it gets going, it's often hard to stop our minds from getting all tied up in knots. 
    Managing this cycle of fear and anxiety has created lucrative businesses for many, as psychologists and psychiatrists manage phobias and other human emotions. But for those of us, not deeply traumatized by the occurrences in life, and who want, and are capable of managing the cycle ourselves, there's another way ...an even simple way. (Warning: This process may take many years, even decades, before you reach a comfortable plateau or your final destination.) 

    Look to God who Lies within. 

    That's where the source of the seeming grace, i.e. miracle, lies. Connect to this source of power within us and light a fuse that spreads throughout your mind and body. 

    By connecting within for everything we seek, we become our own power source of seeming miracle upon miracle. 

    "I'm in his Presence" is the term a very humble Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, used to stay connected to his source of power, GOD, throughout the course of the day. In tasks large and small, Brother Lawrence reached within to stay in the presence of God, overcoming obstacle upon obstacle in his life. 

    The real difference between us and Brother Lawrence is not that he was a monk and we're not; it is that we simply won't believe it is that simple: 
    • How can we believe that all of life's problems can be solved by simply staying connected to God? 
    • How can it be that results emanating from seeming acts of grace came by hitting the center of our being and hanging on tight?
    Surely, Life is much more complicated than that! 

    But is it really? 
    Is it in our minds? 

    On any given day, attending Catholic or any other mass, we can be witnesses to individuals seeking God's mercy. We witness their acts of contrition, believing that they did something wrong and must plead and beg God for forgiveness. They get on their knees to pray. 

    We pass on, leaving them to their activities and prayers. 

    'Life is difficult," wrote the late Dr. M. Scott Peck, to begin his insightful book, "The Road Less Traveled." In this volume, Dr. Peck advises us to chart our course and to seek our own path to find answers to this difficult life. Some of us have done exactly that...but in doing so, we've found the answers led us back to those so many others have already traveled and recorded to save us the trouble.

    The Bible, for *Christians, is such a recording. 
    Jesus is one such Soul who charted the course for us.

    Then, there's also Brother Lawrence, "Practicing The Presence of God."

    I have found in my own long search that one of the key reasons there's a delay comes from this confession said in the Catholic Liturgy:

    "Father, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof...but only say the word... and my soul shall be healed."
    Think about that. You're asking God to be in his Presence, but it's all messy inside! You would not do that to your friends, indeed even more so to your enemies, i. e. invite them into an untidy or messy house. Yet, you want to entertain God with your garbage strewn all over the place. 

    Over the years, as I grew spiritually, I still took pride in many, many "Don't Look At Me, God," moments. John Ortberg in his book, "God is Closer than You Think," cites these times as those moments when we're aware of doing, saying or thinking something wrong, yet doing it anyway. 

    So, if you're like me, you may start cleaning house: you may begin to find the myriad ways you can begin to prepare for the coming of his presence, permanently, into your life. Not just glimpses of him in moments of grace. 
                                                                                                                                                                                        Looking for what's around the corner? 

    We will never know with any certainty what's around the bend. But by walking closely and connecting within, we can have a fair amount of predictability that the outcome will be filled with ...grace and mercy. 

    The feeling is one I repeat from an old song John Ortberg's used in his book: 
    Yet...is it really summertime? Or, is it just 'round the corner...
    and in your mind?

    Summertime, and the livin' is easy:
    "Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is highYour daddy's rich and your mama's good lookin'"  


    EDITOR'S NOTE (cont'd): Confirming the image of Fingal Cave, Scotland,  Mike Ross, a researcher and writer based in San Jose, and also a friend, wrote:  "The image is of Fingal Cave in Scotland, which made the same-slow-cooling lava flow as the famous Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. This is also a similar process that created Devils' Postpile in California's Sierra Nevada._ 

    *NOTE: Religions other than Christianity have their own Holy books: Judaism, The Torah; Hinduism, Baghavad Gita; Islam, The Quran; Mormonism, The Book of Mormon, and Buddhism, The Tipitaka. Of course there are many other religions with their own teachings.  of the Senses

    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    Bloom Where You're Planted

    I read with great interest Business Insider's Jeff Bezos story (Jeff Bezos' Early Life and Rise To Wealth) on his rise to becoming the second richest man in the technology world. Despite his seemingly unattractive temperament, and like him or not: the guy was honestly made for great things. What comes clearly through is that he took no safe roads and mostly traveled along those much less traveled.

