Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Bigger Picture

Affirmation:  Because of my relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me
Have you heard the story about the farmer who lived in ancient times?  He had a lovely farm and one son and one horse.  One day they found the gate to the corral open and the horse was missing.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  You’ve lost your only horse, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son then borrowed a horse and went to look for their missing animal.  In a while, his father looked up and saw his son coming towards him riding the missing horse and behind him was a whole heard of horses.  He opened the gate and all the horses ran into the corral.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  You’ve not only found your horse. You now have a whole heard of horses, how wonderful!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  His son began taming the wild horses and one day he fell off and broke his leg.  All his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh no, you poor man.  Your only son has broken his leg and now he cannot help you with all the work on your farm, how terrible!”  He answered, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”  While his son was recuperating, the local war lord and his men showed up.  They were conscripting all the eligible young men to fight in their war.  Of course, they could not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.  Once again, all his friends and neighbors gathered around and said “Oh, you lucky man.  Your only son has been saved from fighting for the local war lord, how wonderful!”  I’m not going to tell you his answer.  I think you already know it.  
How many times have you had something happen to you and you judged the quality of the experience as good or bad and then, later, sometimes much later, you saw it in a different light and realized you didn’t have a clue at the time it occurred about how it was going to affect your life?  It’s so easy to fall into the pit of despair, anxiety and depression.  According to quantum physics negative energy resonates at a lower level than positive energy.  That makes it easier for us to connect with it and more difficult to tap into the positive.  We have to work harder to find the positive.  I’m sure you have many examples of events that created openings into opportunities of which you never dreamed.  In our family alone, we have experienced job loss that led to a new and better opportunity.  We’ve witnessed the sad disillusionment of a marriage that later led to a new, healthier, happier family unit.  We’ve seen so much suffering and struggle that in time brought reward and accomplishment.   Of course, that’s not always true.  But, doesn’t it bring comfort that it can work out for the better?
That’s not to say we shouldn’t allow ourselves our feelings.  Not only should we allow them, we need to experience them.  There is no short cut through grief; there is only the direct path through it.  If you try to skirt around it, it will catch up with you when you least expect it.  And, grief comes from many different types of loses, not just from death.  One can experience grief over the loss of a dream; perhaps the dream of a perfect marriage, a perfect job, what one thought a perfect career should look like.  One can experience grief over the loss of health, money, youth and even less recognized events like that of thinning hair or a thickening middle.  It’s all part of our lives.  It’s important to acknowledge how we feel about loss and then move towards recovery.  But, it’s also important to realize nothing is stagnant.  Life is always changing and whatever is causing you distress will change too and it might just be the one thing to open a door to something marvelous.  Why not simply watch and see how it works itself out?
We are only capable of seeing a small part of the picture.  Only God can see the big picture.  The question is can you trust enough to believe He/She has your best interest at heart; that that which was meant for your harm, God will use for your good?   Garth Brooks has a country song entitled “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer.”  In it he tells the story of a man who meets an old flame, the one woman he prayed to God to make his wife.  It didn’t work out and now as he walks away from her, he realizes how lucky he was.  He’s married to the real love of his life and so he remembers to “thank God for unanswered prayer.”  It’s another example of loss and grief and an experience that led to something better.  I’m sure he couldn’t see it when it happened.  He had to wait to recognize the blessing that came from the breakup with his first love. 
For me, this is why I practice my faith.  I don’t want it to be all about life after death.  I want to live this life with the trust that God really does want only my best and that if I practice that, if I trust, all will be well.  It may not be the way I expected.  It may not be anything like what I had asked for but if I believe that whatever is happening is exactly what should be happening, think of the peace I experience.  I must confess it’s not an easy process, simple maybe, but not easy.  It takes work.  It takes staying connected to the Divine at every possible moment.  I have a wonderful meditation tape by Belleruth Naparstak.  At one point in the tape she speaks about all the angels and guides who are surrounding the listener and then as they begin to fade away they say, “Remember, we are always with you.  It is you who comes and goes.”  What comfort that brings me.  If I can stay focused, if I choose to stay in the presence of God, God will always be with me.  That’s my choice; that’s my meditation; to remain in the presence of God and with all my angels and helpers as often as possible and to trust in their divine protection.  Then, when faced with a challenging situation instead of labeling it ‘good or bad, lucky or unlucky” I can simply watch it and think “maybe yes, maybe no.”

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Praying the Rosary

Affirmation: I am committed to cultivating compassion for those who most need God's mercy. 

Many years ago when my husband Sandy and I were in New York City we went to Ellis Island.  It had recently opened and I was very anxious to see it.  I knew that both our ancestors had entered the United States through that terminal and even if they hadn't I felt it was an amazing opportunity to experience at least a trace of the United States history in a very real way.  It was late in the day when we headed off for the tour.  It was a rainy dark day.  We stood on the line to embark on the ship and finally boarded and headed towards the island.  It was remarkable!  I was stunned by the size of the entry hall and took time to imagine what it would have been like to come into it, wondering if I would be allowed to enter the country or if I would be turned away.  I could only imagine the exhaustion and anxiety that would accompany such an experience.  

