get busy loving

I spent a few hours reading to my friend Adelle today from her Science of Mind magazine. There was an interview with John Randolph Price, the author of many titles including The Abundance Book.

I was moved by a something he said, and went looking the interview online so I could quote it directly, but it's not available in full. So no doubt I'll botch it up a bit, but hopefully the essence will come through.

It was in the context of prosperity and abundance. He had received some sort of inner guidance or a dream (can't remember the specifics) that told him that his job was simply to love, and that everything else he needed would follow from that.

He told his wife about it, and she said something like, "Well then, let's get busy loving!" Together they showered everything in their world, whether animate or inanimate, with love and kindness. This included their car, the refrigerator, their family and friends ... I bet it even included the sun and the clouds and the moon.

I thought it was the coolest project I'd ever heard of a couple undertaking together. To be honest, I can't remember what the article said about the outcome, although I imagine that the flow of prosperity in their lives couldn't help but increase. I didn't care. I was too busy being enchanted by the vision of a couple uniting their energy and attention in such a joyful common purpose. Wouldn't it have been fun to be a fly on their wall? I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

gratitude vs appreciation

Driving down the road yesterday on one of those perfect autumn days, feeling like I could just explode with the joy of being alive, I had another ah-ha moment.

I have been using the terms gratitude and appreciation interchangeably for years and years. Suddenly it occured to me that they are not the same thing.

Gratitude, for me, is directed at something external. It's a big Thank You to whatever or whoever brings me something I really like.

Appreciation, on the other hand, is not directed anywhere. It doesn't thank anything or anyone. It just expands in all directions in the blissful enjoyment of the moment.

In a sense, I experience expansion when I appreciate a beautiful day, but gratitude brings contraction. Appreciation connects me with everything. Gratitude sets me outside of it ... separates me from the source of it, makes me smaller than it, identifies me as a witness but not a full participant.

This seems to be some sort of corollary to an insight I experienced earlier this year: Prayer is just a way of talking to the part of me that is bigger than my conscious mind and ego can identify with.

When I was a kid, prayer consisted of imploring some Magical Being to grant my wishes. In early adulthood, my concept of Divinity became decidedly female, and my prayers became songs and dances. At some point, the concept of a Deity stopped feeling real to me. I could no longer make that leap of faith. Praying seemed like sending messages into some kind of black hole, so I stopped bothering with it.

But it all made sense again when I realized that prayer was just talking to myself. I am the Deity. (And so are you, since we are all drops of the same divine ocean.) It took no leap of faith to realize that miracles had happened in my life -- intuitions, synchronicities, benevolent conspiracies -- that I could not explain with my rational mind.

I had no trouble acknowledging that part of me seemed to be operating beyond my conscious control, and was working behind the scenes for my highest good. It was easy to conceptualize myself as an iceberg, with just the tip of it being consciously aware of itself. Prayer became a vehicle ... a way to send and receive communication from the part that was submerged beneath my awareness.

For now, that works for me. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

For now, I don't know whom to thank for this glorious day. Luckily, appreciation needs no recipient. It's just a joyful expansion of connection and bliss.

give something

Times appear to be tough all over. So many things that seem critically important to us are happening outside our sphere of personal influence and control.

But there is one thing we can each do to change things for the better, if we want to:

Give something.

Anything.

To anyone.

Counter the collective tendency to contract in fear. Expand instead. Reach out.

Go through your closet and give away clothes you haven't worn in the past year.
Go through your pantry and donate the cans that have gathered dust.
Clean out your garage and take a load over to Goodwill.

Give your time and attention to someone new every day - even if it's just making genuine eye contact with the cashier or someone you normally don't look at, and silently sending good wishes their way.

Give a kind word. Open a door. Let someone else have that parking spot in the first row.

I promise you that someone needs what you have to give. Possibly today more than ever. And I promise you that no matter what your circumstances, you can find something worth giving. Smiles are still free, and you can never run out of them no matter how many you give away.

Some folks say that giving IS receiving, and that feels true for me. When I give something -- anything -- it reminds me that my cup can overflow regardless of my bank balance. It's gratifying to make a difference, even if it's a tiny one.

Giving something just might be the ultimate antidote to feeling powerless and out of control. We don't have to wait for the world or the adminstration to change -- we can set the ripple effect in motion today.

the dangers of diagnosing intention

Today a kid in one of my daughter's classes asked the teacher to help him understand a homework problem. The teacher refused, saying, "Why should I help you when you don't even care enough to remember to bring your book to class?" (No wonder so many kids hate school!)

This teacher diagnosed his student's intention, and then responded based upon his unverified assumption, effectively shutting down all further communication. (Also, might I add, shutting down an opportunity for learning!)

