Friday, June 24, 2016

The All Consuming Love

Love. The Merriam-webster.com dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; attraction that includes sexual desire: the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship; and a person you love in a romantic way.”  Reading this definition still doesn’t tell me what love is or what it feels like.  Defining love is like defining God.  It can’t be done; it can only be experienced.  Each person experiences love differently; therefore, each person has a different definition of what they think love is. 

The ancient Greeks spoke of love in six different categories.  The first is Eros love, which is the physical, romantic intimacy between two lovers.  Philia is the love of deep friendship and the bond that is developed between people.  It is sacrificing for your friends, being loyal, and sharing your emotions.  Ludus is the playful love when people are flirting, joking around, dancing, or laughing with friends.  Pragma is longstanding love such as the love between a couple who have been together for years.  Philautia is love for self, though there is a healthy and unhealthy version.  The unhealthy is associated with narcissism and being self-obsessed.  The healthy version is one where you have a great capacity to love.

And then there’s Agape, which is selfless love, the love that we extend to all people.  C.S. Lewis called it ‘gift love’ or the highest form of Christian love, although it also appears in other religions.  Paulo Coelho stated, “Agape is total love, the love that devours those that experience it. Whoever knows and experiences Agape sees that nothing else in this world is of any importance, only loving. This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”

I didn’t really totally understand Agape love until I lost my little boy (Toy Poodle) several years ago.  He was my child and his death absolutely devastated me (as it did with any of my ‘kids’).  One night, I was lying in bed so distraught with grief that I just didn’t care about anything anymore.  I didn’t care if I left the world that night just so I could be with him.  I wasn’t suicidal and wouldn’t have done anything to harm myself; it was just my frame of mind at that moment.  Then it came to me.  Nothing mattered.  Nothing.  I saw all the nonsense occurring in the world and I could only ask ‘why?’  Soon, another epiphany...  Nothing matters except for the meaning that you give to it.  I was able to stand back and see the world like I was watching it on a movie screen.  And then the greatest Divine thought came to me.  Nothing matters but love…the pure unconditional, perfect love of the All-That-Is, and we are all connected as Divine beings in this play called life.  In that moment, I saw it and I felt it.  I got it!  It helped me see the world in a different light, and that light overcame the darkness.  I still grieved and bawled me a river of tears for months to come for my boy, but as far as humanity and our world, I got it!

We’re seeing a lot of hate, bigotry, anger, violence, and ignorance in the world right now; a lot of it is being promoted by the media, politicians, and religious leaders.  And that’s sad as it makes it seem so much larger than it is.  But there’s something greater brewing!  We are now seeing love start to swell in more and more people all over the earth and we’re allowing our Divine light to overcome any darkness in the world!  Mainstream media may not be reporting it, but we are seeing it on social media!   Countless people are uniting together as one heart filled with unconditional love for all people.  We know that united we stand, divided we fall. 

We need to learn Agape love, not only for others, but for ourselves!  If we really, truly loved ourselves unconditionally, we could never, ever cause any harm to anyone or anything!  It’s the love that all our great Spiritual Masters taught us!  Love one another, and love your neighbor as yourself!

Ram Dass said, “Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being.”  And Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.  I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 24, 2016.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Love And Compassion Are Necessities, Not Luxuries

Sigh…  Another senseless massacre in Orlando with the shooting at a gay nightclub killing fifty people and injuring countless others by a homophobic lost human being...a being that was filled with so much hate towards another group of people because of fear.  (Hate is a byproduct of fear.)  With easy access to guns, he slaughtered a group of beautiful souls. 

What’s even more sad is the number of people who are celebrating these deaths just because they were gay.  Many Christian preachers are even celebrating and some were actually telling people to go out and kill those in the LGBT communities.  And that’s even sadder.  This is not the Christianity that I believe in!

I used to be homophobic.  I believed that gays were going to hell because that’s what my religion taught me…until I learned otherwise.  I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it again.  In 1980 while living in California, I was in my ‘if you don’t believe the way I do, then you’re going to hell’ belief system.  However, sometimes Spirit gives me that loving, yet firm smack on the back of my head to get my attention, and boy, did Spirit get my attention!

I had gone to a Hungarian dance with a friend of mine, and when we got there, I saw a tall person standing in the circle of dancers.  My friend told me that this person was a transsexual.  I was horrified and commented, “That thing isn’t even human!”  So we left.  To this day, it pains me that I could say something so mean and hateful towards another human being. 

