Saturday, September 6, 2014

Holistic Health

Finally!  After a lot of research, reading, writing, and hard work, I finally achieved my Doctorate as a Doctor of Holistic Ministry!  My official title now is Rev.Dr. (though I still prefer to be called Karen).  Writing my dissertation has been an adventure, that’s for sure.  But what a wonderful learning experience!

Holistic Ministry has to do with Mind, Body, and Spirit.  You hear the terms bandied about individually and separately, but it takes a balance of the three to be a healthy whole.  This is termed ‘holistic health.’  An imbalance in one affects an imbalance in another.  Even though it seems these are three separate entities, they actually work together as one.

The mind is a very fragile and yet strong entity.  It can get people through the most horrendous circumstances, and yet it can snap in an instant.  The jury is still out as to where the mind is actually located.  Normal thinking says that the mind is in the brain itself.  Yet new scientific findings say it is quite possible that the mind and memory are in our cells throughout our whole body.  This may be why some organ donor recipients may have memories from the donor. The mind is also associated with our thinking processes, feelings, emotions, and memories.

The body is another amazing entity.  It, too, has the strength to survive the greatest traumas and has the power for self-healing, and yet it can be consumed with the most debilitating of illnesses and diseases. 

The Spirit is an entity that is really indescribable as no one really knows exactly what the Spirit is or what form it takes.  We all have our beliefs as to what the Spirit is or isn’t, but if you ask a hundred people, you may get a hundred different answers.  Some will use the name God, Universe, Spirit, Allah, Nature, and thousands of other labels.  Like the mind, there is no proof of it; you can’t see it, and you can’t put it under a microscope.  We only have our beliefs based upon our experiences of it to describe it.  Even then, we humans are limited in our terminology when it comes to describing Spirit/God. 

The science of holistic well-being is constantly changing.  I think it is wonderful that whole ministries are being developed around it.  Most people in ministries will specialize in one area or the other, but it is only when we concentrate on gaining knowledge and wisdom in all three areas equally that we are really able to see the bigger picture.  Like puzzle pieces, they need to fit into each other to make a whole.  The wisdom and knowledge in these fields is unlimited and we are now only really beginning to understand the magnitude of this fascinating realm. 

To become totally and holistically healthy in mind, body, and Spirit, we need to open our hearts and minds to learning all things new.  What worked in the past may not necessarily be what works for today.  We need to be open to constantly tweaking our lives in order to move forward into being the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be.  When we have our health, we have more hope for our lives and our futures.  We can accomplish more.  We can feel more love for ourselves.  We enjoy life, are happier, more joyful, and can have a positive outlook.  When we work on mind, body, and Spirit together, they all weave into each other to make a beautiful tapestry of these magnificent and miraculous Spiritual and sacred beings that we are. 

How do we become healthy?  What are the thoughts that we are thinking?  Positive or negative?  What are we putting into our bodies?  Pure foods from the earth or cheap junk foods full of fake foods, chemicals, and preservatives?   Are we consuming drugs (illegal or too many legal), alcohol, tobacco smoke, sugar, and other artificial substances?   What addictions do we have?  Do we have a spiritual practice whether it is religious or nature related?  How are we feeding our souls?  All these feed into our total health.

Hippocrates said, “A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.”  And it should be because it is the temple for our souls.  Michelle Longo O’Donnell said, “The Spirit of Life is that portion of the Being of God that formed all things, and causes all things to exist in harmony, balance, and perpetual order throughout all eternity.” 

If we really knew how glorious and magnificent we really were, we would take better care of ourselves to be the best and healthiest that we could be.  We are a light onto the world and we deserve to be healthy, happy, and whole!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 5, 2014.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Humorous Life

When I started writing this article, I thought I would begin by looking up the definition of the word ‘life.’ There were twenty definitions, too many to list here, so let’s just say for this article that life is the absence of being dead.  Then I looked up the word ‘humor.’  After I got through the body fluid definitions (to be honest, I never heard body fluids used with the word humor), I read it to mean, “that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous; the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous; and something that is or is designated to be comical or amusing.” 

