This is just a taste of the many ways we can help ourselves by helping others! It is my sincere hope that one of these ideas will ignite love in my readers and of those around them. Click on the title to read my article.
Yesterday I had a tooth removed. As I’m way past being a child, the tooth was not a baby one, so it’s a permanent exit. Although I realize that losing teeth is common as we grow older, the process was very painful for me; both at the physical and emotional level. I tried desperately to save it, seeking second and third opinions, trying various medications, but in the end, the pain was too much that I had it removed.
Now that I am recuperating at home, I am reminded of an incident during the first meeting of the new writer’s group I belong to for spiritual writers. I went there with the idea that I could possibly find some inspiration for my next blog posting. I even had a topic in mind that I planned to write about. Something interesting happened that night, however. Our group leader suggested to another member who was experiencing foot pain, that she talk to her foot and see what her foot had to say. When it came time to write, I wrote to my tooth! I never published what I wrote, as my tooth had a lot to say back to me since then and the moment didn’t seem right.
It is now that I have come to realize what these experiences mean to me, so today, this one’s for you, Tooth #18!
Dear Tooth #18,
What a sad day today is. I am so sorry to see you go. It is hard to say goodbye as I’ve known you for so many years of my life–probably 40+ years. You were always there for me, when I needed you. You were there for me on a daily basis. You were a Rock of Gibraltar. You were my avenue for experiencing wonderful sensations, tastes and enjoyment in my life. We’ve been through a whole lot together.
Yes, you were there for me. But was I there for you? In looking back, I know I neglected you at times by taking you for granted. It started when I didn’t notice or pick up on the signals you were trying to send me a long time ago. You were crying out for help in your sweet, quiet way, but I didn’t listen. By the time you had to shout from the pain you were experiencing, we ended up in emergency therapy together!
All that “emergency” work couldn’t fix years of neglect, hurt and pain. So the doctor couldn’t ‘fix’ our problem, although I have to admit that I tried desperately in the end. But you had had enough. The trauma of it all was too much for you, and you begged me to let you go. I agonized in pain over the decision but I now see I needed to set you free.
I am sorry I neglected you. Please forgive me. I am sorry I took you for granted. I know you can hear me. I know that I am forgiven. I was blessed to have you in my life and will cherish this experience as a lesson in not taking anything or anyone for granted. Thank you for teaching me, Tooth #18.
Something to Chew On: What areas of your life are you neglecting? You may think you are appreciating all things and people and taking care of everything in your life, but ask yourself what others may have to say about how you are treating them? Think about an area of your body that you want to heal or work on: what would it tell you if you could hear it speak?
Perhaps you are one of those people who places everyone else’s needs before your own, so you are good at serving others’ needs but never take the time to listen to your own. When was the last time you stopped to take a loving look at yourself in the areas of YOU that that you need to nurture and nourish? When you work on you, you are better able to give yourself to others, you will most likely be around longer to give all of yourself and you’ll be happier, too!
Or are you taking someone or something for granted? You may not think so, but if our friends and family were truly honest with us, I bet we’d all hear this feedback expressed at some point in our lives. It’s easy to do, rather unknowingly, as we become so busy with our lives and we are all so different. People don’t think the same way as you! Remember that when you waste time trying to analyze people. What may not seem like a big deal to you could be a huge issue for your partner, for example.
We can become so involved with the “busy work” of a day that we don’t take the time to stop, look and listen. Stop, look, and listen isn’t just a useful lesson for children to learn before crossing the street, but a wonderful metaphor on how to treat everyone. If we take the time to stop, look and listen, we learn a lot about others and people feel listened to so we receive a lot in return. It can be all the difference in a what makes a relationship successful or unsuccessful.
So go ahead! Stop, look and listen! Listen well. Then talk to your body, your friends, family and other significant relationships. Tell them how much you appreciate them! You will be glad you did.
In troubled times, who do you turn to? Do you talk to a friend, your spouse or significant other, or a family member? Perhaps you turn to your pastor, priest, rabbi or other religious figure. Others may have a professional therapist they talk to. Do you look within yourself to work things out through reflection, prayer, writing or meditation? Do you talk to God? Perhaps you find ways to distract yourself so that your troubles will seem non-existent. Eventually, the troubles will find a way to pop up again if you don’t deal with them and seek support.
