Spiritual Fruits or Just Nuts?


Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Let the beauty we love be what we do.   ~~Rumi

I love this picture, taken when the Christ the Redeemer statue was under construction.   One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it was built in Rio di Janiero in the 1920’s and is huge, overlooking the whole city.  It captures how I so often feel on the path and I look at it from time to time to remind me of what it symbolizes to me in my own life….I often think of the words of Jesus telling me that the kingdom of heaven is within, that all is One, that we are safe and all is well.  We are not abandoned here, we are not alone here, all we have to do is plug into that larger place within us that is unobstructed, open, free, full of peace and love.  Pretty easy to say,  much harder to really practice.

A lot of times I feel like that picture…there might be a Christ within, but it is under construction most of the time.  My Buddha Nature is always available to me, say the teachers of the dharma, but I have to practice skillfulness in cultivating those seeds in order to really taste the fruit they bear.   Anyone who has ever really tried to work with this knows there is a reason they call it a practice 😉

I have had enough training from teachers of many paths to have a certain perspective on things, a certain approach, my own beliefs and so on.  I work with a lot of people on a lot of issues; there are a variety of reasons people seek out a coach or healer.  But underneath the presenting reason, I  believe we are all seeking healing which leads to union with God, with our true nature, with our essence.  I wrote about some of this in a few posts on the Blessings Blog, about distance healing and how that works, spiritually and physically.   True healing has evidence of the spiritual fruits and I believe taking daily bites  of our intended fruit just scatters those seeds out into the collective to benefit all.  But we have to be intentional about it in order to fully experience it.

It is my belief that how I feel or remember an experience has little to do with the qualities of the experience itself.  Some people leave our sessions feelings relaxed or energized, feeling happy or crying as grief releases.  I don’t see any of those as good or bad or right or wrong.  It’s just how you feel in the moment.  Healing and growth aren’t always comfortable, but they are always optional and not everyone chooses it.  So how an experience feels in the moment doesn’t tell me a lot about the experience itself–not everything that feels good is good.  Cocaine feels good in the moment and crying often doesn’t.  But that doesn’t mean snorting coke is good and crying is bad.  So we have to look for the fruits of an experience over time.

Buddhism and Christianity approach this in different ways, but work with the same qualities of discernment and fruition over time.  You really can tell a tree by its fruits and pear seeds  won’t grow into apple trees.  Both traditions tell us that if we practice prayer and meditation, working with our own process around seeking that Light, that heaven within, your Buddha Nature, or whatever else you may choose to call it, then you can predict certain fruits.

The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control…

~~ Galatians 5: 22-23

The limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are your deep-down, ultimate reality,  and those are qualities that can’t be improved upon. If you’re not feeling particularly kind, compassionate, joyful, or equanimous at the moment, take heart: the Four Limitless Ones are there like seeds, waiting to be cultivated through practice—and, being limitless, they’re rich enough to be worked with for a lifetime.

~~Pema Chodron, Dharma Teacher

I find this incredibly encouraging.  I love that in every tradition, the teachers or prophets tell us we are good.  People or bad theology  may try to tell you something different, but that’s their own stuff–take it all with a grain of salt and look for the fruits.   This is why having community and teachers or spiritual directors is so important, why we are meant to grow together in community, rather than just try to figure this all out alone–sometimes our own stuff gets in the way and we either don’t hear valuable feedback to help us grow, we have our own blinds spots,  we can misunderstand something and turn it into a shame spiral.  Other people can provide valuable feedback,  but  it is important to be discerning about those fruits as well.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what someone else says or does, what matters is how I respond to that and what I choose to believe about myself as a result.

Healthy spiritual traditions and practices  tell me that if I am truly on the path, my love and compassion toward myself and others will grow, not diminish.  So how it feels in the moment may be uncomfortable or make me face my deepest fears– and that can be a good thing.  But pay attention to the fruits, because what I’m working with and looking for to discern if choices and experiences are good for me are the spiritual fruits.   I am seeking to cultivate the seeds of spiritual fruits, but honestly sometimes I’m just nuts.  So cocaine may feel good in the moment, but the fruits won’t be sweet over time.  Crying, looking at my own reactions to things or facing some hard truths in life  may be challenging and bring up a lot of grief or old feelings, but over time that can yield a lot of compassion, inner peace and joy.  These things are predictable and proven methods of discernment.

It’s nice to know that on this journey so many have come before me and will come after me.  It’s nice to know there are teachers, books, communities and practices to help me develop skillfulness, cultivate the fruits of the spirit and share that with others.   It’s so nice to know every tradition tells us we are already good and really just expected to be nice, to love, to extend love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness.  The Prophet Micah tells us,

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…

Yogi Bhajan reminds us,

Never compete, never compare and never confuse yourself with everything here. You have come from God. Be with your God and see the glory of God in all, big and small. God shall be with you.