Parents do the same thing to their kids when they say things like:

You just want attention.
You think you can have everything your way.
You are trying to get out of taking responsibility.

And adults do it to each other as well:

If I was important to you, you would pick me up at the airport.
If he really wanted this to work out, he wouldn't have walked away.
She's trying to go behind my back.

Could there be any reason other than 'not caring' when a student forgets his book? I can think of a whole bunch of possibilities. Maybe his parents were arguing this morning and he was so stressed out about the thought that they could get divorced that he left without his backpack.

Maybe he was up all night caring for a sick little sister and barely woke up in time to dash for the bus.

Maybe he works the late shift so he can contribute financially to his family.

And yes, maybe he really doesn't care, but then why was he asking his teacher for help understanding a homework problem?

What actually led to the forgotten book really doesn't matter, though. What concerns me is that when we spend time and energy trying to diagnose someone else's motivation or intention, we are tethering our attention to the past, and missing the opportunity to deal with the situation that is in front of us right now.

If you just gotta diagnose intention, then see if you can come up with something that gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. You'll feel much better, and are more likely to preserve the relationship that way.

But even better would be to deal with what is happening right now. The teacher above might have said, "I'll need to refer to the textbook to help you understand this, and I see you don't have one. What can we do about that?" My daughter was right next to him, and would happily have shared her book. Besides, she also needed help with that problem!

The dangers of diagnosing intention are many. The temporary satisfaction of 'feeling justified and right' comes at the expense of connection, communication, and clarity.

The Work of Byron Katie includes an elegant question that can disrupt this cycle. If you notice you have diagnosed someone's intention, ask yourself, "Can I absolutely know that is true?" If you are honest, the answer will almost always be NO. This awareness makes it easier to focus your attention on finding a solution in the present moment instead.

a heart that has room

I've been searching the Web to no avail for a quote I remember reading approximately ten years ago. If you recognize it, will you let me know who deserves credit? I think it goes something like this:

A heart that has room for even one enemy is not a safe place for a friend.

As usual, I could quibble with some of it. But for the most part, I think it makes sense. Have you ever had the experience of listening to a friend complain about or belittle someone who was not present, and felt yourself wondering what she says about YOU in your absence?

I think this quote is speaking to something most of us are intuitively aware of: it doesn't feel good to be judged. Yes, judgment seems to be part of the human package. We all do it to some degree. And I've seen people hold and present their judgments in a variety of ways. Some are more comfortable for me to relate to than others.

Perhaps a few oversimplified definitions could be useful here. When I say judgment, I'm talking about ways of describing, evaluating, packaging, and attributing intention to others which imply that someone is bad, wrong, less than, or stupid. The kind of judgment I am talking about holds others at a distance. In effect, it says "You are doing something I would never do," and "You are not like me."

To my way of thinking, judgment's counterpart is acceptance, which I define as compassionate understanding. It means we realize that under similar circumstances, beliefs, and conditions, we too may have made that decision or taken that action.

Acceptance does not stand above the choices of others and evalute them; it gracefully allows each of us to find our own way and to learn from our own experiences. It respects our common humanity.

It says, "It's okay, it happens, I understand."

It asks, "How can we repair our relationship/restore the balance/return to love together in the Now?"

It has no interest in identifying right from wrong, or separating us. It puts love first. It shines a spotlight on what we have in common.

My quibbles with the quote? Well, if we understand that sometimes people stand in judgment and create separation and enemies because they need to do this to feel better about themselves, then we have found a way to embrace them compassionately even as they judge.

If people believe in a black and white world with clear lines between right and wrong, then doesn't it make sense that they would want to be firmly on the side of Right? And that they would want us to know where they stand? I'm sure I would feel that way. In fact, I'm sure I have felt that way.

Using this awareness to think about the folks who gossip, criticize, or evaluate, we no longer feel vulnerable to their judgment. It becomes clear that it's not even about us. After a certain point in our personal development, we no longer need a guarantee of non-judgment to feel safe.

We no longer hold back our love or friendship, because we know that doing so hurts only ourselves. Others can judge us all they want, and we can embrace them without needing to separate ourselves from them with the thought or words: "I would never judge someone like that!" (Ironic, isn't it? To judge someone for judging others is still judgment.)

The sword of judgment is a heavy one. Eventually, it cuts the hand that wields it. Those who so vehemently judge others rarely escape unscathed -- during quiet moments in the dark of night, they turn the sword upon themselves.

When I remember this, my heart opens wide again. Only Beings in great pain would feel such a need to strike out at others. Striking back at them serves no kind or loving purpose, and simply perpetuates the chain of pain.

