Friday, December 29, 2017

A Year of Mastery



“To become a master at any skill, 
it takes the total effort of your: heart, mind, and soul 
working together in tandem.” 




A new year is on the horizon, bringing with it a promise of change and growth.  Numerologically, 2018 reduces to an 11 - which is the number of Mastery.  While you can again reduce 11 to a 2, it is my opinion that a year of Mastery is exactly what we need. The number 2 reflects duality - something we have plenty of!  We have polarized to such a degree that our differences are wildly more visible than our common humanity.

The past couple of years have been very challenging. We have found our voices, passionately speaking out about the world we share. We have faced natural disasters, terrorism, and violence on a scale not previously seen in the United States in our lifetime, and almost all of us know someone who was affected. We have seen the world change at breakneck speed -and everything happened so fast that we were often reeling in a reactionary blur, clumsy in the way we responded to it all.  We hurt each other and caused profound separation in our efforts to unite around important issues.  2017 was a year of chaos.  2018 provides the opportunity to prove that "out of chaos comes order."

2018 is a year of Mastery. To cultivate mastery, one must focus on skill, grace, knowledge, and commitment.  Mastery is the outward application of an inner discipline.  In my lifetime, I have heard only a few people speak of the importance of mastery, but in times past, it was considered a life pursuit to master a particular art or talent.  What will you master in your lifetime? 2018 is the year to begin it.

Perhaps we could work on mastering collaboration, the art of listening, speaking gently to others, compassionate response, forgiveness, humility, the acceptance of differences, or kindness.  Perhaps 2018 is a year in which we could dedicate ourselves to finding the middle ground and getting to know someone whom we see as "the other."  Perhaps it is the year we master the willingness to reach out to those who differ from us and to forge a bond of understanding.  In that bond, we find our true strength - and a place to begin working together toward the common good.  We do not have to agree on everything in order to identify the common good.

In our effort towards Mastery lies the possibility of a better future for our world.  We can stop preaching to the proverbial choir and start inviting everyone to a table where the vision is to unite rather than divide.  Consider the world we share.  Are you happy with it? Does it reflect the legacy you wish to leave when you depart this life?  I feel confident it does not.  What art or skill will you master in 2018 that will point our world in the direction of healing and wellbeing? Let us join the ranks of the Masters who have truly changed the world, manifesting beauty, happiness, shared prosperity, and contentment.

And, in case this vision seems too big to accomplish, my invitation is that you simply address what is within your reach.  If each of us seeks to make things better in our families, the world will change dramatically.  If we reach out and offer friendship to our neighbors, the world will be a better place.  Let us use this year, when the energy of Mastery is so readily available, to master the art of being who we came here to be  - the hands, the heart, and the living expression of Divine Love. Could there be a more noble pursuit?



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Post Election Faith


"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times." 
 - Martin Luther

This week is a very important one in our Country. Yes, I realize we will elect a new President this Tuesday...however, in my opinion, there is something so very much more 
important ahead.   

Wednesday.

Wednesday, the fabric of who we are, as individuals and as America, will be visible to each other and to the world. Who will you be if your candidate is not selected? Who will you be if your candidate is selected? Who will you be if either candidate fails to concede? What message will we share with each other and with the world? Hope? Destruction? The spirit of Democracy - or Democrazy?

My parents taught me that being a member of my family and carrying the family name meant something.  "Alexander," stood for integrity, honesty, a willingness to work hard, tenacity and a stubborn unwillingness to give up on what we perceive as correct. Within the name lived an understanding of faith - that things could get better - somehow. We didn't always know how, but "somehow" we knew that things always worked out.

Being an American stands for something too.  In fact, much of what I was taught about my family name could be applied to this shared and historic title.  

Integrity, which by definition means "wholeness," can only happen if we are willing to cross the partisan aisles, and our home streets, in order to join hands and work together.  

Honesty must include some sense of awareness that, in our fervor for supporting what we believe to be the truth, we may have hurt others we love. Wednesday may be a good day for an apology... not for what we have believed in, but for any unintentional pain we may have caused through our fear-inspired enthusiasm.  

Hard work lies ahead of us, no matter who our new President is.  So much has been revealed in this election.  Clearly, many of us are unhappy with the way things are in our UNITED STATES.  To remain united, we must reach out to one another and look for solutions.

We must be tenacious and unwilling to give up.  On each other. On ourselves. On our Country.

