Friday, August 28, 2015

Gifts of Spirit

Numerous years ago I was a member of the Cookeville chapter of Toastmasters’ International.  For those who aren’t aware of this group, it’s a club that helps people to become confident public speakers and leaders.  I knew I wanted to become a motivational/inspirational speaker, but also knew I needed to gain confidence in my abilities.  Being a performer on stage or in movies and TV was a whole other ballgame than standing up in front of a group of people and giving a speech, and Toastmasters was a good start.

When I first started, I couldn’t give a talk without my hands shaking, therefore, I would hold my fingers together tightly so hopefully no one would notice.  A few months after joining, I began to gain some confidence and decided to participate in their speaking contests.  I was terrified, but I faced my fears and gave them a try.  The contests are set up where you start at your club level and as you win, you move up through the various levels at other venues.  After winning a contest at the club level, I was driving to Nashville to compete in the next level and was a nervous wreck.  I didn’t have a clue how I was going to make it through without my whole body shaking in terror. 

Desperate, I started asking Spirit for a sign, any sign, to let me know everything was going to be okay.  At that very moment, I just happened to look up in the sky and there was my sign.  The clouds had formed into perfect angel.  It only lasted a couple of seconds so if I hadn’t looked up at that very moment, I would have missed it.  It was then that I knew that no matter what happened, win or lose, I would be okay.  I decided that I was just going to do the best I could and leave the rest up to the Universe.  Surprisingly, I won!  Next stop was the District Level.  I was still terrified, but I remembered the message the sky angel gave me to just do the best I could and to release my attachments to the outcome. 

There were five or six competing in my category, all were men, and they were all great speakers.  I went in and did the best I could.  While waiting for the results, I was thinking I didn’t have a chance even though several of the men said they thought I had won.  The results were announced and I came in third!  I was just happy to have placed!  It was a great lesson!

Many of us have experienced receiving signs, messages, or experienced synchronicities in our lives.  Where they actually come from, I couldn’t say.  Some say God, the Universe, Spirit Guides, Angels, or wherever.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just nice to receive them.

Many people have had other spiritual and mystical experiences.  Some of these may be seeing Spirits or Ghosts of our loved ones, visions, premonitions, etc.  There is nothing to fear in any of these.  They are all gifts given to us. 

When my one grandmother died (who was my soul mate), I was so devastated I couldn’t stop crying.  One night while lying in bed and sobbing, I saw some kind of white form come down from the ceiling and into my chest (heart).  I immediately knew it was my grandmother’s spirit and I felt such a sense of peace that I never cried afterwards because I knew she was with me.

Over the years, I have spoken with many people who have shared stories of their gifts with me and they never cease to amaze me.  There is so much more out there than we are aware and we should keep an open mind and be receptive to whatever gifts are given to us.  Jesus said that we could do everything he did and so much more! 

Please know that if you have any of these gifts, you are not alone and there is nothing wrong or evil with having them.  They are gifts of the Spirit and should be honored and appreciated.

Brian Weiss said, “Our rational mind often attempts to minimize or negate the mystical encounters.  We forget the power of our experiences.  We must embrace the reality of that event, which is a miracle.”  And Radhanath Swami stated, “The power that we have, the knowledge and influence that we have are beautiful gifts from God to be utilized to serve each other unconditionally.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 28, 2015.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spiritual Enlightenment

There is a spectacular spiritual awakening occurring on our planet and it is being brought about by the collective consciousness of individuals who are walking the path of spiritual enlightenment through unconditional love, peace, harmony, kindness, compassion, and oneness.  We are beginning to understand this oneness and that we really are all a part of each other. 

Those of us who believe in God (or the God of our understanding) know that God is not a Christian God, a Buddhist God, a Muslim God, a Hindu God, or any other God of any religion because we know that God cannot be divided.  There is one God for all.  And again, you can call it by whatever name you choose because this deity is actually nameless.  It’s just we humans who attach the labels and names.  Jesus said “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  And yet that’s exactly what we’ve done, and one way we’ve divided ourselves is through religions.

Personally, the God I believe in is greater than anyone’s religion or belief systems.  I also prefer to use the names Universe, Spirit, Life, or Love, but it’s all the same.  Many people tend to put God in a box, wrap it up tightly with duct tape, and believe that this is the only God people should believe in, that there’s only one name, and anyone who doesn’t believe in that God is wrong. 

