We have lots of choices about how we spend our time.
Some of us like to be social.
Some of us like to be out and about.
Some of us like to work.
Some of us like to be relaxed.
For me, I like to spend time on my work and my family, and what I’ve come to understand is that when you’re really committed to something, there isn’t a lot of room for much else.
Thus, I glean time: I actively gather and select and choose those commitments that hold personal value to me, from the larger crop of what’s available.
I don’t do “shoulds” any more.
I don’t do peer pressure.
I know what I hold as valuable.
I gather that.
I glean time, so that I can put my attention on what’s most important to me.
Of course, we aren’t always in a passage of our life where this can happen immediately. During the years I had four kids at home and several jobs, I had to do a lot of things I didn’t like, all the time.
At first, I just ran on overwhelm and adrenaline.
But later, as choices came up, I started to make them. After being overwhelmed by the schedule of competitive soccer and basketball with two older kids, I said no to competitive sports for the two younger ones. After being drained by the pressure to be on every volunteer committee at school and church, I resigned from all committees. After being exhausted by a city job that required a two-hour commute each day, I took a less glamorous job close to home. And so on.
I made choices.
I pared down.
I said no.
I gleaned out every single minute that was available to me, and pretty soon this gleaning gained momentum, and soon it came to pass that I was no longer a busy person: I wasn’t on the teams, I wasn’t on the committees, I didn’t work in the city.
And with each “no,” with each boundary, with each gleaning of what I wanted vs. what I was “supposed” to do, I became happier and more clear about my true purpose in this life.
In those years, it was a foreign language to say “no.”
Now, I say it all the time!
I have gotten so clear on the value of downtime as the key to creativity, to spaciousness as a gateway to joy, to the understanding that it is much more important to notice and expand, then to go hurtling through this amazing life.
Try it. Say “no.”. Glean some time for yourself, and see what happens.
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You’ve probably heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”?
Yet in the tiny Oregon town where I live, I’ve found that familiarity breeds respect.
It’s not about homogeneity or cultural sameness, either. The people here don’t get along because they’re similar to each other.
In fact, they’re not similar at all.
Race, religion, background, belief—whoa! It’s all a very big mix in this farming/college community an hour south of Portland.
But because every one knows each other in a familiar, day-to-day way—as neighbors, workers, families—everyone gives each other a lot of leeway.
We give each other space.
At the town pub, our diversity shines out.
The pub is trendy, because we’re a commuter town to Portland, and all that Tumblr rubs off. The pub serves trendy things like micro brews and cherry ketchup and hemp burgers, and the waiters wear hipster clothes: vests and watch chains and long curling waxed mustaches.
It’s hip, it’s happening, a gathering place!
So here we all are, bringing our great diversity, all our differences…
We mix it up. We give each other space. We pass the cherry ketchup.
And we blend and mingle and create a vibration that’s so much more interesting than homogenized sameness.
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Sometimes people come to me and ask why it is that they can’t do a specific skill, such as see a vision in mediation.
When I ask about their lifestyle, I often find that these are incredibly busy people.
And so I tell them to relax more, to clear their life of overscheduling, to slow down and listen to the still and small.
Yet more often than not, they find it very hard to do this, or they’re resistant to doing this.
They don’t get how relaxing more will help them: how slowing down will help them speed up their spiritual expansion.
They are so accustomed to go-go-go.
They are so accustomed to do-do-do.
They are so accustomed to think-think-think.
Now, go-do-think are okay if you’re trying to tread water in a linear world.
But if you long to enter the depths of the Mystery, these linear, left-brain, rational approaches don’t work.
It’s like trying to use a chainsaw to peel an orange.
If you’re waiting for God, you have to wait in a relaxed state. You have to relax, have downtime, slow down, get quiet, get still.
God can’t reach you if you’re too busy, or too loud or too noisy in your own head.
You’ll miss all the sweet and subtle signs.
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The Universe sends us signs all the time.
We just usually miss them.
Very early one morning, I drove down our gravel driveway into the woods, in that kind of dreamy, contemplative state that often comes over me while driving.
It happens when I turn off the radio.
I turn off the “to do” list in my head.
And I allow my soul to flow… moving through space, moving through time, allowing myself to expand into everything.
I was in exactly this kind of floaty relaxed state, when I saw a flicker to my right.
If I’d had the radio on, I would have missed it. But fortunately, I was paying attention.
I slowed the car... and then I stopped completely and rolled down the window, and witnessed this pretty plump robin, alight on a stone angel, reminding me that spring is here.
On an angel!
Such as simple little sign of hope—that the cold and rain and mud and grey and drear is finally gone for another season—that we will soon have light and breeze and warmth again.
Such a simple little sign—the Universe putting a bird on it, so we are reminded once again, of how lovely our earthly paradise, our Gaia, really is.
Moving at the speed of guidance—not too fast, not too hurried, in surrender to whatever shows up— is the way to notice these little signs.
Slowing down, noticing, being grateful—is the way to keep them coming.
P.S. Will you be joining me on the 2018 Beyond Words Cruise?
So many of you tell me you were raised Catholic—from the most casual mass-at-Christmas-and-Easter, to the most devout parochial-school-with-nuns-or-priests.
Nowadays, many of you are still Catholic, or not Catholic at all—or maybe you're not really sure where the formal religion of your childhood intersects with your new spiritual beliefs.
I have my own Catholic experience.
I was raised by non-religious parents who sent me to the local convent—which mean nuns wearing dimples, mass daily, fonts of holy water in the hallway, and statues of St. Frances Assisi everywhere.