Pema Chodron teaches on the Four Limitless Qualities,  reminding us that our basic goodness, our Buddha Nature, what others might call that Christ within, is always available to us because we already have those seeds planted within, we only have to nourish them.   I have a sign on my desk that reminds me, “Divine Peace and Love surround me and dwell in me.  I am safe and trust the process of  Life.”  I find that when I plug into the Divine Peace which always surrounds me and dwells within me, that I feel safe and can indeed trust the process of life.  But I have to practice it.  I have to decide which fruits I will choose to eat from today, which seeds I will nourish and cultivate over time.

I have a variety of Questions I ask the Blessings Coaching clients.  Here is a set related to these things….

Humans get angry or upset about a variety of things. What is upsetting to me may not be upsetting to you. What’s important to your spouse, boss, friends or family may not be important to you, or you may find a situation presents itself as the other way around.  Hurt feelings and reactions often result from unmet expectations and the fruits can be sweet or bitter.   Getting upset about certain things is human and normal—a full range of emotions is normal and healthy.  It’s when we get triggered and go to extremes in our unmindful reactions that it creates problems for self and others. So as I sit with these Q’s, what comes up in me?

1.  When I’m angry or upset, what do I do? Do I blow up or shut down? Do I just check out and run away—physically or emotionally leave?    Do I make choices or behave in ways I later regret?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

2. When I experience “negative” emotions about something or someone…anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, and so on, what do I do? Do I injure or harm myself or others?  Do I punish them physically, emotionally or spiritually?   Do I make it all about them? Do I spread gossip about them that is untrue? Do I slander them? Do I suddenly begin to speak ill of or blame someone I once praised? Do I ignore them?   Make snide remarks?  Engage in retaliation with destruction of property or something dear to them?  Do I retaliate with destruction of their reputation?  Do I lie to them in order to avoid them or my feelings about it?  If in a committed relationship, do I run up debt or spend money we don’t have to get even?   Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

3. If the uncomfortable feelings or negative emotions come into play and I am around children or animals, do I take it out on them? What about elders, children or people under my care or responsibility—do I abuse my authority and take it out on employees, helpless patients in a nursing home,  students in a classroom or the clerk at the gas station? Do I manage my own energy and emotions well, or does everyone feel my moods change and take cover from the storm?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

4. When I feel positive emotions like joy, for myself or others, can I celebrate that?  Can I celebrate the good fortunes of another, or does it turn into envy or resentment?  Can I celebrate my own good fortunes and my own life, or do I feel like I don’t deserve it and have to work harder than ever now?  Do I have balance between my ups and downs, or am I dependent on external circumstances for my own moods?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

5.  What do I do with myself when these things come up in me?   Do I run away, work more, drink more, eat more or less, hide in retail therapy or other addictions?  Can I just sit with the uncomfortable feelings without lashing out or shutting down?  Are the fruits of my experience bringing me to greater wholeness, or do they disintegrate me and create bitter fruit?  Do my reactions and behaviors when I am stressed create problems in my relationships, at work, and result in self-hatred, guilt or  shame for me later?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

6.  Am I willing to work on this, to take responsibility for myself and my life force?  Am I willing to grow and change?  If so, how?  When?  If not now, when?

These can be frightening questions, and are not meant to be worked through alone.  Find a teacher, a coach, a spiritual director, good therapist or community as you try to work through these things.  We are not meant to be here all alone, just working on these things for ourselves.  We are born into communities and what impacts one impacts all.  So know that working on these things and cultivating sweet fruit in life benefits not just you, but everyone.   If you have questions or would like more info,  feel free to make a comment or contact me directly.

Peace and blessings, have a great day!

