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, February 25, 2018

Keep A True Lent...For Non-Christians, Too

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lent, according to the dictionary, "is the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes 40 weekdays."

Credit: Beautiful &Amazing Photo

This year, as you're aware, both Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fell on the same day: February 14.

I knew right away that this was no accident, and there was an inherent message in the phenomenon. To me, there are no "coincidences" in life. The challenging part, though, with all these happenings is figuring out the meaning.

 I finally did, and I'm hopeful that by the end of this post, you draw the same conclusion I did about this special day in February 2018.

So, now I want you to un-see the image above and take a conscious step away from there, i.e. the place where the moon meets the sea. 

Most of our lives we seem to strive to get to that place in life, i.e. where everything merges into one. But I believe this is wrong. And during the rest of this Lenten period, I want you to consciously undo seeing  or striving for Oneness. During Lent:

Don’t go to a place inside where you can’t see differences anymore.
Credit: Sonora Borealis in southern California. 
The photo was taken from a mountain ridge near
Tuscon, AZ

Go instead to the place where there are separations and differences and a variety of spices and smells. And find those that don't easily blend together. 

Go to the place inside where every thing is unique and different and awesome. And when you get there, hold on and fight hard to see beauty and depths into the being-ness of each "thing" you encounter. 

Hold on and keep fighting to stay there. 

As you fight to stay there, hold on to all the things you know make you unique in this world, i.e. the issues you're passionate about, the events that activate your emotions... thoughts, dreams and spark hope in you. 

Hold onto them...really hard

Begin to know and realize that these "uniquely you"  features are keeping you alive and striving and looking forward....

When you're in this stage of noticing a difference between you and me, and arguing passionately for your position, and recognizing that different people live in the world: this state is bliss, if we only but know it.

For when we're in this state,  only two things will happen:  either the world around us shifts to our view or we shift and see things from a different perspective. 

Either way,  life is moving forward. And we’re vibrantly and passionately participating in it.

We're in the flow of life. 

When life stops and becomes still and nothing is moving, we should be troubled. If all symbols that once represented life merge into one, then nothing has deep meaning anymore.

As much as we admire the beautiful image above, we want the moon and the sun and the sea to each have their own identities, don’t we? We are grateful, aren’t we, that the image is only an illusion? 

What if the sun became the moon, and the sea is only the platform for both each day when we look outside? What if the sun did not do its "thing" and  did not have a real function? What if the moon had none of its own, or the sea ? 

Would the world still seem as beautiful? Would we have the joy of living each day with a different flow and glow? 

Surely, we’d become nostalgic for days when the bright sunshine woke us up. 

And if the moon stayed hidden behind the sun for days ...what a confusing day that would be! Only sunshine all day...

We may love the sun but with no difference from the moon, we would begin to resent its presence in our lives.

So it is with our emotions.

We then should be grateful when we feel "something" about different things, as this  is a signal that we're engaging and are fully alive in the vicissitudes of life. Even the most annoying person with whom we disagree...even the most trifling person we know ...is playing a very important role in our lives. By their very presence and their opposing views, they are helping us further refine and define ourselves. Where they stand is a view we do not want, and we clearly are able to know who we are and what and how we look at ourselves and the world around us. 

These folks are keeping us awake, active and participating in the day to day flow of life. We may not all yet realize this, but: 

*Stillness is good, especially after activity.

*Silence is appreciated, especially after much talking or listening.

*Walking or any activitiy is good, not only for our health, but especially after inactivity.

We greatly appreciate most things in our lives only because of its exact opposite.

Life is to be lived, and we're all required to participate...to stay alive. 

We must be in the flow to live.

This means embracing all the good, all the bad, and other emotions, feelings and activities in between. 

On any given day, we may have many colorful characters enter our world: some may bring joy, sorrow, frustration and/or annoyance. Others may be our teachers about different ways we can navigate through life or ways to rise to another level. But by their differences, they bring to us the ingredients for life. 

