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How to create space for introspection

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Photo credit: Unsplash.com/Carli Jean Miller: carlijeenco.com

“I should really do more yoga.”

How many times has this thought, or something similar, crossed your mind? If you’re anything like me, you probably lost count a long time ago. I could use any excuse to rationalize my failure to get on the mat: not enough time, too tired, too hungry, not in the mood.

I know I’m not alone in my poor self-discipline. It’s tough to jam time for a personal practice into the crevices of my already busy life, and I’m sure you feel the same. But we read endless blogs and articles about how beneficial a daily personal practice is, and despite our excuses, we’re always left with that nagging feeling that we should be more committed.

Recently, however, I discovered there was a missing piece that could have been influencing my reluctance: a warm, welcoming space in which to practice. I didn’t have a dedicated area for my yoga mat, and the greatest amount of floor space I could muster was a bit of carpet with my bedroom furniture shoved in the corners. Even then, I would usually end up hitting the corner of the bookshelf or my bed when I swung out my arms and legs.

It dawned on me that if I really wanted to do more yoga, I would have to find a way to get more excited about being in the room. For those of us living in a small space, this can pose problems. Luckily, it’s not just the amount of space that makes a difference; it’s how you prepare the space, too.

Ultimately, I found I was much more likely to do yoga once I had properly set up the space, both physically and mentally. Not only did I create a warm surround, but I also warmed up to the activity in my mind and body.

If you’re struggling to stick with your practice—or start it—you’re not alone. Whatever personal practice you choose, be it yoga, writing, meditation or something else, you can create a more purpose driven life by being consistent. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

1. Make the area inviting. No one wants to meditate, draw, or dance in a freezing cold room under glaring fluorescent lights. Decorate your space with warm colors and pleasant smells. Life hack: cover an incandescent light bulb with a manila envelope to create a soft yellow glow in the room. If your personal practice involves exercise, make sure you have a comfortable place to rest. If you’ve vowed to get outdoors every day, take something with you, like hot tea in a thermos, to enjoy on the way.

2. Mentally prepare. Even taking a few deep breaths before you begin can help center and focus your energy. Do a check-in with yourself before you start. If you’re hungry or thirsty, take care of those needs first. Low blood sugar isn’t conducive to a creative atmosphere. Take note of your emotions and thoughts, too. This isn’t to say that you should banish any negative energy before beginning your practice, but be aware of that energy and use your personal practice to work through it.

3. Save the date. Schedule time for your practice on your calendar, and create a reminder if you think you’ll forget. You might also ask a friend to join you. This creates accountability for both parties while encouraging you to persist. Don’t feel like working on your short story today? Too bad! Your friend will be ringing your doorbell to join you any second. There’s no backing out now.

4. Scale it back. A personal practice doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out experience. If you’re having trouble sticking with a routine, consider taking a step down from high expectations of yourself. Start with gratitude in the morning: name three things you’re thankful for before you get out of bed. Work up to more time over a period of days, weeks or months.

Your personal time is important. The self-love and creativity you cultivate during your practice will continue nourishing you for the rest of the day while helping you find purpose in your life. As mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning…a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.”

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Unmentioned secrets in The Secret

Photo credit: Desiitaly/Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

Photo credit: Desiitaly/Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

Between the movie and bestselling book, The Secret has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide. If the word manifestation wasn’t popular before the book and movie release in 2006, it became absolutely pervasive afterward in conversations where personal growth, quantum physics and human potential were concerned.

The Secret claims that The Law of Attraction can be used to make desired outcomes appear in one’s life. Examples include more money, a new car, and the perfect partner. But if you’re one of the many people who bought the DVD or read the book and are wondering, 8 years later, why you’re still making minimum wage, driving a Ford Tempo, and stuck in an unfulfilling relationship, you may be wondering where your manifestation skills went astray.

The truth is that you either didn’t actually follow the instructions given through the teachings, or you were missing a critical factor of manifestation that The Secret didn’t tell you. The movie revealed many deep and wise truths, but the complete picture still isn’t there. In order to truly change your life for the better—without reverting into wishful thinking—it takes a bit more legwork than looking at a vision board every morning and picturing yourself on a beach in Fiji.

Here are 3 big secrets to manifestation that are not mentioned in The Secret:

1. Take Guided Action—It could be easy to watch The Secret and think that just thoughts and feelings alone will manifest your desire. It is true that these play a very large role in attracting the things you desire. And while the Universe will do a great amount of work in response to thoughts and feelings, you still have your own work to do to meet it halfway.

In The Secret, emotions are described as the guidance system to advise us whether we are in alignment with our highest potential. This could also be described as intuition or inspiration as it moves through the mental realm. We may have inspired thoughts to do a certain thing or to give attention to something external. Inspiration, whether from within or from something we see, hear or observe, is the universe guiding us in the direction of our desire. Without taking action when that guidance is presented, you could end up believing the principles don’t work because the universe never dropped your desired objective right in your lap.

2. Sphere of Availability—Manifestation is a type of strength and, like any other strength that relies upon a muscle, it must be built and nurtured. You cannot go directly from being able to lift 20 pounds to being able to lift 200 pounds. Similarly, you cannot go from just barely getting by and paying your bills to creating mass amounts of money and a millionaire lifestyle.

All things in the world of growth and development work in steps. Each step taken opens up the potential for the next step and an even greater expression of mastery. In regard to manifestation, this is called our Sphere of Availability—the step you’re currently on, and what is available to you. As you grow in experience with manifesting, so does your Sphere of Availability grow in relationship to your confidence and trust. Start with something very realistic in your world and then move on to larger goals as you build confidence and experience with your abilities.