Lots of folks didn't have great experiences at Catholic schools, but I did. I converted to Catholicism as an adult, and practiced for many years until my near-death-experience—when everything changed.
In any case, I am familiar with the Easter energy that many of us are feeling now.
Easter Week is hugely emotional: Maundy Thursday is somber and incredibly sad. Good Friday brings hope. Easter Vigil, which begins Saturday night and at the parish I use to attend, included a blazing bonfire, a swinging vessel of incense... and many, many (did I say many?) hours later, the baptism of all new members of the church in water and chrism. Easter begins during the wee hours of the vigil, and continues on till morning.
If you have these Easter memories hardwired into your system, you're going to be feeling stuff this week, whether you want to or not.
Religion has been wonderful for many people.
Religion has wounded many others.
We each have our own experience.
But it all comes back, every spring.
For me, what's best it to acknowledge that the energy swirling around us this week is there, and it affects us.
So just feel it... feel it all... and let your feelings be released.
Then take a look around you.
Today, the daffodils are out, and very soon the tulips will be here.
And be in awe.
Your dharma is another name for your soul path.
When you follow your dharma, you are following your true soul path: the real reason why you are here on this earth in this lifetime.
The overall dharma for everyone, of course, is to expand in consciousness. To expand our understanding during this life in which we are soul in human container.
But aside from soul growth, which is our over-arching dharma, there is also a more personal dharma that each of us must identify and follow.
We often talk about this as life’s purpose, or life's calling, or even destiny.
To follow your dharma, is to follow the destiny that you as a soul chose. Every soul has a personal destiny, a personal dharma.
But how do you know what your dharma is?
Well… it’s what you are drawn to do.
It’s what you’d without payment, without reward, without recognition. Without society telling you it’s what you should be doing—or that it’s right or good or valuable…
It's what you want to do all the time, no matter what. That's your dharma.
And in some cases, it’s what you’re drawn to do but not doing yet.
Sometimes a clue to your dharma can be found by looking back to the age of 10 or 11: what you loved doing most of all, what you loved thinking about and working on your own… this is likely to be where your dharma is.
Sometimes a clue to your dharma can be found by recognizing what you are deeply interested in now—whether you have allowed yourself to do this or not.
If you know your dharma, do it.
If you don’t, ask the Universe to show you.
Simply ask to be shown your true soul path.
And then follow what comes next… the signs and synchronicities that will reveal your true path.
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Some days you wake up and Destiny does not greet you.
You’re not filled with any sense of meaning, or any sense of momentum, or you’re not sure why you’re doing any of it anyway.
When you feel this way, feel it.
Don’t try to get all pumped up and productive!
Don’t try to get all motivated and mojo’d!
Just let it be. Let yourself be, as you are feeling right now. Go adrift for a while, and let yourself admit that you don’t know:
• Who you really are.
• What you’re supposed to be doing.
• Why you’re living in this place.
• Why you’re living with that person.
• Why you’re doing this work.
• What it’s all about, anyhow?
Everything seems like a weird dream. Nothing makes sense. It all seems so strange, it’s all an illusion.
Let yourself go adrift from your particular identity: this body, this personality, this life, this work, these relationships, and recognize that you are multifaceted, and that you have many desires, and that many parts of you are not expressed, even if you are living a very expressive, authentic, creative life.
And especially, if you are not.
Just go adrift, and allow yourself to detach from all that identity, that personality, that ego, that “must do,” that “this is how it is” and just take a deep breath and smile and say, Maybe that’s how it is.
Or maybe it’s not.
When we go adrift, we free ourselves from the thinking pattern of this is how it “must be.”
Whereas of course, there are lots of ways to be and live.
Going adrift, for a few hours, for a day, for a series of days to get your head clear: all this helps you come to the understanding that how you live, who you live with, what you think about… nothing’s set in stone.
It’s all your choice.
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The big questions of life are sometimes posed by the innocence of youth.
At a coffee shop lately, we sat next to a girl of about ten, plus her mom, her teenage sister and her sister's friend.
The young girl kept reading loudly from her cell phone, from an app that I am guessing is called "Would You Rather?"
With that persistent, adorable, unstoppable, lovely force of a preteen, she read questions to her mom.
“Mom! Would you rather love someone but they DON'T love you? Or have someone love you but YOU DON'T llove them? "
“Mom? Mom! What’s your answer?”
"Umm… that's a hard one."
“Mom! Now listen to this one.”
"Would you rather NEVER eat chocolate, or ONLY eat chocolate?"
"That one's easy… eat chocolate."
And eavesdropping with broad smiles at the table one foot away, she read aloud our very favorite...
"Mom! Mom! Mom!”
Sigh. “Yes, dear.”
“Mom, this is IMPORTANT. Would you rather wear underwear ALWAYS. Or never wear underwear EVER?"
Their table, our table, and even few tables nearby, convulsed into laughter. The mentioning of unmentionables had us all laughing.
Life is funny. People are funny. It is so enjoyable to be in life, surrounded by others enjoying an everyday afternoon, drinking coffee and laughing at silly jokes.
Yep. There we were. Laughing at a joke about underwear... in the midst of a cafe filled with parents, kids, seniors, singles... a diverse community of folks.
Nobody focused on being “spiritual” as something outside of ourselves.
Nobody trying to be “spiritual” in some formal way.
Just hanging out being human.
Laughing and connecting.
Wearing underwear or not.
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