    In short, the guy is brilliant and whatever he focused on, even early in life, he's turned into gold. 

    Wish we were all made that way. 

    The thing is...many of us would want to think that we can duplicate Bezos' path and get the same results. This would be so wrong.

    I strongly believe in destiny. 

    Some people are born to achieve great things, despite whatever they may have lacked in the circumstances surrounding their early lives.

    Steve Jobs of Apple, inc., also was similarly destined for a great life. Jobs, like Bezos, had a biological parent (s) who disappeared early in his life. Yet, he rose.

    Circumstances are just that: conditions which we can maintain, transcend or sink below. It's all about what's on the inside and no one, nor condition, can take that away from you. Believe that. 

    Oprah Winfrey, certainly, will always come to mind
     when we look for examples of people
    who have transcended the circumstances
    of their birth.
    Some people may try to bury your light through disparagement, hostility and just pure evil acts. But they won't be able to stop you from achieving your goals, and letting your light shine, unless you buy into their garbage, 
    You must allow the force that is within you to lead you through every obstacle other people place in your way, every hateful act or word they direct at you. What is important is that you must be running your own race and not looking over your shoulder to see what another person, who is set up to run a different race, is doing.
    That's obviously the key to winning in both Bezos' and Jobs' trajectory. They blazed their own path! They created their standards for excellence and allowed those to lead them into the highest levels of achievement.

    As I become more focused on observing my and other people's walk through life, I see far too many people trying to compare and contrast their success with those of others and always seeking an advantage by wanting to know "how."

    Sometimes, the other person is not even capable of explaining how they arrived where they did...they just followed the road. 

    They followed their destiny!

    Creating a well laid out path for many may be their way of achieving success. But it also may stifle their ability to create, especially outside the box they have so carefully built for themselves. Then, they look over at the other person and see the JOY in their hearts and souls and wonder why they have not been similarly blessed.

    We know at a certain point in life that our fortunes can rise or fall based on the steps we take in each moment, at every cross road. The best we can do when we have to make a choice, then, is to follow our heart.

    That's where we will be rewarded with JOY, instead of emptiness: by following our heart...which leads to our fulfilling our destiny!
    And following our hearts will not always be an easy thing to do. There are many who followed their hearts and were led into failure after failure. The key here is to know whose dream it is that you're following.
    (See this: "Successful People Who Failed At First." 

    "Do what you love and the money will follow," is an adage we often hear.
    I was reminded of this when a few months ago I encountered the brilliance of a truly dynamic and joyous young woman coming into her stride at Accenture. Without a doubt I see the trajectory of light shining above her, and based on the little I know of her, I know she will continue to follow it. This young woman truly loves Math and figuring things out. (I believe she holds a degree in Systems Engineering.) What impressed me even more than her brilliance is the loveliness of the spirit that also shines through her. 
    Go Alexandria! 

    Even if we're a tree of a different color and are not similarly blessed with brilliance, we should get to know own skills, abilities and talents.

    Once we ascertain those, I urge you to bloom where you're planted. 

    Your light, your joy of life, will always shine through, leading you to a path of good. 

    All images of the lit tree were taken
    at a recent "Roars & Pours" event at the
    Phoenix Zoo.
    And if at the end of your days that light is all you could contribute to the world, then ...
    "so mote it be."

    That was your destiny!


    Personal Authenticity: "To Thine Own Self Be True"...

    "To Thine Own Self Be True and it must follow as the night, the day, Thou canst not then be false to ANY man."
    William Shakespeare.