3. Connection to ServiceThe Secret teaches that you are a creator with unlimited potential and that you are part of a greater matrix of oneness and connectedness. The motivation of the goal, as well as the intention behind it, is a defining factor in the speed at which manifestation is possible. All things are connected as all things are made of the same energy. The Secret touches upon this understanding. It does not, however, go into the power of service versus selfishness. When one is motivated from a desire to serve for the good of others, or the whole, then the universe responds in ways that are simply not available when the motivation is self-centered.

Think about what you want, and then think about whether or not it will be of benefit to others. Place your attention on what could be of greater benefit to others, or even to the whole of humanity, and inspiration will come. Inspiration will provide you with both a degree of service and the receiving of the essence of your desire. This will have a much stronger pull with the universe through the Law of Attraction.

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Bumper Stickers I Love #3

submitted by Jerry Kvasnicka

bumper sticker #2As I stated in the initial installment of this series I find a lot of wisdom in bumper stickers and keep a list of them handy for illustrating and driving home points I’m seeking to make in casual conversation or more public statements. Bumper stickers seem to have a marvelous ability to reduce a fact or principle to essence and convey the result in a form that, though possibly provocative, is generally palatable and often quite amusing. As I’ve had a life-long interest in metaphysics and spirituality, I find these pithy little messages particularly suitable for challenging fundamentalist extremism and separating genuine spirituality from religious facades and pretensions. So here are some more of my favorites:

IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS, WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE HAPPY?

Of course the obvious answer is that ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance of the truth of oneself, ignorance of the way life was designed to work, how can that produce happiness? Ignorance of what I call the creative process of life is antithetical to happiness; it results in misery and pain, physical, mental and emotional pain. And this is exactly what the humanity is experiencing. The deplorable nature of the human condition is dramatic testimony to ignorance, an abysmal neglect of the creative process, plunging the world into profound darkness.

Another familiar bumper sticker comes to mind in this regard: BEAM ME UP SCOTTY, THERE’S NO INTELLIGENT LIFE DOWN HERE. To this someone might respond, “What do you mean, no intelligent life? Look at the scientific and technological progress the human race has made. We have super computers, smart phones, satellite television, bullet trains, airplanes, submarines and electronic cigarettes. We have multitudes of libraries with billions of books storing massive amounts of information. We have Wikipedia and Google. We’ve put a man on the Moon and have Spirit and Opportunity on Mars! What do you mean we’re not intelligent?”

There is a difference between IQ (intelligence quotient) and what I refer to as SIQ (spiritual intelligence quotient). The former has to do with “exoteric technology,” knowledge about things and how to dissect and manipulate things in the physical world. The latter has to do with “esoteric technology,” knowing how life is actually designed to work; it is concerned with the meaning and purpose of life. While humanity has demonstrated a modicum of advancement in IQ (knowledge about), its SIQ lies inert in a deep cavern of darkened understanding. There has been an endeavor to climb out of this pit of spiritual ignorance with religious beliefs and practices, but these products of exoteric thinking have only served to seal human beings in their self-created tomb. RELIGIONS ARE JUST CULTS WITH MORE MEMBERS, reads another bumper sticker. How true. They have just served to separate human beings from the truth of love and the nature of creation. And also from each other.

I used to write and edit for a magazine called Ontological Thought. Ontology is a branch of metaphysics that has to do with the nature and science of being. Here is an area of esoteric technology that human beings might profitably study to begin to develop an SIQ. But mental study by itself will never yield the truth of being. I have discovered that there is one great principle that opens the door to truth, to the whole panorama of life’s creative process and ultimately to happiness, and it is simply this: “You only know what you express.” The truth of love, the Source, the divine fire, the magnificent riches of the creative process, the highest and finest qualities of true character—all these lie at the very core of my being. But I won’t know them and will remain in ignorance until I give them expression in my living, and only when I do so will I begin to experience a deep and lasting happiness.

[Note also these related bumper stickers: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NO MATCH FOR NATURAL STUPIDITY; NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF STUPID PEOPLE IN LARGE GROUPS; GOD WANTS SPIRITUAL FRUITS, NOT RELIGIOUS NUTS.]

I’M ALREADY AGAINST THE NEXT WAR

In the late 1960s I was a very passionate protester against the war in Vietnam. As one of five charter members of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) in Colorado Springs, I led protest marches and addressed large crowds in Acacia Park in the heart of the business district. With the only printing press in possession of the local “new left,” I supplied all of the leaflets for these demonstrations. I also recall standing on the other side of a fence at Fort Carson facing a line of soldiers and trying to offer them flowers while helicopters swirled overhead. I doubt that any of this actually contributed to ending the war. The only possible value it had was building a sense of community with fellow protesters.

What good does it do to be against the next war or the current war or any war? To be against anything is actually a form of war. There may be no guns, bombs or other weapons involved, yet it is the very attitude of opposition that delivers a vibrational current of destruction, an influence that not only does violence to others but also to the person from whom this current emanates. In fact, if we could somehow visualize all of the havoc caused by negative attitudes such as hate, resentment, jealousy, etc., I think we would be horrified. The first step toward genuine peace on earth has to do with the dissolution of these attitudes in human hearts and minds.

I recently read an article by a woman who had a degree in “peace studies” from a recognized university. Is peace a subject that can be studied in a college course of instruction? I have a hard time wrapping my head around this. Peace is an attitude, a quality of character that can be expressed in living. Gandhi is noted for saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Similarly with peace, if one wishes to see it in the world it must be embodied in living. This is the fundamental starting point. The only way to know peace is to be peace.

There is another bumper sticker that reads: WE NEED A DEPARTMENT OF PEACE. I don’t think so. This seems to suggest that politicians and officials in the Defense Department could somehow achieve peace. This bureaucratization and militarization of peace has never worked; it only produces a temporary cessation of hostilities that isn’t really peace at all. The end never justifies the means; if war is the means, how can the end be peace? I would also note that most of the wars in human history have been religious in nature. Why? Simply because religious beliefs can do nothing but divide people and nations. Surely it is time for these mindsets and the institutions they have produced to dissolve.