Although it may not be apparent from my website or blog, I consider myself a Christian. I also consider myself a highly spiritual person who is open to many beliefs, experiences and people who don’t call themselves Christian. I know that I am developing spiritually everyday, which is what this journey is about. Today’s blog may be controversial for some. Certainly, there will be some who will not agree with me and that is okay. I am writing to share my walk with being a Christian and what that currently means to me. I do so in order to share my experience with the purpose that it will help someone who needs it. I know my purpose is to serve others so it is in that spirit that I touch upon this topic.
I grew up in church, went to Sunday School regularly, read my Bible and even sang for years in the church choir. I wouldn’t substitute or trade these experiences for anything. In my early adult years, I turned away from the organized church for awhile and found myself immediately drawn back to it when times got rough. These grounded teachings of my youth were the foundation of my support in later years.
During the most turbulent times of my life, I found myself praying a lot. I was in such need of support and guidance and felt that God wasn’t answering my prayers. I literally was begging God to help me. That was the problem: it was all about me and with a fierce, deep, and often desperate, intensity.
So I was praying most of the time when I wanted something. Looking back, I was so self-centered in my prayers. I knew that I needed to learn how to pray in a better way that would lead me closer to God, so I began a more serious study of how to pray. I even became a certified lay speaker in my church along the way! I sought spiritual guidance from my pastor at the time and she helped me in so many ways that words cannot express. Thank you, Pastor Carmen!
Something amazing happened. As I studied and practiced various ways of prayer, listened to every type of preacher I could, read more of the Bible and started praying more for others than myself, I developed a deeper, more personal relationship with God. I can also very honestly say that Jesus saved me. I am forever grateful.
A big turning point for me was when I began to pray for someone in my life who previously had made me feel bitter and vindictive. Those are very destructive feelings to have. I knew that these feelings of anger, bitterness and revenge were only hurting me and that I needed healing from these emotions. So I began by praying for this person.
At first, I didn’t really “believe” what I was praying, but I continued to pray for him anyway. In fact, in the beginning, I honestly can say that I did it for self-motivated reasons. Over time, my negative feelings for this person melted away and then I realized that I had truly forgiven him. And the greatest gift from this experience is that I had forgiven myself! God gave me the forgiveness I needed both for him and myself! All of this was done through prayer and love: loving myself enough to immediately recognize these negative feelings inside of me, asking for forgiveness for having these feelings and praying in love for this person.
Looking back on all of it, I did a whole lot of “judging” of this person during the bad times. I learned it wasn’t up to me to judge him, but to accept him for who he is, be grateful for having had him in my life and to let it all go. The only way I could do that was by staying in love, walking in love and seeking love.
Judging people is a dangerous path to walk. Are you perfect? Is anyone? Of course not! Yet our society gives us the impression that we can obtain perfection. Isn’t it really in the eyes of the beholder? What is perfect for you is not perfect for me and vice-versa. Yet we judge each other so much. There are so many “shoulds” in the world, particularly by organized religion. If we look and listen to many people who call themselves Christian, you will probably observe that many are not good role models of loving behavior, as Jesus taught us how to live.
I am no saint so please don’t take that the wrong way. It is not up to me to judge people, their actions and behaviors. I say this only as an observation, totally based on my personal experience. I have witnessed it in my own church, which has made me question whether I belong there anymore. I have seen people’s loyalty to their own church, denomination or faith get in the way of how Jesus taught us how to live. I have seen so many people suffer from condemnation because they are not living up to what their denomination’s doctrine says they “should” be like, act like and what they should think. I have seen it even from the religious leaders, so no one is immune.
Organized religion has a lot of “rules” which lend themselves to judgments, which can lead us to feelings of guilt and condemnation when we or others don’t live up to those expectations. There are rules in some churches of how you dress, what you say, who can serve in what positions, how long the sermon is, whether or not you can get married there, whether or not you can get a divorce and be “right” in the eyes of God, responses to prayers during the sermon, what you sing, how you praise, who can become a member, how you pray and when you pray it, and the list goes on!