These different folks were placed in our path...not by accident, but they were chosen to be here right now and in our very space by a divine plan in the overall scheme of things. So, don’t let their presence derail your goals or being-ness in life. Hang on even tighter to what you believe and want out of life. That's why they came...and specifically now...

Just so you can be... 

Every experience that may seem painful...may have us wanting to lock ourselves away from life and living...is there to serve us.  The most important thing we have to remember during these times is to "stay in the flow" of it all.

A  book, written by Eric Butterworth, that I highly recommend

The day we begin to feel that the moon and the stars are one and the same is the day we must get up and fight for our survival.

No two days should feel the same, because no two days are exactly the same.

If you're in an environment where the sameness of the days is beginning to stifle you: look to make some changes.

*If it’s a workplace: ask for a difference role. 
*If it’s in a relationship: create new ways of seeing and being with each other.
*If it’s in a family: change your place in the lineup and subtly switch your view of “those that are last,” and “those that shall be first."

Nothing is ever as it seems, especially in the dynamics of families, or in intimate relationships or special friendships. We just need to go beyond the surface and find the gifts hidden behind each facade, each disturbance, each shared joy or sorrow. 
The Red Vineyard: the only painting that Vincent van Gogh
ever sold during his lifetime

"Take your share of the world and let
others take theirs."

Each of us came here on Earth for a divine purpose, but it sometimes becomes hidden because some people in leading positions take the reins as if the entire world were intended only for them and their "kind." 

These people may truly never be able to appreciate the beauty and the blessing of diversity here on Earth. Yet, were they to be introduced to the sameness of their own thoughts and manners, they would choke with the dust of mildew threatening to stifle them. Fortunately for them, though, they are graced by diversity around them. ...keeping them alive.

We hear often, “life is what we make of it.” This is true. But the first gift of life is that we’re given an opportunity each day to walk into life and our world with a new set of lens.

We should be able to awaken to the true beauty all around us. We are called to see more than what meets the eye, i.e. the moon touching the sea and becoming one. We want to see the sparkle of the sun, by itself, and its reflection in our world. We want to see the moon in all its glory, charming us at night, and stars winking at us in the expansive sky. And the sea...the water...what treasures lie within its changing moods, as it ebbs and flows.

These things are our life.. Through their existence, our lives should become richer and more glorious each day as we deepen our appreciation of each and every one.   

“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it still is a beautiful world.” -Desiderata, Max Ehrmann

Christian or non Christian: Keep a True Lent! Stay true to your uniqueness, as you hold fast to your hopes, dreams and life’s promises. Learn to Love Yourself!

There’s time enough to get to the place where the sun, moon, stars, sea and the ocean do become ONE. 



Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Greatest Gift of All: It Lasts A Lifetime

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post refers specifically to Christmas. For my readers of a different faith, please substitute your special religious holiday as is appropriate. 

'Tis three nights before Christmas. Not a creature is stirring...not a sound can be heard.

I'd created this space and this time to give myself the greatest of Christmas gifts I craved:
Time and Silence.

Should I step out of this sacred space I've created, I'd see the evidence of the Christmas holiday everywhere: gifts under the tree; holiday fruits and cakes; food to prepare and cards all around. They all speak to the activities of the last several weeks and days.

But just for tonight: this space is mine.

The profound sound of Silence.
The profound energy of Time. Alone. Silent.

I don't want to hear a Christmas Carol. I don't want to see the lights of the Christmas tree.
I don't want to feel the beauty of the Season.

I just want to be.

I'd prepared for this by settling in early for a nap. I was in such a determined mood that I'd drowned out all thoughts of tomorrow and the activities of the next few days ahead trying to flood my consciousness.

Now...I just want to be.

I can't tell you why this gift I've given myself seemed more urgent and important this year than any other.

Perhaps it's because the year literally just flew by in a whirl, December 2017 catching up with January of the same year in one tremendous breath.