And above all else, Wednesday, we must step more deeply into FAITH than we ever have before.  It is our faith that allows us to know, beyond all that has occurred in this election season, that there is something far greater that lives within us and expresses through us.

How would you like to be treated if your candidate does not prevail? Treat others that way.  Be kind and compassionate. Commit to working, side-by-side, on the issues that face us all. 

We can ask no less of ourselves than we expect of our politicians. It is time to use all that we have learned, from all our sacred studies, to bring ourselves into alignment with the God/ Goddess/ Holy of our Hearts.  From there - wisdom will guide us, and grace will bless our lives.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Exhaustion as a Status Symbol



"The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, 
at the point of exhaustion, 
when nobody else is looking." 
-Mia Hamm


Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Krista Tippet, when the words "Exhaustion as a Status Symbol" rang in my ears over and over again, like a church bell striking its way to noon o'clock. Exhaustion is weirdly satisfying to me - and that phrase made me wonder why.

I don't consider status to be something someone else gives me.  Instead, I think of it as something I've earned through hard work.  When I was young and on fire with ambition, my folks told me I could have anything I wanted, so long as I was willing to work hard for it. Taking that information to heart, I have worked hard most of my life.  Even when the phrase "work smarter, not harder" was popular,  I kept working hard- because, well, it's what I do. At the core of my being, I accepted and lived into the idea that hard work  - works!

In addition to status, hard work also leads to exhaustion much of the time.  In fact, exhaustion is the way we measure hard work.  When someone say "Ahriana is a hard worker, " the statement reflects the status I have come to claim over the years.  I take pride in my work.  However, as I get older, I can't help but ask myself a question;  "Do I really want to work this hard for the rest of my life?"  Clearly, the answer is no.

Much of what comes as a result of hard work, I have already created...a loving family to care for,  a job that I find purposeful and satisfying,  a cause I give time and energy to in order to affect the future,  a few hobbies that give me something new to learn.  These are cornerstones of my life - but I am finding that they are not the whole structure.

I am missing the feeling that comes when I am NOT working. Peace. Tenderness. Beauty. Ease of mind.  It seems to me that these are feelings that come to us when we allow space for them, rather than things we work hard to create.  I want and need more of these feelings in my life

My summer sabbatical has given me a bit of practice at "not working," but I am far from mastery!  Its easy for me to step back into work.  Work is "broken-in-shoe" comfortable for me.   I can wear it all day and well into the night! Not working is quite a challenge for me.  When my sabbatical  time ends (August 28th) and I return to my job, how will I create more balance in my life?  How will I do everything that needs doing, without measuring my success in levels of exhaustion?  Its a very important question.

How do you make space for the softer side of life?  What comes to you when you are not working? I'd love to know your thoughts and hear your suggestions for maintaining a life where work and "not work" is in balance.






Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ripening

"The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch 
of grapes as if it had nothing else in 
the universe to do." 

-Galileo Galilei


Its mid-July and I am sitting on my front porch once again, having returned from 17 days on the East Coast.  It's warm and breezy, and the wind-chimes provide the perfect tinkling to accompany the wildly-brushing-against-each-other-leaves that cover the trees on our street.  My yard is shady at this time of day and the garden is dancing with busy bees and butterflies gathering nectar from the flowers my Sweetheart has been cultivating for our viewing pleasure.  The whispery rush of the wind in the trees is one of my favorite things about this porch in the heat of summer.

As I sit here, I can't help but notice the season of ripening has begun.  The limey green shoots of spring have been replaced with the emerald richness that heralds maturity.  Every bush and branch is dressed in its completed summer regalia. And while the flowers I mentioned earlier continue to bloom, many have already been replaced by the crunchy brown pods that hold the seeds of potential for another year.

I've always found it questionable that our modern society expresses winter as the time of hustle and bustle, while summer is considered a time of vacation and rest.  Nature's example is exactly the opposite.  Nature releases its need to bring forth life and, instead, rests in the fall and winter, slumbering under a blanket of cool stillness.  It works diligently in the spring and summer to birth new life, and to nurture that life into plump abundance.  (The impact of our living in opposition to Nature is something worthy of discussion on another day.  For now, I am focused on the ripening.)

In general, when fruit ripens, it gets softer, sweeter and more colorful.  There is little that can be done to speed up this natural process.   It takes time.  The best fruit is harvested when the perfect conditions (sun, water, etc) combine with a lack of bad weather or predators that might snatch the fruit from the vine before it is fully ready.

