Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Abstinence of Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Christian holiday of Lent. The purpose of this forty day long event is to prepare, through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial, for the annual commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. These practices, which are intended to encourage spiritual growth, could also be called, meditation, forgiveness, charity, and abstinence. Regardless of religious belief, these disciplines each have obvious merit for enriching one’s soul.

Lent is most commonly known as a time of asceticism. The adjective "ascetic" derives from the ancient Greek term askēsis (practice, training or exercise). Originally associated with any form of disciplined practice, the term ascetic has come to mean anyone who practices a renunciation of worldly pursuits to achieve higher intellectual and spiritual goals. Asceticism is closely related to the Christian concept of chastity and might be said to be the technical implementation of the abstract vows of renunciation. Those who practice ascetic lifestyles do not consider their practices virtuous in themselves but pursue such a lifestyle in order to encourage, or 'prepare the ground' for, mind-body transformation. Some forms of Christianity and the Indian religions teach that salvation and liberation involve a process of mind-body transformation effected by exercising restraint with respect to actions of body, speech, and mind. The founders and earliest practitioners of these religions lived extremely austere lifestyles refraining from sensual pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. This is to be understood not as an eschewal of the enjoyment of life, but a recognition that spiritual and religious goals are impeded by such indulgence.

In the popular imagination, asceticism may be considered obsessive or even masochistic in nature However, the askēsis enjoined by religion functions in order to bring about greater freedom in various areas of one's life (such as freedom from compulsions and temptations) and greater peacefulness of mind (with a concomitant increase in clarity and power of thought). As with most holidays, Lent is a symbolic gesture. It reminds us of spiritual excercises practiced by the most revered spiritual leaders. Although I do not consider myself a religious person, I am a spiritual person. I embrace any discipline that encourages my own spiritual growth. Letting go of attachments is a personal goal I have set for myself. This does not mean I do not allow myself to enjoy possessions or indulging in pleasure of the flesh, including food and alcohol. It is only the attachment or addiction to these things that I resist. Observing Lent is a good way to address our addictions or attachments and prove to ourselves that our free will is more powerful than our urges. For this reason, I appreciate the value of this religious holiday.

Advice by Example

I have been recording my experiences, in the form of poetry, since I was 13 years old. Writing helps me understand my feelings about my different experiences. Writing down my feelings allows me to organize, and express my thoughts. It seems to be a positive way of venting my powerful emotions. Re-reading my own words allows me to review my experiences from an outside perspective. I am able to detach myself from my situation, so I can offer myself guidance. It is always easier to advise someone of a situation in which we are not involved. When we find ourselves in the same situation, do we follow our own advice?

Advise by Example

All the answers live within us,
But we have been taught
Not to look for answers there.

Without conscious thought,
We search in others,
To see our own reflection.

We can see, though them,
The faults in need of correction
To improve ourselves.

Unaware we are looking in a mirror,
It is easy to share invaluable advice
And never know all its worth to us.

Of all we have offered,
How often do we accept and use
All that we have given?

Little advice is worth more,
In our own lives,
Than that which we give away.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Celebrating Romance

As with many Christian holidays, the origin of St Valentine’s Day is somewhat unclear. There are different opinions on which Saint Valentine is being revered. Like Christmas and Easter, St. Valentine’s Day is also a mix of Christian and Pagan tradition.
St. Valentine’s Day, is often referred to as a ‘Hallmark Holiday’. For this reason, I always believed Hallmark was responsible for creating the resurgence of this modern holiday to sell more cards. After doing a little research, it looks like Valentine’s Day may have actually been responsible for creating Hallmark and the entire greeting card industry. Exchanging Valentine’s, or cards, is the oldest tradition of the holiday. In 1847, Esther Holland developed a successful business in her Massachusetts home making Valentines cards. Years later, other gifts like candies and flowers became popular gifts. In the 1980’s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine’s Day as an occasion to give jewelry.
All holidays are meant as symbolic reminders. How we choose to celebrate any holiday or event is up to us. I see Valentine’s Day as a reminder to be grateful for the romance and intimacy I am blessed to share throughout the year. It is a special time to reflect on love. Love is so important, it deserves a holiday. This day should not be an obligation of romance, but an opportunity for sharing. It brings attention to the great desire for romance. This can be an annual lesson on ‘how to be romantic’. It can motivate us each year to think of original ways to express our love. The expression of love is as important to the giver just as it is to the recipient. It is the great joy of giving.
What greater gift can we give than our love? Demonstrating love in our actions every day is the best way to show what is in our hearts. During this St Valentine’s Day, I am thankful for all the love in my life. Most of all, I am thankful for all the years of sharing love with my beautiful wife.
My holiday wish for all is to love yourself and others. Only as much as we love, can we be loved in return. Fill your hearts with love and live in joy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hope for a Brighter Day

