It’s Been A While…

I wanted to let you know I started a sister blog exploring the same themes of life along the road to eternity, but with a more lighthearted and personal twist.  Stories of what it was like growing up in a psychic household, lessons I learned along the way, and what it’s like trying to reconcile two lives in a single body.  I hope to keep both blogs active.  This one for meditations, the other for anecdotes and musings.  In case you’re interested, here’s the link for my sister blog.

http://writersblocknot.com/

What is Death…?

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…But the ultimate escape from our failings and disappointments.  What is life but our striving to overcome our disappointments and failings and to reach the perfection of our eternal selves within the constraints of this physical world?  When we are sad or hurt or overwhelmed by the problems confronting us death beckons as a final solution to our despair.  But there is no resolution in death.  We do not wake up on the other side brand new beings completely free of our past as if God waved his magic wand and created a new life.  We wake up in the same life, with the same soul, with the same past.  Only our perception changes.  The problems we thought insurmountable may suddenly seem a little silly in the viewpoint of eternity.  We may perhaps be a little more understanding of others when our eyes and hearts are open to their side of things.  We may be willing to give even ourselves a break when we understand things a little better.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the old advice when you’re anxious about something to ask yourself if you’ll still be as worried about the problem currently confronting you a year from now, or a decade from now.  What about a lifetime from now?

The past is called past for a reason.  It is done.  It cannot be undone, done over or done again.  We cannot go back and unmake decisions we made years ago or even yesterday.  We cannot recall unkind words back into our mouths or retrieve the e-mail we wrote in haste.  We cannot take back the lost opportunity we regret not taking advantage of, or go back and take the other fork in the road we wish now we had chosen back then.  Let the past rest in its yesterdays and graveyards.  For the two are synonymous.  What is past is dead and cannot be resurrected.

Life is now.  Life is this moment.  Life is the opportunities we are presented with today and those we are creating for ourselves for our tomorrows.  When we dwell in the past we immerse ourselves in death, in what was but can never be again.  No matter how wonderful or how dreadful our past accomplishments and failings, they are behind us now.  It is time to choose a new way, to create ourselves anew.

Life expands.  Death contracts.  Life gives.  Death takes.  Life is open to ever new possibilities for ourselves.  Death tells us the best of who we are or ever will be is already behind us.

Life demands we constantly renew ourselves.  When we stop growing, when we stop finding joy and new possibilities in the gifts of the universe, we are telling our souls we no longer find this life supportable and it is time for us to die.  But there is no true escape from life in death.

Death is more like the ultimate long weekend or summer recess.  It is a time for reflection.  A time to consider what we learned in this life, where we went wrong, which way we would choose if we had to do it all over again.  Not that anyone would ever actually choose to go back and do it all over again.  Why would they?  We already did that.  And there are infinite possibilities we’ve yet to experience.  The death of our physical selves is life’s reminder of its eternal nature.  You can pause.  You can rest.  You can reflect.  You can contemplate and meditate.  But there is no escape from life.

Life is and always will be.  So why not choose today to stop dying and start living.

 

I finally grew out of…Conformity!

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I was raised in an unusual household.  Since it’s human nature to value most what we don’t have and dismiss what we’re given, I envied my friends’ more normal experience of life.  As an adult I treasured the trappings of normalcy and conformity while at the same time distancing myself from the chaos of my childhood. By the time I reached the half century mark, I decided normal was boring. Maybe my formative years didn’t look like everyone else’s, but at least they were rarely dull. Looking back from a safe distance I could even acknowledge there was something to be said for living life a little closer to the edge of acceptability and maybe stepping over that invisible line a time or two.

So at that definitive stage of my life I set out to find a happy medium between the two, the former me and the current me.  Maybe if I could fit the right pieces together from each I would find the real me.  I read an article recently from an end-of-life caregiver that revealed one of the 5 most common regrets of the dying was they wished they had lived a more authentic life…a life focused less on the expectations of others and more on what was important to them.( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html).  It was as though I read those words when I stood at the starting line of my search for the new more authentic version of myself.  I didn’t want to wait until I was dying to suddenly wake up and understand what I truly valued in life.

