Friday, May 22, 2015

Loving Through Addictions

Several years ago, I went on two exciting cruises with Richard Simmons, the health/exercise expert, and had a fabulous time!  Richard used to facilitate what he called a ‘Cruise to Lose’ every year, and I had the privilege of being on his last cruise before he stopped doing them.  I’ve always loved Richard, but meeting him and getting to know him endeared me to him that much more.  His love and compassion for people with health issues runs deep and he takes it very seriously in that he does whatever he can to help others. 

I was only a few pounds overweight, but like many people nowadays, I was addicted to sugar and chocolate.  They’re my comfort foods and when I’m stressed, upset, or angry, they’re the first things I turn to. 

In hindsight, being addicted to sugar and chocolate has been a blessing because it really helped me understand what it’s like for others whether it’s with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, soda, gambling, and so on.  Because I was also on a serious spiritual journey, I learned not to judge anyone with addictions and I learned to have so much more love, compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others who are also struggling. 

It’s so easy for us to sit back and judge those with addictions and say “All they have to do is stop.”  Most people use various addictive substances to numb the pain of whatever it is they are feeling.  For those with addictions we know that it’s not that easy no matter how negatively it is affecting our health or those around us.  Some addictions, particularly if they are severe, not only destroy the lives of those with the addictions, but can destroy the lives of their loved ones and everyone around them.

I’ve seen many of my friends succumb to some horrible addictions.  Many would say and do things they would not normally do if sober or in their right mind.  No matter what the addiction, it affects our mind, body, and Spirit and puts people through literal hell on earth.  And when people lose hope, they get lost in those addictions and may go into that deep, dark abyss of no return.

Some people believe that those who have serious addictions should be cast aside or we tend to demonize them, and many may end up in jail/prison when all they really need is to have access to rehabilitation.  Many succeed and yet there are also many who go right back to their addiction because whatever substance they use has a very strong hold on them.  Chris Prentiss stated, “At the bottom of every person’s dependency, there is always pain.  Discovering the pain and healing is an essential step in ending dependency.”  The key is to not treat just the addiction, but in finding the root cause that is causing the addiction in the first place.

Then there’s peer pressure where people, particularly our young, feel they have to participate in the substance abuses in order to feel accepted.  Look at many of the college parties (or even high school age parties) and you’ll see the students out of control and abusing these substances to a great extent! 

Part of the reason for addictions is that we do not love ourselves totally and unconditionally and we try to fill that void with something outside ourselves.  When we do have that unconditional love for ourselves, we know we don’t need the substance.  We know that everything we need is within.  But not many of us have come to that point. 

How do we in churches take care of our addicts?  Do we judge them and throw them out of the church?  Do we demonize them and make them feel worse than they already feel?  Jesus and all the other great Spiritual Masters would never have treated anyone in these ways!  Churches should be a refuge to receive love, acceptance, and maybe even some kind of assistance.  We should love them just as they are and try to help them overcome their addictions!

If you have an addiction, please get help.  Keep trying to succeed in overcoming.  It’s not going to be easy, but when we take it one step and one day at a time, we can make progress.  As T.S. Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  You are the most important person in your recovery and you are so loved!  As Deepak Chopra stated, “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”  I love you and I believe in you!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 22, 2015.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Life Is Like a Roller Coaster


"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 ‘Wheeeeeee!’"  (Karen Langford)

The very first time I rode on a roller coaster, I thought it would be an exciting adventure, but instead, it turned out to be one of the most terrifying experiences of my young life!  After the ride was over, I was never so happy to see land, and I never wanted to go through that again! But I did and now I love roller-coasters!  

Life is like that.  We have our up's and down's, our joys and sorrows, sometimes we're beyond happy and ecstatic with the way our life is going, and other times we're living in fear and wishing we could get off this ride we call life.  

It is said that we are spiritual beings living a human experience.  True…yet we also need to embrace our humanness, which includes all the perceived good and bad.  Since it is part of our experience, we need to be careful not to trivialize being human.  Spiritually, we came here as humans to learn and to remember who we really are and to be the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be.  That’s what Jesus came to teach us.  He was one of the greatest examples of living the life of a spiritual being inhabiting a human body, though there were many other spiritual masters who also came to teach us this.

