Defining Moments, or “How I Lost God and Found My Way”

As I sit here at my second Saturn return, I’m doing some life-review. This article is Part 1 in a series prompted by my reflections on a painful turning p0int in my life and my deepening understanding of the nature of Saturn, how it shows up in the sign of Sagittarius, and the gifts of the second Saturn return.

I’m looking at some of the defining moments in my life. Defining moments are not always joyful and triumphant. The greatest realizations are often hard-won, and their full meaning is often seen only in hindsight. Can I share one of my defining moments with you? It’s a story I’ve told time and time again, but now I see it from a broader perspective. This is the story of an excruciating moment that turned out to be the moment I was set free. I set myself free to follow my own path, claim my inner knowing, and find the Truth for myself. Here’s the story of How I Lost God and Found My Way.Torah

My hunger for spiritual experience started to surface when I was 11 years old. That summer, I went to sleep-away camp. It wasn’t your average camp with swimming lessons, Capture-the-Flag, and bunk beds. We did have all those things, but we also learned Hebrew, celebrated Shabbat, and fortified our Jewish identity. By the end of the summer, I had an intense desire to be more religious. If I did it all just right, I’d earn God’s approval. Or so I hoped.

During my second summer at camp, I had a profound experience. As I sat quietly by the lake, immersed in nature,lake I felt a sense of connection to something greater, something deeply peaceful  and vastly beautiful…something that can’t be confined within the walls of a synagogue, nor bound to ancient symbols on parchment, nor limited to a particular religion. It was a glorious feeling…connecting with the Divine through nature. By contrast, following all the rules and performing all the religious rituals had left me feeling rigid and empty. I fell tumbling into a well of disillusionment about Judaism and the notion of God as the angry father.

At the end of that summer, I gathered up my courage and broke the news to my mother:  “I don’t believe in Judaism, and I don’t believe in God.” My mother reacted with an anger that shocked me. “How can you not believe in God?” she yelled. “lock 3You’re too young to know what you think!” I felt deeply hurt and angered by her dismissive, authoritarian reaction. Knowing that my father would be even less receptive to this news, I decided never to expose my precious awakenings to them, again. Door slammed. Locked shut.

In that defining moment, I abandoned my religious heritage and set path in desertmyself on a solo journey guided only by my inner compass. It was a huge, lonely step for a 12 year old. This turning point separated me from my family. Yet it aligned me with my soul’s desire for direct spiritual experience and led me on a quest to find The Truth.

My circuitous path took me from Judaism to atheism to studies of Buddhist philosophy. At another twist in the road, I met Jesus (a life-changing experience, which is a story in itself). That opened the door to A Course in Miracles and other non-dual teachings, which led to a major awakening in 2013. Through years of seeking, I came to find my True Nature.

As I look back from today’s vantage point, I see that I had to find my own way. I had to leave the confines of traditional religion and the limiting perspectives of outer authorities in order to find the Divine, in my own direct experience. What about you? What painful, messy, tragic moments in your life have made you who you are? What dark nights of the soul have propelled you to grow and evolve?  What financial disasters, failed relationships, or bad career moves might you choose to look at from a new perspective? Take some time, look deeply, and consider the strength and wisdom formed in the crucible of your mistakes, your losses, and your disappointments.

(Click here for Part 2: Soul Contracts and Forgiveness)

(Click her for Part 3: Four Dimensions of Forgiveness)

(Click here for Part 4: How I Came Back to God)


Are You Selfish Enough?

 Let’s re-frame the word “selfish”

When I was about 20 years old, I read a book titled, “When I Say “No”, I Feel Guilty”. That book was an eye-opener for me.  As a shy college student, I wanted to be liked, I wanted to think of myself as a nice person, and I was afraid to deal with conflict.  I thought saying “Yes” was the nice thing to do.  Eventually, I got the hang of saying “No”, but I must admit the temptation to feel guilty can still rear it’s ugly head. Loving myself enough to be “selfish” is an ongoing process.