🙂





Smile at Fear


Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future…

~~~Fulton Oursler

Because we are afraid, we develop all kinds of habits which over time lead to addictions.  Human beings are funny like that–We look for strength in the things that weaken us…

~~Pema Chodron,  Dharma Teacher

I took this picture over Labor Day weekend while hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in New Mexico.  For those of you with eyes over 40, that is a cow patty with flowers growing out of it. Lovely, isn’t it? 🙂

You have to understand the enormity of the canyon and the area in which we were hiking to fully appreciate this image–ginormous doesn’t begin to capture it.  The CDT runs from Mexico to Canada, it’s hundreds of miles long.  We were in the Rio Chamas Wilderness section, just a few miles from the CDT trail head in New Mexico.  There are countless acres and square miles in which this flower could have planted itself, but it chose to land in cow poo and stay there, to use the inherent qualities of the excrement for fertilizer and grow just a bit taller and stronger than the surrounding flowers.  Let us take some instruction from this brave little wildflower– it was not afraid to get down in the muck and take root in order to grow and thrive in an otherwise harsh desert environment.

This is the area in which we were hiking…gorgeous, yes.  But fully sunny, hot and dry during the day, chilly at night.  Deep in canyons surrounded by mountains in the Chamas River Wilderness Area, about an hour outside of Santa Fe, 13 miles back on a red dirt road then walking toward Ojitos Canyon on the CDT…Desolate but full of Life, a blank slate on which nature and Life can assert itself to grow and thrive.

So that little flower could have inserted herself anywhere.  But Life doesn’t necessarily choose what is easy, Life chooses what is Life-Giving.  And let’s face it: sometimes Life acknowledges that shit makes great fertilizer.  But the truth is that as humans, we fear the pain, the stink, the stickiness, appearances of “how this will look,”  so we go for what seems easy in the moment, rather than what might actually feed us and give us more life.  But choosing the easier, softer way may not always be life-affirming; if we are not discerning, it can also lead to addictions and much more pain.  Fear can make us choose things  which in the moment seem easier–it seems easier in the moment to avoid tears and pain.  But in doing so, we often strengthen habits which just lead to more pain and fear and so on and on the cycle goes.  The biggest obstacle to true healing is our fear, because what usually happens in the middle of big healing experiences is that our fear arises and we shut down or check out.  Yet we can also use that same fear to move us forward or feed us, to strengthen us and lead us to seeking out a new way of being.  Discernment is the key here.   (I  wrote a more in-depth post on this concept called Spiritual Fruits or Just Nuts? You can read that here if you are interested. )

There is something really powerful and encouraging about knowing that since the beginning of time, humans have felt fear and elation, grief and joy, happiness and sadness, compassion and rage, resentment and forgiveness, hope and despair.  The list of feelings and their opposites could go on and on, but the truth is we are not so different than our ancestors.  All of the Religions of the Book and all of the sacred scriptures of each religion address this…each time the Angel of God comes to a prophet or recipient of Divine Love or Intervention, the first thing the Angel says is, “Be not afraid.”  Not, “Hey Joe, it’s your lucky day!”  But, “Fear not!”  Fear is natural and human, but so is love.  So is compassion.  So is forgiveness and grace.  It’s all true at once, and so we have to choose.  We have to choose to heal.  We have to choose to love.  We have to choose to move forward in our fear, which of course  is the hardest time to choose something.  But it can be done and you don’t have to do it alone.

Humans have always divided off into groups or tribes and have always liked to talk about how civilized we are and how that group over there is so wrong or bad…you can see it now between Christians and Muslims, Muslims and Jews, Republicans and Democrats and on and on.  But the real enemy, if there is an enemy at all, is our fear.  Our fear of change, our fear of loss, our fear of success, our fear of failure, our fear of abandonment, our fear of getting what we want or not getting what we want, fear of really living, fear of what “they” will think, fear of how it will look if we ask for help or tell the truth of our lives, and on and on it goes.  But if we get down to the basics of life, a Muslim parent in Afghanistan wants the same health and safety for his children that an American Baptist parent wants for his kids.  We all want to be loved, to be nourished and to have happiness and freedom from want or suffering.  We all want to be free of the things that bind us, we all want to feel safe and happy and know those whom we love are  safe and happy as well.

There is always something in the press about 9/11 and our fear based reactions to that date, to that event.  What people fail to remember is that Iran was the first country to send condolences to the United States after the Twin Towers fell.  Yes, Iran.  Not Great Britain or Israel, but Iran.  They were the first country to hold a prayer gathering and other Muslim countries quickly followed suit, because in that moment we were not enemies without official relations, we were all just human beings, all feeling the horror of the enormity of that loss.  Human compassion was able to override fear and mistrust and bring forth compassion and prayer.  Mistrust reigns again, but in the deepest moments of need, compassion can always take root.  Like that flower, Life can always find a way to grow through the pain, through the fear, through what looks like shit, and come out smelling like a rose on the other side.  Life just does that, because Life is rooted in Love, in our Oneness, in our connection.