There seemed to be little time this year to think about the 'morrows' coming, because one came right after the other.  All the holidays seemed to melt into one, and only yesterday we seemed to be celebrating Christmas 2016.

So, yes... give me this gift of Time and Silence.


Now that's out...let's measure the moment.

Let's truly look at this moment for what it means to you and to me.

This one moment in time.

What am I doing in this moment that brings me so much Peace?
What am I enjoying so much in this moment that brings me utter Joy?
What am I inhaling that brings me sheer Happiness?

Silence at any time brings the spirit of our being to the surface.

As I dwell seemingly alone in this sacred space, I have the deepest awareness
that I am not alone and that I am in communion with my Soul.

The sweet Joy, Peace and Happiness come from the Profound bonding with my Soul.
Even as I type, I feel its Presence guiding me. I feel the deepness of our Connection. 
I feel my thirst being quenched, as I feed from the trough of communion for which I'd longed over the past several weeks.

When we begin to hear and discern the call of the Soul, some people may run away for a vacation at a beach or someplace exotic, thinking that they need a change of scenery. But that's far from what they need, and eventually as they discern the Soul's more urgent calls, they begin to realize that those techniques do not work for them anymore:

The Soul wants what it wants, and often it's simply for us to: "Be Still and Know!"
The Soul will keep demanding this over and over, until we learn the lesson of "being still."

I'm swallowing the purity of its nectar, even as I type. I long to share it with you.

I want you to feel what I feel.
I want you to be as quenched as I now am.
I want so much for you to connect and understand the ground on which I now stand.

Hear me, now:
This communion is available any time of day or night, at a moment's notice, but it's not as profound as when it follows periods of great activities. For some, daily meditation might work. But the Holy Listening to the Soul is something more urgent.
It's a setting aside of our daily going to and fro, indeed a separation from the physical aspects of what keeps us thriving in the world, to pay attention to the Master within. It's about going above the normal frays of life and walking quietly into a sacred chamber that fuels our being.

When we are able to connect only in snatches of time...and then perhaps with strangers all around...the sweetness of the encounter is certainly not as  great. It's meditation, which temporarily refreshes, but we still continue to hear ...and even feel...the roar from within.

Stop now!

So, tonight, I'm drinking from a bubbling spring of Pure Essence. I am still.
I am listening.

I am with you. 
I am here. 

Thank you.
Thank you, O my Soul. 

I think now, too, of the origin of this awareness that we never walk alone.
I think, now, of my mother, who instilled in all her children a love of God.
I think of how much my life would be missing if she had not taught us about prayer and given us an awareness of a power greater than ourselves at work in our lives at all times.

*My mother's Soul remains with me even though it's been decades since her death in 1993.

Her Soul still lives with me.

I know this is so because in the Presence of my own Soul I bear witness to all that was, is, and will be.

I observe people each day... especially during this special time of year... the holiday season... carrying forward their own family traditions: this is evident in foods they cook and share, and what they do during the season. The activities may seem to surround the birth of Christ, or about the Festival of Lights, i.e. Hanukkah, but if we truly get into the "spirit" of the celebrations, we'll see that it's really about our reconnecting with Souls from many generations and centuries ago. (How Santa Claus Originated.)

Each year as we become a year older, the subtly of aging is never more noticeable than in the habits and traditions we've formed. We become our parents, as they live in us and in all we do and say, and in how we navigate our way through the world.

Some of us may spend this time of year entertaining and fixing special meals, and hosting parties.
Others may see this time as one of reflection, honoring the religious rituals of the Season.
Yet others may see it as a time to connect with old friends, family and others.
Then, there's the shopping and gift giving in which we all participate and is a rite of the Season.

Living only from the surface of things, we may miss the gifts inherent in the Season.

It's a time for prayer.
It's a time for reflection.
It's a time for connecting with our Soul.
It's a time for celebrating those who have passed on but whose Spirit, Soul and Essence remain steadfast in us. 