DON'T BE SELFISH.framedA lot of us were taught to believe that it’s “selfish” to ask for what you want, or say “No” to what you don’t want. But stop and think about it: Who was the first person to accuse you of being “selfish”?  It was probably a parent or maybe a sibling. As very young children, we learn that we’re supposed to play nice, share our toys, and let Johnny go first.  These are important lessons for a 3 year old. But as an adult, if you ignore your own needs in order to play Mr. Nice Guy, you lose.  You lose your self-respect, your power, and your autonomy.  It might make everyone around you happy, but are you happy?

Here are five clues that you may not be selfish enough:

1) You’re more concerned with what’s fair to others than what’s fair to you.

2) You attract people who are very focused on themselves.

3) You’re afraid to ask for what you want.

4) You’re not sure what you want.

5) When you say “No”, you feel guilty.

Let’s turn it around.

  • Give yourself permission to be selfish.  Give yourself permission to be self-loving.
  • Listen to your gut feelings. Is your gut saying “Yes” or “No”?  If someone asks you to do something, check in with how you feel. Does the thought of doing it make you feel heavy or light?
  • Know that if you say “No”, the other person is free to react however they choose, but you don’t need to feel guilty about being true to yourself.
  • Take time in solitude to listen deeply to the prayer of your heart. What is your heart’s desire?  Then, have the courage to ask for what you want.
  • Take some steps, however big or small, to create a life that makes your soul sing.

As Jeshua says, in The Way of Mastery, “Self love is the love of the Creator. You cannot love the Creator while rejecting the Creator’s creation.”  Self love.WOM.lily

So, it turns out that loving yourself is actually the spiritual thing to do!  Who knew?

Leave a comment and let me know an act of self-loving-kindness that you did today.

 


Who is the Authority on You?

Confused

Consider these scenarios:

  • When a student said “No” to the sexual advances of her teacher, the teacher responded, “You need to learn about spiritual surrender.”
  • After a young woman told her ex-husband that she didn’t want him to come by the house, he yelled, “You’re just reacting out of fear, and fear is an illusion.”
  • A man received an unexpected letter from an angry friend who pointed out all the mistakes the man made in raising his son, and blamed the man for the problems in his son’t life.

As you read these scenarios, it’s probably obvious that there’s a lot of manipulation going on here,  But, in real life, when you’re in the heat of an argument or you need to confront an authority figure, the emotional charge of the situation can cloud your thinking. It can be difficult to see yourself clearly, when someone tries to convince you that they are RIGHT about you…when they claim to be right about everything you’re doing wrong.

Who is the authority on you?  You are!  As Wayne Dyer says, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

pointing fingerBut what if you get thrown off balance by other people’s judgment or criticism of you?  You might feel especially vulnerable when dealing with someone in a position of authority. For example, if a spiritual leader, a teacher, parent, or someone you consider to be an expert has a negative opinion about you, you might be tempted to value their point of view more than your own. This can also happen with friends, your spouse or partner, or even an enemy.  You might get “hooked” by how they feel about you and how they see you.

If you find yourself going into confusion or self-doubt, and you’re wondering if maybe the other person is

right about their negative perception of you, here are some red flags to watch out for:

Does the person…

  • Use spiritual ideas to make you wrong, shame you, or put you down
  • Analyze your actions and tell you exactly how messed up you are
  • Tell you, directly or indirectly, that you don’t know what you’re talking about
  • Say you shouldn’t be setting the boundaries you’re setting
  • Deny your feelings
  • Claim to know, better than you do, what is best for you
  • Blame you for the pain they are feeling

All of the above are tactics for undermining your sense of your own integrity and inner authority.  Don’t get hooked!

No one can tell you who you should be, what you should believe, or how you should be feeling.

*Please leave a comment and let me know how you keep yourself from getting sucked in to other people’s judgments about you.


Looking in the Mirror

window reflection

In each and every moment, you cannot be a victim of what you see, and nothing is outside of you. What you experience, you have directly and deliberately called to yourself. If you hold the thought, “I do not like what I have called to myself,” that is perfectly fine…Merely look with the wonder of a child, and see what it feels like, and ask yourself, “Is this an energy I wish to continue in, or would I choose something else?                                  -Jeshua, The Way of Mastery

When I was first exposed to this idea, through A Course in Miracles, I felt a lot of resistance.  “What do you mean, I’m responsible for what I see?!?”  I protested. “I certainly didn’t ask for the emotional abuse I experienced in my first serious relationship. I didn’t send a request to the universe, asking for  a neck injury. I didn’t put in my order for an unbridgeable rift between me and my father.”