I love humor!  I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh!  I just love the sound of laughter…period!  I can go to a comedy movie at the theatre and I’ll get a bigger kick out of listening to people’s laughter than I do at what’s on the screen.

Laughter is so contagious.  There are numerous YouTube videos where someone will start laughing hysterically, and soon enough, everyone around them has joined in.  Once in awhile, I will watch these and I will get to laughing so hard that my mouth starts to quiver and I get two-pack abs because my tummy muscles get a tremendous work-out.     

There is even such a thing called ‘Laughter Yoga’ which was started by Madan Kataria, a doctor from India, who is also known as the ‘Guru of Giggling.’  He started a club with just five people in Mumbai and there are now more than 6,000 Laughter Yoga clubs in over 72 countries.  People get together and…well…they laugh!

Humor and laughter are also very healing. When you laugh, or even smile, the feel good chemicals are released in the brain and throughout the body.  Norman Cousins, known as the modern father of laughter therapy, was diagnosed with a debilitating illness and was given little chance of recovery.  Traditional medicine failed to relieve his pain; therefore, he checked himself into a hotel, consumed megadoses of Vitamin C, and watched countless comedies on TV.  He found that just ten minutes of belly laughter would allow him to have two hours of pain-free sleep.  He soon recovered and wrote books on humor and healing.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can find humor in just about anything and I am always looking for the humor in my life situations.  They make for many great stories in my speaking and writing career.  I call them ‘only Karen moments.’  I would like to share several of them with you now.

One day I was at work and decided to brush my teeth after lunch.  I grabbed the tube of paste and my toothbrush and headed to the restroom.  After putting a dab of paste on my toothbrush, I began brushing.  I’m brushing and I’m brushing, and I’m starting to think, “Hmmmm, this toothpaste really doesn’t taste very good.”  I brush some more and it starts to occur to me that the toothpaste really doesn’t taste very good so I look at the tube and see that it was one of those inexpensive products from a dollar store, so I continue brushing.  Now I’m thinking that the toothpaste tastes extremely horrible so I take another look at the tube, and to my horror, I discovered that I was brushing my teeth with anti-itching cream!  Now, there’s bad news and good news that came from this.  The bad news is that I had a horrible taste in my mouth for the rest of the day.  The good news is that my teeth haven’t itched since!

Another story I like to tell is when I was on the way to work when I stopped to get a box turtle out of the middle of the road so it wouldn’t get hit.  There wasn’t a safe place to put him as there was a wall of stone on one side and a cliff on the other.  So in my infinite turtle wisdom, I decided to drive with the turtle down the mountain where I could release him safely.  As I was driving, I held the turtle upside down in one hand while driving with the other.  Apparently, the little guy had never ridden in a car upside down before and it scared the piddle out of him.  Literally!  All of a sudden, a fountain of pee came pouring out of him, all over my steering wheel, my lap, and my chest.  I had to keep going so I just let him pee.  At the bottom of the mountain, I released him into the woods, and then continued on to work, turtle pee and all.  Fortunately, turtle pee doesn’t smell so no one was the wiser.  Okay, yes they were because I just had to tell everyone at work of my turtle pee adventure.

My last story here is when I went for one of my long walks down a country road enjoying the scenery and being in my own little blissful world.  A little ways up, I hear what sounds like an elder person screaming at the top of their lungs “HELPPPPPP!”  I’m thinking, “Okay, now what am I getting myself into?”  As I get closer to the sound and hearing it again, I see that it’s a little goat off to the side of the road.  I kept walking thinking if it’s still yelling on my way back, I would check on it.  On my return, I’m again hearing “HELPPPPP!” and I look up to see that the goat is caught in the barbed wire fence.  I’m a huge animal lover so I thought I’d go see if I could help the little critter.  This goat was NOT a happy camper and wasn’t too interested in helping me help him.  Plus, there was a little dog that wasn’t happy about me being near his friend, so he bit me on the ankle, fortunately, not breaking the skin…much. 

