Here and Now

I’m reading a great book by psychic medium John Edwards called After Life: Answers from the Other Side. I love the story John related today about the birth of his first son. He was so excited for the delivery day because he just knew there would be a spiritual outpouring as his loved ones–who had formerly passed to the other side–would surely join him and his wife in the hospital room.

He spent extra time meditating and preparing himself for the highly anticipated manifestations. While his wife was laboring to bring their son into the world, John was earnestly focused on summoning his heavenly host. It wasn’t until his wife cried out, “John, where are you?” that he was pulled to the present moment just in time to witness the birth of his firstborn son. His preoccupation with experiencing the divine had almost caused him to miss the moment he’d been waiting for his entire life!

John admits that he was disheartened and deflated that he failed to experience a divine outpouring during the delivery–for he has always been able to summon spirits upon command–but he said that later that day, as he reflected on his disappointment, he realized this powerful truth:

We can’t get caught up with the spiritual world and forget to pay attention to the physical world–to what’s right in front of us. We can’t constantly look for validations from the Other Side every step we take or we’ll miss all the little joys of life on this side. We’re here for a reason–to live our lives as best we can and to be as fully present in our lives as possible. We have to appreciate the validations as they come . . . in their own way.

Isn’t that beautiful? And so true! If we can just learn to enjoy the here and now of wherever we happen to be. Longing for other worlds prevents us from enjoying the one we currently live in. I’m going to redouble my efforts to enjoy the Divine present until the day I return to the Divine Presence.

Summer Days

I love summer days! It’s wonderful to not have to rush my kids off to school. I love letting them wake up when they are done sleeping, and I especially enjoy eating breakfast together. We discuss our dreams and our plans for the day.

The kids have all made their own summer schedules and I love watching them stay busy and engaged doing what they love.

Each day they type, practice their instruments, play outside, read, relax and play some more. They have all picked topics they want to learn more about and spend time “Researching.” The best is letting them make their own lunches and just be in charge of their own schedule. I am such a fan of freedom and thoroughly enjoy watching them embrace their agency.

It’s funny how empowered they feel by simply making their own sandwiches, or choosing to microwave a burrito. I taught them how to properly fuel their body with carbs, proteins and fat and explained the importance of eating plenty of fruits and veggies to stay healthy. They know it is their job to balance their meals and take good care of their bodies. And so far they have been doing wonderfully well.

It’s funny because I never realized how much I ran the show. My children did fine with me calling the shots, but I feel like lately we are all having much more fun since I’ve relinquished total control. Letting go has afforded me additional freedom too. It has been a total win-win and allowed all of us to thoroughly enjoy these epic summer days!

My Sacred Spot in the Sierra Nevadas

I was able to wake up early this morning and hike a 7 mile loop in the Sierra Nevadas from Kingsbury South to Kingsbury North. I only saw one other human being in the entire 3 hours I was in the bowels of the mountains. I was able to find a secluded high spot to talk with God. I wanted to make sure I would not be under condemnation for pursuing and embracing what I now believe to be true. I am feeling so sure that my church is not the only true church on the earth. In fact, I feel like there are many things it teaches that simply are not true. I have worried that I was under the influence of Satan for having these thoughts or that I was “fallen,” but since I read my scriptures every day, pray, attend church, magnify my callings, pay my tithes and offerings and do everything an active, temple recommend holding member of our church is supposed to do, I cannot believe the adversary has power over me.

Plus, I have been praying for God to help me resolve my questions. I have been praying for my Father to show me what is true and to help me find the answers to my questions and day by day, book by book, teacher by teacher, He has been illuminating my path. And it’s a different path than the one I have been walking as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He has not said the Mormon church is not true. He has just confirmed to me that any religion that draws His children to Him and to their fellowmen is loved by Him. In fact, his children do not need a religion to do this if they do it on their own. Religion provides useful scaffolding for those who want and need it. It’s kind of like a pre-assembled meal kit you can buy that contains all the great ingredients needed to make a wonderful, delicious meal. But for individuals who want to cook up their own creations, it will not be a good fit. In fact, organized religion for seekers feels like an unnecessary middleman that prevents one from experiencing the divine directly.

So I decided before making a final move I would like to formally go before God one last time to make sure I was not deceived nor being led astray– for I feel my convictions growing stronger each day.