In my blog titled, 'Tolerance', I included a poem, 'The Darkest Hours'. I wrote it while my mother was going through chemotherapy almost 20 years ago. After reading it, she asked me to write about the dawn that follows the darkness. The possibility of a bright new day helped her through her darkness. Tolerance is a culmination of faith, acceptance and forgiveness. These strengths, coupled with hope, led my mother through a very difficult time. Life, filled with love, has been her reward.

We all go through difficult times. When we make it through, it is important to look back and learn from our experience. It is also important to look ahead and see how we can grow from the obstacles we have conquered. Appreciating our achievments, reminds us of our potential. Every new day offers opportunities to actualize our potential. It is up to us to make the most of each new day.

Rise and Shine

Declaring war,
Dawn attacks the dying night.
Crawling over the horizon
Comes the army of growing light.

As trumpets sound,
From darkness you awake,
To find the night’s been captured
And the day is yours to take.

Armed with strength and courage,
That night has given you,
You are prepared
To do what you must do.

It is time to rise and shine.
The day has now advanced.
While threatening your demise
It still offers you a chance.

To take the spoils of the day
You plot your battle plan
Calling on every ounce of wisdom
To make the best attack you can.

Striking out at what’s to come
Use all that you have learned.
With light now on your side,
Surely the tides have turned.

In dark of night,
You set your goals.
Your mental strength
Enriched your soul.

By light of day,
Work through life’s chores.
You’ve made it through the darkest hours
Now claim the day as yours!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Divine Workplace

What we do for a living does not define who we are. We are that which brings us joy. Let’s find what brings us joy; family, art, music, science or whatever, and be that. Until we find a way to make money at what we enjoy, we can find joy in what we do to make money. What ever we do, by finding joy in doing it, we find we like it better. In an office, a factory, a classroom or at home, what we do is temporary. How we do it determines who we chose to be.

God is everywhere, including the work place. I am a part of the company where I work, just as I am a part of the Whole. I represent both and they represent me. How can we feel we are separate from any part of life, much less our chosen occupation? The work we do reflects who we are. Engineering, manufacturing, sales or service; each offers different challenges and opportunities. The greatest opportunity of any work place is to practice spiritual development, by acting for the highest good at all times.

I am a writer. It brings me joy. I am a salesman. It is the work I do for income. I find joy in my work, by seeing it as a field where I am able to practice and exercise my spiritual beliefs. Here I am writing (which I love to do) about the joy I find in what I do (for a living). Finding joy in what I do makes my job better for me, the company and the customers.

We all spend much of our lives competing for energy and attention. ‘Sales’ is a very competitive field. Competition motivates self and others. Motivation comes from inspiration. Without motivation, inspiration is just thought. Inspiration is the creative idea. Motivation is the act of following through. Just like a sport, different people have different qualities that make them successful at what they do. When we see our work in perspective with who we are, the way we work creates the person we become. Pressure to compete for success can challenge one’s ethics. Success can be measured with earthly or spiritual barometers. When we strive for the higher good, we find greater joy in the material gain.

Ethics -- The virtues of Competition

Practicing virtues and ethics at work develops them in our personal life. Every interaction we have with another person is an opportunity to improve ourselves. These opportunities come from customers, coworkers and venders. The choices we make through out our work day make us who we are. When we do what is right, there is no need to rationalize our choices.

     Honesty- Think, Speak and Act with Integrity.

     Respect- Help others
     Appreciate- Challenges/Opportunities

     Faith- Infinite Source. There is enough for all.
     Acceptance- Those who play by different rules
     Forgiveness- ‘Letting go’ of mistakes or bad choices

Friday, February 5, 2010


When speaking of tolerance, I am referring to both; forbearance, the capacity to endure pain or hardship and the act of allowing. Having the fortitude to withstand suffering and being tolerant of people with different beliefs than our own are both integral parts of spiritual evolution. Having faith, being able to accept, and being able to forgive all contribute to our strength of tolerance.