A statement made by the Buddha that could well be made into a bumper sticker reads: PEACE COMES FROM WITHIN. DO NOT SEEK IT WITHOUT. Humanity has been seeking it externally for thousands of years to no avail. Peace begins in the stillness of individual hearts and minds. The song written by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller in 1955 still rings true: LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH AND LET IT BEGIN WITH ME. The truth of who I am, the center of my being is at peace and this peace may be conveyed into my world through the quality of character that I express. Everyone I meet and everything thing I encounter is consistently blessed and uplifted. I never oppose anything, including war. I’m not on earth to be against anything, just to be for life.

GOD LOVES YOU! AND I’M REALLY TRYING

Any person who makes this statement is obviously out of touch with the truth of his or her being. In true identity there is union with the truth of love at the core of being and that love flows automatically to everyone and everything in the environment. There is no trying involved. And yet the world is filled with people, especially religious people, who are trying to be good—good Christians, good Muslims, good Buddhists, whatever. This trying is based on the assumption that one is not already good and must strive to measure up to some concept of goodness manufactured by the mind. But the truth is that we are already good, indeed we are perfect at our core, and we only need to activate that perfection.

In his essay “O Holy Night” David Karchere writes this about “trying”: “There are parts of a human life, particularly a religious or spiritual life, that are characterized by aspiration and trying. When a person feels separate from that reality of love, the reality of their own being, when they make an attempt to somehow be that reality in their life, it comes out as aspiration and it comes out as trying to be something, as if you were not already that reality that you are trying to be. Our life should not be characterized by trying to be something that we are not. The whole purpose of our life is to wholly be who we are and embody who we are. What would it mean to give up a life of trying, and instead of spending a life trying to become something that you are not, spend a life of embodying who you are?”

Even more absurd than trying to be something I am not is trying to be something that I already am! Yet how many on a spiritual path are engaged in this pointless exercise? It all springs from a persisting separation in consciousness from the truth of identity in God. The statement GOD LOVES YOU! AND I’M REALLY TRYING is obvious evidence of this separation. Clearly if I accept identity in God and God by definition loves everyone, then I love everyone. No problem! If it’s not a bumper sticker already, I would nominate this accurate statement: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

BORN OK THE FIRST TIME!

Yes, once is enough. There is absolutely no need for me to go through the birth process again. The Christmas holidays always remind me that every human being on the face of the earth is immaculately conceived and has a life ahead of him or her to unfold and reveal that immaculate nature. Yes there is a gradual awakening to the reality of this divine origin, but since it’s been there from the beginning, there is certainly no need to somehow recreate or revive it in some kind of second birth.

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org

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Home Is Where the Heart Is

submitted by Larry Pearlman

If Home is where the heart is
Then may your Home be blessed
A shelter from the storms of Life
A place of rest,
And when each day is over
And toil put in its place
Your Home’s dear warmth
Will bring its smile
To light the saddest face!
(John McLeod)

Just the word, “home” evokes a warm feeling in most of us. But we certainly don’t all think of the same image. For those of us who grew up in a home with loving parents and siblings, that scene may spring to mind. For others, it is the safe, loving place they developed with their own children and spouse. Perhaps a cozy little cabin or apartment that you share only with your cat is what warms your heart or even a cardboard box under a bridge with a special blanket.

I have been in small African village huts, Scottsdale mansions, tents in remote Costa Rican jungles, cottages near a lake, teepees in the Arizona mountains, condos on the Florida beach, and many other settings that people called home.

For the past 16 months or so I have been travelling. I have lived in 3 different countries and 4 different states in the US with my longest stay in any one place being 3 months. When asked where I live, I sometimes reply, “I’m homeless.” That is very accurate in the sense that I have no place to decorate, set up furniture, and fill with “stuff.” I have, however, felt right at home during this entire time. Whether staying with friends or relatives, who have been most generous, or literally being on the road staying in motels (don’t ask about the 3 days in Odessa, Texas!), I have been at home.

In theory I have believed for years that I bring “home” with me wherever I go. Living in NJ for 30 years and Arizona for 30 years, however, did not provide me with much opportunity to prove that out. This journey I am now on, along with the one I took in my 20s and describe in my book, Journaling the Journey, gave me that opportunity. Like a crab (well…I AM a Cancer), I found that I was literally taking my home with me. Not the brick and mortar perhaps, but the very essence of what allows one to feel at home – peace, safety, warmth and love.

Home is where the heart is. Many people may interpret that as meaning that their heart, their emotional tie, is always back to the place they consider home, the place where they felt peace, safety, warmth and love, no matter where they happen to be physically. I see it a bit differently. My view is that I bring all of these elements of home with me in my heart – not only for me but also to provide for those with whom I come into contact. When my heart is full of love, then I am in position to offer the peace, safety, warmth and love of home to everyone in my world, whether long-time friend, relative, or new acquaintance. I can BE that “shelter from the storms of life,” that “place of rest.”

What does “home” mean to you? Please express your ideas in a reply to this article. May you always feel at home wherever you are.

Larry retouched by Don ReilyLarry Pearlman is the author of Journaling the Journey: 25 Spiritual Insights to Light The Way. Larry is a personification of the evolution in consciousness that recognizes that spirituality and the material world are not mutually exclusive. While working 32 years in corporate America he has taught courses in “The Art of Creative Living” and served as a faculty member for “The Opening,” an 8 day experiential class in discovering your full potential. He served in the Peace Corps in Ghana 2007-2009 and then lived for three years at Sunrise Ranch, a spiritual community in Colorado, where he hosted a radio show, “Evolution in Consciousness.” For more information, see his website.