There are thousands of different religions in the world and many more being organized every day.  Just in the Christian religion alone, there are over 41,000 different denominations, most of them having differing beliefs.  It’s one thing to believe in and worship a deity and/or that religion’s spiritual masters, and that’s perfectly okay, but it’s a whole other ballgame when people worship the religion itself to the point where they fight and argue over who is right or wrong, some even going to war to prove it. 

Not everyone will understand what I’m saying and that’s fine.  But many do, and because they understand our oneness, they know that there are no boundaries in religion.  We can honor and respect whatever someone believes without making ourselves separate from the followers of that religion.  We can get along and find what we have in common instead of letting the differences in our beliefs tear us apart.  We know that by doing so, we can then live together in peace and harmony.

As someone said, “We are being enlightened on the true nature of God.”  We know that God is only about unconditional love for all and that we can find this God in and through every one and every thing.  With this belief, we can come together with our fellow beings with love and peace in our hearts, and we want only what’s best for our brothers and sisters on this great planet Mother Earth.  We take care of each other and we know that we can love and accept each other regardless of what we believe or our lifestyle. 

One of my favorite quotes from the Bible is when Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  He didn’t make ANY exceptions.  Other spiritual masters from other religions also speak of loving one another and being kind to all people.  There are all kinds of verses on love, kindness, and compassion in the Holy Bible (Christian), Qur’an and Hadith (Islam), Torah, Tanach, and Talmud (Judaism), Tao-te-ching (Taoism ), Upanishads, Rig Veda, and Bhagavad-Gita (Hindu), Tripitaka and Sutras (Buddhism), and countless others.  (And yes, you can also find violent verses that people use to separate us.)

Maybe if we just got to know one another and learn about each others’ religions, we can then overcome the hate, bigotry, and ignorance that is so prevalent towards others just because of a difference in beliefs!  We can also do this with other cultures, races, people from other countries, LGBT’s, and so on.  It’s unconscionable when people use fear to propagate separateness and that’s sad. 

Amit Ray stated, “We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.”  And Radha Sahar said, “The whole of planet Earth is a sacred site.  All people are the chosen people, and the purpose of our lives is a spiritual one.  May we care of each other and for the earth, for everything relates to everything else.  Feeling this oneness, may we radiate the light of love and kindness that all may live in unity and peace.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 21, 2015.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Is That So?

There is a story about a beautiful young girl who lives in a village and she becomes pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who the father was.  At first she didn’t want to tell them, but later the girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master, whom everyone revered for living such a pure life. When the enraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied, "Is that so?" When the baby was born, the parents took it to Hakuin, who had by now lost all respect from everyone in the village. The parents demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility.  Again Hakuin replied, "Is that so?"  But he took the child and cared for it, which he did for many months.  After awhile, the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told and confessed that the real father was a young man in the village. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby, and with profuse apologies they explained what had happened.  Again Hakuin replied, "Is that so?" and he handed them the child.

This is a great story because it says a lot about how quickly we jump to conclusions and assumptions, and how we believe whatever anyone says.  I’m sure all of us have stories where we, or someone we knew, were blamed for something that we or they didn’t do and maybe even subsequently punished for it. 

The book that taught me never to make assumptions and to know that there is always a bigger picture was don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements,” which I would highly recommend reading.  The third Agreement is ‘Don’t Make Assumptions.’  Ruiz says, “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”

We can’t always rely on what we hear or read, and we definitely cannot rely on gossip or second-hand information. We have to have the courage to ask questions.   If we think someone is mad or upset with us, ask them!  If they don’t tell us, then it’s on them.  If we’re not clear on something someone told us, we need to ask them to either repeat it or to clarify what they said.  And if we don’t have all the facts, wait until we do.

Much of our media is especially bad at this.  Something happens and they start speculating and offering their opinions; however, not all the facts, if any, are even in yet!  But they’ve already reported it as they see it, people blindly believe it, and lives have been ruined because of the misreporting.  Do your research when you hear or read news so that you know that what’s being written or said is the truth and that it is not based on speculations or beliefs.