I climbed to the highest point of the mount just as prophets of old. I kneeled before my maker and poured out my heart–just as I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.  I told God my worry about becoming enticed by the “philosophies of men.” I expressed my concern about being led astray and  I explained how I did not want to do anything that would cause me to lose my soul. I told him my only desire has always been to do His will and His will only. I have only ever wanted to live a life pleasing unto Him.

I reiterated my desires to love fully as He loves, to serve, to grow, to learn, and ultimately, to become as He is. I begged him to stop me if following my heart and newfound convictions were incorrect. I told him I did not want to lead my children astray. I told him I took the teachings from my childhood and young adult life seriously and that I understood them to mean that I could be deceived and that is why I wanted him to stop me from being an apostate if pursuing the additional light and truth I had found were not correct.

And then I stopped talking. And I sat silent. 

There was no angel, no darkness, no thing but peace, calm, and a sure confidence that I would not be condemned for following what I felt I was being led to do. In fact, I felt love and encouragement. 

God and I made a pact up there high in that mountain. A pact I’ve had for awhile now, but was more or less formalized in this Sacred Spot. We have a “Truth Pact.” 

I am to gather light, truth and knowledge and share it.

I am to do no harm and to love others fully.

I am to follow my heart and to teach others to do the same.

I am to make everywhere a little better.

I am to support others in their beliefs for I believe everyone must walk their own spiritual path and come to their own realizations.

I hope to never make anyone feel inferior for their beliefs or to act like I’m more enlightened than they. I want simply to manifest God’s love in all that I do and continue to enjoy the fruits of the spirit which are peace, happiness, love, and joy. That is why I know I am not being led astray. If I were, I would not feel these feelings that are fruits of the spirit, and I know God would not continue to lead me in this direction if it were not His plan for me.

I hope to revisit my “Sacred Spot” in the Sierra Nevadas at a later date and time. A future day when I will remember with fondness the day “where two roads diverged in the woods and I took the one less traveled by” and it made all the difference!  

For right now, I’m simply enjoying the journey!

Quantum Guitar

Look there’s no easy way to say this, but I’m learning Quantum Physics right now and the Guitar. So I figured I’d title the post Quantum Guitar. Why? Because here’s the deal, I love learning. I could easily sequester away and learn A-L-L day!

I fall into flow every time I open a book or start studying a new topic. Learning is definitely my passion and purpose. Did you know I start each and every day with personal study time? I think it is one of the reasons I can’t sleep very long. I CANNOT wait to get up and get to my studies.

My unquenchable thirst for knowledge oft times causes me anxiety because I fear I will perish before I have time to learn everything I want to learn. I know this fear sounds absurd, but why do we need to “go to Heaven” when Heaven I already hold? I can’t even picture a Heaven that is better than me studying or learning whatever it is I please to learn. Oh God, let Heaven so be or if it is not, please oh please allow me a long enough life to master every subject my heart desires. I have SO much I still yearn to learn!

This afternoon has been especially celestial. Actually, let’s back it up and let me tell you all about my perfect day! I woke up at 6 am and meditated; then I studied my scriptures; next, I completed an advanced speed reading course; subsequently, I ate breakfast and then Matt and I went mountain biking at Snowbasin. We returned home and lunched and then I walked to the library with Thor and spent about 30 minutes perusing the shelves looking for books on the guitar, brain matters and quantum physics.  I knew I was going to have some alone time tonight to study since the kiddos are with their dad and Matt is with Colin celebrating his birthday.

I checked out several books and have been deep into sub-atomic particles and fretboards since 5 pm. In fact, I was learning how to tune my guitar and memorizing notes when I glanced at the clock and discovered 2 hours had already passed. I completely lost track of time! That’s one way to know you’ve been in flow (fyi).

Anyhow, I titled this post Quantum Guitar because I had two really cool insights as I studied both topics. My first inspiration came from Dr. Richard P. Feynman (Nobel Laureate 1965), and the other came from studying the patterns of guitar chords. You can read all about Atomic Fact here and Musical Mathematics here.

Don’t Make Assumptions

The third of The Four Agreements is don’t make assumptions. I really liked this one too because Don Miguel Ruiz stresses the importance of asking questions to make sure we understand others clearly. He stresses how much courage it takes to not make assumptions and to instead seek clarification through questions.

How many times have you made up a story surrounding an event? Perhaps someone smiled at you in the store and you start assuming it means a) or b) or c) when in reality you have no idea what it means. Not making assumptions seems to go hand in hand with not taking anything personally. Basically, all of Toltec wisdom seems to emphasize the importance of not making up stories about events. When we try to ascribe meaning to people’s behaviors or actions (including our own), we set ourselves up for needless suffering. Why not just accept what is as what is and not create any drama?