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Avoiding “Gravity Attacks”

Fallingsubmitted by Jerry Kvasnicka

The term “gravity attack” is not in any dictionary that I own. As to the time, place and manner of its coinage I know nothing. I first heard it used by one of the presenters at a conference I attended many years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its use brought forth laughter from the one thousand assembled, but I wonder how many could have explained just why they were laughing.

Gravity, as we are all aware, is the force that holds us and the rest of creation on the surface of this planet. It is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “the quality of having weight” or “the gravitational attraction of the mass of the earth, the moon or a planet for bodies at or near its surface.” But what is a “gravity attack”? Sure the force of gravity doesn’t attack human beings or anything else on the planet! So what have we here? An eternal enigma?

No. My recent experience of what can only be described as a “gravity attack” clarified the term for me. Perhaps an account of this experience will do the same for you. It all started one morning in June when I woke up with a severe throat infection. I immediately began treating it with heavy doses of vitamin C, extra fluids and plenty of rest. After several days it began to abate and I sought to resume normal activity. Within a few hours it was back again, just as painful as before, and this time accompanied by feelings of extreme fatigue which shortly turned into utter exhaustion. I resumed vitamin C, fluids, rest, and even underwent a four-day fast. The throat pattern eventually cleared. But the exhaustion remained and remained and remained.

Day followed day and week followed week, when it seemed I could do nothing more than maintain a prone position on my bed or, on “good” days when I could manage to walk ninety feet, on my chaise lounge outside. Needless to say, over the weeks I tried everything: vitamin C, vitamin E, brewer’s yeast, dessicated liver, Spirulina, fresh vegetable juices, a high-fiber diet, comfrey-pepsin tablets, various herb tea formulations, cayenne pepper, colon irrigations, massage therapy, meditation, special breathing exercises, chanting and, of course, prayer. I even read books on miraculous cures. None of this was to any avail whatsoever. Adding to the frustration was the fact that no one, including a medical doctor, could find anything obviously wrong with me.

This energy crisis continued for two months, with only one brief respite: by what almost seemed to me to be some kind of divine dispensation I found enough strength to attend the above mentioned conference in Vancouver. This offered a glimmer of hope that someday I might resemble a living person again. But upon returning to Colorado the former malaise set in once more. I recall standing in front of the mirror with barely enough strength to put on a necktie. Bending over to pick something up was a supreme ordeal. Even the thought of getting up to change channels on the TV was tiring. (Thank God, I now have a remote!) My weight plummeted to some thirty-five pounds under what is considered to be normal for my height. My closest friends and I were at our wits’ end. Which, as some are aware, may be the beginning of wisdom.

On the day after my alarmed parents jokingly and not so jokingly threatened to forcibly take me to a specialist, I had an hour’s conversation with a trusted mentor, a man whose integrity and sensitivity would qualify him for sainthood were he of that persuasion. After enumerating all of my physical symptoms and the dietary and other measures designed to deal with them, I awaited his reply. It came in the form of a question: “And what do you have going here?”

“Here? Where? What do you mean?” What he meant was, what are my immediate responsibilities on Sunrise Ranch, the spiritual community where I was living at the time, and how am I handling them? While I fully expected to spend our time discussing physical causes such as adrenal insufficiency, intestinal blockage and low blood sugar, to my astonishment and consternation we spent an hour considering whether I was offering sufficient value into my work on Sunrise Ranch! Had he missed the point entirely?

For several days following the conversation I was puzzled, if not bewildered. The implication—that I was not giving value where it was needed and that this had something to do with my condition—seemed utterly preposterous. But one afternoon as I reclined on my lounge chair gazing at cloud formations I suddenly realized it was all true. For several months my mind had indeed been somewhere else: contemplating the future, imagining myself in other environments, busy with a miscellany of spiritual projects that I hoped would materialize some day. Handling my immediate responsibilities had virtually become a matter of going through the motions until I could leave for some kind of service elsewhere—vital service elsewhere to be sure, but still elsewhere, which might as well be nowhere.

“Arise, take up thy bed and walk.” These words seemed to form in the clouds, compelling instant choice. And so, ignoring the stiffness and pain, I arose, picked up the lounge chair and put it away. The “gravity attack” was over.

Habitual failure to express life in the circumstance at hand, to give value right here instead of out there, progressively weakens the physical capacity to the point where it can no longer resist the force of gravity. The resulting disease may be given a variety of names but it is all a manifestation of the same thing—a “gravity attack.” The most effective way to handle such an attack is not, as most seem to think, by a change of diet, a change of climate or a change of psychiatrists. The key is a change of attitude. A person no longer reclines on a lounge chair, waiting for energy to return so that he can proceed with a self-determined course of action. He rises up, gives energy into whatever task is at hand (and it is quite essential that some of these tasks be physical) and thereby generates the energy he needs to move in the way that life opens before him.
(more…)

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Poems by Ford North

submitted by Ford North

Psalm Advice

Source guides me
to all that I am, want and need
Nourishing nectar fuels my surrender
sustaining my soul, nurturing…All

Besides clear waters, I sit and drink
restores my spirit, for the next round
Harmonious flow moves me,
through Life – day by day

Dwell in the home of Self
be with Life, as unveiled to me
I rise up from my own shadows
to be the light of my Life

Innocent of reprisals
gifts befitting these effortless efforts
Source, itself, rewards me
anoints with oils and herbs

My cup runneth over…

Poet Errant

Wandering through words

Weaving tapestries of whimsy

Waxing the night weird

Left or right?

What to write?

Wrong or right?

Perceptions wild

Expressions wander

Imagining wonder

Stay to the path?

Play to the beat?

Draw within the lines?

Why was traveling

The unknown road

Wrong to go?

