Friday, June 27, 2014

Celebrities ~ You Find What You’re Looking For

Recently, I stopped at a bookstore and checked out their books on sale.  There, I found a gem of a book titled "The Dude and the Zen Master” by actor Jeff Bridges and Zen teacher Bernie Glassman.  It is filled with such wonderful spiritual wisdom and knowledge!  They talk about everything from going with the flow, finding enlightenment right where you are, finding peace within, and so much more.  I was also surprised to learn that Jeff’s mother brought the kids up on ‘The Daily Word,’ which is a Unity publication!

Celebrities tend to get a bad rap in the media.  You only hear about the ones who are acting up or dealing with really heavy life issues.  You rarely, if ever, hear about the celebrities who are basically normal everyday people who are also doing a lot of good in the world.  Most people have an idea that all celebrities drink a lot, use drugs, sleep around, are divorced, and party all the time.  No so.  I say come to small town USA and see how many people we have who do the exact same things.  The only difference is that the celebrities end up in the press. 

A few years out of high school, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming an actress and moved to Hollywood, California.  I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a place to live, and didn’t have a job once I got there.  I had a dream and I was going to go after that dream.  Na├»ve?  Maybe.  But only those who pursue their dreams have a chance of seeing them come true.

Before I left, numerous people, including the minister of my church, told me that if I went to Hollywood to become an actress, it was my instant ticket to hell.  They told me that Hollywood was evil as well as everyone who lived there, especially if they worked in the entertainment business.  But I had better faith in humanity and believed something better. What I found is that there are so many wonderful, kind-hearted, and loving people in and out of the business!  I met so many amazing people in the industry, many who are/were big names that you would easily recognize.  I found the same when I moved to Nashville years later to continue pursuing my dream.

What I learned is that you find what you’re looking for.  Yes, if I had bought into the belief that everyone there was evil, then that’s exactly what I would have found.  But I believed in the goodness of people and those are the people I met and got to know.

I also found a church that I attended regularly and met quite a few celebrities there.  Since then and to this day, I’ve learned that there are countless celebrities who are on a serious spiritual path.  Many of them are using their celebrity and money to make a wonderful difference in the world. 

When we hear of troubled celebrities, especially younger ones, instead of judging and condemning them, how about if we pray for them instead?  How about if we hold them in loving consciousness that they’ll soon find their way so that they can be the healthy, vibrant people they were meant to be? 

We love watching our celebrities in the movies, TV, and sports, and yet so many people are quick to try to tear them down.  Celebrities are doing a job even though those jobs may be outside our being able to relate to them.  Yet they provide a lot of joy and happiness to so many.  I’ve been blessed to see that side of the celebrity life and now I stand up for them whenever I hear someone trying to demonize them.

I would like to leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from two of my favorite people. 

Jim Carrey said, "Like many of you, I was concerned about going out into the world and doing something bigger than myself, until someone smarter than myself made me realize that there is nothing bigger than myself.  My soul is not contained within the limits of my body; my body is contained within the limitlessness of my soul.”

And Martin Sheen state, “We wind up in cells of our own making when we’re not generous, loving, compassionate, and forgiving.  Without love, we build dungeons in our hearts and fill them with our perceived enemies.  We believe they deserve to be there for the harm they caused us, but by imprisoning them we’re destroying our own spirits.  When our dungeons are overflowing with these prisoners we refuse to set free, we become slaves to our self-righteousness, our anger, resentments, and self-loathing, which we let multiply until we wind up imprisoned on our own death row.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen June 27, 2014.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

Recently, I took a dear friend of mine to the Nashville airport.  On the way there, traffic came to a standstill and then crawled, bumper to bumper, for several miles.  Soon we found to our horror that there was a tragic accident on the eastbound lanes.  Several white sheets lay on the ground; we could only assume the worst.  Our hearts ached for all those involved.  After dropping my friend off at the airport, I hung around town for a couple of hours hoping the traffic would clear up by the time I headed back.  I was wrong.  It took me an hour to drive 8.5 miles.  Yes, I could have been really angry and upset that I had to wait in barely moving traffic for so long.  But when I weighed this and the fact that someone died, someone lost their loved ones, and people’s lives were drastically changed forever, I knew what I was going through was nothing.  No comparison.  I was alive and well.  I could feel thankful that the worst I had to do was to be delayed in getting home.

Another incident stands out in my mind that really brought the lesson home to me.  Several years ago, I lived on Bon Air Mountain between Sparta and Crossville and I worked in Sparta.  One day, my boss asked me to stay an extra half hour.  After I left, I stopped to get my car washed.  On the way through town, I hit every red light.  I was tired and just wanted to get home.  Except half-way up the mountain, the traffic was stopped.  An officer was turning traffic around saying there was a really bad accident further up the road.  It took me over an hour to get home, which normally should have taken me about five more minutes.  Later, I found out that an infant was killed and the accident occurred where I would have turned at about the exact same moment I would have driven through there.  If I had left work at the usual time, I could have either been involved in the accident or seen it happen.