We didn't have as much time as I would have liked because we'd started out so late but I was pleased that we had made the effort.  The last ferry was about to leave.  It was still raining and now it was totally dark.  We again waited on line to board the ship.  When we finally got aboard, there weren't any seats but there was a little shelter towards the bow.  My husband and I were quiet with our thoughts.  I decided to say the Rosary as we headed back to port.  When you disembark the ship at Battery Park there is not a que for the taxis.  One must search for transportation and if you're trying to get back uptown it can be a very daunting exercise.  There weren't any taxis to be found anywhere.  There were all these people vying for a ride and it was crazy!  We decided to head off in the opposite direction of the crowd, to take the "path less traveled."  As we walked along we were quiet and I threw in a few more Hail Marys.  Roaming around that area in the dark was not the best choice, even for two street wise people from NYC.   

We were becoming concerned when we turned a corner and two people were exiting a taxi.  We immediately got into it and took a few deep breaths.  I don't remember the cabbie's name and why, you ask, would I?  Well, the first thing we noticed is that he had on a classic music station; it was playing Pachelbels Cannon. I could feel the tension drain away, not only from me but from my husband and then we both noticed the Rosary hanging from the cabbie's rear view mirror.  I smiled.  I might have even giggled a bit.  My husband turned in the seat and looked directly at me and said, "You've been praying the Rosary, haven't you?" 

Now, this was quite a while back.  I say this because now if you hail a cab in NY, the driver probably doesn't speak English and they won't have music on, they have TV screens with advertisements that demand your attention but even then, many years ago, most of the cabbies were from another country.  The probability of getting an English speaking driver was very low.  The probability of getting an English speaking, Rosary practicing Catholic cabby was miraculous. 

I have a young friend who is not a Catholic.  She was raised a Christian but her life has taken her in another direction at this point.  She recently shared with me that she was reading a book about Mother Mary, the goddess.  It's not the first time someone has told me they thought of the Blessed Mother as a goddess.  I once went for an interview for a graduate program and when I told the interviewer that I was a Catholic, she exclaimed, "Oh, that's so cool!  Your faith has a goddess, Mother Mary."  At that time I was surprised.  So, I wasn't surprised this time.  What surprised me is that my friend shared that she had begun to pray to Mary.  She shared that she'd had an issue with a loved one who was not well and she didn't want to add to her relatives distress.  Instead she wrote a letter to Mary, burned it and asked for peace.  She was sharing with me that peace came, almost immediately and it had remained with her up to this point. 

Catholics are sometimes criticized for praying to others besides Christ.  It's true we do, or I should say, I do.  It's not that we're really praying to another.  We're really asking that spiritual being who we believe is closer to God at that moment than we are, to intercede for us.  I pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, more and more often. It never fails!  "Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony please look around.  I've lost my _______ and it needs to be found."  I recite a lot of memorized prayers and several I've made up.  I also pray the Rosary.  It was once explained to me that Mother Mary can intercede for us by asking for what we really need, many times when we don't even have a clue about what we really need. 

It is part of the practice to meditate on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary before beginning the prayers for each of the five decades of ten beads.  There are four Mysteries each one assigned to a different day or days of the week.  They take you from the conception of Christ to the Assumption of Mary.  I've been saying the Rosary since I was a child and love to pray it especially as I walk around our nearby lake.  I find comfort in the recitation.  With the reading of Father Haas' book, Catching Fire, Becoming Flame, I decided to make an effort to recite the Rosary daily.  He calls us to be of service.  He reminds us that being of service is the purpose of our existence and we are especially called to be of service to those most in need.  I believe that to be true and while I am a volunteer in many ministries, I wanted to do even more for the marginalized of society.  I wanted to find a way to bring comfort and peace and hope to those most in need.  I therefore, have committed to saying the Rosary, daily, for those God deems most in need of help.  I believe in answered prayer.  I achingly hope that my thoughts, intentions and the energy I am sending forth into the universe are tenderly touching the lives of those who are suffering.  I feel it's a step, perhaps the first step for me, towards feeling a greater sense of compassion for those who most need God's mercy.

If Mother Mary can bring peace to a non-believer and a NY taxi to a couple of nervous, wet, cold travelers, I am very hopeful about what she can do for the comfort of those who so desperately are in need of comfort.  Join me.  Pray your set of prayers for those who are suffering.  Imagine our energy bringing solace, hope, maybe even joy to those who are suffering more than we can even imagine. Every thought we think, every word we say, every action we take affects everyone else in the world. May our thoughts and energy bring peace, salvation and perhaps even joy to those who suffer more than we can even imagine. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Setting An Intention

Affirmation: 2014 is dedicated as "The Year of Divine Connection."