Faith is the cornerstone of all virtues. Faith does not mean following blindly. It is an internal awareness, a knowing. It is belief in a Higher Consciousness. This knowing allows us to exercise acceptance. Acceptance sounds so passive. It can conjure up an image of weakness, when actually it is a great strength. In times of great difficulty, acceptance is the first step toward progression.

The Darkest Hours

The darkness is upon you
As it has been, so many times before.
You remember yesterday
And all that it has brought you.
You look into tomorrow
And wonder what’s in store.

The day is done.
The night has now begun.

From the eerie night, your dreams run wild,
Making spirit sore and anxieties compile,
With thoughts of fear and sorrow.
Oh these darkest hours; only a break in time
To test your spirit and your mind,
In preparation for tomorrow.

During this temporary state,
While conscience lays in wait,
Allow yourself to be replenished..
Unleash your mind,
From the burdens of the day.
Use this time to remind yourself
things will be okay.

Appreciate the darkness.
You know it can not last.
Time comes and goes so fast.
Brief is the moment of darkness,
Compared to the blinding light.
Embrace the darkness.
Do not fear the night.

From these darkest hours,
Build strength and courage
To face a brighter day.
Be ready for the morning
The dawn is on its way.

Darkness represents suffering. There are many forms of suffering. Negative emotions, including, loneliness, depression and hate, cause discomfort and pain. These emotions are reactions to experiences we encounter. The suffering is caused by the emotional reaction, not the experience. It is easy to blame the situation for our reaction. Instead of finding blame or excuses for our situation, perhaps we can look for the best response to better ourselves. Often, suffering is seen as some karmic punishment. This can create a sentiment of blaming victims; If something bad happens, it was a self imposed reflection of thoughts or behaviors. People get understandably defensive when they think someone is telling them the bad things that happen to them are a punishment for something they did. Karma is more than just punishment and reward. Bad things do happen to good people. How we react to them can either enrich our lives or hinder our progress. We all go through dark times. That experience can be different to everyone. By embracing our experiences, good or bad, and learning from them, we find that we can grow from any situation. As we do, the darkness becomes just a cycle of life. We do not need to fear. As we grow through the darkness, we gain a greater appreciation for the light. The more we appreciate, the more we seem to have to appreciate.

This evening, my wife Renee and I saw a movie theater production of Dr. Wayne Dyer's, 'Wishes Fulfilled', with good friends. It was a wonderful experience. I will be writing much more about it. He spoke briefly on this topic of suffering and the great inspiration that has come from it. Earlier that night, we were talking about another friend who wanted to share her poetry, but she was afraid to express pain and darkness, when I am only writing positive stuff.  She inspired me to write this blog tonight to discuss tolerance. More than fortitude, I wanted to emphasize acceptance and non-judgment. I hope everyone who reads this will feel not only comfortable, but encouraged to share your comments, thoughts, or feelings. This is a judgment free zone.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Virtues of Love

Knowing that I am indeed a spirit in a human shell, and that I have free will to go in any direction I wish, where do I go from here? What is my ultimate destination? I want to elevate myself. I want to be closer to God, whatever God may be. All That Is, The Universal Power, the name we give it is irrelevant. The process of developing an intimate relationship with God is life’s challenge and life’s reward. This is how we learn to Be Love. This is why we are here. This is not a process which occurs overnight. It is a goal to work towards. Each of us can choose to work toward this goal at our own pace, or we can choose to ignore it all together. It is our choice. If you feel any desire to grow in this direction, I believe the following pages will be helpful and will explain my understanding of the virtues necessary to build human relationships founded in true, complete love. Although I have a long way to go, it is my goal to master these virtues. By practicing the knowledge I am now sharing with you, I aim not only to grow personally, but also to be an example, that we can all evolve toward the same goal. It is through our human relationships that we learn the skills necessary to build a real relationship with God. These skills or virtues that I am about to discuss are not new. They are taught in many cultures, religions and philosophies. What I am offering is my understanding of, and experience with, these important skills.
Some religions speak of the seven deadly sins and there corresponding virtues. Buddha speaks of three virtues; Tolerance, Compassion and Truth. Truth is pinnacle. Trust and honesty are vital in a healthy relationship. It is our choice to use them. Truth is bigger than just our relation to others. With our human eyes, we can not see Truth completely. We see all things with prejudice of our human perspective. Not even from the tallest mountain, can the whole world be seen by man. TRUTH is omniscient. With such limited perspective, it would be easy for us to say we are only responsible for the truth we know. It must be our own choice to listen to what we know is right inside, not what has been taught to us from others. COMPASSION is appreciation and respect. ‘Namaste’ is a greeting of respect. It is interpreted from Hindu to mean, ‘the Divinity in me perceives and adores the Divinity in you’. What a beautiful expression. Compassion is giving. It is an expression from within, a connection with the source. It is the Buddha nature. TOLERANCE is forbearance and fortitude. Three great strengths; Faith, Acceptance, and Forgiveness build Tolerance. Faith is a belief in Truth. Faith is a choice. With or without Faith, Truth will continue to exist.