I wanted to push these painful experiences away.  I wanted to dis-identify with them. I wanted to believe that these things just happened to me, but they weren’t connected to something within me.

I know I’m not alone in having this kind of reaction to the spiritual principle of “taking responsibility”.  I’ve seen many spiritual seekers struggle with, and reject, this idea. The reason why it is so difficult to accept is because, when we’re first introduced to the idea that we’re responsible for what we see, the following thoughts tend to arise:

  •  If I’m responsible, then I lose the option of seeing myself as a victim. I cannot project blame outside of me.
  • If I’m responsible, then somehow I’m guilty…guilty of creating these distressing experiences. That leads to a downward spiral of self-blame. People often ask, “Why did I create that?” with a tone of self-condemnation.

Please, don’t go down that spiral. Instead, let’s take a few steps back. Before we can gently and graciously accept responsibility, we must stand firmly rooted in the awareness of our innocence. At times, we all make mistakes. We all act from unconscious patterns. We all let fear guide many of our choices. Yet our True Nature is innocence. Our True Nature is love. Our True Nature is beyond the personality, and even beyond the soul.

IMG_6675

Take a few moments and let yourself rest into that feeling of your innocence. Let your awareness expand, out, beyond your body and your personality.  Identify with the fullness and spaciousness of your True Nature.

Breathe in the love that is your very Being.  You are perfect, whole, and complete. You are loved and loving.

Now that you’re rooted into who you really are, let’s take another look at the idea that you’re responsible for what you see. I encourage you to look at this from the perspective of the soul’s evolution: We each come into this incarnation with old baggage, old conditioning, which the soul carries as an energetic imprint. You might call it a “pattern” or a “vibration”. This energetic pattern attracts to itself relationships and situations that are in resonance with it. Mostly, this happens on an unconscious, energetic level. We do not consciously think, “I want to have painful and distressing experiences.”

What drives this process is not so much our thoughts, nor our behaviors. It comes from a much deeper place. Our unsavory experiences reflect aspects of the old, stuck patterns and false beliefs we’ve brought in, on a soul level. The good news is, we’re not doomed to eternal repetition of these patterns. Taking responsibility, by seeing that what we’re experiencing is a reflection of our own soul patterns, is what gives us the power to choose again…to choose for something different.

The evolutionary purpose of this reflective process is to show us where we’re still stuck, so we can disentangle ourselves. Our undesirable manifestations are there to show us what we don’t want to keep repeating. We get to see what we’ve believed, which isn’t really true, so we can let the false beliefs go. Our experiences serve as a mirror to what’s going on within our own unconscious, including the things in the shadow, that we do not want to see.

shadow is an illusion.web

When we know we’re basically innocent, when there is no investment in either guilt or blame, it is empowering to take responsibility for our own experience. When the old patterns are seen through, as mere shadows from our conditioning, we realize they have no power to hold us back. Then we can let them go, and choose again.

And don’t forget, you’re responsible for all the cool stuff you see in your life, too!

Please leave me a comment, and let me know how this lands for you. Do you feel resistance? Empowerment?  Bewilderment?


Beware the Inner Critic in Disguise

angel costume

It is definitely a trick, and not a treat, when your Inner Critic shows up at your door, disguised as your most Angelic Spiritual Self.  She seems quite believable, while she rattles off an endless list of everything you’re not doing right. She’s acutely aware of what you should be doing to elevate your consciousness.  But you’re not.  If you’d only listen to her, you would become a much more holy, enlightened, and perfect being.  She cracks the whip on you, trying her damnedest to get your lazy-ass self to evolve. “You should be more compassionate”,  she says.  “You shouldn’t judge people.” “You shouldn’t get so angry.” “You shouldn’t keep repeating those same stupid patterns.”  She rants on and on, day and night.

Now, hold on just a minute.  Does this seem like the way an angel or an evolved being would treat someone?  She’s mean to you.  She puts you down.  She makes you feel like s–t.  No, that’s no angel.  That’s the same old Inner Critic that’s been beating you up and shaming you for decades.  It’s just that now, she has an agenda for your spiritual life, too.

