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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wanting to Help

Wanting the help, especially those you care most about, is the most natural human instinct. We see someone suffering and we want to offer relief of that suffering. We want to step in and offer whatever resources we have to change the circumstances and make things better.

And there are few things more devastating than knowing that you can't fix something, you can't make things better no matter how much you love someone or care for them. The frustration of knowing that you should be able to make things better, but can't, is its own unique version of hell. For those of especially who are used to being effective at getting things done, not being able to help feel incomprehensible. How can we be so able and willing and yet our efforts yield no results.

I remember the first time I visited India and was faced with a level of poverty that simply doesn't exist in America, and over the next few weeks came to understand that all the solutions that work in my world don't begin to make an impact in that world. And it is often the same with the struggles of those we love. We can see the problem, understand it and be fully willing to help, but the help we offer may simply not be what is required to fix the problem.

There is a saying from my yogic practice that those who need the help are sometimes simply too weak to take it. What do you do with a soul who is suffering and struggling that you want to help, but they cannot take the benefit of your input, advice, ideas, resources, etc?  Maybe they reject the help, or waste it, or abuse it, or are simply unreceptive?

On the spiritual journey, there is always a way to help, there is always something you can do to make a difference, even when the one who needs help is too weak to receive it, and that is simply this: offer your prayers and love and good wishes to that soul, unconditionally and generously. If you cannot help in any other way, you can always offer your best wishes to that soul with purity of intention for their healing and well-being. It may be all you can offer, but it is not the least of what you can offer.

Each one of us needs the invisible support and protection of the blessings of good wishes from those who know and love us. There is no downside to offering this support, and the soul feels and experiences the benefit of it even if they don't know it's being offered. It might not fix a specific problem but it gives the one you care about power and energy so that they may become strong enough to make a difference themselves.

So when someone you love is out of reach, beyond your ability to help, you can still offer hope to them on that subtle, invisible and ever-so-meaningful level. All of G*d's children need the net of love and good wishes to support them, and you can make all the difference by sending it their way.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spiritual Consumerism

We are so groomed by the omnipresent media to be consumers, but the spiritual journey asks us to go further.  Don't just be a consumer.  Don't be content with finding the right book to buy, the right teacher to follow, the right class to take.  Even with religion it's easy to sit back and let others do the work. But being a consumer means defining yourself by what you can take and buy and own.  The spiritual journey invites you to define yourself by what you give and create and become.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I love the idea that we are capable of unlimited love, of unlimited compassion, of unlimited understanding, but as a human being myself, I haven't ever been able to offer that. My love and compassion and understanding all have their own limitations. They end when I'm tired, or distracted with busy-ness, or irritable...all sorts of reasons that my unending virtue ends.

The best I can do is hook into the truly unending love and compassion that G*d offers, and fill myself with as much as I can, and then share as much as I can, but even then, I have my limits. G*d's love is unlimited, but ours isn't.  That's why being loving and compassionate and understanding are such profound virtues. Because they require something extraordinary.  

Because they require that you tap into something beyond yourself to fill up with these qualities, and to tap into something beyond yourself to share them.  If you depend only on your own strength and power to get beyond your limitations, you almost never get there. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you overcome your limitations, but mostly you wear out and get tired before that happens.

It's not so hard to fall in love, to experience the intoxication of something new and exciting, of someone new and exciting. But the kind of love that's a virtue isn't felt or expressed in the intoxication of romantic bliss.  It's felt and expressed in everyday, ordinary life, in trying times and in the midst of difficulty.  And that's why it's so hard, because summoning up that loving energy when the only requirement is need takes more than what so many of us have to give and to give over time.

Because we're human. Because we don't have an unlimited capacity for anything. Because we all get tired. And that's why G*d is such a comfort, because not having to do this all on our own is the hope we need,the hope that love and compassion and understanding can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cardinal Sin

A cardinal sin on the spiritual journey is becoming uninterested.  Boredom means you're off-center, you're disconnected from the place of growth and movement and creativity.  Because the spiritual journey is essentially a creative journey, playing itself out in a million ways in your life, but only if you are curious and engaged with your own experience.