Later, I had gone to the Hollywood bookstore, got into a conversation with the store clerk, and he began to tell me his story.  He was a man, became a woman, and was in the process of becoming a man again.  He had been put under too much pressure by a religion to believe that he was committing a horrible sin by doing so; therefore, he gave up his truth and relented.  Then a guy I knew walked in with a woman, and while in conversation, I learned her story.  She was a man, became a woman, and because of the pressure of religion, was going to become a man again.  Here I am freaking out being in a room with two freaks, trying to find a way to escape, when my friend suggested we all hold hands and pray.  So here I am holding hands with a freak on each side of me, while I’m freaking out, and then I got that loving spiritual smack on the back of my head.  I heard the words just as clearly as if someone spoke them.  “Karen, these too are my children and I love them just as much as all my children.”   I didn’t change my beliefs right there and then, but a seed was planted.

When I moved back home to Indiana, I started reading Shirley MacLaine’s books, and the greatest thing she taught me was to keep an open mind in ALL things.  It was then that I began my adventure on a serious spiritual journey.

When I moved to Nashville in 1992 to pursue an acting and dancing career, I began meeting people who were gay.  I found them to be wonderful people and many became my friends.  When I moved to Cookeville, I met more gays and acquired more amazing friendships.  I even met and have become friends with a few transgenders.  I overcame my fear of a group of people who may have been different than me, but I opened my heart and have been blessed because of it.

When Jesus said his greatest commandment over all others was to love one another, he wasn’t kidding around.  He made no exceptions, and I have taken that commandment to heart and try to live it.  It’s not always easy.  I have to watch my thoughts when I find myself hating the haters, but I know that they are living in fear just like I had been before I learned otherwise.

My heart and soul goes out to the victims and their family and friends of this horrific tragedy.  Whether we’re Christians or of another faith (or none), the best thing we can do is show compassion as our Spiritual Masters taught us.  This could easily have been a large church or anywhere else.  These were our sisters and brothers and when something horrible happens to anyone, it happens to all of us.

The Dalai Lama said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them, humanity cannot survive.”  And Buddha stated, “If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.”  Magnificent words to live by! 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 17, 2016.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Your Past is Not Your Identity

In a scientific experiment, Julius and Vincent were born fraternal twins from the DNA of six fathers in order to produce the perfect child.   Julius was the healthy and perfect baby while Vincent was much smaller and more fragile.  The mother was told that Julius died at birth and wasn’t told about Vincent at all.  Julius was raised by a professor on a South Pacific island.  He was loved and nurtured, highly educated, and sheltered from the world.  Vincent was placed in an orphanage, believed that his mother had abandoned him, and he didn’t get the love and attention Julius received.  Later, he ran away and became a con artist, doing his best to survive. 

When Julius turned 35, the professor told him that he has a twin brother, so he leaves the island to find him, discovers him in Los Angeles, and tells him that he’s his twin.  Vincent doesn’t believe him and abandons him.  Julius is tall and handsome and worked out; therefore, he was in excellent health.  Vincent was short, homely, and overweight.  Julius didn’t give up though, and continued to pursue and convince him.  After numerous humorous adventures, Vincent finally accepts that they are brothers, they become good friends, and Vincent changes his ways under the loving nurturing of his brother and their girlfriends.

This was the movie “Twins” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Julius and Danny DeVito as Vincent.  It’s a comedy, but at the same time, it is a great message movie and really made it clear as to how we can become who we are.  We are all products of our upbringing, culture, beliefs, and experiences.  Because Julius was loved and nurtured, he grew up to be happy and had a healthy self-esteem.  Vincent, growing up an orphan and never receiving love or nurturing, therefore, turned to crime and had poor self-esteem. 

There’s a true story in Tony Robbins book “Awaken the Giant Within” of two brothers close in age who had an abusive alcoholic father serving life in prison for murder.  One brother also became an alcoholic and ends up in prison; the other became successful and had a loving family.  Both were asked separately, “Why has your life turned out this way?”  Both gave the same answer, “What else could I have become having grown up with a father like that?”

We are all influenced by our past.  Some of us grow up with wonderful lives; no complaints.  Others go through horrific experiences that could destroy the best of us.  Neither way guarantees how we will be as adults and both stories above are good examples.  Julius had a great childhood and grew up to be a well-adjusted adult.  Vincent had a horrible childhood and ended up being a dysfunctional adult.  In the second story, both brothers had a horrible childhood; one grew up dysfunctional and the other well-adjusted.