The other great thing about this story is how Hakuin handled the situation.  We can’t always handle what happens to us, but we can handle how we react to whatever happens.  It’s not always easy, I know.  In the past, I’ve been the recipient of gossip that wasn’t true.  I could have gotten upset about it, but I decided that people were going to believe whatever they wanted to believe; therefore, I wasn’t going to waste my energy trying to counter whatever was being said.  If someone asked me, I would tell them.  Otherwise I had the attitude of Hakuin by thinking, “Is that so?”  True, there are times when we do need to defend ourselves especially if there is some kind of legal discourse or consequences that could harm us further. 

When it comes to people who are lying or gossiping, they are showing their true colors and are speaking more about themselves than the people they’re lying or gossiping about.  Sometimes we can just let it play out and the truth will reveal itself on its own. 

In everything in life there is always a bigger picture that we don’t always see.  Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”  Again, it goes back to our thoughts and how we think.  As Wayne Dyer said, “Change the way you see things, and the things you see will change.”  And Buddha stated, “Three things cannot be long hidden:  the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  Therefore, know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 7, 2015.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Awakening Delight

“Taking delight in who you are, what you do, and what you have is the secret of personal power, satisfaction, and high-energy living.  Delight connects you with the beauty and power of the universe, with your Higher Power, with Divinity.  Delight means feeling and expressing the joy of life, rejoicing in the beauty and richness of being.  Delight is a powerful liberating force that frees your creativity, talents, abilities, and capacities.  Delight anchors you in the eternal now and lets you see the best of it.  Delight inspires hope.  Delight feeds the heart and nurtures the soul. Delight brings zest into your life.  Delight makes you receptive and confident.  Delight is contagious; it is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and others.  The path of delight is there; it has always been there, waiting for you….”  The above was printed from the book “Out of the Blue…Delight Comes into Our Lives” by Mark Victor Hansen and Barbara Nichols, which I highly recommend reading.

According to, Delight means, ‘a strong feeling of happiness; something that makes you very happy; something that gives you great pleasure or satisfaction.’ 

We all have those delightful moments in time when it seems that everything is absolutely beautiful in the world, when we feel connected with everyone and everything, and we know that all is going to be okay.  There are times when I am in such a state of delight that I feel I can take on the world!  In those moments, I feel so much love for every single person on the planet, as well as for all animals, and all of nature.  It is in those moments that I feel that absolute perfect connection with everyone and everything, as well as an absolute direct connection with the All-That-Is.  Now if I could just be in that state-of-mind 100% of the time.

Many of you may know exactly what I’m talking about, and others may think I’m totally bonkers.  But for those who have felt that magnificent blissful delight and felt that perfect connection to everyone and everything, you know that it is in those moments that we have touched a piece of heaven on earth.  We know it really is about unconditional love and we feel no hate, judgment, or bigotry towards anyone.  This just a smidgeon of the perfect state of Grace or state of God (or the God of your understanding), and this is what life really is all about.

As it says in the book, “When you live in delight, you don’t just love life, you have a passion for life.  Your life is a joy to yourself and to those around you.  You are fully in touch with your own creative genius and you use your gifts to your advantage and to the advantage of the world at large.  You have a sense of destiny and purpose and you are living your dreams.  Your brilliance will light up a room when you walk in.  The light of your soul naturally seeks union with the light beyond and you glow.”
How do we get into that delightful, blissful state of mind?  One way is to work on our thoughts; get rid of the negative and fill our hearts and minds with positive and loving thoughts, not just for others, but for ourselves.  It’s not easy, but it can be done.  When our thoughts are pure and full of love, everything else follows.

The book gives us a Delight Declaration or Awakening Delight affirmation that we can say over and over:  “I realize my life is a delight.  I look for the gift in each situation.  Renewed by my creative connection with the Universe, I boldly live my life with joy, goodness, beauty, and ever-increasing delight.  Since I live in delight moment by moment, I am a blessing to all I know, all I support, and all I love.  I see my world through the eyes of delight and I am uplifted, protected, and totally loved.” 

We can also see others as being a delight.  I call it shooting Spiritwads of Delight (or love) towards everyone we see and meet.  Say silently to someone “I see you as a delight!”   You can even imagine a room being filled with delightful energy.  You’d be surprised how doing so can change a room full of people!

Alan Watts stated, “Existence is basically exuberance.  The Universe is a celebration of love and delight that, were it otherwise, would simply not go on happening.  The whole point is to be fully aware of it as it happens.”

