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.