Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are You Listening?

Now that the weather is starting to get nice, I decided to start my walking routine again.  I love being out in the fresh air among nature!  The other day, I was enjoying my walk when all of a sudden, my foot went off the side of the newly paved road and down I went, badly twisting my ankle and scraping my knee and finger.  Lying on the road, more embarrassed than anything, I jumped back up and tried to move like nothing happened hoping that no one saw me go down. 

Afterwards, I asked Spirit why that happened and what I heard was, “Karen, when someone knocks you down, you have to keep getting back up.  You need to stand up for yourself and not let anyone treat you less than you deserve.”  Immediately I thought, “You couldn’t have just told me that without my getting laid out flat on the road?!?!” 

Many of us have those conversations.  Some say we’re communicating with God.  We may call it the Universe, Spirit, Life, Angels, our Higher Self…it doesn’t matter the name we give to it or the gender.  It’s that loving inner voice that quietly speaks to us, guides us, and is always there with us.  There are some who don’t believe anyone communicates with us in a spiritual or mystical way, and that’s okay. 

I was first made aware of that voice when I was in my mid 20’s.  It was probably always with me, but I may have just never listened.  At first, I wasn’t sure what that voice was or who it was coming from.  As I began a serious spiritual journey, I learned that voice was from my soul and that if I listened, she would never steer me wrong.  It’s only when I don’t listen that I get myself into trouble.

One of the first times the voice became very clear to me was when I lived in Hollywood, California, and stopped into a Christian bookstore where I met two transsexuals.  I had never met anyone who was transsexual before so I was kind of freaking out and was filled with judgment.  Suddenly, I heard the words, “Karen, these are my children and I love them just as much as any of my children.”  I wasn’t sure where that voice came from, but I heard it loud and clear.

It took some years and gaining more spiritual wisdom before I fully understood this voice, but I learned to listen to her and trust that she always had my best interests at heart, as well as the best interests of others.  Whenever I found myself judging someone, this voice would gently tell me that there was always a bigger picture and that I should instead feel love and compassion for the person.  If I’m in a hurry and feeling impatient, the voice speaks words to calm me down and to know that I should never question delays because they could be saving me from harm on down the road.  And when I’m hard on myself, the voice sets me straight in reminding me who I really am and that I need to lighten up and show love and compassion to myself as well.

The voice has also saved me from harm many times.  I remember driving on a country road and the voice told me to slow down and get ready to stop.  Sure enough, around the curve was a deer standing in the middle of the road and the voice saved me from hitting her.  Another time, I was coming up on a traffic light.  The left turn light was green, yet the voice warned me to stop.  Of course, I argued saying I had the green light.  I was told again to stop, so I did.  Just then, a semi-truck went through the red light in the one direction and a car went through in the other direction.  If I had gone through, I would have been sandwiched and probably killed.  Things like this have happened too many times to mention.

There are some who might think I’ve gone bonkers and that God or whomever no longer communicates with people because they believe it only happened in Biblical times.  But I believe this voice speaks to us today as well.  How do we know if it’s the voice of God?  We know when the words are uplifting and spoken only with unconditional love.  If the words are spoken with hate or bringing someone down, then it is not of God. 

Amit Ray stated, “There is a God part in you. The consciousness. The pure Self. Learn to listen to the voice of that Power.”   That voice will always be with you and guiding you.  Are you listening? 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 27, 2015.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spiritual Movies That Inspire

Movies have been a passion of mine ever since I was young and dreamed of becoming an actress. My favorite movies are message movies, especially if they involve anything having to do with spirituality.  I’ve learned from so many of them as many are full of so much spiritual wisdom.

One of the very first message movies I saw was “Billy Jack” released in 1971 and then the following sequels.  It was because of this movie that I went to live on an Indian reservation in British Columbia and lived with the most remarkable people who remain family to me to this day.  It also started my journey with Native American Spirituality.  One bit of wisdom that has stayed with me all these years is when Billy said “What’s going to happen is going to happen and all the worrying in the world isn’t going to change a thing.”

Since then, I’ve seen many spiritual message movies and I would like to share some of them here, all of which I highly recommend.

“What Dreams May Come” starring the beloved Robin Williams.  It was considered a fantasy drama about what one might experience in the afterlife.   It opened my mind to the possibilities of what we could experience after we leave the earth plane.

“The Way” starring Martin Sheen.  Sheen’s character has a son (played by his real life son Emilio Estevez), who dies while starting his walk on “The Way of St. James” (Camino de Santiago in Europe).  Instead of returning home immediately, the father decides to finish the walk, and along the way, he finds himself and discovers the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.” 

