“Make of yourself a light.” — said the Buddha, before he died.
The picture above is a space in my yard where I go when I need to center myself. It is my sanctuary. It is where I come when I feel overwhelmed. It is where I sit when I can’t figure out what I think about, well, anything.
There is so much to think about these days. There is so much to fret about. There is so much to get angry about. (How about Jon Stewart testifying this week to a near-empty Congress with all the families from 9/11? His message was powerful and should fire us all up.)
There is also so much to be excited about. So much to be hopeful about. So much to be grateful for. When I sit in my backyard and look at the calm statue pictured above, that’s where I end up—in a place of peace, a place of calm, a place of gratitude. “Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Buddha’s Last Instruction.” (You can read it in our Sunday Paper Reflection section below.) So, that’s what I want to focus on this morning: making myself a light.
That invitation goes out to each of us every day. It’s also a challenge that each of us can decide to answer take on, regardless of what’s going on in the world. You can make yourself a light for yourself, for your family, for your community, for an issue you care about, or for injustice in the world.
On this Father’s Day, I want to shine a light on all the men who step into this role with light, joy, purpose and passion. I want to shine a light on those who take it seriously. Who show up to their roles, regardless of whether or not their fathers showed up for them.
A father’s positive involvement can change a child’s life. It can build character, instill values, and inspire hopes and dreams. Fathers can make themselves a light in their children’s lives. So today, I want to honor those who have thought deeply about this role. I want to shine a light on the men who do the work. Men who father their own. Men who father the fatherless among us. May we honor those who have stepped into the lives of those who need a father and said, “Let me make myself a light in your life.”
Back in the 1990’s, I was in a serious automobile accident that I’m convinced put me on my path as a Spirit Whisperer. After the accident, the psychic abilities I’d experienced as a child were now back, but this time they were a hundred times stronger. I remember the first time I did a reading with these newfound abilities.
An artist named Maury heard about me from a friend and came to see me. She had several career options and asked if I could give her some guidance.
One minute we were talking about her design business and the next I felt as if something had shifted in the room. These days I refer to this shift as “the quickening.” It felt like everything was going a little bit faster, as though someone had turned up the switch. It also meant that Maury and I weren’t alone anymore.
As I looked at Maury again, I noticed that sitting right beside her was an elderly woman. I saw her there as clear as day. “Maury, there’s an older woman sitting next to you, and there’s something strange about her clothes—nothing matches.” Maury let out a scream. I screamed, then she hugged me and I hugged her!
Over the last month or so, I’ve noticed that many different people from many different countries have visited my website to read my 2016 article “Surrender the Outcome.” Day after day, that title keeps popping up in the statistics, from Argentina to Morocco to India. I know it’s a key issue for people in their lives no matter where they live, but I also thought there must be more to it. From the perspective of divine guidance, how much clearer could a message be than the repetition of the words “surrender the outcome” every time I go to my website? The truth is that even though I carry that wisdom within me (and have written about it repeatedly), I often need a reminder when things get challenging in my life. The message to surrender comes when I need it most.
Awareness is not aware of itself. It’s not self-conscious, it’s just awareness.
In that sense, the entire universe is awareness. It is not self-consciously aware; it’s just awareness, and that’s when if you want to understand how a spiritual master with Siddhis [powers] knows the universe, they know the universe from inside itself.
Here’s a great one, this is Rilke, and I’m sure many of you love Rilke like I do. It says, “I love ‘in-seeing’,” Can you imagine with me how glorious it is to ‘in-see’ a dog, for example, as you pass by it? By ‘in-see’ I don’t mean to look through, which is only a kind of human trick that lets you immediately come out again on the other side of the dog, regarding it merely so to speak as a window upon the human world lying behind it. No, not that.
“To be awake is to be alive.” — Henry David Thoreau
There are some days when thinking gives way to feeling. This is one of those days for me.
Today, I am getting out of my head and into my heart. Why? Because my heart feels full. I feel grateful. I feel hopeful. I feel blessed.
This morning, I wanted to share with you a poem I recently wrote called “Blessed.” It’s called that because it’s how I’ve been feeling.
Now, I haven’t always felt this way. Even when people told me I was blessed, I didn’t always feel it, even though I knew intellectually that I was lucky and fortunate in my life. I’ve had to feel my way into feeling blessed. It’s taken time. It’s taken practice. I had to get there on my own.