So, here I am wrestling with this goat, trying to untangle him from the barbed wire, and shaking my one leg in the air trying to keep the little dog from biting me again.  As I’m doing this, the little goat is butting me, pushing and shoving, and covering my now very sweaty body in goat hair.  At one point, he butted me and I flew backwards landing on a pile of twigs.  Fortunately, no twig twigged me and I didn’t appear to be hurt, so with a bruised ego, I got back up to finish the task.  On top of that, before I began my close encounter of the goat kind, I had put my water bottle and phone on the ground, and this little goat kept trying to steal my water bottle and my phone in between butting me.   Therefore, I'm not only wrestling with the goat to get him free from the wire, I'm having to keep him from getting my bottle and phone, while at the same time, trying to keep the little dog from biting me!  After sweating up a storm, I finally get the little guy untangled while he’s still butting me, leaving me to think that he was one very ungrateful little ball of goat hair.  Feeling a sense of triumph, I started my trek back home, taking with me enough goat hair on my sweaty body to knit a sweater.

As you can see, I can get myself into some very unusual predicaments.  I have also been known to be struck with random acts of outrageousness…anything to get a laugh.  Most of my friends never know what I’m going to say or do next.  To be honest, I never know what I’m going to say or do next.  People who know me know to be prepared for the unexpected silly attacks. 

We can all find humor in our lives if we just keep ourselves in a humorous state of mind and don’t take ourselves or life so seriously.  Life was meant to be enjoyed and we came to this earth plane to have fun.  It’s only we humans who make it so serious.  So, lighten up, laugh, and find the humorous in everyday life!

Published in the Putnam County Visions Magazine, September 2014 issue.

What is Unity?

TN Tech recently sponsored a Religious Organizations and Churches Fair as part of their freshmen orientation.  Unity Church of the Cumberlands joined the many wonderful churches who participated in sharing information, cookies, drinks, and fellowship.  It was a fun and fantastic day, and we met a lot of fabulous people! 

Since so many people wonder what Unity is, I’d like to share with you a little about Unity and what we believe.  (The following is excerpted from

Unity is a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer.  Unity honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual's right to choose a spiritual path.  Our congregation is very diverse, people come from various religions, belief systems, and backgrounds, and we are all inclusive.  We love and accept everyone just as they are.

God:  God is Spirit, the loving source of all that is.  God is the one power, all good, everywhere present, all wisdom.  God is divine energy, continually creating, expressing, and sustaining all creation.  In God, we live and move and have our being.  In Unity, some other ways we speak of God are Life, Light, Love, Substance, Principle, Law, and Universal Mind.

Jesus: We believe that Jesus expressed his divine potential and sought to show humankind how to express ours as well. We see Jesus as a master teacher of universal truths and as our Way Shower. In Unity, we use the term Christ to mean the divinity in humankind. Jesus is the great example of the Christ in expression.

The Nature of Humankind:  We are each individual, eternal expressions of God. Our essential nature is divine and therefore inherently good. Our purpose is to express our divine potential as realized and demonstrated by Jesus and other master teachers. The more we awaken to our divine nature, the more fully God expresses in and through our lives.

The Bible:  Unity co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, studied the Bible as history and allegory, and interpreted it as a metaphysical representation of humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening. In addition, Unity recognizes that the Bible is a complex collection of writings compiled over many centuries. We honor the writings as reflecting the understanding and inspiration of the writers at the time they were written. The Bible continues to be a valuable spiritual resource for us.

Our Teachings:  Unity teaches that each person is a unique expression of God created with sacred worth. Living from that awareness transforms our lives and the world.  Unity emphasizes the creative power of thought in our life experience. We refer to this as the Law of Mind Action. When we take personal responsibility to choose life affirming thoughts, words, and actions, we experience a more fulfilling and abundant life.  Unity emphasizes the importance of applying spiritual principles in our daily lives.  Unity teachings continue to evolve as we identify, embrace, and apply spiritual insights and the spiritual implications of new discoveries.

Prayer and Meditation:  Affirmative prayer is the highest form of creative thought. It includes the release of counterproductive, negative thoughts as well as holding in mind statements of spiritual truth. Through meditation, we experience the presence of God. Prayer and meditation heighten our awareness and thereby transform our lives.