The danger comes when we decide to root into our fears and just create more fertilizer in our life without ever really planting good seeds of compassion, growth, love or humility.  The seeds we plant will always grow–of this there is no doubt.  And poo makes great fertilizer regardless of the seeds, but as any gardener knows, too much fertilizer can also kill the plant.  So when in fear, I have some choices…Will I ask for help?  Will I be discerning about which seeds I am sowing?  Resentment seeds seem to germinate faster than seeds of compassion, but both need fertilizer to grow.  So which seeds am I planting today, which seeds am I feeding? What do I want this garden of my life to look like in a few months?  Because have no doubt–the seeds you plant today will be harvested tomorrow. You can call it karma or what comes around goes around, you can call it fair or unfair, you can call it what you want and what you call it won’t change what it is:  your responsibility.  It us up to each of us to choose which seeds we will nurture and feed, because we all carry the seeds of hate and love, fear and faith, hope and despair within us.  We can choose.  I can choose.  You can choose.  It is not always easy, but it is always possible.  This does not mean shutting off feelings, but really honoring them, inviting them in like a wise guest and accepting the gifts they offer us.  It means we can choose which seeds we will cultivate over time, what we will feed, what we will harvest in the future.  If you plant apple seeds you are not going to get pear trees, that’s just a fact.

The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron speaks of smiling at our fear and of embracing it, and speaks of the Buddhist saying,

Place your fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness…

It is a beautiful image of holding our own pain and fear with the same gentle loving-kindness we would extend to a beloved child.  Fear is not the enemy.  The “other” is not the enemy.  What we truly wrestle with is our own inner demons, our own fears, our own sense of inadequacy.  Our fear of not having enough makes us cheat or lie, steal or withhold, go too far or not far enough, hold back or shut down, hurt ourselves and others.  Interestingly, the definition of a fully enlightened being is one who is fearless because they are intimate with their fear.  Not that they don’t have fear, but that they have smiled at it, befriended it, invited it in like a wise teacher and discussed its gifts over a cup of tea.  The enlightened ones are fearless because they know the nature of fear and no longer fear their fear, not because they have managed to shut it down or off permanently.  This I like very much, this I find tremendously encouraging.

So today, like that little flower, we can choose to plant seeds of growth and abundance, of rooting down into the people, places and things which help us grow, regardless of how it might look from the outside.  Today we can choose to plant seeds of compassion and love, of forgiveness and loving-kindness and just stay with it, even if it feels or smells like shit in the moment.  Today we can smile at fear.

If you would like to watch Ani Pema Chodron talk about Smiling at Fear, you can see a snippet of that video below.

Wishing everyone peace and blessings and the peace and joy that comes from knowing we are all One, even in our fears.  Have a great day.

The Bridge, a Story about Consequences


“To confront a person with their own shadow is to show them their own light…”

~~Carl Jung

This is a story about fear, about our choices and ultimately what we are responsible for in our lives…To what do we owe ourselves and the Other, whomever that may be?   How do we face our fears?  If you like this story and the following questions, I wrote a post on the Blessings Blog called Smiling at Fear, about how we face these choices and deal with these inevitable situations in our lives.   If you are interested, you can find that here.

I got this story some time ago from Missy Bradley, the teacher of the Heroic Journey Seminar.  If you get a chance to see her in your city, it is so well worth it!  You can find her schedule here.  This is a great story, and it a total cut and paste, nothing original here but not much I can do to improve on it, so enjoy!

The Bridge

By Edwin Friedman

There was a man who had given much thought to what he wanted from life. He had experienced many moods and trials. He had experimented with different ways of living, and he had had his share of both success and failure. At last, he began to see clearly where he wanted to go.

Diligently, he searched for the right opportunity. Sometimes he came close, only to be pushed away. Often he applied all his strength and imagination, only to find the path hopelessly blocked.  And then at last it came. But the opportunity would not wait. It would be made available only for a short time. If it were seen that he was not committed, the opportunity would not come again.

Eager to arrive, he started on his journey. With each step, he wanted to move faster; with each thought about his goal, his heart beat quicker; with each vision of what lay ahead, he found renewed vigor. Strength that had left him since his early youth returned, and desires, all kinds of desires, reawakened from their long-dormant positions.

Hurrying along, he came upon a bridge that crossed through the middle of a town. It had been built high above a river in order to protect it from the floods of spring. He started across. Then he noticed someone coming from the opposite direction. As they moved closer, it seemed as though the other were coming to greet him. He could see clearly, however, that he did not know this other, who was dressed similarly except for something tied around his waist.

When they were within hailing distance, he could see that what the other had about his waist was a rope. It was wrapped around him many times and probably, if extended, would reach a length of 30 feet.   The other began to uncurl the rope, and, just as they were coming close, the stranger said, “Pardon me, would you be so kind as to hold the end a moment?”

Surprised by this politely phrased but curious request, he agreed without a thought, reached out, and took it.

“Thank you,” said the other, who then added, “two hands now, and remember, hold tight.”

Whereupon, the other jumped off the bridge.

Quickly, the free-falling body hurtled the distance of the rope’s length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull. Instinctively, he held tight and was almost dragged over the side. He managed to brace himself against the edge, however, and after having caught his breath, looked down at the other dangling, close to oblivion.

“What are you trying to do?” he yelled.

“Just hold tight,” said the other.

“This is ridiculous,” the man thought and began trying to haul the other in. He could not get the leverage, however. It was as though the weight of the other person and the length of the rope had been carefully calculated in advance so that together they created a counterweight just beyond his strength to bring the other back to safety.