I knew I wasn’t interested in throwing out the baby with the bath water.  There were so many blessings in my life I didn’t want to change: my husband of thirty years, my beautiful children, friends, family, and so many things we’d built together over the years.  No, I was after a more subtle approach.  A mindful pruning rather than a wholesale slaughter.  Mindful.  I like that word.  It implies consideration, forethought, a weighing of pros and cons, of acknowledging meaningful change was not accomplished without price, sometimes a relatively steep price.   So decided I would proceed mindfully when I set off in search of the scattered pieces of my soul I left behind on this journey called life. When I shut the door so firmly on my childhood, I paid the price of spontaneity, foolishness, blind faith and the kind of love that gave all, never counting the cost.  I lost touch with the mystery of life beyond my physical senses.  I lost touch with God, with the sacred, with eternity.

I figured I had a lot of catching up to do.  Where better to begin than at the beginning?   First I unpacked some old treasures and held both my mother’s rosary and tarot cards in my hands, remembering what she taught me about eternity, faith, God, and what awaited us on the other side of the veil.  I tempered my mother’s more mystical view of life with my father’s more practical, scientific version of reality.  Somewhere between the two extremes was where I would find my own. So I set out literally on a journey to find my true self. I took once in a lifetime trips with my husband.  I admired Michelangelo’s David in Florence and was awed by his Pieta at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  I took a ride on a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. I walked along the Via Dolorosa in Old Jerusalem, drove along the Amalfi coast in southern Italy, swam (or floated really) in the Dead Sea, and was serenaded on a gondola ride in Venice.  I was blown away by the agent civilization of Petra in Jordan and rode a camel in the desert. I took up yoga and performed sun salutations at dawn on a beach along the Atlantic.  I remembered how much I enjoyed writing and renewed my passion for it.  I wrote books and blogs and learned the ins and outs of twitter. I jogged.  I biked.  I lost 20 pounds.  I let my hair grow half way down my back.

Most important of all, I gave myself permission to fail.  All of a sudden life became filled with new possibilities.  Suddenly there was more to do than I could find time for and none of the more revolved around the television or Internet.  It was all right to try and not succeed at something the first time, or try a new hobby and let it go after a few weeks or months because I didn’t particularly care for it, even though I invested all that money in start-up costs.  I borrowed the philosophy of yoga and made it my own.  I read that there was a reason yoga was referred to as yoga practice and not yoga perfect.  Just like life.  I determined to view my own as the practice of life, not the perfection of it.  There’s no such thing as a perfect life.  By its very nature, life is messy and awkward and complicated, and at the same time so beautifully, wonderfully simple.

In between all of this self-discovery I worked, I watched two children graduate from college, and our youngest from high school.  I celebrated engagements, weddings and the births of loved ones, and mourned the passing of others. I paid bills, fixed things that were broken, worried about how we were going to pay for retirement…hoping someday we could. Through it all, time kept count of the days and months and years as they passed.  I can look back now on the past with the perspective only time and distance can offer.  I’m grateful to both my former self and my former, former self and acknowledge without regret neither version fits me particularly well today.

But that’s all right, because we don’t discover the meaning of life or our true selves in distant places standing before even the most awesome vistas.  We create our individual lives moment by moment, not milestone by milestone. Our memories provide a patchwork-quilt view of where we’ve been. Where we go from here is a delightful mystery. Each day we renew ourselves.  Each day we set off on a new journey.   Don’t wait until death comes calling to set off on yours.

 

The Road to Hell….

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…Is paved for each of us by the designs and urging of our own egos.  The soul blesses. The ego condemns.  The soul lifts up.  The ego tears down.  The soul sees the beauty contained within each moment and within every circumstance.  The ego derides the ugliness of this world and makes no attempt to heal it.

The battle of good versus evil is waged not out there in some indefinable cosmos, but within each of us at every moment, with every compassionate thought or thoughtless remark.  By the time we take up arms against each other and face our brothers and sisters across a battlefield, our weapons drawn, the war is already lost.  Evil has won.  Every step we take towards conflict lessens the fragile thread of peace we are each entrusted with.  It is not the nameless they that lead us down the road to conflict and a world filled with darkness and despair, but the screeching, demanding voice of the ego within each of us telling us we deserve more than they, we are right, they are wrong.  When we surrender to its incessant demands we have failed not only ourselves, but the world around us and everyone and every living creature in it.