This really taught me that delays can be a good thing.  How many of us get irate because we are delayed for whatever reasons?  Long lines in stores, longer than normal traffic drives, and other unexpected things that keep us from getting to where we’re going based on our own timelines?  Those delays could be keeping us from harm. 

Another great lesson I learned is to always keep things in perspective.  It could always be worse.  I think of all the people who are going through the most unbearable experiences and it’s only by fate that it’s not me or someone I love.  Therefore, what I’m going through is perfectly tolerable, though slightly inconveniencing.  I can handle the inconveniences when I consider the alternatives.

There are so many people in the world who are struggling with so many life challenges.  When I see them and what they’re going through, I count my blessings.  When I see someone who is homeless, I’m thankful I have a roof over my head.  When I see someone who is starving, I’m thankful I have food to eat.  When I see someone who has health issues, I’m thankful I have my health.  I look at people in various parts of the world who have absolutely nothing, and I’m grateful I live in a country that has so much.  If you think about it, I’m sure you can come up with your own.  If you can’t find anything to be grateful for, just start with the basics and build from there.  Can you walk, talk, see, hear, do you have a roof over your head, a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, people who love you…?  Being in a state of gratitude attracts more to be grateful for.  Being thankful for everything you have can bring a peaceful state of mind.  When we’re at peace, regardless of everything going on around us, we find that we can feel happier, healthier, and can face each new day with grace.  We’ll also find whatever we’re looking for in life and then our perspective manifests as our reality. 

I leave you with these two quotes… Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole world turned around.”   And Rabbi Harold Kushner stated, “Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”   

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 13, 2014.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nature's Spirituality

The other day, I was taking a long walk down a country road on a gorgeous sunny day.  I love being among nature, listening to the birds singing their melodies, and inhaling her fragrant perfumes. 

As I was walking, I looked down to see a beautiful butterfly that had apparently been hit by a car.  It was laying on the road, its wings barely moving in the slight wind, probably hanging on between life and death.  I carefully picked it up and gently laid it on a flowering bush while wishing it well on its journey into the next life.  The Bible says that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God knowing about it.  I think that would include this small delicate butterfly.

There is so much in Mother Nature for us to see and yet we take so much of it for granted.  Have you ever stopped to marvel at the majesty of the trees?  The marvelous flowers with their splendid colors and perfumes?  The green grasses that embrace the earth with its splendor?  The critters that run and play in and out of the brush and trees?  The magnificent birds as they soar on the winds of the Universe’s breath?  The glorious sun that watches over us and gives energy to all of life?  The stars that glow and twinkle in the night sky?  It’s all so awe-inspiring!

Being among nature can bring so much peace and calmness when life gets to be chaotic.  Mother Earth literally grounds us in her energy.  That’s one reason I love Native American Spirituality so much.  Indians are very much attached to the earth and know that she is a living, breathing being.   

Back in the early 70’s, I saw the movie “Billy Jack” about a half Navajo Indian who lives on a reservation and protects the Indians and school students on the rez.  It was because of this movie that I fell in love with the Native people, their beliefs, and their culture.  

Later after graduating from high school, I thought I might like to be a missionary to the Indians.  My church sponsored student missionaries to reservations in British Columbia to live with and minister to them.  During my week of training in Vancouver, I was appalled to hear the missionaries calling the Indian people savages and thinking of them as almost less than human!  I decided then and there I didn’t want anything to do with this form of prejudice and that I would live with the Indians and accept them just as they were.  The very large family I lived with and I became very close and we keep in touch to this day.  The missionary staff psychologist said I was the only student who did not have culture shock.  I learned a great lesson in how important it is to love and accept people just as they are with no judgments.

I found the American Indians to be a beautiful, extraordinary people.  They believe in a Great Spirit that is in everyone and everything.  Their traditions and ceremonies are also wonderful.  I’ve learned so much from them and will always be grateful to everything they have given me.

Native Americans believe in the sacredness of all life.  When we realize our connectedness to nature and each other, we realize that what affects one affects all.  If everyone could only realize how much a part of each other we really are, then maybe, just maybe we could know peace.   Black Elk said, "The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us." 

There is so much good to be learned from other religions, beliefs, and spiritual masters, and there’s no need to feel threatened by any differences.  Director Gene Roddenberry (creator of “Star Trek”) stated it well when he said, “If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.” 

Let’s learn to embrace the goodness of each other’s religions and beliefs without feeling threatened.  Let’s stop fighting and arguing over who is right or wrong and trying to force our beliefs on everyone else.  And let us learn from the Indians’ example and strive to live in peace and harmony with all people and all things on this beautiful Mother Earth.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 6, 2014.