Youth and Family Ministry:  Unity recognizes that there are many expressions of family life. All are welcome. Unity creates an affirming environment that fosters positive self image, personal responsibility, and unconditional love and acceptance.  Unity beholds all children as whole and perfect expressions of God; empowers children to fulfill their divine potential; teaches children to meditate and pray; and invites children to experience a loving God.  Unity provides a strong spiritual foundation for children's lives.

Spiritual Action:  In Unity, we feel a sacred responsibility, individually and collectively, to make a positive difference through personal example and active service in our churches, our communities, and our world.
Many people read the Daily Word magazine which originated from the Unity School of Christianity.  It is read by tens of millions of people in over 150 countries and translated into seven languages.

Like other churches, we’re fortunate in that we have a very loving and friendly church family.  At the end of each service, we all stand, form a very large circle, hold hands, and we sing “Love Is the Only Answer” and “The Peace Song.”  What an awesome way to close a service!

Cookeville has many wonderful churches, religions, and belief systems, and it’s great that so many reach out to each other in love and peace.  We’re all brothers and sisters on this great planet called Mother Earth!  As Charles Fillmore stated, “We all seek better understanding of God’s limitless intelligence…  We are all fellow members in life’s fascinating classroom.”   Namaste!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 29, 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Your Thoughts Become You

One of the biggest lessons I have learned on my spiritual journey is the power of our thoughts.  Thoughts, positive or negative, have energy and that energy can result in the manifestation of those thoughts. 

In his book, “As a Man Thinketh,” James Allen writes, “‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he’ not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life.  A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”  (Go to for a free copy of this e-book.)

You do not attract what you want, you attract what you are.  You also attract that which you feel about yourself.   People who have pessimistic attitudes and who think negatively all the time will usually attract a lot of problems in life and they also won’t deal with them very well.  They typically have the attitude of life sucks and then you die.  They expect the worst and will generally get it.  On the other hand, those who are optimistic and positive usually find life to be wonderful and will attract good things into their lives.  Whenever something negative does happen, they look at it as something to learn from and they try to find the good in it.

Not only do our thoughts affect our world and those around us, they can also affect our own well-being.  Negativity greatly influences ill-health.  If you expect to get sick, you more than likely will.  That’s not to say that positive people won’t have their health issues because there are many outside influences such as environment and the things we put in and on our bodies, but even if they do get sick, the illness may last a shorter time and they’ll have a brighter outlook throughout the illness.

Negative people will always look for the worst in everyone and everything, and they will usually find it.  Positive people will always look for the best in everyone and everything, and again, they will usually find it. 

We also need to be very careful of the people we’re around as they can greatly influence our thoughts and the way we feel about ourselves.  Watch your conversations and the words you speak.  Are you lifting people up or tearing them down?  Are your thoughts and words loving or hateful?  Do you gossip and bash other people or groups of people?  All this reflects on us and that energy will affect everyone around us.
Be careful what you watch on the news, too.  Just about everything you hear on the news and radio talk shows is negative and made up of mostly opinions and beliefs.  The fact checkers have even found that many don’t tell the truth.  PunditFact found that CNN was honest about 60% of the time, MSNBC 31%, and Fox News only 18%.  Yet people still believe everything they say hear even though they are only propagating the negative.   This is one reason I don’t watch the news.  All that negativity affects my well-being so I avoid it, and unless it’s the facts, I’m not interested hearing anyone’s hate, bigotry, or ignorance.  Give me a Good News Network anytime where newscasters communicate all the good that is occurring all over the world!  There’s so much more good; we’re just not hearing about it.

Everything we think, say, believe, or watch, all have an effect on ourselves and everyone around us.  I love all people, but I prefer to be around those who are loving, kind, and compassionate.  Those who encourage and lift each other up.  Those who see the best in me and I in them.  This is one reason I love Unity Church so much because this is part of what we teach. 

Philippians 4:8 states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Gandhi said, “Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

Wayne Dyer says “Change your thoughts, change your life.”  Thoughts and beliefs can be changed to make your life so much better!  Be a free thinker and learn to think for yourself.  Remember, you may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest.  This is the same with your thoughts.  Choose your thoughts wisely because your thoughts become you. 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 22, 2014.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Finding the Messiah

There is a story about a run-down monastery that was run by a group of Monks.  One day, a mysterious stranger showed up at the door.  The Monks noticed something different about him, but they kept silent and showed the stranger his room.  The next morning during breakfast, the stranger told the Monks that he had a dream, and in that dream, it was revealed that one of the Monks was the Messiah.  The Monks were astonished and couldn’t believe it!  They excitedly asked the stranger who it might be.  The stranger told them that he could not reveal who it was and that they would have to discover who it was themselves.  After giving them this information, he went on his way.