So today, let us find that fragile thread of peace and light within each of us and vow to nourish it.  When our ego insists we are right, let us at least consider the possibility we might be the one who is in error.  If we still believe we are right, let us then consider whether or not winning a particular battle at the loss of the war is worth the pain accompanying it.   When our ego seeks to condemn, let us put ourselves in our brother’s shoes.  When we are surrounded by negativity, anger, panic, criticism, let us strive to be a voice for gentle reason, rather than escalate the chaos around us and thereby pulling all of us into a place of deepening darkness.

We are all called to light the way for each other, to be a voice of tender compassion in a world of seemingly endless callousness and indifference.  Let us not surrender to our own disregard for the beauty of the life we’ve been given, but instead let us first strive to heal the shadows within and then extend the new light we create within us to heal the world around us.

The Source of Unhappiness

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The measure of our unhappiness is the measure of the number of holes we’ve carved out of our souls on the way to where we are now. Our feelings of unhappiness and despair are the universe’s way of telling us we’re heading in the wrong direction. It is only our stubborn refusal to acknowledge our error that keeps us from correcting it.

Remember, each of us is responsible for our own happiness. No one else can make us unhappy without our permission, but we can speed ourselves down the road towards despair on the fleetest of wings because we are the masters of our destinies. The universe will not impede our efforts even to our own self destruction if it is our firm will and intent to destroy ourselves.

Though we claim that is not our intent too many remain mired in untenable circumstances. Today marks the starting line. A place to begin our search. Let us look mindfully at our lives and seek the seeds of our contentment. Let us decide on the one thing we would most like to change… and change it. Commence our search at the bottom, not the top. It is effortless to focus on the easy and ignore what is hard. But it is in addressing the difficult, the dark, and the painful where we unlock the most progress.

Let us go out today in search of the abandoned pieces of our souls we left scattered in the wake of our path towards denial of self. Let us reclaim those lost pieces of ourselves and begin the process of reawakening the entirety of the beauty within each of us.

Lessons in Illumination

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Lesson One

Before we begin I would like to emphasize an important premise.  The contents of the following pages are to be taken at face value.  There is no secret meaning hidden between the lines.  There are no mysteries to be unraveled.  This is not a trick or a scam. For what would be the point of such an endeavor on my part?  What do I have to gain?  I seek only to unlock the bars of your self-imposed imprisonment.  It pains me to see you reduced to the mean little lives you confine yourselves to when the abundance of the universe awaits your pleasure.

This course requires an open mind on your part.  A little bit of faith wouldn’t hurt.  A great deal of faith would be tremendously helpful, but it is not a requirement for you to benefit from the truths revealed on these pages.

One other thing before we begin, you will have to suspend your doubts and learn to trust, if not me, then the spirit within you.  Your eternal self recognizes truth even buried beneath layers of your ego’s denials, incredulity and doubt.  The measure of your trust will be the measure of your progress.  Trust little, progress little.  Trust greatly and you will open your life to new dreams you never dared to allow yourself to envision.

Now let us commence with a reminder that will hopefully sound familiar.  You are more than you can begin to comprehend in your current state.  Your lives have been narrowed down to the merest slivers of your true reality by abdicating control over them to the capriciousness of fate and random events.  You are your own jailors.  You are responsible for the current state of your soul.  If you are to gain anything from this collaboration you will have to put aside the comfort to be found in blaming others for your fate.  It denies the underlying premise of all truth.  You, and only you, are the master of your experience.

The first step towards freedom is regaining control of your life.  This is the true purpose of the concept of self-control.  In order to gain control over yourself and therefore your life, you must first learn to direct your thoughts.  Action is not the initiating cause in the universe.  Thought is.  All thought manifests itself in form at some level.  Please re-read this last sentence and try to accept its truth, and then begin to contemplate the consequences.  All thought manifests itself in form at some level.

The easiest progression of this truth for you to understand is the one you are most familiar with…thought, word, action.  A simple example might help you see where we are going with this.  You become aware you are hungry.  You may or may not mention your hunger to someone you are with.  Regardless, you satisfy your hunger by taking action.  Words do not precede thought.  Actions do not precede thought.