Jim Palmer wrote in “Notes From (Over) the Edge,” “Jesus spoke of being ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ it.  It’s not so difficult to do one or the other, but the way of Jesus is both…to embrace and feel all of life for what it is AND to find one’s ultimate peace and well-being in the truth of the way things really are.  By all means, embrace and feel all of life for what it is; just don’t attach yourself to it as the source of your peace and well-being.  Your source of peace and well-being is not contingent upon what happens in your circumstances.  People, places, or things cannot make you or break you.  Non-attachment is taking life as it happens and responding to situations as they require, but not attaching your state of being to the rollercoaster of life’s ups and downs.  If something brings pleasure, enjoy it.  If something brings pain, feel the hurt.  But in both cases, let it go.  Don’t cling to the pleasure or pain as if it is the determining factor of your well-being.  Start living this way right now.”

Spiritually, we know that no matter what happens in our lives, all is well.  I totally believe that everything happens for a reason and everything is for our highest good.  We are also human and make human choices, and it’s almost impossible to avoid it while living on this earth plane.  Along with being human, we have everything that goes with it in the way of feelings and emotions.  And that is where the roller coaster comes in; sometimes we’re feeling on top of the world and other times we’re feeling so low we don’t even know how we’re going to face the day.  But we also don’t have to let those experiences define us.

It really does come down to our attitudes and beliefs about life, whether we’re optimistic or pessimistic, and do we look for and expect the good or the bad?   These greatly influence our experiences in life.  And like being on a roller coaster, we know that we are on it from the beginning to the end, so it’s up to us as to what those experiences will be like.  Many believe that life is full of challenges, but I prefer to call them adventures.  It’s my way of putting a more positive spin on whatever I may be going through. 

David Cunliffe said, “Our reality is a complex blend of true and false beliefs acquired over the course of our lifetime.  Thoughts that can become the foundation of our personality and thinking.  Yet the key to a fruitful spiritual journey is to have the courage to surrender all thoughts and beliefs that limit our spiritual progression and happiness.”

Our spiritual and/or human experience is what we make of it.  Like the roller coaster, as long as I know that the up times will come once again, I know I can hang on and not take the down times so seriously.  Life really is like a roller coaster and I’m really trying my best to put my hands up in the air, enjoy the ride, and scream, “Wheeeeeeeee!”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 15, 2015.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Let Your Heart Sing

Charles Fillmore, the founder of Unity, stated “When you feel good you sing, either audibly or silently….  Nearly anyone can sing a little song. It is a marvelous health restorer. Singing restores harmony to tense nerves. Its vibrations stir them into action thus making it possible for the ever-waiting healing Spirit to get in.”

I love to sing!  I may not have perfect pitch and there are times I sing totally off key, but I sing from my heart and soul and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  Singing in our church choir has been a joy for me.  There are times I can sing really well, and if I listen to myself, I wonder where that voice is coming from because surely it can’t be from me.  And then there are other times I sound like Kermit the Frog and I end up lip syncing my way through the music so no one will wonder where that squeaking and groaning is coming from (though some would say Kermit is a great singer!). 

Music is big industry!  Everywhere you look, you can see people wearing their ear buds while listening to their favorite artists.  Granted, I can’t tolerate loud music where you can’t understand the words, there’s no beat, and where musical instruments are doing more screaming than playing.  It seems that so much of our music anymore is just loud noise.  In fact, some of the lyrics of many of our songs can be extremely negative and even frightening because they propagate so much hate and violence.  Give me a positive, loving song any time!

I always say that you can tell you’re getting older when you appreciate your parents’ generation of music.  I love the 40’s and 50’s genres!  Music was cleaner and it was easy to sing along with the artists.  When Elvis and The Beatles came on the scene, it caused an uproar as parents thought it was the end of civilization as we knew it.  Today, their music is quite mild compared to what we hear today.  The Beetles wrote many songs that had positive messages that we still appreciate and sing to this day, and many continue to listen to both Elvis and The Beetles.

I used to love the old-time Gospel music and still do to a certain degree.  I grew up singing many of the old spirituals and Tennessee Ernie Ford was always my favorite gospel singer.  My all-time favorite gospel song and one of my favorite songs to sing, especially in public, is “Amazing Grace” and I sing it to the melody of “The House of the Rising Sun” made popular by the Blind Boys of Alabama among others.  In the song, I do change the word ‘wretch’ to ‘soul,’ though, as I don’t believe any of us are wretches. 