For the following weeks and months, the Monks were cautious with each other and looked deeper into each other’s eyes.  They treated each other as if the other just might be the Messiah.  Over time, something miraculous began to occur.  For the first time in many years, the monastery began to be filled with joy and appreciation.  Their prayers, meals, and conversations became more lively and delightful.  Whenever people visited the monastery, they felt uplifted and the number of visitors increased.  Soon, the monastery came back to life and the many visitors found refreshment for their souls.  As time went on, they never did find out who was the Messiah the stranger spoke of.  But it didn’t matter as they had all become the Messiah.

The moral of this story is that if we would treat each other as if each of us were the Messiah (you can replace the name Messiah with Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, or whoever your Spiritual master is), then only love would prevail.  We would treat each other with more kindness, compassion, and respect.  There would be no more wars or violence towards others.  We would realize that we really are brothers and sisters on this magnificent planet called Mother Earth.

In fact, whatever happened to the Golden Rule?  Most all religions teach this Rule, but not everyone follows it.  It’s not only a moral ideal between people, but also for relationships between nations, races, cultures, religions, and so on. This is one thing they all have in common.  Below are variations of the Rule for the different religions:

Christianity:  All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. 

Baha’i Faith:  Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. 

Buddhism:  Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. 

Confucianism:  Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.  Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. 

Hinduism:  This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. 

Islam:  Not one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. 

Jainism:  One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.

Judaism:  What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.  This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. 

Native Spirituality:  We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.

Sikhism:  I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me.  Indeed, I am a friend to all.

Taoism:  Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. 

Unitarianism:  We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Zoroastrianism:  That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. 

To sum the Golden Rule from all the religions, it means to do no harm.  The Dalai Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”  We all want to be loved and treated with kindness and to know people care.  It doesn’t take much.  Leo Buscaglia stated, “Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

I would highly recommend memorizing a Golden Rule that resonates with you and learn to treat people according to that Rule.  You never know, maybe you’ll be one to change a life.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 8, 2014.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life is Like a River

Back in the late 90’s, I went on an adventure of a lifetime and I nearly lost my life because of it.  A group of friends and I went white water river rafting on the Ocoee River.  I had never done anything like this and I was excited and frightened at the same time.  Thousands of people went on these trips, so it had to be perfectly safe.  Right?  Little did I know that I would be having an experience that I now hope I never have to experience ever again. 

The trip started off nice enough.  Eight of us in one raft with my friends sitting across from each other.  Me?  I sat across from the ‘guide in training.’  This guide thought she was ‘it’ and thought she already knew everything.  When she told her supervisors that she wanted to take the raft down the river by herself, I got a very sick feeling in my stomach and knew we were in trouble.  (Note to self….  Never sit across from a ‘guide in training’ in a raft on ferocious waters.)

We pushed off the starting ramps and headed down the calm waters.  I admit it was beautiful.  That part of the trip was wonderful, but it was short lived.  We soon came to a spot in the river where rocks caused a little gully of white water.  Our guide positioned the raft sideways in the gully causing the raft to drastically thrash to and fro.  My friends were all hanging on to each other so no one would fall out.  Me?  I had the ‘guide in training who knew everything’ and she was going to show everyone she didn’t need anyone helping her stay in the raft, which left me to fend for myself.  It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds until I realized my body wasn’t going to stay raft bound and over I went.  My friends told me later that the look on my face before I fell overboard was priceless.  Not funny!

On down the river I went; how fast, I don’t know.  They tell you that if this happens to put your feet straight out in front of you down river.  Not going to happen.  To be honest, I was just hoping that I would come out of the water so that I could take a breath of that fresh air that we tend to take for granted.  That wasn’t going to happen either.  All of a sudden, everything got very peaceful and quiet, and I found myself calmly thinking, “Hmmmm.  This is interesting.  I never thought I would die like this.  This is going to put a real damper on my friends’ day.”