Therefore if you desire to change your experience of life you must begin with your thoughts.  If your thoughts lack commitment and purpose, so too will your experience of this life.  If your thoughts are clear and focused your experiences will mimic their reality.  The chaos in your life will fall away like the illusion it is.

It is not necessary for us to spend too much time on the concept of thought as the driving creative force of the universe as numerous books have already been written on the subject.  If you are having trouble accepting this idea, it would be beneficial for you to take time away from these pages and familiarize yourself with this topic prior to continuing. Otherwise it will be difficult for you to gain much from the truths recorded here as future lessons depend on your acceptance of this one pivotal certainty.

Let us now turn to the related concept of faith.  The command to, “Ask and you shall receive,” seems to be the cause of much confusion among you.  As is true of any form of prayer, it is not the phrasing of the question that determines the response.  It is the belief in the answer.  It is the faith by which you imbue your request and send it out to the far reaches of the universe that will influence the universe’s reply to your appeal.  Lack of conviction negates the request.  Little faith is rewarded with small results. Great faith moves mountain.

Be cautious though, for the mountains will move in both directions: left or right, up or down, good or evil. I have been asked many times how or why, God, if I exist at all, can allow evil to continue to plague your world.  The universal laws laid out before the beginning of time for the administration of the universe do not distinguish between good and evil. They are at the service of my children. So be very careful what you seek, for if you seek diligently and faithfully, you will obtain the object of your search, and at that point you become responsible for the stewardship of the gifts bestowed upon you.

I should caution you, as is true of any gift accompanied by unlimited power, great faith comes with immense responsibility.  If a man seeks command over others, and his thoughts are focused and driven in the direction of his goal, and he truly believes he is destined to achieve his objective, then the universe will deliver into his hands the prize he craves.   He will then be held accountable for his agency.

I do not interfere with the laws I laid out by which the universe and everything in it are governed.  So when a man’s faith is misdirected and by it he achieves great power, and then proceeds to use that power to wreak havoc upon your little world, I do not step in and counteract the force of his resolve.  Have I not promised you free will to govern your affairs?  If I stepped in every time I was not happy with one of your decisions, what kind of freedom would that be?  Don’t those of you who are parents recognize your children must sometimes make their own mistakes, and don’t you stand aside and let them even though you may cringe in shared pain as they fall?   Does a child not learn best from painful experience?   The learning curve is no different for an adult, only the consequences are greater and the fall farther for the adult.

So what is the point of seeking great wealth if you have not prepared yourself for its proper use?  Why seek control over others’ lives if you have yet to learn to administer your own successfully?  Vast wealth will run through the hands of the spendthrift faster than sands through an hour glass. Great power will corrupt the hearts of all but the most righteous men.  Do not envy the man burdened under the weight of much wealth and many responsibilities.  You too will be tested. Think rather of your own stewardship of the gifts bestowed upon you.  Have you governed your talents so fruitfully you are worthy of more?  If so, then more is already on its way to you.

There is no point railing against the fate of your birth or your circumstances.  You cannot fool the universe.  As I said at the beginning, there are no secrets, no tricks, no scams involved.  You are the cumulative effect of your thoughts.   You control your destiny.

So I will take this opportunity to caution you to be mindful of your thoughts, particularly your negative ones, as you progress in faith and power.   For when a child dresses up as a superhero and jumps off a step pretending he can fly, his fall to earth is but a gentle jolt.  When a grown man convinces himself he can fly and jumps off the side of a mountain, he pays a much higher price for his ignorance.  A man with little has little to lose.  A man with much has much to lose, but the laws operate the same for both men.  When you have gained in wisdom and then turn aside from the constraints of discipline your fall from grace will be much harsher than if you never acquired wisdom in the first place.

With knowledge comes responsibility.  I will not leave you in ignorance, but I caution you to weigh in your heart of hearts whether or not you are ready to assume such accountability and accept the consequences of your decisions hereafter.

Will spring ever spring?

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Sometimes the weather outside is a perfect reflection of life inside.  Though spring officially arrived a few weeks ago and the Easter holiday has come and gone, winter still refuses to relinquish its relentless grip on the temperatures.  I woke up this morning to twenty nine degrees, which for us is about twenty degrees below normal.  I keep telling myself tomorrow will be warmer, but the weather man disagrees.  Tomorrow is in fact predicted to be worse than today.  I remind myself winter cannot last forever.  In a few short weeks it will be May and winter will finally have to take its place at the rear of the seasonal rotation.