So, if you woke up this morning feeling down — or feeling anything but blessed — trust me, I get it. I know it can be hard to feel blessed if you’re working paycheck to paycheck, if you’re fighting to put food on the table, if you’re getting over a break-up, if you’re battling a sickness, etc. Life can throw a lot of things our way that make us feel anything but blessed. I know some people in the Midwest may not be feeling blessed after the tornadoes and floods, but I hope they have had moments where a total stranger’s generosity has made them feel blessed in recent days.
I’ve learned along the way that feelings come and go. One thing that’s always helped me when I’ve woken up feeling down about life is to put my hand over my heart, take several deep breaths, and honor the feeling. Then, I ask it to leave.
So today, my wish for you is that you can take a step away from thinking and step into feeling. Ease your way into it. Feel your way into feeling blessed. I share my poem in hopes that it will help you get there.
There are very old, rich traditions of higher consciousness around the world, and diverse as they are, they seem to have one thing in common: Arriving at higher consciousness takes time, perhaps a lifetime. Along with this idea comes other, closely related ones. Higher consciousness is exceptional. It requires intense inner work. Only a select few ever reach the goal.
The overall effect of these ideas is to discourage the average person from even considering that higher consciousness is within reach. For all practical purposes, society sets those apart who have become enlightened, saintly, or spiritually advanced. In an age of faith such figures were revered; today they are more likely to be viewed as beyond normal life, to be admired, shrugged off, or forgotten.
Much of this is a holdover from the merger of religion, spirituality, and consciousness. For centuries there was no separating the three. Most traditional societies developed a priestly class to guard the sanctity—and privileged status—of reaching near to God. But these trappings are now outdated and even work against the truth, which is that higher consciousness is as natural and effortless as consciousness itself. If you are aware, you can become more aware. There is nothing to higher consciousness than this logical conclusion.
This path takes you out of your mind and into your heart.
Imagine feeling more love from someone than you have ever known. You’re being loved even more than your mother loved you when you were an infant, more than you were ever loved by your father, your child, or your most intimate lover—anyone. This lover doesn’t need anything from you, isn’t looking for personal gratification, and only wants your complete fulfillment.
You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success— none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.
Imagine that being in this love is like relaxing endlessly into a warm bath that surrounds and supports your every movement, so that every thought and feeling is permeated by it. You feel as though you are dissolving into love.
Questions of life and death, including the existence of life after death, seem to resist any firm conclusion. Most people tell pollsters that they believe in God, the soul, and the afterlife, but for all practical purposes we live in a secular society. The reassurances of organized religion no longer persuade millions of modern people, while on the other hand, there is a sharp rise in skepticism, doubt, and atheism.
Living as if we are mortal is the choice most people now make—for practical purposes, they live as if nothing existed before birth and nothing is likely to exist after death. Yet there is another choice rarely discussed, which one might call practical immortality. It rests upon a simple but life-changing decision anyone can make, the decision to identify with consciousness.
Right now everyone’s allegiance is split. We identify with our bodies some of the time and with our minds the rest of the time. If you run a marathon, go to the doctor for a checkup, feel attracted to someone else physically, or drag through the day for lack of sleep, you are identifying with your body. When you feel sad, have a bright idea, or argue about politics, you identify with your mind.
These may seem like obvious things, but it is due to split allegiances that death poses so much fear. If you think that life ends when the physical body ends, the prospect is rarely pleasant, and no matter how much spiritual literature you read, a mental conviction that physical death isn’t the end won’t resolve your fear. Everyone seems to agree that nothing can be known about the existence of the afterlife until we get there—or not.
For most of human history it’s been “normal” to eat non-human animals. This is now changing. We are awakening to the massive suffering of the billions of animals killed each day for food, the horrors of the animal-food industry, and the impact it has on climate change (second only to fossil fuels.) In this short talk Tara shares her personal story of transitioning to a vegan diet, and invites listeners to investigate, without judgment, their own choices in this domain.
NOTE: this short talk was given at a special class on “Loving Life with a Plant-Based Diet.” Tara was joined by guest speakers, Mark Tercek (The Nature Conservatory) and Brenda Sanders (Afro-Vegan Society), and hosted by Jonathan Foust. Full video available at Tara’s Facebook page and soon at IMCW.org. Evening concluded with a wonderful vegan food-tasting donated by Yes! Organic Market.
When the animals come to us,
asking for our help,
will we know what they are saying?