Acceptance doesn't mean we all become doormats. We can still exercise discernment, which to me is different than judgment.

Judgment says, "You are bad or wrong or mistaken and I refuse to accept you."

Discernment says, "I don't feel good right here, and I think I will step back a bit until I feel like myself again. You are fine just as you are, and I can enjoy you better from a little bit farther away."

It's late and I'm tired and not at all sure any of this will make sense in the morning! But it wanted to be written tonight, so for whatever it's worth, there you go.

*******
It's morning now, and I'm still not sure this post will make sense to anyone other than me. I do hope it's obvious that my musings reflect only my experience. For me, it is painful to stand in judgment of myself or others. It hurts to create separation by evaluation; to disapprove, condescend, or scold, or to think I could know or do better than they have.

Being human, of course I still do it anyway, and it hurts every time. Sometimes I notice right away, sometimes I don't. I always feel much better when I let my love, approval, attention, and energy flow freely again.

Of course that won't be true for everyone. I trust you to sort out whatever resonates with your experience in my words, and simply discard the rest.

ps: my son graduated from boot camp, and me, my mom, and my daughter were there to see it! he's back home now for a couple weeks, working in the local recruiting office before he reports for duty in Grand Haven, MI. My thanks to all of you who sent kind words and good wishes!

the most painful question

I've been hearing it everywhere the past few days, so there's no escaping it. Here it is:

What's wrong with me?

I got fired ... what's wrong with me?
My boyfriend broke up with me ... what's wrong with me?
My teacher yelled at me ... what's wrong with me?
My friend told me she didn't like something I did ... what's wrong with me?
My back hurts ... what's wrong with me?

Seems to me that the question What's wrong with me? is far more painful than the things preceding it. The underlying presumption is that if nothing was wrong with us, everything would be just the way we want it to be. If there was nothing wrong with me, I'd still have a job. If there was nothing wrong with me, she wouldn't say that. If there was nothing wrong with me, I would not be in pain.

But is that really true? Can we be absolutely positive that things aren't going the way we planned because there's something wrong with us? Could there possibly be other factors at play?

Without the pain that stems from thinking something is fundamentally wrong with us, the loss of a job or a relationship becomes an opportunity for an upgrade. Pain becomes an opportunity for awareness. Disapproval becomes an opportunity for more deeply accepting ourselves.

A flipside of the same question is What's wrong with them? Makes me think of the words to that song by Dave Mason, "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys, there's only you and me and we just disagree." Nothing has to be wrong with us or them. We are separate individuals with our own histories, perspectives, and beliefs. Of course we see some things differently.

My son has been attending the Conference on World Affairs on the CU campus this week, and apparently there have been a lot of very heated arguments about opinions. I guess that's fine as long as the debate is fun for both parties, but it also seems kind of futile to me. If I don't think there's something wrong with me or you, I am fine with you having a different opinion, and have no need to convince you to see it my way.

Without the need to answer that painful question, and we have many more resources to invest in understanding each other.

safety nets

Had lunch with a friend today, and we got to talking about that saying, "Leap, and the net will appear." I had been telling her that I was entering some unknown territory in my life, and she said she admired my courage in making the jump before I saw the net. "Not true!" I crowed, "I suck at blind leaps of faith. "

No trust falls for this girl. Instead, I wait to jump until AFTER I see the net. What I lack in trust I can always compensate for in patience.

Here's a glimpse of my self-talk: Okay, this is a big step. I might not make the other side in one jump, and I can't afford to smash on the pavement down there. Allrighty then, if this is truly my next step, then that safety net should be coming into view any second now. I'm ready --as soon as I see it I'll make my move. Bring it on.

She was delighted at this thought. Many of us have fallen prey to the new-agey idea that it's weak or unevolved to be afraid to jump. I'm sure you've heard it -- Do what you love and the money will follow! Just do it! Go ahead, quit that job!

To that, I say, "Bull puckey." I'm afraid to blindly risk it all. So what? Is it really too hard of a job for the Grand Universal Poo-Bah to produce a little safety net first? To say it another way for you Secret fans, what's wrong with manifesting a net before I jump? Heck, maybe even a bridge! There is no order of difficulty in miracles ... and it's no more noble to jump, be pushed, swing, or crawl my way over.

I find that when I treat myself gently; allowing myself to delay the leap until my heart stops pounding enough for me to hear the quiet voice within it, it almost always says, "Hey, honey, it's okay. Take your time. I'm right here for you, and we'll go across together when you are ready."

Not as much adrenaline in that, but that's just fine by me. I like the idea of enjoying where I start from, enjoying the journey, and enjoying the destination. For me, a nice little net makes that possible.