The “Peaceful Warrior” based on a best-selling book (true story) written by Dan Millman about the power of the human spirit.  After a life-changing experience, he meets a man named Socrates, and an elusive woman, both who teach him the secret to overcome incredible odds and learn the wisdom into new worlds of strength and understanding.  There were several sequels that continue the story and/or are along a similar path of wisdom, which were just as intriguing.

“The Celestine Prophecy,” based on a best-selling novel and philosophy by James Redfield, is about an out-of-work teacher who embarks on an amazing adventure to the rainforests of Peru in search of nine ancient scrolls known as the Celestine Prophecy.  These nine insights predict a worldwide awakening that gives a new definition to human life and gives him a glimpse into a deeper level of spirituality on earth.  Through many coincidences and an intriguing plot, he learns the meaning of each insight.  There were also several sequels, all just as spell-binding as the first.

“Conversations with God” based on the book series by Neale Donald Walsch, is very inspiring and based on Walsch’s own life.  After a reasonable amount of success, Walsch lost everything, became homeless, experienced a debilitating injury, and looks for meaning through it all.  Since then, he has become an author of numerous successful books (translated into over 34 languages).

Other movies I would highly recommend are “Ambition to Meaning, Finding Your Life’s Purpose” by Wayne Dyer about his spiritual journey.  “I AM” by Tom Shadyac asking “What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it?  “What the Bleep Do We Know” explores the spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness.  “You Can Heal Your Life” based on the life and work of Louise L. Hay and about the many ways people can heal their own lives.  “The Wayshower” and “The Mystical Traveler” based on the spiritual journey of John-Roger.

Of course, there are many more that I would love to recommend.  The key is to watch the ones that resonate with you.  And if none of them do, that’s fine.  The important thing is to be sure we check what we’re learning with our own inner spiritual consciousness to see if it rings true for us.  If not, then ignore it, but let’s not criticize or find fault just because it’s something we might not believe. 

The wisdom and knowledge from God (Life, the Universe, the God of your understanding) can come through many sources and many teachers.  As Eckhart Tolle stated, “I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that deep within you don't know already.  All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten. Living knowledge, ancient and yet ever new, is then activated and released from within you.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 20, 2015.

Friday, March 6, 2015

You'll Never Walk Alone

This week was the one year anniversary when we lost two members of our church from a murder suicide.  These two beautiful spirits, for whatever reasons, ended up leaving this earth plane early.  To say it was a complete shock to our church community is an understatement.  We knew that they were having their challenges and many of us tried to help them, but no one knew the extent of the darkness they were experiencing to have caused them to make that split second decision of no return.

A few months before that, we lost another beautiful soul when she took her own life on the side of a country road.  Again, we knew she was having her challenges, but no one was aware of how bad it was until we received the news that she had left us in such a tragic way.

Suicide is a very hard issue for many to understand.  Some people believe that it is a very selfish act and that the person was only thinking of themselves, or that all they had to do was snap out of it.  Those are very judgmental beliefs because until we have been in their shoes, we do not have a clue as to the extent of what that person was experiencing.   When someone is in that deep dark abyss with no sign of the light at the end of the tunnel, they lose all hope, and it only takes a split second of extreme despair to end it.  I always say never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.  We need to realize that people who commit suicide don’t really want to die…they just want their pain to end.  Many are feeling so depressed and hopeless that they really believe that everyone would be better off without them. 

So, how can we help those who seem so lost and hopeless?  Love them.  Be there for them.  Listen to them.  Help them.  Give them hope. Get them professional help if needed.  Some people just need to know that someone cares.  If all you can do is send a card saying you’re thinking about them, then even that can make a difference.  Be very careful of what you say and please don’t say “All you have to do is….”   Your words should be kind, compassionate, and loving.  There are many stories where someone was contemplating taking their life, but all it took was one person to let them know that someone cared and they changed their mind.  I learned that early when I had a college friend confide that before she met me, she was going to kill herself.  I didn’t have a clue, and I didn’t do anything except to be her friend. 

How can we in churches help our members and attendees through their dark periods?  Stop judging!  Stop criticizing!  Stop demonizing!  There are many who quit going to church for these very reasons!  The sole purpose of those of us in the spiritual communities is to love unconditionally!  People in darkness need to feel that their very lives and feelings matter and that they are loved, cherished, and wanted regardless of who they are or what their issues are.  When the church community in particular condemns and demonizes people just because of a difference in beliefs, and when some church leaders (and some politicians) actually say that certain people should die and that we’d be better off without them, regardless of the issue, this is extremely unconscionable!