Today, I love the more upbeat, inspiring spiritual music that is filled with positive and affirmative lyrics.  Singing is good for the heart, mind, and soul!  Music and singing can be very healing!   Whenever I’m feeling down or discouraged, I’ll sing many of these songs over and over to make myself feel better.  If I’m hearing a lot of hatred and negativity, I like to sing the chorus from Kenny Rogers’ version of “Love Lifted Me.” “Love lifted me, love lifted me, when nothing else would do, love lifted me.”  Or if I’m feeling discouraged and/or low on hope, I’ll sing, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right” from the song “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.

There are many wonderful spiritual artists who write/sing spiritual music with positive lyrics.  Some of my favorites are Richard Mekdeci, Karen Drucker, Dale Worley, Lauren Lane Powell, and many more.  I would highly recommend looking their music up on the Internet.  There are also many secular songs with positive lyrics as well. 

Music is universal and good music brings people together.  There’s a wonderful organization called “Playing for Change” that was established in 2002.  They take mobile recording studios and cameras all over the world and record people singing on the same track so you get a beautiful blend of cultures and voices all singing and playing the same song.  Their music is phenomenal and always lifts me up!  You can find them at playingforchange.org.

So…. “Sing, sing a song! Sing out loud!  Sing out strong! Sing of good things not bad. Sing of happy not sad.  Sing, sing a song!  Make it simple to last your whole life long! Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear!  Just sing, sing a song.”  (“Sing,” made popular by The Carpenters; lyrics and music by Joe Raposo.)


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

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Art of Conversation

Whether people realize it or not, there is an art to conversation.  It’s a skill that isn’t normally taught and is usually learned by trial and error only by those wishing to gain those skills.  One of the greatest ‘secrets’ in the art of conversation is listening… really listening to what the other person is saying.  But how many of us actually do listen?  Typically, people are already thinking of what they’re going to say next before the person they’re talking to is even finished with what they were saying. 

How many of us have talked with someone where they completely hog the conversation, not letting you get a word in edgewise, and when you think there’s a slight gap for you to finally say something, they suddenly start in again?  Or worse, they constantly interrupt you when you are speaking.  And then there are those who won’t let you get away because they can’t stop talking!    Those types of conversations are not only draining to the one whose ear is being bent, it’s selfish and harmful.  What the gabber doesn’t realize is that people start avoiding them because they don’t want to be corralled into their constant gabbing, especially if it’s negative and self-serving.

One of the problems today is that more and more people, particularly with our younger generations, are not talking face-to-face anymore and are relying on cell phones, tablets, and social media to interact with others.  Look at people out in public, students at colleges and high schools, or even in businesses, and you will see just how addicted people are to modern technology.  It’s not a bad thing per se, but we’re losing that intimate contact with our basic humanity.

How does all of this relate to churches?  People who go to church still need to be heard.  They need to know that their feelings are being validated and that someone cares.  Church leaders and Chaplains in particular need to learn the art of conversation when ministering to their congregation, especially if it is someone in dire need of some kind of emotional/spiritual help.  We need to really listen, not only to the words they are speaking, but the emotion that is behind those words.  Being empathetic and trusting our inner Spirit will help us to discern if there is a bigger picture, which there normally is.  We need to let the person talk it out and validate their feelings, but at the same time, be sensitive enough to know when to direct them to a more positive frame of mind or to guide them to get professional help.

One thing we in Unity/New Thought need to be careful of is being insensitive to someone’s feelings by immediately telling them to think positive thoughts.  For instance, if someone starts telling us about their health issue(s), many will come back instantly with “You’re NOT sick!  You are healthy and well!”  I was guilty of that myself some time ago until I learned I didn’t like it done to me, and it’s not a way to be Spirit led.

Validating means saying “I understand; please tell me more.”  And, “Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about this?”  Let their well of words run dry before offering advice.  We need to offer them different solutions or options and let them make the final decision. I prefer to ask a lot of questions to help them think for themselves and to find their own answers.  We also need to be careful not to criticize, find fault, or judge them for what they are telling us as it could end up shutting them down or make matters worse.  If they are in the wrong for whatever reasons, there are gentler and kinder ways to point it out without making them feel judged or damaging further their self-esteem or feelings of self-worth.

Another thing that really lets someone know that you are really listening to is to keep constant eye contact the whole time they are speaking.  Do not look around, look at your watch, or answer your phone or check texts as they come in, etc.  They need to know that you are with them 100% and that you really care.

If we can be the listener we hope others would be for us, then we have started to master the art of conversation.

Published in the Unity Leaders Journal May 6, 2015.

Friday, April 24, 2015

You're Ripening to Perfection

Dr. Christaine Northrup wrote a great book titled “Goddesses Never Age ~ The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.”  Even though it’s geared towards women, it’s also a great read for men as well. 