Appreciation is recognizing value. In fact, when something is said to increase in value, it appreciates. A rare old coin buried in a jar has the same value as equal denominations. When it is recognized as special or rare, then it’s value increases. When we see every individual as unique, therefore extremely rare, we can appreciate their value. Value leads to respect. Respect, seeing the Divinity in others and in ourselves, creates a sense of equality and oneness. Respecting all life leads to compassion for all life. Compassion brings healing and wellness into the world.

Cost of Appreciation

Easier to want what I don’t have
Than to appreciate what I do,
I often wonder why I can’t acquire happiness
or why my wants and wishes
don’t come true.

When my wishes do come true,
I see more to wish for
Instead of gratitude.

When focusing on my wants,
it’s difficult to see
All of the gifts
I already have received.

Gifts we take for granted
are eventually taken away.
Value is more apparent
when loss is the price we pay.

So happiness comes from loss,
or so it would seem.
Until we are happy for ALL we have
happiness is still a dream.

Be content with what you have;

Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking
The whole world belongs to you.
- Lao Tzu

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Science of Mind and Spirit

We are more than our physical bodies. Each individual is composed of three very unique components. We are body, mind and spirit. Psychology, the study of the mind, was considered to be a branch of philosophy until 1879, when psychology was developed as an independent scientific discipline in Germany and the United States. The mind is so mysterious it was considered to be philosophical, not scientific. Just as we continue to learn about the physical world, our understanding of the human mind continues to expand. Understanding the power of conscious thought is an important part of understanding who or what we are.

Theories can be debated in both physics and psychology, but both subjects are now accepted as science. The controversy gets far more intense when we discuss the theories, or even the existence of spirit. If we thought the mind was a mystery, the spirit would seem like magic. How do we scientifically prove the existence of spirit, or how it works?

Most of the science we know today has been discovered within the last 500 years. Before then, we were still able to use the laws of physics, even though we may not have known how or even why they worked. Simple tools, like the lever, were used long before Sir Isaac Newton studied the effects of gravitational pull. Perhaps some day all human minds will comprehend the human spirit as an integral part of the whole human being. For now, we can look at several simple analogies.

There are things we can detect, that we can not see; wind for instance. We can look outside a window and know that it is windy. We can see and even hear the affect the wind has on the trees and other objects. Wind itself can not be seen or heard. Its effect on the environment is what we see and hear. If that example is too elementary, the same thinking is used in science for both the macrocosm of space and the microcosm of quantum physics. Quantum physics is essentially the study of atoms. Studying these tiny particles often requires a different process of observation. Sometimes it is necessary to measure the effects of particles by their interaction with other particles. Much of what we know about objects in space is the result of observation of their effects on other objects. Planets and black holes have been discovered by the way light reacts with them. One hundred years ago, we could not prove they existed. Just because we can not prove the spirit, does not mean it does not exist. Perhaps someday science will advance to prove the existence of the human spirit. For now, we can have faith that the evidence we see and feel in our lives is assurance enough.

To Live Without Faith

I looked into the future
and feared that I was lost.
I tried to believe
that I would make it through okay,
by searching for hidden answers
and that faith would lead the way.

The harder I searched
to find a path to follow,
the more I feared there was no way out.
My faith was pushed to the very edge.
That’s when the ‘voice’ began to shout.

“Your faith is empty.
It will bring you nowhere.
it will leave you dying in this wretched place.”
That was all it took
to see my fear and look it in the face.

Then I responded back,
I would rather die in faith
than to live without it.
I’ll stand and face my fears.”
And so I did…
…as I watched them disappear.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Power of Intention

Along with what we think, say and do, what we give, affects what we receive. Not only what we give physically, but mentally and spiritually, are returned to us. The 'Golden Rule' exists in most religions and philosophies. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is a simple rule of respect. On a much deeper level, it is a rule of karma. It is not punishment or reward, it is simply a law of creation; we get what we give. How we feel about giving also affects the result. Our intent drives the experience.