If you’re one who is struggling and having a hard time hanging on, I wish I had the magic words to help you hang in there and to let you know that you are loved, appreciated, and valued JUST AS YOU ARE!  This will pass, and once you get through it, you’ll be a stronger and better person because of what you experienced and then you can be there to help others because you understand!  You can be a great success because you did go through the darkness!

I leave you with the great lyrics from the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone:”  “When you walk through the storm, Hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark, At the end of the storm is a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of the lark.  Walk on, through the wind, Walk on, through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown, Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone…You'll never walk alone.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper, March 6, 2015.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Being There For One Another

Looking out my window during Winter Storm Octavia, I was tickled to see our neighbors sledding down the slight hills of their yard, screaming in delight, and then doing it over and over again.  The temps were freezing with a wind chill of way below zero, but they didn’t mind.  They were enjoying this rare snow storm!

The snow was beautiful as it flowed softly to the ground casting a wonderment of white across the land.  Many people were excited to see the snow and all the fun it brought with it.  But for many, it was very stressful as people tried to get to work and then had to deal with all the damage the storm caused. 

Yes, there was a lot of devastation, but many Tennesseans pulled together and got out to help one another.  It didn’t matter what a person looked like, who they were, what religion, or whatever.  It was human beings helping human beings.  And friends, that’s what it’s all about…our being there to help each other. 

Why does it take a tragedy to bring people together on a greater scale?  During and after 9/11, people from all over the world banded together to help those affected by this horrendous disaster.  The same with Katrina.  And not just events that occur in our country, but when things happen in other countries, people everywhere unselfishly go out of their way to assist anyone who is in need.

But then things settle down, people get back into their daily routines, and we forget.  We stop going out of our way to help others.  Not everyone…but many.  There was still a lot to be done after 9/11, Katrina, and other disasters, but when the media stops reporting, people think nothing else needs to be accomplished. 

What’s worse is that some religionists come out of the woodwork and claim that God made these things happen to punish people, and it’s usually in accord with that person’s beliefs and God is punishing whomever that particular person disagrees with.  S/he uses God to back up their personal judgmental and hateful agendas and that’s very sad. 

God does not cause bad things to happen to anyone!  What kind of loving God would do such a thing?  Not the God that I believe in!  According to many beliefs, God made people to have free will.  That means we make the choices as to whether or not we are going to help or harm.  People blame God for so many things in this world, but we as human beings have the power and the ability to make changes for the better!  There is no reason for anyone in the world to go hungry, but do we feed them?  There is no reason for anyone to go without healthcare, but do we cover them?  There is no reason for people to be homeless, but do we house them?  Some are trying!  It’s interesting to hear some complain that they don’t want government in their business, but when it comes to caring for others, they’ll say that it’s the government’s problem. 

Sometimes I think that these tragic events happen to remind us that we really are a part of each other...that what affects one affects all.  All the great spiritual teachers throughout time have taught us to take care of one another.  Jesus even said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  So why can’t we do this consistently?

Many do!  There are many people and organizations that do get it and are out there living the Golden Rule!  The Golden Rule in some form is in most, if not all, Holy Books and writings!  I so wish we could stop all this hate/bigotry nonsense and know that we are all the same.  We’re all children of God, the Universe, the Cosmos.  We were all made equally; it is only man that makes us different based solely on our beliefs.

In the book “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy says, “If people could see each other’s souls, all war would end, and everyone would go feed the hungry children.”  If we could really see each other’s souls, we would see a reflection of ourselves, and we would really know the true meaning of loving and caring for one another.  And 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.”

Thank you to all who have been out there helping others during this crisis whether you are a professional or neighbor helping neighbor!  We love you and appreciate you!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen Newspaper February 27, 2015.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Love Is The Only Answer

I am a Chaplain at my church and each Sunday one of our Chaplains has the pleasure of being able to share what’s on our hearts for a few minutes, and each of us brings something special and meaningful to the service.

Recently, my topic was about how we need to honor and embrace the dark times that we may go through.  It’s so important that we love ourselves through those dark periods just as much as we do through the good times.  All of a sudden, tears started flowing freely down my cheeks as I spoke about how important it is to love not only others, but to love ourselves…unconditionally. 