Another crucial aspect surrounding this principle don’t make assumptions is the importance asking others for what you need. You can’t assume they know. Everyone sees things from their own point of view so expecting them to know what you need is not fair. You need to learn how to ask for what you need. Never assume that anyone should know what you want or need. That only creates suffering for the both of you. Ask and ye shall receive–or at least  you’ll have communicated clearly your desires and needs.

Applying this principle has already been a great boon to me. I even used it this morning as I missed several shots in a row at basketball. I started assuming that everyone on the team was thinking I was a liability. The story started and before my mind could run wild with assumptions, I shut it down. I did so by simply noticing the unfolding narrative. It was one of those fun, transcendent experiences where I was able to witness my compulsive behavior to launch into a mind drama. I reminded myself that I could not know what others were thinking and that most likely they weren’t thinking much at all. I hustled back down on defense and was amazed at how my assumptions dissolved. It was quite amazing to be liberated from the tyranny of my mind.

I love the advice don’t make assumptions. I won’t assume you’ll adopt this agreement too, but I’ll pray you do!

 

True Happiness

Here’s a cool thought about true happiness:

What if happiness is the natural state of our existence and all we need to do to be happy is to stop doing things that make us unhappy?

This idea sounds so true to me but it’s not what we obviously believe as human beings because if you listen to how others speak or even watch their behaviors it’s apparent that we believe happiness is something we can achieve through accomplishments, positions and possessions. We endlessly pursue power,  pleasure, and popularity hoping that we will one day be happy.

Happiness is not some future destination which we seek to arrive. Happiness is found in the here and now. It is found by stopping doing the things that make us unhappy. This idea that we are already complete, whole beings who possess everything we need within ourselves is a principle I keep coming back to. Which means it must be true. . . I mean isn’t that how we know truth . . . it’s a thru-line we see running through everything?

This idea that we don’t have to strive to become like God, we simply need to uncover and awaken the divine within us, or that we don’t need to acquire the eyes of God for we already have them rings true to me. We are not clay statues that need to be adorned in gold. We are like statue of Buddha from India that all the townspeople thought was made of clay. Over the years the wind, rain and weather washed away the mud and clay to reveal its true nature– the statue of Buddha was made of solid gold.

So I’m not sure what to label this principle. Perhaps it’s the law of subtraction? Which is diametrically opposed to the law of addition mindset we humans run around with. Less is more. Uncovering or unveiling our true nature is how it really works not achieving and becoming. Awareness not acquisitions. Stripping not striving.

WAIT. . .I think I now know what to call this phenomenon–

ENLIGHTENMENT.

How simple it really is!  We simply need to awaken to the divine within us. Recognizing that we already possess everything we need to be happy and that we already possess everything we need in life because we are divine is enlightenment.

Which brings me full circle to my point on happiness. In order to realize true happiness, we simply need to stop doing those things that make us unhappy. Strip yourself of stupid behaviors. Become aware of that which doesn’t fulfill your highest needs and stop doing it.  The prophet Joseph Smith taught:

Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”

Sounds like a whole lot of striving. What if happiness is the natural state of divine beings? I believe it is. Therefore,

Happiness lies in recognizing and honoring the divine–both within and without.

Here is how I would sum it all up:

Happiness is the natural state of divine beings. If we want to be truly happy we simply need to stop doing that which makes us unhappy. We must recognize and honor the divine within us and others.

Presently Sick

I’m so sick right now. But I’m remaining present. Hence, I’m presently sick. What’s the difference between just being sick and being presently sick?

First, there is no judgement. I’m not blaming myself for not getting enough sleep, or berating myself for trying to carry too large a load. I’m also not frustrated at my husband and kids for bringing the crud home from school and the workplace in the first place. Nope, none of that going on. Just me feeling every aching muscle from my head to my toe, puking up my lunch, loose stools, pounding head, heavy eyelids, ringing ears . . .actually, I take that back, my ears aren’t really ringing, they are simply on fire. And that’s a slight exaggeration as when I pay closer attention, I realize that it’s not an unbearable sensation, just a hot pressure where my neck meets my cranium and then extends into my inner ears. I can almost trick myself into believing someone is giving me a head massage because I feel the same heat pressure on my frontal lobe.