The premise is that age is more of an attitude and state of mind than a biological issue, although biology does play a role.  Mark Twain said that “Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”   It’s true.  We see people who are in the 70’s or older who look and feel much younger than their age.  They have a lot of energy, have a passion for life, and they may even look a lot younger than they are.  They work at being healthy, eat healthy foods, stay active, and take little to no medications.  Then there are those who are much younger than the above and yet they look and feel a lot older, they have no energy, no passion for life, may have a lot of health issues, and they take a lot of medications. 

Yes, there are a lot of factors that can play into a person’s overall health and vitality.  Some health issues sometimes can’t be avoided (though there are those who say they can and have done so).  Our life experiences, culture, upbringing, beliefs, where we live, the foods we eat, our thoughts, heredity (to a degree), drugs, alcohol, smoking, stress, sugar, all play a factor.  All these can have an effect on our state of mind, which then also influences the way we take or don’t take care of ourselves.

Our thoughts can greatly affect our health and impact our aging process.  Are we positive and optimistic, or negative and pessimistic?  Our thoughts become us.  There are many people who have become so identified with their health issues that it’s all they can talk about.  The more we talk about our ill health, the more we manifest ill health.   

We also have our beliefs about aging.  Do we believe that we’re “old” by a certain age?  Do we expect that we’ll automatically get an “age-related” illness?  If so, this tends to become a self-fulfilling prophesy and we will more than likely get what we expect.  In fact, I never use the word “old” anymore; instead I’ll say “older.” 

Dr. Deepak Chopra said that we don’t die of old age.  We die of illnesses and diseases.  If we could live illness-free, we could live to a healthy 120 years old!  Rarely does anyone die of natural causes anymore. 

I’ve heard people say that life is short so they’re going to eat, drink, and be merry while they can.  That’s fine.  If this is the case, then they can’t complain when it has all taken a toll on their health in a negative way. Personally, I would rather try to be as healthy as I can now so that my chances will be good of having a good quality of life in my last years.  My goal is to have a healthy mind, body, and Spirit so that I can live healthfully as long as possible.

Spiritually, we were given these body vessels to house our souls.  It is said that our bodies are our temples.  They should be worshiped, cared for, and loved unconditionally.  We should eat healthy foods from the earth and not put anything unnatural in or on our bodies.  Is it easy?  Not always.   But with effort, we can do our bodies and mind a world of good.

It really does go back to how much we love ourselves and how much we realize our true magnificence!  When we truly love ourselves unconditionally, we will want to take excellent care of ourselves and live as healthy a life as possible.  I’m still working on this myself.  It’s a process, but I’m trying.

Age really is just a number and it has no meaning except for the meaning that we give to it.  I no longer believe in age.  There are times when someone asks me how old I am and I have to think really hard to remember.  I’ve always said, “Einstein proved that there’s no such thing as time, so if there’s no such thing as time, then there’s no such thing as age.  Besides, I refuse to be identified by a number, whether it’s my age or my weight.”  (My quote.)

We really do need to ask ourselves, “If we didn’t know how old we were, how old would we be?”  Think of it this way… “You’re not aging.  You’re ripening to perfection.”  As Abraham Lincoln stated, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 24, 2015.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Love from the Reservation

A couple years out of high school (70's), I had the wonderful privilege to live on an Indian reservation in British Columbia.  After seeing the movie “Billy Jack,” I fell in love with the American Indians, their culture, and their spirituality.  Later, the opportunity manifested to go to the reservation through a student missionary program affiliated with the church I was attending at the time. 

My first week was to go through training on Vancouver Island along with other student missionaries from all over the country.  I don’t remember a whole lot from this week other than the horror I felt when I saw and heard the various religions and missionaries arguing over who would save the ‘savages.’  Savages?!?!  Shocked and repulsed was an understatement!  From that moment on I decided that I didn’t want anything more to do with the missionary program and that I was just going to live with my Indian brothers and sisters, love them, and accept them just as they were.

After training week was over, they divided us up into teams and sent us to different areas on the reservation.  My teammate and I found ourselves living on the Okanagan Reservation near Vernon, B.C.  We found ourselves first staying in a pick-up camper trailer.  It was small and cramped, but we loved it.  One night, we were awakened by the shaking of the camper.  Nervously, we looked out to see what could be causing it and found a horse was rubbing his hind end against the corner of the camper. 