It is said that giving is a selfish act, for in giving we shall receive greater than we give. If we are motivated by compassion to help someone, the help will be greater and we will be rewarded. If we help someone for our own gain, there is no intent to give. The intent is to receive. Even if we just want accolades, we are still being selfish in our giving. Although it makes sense to write off charitable contributions from our taxes, giving just to save money or promote business, changes 'giving' to 'investing'.   Receiving free admission to an amusement park for donating time is great. However, it is not really donating if tickets are the motivation, not the good work. Atleast the time is being spent helping others. In the process, perhaps the importance of the work can be learned as well and encourage the donation of time. It can be easier to donate money than time. As long as the intent to give is to help and not for personal gain, everyone is better off.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Consciously Creating Our Future

The power of creation begins with thought. Sending thought into the universe is like placing an order for delivery. Good or bad, conscious or not, our thoughts will soon manifest and return to us. Speaking or writing or even speaking our thoughts adds priority to the order. Manifestation occurs more quickly. Taking action on our thoughts is like picking up the order ourselves. I can go on line and order a book to be mailed to me. I need to allw 2-4 weeks for delivery. For a few extra dollars, I can add the words 'Rush Delivery' and have it in a couple of days. Or, I can go to the bookstore and have it the same day. This is the difference between creating with thoughts, words or actions.

How much thought do we put into ordering food for delivery? First we think of what type of food we desire. Next, we choose a restaurant. Then we decide which meal. Finally, we decide if we want to pay a little extra and wait a little longer, or if we want to go pick it up ourselves. Do we use this same conscious effort with our choise of thoughts and words we use through out the day?
When I was younger, I told my step mother I was so ‘anxious’ to begin summer camp that I just couldn’t wait. She corrected me, explaining that anxious meant nervous, not excited. The word I was looking for was ‘eager’. I have been very conscious of the difference ever since. I hear other people misuse the word and it reminds me of that little lesson and a much bigger lesson I learned from it later. I no longer use the phrase ‘I can’t wait’ for anything. Instead I say ‘I am looking forward to’. ‘I can’t wait’ implies a lack of patience. Patience is a virtue I am improving within myself. I prefer to use the positive affirmation of ‘looking forward’ over the negative connotation of not having the ability to wait. 'Looking forward' implies a positive vision for the future.  I am taking the phrase ‘I can’t’ out of my vocabulary. Instead, I may say ‘I currently struggle with’ or ‘I am getting better at’. In the case of patience, I do not say, ‘I have a problem with patience’. I say, ‘I am improving my patience’. This simple change is an example of consciously changing my creative power of thoughts and words.

This same practice can be done with any negative thoughts. Some negative thoughts are more difficult to address. Negative thoughts often originate from judgment. Many of us are quick to judge others, either mentally or verbally. Learning to tolerate and respect people who believe and act differently begins by consciously exercising non-judgment. Training ourselves to recognize our similarities with others instead of our differences, builds an instant bond with them, instead of a barrier. This helps build new relationships. It also helps with internal growth, by recognizing in others what they might have to teach us about ourselves. Seeing every contact with another person as an opportunity to learn about ourselves is one way perspective can create growth from challenge.

It is easy to rationalize negative thoughts that are provoked by others. Although more challenging, learning not to be drawn into others’ negativity, is an opportunity to strengthen our own positive energy and demonstrate positive behavior to others. The simple exercise of recognizing negative thoughts or behaviors will lead to replacing them with positive ones.

Because we are a part of the whole, we influence it and vice versa. Just as our fingers are a part of our body, we are a part of the universe. If we cut our finger, it sends messages to the whole body for assistance. First, it sends an immediate message to the brain in the form of pain. This allows us to react to the situation to protect ourselves from further injury and to address the one sustained. While we are consciously caring for the wound with compression to stop the bleeding, our body’s internal response has already begun. Platelets in the blood begin clotting the area to reduce blood loss. Neurological inhibitors are produced to help with the pain. White blood cells rush to the area to fight bacteria. The different systems of our bodies, communicate chemically through the blood and electronically through the nervous system. All parts of the body work together. As humans, we communicate and interact with the world around us as an integral part of the system. Being conscious of what we choose to communicate empowers us to choose more wisely.