So now, instead of telling myself my head hurts, I’m relaxing into the pulsing and pretending that Julia (my massage therapist) is massaging my head. It’s kind of trippy how I can convince myself that the pulsing sensation is not pain, but Julia’s fingers rubbing my temples in ocean-like waves.

Even though I’m being presently sick, I did just take 2 ibuprofen. I have an engagement I must keep. I’ve tried to think of how to get out of it, but I concluded it will be easier to stick with the plan and sneak away early. While I’m not going to lie and pretend I don’t wish this would hurry and get over, I am okay allowing my body to take just as much time as is needed. I’m feeling super compassionate about the pain. I’m hopeful to avoid suffering.

The Light of Vexation

I see. I see so clearly. I’ve been on a spiritual journey my entire life and for the first time I finally feel like the scales are falling from my eyes. It’s like a complete awakening. I am seeing things as they really are.

I have been a seeker my entire life, but with all my seeking I’ve never truly found . . . until now. What am I doing differently? The only thing is that I’ve allowed myself to seek where I’ve never sought before. As St. Augustine said:

Seek what you are seeking—but don’t seek it where you are seeking it!

One of the most profound insights occurred early this morning. I awoke in the middle of a dream. It was a true awakening in every sense. For the first time I could see why certain people, their actions, reactions and behaviors bug me. I pondered the phenomenon profusely and am henceforth and forever referring to it as “The Light of Vexation.”

The Light of Vexation works this way:

Someone or something vexes us. Rather than get annoyed, we appreciate the trigger as a signal that we have some unmet need. We use the vexation as a light to discover what our underlying, unmet need is.  People bug us because their behavior or actions trigger something within ourselves that we don’t like.

For example, my child asking me for help when I’m doing something else may bug me because I have so much on my plate and I really feel like I’m the one who needs help, but unlike the child, I’m unable to ask anyone for help. Their asking me for help really bugs me because I have a deep, unmet need for someone to help me.

Of course, this realization doesn’t just happen unless we are “enlightened.” Enlightenment can happen as we pause in the moment of vexation and use the annoyance as a signal to look within and try to find out what their behavior is really triggering in us. As we observe their actions with non-judgement and compassion and turn inward to examine our own needs with the same non-judgement and compassion, we can discover some very deep and profound truths. First, we will feel such a love and outpouring of compassion for the person who was just moments before bugging us, and we will also feel an outpouring of love and compassion for ourselves and the needs we have been neglecting.

In that moment of vexation, we can open ourselves up to enlightenment about what really is bugging us. Our newfound awareness leads to compassion and love, which are the most powerful catalysts for change. We are born anew. Awakened. Enlightened. Repented. Whole.

The Light of Vexation helps us realize how much we need each other. We are each other’s best teachers. You rub me wrong and I become more fully aware of my remaining rough edges. The Light of Vexation helps me see the work I still need doing to continue to transform this rough stone into a smooth, polished shaft.  When I can hold myself in compassion, I can better hold you there too. When I can see my needs, and I know how to meet them, I can better see yours. I see bad behavior as simply what it is.  . . someone with unmet needs seeking to meet their needs in the best way they know how. No one is bad. No one is truly evil. There is only ignorance and darkness regarding how to best meet needs. How sorely the world needs enlightenment. May I be a light to others. May I reflect the Divine light that truly transforms. May I let my divine light shine.

I am light. I am love. I AM all that God is. I am God inasmuch as my light and my love can redeem just as His does. He has bestowed upon me all of His power and glory already. How funny that most of us think we must wait for such a bestowal at some future day and place. We can have Heaven, perfection and wholeness now. We have every power to save, bless, lead and love as we will ever have. I’m not kidding you that my mind and soul are blown away with all my new insights. Completely blown away. Life changing! I have to stop for this keyboard cannot capture the rapture. It’s here though in my head and heart. I will never be the same. I am forever changed. I love my new eyes. I have never before been so excited to see.

Isn’t it amazing what happens when we fix the projector as discussed in this post here. The screen play has always been perfect. It was simply the lens that needed the adjusting.

Noticing, Witnessing and Naming

One thing I’m learning a lot about and loving is the concept of being fully in the present, without judgement. We can achieve this state best when we don’t ascribe meaning to what is happening, but simply engage in noticing, witnessing and naming.

Why is this so powerful?