The family we lived with was the Louis family consisting of the elder mom and dad, Ben and Rosie (whose home we later moved into), fifteen children (age 21 and older), and a slew of grandchildren.  I immediately fell in love with every single one of them.  Most, if not all, of the men and boys were rodeo cowboys, so we shared a love for horses.  (Just recently, the Ben Louis family as a whole, five generations, were inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.)

Because I was so accepting of my new family, we got along famously, and I was later told by the staff psychiatrist that I was the only student missionary out of all of them that had no culture shock. 

I grew close to Ben and Rosie and they came to be like a grandmother and grandfather to me.  Rosie and I kept in touch for years after I left until her death some time later.  Their children and grandchildren and I also bonded and they were like brothers and sisters to me.  In fact, to this day, I still consider them all my family.   

During the summer, I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren in particular.  We made Jello in the ice cold streams, walked a mile to get the mail three days a week, went to rodeos, ate meals, and attended PowWow’s.  I became very close to several of the grandchildren and we still keep in touch.  One friend even named her son after me (Kieren). 

Since that time, I have been able to visit a couple of times, though I wish I could get up there more often.  On one of the visits, a friend and I went to a large PowWow.  At the end when they did the Friendship Dance, I happened to look at everyone in the circle and noticed that I was the only white person.  I mentioned this to my friend and she gave me a very precious compliment when she said, “Karen, when you’re up here, we don’t even think of you as being white!”

The point of this article is that when we make an effort to get to know another culture, without judgment, and only unconditional love in our hearts, we find that we have a lot in common.  We learn that we’re all human beings just trying to do the best we can to get through life.  And when we do this, you’d be surprised at the friendships we can make, some of them lasting a lifetime.  There is also so much we can learn from each other.

As Paulo Coelho stated, “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”  James Van Praagh said, “We are all one.  Only our egos, fears, and beliefs separate us.”  And Bruce Lee declared, “Under the sky, under the heaves, there is but one family.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 17, 2015.

Addendum:  I love this family so much that I really do consider them all family.  They've given me so much and taught me so much.  Every single one of them are some of the nicest, neatest people you would ever want to meet.  I miss them so much and can only hope that one day, I can get back up there to visit.  They'll always be in my heart.  (Pictured:  Ben and Rosie Louis, Vernon, B.C. Canada)

Also, not everyone at the training on Vancouver Island called them 'Savages" so I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking it was the missionary program as a whole.  There are always exceptions and people who get the wrong ideas mainly through ignorance.  I'm sure that they changed their perception as soon as they met these wonderful people.



Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Amazing Indomitable Spirit

The dictionary describes an Indomitable Spirit as someone who cannot be subdued or overcome, as persons, will, or courage; unconquerable. 

There are countless stories about individuals and groups of people from all over the world who have survived and overcome the most horrific circumstances in their lives.  And then there are stories of those who let life experiences destroy them and they gave up by either turning to addictions and/or suicide.  What is it about the mind that it can be so delicate that it can snap in an instant causing a person to succumb to the most debilitating mental and physical illnesses, yet at the same time, it can be so powerful as to help a person overcome the greatest of obstacles?  We know many people who have gone through the most horrendous physical and/or mental and emotional experiences.  Some let those experiences destroy them and they become barely functioning individuals.  Yet others have gone through the same or similar experiences and have become stronger and better people because of those experiences. 

There are many people whose autobiographies I have read and whose stories have made a huge impact on my life.  Immaculee Iligibiza wrote several books, which included “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” and if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  Immaculee was a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  The Hutu’s declared war on the Tutsi’s and nearly one million Tutsis…men, women, and children, were literally slaughtered by the Hutu marauders.  Immaculee escaped to a nearby Hutu pastor’s home where she and seven other women hid quietly in a three foot by four foot bathroom for three months.  They couldn’t make a sound because the pastor’s own family didn’t know they were in there as he had covered the door with a dresser.  Hutu’s were always present searching for them.  The pastor tried to sneak food in for the women when he could.  When Immaculee went into hiding, she weighed 115 pounds.  When she came out, she weighed 65 pounds.  When the French came to establish refugee camps, the women walked down roads seeing dead bodies piled high on each side.  Immaculee soon learned that with the exception of one brother, all her family and friends lost their lives all in the name of hate.

But Immaculee had a strong faith and her will to live was strong.  With books from the pastor, she taught herself to speak English.  When released, she committed her life to teaching peace, hope, and forgiveness, even towards those who slaughtered her family and friends.  She went on to work at the United Nations, moved to the United states, received five honorary doctoral degrees, has written numerous books, became a U.S. Citizen, got married and had children, and was the recipient of the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace award.