If you catch your Critic wearing angel’s wings, realize she has good intentions.  She really does want to help you improve yourself and your life.  It’s just that she’s going about it in a way that’s not helpful.  It’s hurtful.

Your True Self is already who you are, but it’s hard to see that when you’re under the spell of the Inner Critic.  How about calling forth your Inner Compassionate One, instead?  Ask her to talk to you. What would she say about you?  How does she see you?  How can she support you in seeing through the negative, false beliefs about yourself?  Let her embrace you with love, as she lights the way to remembering who you really are.

 


Would you rather be right or happy?

When under the influence of the Sagittarius Moon, you may fall into the trap of wanting to be “right” about everything.  If you’re politically minded, you may try to convince everyone that your political opinion is the right one. You could find yourself standing on a soap box, yakking away, with no one listening.  If you’re a spiritual seeker, maybe you think you’ve got the correct spiritual philosophy.  It’s amazing how quickly our minds can shift from being open and accepting to being fiercely dogmatic when someone challenges our beliefs.Smith_Wigglesworth_preaching  If you’re a smarty pants, you want to be right about facts and figures.  You  try to prove that your point of view is the right way to see things.  You’ve probably had Google races with friends and family, to see who is first to get the “right” answer when a question comes up in the midst of casual conversation.

When you win the Google race, or when your friends admit that you were right all along, there can be a feeling of victory.  “I’m right!” But after your little  happy dance is over, what are you left with?  Being right can get in the way of being truly happy, because being “right” assumes that someone else is wrong.  Being right sets up an opposition, which can lead to arguments, judgments, and grievances. Not only does the need to be right create separation between people, it also causes inner tension. What if I’m NOT right?  Then what?

The bottom line is that being self-righteous doesn’t really feel good. Being right is a precarious position. You can be knocked off the top of the hill at any moment, because you actually could be wrong.  Being right calls for constant vigilance and defense of your position. It’s also lonely up there, because it pushes people away. In our rush to be right, we sometimes stumble past the reality of what’s actually true.  You can argue with reality, but reality wins every time.  Being in conflict with reality is very stressful.

What if you don’t know all there is to know?  What if you’re not right about the things that make you miserable?  What if your opinion is just one way of seeing things, and some other perspectives are just as valid?  Being willing to be wrong makes your mind open and supple. It makes room for God’s thoughts.  It makes room for the reality of “What is”, and that’s where peace resides.

Harris_Hawk_in_flight_3_(6022357849)True happiness lies in the mind that knows that it doesn’t know. Happiness is an open mind that is willing to see different points of view, because no one point of view grasps the whole picture.  Only God sees it all, knows it all.  With our limited human perceptions, we can’t absolutley know what should or shouldn’t be happening.  So how can we judge anyone or anything?  It’s not that we shouldn’t judge, it’s that we can’t judge.  And that’s good news!

At this full Moon, the Gemini Sun illuminates the pitfalls of  Sagittarius’ need to be right, and reminds us of  Sag’s desire to be free…free to fly high, and see more and more dimensions of “What is”.  Forget about being right.  Let’s be happy, instead.


Gemini New Moon: Do you have a dirty mind?

IMG_4338

No, I’m not talking about sex. Sex isn’t dirty.  I’m talking about those thoughts in your head that mess you up.  Those thoughts that blind you to your beauty and innocence.  Those thoughts that stress you out.  Today’s Gemini New Moon can help clean up and clear out your dirty thoughts. Let’s move into the new lunar cycle with our minds open wide, letting the spring breeze blow through!

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Hygeia

Hygeia, Goddess of Health Maintenance

Gemini relates to how we think, how we get our information, and how we communicate.  This New Moon in Gemini is soaring through the sky with Hygeia, goddess of health maintenance.  When you put these two together, you get mental (Gemini) hygiene (Hygeia).  Like I said, it’s time to clean up your mind!

In its essence, the mind is like empty space, and Gemini, an air sign, is also spacious. Our thoughts are like clouds that pass through the wide, open space of the mind.  Thoughts arise and pass away. As my friend and teacher Fred Davis likes to say, “We don’t suffer from what we think. We suffer from what we believe.”  That’s because thoughts have a natural fluidity and lightness. If allowed their natural flow, they simply pass through us. But when we believe a thought, that thought becomes fixed, solidified, and it narrows our view  The vast open space of the natural mind gets closed down.  Solidified thoughts get stuck.  They can’t move on through.