Lost in the woods

Adrift at sea

Astray in the desert

Adventure discovered

Unearthed renewed

Found creation

Experimentation

Leads to mutations

Compound compositions

Roving outside limits

Questing for truth

Within the boundaries

New ways expand

Old traditions stand

Playing with words

IMAG1924(1)Ford North is the focus of the sunrise ranch media department. he started in the film industry at the age of 5. he wrote, directed and produced his first feature called “how to love: the movie” in 2004 as a christmass present to himself. he continues to be expressive through his writing of poetry. Ford is discovering the power of sharing through his conscious processing of his spiritual awakening. He uses poetry to express the invisible process so other feel inspired to share their stories so we all benefit from this amazing surrender to what is our journey together.

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More Wisdom from Bumper Stickers

submitted by Jerry Kvasnicka

As I stated in the initial installment of this series I find a lot of wisdom in bumper stickers and keep a list of them handy for illustrating and driving home points I’m seeking to make in casual conversation or more public statements. Bumper stickers seem to have a marvelous ability to reduce a fact or principle to essence and convey the result in a form that, though possibly provocative, is generally palatable and often quite amusing. As I’ve had a life-long interest in metaphysics and spirituality, I find these pithy little messages particularly suitable for challenging fundamentalist extremism and separating genuine spirituality from religious facades and pretensions. So here are some more of my favorites:

JESUS IS COMING, LOOK BUSY

My father was a painting contractor and I worked with him for many years. I recall a time when we were painting a suite of rooms on one of the upper floors of a large office building. During our mid-morning coffee break my father happened to glance out the window at the street below and saw Mr. Hills, the building manager for whom we worked, entering the building. My father, sensing he was coming up to see us, nervously warned, “Hills is coming! Hills is coming!” So we had to immediately put aside our coffee and doughnuts, grab our paintbrushes and act as if we were zealously working away.

I think something similar occurs in the minds of those who expect the return of Jesus: “Surely if the great cosmic supervisor is coming we want to be sure to impress him with our good works! Perhaps this will earn us a more exalted place in heaven. So let’s look as busy as possible doing things that Jesus would like.” This is such a childish attitude. Even if we could assume Jesus is coming again how do we know what he would like? He might well enjoy seeing human beings drinking coffee and eating donuts!

In the Bible it is recorded that when the prophet Samuel was given the task of selecting a new king for Israel he was given this instruction: “Look not on his countenance or the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Even if Jesus should somehow reappear on this planet do you think he would be impressed by and reward outer appearances of morality or spirituality? I don’t think so. Obviously he would be concerned with the heart, the inner state of the individual.

But let’s get real here: Jesus is not coming again. Even if the being that historically appeared as Jesus should incarnate again on earth it is virtually inconceivable that he or she would be named Jesus. And this being would certainly not come floating down in the sky as some naively imagine but would undergo the natural processes of conception, gestation and birth. Moreover, Jesus himself said at one point, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” What this suggests to me is that in order for the Christ Spirit to manifest on earth there must be a spiritual body of people who are centered in and expressing that Spirit. If such a receptive host were present, i.e. a womb of spiritual substance, then it could be possible for what we might call the Lord of Love, the supreme point of focus for this planet, to appear again in the flesh. This clearly puts the responsibility for divine expression squarely upon us, and merely “looking busy” will not suffice.

MEN WHO CHANGE DIAPERS CHANGE THE WORLD

Changing a diaper is certainly not the most glamorous or even pleasant activity that one can engage in. Yet it is something that needs to be done, and if it is done in a right spirit and with love, a very positive influence is extended through the subconscious connections each of us has with the rest of humanity. This applies to every job, every activity no matter how seemingly small and insignificant and no matter how unpleasant. Most of the things we do during a day are menial and part of a daily routine, not exactly calculated to induce ecstasy. But once again, depending on our attitude in handling these things, something wonderfully uplifting and life-enhancing can be brought into the world.
As the custodian of a large building my responsibilities include vacuuming, sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms and washing all of the coffee cups and other dishes that are used during the day. You might wonder how any of these activities could possibly be thought of as spiritual. And yet the physical act of cleaning has its spiritual counterpart. As I clean something up externally something is happening internally: a cleansing and purifying process is activated in my own consciousness that in turn activates a clearing at some level of the collective consciousness. Yes this happens with any work that is done with a positive attitude and right spirit, but when the work is menial or what some would even consider degrading, and certainly when it involves something as messy and revolting as changing a diaper, I believe the current of blessing that is released into body of humanity is especially strong.

Throughout the 1990s in my work as an elementary school custodian I not only did the daily cleaning work in the school but also often had to clean up some pretty ugly messes left by the children. In an article about my work (“How I Found Fulfillment as a Janitor”) I wrote this: “With regard to any work, what is done matters far less than how it is done; what is accomplished externally is less important than the internal process of the person doing the work. Elucidating the teachings of Carlos Castaneda in Quest magazine, David Copeland describes this dual function as ‘doing one thing, anything in fact, and doing it impeccably, and yet knowing that you are actually doing something else—practicing the warrior’s path by exercising impeccable action and unbending intent.’ In other words, as I give absolute attention to my cleaning responsibilities, doing everything precisely as it should be done, pouring my very being into the handling of each detail, a refined quality of warrior substance is generated on an invisible level and something powerful forms with myself that impacts the cosmic whole.”

Did you ever imagine that simply by changing a diaper you have an opportunity to “practice the warrior’s path” and impact the cosmic whole? And in a most beautiful and transformative way if you’re doing it impeccably and as an expression of the impeccable being that you are in essence. How true it is that “men who change diapers change the world.” And oh yes, the same is true for women!

MY WIFE YES, MY DOG MAYBE, MY GUN NEVER

Believe it or not this could be just a slight exaggeration. I can well imagine a man who would sooner give up his wife and his faithful dog than he would his precious gun. Oh how obsessed many men (and women as well) are with their guns and in the U.S. their assumed Second Amendment right to bear arms. Yes I know it is said that “guns don’t kill, people do.” Yet I wonder how many fewer people would be killed in this country if no one owned a gun.