It felt like time had stopped and yet I knew I was continuing down the river, underwater, no air, and who knows what awaited my fate.  Finally, I felt myself start to rise to the surface, but when I did, something hit my head keeping me from inhaling that precious nothingness we call air.  With horror, I realized I came up directly under a raft!  Again, thoughts entered my mind.  “Okay, this another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into!  This is it!  The end of my life!  This is not a good day!”  Suddenly, I felt something grab my life jacket and start pulling.  “God?  Is that you?!?  I didn’t know you could pull a life jacket!!!”  As I felt myself being pulled upward, I could only imagine that I was being pulled into heaven and I would be meeting all my family, friends, and pets very soon.  But alas, I discovered it the guide in the boat (not a guide in training) who just happened to see me go under the raft.  His quick thinking probably saved my life. 

Taking a huge gulp of air into my lungs, reality started to set in.  While taking stock of my body to make sure it was in one piece, I found that my sunglasses were crooked on my face and wedged under the helmet I was wearing and my hair was sticking out everywhere.  I had to have been a sight.  Since I sometimes use humor to deal with stressful situations, I jokingly yelled, “That’s it!  I want out!  Put me on the road because I’m walking home!” 

The nice guide, my savior, my hero, hung on to me at the side of his raft while we waited for my raft to come pick me up.  I was either brave or stupid, but I got back into that raft; the one with the ‘guide in training who knew everything there was to know about anything.’

We continued on our way while my friends joked and made fun of my little mishap.  It became another ‘only Karen’ story which I knew I would never live down.  I was just starting to relax and enjoy the scenery when all of a sudden our raft stopped in the middle of the river.  To our surprise, our ‘guide in training’ got us stuck on a huge rock.  I mean stuck as cannot go forward, cannot go backward, cannot go sideways kind of stuck.  She yelled “row!” and we obediently lifted our oars in the air, but before we could get them in the water, she yelled “stop!”  We did this several times never getting our oars in the water and we kind of looked at each other thinking that surely this couldn’t be the plan.  Somehow we miraculously got off the rock and continued on our journey.

A little while later, I looked ahead and was aghast to see white water…lots of white water.  Having just had my life saved from my underwater adventure, I wondered if my life had been saved only to lose it up ahead.  I also wondered if I could jump ship now and swim to shore.  Do anything and be anywhere except in that raft with our ‘guide in training.’  But I was stuck and was going to have to see this through.  Gripping everything I could grip, I hung on for dear life, because yes, I was learning that life is very dear!  The white water ahead was the highest rated and roughest.  In we go!  It only lasted a minute if that, but I made sure my oar was doing its job, though I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be swung the way I was swinging it.

At last, we made it to the other side. I made it!  I could breathe!  I was alive!  And still in the raft!  You can bet your sweet bippy that when we got to land and I got out of that raft, I fell and kissed the very ground I was walking on!  I love you, land!  Solid ground beneath my feet!  What a sweet and wonderful feeling! 

Later when I started a career as a public speaker, I was able to use this story as an analogy.  Life is like a river.  Like the river, we’re going to have our smooth, calm, and peaceful times.  Everything is going well for us.  No stress.  Life is good.  But also like a river, there are going to be rough times.  There are going to be white water moments where life is tough, there’s going to be pain and suffering, and we’re going to have those ‘life sucks’ moments in time.  You may even feel like you’re going over a water fall not knowing whether you’re going to make it or not.  But using the analogy of the river, there are going to be calm periods of time once again.  We just have to hang on for the ride and accept the fact that life is like a river and we just have to go with the flow. 

We can fight the river and try to go upstream to stay out of the white waters, but that only causes more stress because we are going against the flow of life.  I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to take your oars out of the water.  Sometimes we just need to let go and release our attachments to the way we think things should be.  When we put our oars in the water, we’re trying to control the river (life) and many times we don’t have control.  Keeping our oars out of the water and trusting a Higher Power (God, Universe, Spirit, Nature, the God of our understanding) to guide us, can bring more peace to our lives.  And trust me, that Higher Power is not a guide in training!