If we were to walk in harmony with the earth, now would be our time of ripening too - a time to get softer, sweeter and more colorful.  In this season, we spend more time outside in the sun, gathering together for picnics, family visits and other activities.  We seem to laugh more and show a bit more of our lively selves to the world.

Like fruit, our ripening can be halted by predators that pray on our soft, sweet core. For that reason, its a good time to be selective about who we spend our time with and to surround ourselves with those who are healthy of mind, heart and body.  Its a good time to visit with friends who have a positive and optimistic perspective on the "bad weather" of life (which we are all subject to at one time or another).

For the next few weeks, I'll be ripening...sitting on my porch, or maybe in my kayak, basking in the sun, enjoying this season and the sweetness it brings.   I'll be sharing time with darling souls who bring meaningful stories and vibrancy into my life, and i'll be marveling at the varied hues of our shared existence.  I'll be softening - allowing the shields I've used to protect myself to fall away so that the delight of living freely and joyfully can come to the surface.

It takes time to ripen fully.  If I can simply give myself the gift of this time, the ripening I'll experience will lead to tasty pleasures and nourishment in the harvest season ahead.

How about you?  Are you ready to ripen?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Intimacy and Ultimacy



"There's nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.” 
― Brad MeltzerThe Inner Circle



For the past five days. we have been visiting friends on the East Coast.  We have driven to the homes of Dear Ones, brought in our bags, cooked meals together, sat around in our PJ's, watched the birds and wildlife interact in their yards , told stories of our adventures, and laughed at each other's jokes.  We have had real, from-the-heart, conversations...the kind that happen when there is plenty of time to let things unfold. The only word that seems to describe the experience is "intimate."  These moments have been so remarkably real and so connecting.

We have been loved and made to feel "at home" and I have had little desire to be online, much happier to share the sacredness of each holy moment, person-to-person.  I feel so honored to have enjoyed a peek into their lives...to have wandered their neighborhoods, and to have shared in the beauty they are surrounded by each day.  In some cases, I have been able to point out the loveliness they have come to take for granted.  In other cases, they have pointed out things in my life that seemed beautiful to them and which I no longer notice. It has been such a rich and meaningful time.

It is said that people seek two things in life - "intimacy and ultimacy."  We want to feel connected, and we want to understand what life is really all about.  I've been thinking about both of these topics.
 
Tomorrow, we head up the mountain to a festival called Spiritfire. (Actually, it's more like a hill if you are from Colorado - but don't tell anyone around here because perception is reality and it's a mountain to the locals).  We will gather with nearly 200 people from arround the Country who come together to share all-night ceremony around a sacred fire.  We will dance from dark to dawn, drum and chant, and care for each other (which can mean offering water and food to those who need nourishment,  listening to each other as things unfold, or even giving a footrub where needed.)    It is work - sacred work - and it changes people.  And while it can be exhausting, it is also ecstatic.

For four nights, we will gather in this way, sharing our deep hearts, our vulnerable spirits, our silly, mischievous, playful souls - and, when we are done,  we will return to our homes, transformed.  My friend Julie would say "it's intimacy on steroids!"

When we work together all night, the facades melt away.  We are immersed in the luminous glow of a spiritual flame, and slowly, hour after hour, the movement releases the layers of social identity that keep us separate.  In time, we come to dance as one body, sing as one soul, pray as one spirit -  prompted by the rhythm of the community pulse. As the sun rises, we look into each other's eyes and remember the ultimate truth of life.  We are here for each other -  here to experience such a deep interconnectedness with all of life that we realize who we really are.  The Divine Expression.

It is intimacy that leads to ultimacy.  When we risk letting the pretenses between us fall and show our unprotected hearts to one another, we encounter what some call Agape .... or  Unconditional Love. There is nothing more intimate than that.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Continuing

"People aren't problems to solve.  It's not my job to fix anyone, but to love them.  The heart can stretch to hold things -- even the difficult things."   
- Kate Bartollata

You may remember that, a few months ago, I lost all my computer files and found myself asking "who am I if I am not all of that?"  Since that time, I have asked many similar questions: "Who am I if I am not all the things I own?"  "Who am I if I am not my titles...mother, minister, writer?"  Today I find myself asking "Who am I if I am not the Hero."