Lately it seems as though my life is mimicking winter’s fierce refusal to let go.  I meticulously plan, and work, and sacrifice knowing eventually my efforts will be rewarded, but eventually seems to take longer than it should.  For weeks I keep careful watch on my diet, and exercise like a fiend, but the scale barely budges.  I scrape and save for a long cherished goal, and just when it’s within sight something comes up to push my prize further away.   At times like these it feels more like two steps back and one step forward rather than the other way around.

So what are my options? Do I throw up my hands and give up?  Do I decide it doesn’t matter what I do, or how hard I try, because life is hard and what’s going to happen is going to happen regardless of my efforts? Do I doubt my faith, my work, my will and surrender to the whims of randomness?  Even if I tried to find solace in such a solution I would soon find myself asking, now what? If my efforts are all for naught, what do I do now?  Why do anything at all?  What is the point of trying? And after a few hours, or days, or weeks spent wallowing in self-pity, then what?

The answer is then I would simply pick myself up, brush myself off, and begin again.  Surrender is never a permanent solution.  It is at best a temporary one, and sometimes even a necessary one in order to survive, but once the crisis has past, acceptance of defeat is in itself self-defeating.  To strive is the essence of the human condition.  To lift ourselves out of the chaos and confused muck of this physical world and make it a better place than we found it is an essential part of our purpose here.  The other part, the larger part, is to recognize though we may dwell in this physical world for a while, it is not our true essence.  This is not our true home.  It is merely a place we come to experience life in a myriad of circumstances.  It cannot defeat us because we are not here to do battle with it, only to experience it.

So let us bless both our winters and our springs, our defeats and our triumphs, our bitter disappointments as well as our most glorious highs.  We are both body and spirit.  This is only our encounter with life today.  Winter will soon pass, and in the middle of a hot summer afternoon or when summer lingers overlong and we dream of the cool breezes of autumn, we will look fondly back on these days and bemoan the heat of our then current experience.

Faith: A Blessing or a Curse?

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In the movie, Angels and Demons,  there’s a scene where the Cardinal asks Tom Hanks if he believes in God, and Tom Hanks’ character replies, “Faith is a gift I’ve yet to be given,” and no matter what side of the faith continuum we fall on, we nod our heads in understanding.  Faith is an argument neither side can win.  The believer’s faith is unshaken by the doubter’s ridicule, and the nonbeliever remains unconvinced by the faithful’s devotion.  You either believe or you don’t.  You’ve either received the gift of faith or you haven’t.

So are the recipients blessed or cursed? Do not the faithful sometimes look with envy in the direction of those who still call their lives their own?  Does the believer not look back on his own carefree days and wonder how he got from there to where he now finds himself?  Ask a priest if he always wanted to be a priest and you’re likely to receive a response ranging from the sheepish to the incredulous.  Some might be willing to share their struggles with you.  How they never in a million years saw the priesthood in their future, how some of them weren’t  even Catholic when God came knocking on their door with his preposterous invitation.

If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a divine demand, so often cloaked in the polite façade of a request, you might not realize how difficult it is to say no.  God doesn’t give up easily.  No matter how many times you slam the door in his face, he just stands there on your front porch patiently knocking on your door until you give up and let him in.  Once he takes up residence, you’re toast.  He’s there.  Always.  In the back of your mind.  Prodding, pushing, nagging.  A gift or a curse?

I take comfort from the stories of reluctant, sometimes astonished priests, as if even now, years later they can’t quite believe the crazy turn their lives took.  I look back on my own road to faith and laugh with the same delighted amazement as the dumbfounded priest.

My upbringing was somewhat unusual.  My father was  a contradiction, both Catholic and a professional scientist in a time when science was challenging God for supremacy of the universe.  My mother was no less a contradiction.  She too was Catholic, having converted as  young adult, but she possessed another source of faith.  She was psychic back in a time when her unusual gifts and interests had to be kept secret from the neighbors. So intermingled with First Communions and Confirmations were  crystal balls, tarot cards and the occasional séance.