So what’s the difference?  Our choices.  We always have choices.  Some people don’t believe they have choices, which is also a choice.  Our pasts shape our beliefs about ourselves, our lives, and our world, and that’s the key right there.  Once we become aware that we can change our thoughts and beliefs, then we can overcome most anything.  There are some exceptions such as severe mental illnesses, extremely traumatic events, etc., but there are stories of even these overcoming their pasts.  (Most children are also exceptions to this.)

What happens to some people is that their past becomes their identity and they don’t know who they are without their past experiences.  They’re afraid of who they could be without them.  It takes courage to step into the unknown not knowing what the future may hold, but when we do, we can overcome most anything that has held us prisoners of our past.  Nothing has meaning except for the meaning that we give to it, and we can change the meanings from our past and can become stronger and better human beings because of it!

We also have to stop the blame game and take 100% responsibility for our own lives.  Every person is only doing the best they can with what they know at the time, and many are living what they were taught or from what they experienced.  You can either be a victim of your past or a hero of your future. 

James Cisneros said, “Everything we are currently experiencing in our lives comes about in order to assist us in evolving to a higher level of consciousness.  Even what we now perceive as bad, sad, negative, or upsetting is here to assist us in seeing life in a more peaceful, forgiving, and loving way.”  And Byron Katie stated, “What you’re believing in the moment creates your suffering or your happiness.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 10, 2016.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Power of Thoughts to Change Our Lives

This may come as a surprise to some people, especially those who know me, but I used to have periods in my life where I would wallow in some pretty heavy stinkin’ thinkin.’  (Still do sometimes!)  Even though I appeared to be a positive and optimistic person on the outside, inside I was constantly tearing myself apart and didn’t have such a rosy outlook on life.  I wanted people to believe I did because I didn’t want to bring anyone else down or make them feel bad. 

It really wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Today, I totally believe that my soul came here to play a role, and that everything I went through was what I chose to go through on this adventure called life.  Looking back, I see how all those experiences, what I perceived to be good and bad, made me who I am today, and I pretty much like who I am.  It’s with who I am not that I still struggle with because there are still so many things that I’d like to do in life and changes I’d like to make in myself.

Is it easy?  Not always.  Our life experiences can be powerful forces in controlling how and what we think.  Sometimes our body chemistries can also have an effect.  I will never say that because I could do it, so can anyone else.  But because I and others could do it, it means it is possible! 

What were some of the things I did to help change my thoughts?  I learned that my identity isn’t who I am out there, but it is who I am within.  I needed to learn to stop trying to please everyone else when they try to tell me who I should be, what I should look like, what I should wear, or how I should act.  This meant that I also had to stop worrying about what other people think! As Terry Cole-Whittaker said, “What other people think of me is none of my business!”  If you can understand this, then you learn that when people try to bring you down or control you with their negativity, then you discover that it’s all about them and not about you. 

I had to stop comparing myself to others.  We are all unique individuals and no one is any better or any worse than anyone else no matter who they are or what status they hold in life.  I had to change what I said to myself in the mirror.  Instead of saying really horrible things and picking myself apart, I instead would tell myself that I was beautiful and magnificent (as we all are!).  It didn’t matter whether I believed it or not at the time; what mattered was that I said it.  Before I went to sleep, I would tell all my body parts that I loved them starting at top of my head and going all the way down to the tips of my toes, and would include all my organs and even my little fat cells!  One of the most important things was that I had to learn to love and accept myself just as I am!

It’s also important to watch what we say to others about ourselves.  Women in particular are pretty good at deflecting compliments, but we need to learn to just say thank you and not find ways to negate the compliment.  And watch those negative affirmations we tell ourselves and/or others such as “I’m poor, I’m sick (or getting sick), I’m not good enough, I’m not worth it, everyone hates me and would be better off without me, and any other self-defeating words (whether they appear to be your reality or not).

Here are some suggested positive affirmations you can use to work on changing your thoughts in order to change your life:  I am beautiful/handsome!  I am magnificent!  I am miraculous!  I am worthy!  I am loved!  I am healthy!  I am wealthy!  I am the best there is and it has nothing to do with anyone else!  And if negative thoughts occur?  Immediately stop the thoughts and replace them with something positive and loving!

Will your thoughts change or change your ‘reality’ overnight?  Probably not.  For most of us (including me!), it takes a lot of consistent practice, but it can and will change your life for the better!   

Buddha said, “You yourself as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”  Wayne Dyer stated, “Change your thoughts, change your life.”  And James Allen wrote, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so shall he be.”  (For a free download of his book, please go to http://asamanthinketh.net.  I highly recommend reading it!) 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 3, 2016.