May your hearts be filled with love, bliss, and pure delight, and may your lives be filled with happiness, joy, and the sheer excitement of living!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 31, 2015.

Friday, July 24, 2015

As I Began to Love Myself

One of my passions is reading and I enjoy coming across inspirational articles from other authors.  Recently, I came across an essay that is usually attributed to Charlie Chaplin, but upon further research, I found there was controversy as to whether or not he actually penned these words.  Apparently, no one really knows for sure.  Regardless, the words are very inspiring and I would like to share them with you here.

“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.  Today, I know this is AUTHENTICITY.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody as I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it RESPECT.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.  Today I call it MATURITY.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm.  Today I call it SELF-CONFIDENCE.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.  Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it SIMPLICITY.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health: food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is LOVE OF ONESELF.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since, I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is MODESTY.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it FULFILLMENT.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection WISDOM OF THE HEART.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations, or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing, new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS LIFE!”

In past articles, I have written how extremely important it is to totally and unconditionally love ourselves.  I remember at one time I was told that to love ourselves was arrogant and vain.  There is a huge difference between arrogance and having a healthy self-esteem.  Arrogance means we think we are better than everyone else.  Having a healthy self-esteem means we know we are the best there is, yet it has nothing to do with anyone else.

We should all be trying to improve ourselves and trying to be the best that we can be!  Is it easy?  Not for most of us.  Not for me anyway.  I have to constantly work on myself.  If you heard some of the things I said to myself and how I can beat myself to a pulp with my thoughts, you’d be surprised!  It’s a constant process of learning to love every cell of our being: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Joel Osteen said, "Don't ever criticize yourself.  Don't go around all day long thinking, "I'm unattractive, I'm slow, I'm not as smart as my brother.'  God wasn't having a bad day when he made you...  If you don't love yourself in the right way, you can't love your neighbor.  You can't be as good as you are supposed to be."  

No matter who wrote the above essay, it’s a good guide to follow in learning to love ourselves.   And just as it is with anything, it takes practice.  We are all diamonds in the rough, being cut, sanded, and polished.  But no matter what our diamonds look like or where we are on our life’s journey, we can all learn to sparkle, and we were all meant to shine! 

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Seeking God Within

Recently, I came upon a book titled “Man Seeks God” by Eric Weiner and it turned out to be a jewel of a book.  The story opens with Mr. Weiner having had a serious health issue and while waiting on the test results, a nurse whispered in his ear, “Have you found your God yet?”  Not ‘the’ God, but ‘your’ God.  At the time, he hadn’t given it much thought, but it got him to thinking what exactly does he believe about God and religion?

This started him on an adventure to research various religions, some of which were Sufism, Buddhism, Franciscans (Christians), Taoism, Wiccan, Shamanism, Kabbalah, and others.  During his time researching these religions and the people involved, he found that there was good to be found in all of them!  He met and got to know so many wonderful people who shared with him their spiritual wisdom.  In the end, he learned to go within and find his very own ‘God’ (the God of his understanding). 

I love learning from the various other religions and I embrace the diversity of all that I’ve studied.  By doing so, it really helps me understand where others are coming from, and we can share and focus on what we have in common!  At their cores, most all religions stress the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as well as their Spiritual Masters teaching unconditional love for all and to not harm anyone. 

No one knows exactly who or what form God takes.  We only have our beliefs.  Some believe in an angry, judgmental, punishing God, who sends people to a place called hell for the slightest offense.  Others believe in an unconditional loving, kind, compassionate, and all inclusive God, who brings all people back into that loving place many call ‘the other side’ or ‘heaven.’  Some don’t believe there is a God per se, but they do believe that there is something greater.  And others don’t believe in anything at all.  I’m certainly not going to tell anyone which to believe in.

Why can’t we all just believe?  Early American Indians and other indigenous people around the world who have not been indoctrinated into a religion had that belief and that was enough for them.  Why can’t it be enough for us?  Why do we have to fight and argue over details, sometimes even going to war and killing over those details, and using those details to separate us?