“Why did you do this?” the man called out.

“Remember,” said the other, “if you let go, I will be lost.”

“But I cannot pull you up,” the man cried.

“I am your responsibility,” said the other.

“Well, I did not ask for it,” the man said.

“If you let go, I am lost,” repeated the other.

He began to look around for help. But there was no one. How long would he have to wait? Why did this happen to befall him now, just as he was on the verge of true success?   He examined the  side, searching for a place to tie the rope. Some protrusion, perhaps, or maybe a hole in the boards. But the railing was unusually uniform in shape; there were no spaces between the boards. There was no way to get rid of this newfound burden, even temporarily.

“What do you want?” he asked the other hanging below.

“Just your help,” the other answered.

“How can I help? I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to tie the rope so that I can go and find someone to help me help you.”

“I know that. Just hang on; that will be enough. Tie the rope around your waist; it will be easier.”

Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.

“Why did you do this?” he asked again. “Don’t you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?”

“Just remember,” said the other, “my life is in your hands.”

What should he do? “If I let go, all my life I will know that I let this other die. If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward my own long-sought-after salvation. Either way this will haunt me  forever.”  W ith ironic humor he thought to die himself, instantly, to jump off the bridge while still  holding on. “That would teach this fool.” But he wanted to live and to live life fully. “What a choice I have to make; how shall I ever decide?”

As time went by, still no one came. The critical moment of decision was drawing near. To show his commitment to his own goals, he would have to continue on his journey now. It was already almost too late to arrive in time. But what a terrible choice to have to make.

A new thought occurred to him. While he could not pull this other up solely by his own efforts, if the other would shorten the rope from his end by curling it around his waist again and again, together they could do it. Actually, the other could do it by himself, so long as he, standing on the bridge, kept it still and steady.

“Now listen,” he shouted down. “I think I know how to save you.” And he explained his plan.

But the other wasn’t interested.

“You mean you won’t help? But I told you I cannot pull you up myself, and I don’t think I can hang on much longer either.”

“You must try,” the other shouted back in tears. “If you fail, I die.”

The point of decision arrived. What should he do? “My life or this other’s?” And then a new idea.

A revelation. So new, in fact, it seemed heretical, so alien was it to his traditional way of thinking.

“I want you to listen carefully,” he said, “because I mean what I am about to say. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life I hereby give back to you.”

“What do you mean?” the other asked, afraid.

“I mean, simply, it’s up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will become the counterweight.  You do the pulling and bring yourself up. I will even tug a little from here.” He began unwinding  the rope from around his waist and braced himself anew against the side.

“You cannot mean what you say,” the other shrieked. “You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me!”

He waited a moment. There was no change in the tension of the rope.

“I accept your choice,” he said, at last, and freed his hands.

The End.

Copyright 1990, The Guilford Press, under option to Snaproll Films

The questions that come with the clinical book with this story are:

1. How would you get the man hanging from the rope to take responsibility for himself?

2. How much responsibility does the man on the bridge have for the other?

3. Why is is so difficult to let go once we are experiencing “rope-burn?”

4. What is a higher value, self-sacrifice or achieving your own salvation?

5. Why do the needy often get most needy when others around them are functioning best?

6. Why are the dependent so often calling the shots?

7. If the man on the bridge never got away, could the man handing on to the rope be accused of murder?

8. How does this story get played out in families, schools, religious institutions, health-care delivery centers, business organizations and government?

9. Could both men be the same person? If so, how?

10. If someone came up to you and said, “Hold the end or I’ll jump,” what would you do?

Food for thought.

Have a great weekend.  peace 🙂

Spiritual Fruits or Just Nuts?


Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Let the beauty we love be what we do.   ~~Rumi

I love this picture, taken when the Christ the Redeemer statue was under construction.   One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it was built in Rio di Janiero in the 1920’s and is huge, overlooking the whole city.  It captures how I so often feel on the path and I look at it from time to time to remind me of what it symbolizes to me in my own life….I often think of the words of Jesus telling me that the kingdom of heaven is within, that all is One, that we are safe and all is well.  We are not abandoned here, we are not alone here, all we have to do is plug into that larger place within us that is unobstructed, open, free, full of peace and love.  Pretty easy to say,  much harder to really practice.

A lot of times I feel like that picture…there might be a Christ within, but it is under construction most of the time.  My Buddha Nature is always available to me, say the teachers of the dharma, but I have to practice skillfulness in cultivating those seeds in order to really taste the fruit they bear.   Anyone who has ever really tried to work with this knows there is a reason they call it a practice 😉

I have had enough training from teachers of many paths to have a certain perspective on things, a certain approach, my own beliefs and so on.  I work with a lot of people on a lot of issues; there are a variety of reasons people seek out a coach or healer.  But underneath the presenting reason, I  believe we are all seeking healing which leads to union with God, with our true nature, with our essence.  I wrote about some of this in a few posts on the Blessings Blog, about distance healing and how that works, spiritually and physically.   True healing has evidence of the spiritual fruits and I believe taking daily bites  of our intended fruit just scatters those seeds out into the collective to benefit all.  But we have to be intentional about it in order to fully experience it.