When your story stops being interesting even to you, when routine overtakes exploration, then you know you've stayed in one place too long. Maybe it's one place in your mind, thinking and re-thinking until there's nothing left to know. Or maybe it's an emotional trigger that gets triggered over and over until you're just exhausted from the endless repetition.  But you know when you've reached that ending place, when something has become old and tired, and even its familiarity isn't a comfort.

Step out into something new, or step within into something new, but when you feel bored and your creative energy is gone, stop pumping the same dry well for more of what it offered up before. Feed your soul, your mind and your heart with newness and inspiration.  Sometimes you need to stop thinking and go for a walk. Sometimes you need to talk with an old friend and sometimes you need to make a new friend. Sometimes you need to change your medium, to use pictures instead of words, or feel instead of think.

Some of us are fine with routine and sameness. Some of us are comforted by things staying the same. But those of us who chose the spiritual journey have a spirit of adventure that must be honored or we begin to wither. The muscle of personal growth demands to be lithe and limber and strong.  It demands not simply that we create but that our lives are an ongoing work of creation.  And it is in this ongoing work of creation that we are closest to G*d, that we are participating in the most fundamental and divine activity of them all..

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Start

We are habit-forming creatures, and the habits we develop out of self-protection form early and hold on tight.  And when we can't control our circumstances, we learn how to shield ourselves from the impact of the people and things that can hurt us.  

And we can hold onto the hurt and hold onto the fear that we're going to be hurt long after the danger itself might be gone.  The memories and experiences of our past, even the long-ago past, can hold us in their grip, making us feel like victims, defined by our suffering.

But the spiritual journey gives us back options.  Instead of holding onto the past, it invites us to reach up and out of habits, up and out of the past, and to move past those old limitations.  The spiritual journey calls us to step into ourselves fully, not holding back any part of who we are from fear, or uncertainty or a feeling of powerlessness.

Instead of trying to control our circumstances, we have words and the ability to express ourselves and the capacity to make decisions that honor who we know we are now. There's no promise it will be easy, but it will never be harder than living with a sense of being a victim of the past.  

It helps to stay calm and clear and centered to face yourself and your fears as much as you possibly can. And the more you do it, the more confident you become and the more you develop the habit of taking care of yourself.  And it is this - the certainty of knowing that you can be trusted to take care of yourself - that shows you how far you've come.

You're not depending on others to make things okay. You're not afraid of becoming a victim again of the same things in the same way, because you are no longer the same.  You're not waiting for things to change, because you yourself are changing. It is never too late to give yourself a new start.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Honor Yourself

Do you know how to honor yourself?  Do you know how to make decisions and take actions that reflect who you want to be, who you intend to be, who you hope to be? Because if you don't, then you undermine the possibilities that exist for you.

When you yourself are the obstacle you must overcome, self-doubt creeps into everything... you doubt your own power, your own potential, your own ability, and you doubt that what you dream of, what you hope for, what you long to become, can ever be.  And that doubt separates you - from your power, from others, and from G*d, because doubt comes with shame and sorrow, and shame and sorrow love darkness and isolation.

What does it mean for you to honor yourself?  What would it look like to show up the way you intend, the way you mean, the way you hope?  What would be different about your communication, your relationships, your daily life?  What keeps you from honoring yourself, and what helps you?

There is no magical law of attraction - there is no 'secret' to all of this. It's simple and profound and ordinary and deep, and it is this: you have to become the person you want to be in your thoughts, words, actions and relationships.  And you have to do this step-by-step, minute-by-minute.

You don't need a 5-year plan; most of us need a 5-minute plan or a 5-hour plan or a 5-day plan about the actual stuff we're going to say and do. Beyond that we are just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. As anyone who has worked to overcome the force of destructive habits knows, all the real work happens between one second and the next.

The benefit of the spiritual journey is that it supports us as we move from second-to-second, encouraging us to move slowly and thoughtfully.  Open your heart up and take strength from G*d's grace. Use the divine love given so freely, wisely and well.  Let G*d's power be your power so you don't have to keep trying so hard.