There are so many people going through the darkest of times in their personal lives.  It could be because of an illness, financial or relationship issues, grieving over the loss of loved ones, a catastrophic event, or anything else that may happen to us.  My heart became overflowing with love and empathy for those who are struggling just to get through each day.

I also thought of those who have to deal with hate and bigotry just because of their color, race, religion, sexual preference, or whatever.  I read and hear stories of violence being committed towards others because of this and I could only think what are we coming to as a species that some have become so hateful? 

We claim to be a Christian nation, and we claim that God is Love, but we sure aren’t seeing it much especially from so many pulpits or from many politicians.  To some, in fact, Christianity as a whole is now being seen as a very hateful religion!  When you hear some Christians speak, are they speaking of loving our fellow man?  Or are they tearing people down and encouraging us to hurt others just because of our differences? 

So many young gays and transgendered people (as well as young children!) are committing suicide because they have been so demonized, and some Christians and others celebrate their death!   We also have news programs and radio hosts who propagate hate and bigotry and even encourage people to hurt others just because of a difference in beliefs, and they do so in the name of God and Christianity!  This is NOT what Jesus or any other spiritual leader throughout time has taught! 

There are those who are also trying to make Christianity the law of the land, but if any other religion tried to do this, it would cause an outrage!  How about if we made Love the law of the land instead?  Can you imagine?
I want to make it very clear that I am definitely not criticizing Christianity as a whole.  There are many, many wonderful sincere Christians out there who do practice the teachings of Jesus which was unconditional love for all and caring for our brothers and sisters on this beautiful planet of ours.  They want to live in peace and harmony with all people and they take very seriously the instructions of the Bible to love and not to judge.  We just don’t hear too much from this side and it’s not their fault.  Hate in the media sells.  All religions have good and bad in them. 

I am so grateful that I have friends who are gay, transgendered, Muslim, Hispanic, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, black, white, brown, and from all colors, races, and religions!  I love the diversity of my friends and the many people I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting and getting to know!  They’ve taught me so much!  One of the biggest things they taught me was to not hold the actions of a few against the whole.  If I had, I would have missed out on some of the most amazing relationships!

If our religions are not teaching love for all people, then what is the purpose of them?  So many religions have gotten so far away from the teachings of their spiritual masters that they’ve pretty much become man-made religions.  We need to get back to the teachings of these masters which was love, compassion, kindness, peace, and harmony for all regardless of any perceived differences!

There’s a great quote that says, “Buddha was not a Buddhist.  Jesus was not a Christian.  Muhammad was not a Muslim.  They were teachers who taught love.  Love was their religion.”  This is so true.  They all taught love and to harm no one.

We all search for God mostly through our religions, but Gandhi stated, “If you don’t find God in   the next person you meet, don’t waste time looking for him further.”

Unconditional love really is the answer and I can’t say it enough.  Namaste!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper February 20, 2015.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ignorance is Not Bliss!

In today’s day and times, we live in a state of instant information via new technology such as the Internet, news, and social media.  On one hand, this is a good thing.  Information is at our fingertips and we can get it in an instant.  On the other hand, anyone can write or say anything and it gets communicated as the truth.  The problem with that is that way too many people will believe whatever they read and/or hear and will not make an effort to research as to whether that information is even true or not.  We tend to only believe whatever agrees with our own personal beliefs.

This brings me to the word ‘ignorance.’  According to an on-line dictionary, ignorance means lack of knowledge or information.  The synonyms for this word are unawareness of, incomprehension of, informal cluelessness about, and unconsciousness of.  We can all be guilty of ignorance at various times in our lives, me included. (To be clear, I am not pointing my fingers to any individuals.)

From the time we are born to the time we die, we are in a constant state of learning.  Those teaching us teach based upon their beliefs, their experiences, and from what they were taught.  It’s as if their knowledge is genetic, it just gets passed on, and we trust that the information is correct.

The majority of us learn and believe according to our beliefs at the time of whatever it is we learned.  I know that may sound confusing, but it’s true nonetheless.  For example…  In my younger years, I was an extreme fundamentalist and only believed what matched my extreme fundamentalist beliefs.  Anyone who didn’t believe or think the way I did was wrong and I totally believed they would go to a place that some call hell.  Many hold that belief regardless of whether or not it is associated with religion, politics, cultures, race, and so on.  We tend to only believe what resonates with our own personal beliefs. 