It is my belief that how I feel or remember an experience has little to do with the qualities of the experience itself.  Some people leave our sessions feelings relaxed or energized, feeling happy or crying as grief releases.  I don’t see any of those as good or bad or right or wrong.  It’s just how you feel in the moment.  Healing and growth aren’t always comfortable, but they are always optional and not everyone chooses it.  So how an experience feels in the moment doesn’t tell me a lot about the experience itself–not everything that feels good is good.  Cocaine feels good in the moment and crying often doesn’t.  But that doesn’t mean snorting coke is good and crying is bad.  So we have to look for the fruits of an experience over time.

Buddhism and Christianity approach this in different ways, but work with the same qualities of discernment and fruition over time.  You really can tell a tree by its fruits and pear seeds  won’t grow into apple trees.  Both traditions tell us that if we practice prayer and meditation, working with our own process around seeking that Light, that heaven within, your Buddha Nature, or whatever else you may choose to call it, then you can predict certain fruits.

The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control…

~~ Galatians 5: 22-23

The limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are your deep-down, ultimate reality,  and those are qualities that can’t be improved upon. If you’re not feeling particularly kind, compassionate, joyful, or equanimous at the moment, take heart: the Four Limitless Ones are there like seeds, waiting to be cultivated through practice—and, being limitless, they’re rich enough to be worked with for a lifetime.

~~Pema Chodron, Dharma Teacher

I find this incredibly encouraging.  I love that in every tradition, the teachers or prophets tell us we are good.  People or bad theology  may try to tell you something different, but that’s their own stuff–take it all with a grain of salt and look for the fruits.   This is why having community and teachers or spiritual directors is so important, why we are meant to grow together in community, rather than just try to figure this all out alone–sometimes our own stuff gets in the way and we either don’t hear valuable feedback to help us grow, we have our own blinds spots,  we can misunderstand something and turn it into a shame spiral.  Other people can provide valuable feedback,  but  it is important to be discerning about those fruits as well.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what someone else says or does, what matters is how I respond to that and what I choose to believe about myself as a result.

Healthy spiritual traditions and practices  tell me that if I am truly on the path, my love and compassion toward myself and others will grow, not diminish.  So how it feels in the moment may be uncomfortable or make me face my deepest fears– and that can be a good thing.  But pay attention to the fruits, because what I’m working with and looking for to discern if choices and experiences are good for me are the spiritual fruits.   I am seeking to cultivate the seeds of spiritual fruits, but honestly sometimes I’m just nuts.  So cocaine may feel good in the moment, but the fruits won’t be sweet over time.  Crying, looking at my own reactions to things or facing some hard truths in life  may be challenging and bring up a lot of grief or old feelings, but over time that can yield a lot of compassion, inner peace and joy.  These things are predictable and proven methods of discernment.

It’s nice to know that on this journey so many have come before me and will come after me.  It’s nice to know there are teachers, books, communities and practices to help me develop skillfulness, cultivate the fruits of the spirit and share that with others.   It’s so nice to know every tradition tells us we are already good and really just expected to be nice, to love, to extend love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness.  The Prophet Micah tells us,

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God…

Yogi Bhajan reminds us,

Never compete, never compare and never confuse yourself with everything here. You have come from God. Be with your God and see the glory of God in all, big and small. God shall be with you.

Pema Chodron teaches on the Four Limitless Qualities,  reminding us that our basic goodness, our Buddha Nature, what others might call that Christ within, is always available to us because we already have those seeds planted within, we only have to nourish them.   I have a sign on my desk that reminds me, “Divine Peace and Love surround me and dwell in me.  I am safe and trust the process of  Life.”  I find that when I plug into the Divine Peace which always surrounds me and dwells within me, that I feel safe and can indeed trust the process of life.  But I have to practice it.  I have to decide which fruits I will choose to eat from today, which seeds I will nourish and cultivate over time.

I have a variety of Questions I ask the Blessings Coaching clients.  Here is a set related to these things….

Humans get angry or upset about a variety of things. What is upsetting to me may not be upsetting to you. What’s important to your spouse, boss, friends or family may not be important to you, or you may find a situation presents itself as the other way around.  Hurt feelings and reactions often result from unmet expectations and the fruits can be sweet or bitter.   Getting upset about certain things is human and normal—a full range of emotions is normal and healthy.  It’s when we get triggered and go to extremes in our unmindful reactions that it creates problems for self and others. So as I sit with these Q’s, what comes up in me?

1.  When I’m angry or upset, what do I do? Do I blow up or shut down? Do I just check out and run away—physically or emotionally leave?    Do I make choices or behave in ways I later regret?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