I like what Jim Palmer said when he stated, “People often feel angst about whether or not their beliefs about God are correct.  Perhaps some alternative questions would be:  Do my beliefs bring peace?  Are my beliefs a source of joy and freedom?  Do my beliefs inspire kindness and compassion?  Do my beliefs dispel fear?  Are my beliefs empowering my full self-expression?  Do my beliefs motivate love for all people and living things?” 

If you feel you need to belong to a certain religion, I think the above questions are excellent ones to ask.  Is that religion teaching the actual teachings of their Spiritual Masters of harming no one and of unconditional love for all, or is it teaching hate and separateness?  Are those religions tearing people down or lifting them up?  Are they working towards peace and bringing people together or tearing them apart?  These are all questions we should ask ourselves about the religion we belong or the one we would like to belong.  Do we even need to belong to a religion at all?  Can we just believe in a Source of the All-That-Is, share what we have in common, and just get along in peace and harmony?

Personally, I’m tired of all the fighting and arguing over the details.   I totally believe in a Power greater than we are, though I couldn’t tell you what form that Source takes.  To me it doesn’t matter; nor does it matter what I call it.  What matters is am I loving enough?  Kind enough?  Am I following the teachings of the Spiritual Masters of loving all and harming no one?

The Dalai Lama said, “I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together, a new spirituality.  This new concept ought to be elaborated alongside the religions in such a way that all people of good-will could adhere to it.”  That doesn’t mean we have to give up our personal religions or beliefs, but why not find a way to bring them all together so that we can live together in peace? 

As a line in John Lennon’s song “Imagine” says, “You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will live as one.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen July 17, 2015.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Soul of Our Being

What is the soul?  Where is the soul?  Where did the soul come from?  These are the questions of the ages and many have been trying to find the answers.  While listening to an Oprah Winfrey video where she asks about a dozen spiritual leaders what they thought the soul was, she received a dozen different, but same answers.  The answers themselves were different, but the essence of the answers were the same. 

The question of the soul is one that has been eluding people throughout history.  We may think we know what it is, and we have our beliefs about what it is, but do we really, really know exactly?  Is there 100% proof?  Has anyone ever seen the soul? 

Dictionary.reference states that the soul is “the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part; or the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come.”

When researching the term ‘soul’ when it is referred in the Bible and religions, there were so many different explanations that I couldn’t even begin to try to write about them here.  But, today, most people would describe the soul as a spirit or energy found within that lives on forever. 

Many of us understand who and what the soul is on a spiritual level, but cannot put it into human terms.  We know and believe we have a soul, but to really explain it is beyond our comprehension.  I totally believe that both humans and animals have souls.  I also believe that the soul is that divine spark of God (or the God of your understanding; call it what you will) that is within each of us.  It is that direct connection that each of us has with the Source of our being. 

The big question is how do the souls get into our bodies?  Some believe that there are many souls on the other side (some call it Heaven) waiting to inhabit our earthly bodies.  The Bible says “Let US make mankind in OUR imagine.”  Who is US and who is OUR?  Could the US and OUR mean other souls?  No one can say for sure.

I like to use the analogy of the ocean.  Think of the Supreme Being as the ocean, and the soul is a drop of the ocean that is in each and every one of us.  We have the illusion of separateness, but we’re still part of the ocean.  That means we have the illusion of being separate from Source, but we are still directly connected to Source as well as with each other. 

I’ve ready many afterlife and near death experience books and they are a wealth of information about the soul, how we got here, and where we go when we leave.  One of the best books I have read is “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers” written by Annie Kagan, and I would highly recommend reading it.

Billy Fingers says, “Your soul never incarnates completely.  While you’re in a body, you also exist in higher dimensions.  Reaching beyond the physical self is what the spiritual search is about.”   Billy also says, “Every soul is unique in beautiful says.  Some are further along the path than others, and that’s okay.” 

While searching the internet, I found this great quote, which I think at least partially sums up what the soul is about:  “I am made of energy. I will always exist. Whatever happens in this life is a vehicle to move me along, not a beginning or an end. No matter what the ego tells me. No matter what the body feels. Those are merely experiences that I need to feel to achieve what I came here to do, be, and experience. On some level, I already know everything that needs to be known. I don’t remember it all right now because it would prevent me from the experience of the here and now. When I seek my truth, it will come back to me. There is nothing to fear. There is infinite love here. All that is, glows divinely from within me.”  Unknown

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 10, 2015.