If you learned how to reflect or pray in childhood, in adulthood, or somewhere in between:
You were given the greatest gift of all.
When we pray, we are not praying to some strange, unknown God.
We are praying to our Essence...our Soul... where God resides.
He is more familiar with us than we are with ourselves.

This is a gift of communion with ourselves, and it cannot be packaged, then bought or sold.
It can be taught to others, but it can't be shared.
No one can steal this gift from us, or cheat us out of it...only we can
cheat ourselves by not recognizing its value. 

This holiday season, I want you to put aside all the gifts that money can buy and do this, especially with your children: 

Teach them how to pray. Teach them how to                                                                                           just... be...with themselves.

As the years pile onto their human frames, they will realize and deeply appreciate that
you would have given them the greatest gift of all....as it lasts a lifetime and will also carry them through any and all vicissitudes of life.

Make this Christmas really special: teach your children how to pray!

Happy Holidays! 

Have a tremendously blessed 2018!

My heart belongs to you!


* Note: Pay attention to this trait in the passing of your parents or a close family member or even friend. See their essence has lingered and become a part of you.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Generosity of Spirit: "Born To Be Awesome"

               "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any                             kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now.                               Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way                               again." Etienne de Grellet, Quaker Missionary
Celebrations often mean bringing out our favorite champagne.  Those living middle-class lives, and liking French champagnes, may choose brands such as Veuve Cliquot or Dom  Pérignon. Then, there's  Moët et Chandon. To my untrained palette, the only real difference between Dom Pérignon and Moët et Chandon  is the cost, as the difference in taste is so subtle, it's almost indiscernible. And both champagnes come out of the *house of Moet et Chandon. 

But many would rather have the higher-priced Dom Pérignon, at twice the price ...because we want the best for our friends and family. Then, there are the "neighbors," who may watching us too.  

Question of the day:
Why is it so easy for us to serve the best when we want to leave a lasting impression among our friends, acquaintances and family, yet there's a lack of generosity when serving our thoughts to those same people?   
Serving up spiritual gifts is one of the most generous gifts we can give to a person.  Doing so, too, costs us nothing. But in life, we find that many people would rather give tangible things as gifts...real expensive items... yet  skimp on compliments. 

"Generosity of Spirit" is an elixir so rare that when it's served up, it often takes us by surprise. This should not be. 
"At the end of the day, people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
I tend to remember both how people made me feel and also what they did and said.  

And this past week was a week filled with gifts. 

Each day brought blessings from Souls who popped into my space just long enough to pour out their wealth of spirit, making me feel rich and truly prospered.  

It started with a very early birthday card I received, screaming on the cover in black and red:  "Born to be Awesome...that's YOU!" The words inside also elaborated in even more magnificent ways the reasons the sender thought I was awesome. I was truly struck by the "generosity of spirit" that prompted my friend to send such a card.

Then, the next day,  a sweet man, with a wonderful demeanor and style paused at my desk to tell me something: 
"I had some extra time last night, so  I was reflecting on the good things in life. I was thinking of the early morning sun and how it blesses us with its positive, vibrant energy each day. Immediately upon thinking of the sun and its gifts, I thought of you. As you bring this same energy into my space."
Wow. Just wow.
Two days in a row.
On the third day, another person, knowing I had grown to love Welch's mixed fruit snack bought the hugest box she could find and left it on my desk. "Happy Birthday, Cheryl. Enjoy."

Merlyn, my sister, back far right,  pictured with her
two daughters, Shondelle, back row, center, Saudia, front center,
Stephen, back row, 3rd from right!
and their families, recently visiting Seattle.  (Happy Oct. 3 birthday, Saudia!)
On the fourth day, one of my truly awesome sisters, who in the past had forgotten my birthday until the last minute in her busyness with her real estate work, was taking no chances this year:  she called me with a generous offer for my birthday celebration. I truly was touched that this year, she'd taken the time to plan ahead.

Wow! Just Wow! 