Mass shootings at a theater in Colorado, a school in Connecticut and the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. have intensified the debate over gun control. Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, a vehement opponent of any kind of control, has said that a bad guy with a gun can only be stopped by a good guy with a gun. But according to an article in The Daily Banter by Bob Cesca “Guns owned by ‘good guys’ have been responsible for thousands of deaths every year, including the recent spike in children shooting other children using guns legally purchased by adults. In terms of mass shootings, more than 75 percent of all firearms used in mass shootings between 1982 and 2012 were obtained legally by men whom the state considered to be ‘good guys’ at the time of purchase.”

Here are some other gun-related bumper stickers that seem to define the mentality of those who are wedded to their guns: “GOD CREATED MEN BUT WINCHESTER MADE THEM EQUAL”; “HAPPINESS IS A WARM BAZOOKA”; “NEVER MIND THE DOG, BEWARE OF OWNER”; “INSURED BY A .357 MAGNUM”; “I’LL GIVE UP MY GUN WHEN THEY PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD FINGERS.” Frankly it’s hard to imagine a sense of identity that has slipped to such a level, a level where personal meaning and significance are absolutely attached to guns and other weaponry, where one’s sense of well-being depends on shooting targets, shooting animals or, God forbid, shooting people. And yet, judging from the impassioned rhetoric of many gun owners, I’m inclined to believe it’s true: life without guns is inconceivable! What level of consciousness does this suggest? It has been stated that “the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.” A child in an adult body armed with an instrument that can kill. What a grotesque and disturbing image. Surely it is time to grow up!

But I don’t really want to become involved in the gun control debate; in one sense it doesn’t really matter. In their present state human beings will find ways to kill each other whether they have guns or not. For they live in an unreal world created by the human mind armed with its concepts of good and evil. They are identified with externals—with smart phones, SUVs, shopping malls and semiautomatics—rather than with the internal truth of themselves. Underlying it all is a culture of fear, fear that what I have—my home, my family, my country, my beliefs, my life—might be taken from me and so I have to defend myself and my possessions, with guns if necessary. Only when the culture of fear is replaced by a culture based on unconditional love will the problem of gun violence and all other forms of violence be dissolved.

IT USED TO BE WINE, WOMEN & SONG; NOW IT’S BEER, OL LADY & TV

I include this one just for a good laugh, though perhaps we could think of people we know in whom the passion and vitality of youth have crumpled into a stagnant mediocrity. I’m sure it would never happen to us! Midway in my 72nd year I guess I’m being tested somewhat in this regard. Fortunately in the spiritual community where I live there are several others of greater age than I who are providing marvelous examples of vibrant life and passion for purpose, in a sense leaving me without excuse. Wine improves with age and in alignment with the creative process of life so can people.

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the spirituality section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

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Reflections on Beauty

submitted by Larry Pearlman

Sitting on a hillside in Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica, I look past the violet, yellow, and green homes with their red tile roofs to the pretty little town nestled in this verdant valley of hills/mountains. Through the palms and tree leaves swaying in the brisk morning breeze, I see a peaceful blue sky with light, friendly white clouds that join their siblings until they form a solid gray mass at the mountain peaks – not a threatening, rain-bearing mass but rather a subdued gathering of chalk dust on the sky’s blackboard.

I choose to see the beauty before me in these moments knowing that other moments of potential appreciation will be stolen by focus elsewhere – perhaps the effort of walking these steep hills, conversation with another, or simply whatever becomes routine in these few days visiting my friend Richard.

Right now, however, I am struck with the Oneness that connects this scene with the Rocky Mountain backdrop beyond Loveland, Colorado, the rolling ocean in Fort Lauderdale, the natural color profusion of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the breath-stealing, ever-changing hues of the Grand Canyon. So much beauty in this world and it is all connected in the very essence of beauty.

There was a TV show (one of my favorites) called “Highlander”. The catch-phrase of the show was, “There can be only one”. In this context, that meant that those who were immortal had to keep killing each other because, in the end, there could be only one. Yeah, I know – not a great plot line for my favorite show but the guy was REALLY cool and he had a sword! Go ahead – rent the old TV series and tell me you don’t just love it!

But I digress. I really want to consider that catch-phrase in a different context – that of beauty and truth. As I noted above, the essence of beauty is the same, regardless of the form. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So what is it that makes something “beautiful”? It is an essence that is perceived because the perceiver knows the truth of this essence in their own core.

We feel filled with awe and appreciation when we see a natural scene, a painting, a person, a baby, or hear a symphony, taste an impeccable dish, smell the aromas from a kitchen, or touch the skin of someone we love and it connects us to that essence of beauty.

The next step is to connect the dots and know that “there can be only one”. There is only one beauty because that essence is a single source, manifesting in all of these various, wondrous ways. So when I sit here looking over this beautiful little valley, I am connected to the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic Ocean, the Rocky Mountains, the veldt of South Africa and so much more. I am connected to the beauty that is in you and each other person and creature on the planet.

As I feel that deeply, I begin to know the truth: There can be only One.

Larry retouched by Don ReilyLarry Pearlman is the author of Journaling the Journey: 25 Spiritual Insights to Light The Way. Larry is a personification of the evolution in consciousness that recognizes that spirituality and the material world are not mutually exclusive. While working 32 years in corporate America he has taught courses in “The Art of Creative Living” and served as a faculty member for “The Opening,” an 8 day experiential class in discovering your full potential. He served in the Peace Corps in Ghana 2007-2009 and then lived for three years at Sunrise Ranch, a spiritual community in Colorado, where he hosted a radio show, “Evolution in Consciousness.” For more information, see his website.