I have seen and heard people gossip about other church members, frown upon a newcomer to the church because of his or her clothes, witnessed countless power struggles between church members and church leaders, people judging each other and all in the name of Jesus! That is not very Christian-like, in my view. (I have also seen a whole lot of good things being done, so please don’t misunderstand me.) For every time I see or hear or witness negativity being expressed in a church setting, I ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” or “How would Jesus respond?”
Jesus stands for love. Jesus taught acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, generosity, healing…the list of beautiful lessons is many! You don’t have to be Christian to find value in studying the teachings of Jesus. There is value there for everyone. I believe that there is value in studying the master teachers of every major world religion and philosophy. For me, Jesus is the perfect example of how to walk in love. He taught us to love unconditionally and especially toward those who society often defines as ‘outcasts.’ If Jesus returned today (as many Christians believe he will do), would we welcome him with open arms? Would we even know if we saw him? (Several years ago, I had an experience with my children on the subways of New York City that we will always remember. I will write about this experience later in another blog.)
Now I realize that wherever groups are formed, rules tend to be made or we would have anarchy in the world. An organized church is an example of a group that has developed its own set of rules. I am not suggesting that churches be disbanded, but there is value in looking around you and within you, observing and determining whether your current situation still works for you. If you are in a church now, pay attention to what the messages are that are being conveyed. Do these messages still work for you? Or are you only there because this was the way in which you were raised? Are you there because you feel some sort of obligation? Perhaps you have committed yourself to some leadership role and don’t know how to now get out of it. Do you really know what you believe and does your church represent your deepest beliefs? Do you feel comfortable with your church and its members? Does it give you a feeling of trust that you can go there in times of trouble? How do you think Jesus would react to your church? If the answers to these questions are positive for you, then that’s probably the place for you to be. If not, maybe it’s time for you to reflect upon and think about exploring other options, without guilt about doing so. No one says that we have to stay in the same place our entire life. Who says? It is okay to explore and grow and it’s ok to do so without feeling guilty about it! (Guilt is a very powerful, negative emotion that deserves more attention in another posting.)
So who do you turn to in times of trouble? What is really in your heart? It doesn’t matter to me if you are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, etc. Even if you think you’re an Atheist (and I bet that “atheists” in the most desperate of times may call out to God at some moment), it is helpful to ask yourself who you turn to in times of need and trouble in life. I have learned in my journey that what matters most is the walk I do in love, with love and in being love.
In being love, we practice love. If we practice love, which Jesus said was the greatest of all the commandments, we grow spiritually by leaps and bounds. We learn to forgive ourselves and others. We learn to love ourselves and others. We are more at peace. The more we focus on these emotions and feelings and practice them in our daily lives, the more these qualities come to us, in the form of people, places, circumstances, inspirations, ideas and opportunities. The essence of being love to all, including ourselves, is that it brings us into a closer relationship with God. We feel God. We can hear Him. We know what to do next. We have God within us. That is the beauty of my journey.
To be love is to know God. God is love. How many times have we heard that? Do you believe it? If you do and want to have more love in your life and don’t know where to start, try spending quiet time with yourself everyday. It may just be five minutes a day to start. Start by closing your eyes and just “listening” to whatever comes up. Your mind will probably be going at a hundred miles an hour, but with time and practice, you will learn to “quiet” your mind. Make room for God to speak to you. If you are comfortable with prayer, ask God for guidance on how best to start. Consider meditation. (I found Wayne Dyer’s “Getting in the Gap” CD a great starting point in my meditation journey.) If you find this difficult or don’t want to invest money on anything right now, then just focus on feeling good. The more you focus on feeling good, the more you will feel good and in time, the longer the “quiet” time will be. You’ll feel more at peace and more “good” will come to you. Pay attention to how great it feels. Then try to remember these feelings of “good,” “joy,” “love,” and “peace.” Soak it in. When trouble sets in again, try to focus your attention back to these wonderful feelings and it will help you.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to explore these issues. Who do you turn to in times of trouble? Is that working? If so, how can you deepen the connection so that less “trouble” comes your way? (You will find that as you grow that you don’t view it as “trouble” anymore, too!) If your support system is not working, then try something different. The important thing is to start, even if you don’t “feel” forgiving, loving, positive or any of those loving states of being! Pretend that you do and it will come. You will be transformed. Love yourself enough to start and see where it takes you.