It's January 2014, the beginning of a new year.  I've already visited and examined the past year and now I want to look forward.  Of course, I don't know what whims of fate await me but I've stocked the tool box with tons of coping skills so I'm not going to go forward in fear.  I am going forward in faith and with joyful expectation.  What would you expect from someone who writes about Positive Affirmations?  Last year was a good year.  When I answered the 1st of last week's blog questions about the hardest thing I had to do, the answer wasn't really all that difficult.  It was a lot better than some years that's for sure.  After I wrote the answer I actually felt myself smiling at how blessed I am. 

Many years ago I owned a refrigerator sized calendar that had the entire year on one piece of paper.  I loved that calendar.  I loved looking at the whole year ahead and planning our adventures and special occasions.  I still like to look at the year ahead but now it's all on my computer.  Somehow it doesn't feel as satisfying but I'm adjusting. 

Taking an intention is a regular part of a yoga practice.  I've expanded that to my "off the mat" practice.  I sometimes take an intention for the day. It's pretty cool when it appears in my daily journal.  We take an intention for each of the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreats.  We've just begun the planning for this year's retreat.  I'm very excited to see what will appear.  It usually comes fairly quickly as the committee discusses on that which they'd like to focus.  Last year was the first time I decided to set a personal intention for the whole year.  I declared 2013 "The Year of Love." 

I have always loved the color yellow.  I live in a yellow "submarine."  It makes me feel happy and yet I still feel grounded when I'm in a yellow room.  Not all yellows, however, it's more buttery than gold.  I've usually added other colors to punch it up, like hot pink or purple.  For the last few months I've had an attraction to the color green.  I mention this because it's a new phase.  In the past I have avoided green.  There wasn't any green inside my home or in my wardrobe.  Now, I've painted my office apple green. I've added a Kelly green print to a couch and then I went crazy and chose green granite for the renovated kitchen.  Nothing I had in the former kitchen went with the green color but I was irresistibly drawn to it and I just relaxed and let it happen.  Why I wondered was this shift taking place?  I was discussing my intention for 2013 with a wise yogi and mentioned my new bent towards the green color.  She reminded me about the chakra colors.  Guess what color the heart chakra is!  Yup, it's green. 

I'd like to believe that my dedication to The Year of Love led to more than just an attraction to green and a new decorating scheme.  Personal growth and internal development is a slow process.  It's just like most other changes one is attempting.  They take time.  There are subtle differences that may not even be perceived for a long time.  It's like that with our affirmations.  We choose them carefully, write them, read them, perhaps say them to ourselves and let them slowly permeate our subconscious and eventually our cellular structure.  Then one day we respond to a situation differently than we had in the past, in a way that affirms us, not diminishes us and we realize our affirmation has manifested. 

As I looked forward to 2014 I had trouble deciding on what besides love was important enough to focus on for a whole year.  I thought about choosing faith as a focus and I considered forgiveness but neither of those felt right.  I do however; want to keep a focus on forgiveness.  One of my affirmations is, I freely forgive myself and others.  And, I do want my faith to grow. I attended a retreat many years ago with my friend Ann Baucom and her spiritual director.  I was going over those notes very recently and there was the spiritual direction for which I was looking.  It entreated me to let my
faith grow not because of a sense of obedience or even a sense of belonging but because it is rooted in experience.  Faith doesn't only increase because of our religious experiences although it is possible but for many, me included, my faith experiences happen both in and outside of church and that's exactly what I want.  I want to see the moon and the stars, I want to feel the sun warm my skin, I want to relish holding someone's hand, I want to hear the bird's song and the ocean's road and I want in that experience to feel God's presence.  I want to feel connected to the Divine.  I'd like to be connected at all times but this is a mediation, a practice.  In order for me to achieve this relationship, this intention, I need to pay close attention and focus on my ultimate desire.  Yes, that is something I would be willing to spend a year cultivating, even a lifetime.  I have dedicated 2014 as The Year of Connecting to the Divine. 

What are you willing to dedicate of year of your life towards?  Perhaps, it's not one phrase; perhaps you have a list of intentions.  I have one of them too.  It hasn't changed from last year. It reminds me of God's bounty and of the truth that I cannot fathom the riches that can be found once we connect to the Divine. My ideal life always includes optimal health but good health and an ideal life require more than care for the body, the body will cease to exist one day no matter how well I care for it.  I need to focus on the spirit too.  As in past January months I carefully considered what my ideal life would include.  I have carefully crafted ten intentions. 

Pray Unceasingly
Forgive Continually
Accept and Give Love Freely
Hug Whenever Possible
Learn Constantly
Dance Often
Eat Mindfully
Recognize the Shadows
Smile Early, Laugh Daily
Be Grateful, Always and for All Things

Happy New Year!  May your year be filled with abundant blessings, prosperity and joy.  Take some time and write down your intentions.  Won't it be wonderful when you do your 2014 review, if you find you've manifested your dreams and aspirations?