First, and foremost, is it enables us to be fully present for we are only fully present when our mind and our body are in the same place.  All too often my mind is thinking about something other than where and what I’m doing physically. For example, I’m hiking in the mountains and I’m either listening to a book on tape or I’m thinking about a problem at work. I’m rarely living my life in that moment. By allowing my mind to be elsewhere, I’m not noticing, witnessing or naming the gentle breeze on my cheek or the birds in song. I’m not fully present. Therefore, I’m not enjoying the gift that the precious now is giving.

Second, when we simply notice, witness and name events or our surroundings, we don’t judge them. We accept the present for the gift it is. I may be driving and upon seeing the formation of rain clouds I think, “Oh no it’s going to rain and ruin my afternoon plans!” Rather than panic or get frustrated, what if I were to simply notice the rain clouds forming. I could notice or witness the darkening of the sky, the heaviness of the atmosphere, name the cirrus clouds. Within moments of engaging in this type of behavior, I’m are caught up in the majesty and awe of the moment.

This doesn’t mean I can’t feel disappointed. I cannot control emotions. They always come and go. What I can do is notice my heart sinking as I realize my biking plans are now thwarted. Rather than suffer over the new development, I can simply allow myself to notice and name my sinking feeling. Witnessing my feelings in this manner, and accepting them for what they are by naming them, “I’m feeling disappointed. My mind is racing trying to think of an alternate activity I can perform for exercise this afternoon, etc,” I’m giving myself permission to feel.

Noticing, witnessing and naming frees me from judgement and prevents me from ascribing any additional meaning to my feelings or the situation at hand. This practice allows me to transcend suffering. Sure I may experience the pain of disappointment, but by noticing and acknowledging the disappointment, I allow myself to experience it and the feeling washes over me and passes. By not ascribing any greater meaning to the temporary physical sensations I have engaged in what Tara Brach calls Radical Acceptance. When you stop fighting reality. and instead accept it for what it is, you suffer lessIt’s truly the most powerful, joyful and fulfilling way to live.

The practice of these principles is having a profound impact upon my daily life. I am a different, better person. I see more clearly. I speak more slowly. I feel more fully. My heart swells with gratitude, compassion and love. I am loving the transformation of noticing, witnessing and naming.

Consecration

Our lesson today in Gospel Doctrine was on the Law of Consecration. I think this law would be very hard to live under any but the Savior’s rule. Regardless of authority and distribution, I liked the comment I shared regarding the teacher’s question concerning verse 6 in D&C 78:

For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things

The teacher wondered what was meant by this verse. I shared how when we went to China I noticed that the people in the cities were strangers to recreation. No one understood why Matt and I would want to go hiking or mountain biking. They all worked long hours, returning home exhausted, slept hard, and got up the next day to repeat the routine.

It dawned on me that recreation is a luxury of the middle class.  Seeking after spiritual enlightenment, serving others and building Zion are luxuries of those whose temporal needs have been met. I can’t help but think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One cannot achieve self-actualization if their food, safety and shelter needs are not first met. So when the Lord says we need to impart freely of our substance to the poor and the needy it is because He wants us all to have the freedom to pursue righteousness and serve him, rather than be in bondage, slaving away to simply provide our daily fare.

When temporal needs are met, we have the luxury, or the “equal opportunity,” to obtain the riches of heaven.

I find further evidence to support my insight in 4th Nephi where the inhabitants of the American continent were actively living the Law of Consecration:

And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

Notice the use of the word “free” in respect to the word “bond.” Also, notice how this freedom from the bondage of poverty enabled them to be partakers of the heavenly gift. The footnote for “heavenly gift” is “Gifts of God.” In scripture we are admonished to “seek after the best gifts,” and to “seek earnestly the best gifts.” Sharing our substance freely with one another enables all of us to obtain the gifts of God and further consecrate ourselves to the Lord and each other as we share these gifts with each other, freely. To some is given one gift, to one another gift that all may be profited thereby (I share additional thoughts on the law of consecration here).

Understanding the Law of Consecration in this light (freeing my brethren and sisters from temporal bondage so that they are able to pursue spiritual enlightenment) helps me feel like I can live this law. I see it more not as a way to make us all equal materially, but as a means to a greater spiritual end. To be able to ensure everyone has sufficient for their needs so that they can consecrate their time and talents to serving God and their fellowman sounds a whole lot like a Zion society to me.

In other words, temporal needs can all be met if we share our abundance (for the Lord has said “the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare” D&C 104:17). Sharing our abundance frees everyone up to share their time and talents serving one another. Since service begets love, everyone grows in love, in one eternal round. And of course God is there–for God is love. And there you have it–Zion!