My birthday still is a few days away. And I tell you, if this keeps up, I won't have a heart big enough to accommodate the gifts of love and generosity being poured onto me

 "Thank you, Universe! Thank you, people!"
These gifts will outlast any sparkling champagne, as they nurture my Soul.

We must then ask, "How much did it cost these Souls to bring me these gifts?" 

We know the cost. Yet, few people seem able to afford them. 

We must understand, though, why:  
  • When we're not feeling our best selves, or operating from a place of wholeness, it becomes very difficult for us to give good feelings to others.
  • When life has thrown us some seeming cruel, curved balls, and we don't know where we're headed, we may become disillusioned enough to believe that there's little to life than the superficial.
  • When we're separated from the center of our being, our Soul, there's no way we can see beyond the circumference of our own bodies, much less to give or bring joy to another. 
Sometimes, it becomes too costly to tell someone else that they are cool.
Sometimes, it becomes more than we can bear to see others strutting their brightness, when our world may be filled with darkness.

This is human. This is real. This is a direct result of our separation from our Soul.

For many of us, this separation is causing real riffs to develop in our lives.

When we feel a sense of inadequacy in some way, it's difficult to celebrate the light shining from someone else.

When we're feeling that way, most of us have the tendency to turn surly and unpleasant. We believe that by looking sour, and acting that way, we will dim the light in others.  Somehow, in our distorted state of mind, this makes us even. 

On the other hand, those who truly have a light that no man on Earth can dim do the exact opposite; they present a bright, cheerful demeanor even when life turns sour on them. One such beautiful soul, Zaudia, told me that she smiles harder when life presses her on the inside.
"I want people to see me smiling during my most difficult times. By doing so, I am able to camouflage my pain and eventually the pain goes away."
We've all heard the saying, "Smile and the whole world smiles with you." This is truth.

Surliness will never win friends. Compliments, and a spirit that expands to see the world beyond the circumference of our body, always will. 
"Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others."                                             -Barbara Bush, via Gratefulness.org
Generosity of Spirit
comes back to us
We so long to celebrate life with  the best of champagnes and the best of life's offerings. My strong belief is that we'll always have to keep breaking out the Dom Pérignon, Cristal and  Salon Blanc de Blanc, or Louis Roederer Cristal Brut, until we reconnect back with our Souls. Champagne and other external "tools" may lift our spirit for a day or two, then it's back to "reality."

For those looking to enjoy a permanent spark,  connect within and then learn to reach out.

We should give generously of our spirit. When we do, joy does come back to us...even in little ways.

We should remember, too, that when it comes to people, we don't often  get "do overs." We may meet someone this year and never have an opportunity again to say, "Thank you for being in my life. I think you were born to be awesome, the way you shine." 

Say your kind words now, heeding the words of Etienne de Grellet at the beginning of this post, and do not defer your good deeds and thoughts, "as (the people we meet) may never walk this way again."

As I move closer to my October 5th birthday this year, I feel tremendously blessed by the Souls in my life. When I reflect on my past life, where I was known as "the hostess with the mostest," and where champagne poured freely at my celebrations, I see a tremendous difference today. With the consciousness I had back then, I was tremendously happy. But my Soul today has filled the center of my being with its energy:  I am totally at peace...because ... I am home!

Thank God for the journey, and the long, slow walk that brought me here.
On Thursday, I may choose to have a rare sip of alcohol. If I do, I know it will not be Dom Perignon or any of the others. I will choose my perennial favorite:
                                Chandon  Brut!
I raise my glass to all of you among us...all of you, my friends and readers...who don't wait to be invited to give gifts:  
Thank you for your generosity of Spirit!
Please remember, too: You were Born To Be Awesome!
EDITOR'S NOTEMoët et Chandon began in 1743 by Claude Moët, a wine trader.  In 1973, the then Moet -Hennessy company, founded Domaine Chandon, as an outpost winery in Napa Valley, California. Domaine Chandon was the first French-owned sparking wine operation in the United States. 

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.