My siblings and I were encouraged  to develop our relationship with God in our own way. Not surprisingly we left home and set off in all different directions.  I followed my mother’s path even when she warned me her way would not be mine.  The church I was brought up in held no real appeal for me.  My mother, who spent her entire life with one foot in this world and the other in the next, never saw the need for the formality of a weekly Mass.  Hers was an intensely personal and private devotion.

I learned from her, then studied at the feet of my aunt and grandmother.  The Awakening series is my tribute to those women I  loved, who mentored me and taught me the ancient ways largely lost when science replaced faith, and words like sacred, holy and reverence became obsolete in a world where mankind claims equality with God.

Imagine my surprise when years later, after all three had passed from this world, one morning I found myself  at the entrance to the church where I grew up. I pulled open the door with a feeling of both anticipation and reluctance.  At the sight of the familiar crucifix above the altar, I knelt and made the sign of the cross, then unsure of my welcome, took a place in a rear pew in the near empty church.  Daily mass was offered early so the faithful could get to work on time.  I knelt in the silence before the pre-dawn Mass and offered a hesitant prayer.

As if only a moment had passed rather than long years, I heard His familiar voice asking me if I was ready to come home now and what kept me away for so long.

I still have my mother’s crystal ball and tarot cards, and her picture of the Blessed Mother she always kept by her bed.  She was right.  My way is not her way, but I still remember and honor the ancient ways passed mother to daughter for generations.

The knowledge rests uneasily within me.  They’re gone, and I’m the only one left who still remembers.

Revelation: A Moment or a Lifetime?

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Perhaps both.  Many of us have experienced a singular moment of profound clarity when all the chaos and confusion we’re immersed in is washed away and the world suddenly makes perfect sense.  All  our questions are answered.   For perhaps the first time in our lives we understand our place in this existence and what we’re doing here, or at least what we’re supposed to be doing here.  For once we are no longer seekers, we are finders. We are found.  Everything is laid out before us and we are shown both our purpose and our history.  We discover, much to our surprise, we are in exactly the right place, at exactly the right moment, and we know exactly what’s ahead for us.

Like a benevolent haze, a sense of perfect rightness settles over us, and while we bask in its warmth,  it never occurs to us this instant of pure lucidity will be fleeting.  Yet it is almost immediately snatched away before we can even begin to grasp its repercussions or possibilities.  Within minutes, or at best, hours our impressions begin to fade.  Our memories of perfect clarity assume a fuzzy quality and we  begin to wonder if we imagined the entire, rather odd experience.  We rush to explain away what just happened to us, seeking the comfort of familiar ground in logical rationalizations.  We’re tired, over-worked, stressed.  Our rational selves conclude any viable reasonable explanation is preferable to the absurd truth.  So we quiet the new and yet familiar sense of restlessness within us.  We brush aside our burgeoning conviction there is something more out there;  that we are more than we allow ourselves to be.

Because if we don’t silence our doubts we risk disturbing our peace.  We start to question the status quo.  If we begin to have reservations about our current direction and where it’s taking us, we will likely be forced to confront some uncomfortable realities.  We may discover we no longer like the person staring back at us in the mirror, or we may no longer recognize the face as our own.  Inwardly we are changed, but those evolutions were not allowed to manifest themselves on the outside.  How long can we continue living in this divided state between who we used to be and who we are now?

So we hush our doubts.  We silence our questions and  cover our restlessness, hoping to lull our inner selves back to sleep.  We’re not ready to go there.  We’re not prepared to confront our illusions.  Our restiveness is forced to settle beneath the dream of forgetfulness we thrust upon it.  Though our disquiet sleeps, it does not die, even as we go about our daily lives hiding behind the façade of normalcy.  We press ourselves to accept our old limitations and reluctantly let go of those precious moments of perfect understanding.

While our restlessness is  banished for a few weeks or months, it is not forever exiled from our psyche.  Instead it waits, constantly searching for a gap in our defenses, stealing itself against a moment of weakness on the part of our rational selves.  One of those moments we’re not all right, when we’re no longer convinced we know everything and we’re ready to stop lying to ourselves about this being all there is and ever will be.