2. When I experience “negative” emotions about something or someone…anger, envy, jealousy, resentment, and so on, what do I do? Do I injure or harm myself or others?  Do I punish them physically, emotionally or spiritually?   Do I make it all about them? Do I spread gossip about them that is untrue? Do I slander them? Do I suddenly begin to speak ill of or blame someone I once praised? Do I ignore them?   Make snide remarks?  Engage in retaliation with destruction of property or something dear to them?  Do I retaliate with destruction of their reputation?  Do I lie to them in order to avoid them or my feelings about it?  If in a committed relationship, do I run up debt or spend money we don’t have to get even?   Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

3. If the uncomfortable feelings or negative emotions come into play and I am around children or animals, do I take it out on them? What about elders, children or people under my care or responsibility—do I abuse my authority and take it out on employees, helpless patients in a nursing home,  students in a classroom or the clerk at the gas station? Do I manage my own energy and emotions well, or does everyone feel my moods change and take cover from the storm?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

4. When I feel positive emotions like joy, for myself or others, can I celebrate that?  Can I celebrate the good fortunes of another, or does it turn into envy or resentment?  Can I celebrate my own good fortunes and my own life, or do I feel like I don’t deserve it and have to work harder than ever now?  Do I have balance between my ups and downs, or am I dependent on external circumstances for my own moods?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

5.  What do I do with myself when these things come up in me?   Do I run away, work more, drink more, eat more or less, hide in retail therapy or other addictions?  Can I just sit with the uncomfortable feelings without lashing out or shutting down?  Are the fruits of my experience bringing me to greater wholeness, or do they disintegrate me and create bitter fruit?  Do my reactions and behaviors when I am stressed create problems in my relationships, at work, and result in self-hatred, guilt or  shame for me later?  Am I willing to take responsibility for this and change?

6.  Am I willing to work on this, to take responsibility for myself and my life force?  Am I willing to grow and change?  If so, how?  When?  If not now, when?

These can be frightening questions, and are not meant to be worked through alone.  Find a teacher, a coach, a spiritual director, good therapist or community as you try to work through these things.  We are not meant to be here all alone, just working on these things for ourselves.  We are born into communities and what impacts one impacts all.  So know that working on these things and cultivating sweet fruit in life benefits not just you, but everyone.   If you have questions or would like more info,  feel free to make a comment or contact me directly.

Peace and blessings, have a great day!

🙂





Forgiveness, Metta & Priorities


Good morning, Happy Thursday! 🙂

I’ve had several conversations today about priorities, forgiveness and how making forgiveness a priority  is such an integral part of the journey and a good life.  Forgiveness comes from words meaning “allow,” and literally means “for giving.”   Everyone I’ve talked to today is having such a rough time, and there is a lot of emotion swirling around.  All of this got me thinking about feelings and what we do with them, and about for-giving.

I think when we forgive we give up the sense of being a victim so we can set ourselves and another person free.  Really what we are giving up is the sense that we have a right to punish someone for harming us.  But I think at a deeper level, we mostly give the freedom to ourselves.  If I hold onto old hurts, the truth is that I’m the one hurting myself over time, not the original person I charge with the harm.   So when forgiveness becomes a priority for me, I find that I feel a deeper sense of freedom in general.

Buddhists speak at length about the roots of suffering and happiness, and in cases of cruelty or harm, aspire for the wrongdoer,

May you experience happiness and the roots of happiness.  May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering.

There is understanding and acknowledgment that harm has been caused, intentionally or not, but that holding onto it only creates more suffering.  There is acknowledgment that pain and betrayal, harm and hurt are not just personal, but also universal.   I’ve probably hurt others too, so maybe it’s best that we all experience happiness and the roots of happiness.  In cases of extreme cruelty or harm, the kindest thing that can be done for all is to be free of the roots of suffering and instead tend to the roots of happiness.

Christian scriptures tell us, “if you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven.”  Theologians and scholars tell us this does not mean God won’t forgive us, but the truth is that unforgiving people tend to be somewhat vengeful people, vengeful people tend to harm other people, and so round and round it goes.   So if I refuse to forgive you, it probably signifies a deeper wound or hurt  in me and if I can’t forgive myself for mistakes, I probably will find it hard to forgive others.  Holding onto that kind of hurt and resentment often results in depression, rage, or a soul-sucking detachment which separates us from God.  Therefore we don’t feel the love and mercy of the Divine because we don’t let it in.  It’s always there, but if I don’t let it in then I can’t experience it.

So I was thinking about all of that this morning…thinking about priorities, and thinking about the folks I know who make letting go and forgivness a priority–the truth is that they are the happiest folks I know, in spite of a lot of past pain. I’m feeling very pensive today, very aware, almost too present, if that’s possible.   It’s the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, as I wrote about in the previous post.  I have a full day and tonight I will go to my parental units, about 3 hours south of here, and spend a day or two.   My own mom is sick and declining  steadily.  It’s hard to watch, and I find myself sometimes having to stay present to it, finding the balance between knowing what that means clinically, as well as my own feelings about it.