When I started my spiritual journey, I learned to open my mind to learning all things new.  Once I opened my mind, that’s when my spiritual teachings went into hyper-speed.  Because I opened myself up to new teachings, God/Universe/Spirit/God of your understanding, was able to teach me so much more than it could if I had continued to keep my beliefs taped up air-tight in a box.  I basically took my beliefs out of the box and learned to look at the world through the eyes of love.

When we refuse to open ourselves up to new information just because it doesn’t jive with what we believe, even if that new information is the truth, then that is where ignorance enters the picture.  I have seen postings on Facebook, in the media, in letters to the editor of various papers, and so forth, where if the person had done their research from a legitimate source, they would have learned that what they have written was not true, or at least it wasn’t the whole story. 

I see ignorance when it comes to writings/communications about Islam/Muslims, gays, undocumented immigrants, our President, politics, the healthcare issue, education, cultures, and so much more.  We need to research legitimate sources and not just from people’s personal blogs, personal websites, or other illegitimate sources that may just agree with our beliefs.

Ignorance has been used as a catalyst for propagating so much hate and bigotry.  We all have our beliefs and most people are very passionate about their beliefs to the point that they try to force those beliefs on everyone else.  But what happened to truth?  Is that not important anymore?  It is said that the truth will set us free.  But whose truth?   Most people will say “my truth is the only truth!”  But is it?  Personally, I base my own truth on unconditional love, kindness, compassion, and oneness, and it is my guide to all other truths.  My truths also change as I grow.  My truth may not be another person’s truth, and that’s okay.  So instead of judging, condemning, and demonizing others because their truth may be different than ours, how about if we respect and honor their truth?  Yes, lies need to be revealed, but we can do so without attacking and being mean-spirited about it.

Wayne Dyer stated, “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”  Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”  And Leo Tolstoy declared, “Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen February 13, 2015.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Many Paths, One Destination

There is a Hindu proverb that says, “There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.”

This is the way I think of all our religions.  There are thousands of religions all over the world, and within those religions, there are other branches and/or denominations.  According to the “World Christian Encyclopedia,” there are 19 major world religions.  These are subdivided into about 270 other groups, with 34,000 separate Christian groups being identified.  And even in these groups, there are many sub-groups with varying beliefs.  So I ask you…which one is right and which one is wrong?  More than likely many will answer that your particular religion / denomination is the one and only way. 

I’ve said this before, but I love the diversity of our world and that includes all the various religions and belief systems.  I learn so much from many of them!  I can only believe and share what I feel is right for me at this time and those beliefs change as I continue to open my awareness and become more enlightened to all of life.  My main motto is Jesus’ words to love one another (no exceptions) and by this you will know who his disciples are…by how much they love one another.  Therefore, I refuse to judge, or even hate, anyone just because they believe something different than me.  (I don’t always succeed, but it’s what I aspire to.)

It’s amazing how many people literally hate the believers of other religions or others who are “different,” wanting to keep them oppressed, making laws against them, and some even want to wipe them off the face of the earth!  We hear it in the media, from the pulpits, in books and articles, and even in letters to the editors!  I recently read a letter against a particular religion and the people in that religion, but what the writer wrote were lies.  (I researched to double check.)  One line s/he wrote was partially true, but if the writer had researched the whole story, s/he would have learned that it wasn’t what s/he thought it was.  The sad part is that people read things like this and automatically believe it without researching the truth.  We need to do our own research rather than just believe what we see / hear / read regardless of what that information is or where it’s coming from, particularly if it’s hate propaganda.  We also have to remember that when we’re speaking hate towards others, it defines our own character and integrity and not the people we’re speaking against.

And it’s not just religions that people spread hate towards.  It’s color of skin, race, politics, sexual preferences, gender, occupations, and so much more.  You would think that religions would be about love and peace and to work towards everyone getting along.  It’s what all the great spiritual masters taught!  How on earth did we get so off base to use our religions to back up and defend our hatred for others?  It’s happened since the beginning of time, but because of today’s social technology, everyone hears about it. We say God is love, but many are using God as an excuse to hurt others and that’s just not cool! 

Gandhi said “God has no religion.”  I totally believe this to be true.  Many religions believe in God, but many believe that if it’s not with their religion, then the God isn’t the same God.  Some people get upset when they hear Muslims use the name Allah, but Allah is used by both Muslims and Christians in the Middle East.  There are thousands of names for what many call God, yet we fight and argue over a deity that made it clear in the Bible that the name to be used was “I am that I am!”

Why can’t we all just get along? We don’t have to agree with each other, but let’s stop the hate! Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined non-conformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”  He also said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.”  And lastly he stated, “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper January 30, 2015.