We suffer the most when we believe our untrue thoughts.  How can you tell if your thoughts are not true?  One way to tell is if the thought involves shouldas, wouldas, or couldas.  Every “should” is an argument with reality.  Here’s an example: My car died in the middle of an intersection. It was a dark and frigid night, and I was ravenously hungry.  That’s why I was on my way to the store.  But my car died. I had the thought, “This shouldn’t be happening.”  But you know what?  It was happening. I didn’t know why.  I didn’t know how it fit into some Divine plan, but one thing was for sure: I was indeed stuck in the intersection with a dead battery.  When I let go of the thought that it “shouldn’t” be happening, I was able to simply be with the experience, do what needed to be done, and feel more at peace.  Then the cops came, gave my battery a jump, and escorted me home.  It shouldn’t have happened?  It should have happened?  All I know is that it did happen.

Any thought that creates stress, discomfort, or inner conflict is suspect. Any judgment about someone else is worth investigating.  Start by simply asking yourself, “Is the thought really true?”  For example, “Betty Sue is wasting my time.”  Is it true?  Maybe I’m wasting my own time, and that’s why I’m getting pissed at Betty Sue.  “Billy Bob needs to be nicer to me.”  Maybe I need to be more kind to Billy Bob, or maybe I need to be more kind to myself.

If you’re judging and criticizing yourself, those are dirty thoughts, too.  Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not _____ enough.” “I should be… getting more done, making more money, being more loving, taking better care of myself…”  If you’re shoulding on yourself, you’ve got a dirty mind.  Our dirty thoughts are not bad, they just cloud our awareness and put us at odds with reality. And when we argue with reality, we lose every time.

Open the doors and windows of your mind.  Welcome in the Gemini New Moon and Hygeia.  Let them help you sweep out your gull in skyuntrue thoughts.  At its best, the Gemini mind is open and curious.  It takes itself lightly and has a great sense of humor. It is like the mind of a curious four-year-old.  Everything is fresh, new, and full of possibility. Things aren’t limited by labels and explanations.  The clean and clear Gemini mind allows thoughts to flow in and out like puffs of cloud moving across a bright blue sky.  The mind is free and can move quickly, like a small bird flitting through the branches.  Let your mind fly beyond the clouds, expanding into the vast, open, unconditioned space that is the mind’s natural state.


Lunar Eclipse & Grand Cross: Rocking the Boat

La_Chasse-galerie_(1906)

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…merrily, merrily…Whoops!

The currents are pretty strong, these days, and your boat may be getting rocked…or maybe it’s time for you to rock the boat. A lunar eclipse, with Moon in Libra and Sun in Aries, unfolds in the wee hours of the morning on April 15.  A few days later, there’s a cardinal Grand Cross (Uranus in Aries opposite Mars in Libra and Pluto in Capricorn opposite Jupiter in Cancer).  This is not the time to hold on to the status quo, especially if these Grand Cross planets are connecting with significant points in your chart.*  These powerful energies present an opportunity to take action, and create a whole new level of harmony. Let’s explore what rocking the boat can do for you:

Rocking the Self

  • Have you been playing small?  You may feel stirred up, because you need to claim your power, take a bold action, or step into a leadership role.
  • Is there something about yourself you just can’t run away from anymore?  Be courageous in facing your shadow.
  • Your True Self is way more than your personality. Inquire into your deepest nature. Explore the question, “What am I?”

Rocking Your Relationships

  • Speak your truth about what you need. If that brings up conflict, be willing to communicate and find a “win-win” resolution.
  • Have you been letting someone take advantage of you, disrespect you, or bully you?  It’s time to say, “No more!”
  • Is the form of your relationship no longer serving your mutual growth?  It’s possible to change the form and keep the love.

Rocking the World

  • Sustainable peace can only be built on a foundation of fairness and equal sharing of power.  Stand up for what is just.
  • If the world is rocking around you, whether it’s earth changes or political upheaval, you can still keep your inner peace.