I woke up this morning with this phrase in my head, “What goes around, comes around.” It quickly occurred to me that I used to frequently think of this phrase in a negative context. I almost always heard it used (and used it myself) in the context of reassurance that someone would be punished for his or her own bad deeds in due time. Often it is used in a religious context, with the idea that God will do the punishing—the idea that it wasn’t up to me to judge, but God’s and God’s responsibility alone. How often have you also heard it used in this context? I bet that you have heard it used this way many, many times.
This morning, I woke up with a brand new realization of these words. What a wonderful insight was given to me! I realized that this phrase is a perfect example of the law of attraction at its simplest. What you put out there, you get back. If you serve, you will be served. If you love, you will be loved. If you give, you will receive. If you act in peace, you will get peace. If you exert joy, you will be joyful. It goes on and on, but for me, it is all positive!
It’s curious and exciting how this morning this insight into a phrase that I have used and heard countless number of times in the past in a negative way now has new meaning for me in a positive way! What a beautiful revelation!
What will you put out there today? Remember that what you throw out there will come back to you. Isn’t it exciting? So choose the good stuff! And the next time you hear someone using this phrase in a negative context, pay attention to it and remember that this is how they choose to see the world. You can choose differently. Perhaps you can help that person see it from a different perspective. It will bring a smile to your face and more joy to your life when you decide to choose differently. And many smiles will be brought to your life if you practice turning formerly negative thoughts, emotions and phrases such as this one into positive ways of thinking, doing, feeling and acting. Try it! You’ll like it! I know I just did and I feel better already.
The message of “paying attention” started early in my life–probably before I even entered school. The old phrase of “children are to be seen and not heard” was common for kids growing up in my generation. Certainly, school taught me that in order to succeed in life, I had to pay attention to my teachers and soak in what was being taught. That meant listening to what was being taught, doing my homework diligently, taking notes and being respect of all the ‘rules.’ I was also taught to pay attention to my parents. Kids who paid attention were more successful, or so it seemed.
These ideas of paying attention don’t work very well for me in my current creative journey. I have learned a new way of “paying attention” in this journey. “Paying attention” has nothing to do with taking notes, studying or analyzing everything that comes my way or listening with my ears to what someone has to ‘teach’ me. I pay attention now by observing and noticing what comes my way.
What comes my way could be a new thought, which sometimes feels quite random, but deep inside I know it’s not; it could be an idea or inspiration that suddenly “hits” me, often when I least expect it; it may be a person who suddenly shows up in my life and I feel connected to this person in some way, shape or form; or it could be a discovery that someone I’ve known for a long time is experiencing a similar journey as me, but we never really shared it with each other until now. Often it is a simple manifestation of an idea or person that I was just talking about or thinking about.
As I enter into this journey of intention, I am finding that increasingly, many things are coming my way rather rapidly, new people are presenting themselves, and I am having more and more incidents of manifesting thoughts which I had just discussed with other spiritually-minded people as myself. I find that it seems to happen faster the more I connect with people who are positive.
These situations and circumstances are opportunities, so I pay attention to them. The more I pay attention, the more new creative ideas, moments, people and circumstances present themselves to me. I am driven by these occurrences in my journey and it’s exciting! I know that it is leading me to my ultimate intentions that I have been meditating about, but have no clue about how or where the next opportunity will present itself. It makes life super exciting!
So, pay attention! Listen to that gut feeling. If you suddenly notice something or someone that has been there all along but you just didn’t see, pay attention to your inner voice about what that means for your life right now. Know that you need to act. Action is always required. These opportunities are not coincidental, but the Universe’s way of opening up opportunities for you. If you’re having trouble knowing what to pay attention to, just start by pondering what you are observing and see where it leads you. Don’t question or second-guess it as this only slows down the process. I guarantee you that you’ll love your journey and that you will become better adept at “paying attention” so you can live the life of your dreams.