I was thinking about my mother’s grief about the death of her own mother, and how that no doubt is especially poignant in this time of her own decline.   Chances are that my mother will have had more time with her mom than I will have, probably about 15 years longer than I will.  Nine years after the death of my grandmother, when we all still laugh about and grieve this powerhouse of a woman,  I think about all she had to endure and forgive.  She seemed to make forgiveness a priority and she had a lot of things she needed to forgive, from what I know about her life story.  But rather than use those things as excuses to put up walls or shut down, she instead used them as a means of prayer, of letting go, of moving on.  Not in denial, but in a choice of how she wanted to live.  God knows that wasn’t perfect or constant.  In spite of my memories of her as how Heaven would smell, she was quite human and had her own issues.  But she kept pluggin along at it— she made it a priority.

Today I have been thinking about that a lot and all of my own feelings about my mom, our relationship and what I would like for this remaining time we have to be like.  The truth is that my experience is up to me, and so I’m working on making this time as peaceful and fluid as it can be– that’s my priority today.  I’m borrowing prayers today, and sending out a few of my own…I’ve gotten a lot of calls this morning from people going through a hard time….lost jobs, sick friends, sick moms, hurt feelings on lots of sides in lots of relationships, and I’m observing all of this with keen interest and curiosity.

Given all of that, I had a chat with myself this morning about priorities and what is important to me.  Today my priority is loving-kindness to myself and others, and as of this writing at 830, I hope I’ve done OK with that so far. But we’ll see. I don’t have enough coffee in me yet to do much damage.

But given all of that, I am making metta my priority today.  I’ve been practicing metta meditations for years.  There is a reason they call it a practice.  Metta basically means loving kindness.  If you’d like to learn more about all of this, you can read about it here.

This is part of the instructions from the Buddha to his followers about this practice…

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will

Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life

Her child, her only child,

So with a boundless heart

Should one cherish all living beings:

Radiating kindness over the entire world

Spreading upwards to the skies,

And downwards to the depths;

Outwards and unbounded,

Freed from hatred and ill-will…

Today I am thinking about all of these things, and the relationships in my life.  There are so many, and they are so good, and I am so grateful.  Today I aspire we all experience happiness and the roots of happiness.  May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering.  May you live in peace,  love and experience giggles, joy and metta as priorities.

Have a great day!

Peace and blessings 🙂



Merton & the Path


This morning I am thinking about Thomas Merton.

For the uninitiated,  Thomas Merton was one of the great mystics of our time.  A Trappist monk and  a prolific writer, in his later years he connected with Buddhist teachers and declared them brothers in contemplation.   His autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain,  is a road map, his own experience with starting off as an atheist and becoming a monk.   Merton spent 13 years of silent meditation at the Abbey of Gethsemani, praying for God’s will.  He came out and wrote this:

My God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.   I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do i really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You.  And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it at the time.  Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone….

That prayer is found in his book Thoughts in Solitude.

Today I am contemplating Merton.  I have been thinking a lot about him and this path of late…watching myself and others on it, sometimes feeling my own sense of inadequacy, elation, giggles or frustration, my own attachment to outcomes, my own humanness coming in many disguises.

It’s funny– I don’t think most of us have an emotion that has a shelf life of more than about 20 minutes.  Even in the depths of grief or loss, of joy or elation, you cannot hold onto that for more than a few hours…things are always changing.  You can choose to stay angry or as a victim, and that can become habitual as well.  But mostly emotions  ebb and flow, like waves coming and going, rising and falling on the shores of our souls.

Our thoughts and emotional states come and go like clouds in the sky.  And when we recognize this and let them float on by, without getting caught in the stickiness of trying to hold onto a cloud, it all seems to flow pretty well…  Yet when we are experiencing one we label as “negative, ” aka “uncomfortable,” we want that one to end.  I have had long periods of meditation where there is a sense of One, of elation, of the bliss of knowing there is no separation.   It is a practice not to cling to any of it, to let them all come and go, like clouds moving across the blue sky.

This morning I felt my frustration rise over what now seems fairly trivial, at least my part of it.  But it rose nonetheless.  I felt my chest tighten, my breath grow more shallow,  felt myself try to get back to my practice of openness…to breathe it away…ventilate it, give it some space and air, let it pass gently.  If that same person had called to tell me we just won the lotto, those same places in me would have expanded instead of contracted.   Most spiritual traditions teach that the more we hold onto anything, the more it holds onto us.   So this morning, I am letting go, letting my heart space expand and fill with the Light and air that is always available to me.

Separation is illusion.  Divine peace dwell in and around all of us, and we can all trust the process of life.  But isn’t it funny that we only want to trust the things we label as “good?”  So much of our experience is based in the stories we tell ourselves about life and our experiences.   Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and I think a lot of the suffering in the world is the result of the stories we tell ourselves about the pain, about clinging, grasping and being afraid to let go.

So this morning, I think of Merton.  Because if Thomas Merton– mystic, teacher, writer and fellow traveler on the path– doesn’t know God’s will after 13 years of silent meditation in a monastery, then I probably won’t figure it out today either.  But I’ll keep on the path, and keep asking, keep showing up, keep contemplating.   On that note, I’m going to meditate, letting myself become one of the clouds in this ever moving sky.

I’m curious– what do you do to stay on the path and let it all pass through?

Have a great day.  🙂

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