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From Externals to Internals: Replacing Religion with Primal Spirituality

submitted by Jerry Kvasnicka

David Karchere, the director of the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community where I live, recently posed this question in a talk he gave to the community: “Why do people create religion, particularly religion that distorts the nature of Being?” He went on to answer his question this way: “Behind a convoluted religion is a person or a people that have lost their innocence. They have lost their primal spirituality and have turned to sophisticated manipulation of the world to try to achieve happiness.”

This manipulation implies that they have focused on something external to themselves to give them a sense of meaning and fulfillment. The fixation on externals takes a variety of forms: a system of doctrines and beliefs, an assortment of sacred objects and relics, a set of rituals and practices, charismatic religious figures, sacred spaces, etc. The religious devotee in effect says, “These things make me holy; they give me salvation; they guaranty my eternal security in heaven. I don’t have to do anything; all I have to do is believe in the efficacy of these things.”

In other words, by believing that something external does it for them, human beings have a convenient excuse for neglecting to do the essential internal work in consciousness that activates primal spirituality—the innate, intuitive knowing of the truth of love and of Being with which we are born. They have in essence divorced themselves from their own reality and created a world of illusion where it becomes necessary to posit some external means of personal and collective salvation. The long history of conflict, corruption and unfathomable misery on this planet provides conclusive proof that such an approach doesn’t work and is fundamentally alien to life.

Religion is not the only form this fixation on externals takes. Human beings have also sought personal and collective salvation in such things as politics, science, money, military force and, more recently, social networking. In fact it could be said that religions have been made out of these things—people and organizations absolutely obsessed with bending the external world to their personal and collective will.

In the talk referenced above David went on to suggest that it is time to replace the distortions of religion with “primal spirituality.” Many in the world, particularly young people, are awakening to this necessity. As is quite clear from observing their exodus from mainline church denominations, they are quite ready to jettison religious orthodoxy in the quest for something genuine. But unfortunately the spiritual path they subsequently embark on in many cases involves more external manipulation or, as David puts it, “more convoluted beliefs, more religious fabrication.” Once again a failure to do the internal work required for authentic spiritual fulfillment.

Donna Visocky, publisher of BellaSpark Magazine, describes something of what is required in these words: “An energetic transformation has and is taking place on the planet, and though it has not exactly manifested in our physical world the way we imagined, it is showing up in us. We can feel it; something has definitely shifted in our core, for the energies are calling us to change. We are all being nudged, guided and sometimes literally pushed into becoming who we were meant to be. The change happening on the planet is an internal one and just as Mother Earth is going through her own rebirth so too are we being born again.”

This new birth is a movement back to primal spirituality, from externals to internals. I can no longer look to something external to impart sacredness and provide salvation. I am called to be my own savior and the savior of my world. How? By simply being who I am, by returning to my own innate, intuitive knowing of the truth. This is accomplished by expressing in everyday living the qualities of true or divine character with which I was endowed simply by virtue of incarnating on earth. Qualities such as integrity, dignity, nobility, honor, courage, patience, stability, generosity, tranquility and many more. This endowment of true values needs to be activated; I won’t know that these qualities are my very nature until I give them expression. Their full expression restores primal spirituality and the awareness of oneness with the divine.

People who come to Sunrise Ranch to participate in our Full Self Emergence program or any of our other classes are essentially invited to do just one thing: come home. Come home, not to some external system of beliefs or teachings, not to some charismatic leader or extraordinary organization, not to some spiritual practice or technique that is guaranteed to put you in touch with God and transform your life. No, just come home to your primal spirit, to your inner core, to the bedrock truth of who you are, and experience this beautiful character by simply revealing it in the supportive spiritual context of the Sunrise community.

So surely it is time to break with the fatal habit of fingering something external that we imagine will do for us what only we can do. Religion and all of its paraphernalia must be replaced by primal spirituality if the world is ever to know anything approximating transformation. And it is all accomplished by simply coming home to and relaxing into the truth of unconditional love at our core and embodying that truth in living.

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the spirituality section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

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Bumper Stickers I Love

bumper sticker #2submitted by Jerry Kvasnicka

I am open to inspiration and insight from any source, and so when a catalog of bumper stickers arrived in the mail for me one day, I decided to open it instead of instinctively throwing it into the recycling bin. I was delightfully surprised by the treasury of wisdom that I found, and I now keep the catalog of these succinct gems on top of my desk so that I can quickly bring them up to illustrate and drive home points I’m seeking to make in casual conversation or more public statements.

Bumper stickers seem to have a marvelous ability to reduce a fact or principle to essence and convey the result in a form that, though possibly provocative, is generally palatable and often quite amusing. As I’ve had a life-long interest in metaphysics and spirituality, I find these pithy little messages particularly suitable for challenging fundamentalist extremism and separating genuine spirituality from religious facades and pretensions. So here are some of my favorites:

WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS HAVING A PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE

Our essence is spiritual, not physical. We are here in physical form on earth to release and experience this spiritual essence. We are certainly not the products of evolution out of primeval slime. We as creator beings were here first and the rest of creation in effect devolved out of us. Yet human beings have believed and acted as though exactly the opposite were true—that they somehow evolved out of lower forms of life and are thereby relegated to a subhuman existence that must forever struggle to rise out of the human condition, perhaps only in some kind of heavenly afterlife.

No, it is right here on earth that we belong. This is the arena for action; this is why we incarnated—to bring heaven down here. Human religions have, in effect, turned the bumper sticker around: WE ARE PHYSICAL BEINGS TRYING TO HAVE A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. When this physical origin of human beings is accepted, the only recourse for attempting to experience something spiritual is for the human mind to develop concepts and beliefs of what it thinks spirituality might be like. So this is what it has done and this is what religions are—piles and piles of human concepts, fabrications, by-products of human imagination. Considering the deplorable world of illusion that has been created on this basis, isn’t it about time we got back to reality? WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS HAVING A PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE!