I have completed one month of my three month sabbatical.  May 27th to June 27th went quickly and involved the daily challenge of finding inner stillness.  Today is June 28th and I begin the second month sitting in a hotel room in Burlington, Vermont - a remarkably beautiful city that feels fresh and artsy. The sunsets are spectacular here! Stillness remains somewhat illusive, however... revealing itself - and then disappearing as suddenly as it came.

In questioning how it is that my stillness unravels, I recognize that I jump into "Hero mode" too quickly. Any problem that occurs around me has an impact so forceful that my entire being is moved into action.  It might be an issue a friend is having, something affecting one of my children, or even a global justice topic in the newspaper.  No matter what it is, I am becoming aware that when something concerning comes up, my mind begins to search for an answer, my muscles tense and prepare to "do" - and my entire nature shifts from still - to not still.  My immediate response is to look for a solution to the anxiety I feel.  If I can fix whatever the issue is - or take some type of action -  I feel better. I feel "worthy."  Worthy of what?  Hmmm...love...oxygen...I don't really know - but action resolves the anxiety and I feel empowered.

I'm realizing that I see it all (and I mean nearly everything) as mine to address.  Every problem requires my attention. I wonder how I got that idea.  "People are not  problems to solve."  People are independent Beings with their own free will  - and the problems that occur for them are their learning opportunities, not mine. A Native Elder once told me " the only sin is to steal another's lesson."  "Fixing" then, is the same as stealing. It benefits me by making me feel like a Hero - and can stop another from learning what is theirs to learn. 
The thing is, I like being the Hero who can make things better.  I like feeling powerful enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound in order to make the world a better place for those I love.  But people are not problems to solve.  People are independent beings with their own free will - and they are more capable than anyone else of fixing whatever is broken in their lives.  And. when they do - they are the ones who feel empowered - which is how it should be.

Each person we encounter is a gift in our lives.  Each one provides us with an opportunity to give and receive love.   That is what we are here to do.  And when we give and receive love, that LOVE has a way of making things better. Loving is the most heroic thing we can do.






Sunday, June 19, 2016

Pilgrimage

"Real love is a pilgrimage. It happens when there is no strategy, but it is very rare because most people are strategists." 
- Anita Brookner 
A dear friend is walking the Camino de Santiago this summer.  If I am remembering correctly, it is a 500-mile journey across parts of Spain and France. Since we  are both on sabbatical, I can't help but ponder her pilgrimage, and my own contrasting need for stillness.

Naturally, each of us will seek the Holy in our own way and, no matter how interesting and adventurous another's life may seem, one's transformation cannot be experienced on any path but our own.   I can't even begin to speculate the details of my friend's unfolding.  I can only say how much I admire her will and determination to keep moving her feet, placing one in front of the other, till she reaches her goal.  I find myself wondering if, in certain moments, she must tell herself "I can" when she feels like she can't.

My "I can" is different.  I've been asking myself questions like, "can I be still and quiet" and "can I put down the phone, leave the computer, ignore the books and my addiction to filling myself with more information ....and do no thing?"  To say I am challenged by this is an understatement that I am pretty sure will only truly be understood by some of my "Type A" colleagues.

Each day I spend an hour or more sitting on my front porch - which is shady and beautiful...and a great place from which to watch the world go by.  My body is slowing down, as a result, and I am feeling more relaxed.  Yet, it is my observation that, within minutes of sinking into my anti-gravity deck chair, my mind begins to whirl away, chattering incessantly about all the things I could be doing, or will do, when my sabbatical is over.  Again and again, I catch myself planning ahead instead of being in the now.

Why is it that being feels like such a waste of time?  When did I decide that my worth is proportionate to my doing?

In my wise-heart, I am so deeply aware that my greatest insights are almost effortlessly revealed when I am still and centered. Hidden under self-imposed layers of  mortal-world identity as wife, mother, minister, daughter, sister, and make-the-world-a-better-place-heroine-of-my-own-story,... is my interconnected soul, and the key to this journey.

In Unity, we call it the "I AM"  Presence.  My mother would call it "the spark of God inside every person."  No matter the name, it is a state of being the Divine Being we are born to express.  If I simply "am," - then  all the labels that I use to prove my worth and value in this world fall away and the sacred blossoms forth.  When that happens, there is nothing but now - and now is full of gratitude and joy.

It is the authentic soul-self I am seeking.  The journey to "I AM" is the pilgrimage...   I wonder how many steps there are between here and now....