In each of these scenarios, there are actions you can take, or changes you can make, that can lead to greater harmony.  When we make changes that bring us more in line with ourselves, we create more harmony within. When we stand up for ourselves, even if it brings up conflict, it ultimately makes our relationships more balanced. And when we work for justice, and respond to chaos from a place of inner peace, we create more harmony in the world.  So go ahead, rock the boat, baby!

 

*At the time of the eclipse, the Moon will be at 25 degrees Libra and the Sun at 25 degrees Aries.  The Grand Cross involves planets at 13 degrees of the Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn).  If you have placements in your natal chart between 8 and 30 degrees, in any of the cardinal signs, you are significantly influenced by the current astrology.  You may find it helpful to have an astrology consultation to clarify what actions you can take that will create more harmony in your life.


Virgo Full Moon: Are You 100% Pure?

When you think of Virgo and the word “virgin”, don’t think about sex.  Think “virgin olive oil” or “virgin forest”.  These virgins are in their natural state of wholeness. They are “100% pure”, which means that nothing was added, and nothing was removed.  In astrology, the archetype of Virgo is about helping us get back to our essential wholeness.

At the Virgo Full Moon, we get to experience the energies of both Virgo and it’s opposite sign, Pisces. Virgo, an earth sign, is concerned with wholeness at the physical level. It clearly sees the boundaries that separate one thing from another, and is quite skilled at figuring out “What’s wrong with this picture?”. That type of discerning vision sees what might has been added that doesn’t belong, and what  has been taken away, that should be there. Virgo sorts, clears the clutter, cleans things up, and gets us organized.

ocean mistPisces, being the polar opposite of Virgo, does not see any boundaries between things.  In fact, it doesn’t see “things”.  Pisces is aware of Oneness.  It sees that all appearances arise and pass away within the vast cosmic ocean of our one shared Being.  There is no separate self.  Nothing is wrong with any picture.  Everything and everyone is perfect just as it is.  It couldn’t be  any  other way.  Pisces’ vision shows us our wholeness and perfection at the spiritual  level.  We see ourselves as 100% pure spirit.

While Virgo strives to fix and improve things, Pisces accepts everything just as it is and embraces all with unconditional love. How can we bring the two sides of this polarity together and make sense of this paradox? 

One way to understand this paradox is to consider that we are Divine Humans: our being is both spiritual and physical.  We are complete and perfect, spiritually, AND, on the physical level, there are always some things to clean up or improve upon.  After enlightenment, we still need to do the dishes and take out the trash.  Pisces helps us to know who we really are, in our spiritual essence. Virgo keeps our bodies and our physical environment healthy, wholesome, and in order.  

Sometimes, Virgo’s desire for wholeness gets distorted into perfectionism, and we can become critical of every little flaw.  Pisces offers a balance by helping us remember the true perfection of our spiritual nature.  We can let go of trying to control and fix everything. We can accept ‘what is’, even if the personality self can’t see how it could possibly be ok. With an attitude of compassion toward ourselves, we can use the discernment of Virgo to clear out false beliefs that make us think that something is wrong.  The Work of Byron Katie is a great tool for cleaning up our untrue thoughts so we can love ‘what is’.

snow

On this Virgo Full Moon, may you realize there’s nothing wrong with you.

May you clear the clutter with an attitude of compassion and truly letting go.

May your accept your virginity…your purity…your wholeness.

And may you forgive any typos in this post!


Pisces New Moon: Dissolving into One

tree in fog

DISSOLVING INTO ONE

I am not my body.  I am not my personality.

 I am Oneness.  Unlimited.  Vast.  Spacious.  Beyond time.

Beyond words.

Flowing with the love of God.  Expressing the power of creation.

The small “me” arises as a wave in the ocean of One.

And dissolves into One.

I Am.

_____________

forgivenessFORGIVENESS

 When the small “me” forgets

And dreams a dream of separateness

Soon comes the thought:

Someone did the other wrong

Then grievances collect like souvenirs

Piles of blame

Loads of guilt

Yet when we look again and see

The separate me’s unreality

The one who harmed and

The one who’s hurt

Both dissolve

Into

One

___________________

trees in snow

TRUST

Don’t try to trust

Don’t put your trust

Outside you

Know trust as your nature

You are the One

Seeing the perfect tapestry of what is

Each thread in place