So it begins again, our search for something more, only now we’ve forgotten the way to a once familiar gate. We  stumble around in the darkness, unsettled to discover we lost what little ground we gained in our last attempt.  We revisit the past and try to recall old strategies that used to work for us only to find they are no longer effective,  or are only partially effective,  because we are no longer who we once were.  So we must seek out new strategies and painstakingly fit them into our new vision of ourselves, as though every time we fall and fail we are compelled to go back to the starting line and begin again.  Perhaps this is our penance for allowing ourselves to forget, for so casually rejecting wisdom’s gifts.  To go back to the beginning and carefully regain lost ground until we learn the value of her gifts.

Except now we’ve forgotten the way and we are dismayed to recall the treasure we so desperately seek was once within our grasp, and we carelessly discarded it.  So we commit to our pursuit with renewed determination.  We read, we study, we pray, we mediate, we contemplate.  We seek others traveling the same road in the hope they discovered some secret shortcut they might be willing to share. We grow discouraged at our slow progress.  We don’t remember our search being so difficult the first time.  Because back then we assumed revelation was a gift of a benevolent universe, or a random circumstance of chance we just happened to stumble upon.

Now we know better and we grow disheartened when we are not immediately shown the way.  Maybe we even abandon our search altogether, and once more send our souls back to sleep.  But to those who persevere wisdom continues to test their worthiness and occasionally drops precious pearls to mark their way. Though we are grateful for her encouragement, they do not satisfy us, for these we knew once and we are after more this time.  We yearn to experience again that singular moment of transparency and comprehension.  This time, we promise ourselves, when we find it we will value it for the prize it is.  This time we won’t talk ourselves out of our hard won progress. This time it’s going to be different, because we’re different.  We’re more.  We understand.

Journey to Enlightenment

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Though a more appropriate title might be Journey toward Enlightenment as the preposition ‘to’ implies once a final destination is reached the trip is over, while ‘toward’ recognizes the eternal elusiveness of the enlightened state. Yet understanding the elusiveness of our goal does not diminish the sanctity of our efforts. For it is a journey we must all one day embark on, either in this life or the next. Eventually we are all brought to the recognition that this life is a mere shadow of our true reality, and the gifts of an infinite and benevolent universe await us.
But. And it is a very large but. The forces of creation do not bestow their gifts on the ignorant and uninitiated. They know the worth of their offerings and are unwilling to cast their “pearls at the feet of swine”. Rather they seek those who appreciate the value of the treasures they are willing to grant them. Wisdom blesses those who faithfully pursue her. Abundance graces those who labor diligently for her rewards. Spiritual enlightenment is no different. Revelation is granted to those who value her. Faith is the reward of those who strive mightily towards him.
So where do we begin? Like all endeavors, the search to escape the imprisonment of ignorance begins with the acknowledgment of our lack, and our sincere desire to remedy it. Unfortunately after this initial admission, how we are to proceed from there is less evident. Perhaps this uncertainty is a test of our worthiness to be granted admittance through the gate to the road we seek. Maybe we are judged by how easily we abandon our search when confronted with roadblocks. Do we give up before we even give ourselves a chance to begin? Do we justify our lack of commitment by telling ourselves only gullible fools believe there is more to life than what we can see and hear and touch? Though we may tell ourselves this is true, and for a time sink back into our old comfort zones, we are not truly convinced by our rationalizations. Our longing to know the truth of who we are rests for a while, preparing in the silence of our spirits for a new attack on our cynicism. Until eventually the craving inside us builds to a point where are compelled to take action, to begin again…to search, to understand, to ultimately become our true selves, and not the mere reflection of self we exist as in this physical world.
So here we stand once again at the birth of a new year. Is this the year we finally push through the resistance of our doubts? Is this the year we finally make a commitment to ourselves…our eternal selves? When we look back over the coming twelve months at the beginning of another January, will we still be haunted by the same questions that disturb our peace now? Or instead will we stand at the dawn of a new year and release a deep sigh of relief in gratitude we didn’t waste the precious time given us. Perhaps we will even glance back over our shoulder and note with pride the starting line where we now stand is a comfortable distance behind us, and recognize we’ve finally gained true momentum in our search.
It is said progress is most easily measured by looking through the rear view mirror of our lives. Let’s make a commitment to look back next January from a place of greater understanding, and smile with contentment at how far we’ve come.

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