WHEN YOU’RE OVER THE HILL, YOUR SPEED PICKS UP

It is commonly assumed that as you age, you slow down, physically, mentally and in every other way. But I’m discovering that those who are spiritually alive, who are aligned with the creative process of life, actually pick up speed in terms of mental and even physical dexterity, artistic ability and across-the-board creative capacity. I’m now in my seventy-second year, no doubt qualifying for over-the-hill status, and while there are a few physical tasks that I now find slightly challenging, the rest of my capacities are fully on line. And then some! Wisdom does indeed come with age, and with wisdom comes an acceleration of creative output.

The increase of speed that is possible to older individuals is also possible to older organizations, older communities and older movements, provided once again that they are spiritually aligned with the way things work. The spiritual community where I live (Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado) is now sixty-eight years old, probably one of the oldest intentional communities in the United States. The communal wisdom accumulated over these years has allowed for an expansion of our capacity to welcome and encompass people. We frequently host groups of around one hundred people for a week or ten days at a time, and last summer Sunrise was the setting for the Arise Festival, bringing several thousand people to our land. In these “senior years” our speed has definitely picked up!

GET INVOLVED…THE WORLD IS RUN BY THOSE WHO SHOW UP

Several years ago, being unemployed and having very little money, I applied for a job as a janitor and was hired. My initial assignment was just two nights a week cleaning the offices of a power company. Turnover among janitorial employees is high because many just don’t show up consistently. Because I consistently showed up I was promoted to three nights a week as part of a crew cleaning a large recreational facility, and then a few months later I was made supervisor of a six-person team cleaning an enormous computer manufacturing complex five nights a week. I don’t believe my success in this field was due to any particular cleaning prowess but rather to the realization by the owners of the janitorial company that they had a “golden employee,” a man who unfailingly showed up for every job, always ahead of time, and followed through until everything was done.

So many people in our world just don’t bother to consistently show up for the physical jobs they have to do, costing the economy billions of dollars. But far more costly is the failure to show up for the spiritual work we have to do. This is why we incarnated after all. In the spiritual community where I live there are frequent gatherings where concentrated spiritual work is done, work that generates a current of radiant blessing to be offered into the body of humanity. How important it is to show up for these times. Even if nothing is said, just a person’s presence brings so much power and influence in terms of providing an additional sounding board for the spiritual tone that is being sounded. Oh how the universe longs for people of quality who consistently show up to offer their highest and finest in every circumstance!

GOD, PROTECT ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS!

Those who purport to follow God can be some of the most ruthless and murderous people on the planet. To cite just one example, the Lord’s Resistance Army is a guerrilla group operating in South Sudan, the Congo and the Central African Republic. Its tactics include mutilation, torture, slavery, rape, the abduction of civilians, the use of child soldiers and massacres. The movement is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium. There are a large number of militant Islamic fundamentalist groups in the Middle East, including the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly noted for its brutal treatment of women and strict enforcement of Sharia law.

While the excesses of Islamic extremism, where many are ready to kill for their faith, are rare in the United States, extremism of a different kind thrives in many fundamentalist churches. Preachers, sincerely believing they are speaking the Word of God, may not threaten to kill non-believers in this life but they do threaten hellfire and damnation in the “next life” unless a particular salvation formula is accepted. And, really, any form of proselytizing, any effort, no matter how polite, to impose one’s beliefs on another is equivalent to violently invading the sanctity of their being.

Yes, God, please protect me from your followers! The question is, do they really know You? A follower, by definition, is separate from God and can only develop concepts and beliefs about God, and considering the collection of superstitions and fantasies evident in the world’s religions, these ideas concocted by the human mind are way off the mark. I don’t think God wants followers; God, the Creator, Universal Being—however God is defined—wants leaders, people who are willing to take responsibility for being God in action on earth, people who don’t see any separation between themselves and the Creator and therefore don’t fabricate ideas about God. The latter can be dangerous!

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE, GROWTH IS OPTIONAL

It has been said that the only constant is change. This especially rings true at this point in the 21st century where massive changes are taking place in climate, politics, culture, the world economy, etc. If one is able to roll with these changes, easily adapting to them and even using them as springboards for growth and additional creative action, then all is well on the personal level and something positive is put into the collective consciousness of the body of humanity. But human beings are notorious for resisting change and seeking to preserve the status quo at all costs. For many the prospect of change seems terribly frightening and they will fight even to the death to prevent it.

One example that comes to mind is the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. The ban has been supported by the county’s intransigent Islamic clerical establishment. Clerics reportedly believe that lifting the ban and generally giving women more freedom would lead to increased premarital sex and adultery. Saudi security officials have said that “enforcing the ban is part of protecting the monarchy against sedition.” Saudi Arabia also forbids women from travelling abroad, opening a bank account or working without permission from a male relative. Even Saudi King Abdullah acknowledges that women will someday drive in the country, but for now he and other officials there have opted to resist change and the growth opportunity that accommodating change brings.

The classic musical that illustrates resistance to change is “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye, the father of five daughters, tries to keep his family and Jewish religious traditions intact in the face of strong pressures to let go of these customs from his three older daughters. There is mounting pressure in these days on all religious and cultural traditions. The creative process of life simply will not be blocked anymore by the structures in human consciousness, no matter how old and how revered these structures are. To put it bluntly, human beings are increasingly being given the choice to either let go and grow or dig in and die.

Lest we end on a down note, here is an auspicious bumper sticker for all who are willing to let go and grow.

SOMETHING WONDERFUL IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN

Jerry K. - 2013Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the spirituality section of the online magazine The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-five years. He can be reached at jerry@themindfulword.org.

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