Another recent inspiring story is about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani, Sunni Muslim girl.  Malala’s father ran a chain of schools and believed that all children, both boys and girls, should be highly educated.  The schools were doing really well until the Taliban militants starting taking over the Swat Valley where Malala and her family lived.  These extremists banned television, music, girl’s education, and more.  Malala wrote a blog under a different name for the BBC about her life and education, and she stood up to the Taliban.  In October of 2012, a Taliban gunman found her on the bus after taking an exam and shot her in the face.  Her story became well known and she gained support from people all over the world. 

On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education.  In her speech, she said, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born ... I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”  She wrote a book titled “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” and talked about her life as a Muslim and her passion for education.  The book also gave great insights into the goodness of Islam.  In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

Another story recently told in the movie “Unbroken” was about the life of USA Olympian and athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who survived in a raft with two other men in the ocean for 47 days after his bomber plane was downed in WWII (one died during the ordeal).  Captured by the Japanese Navy, they were sent to prisoner of war camps where they were severely beaten.  When the war was over and after his release, Louis got married and became an inspirational speaker.  He, too, was able to forgive those who persecuted him.  A few days before his 81st birthday in 1998, he ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

These are just a few of the many examples of people who triumphed over adversity, who went on to have successful public careers, and are using their experiences to make a difference in the world.  There are many others:  Survivors of the Holocaust, 9/11, POW’s, Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Victor Frankl, and countless more.  I would highly recommend reading more on these and others. 

But not all people who are experiencing or have overcome adversity are well-known.  Many of them are people like you and me, living everyday lives.  Our hardships range from the minor to the major, but regardless of what the experience, they are just as much an obstacle to overcome. Yet we all have that Indomitable Spirit within us! 

Maybe you had an illness/disease and you did whatever you had to in order to survive; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you experienced an accident, abuse, financial issues, emotional issues, or whatever the issue, but you survived and made it through; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you are being bullied, but you keep on going in spite of it; you have an Indomitable Spirit!  Maybe you are struggling just to get up in the morning to get through another day or another minute, but you are surviving; you have an Indomitable Spirit!

Granted, there are those who do let life destroy them and they succumb to an addiction or whatever in order to escape life.  They still have an Indomitable Spirit; they’re just not aware of it!  Or there are those who do end up taking their own lives.  They still have an Indomitable Spirit, but for whatever reasons, they let people and/or life beat them down so much that they didn’t realize they had that power to overcome.  We have to remember that people who commit suicide don’t really want to die; they just want the pain to end.  I always say never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.

I sometimes hear people say “If I could do it, then others can do it.”  I so disagree with that statement.  What I prefer to say is “If I can do it, that means it’s possible for others to do it.” We have to be careful not to judge those who do let life beat them down.  We never really do know their state of mind or what they’re really going through.  Everyone has a bigger story than we see or know. 

There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that I include in many of my writings and it’s become one of my favorite quotes of all time.  It states:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.   Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

If you’re going through what I call “heavy-duty-life-do,” please know that you’re not alone.  Everyone has something they’re going through, but everyone handles it in different ways.  It really is our attitudes, our beliefs about ourselves and our world, and the thoughts we think that make a difference in how we get through life.  If you’re going through something, I won’t promise that it will get better because I don’t know your story.  But you DO have it in you to make it through.  I really believe that if we have the attitude of looking at everything as a lesson to make us a stronger and better person, then when we get to that hindsight part of your life, we will look back and will see that it really did make us a stronger and better person.  Don’t let people or life beat you down!  Try to keep things in perspective.  One thing I do is look at others who have it so much worse than me, and then I realize, I do have it pretty good.  I’ve learned to count my blessings.  Life really is beautiful and good; it’s just we humans who make it so difficult.  Therefore, friends, please hang in there.  It’s always possible for things to get better!

You ARE stronger than measure!  You ARE meant to shine!  YOU have an Indomitable Spirit!  Better yet, you ARE an Indomitable Spirit!  There’s a song that I’ve been singing over and over and it goes, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cuz every little thing’s going to be all right.”  (“Three Little Birds” written by Bob Marley.)  I know that in the greater scheme of things and no matter what I go through in my life, everything is going to be all right.  To all those who are struggling, I love you and honor you, and am holding you in loving consciousness.  Blessings to you always.

Published in the Putnam County Visions magazine April 2015 issue.