So you see, it’s not the river (life) that’s bad.  It’s our attitude towards it that makes or breaks us.  We can look at it as something frightening and something to be avoided, or we can look at it as an adventure.  Don’t take it so seriously.  Yes, many really serious things do happen to us, but there are many who have gone through the most horrendous experiences, were able to have a good attitude about it, and came through it a much stronger and better person because of whatever they went through.  It’s our choice as to what kind of attitude we’re going to have.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.  It’s just we humans who make it so difficult.  Life is a wonderful and crazy adventure! 

I have a saying:  “Life is like a roller coaster.  You can either hang on for dear life and scream in terror.  Or you can put your hands up in the air, enjoy the ride, and scream, ‘Wheeeeeeeee!’”  Your adventure is yours and yours alone.  Make it a good one!

Published in the Putnam County Visions Magazine, August 2014 issue.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Human Spirit Will Prevail

“That thing isn’t even human!!”  Those are the words I heard come out of my mouth upon seeing my first transsexual person, and it bothers me to this day that I said them.  A friend had taken me to a dance and standing in the center of the room was a very tall person. My friend told me about her and what that meant.  I was so appalled and horror-stricken, we decided to leave and go elsewhere.

Not long after the above incident, I had gone into a Christian bookstore.  I was the only customer so the clerk and I struck up a conversation in which he began to tell me about his current situation.  He proceeded to tell me that he had been a man, became a woman, and was in the process of becoming a man again.  Just then two others came into the store.  We began talking and the man began to tell me about the woman he was with.  She had been a man, went through the process of becoming a woman, and was going to become a man again.  Because of a change in religious beliefs, these two people were told they were no longer acceptable as they were, so they had to change back to the way they were before. 

Before I could leave, someone suggested that we hold hands in a circle and pray.  Next thing I knew I was standing there and on each side of me I was holding hands with one of these “freaks.”  Then something happened.  While someone was praying, I heard the words in my mind very clearly, just as if someone was standing there speaking them aloud, “Karen, these are my children, and I love them just as much as any of my children.”  Did I really just hear those words?  No one in the circle spoke them.  Therefore I knew that Spirit was gently giving me a wonderful message.  I may not have had an instant turnaround in my thinking or beliefs, but a seed was planted that would continue to grow and manifest until they took hold years later.  I learned that we are all children of God and that we are all loved equally. 

Since then, I’ve met and gotten to know so many wonderful people who happen to be gay and I love them dearly.  They are some of the nicest, kindest, most accepting people I know.  It pains me to see the discrimination, even hate, which they have to deal with in our society, much of it being propagated by some religions and politicians.  Jesus made it very clear that we are to love one another regardless of color, race, religion, politics, sexual preference, gender, and so on.

Being straight, I don’t understand what makes someone gay.  But I also don’t understand what makes people fall in love, the miracle of childbirth, or any other wonderful mysteries life bestows upon us.  I am not going to get into any Biblical or political arguments over people’s beliefs about this.  The point I’m trying to make is that these are human beings.  They laugh, cry, hurt, and feel joy. They're kind, compassionate, and they love deeply. They care about others and will help them when and where they can. They're humanitarians, philanthropists, and they care about what happens to our world. They live in all corners of the earth, from all professions, races, cultures, and religions. They love their family, friends, and pets, and they grieve when they lose them.  You don’t have to agree with the lifestyle.  That’s your choice.  But they don’t deserve to be hated and treated horribly just because of perceived differences.

History has shown us that since the beginning of humankind, discrimination, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance have been perpetuated against various cultures and groups of people.  But history has also taught us that the human spirit is strong and we will prevail until all are loved and accepted equally.  American Indians, Jews, Japanese, gays, Muslims, Hispanics, woman, and so on have been discriminated against and/or oppressed at one time or another, or continue to be to this day.  What history is also teaching us, though, is that oppressing any person or any group of people is not our natural state of being.  People are starting to ‘get it.’  We really are one and it really is all about unconditional love for all beings.

It's time to stop the hating towards anyone.  Nelson Mandela said it best when he stated, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 25, 2014.