When the plants speak to us
in their delicate, beautiful language,
will we be able to answer them?
When the planet herself
sings to us in our dreams,
will we be able to wake ourselves,
Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not “I love you” for this or that reason, not “I love you if you love me.” It’s love for no reason, love without an object. It’s just sitting in love, a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.
If I go into the place in myself that is love and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That’s the entrance to Oneness. That’s the space I entered when I met my guru.
Years ago in India I was sitting in the courtyard of the little temple in the Himalayan foothills. Thirty or forty of us were there around my guru, Maharaji. This old man wrapped in a plaid blanket was sitting on a plank bed, and for a brief uncommon interval everyone had fallen silent. It was a meditative quiet, like an open field on a windless day or a deep clear lake without a ripple. Waves of love radiated toward me, washing over me like a gentle surf on a tropical shore, immersing me, rocking me, caressing my soul, infinitely accepting and open.
“In between the old and the new is an empty space.”
Popular advice would tell you that when you feel stuck, lost, or unmotivated, then do something, anything, to get out of it, to move yourself forward. I have found that the exact opposite is true: If you don’t feel moved to act, then don’t. Allow for the pregnant pause in which something new can be born. Take a deep breath and relax into the present moment. The rest will take care of itself.
Doing is the backbone of American culture. Most of us live lives filled with activities, surrounded by voices that urge us to do even more. Working 24/7 is a badge of honor. “I’m so busy” is the daily mantra repeated by countless individuals. We often find ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of work and social activity that leaves us drained and exhausted. Motivational coaches enthusiastically tell us we can achieve fulfillment by becoming the entrepreneurs of our own lives. Success and empowerment await us if we just make that extra effort. Such promises distract us from our own inner truth.
I received a call from a commercial property owner in Anchorage, Alaska. She had recently acquired a defunct hotel that is adjacent to one of her buildings. The two structures are separated only by a barrier wall. This dynamic woman has been instrumental in helping reﬁne and clean up a particular street in Anchorage. The old image was of prostitution, bars and homelessness. The growing image is young and prosperous.
The neglected hotel has a lot of history and emotion tied to it. It had taken this owner several years to secure it. When the deal was complete, she invited local media in to ﬁlm and take pictures. During the ﬁlming, one of the crew felt the presence of an old man that seemed very attached to the building. This presence spooked everyone, and was considered a ghost.
I was contacted to help clean up the energy. The owner didn’t want to proceed if there was a spirit or ghost stuck in the building. The hotel was beyond repair and would need to be completely torn down. We set the date for the clearing. I encouraged the new owner to send love to the space and to set her intentions for the improvements.
Seeing through the veil that our senses and our thinking minds make real, seeing behind the mask to true self, feels like the highest aspiration of humanity. Because, as we are able to do that, it’s as if we are able to find our rightful place in the order of things. We recognize a harmony that’s been waiting for us to feel.
Taking our place in the order of things is not only for the life hereafter or for some abstract reason. It majorly impacts the way we live our daily lives.
This awakening to our deepest self is not for later, it’s for now.
This week’s Goddess message that jumped out at me was the goddess Sophia who represents Divine Wisdom. Her archetypal meaning refers to the wisdom that doesn’t come from integrated human experience, rather the wisdom given to us directly from Source- a higher wisdom, a higher ground from which to see that is greater than our human experience. So how do we access this, and what does it mean for us, when we do?
After this intense Scorpio Full Moon weekend, we’re offered a new beginning where we have time to integrate what we’ve learned keeping in mind what is ours to shift and also what is not ours. Divine Wisdom refers to how we manage our expectations and projections, and what we make things mean. Can we break through the illusion and surrender to what truly is?
Of all the prayers that best illustrates this is the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
If we look at this prayer in three parts, the first part is about surrendering to a Higher Power, acknowledging that we are seeking peace and help to radically accept what is in front of us and to recognize when we are powerless.
Lori Kaye, gunned down on Saturday morning, April 27, 2019, at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California was an acquaintance of mine. She was an observant Jew, so when I heard about the shooting I feared she might have been in her house of worship on the last day of Passover.
I texted her “sending love” and didn’t receive a reply. I thought she might not be responding because it was still Shabbat until sundown, and I didn’t know whether she followed the custom of not using her electronics on Shabbat. I called and texted Stacy (one of her best friends from childhood) and her husband Jon – our close friends – so they would know that a shooting occurred in case they wanted to reach out to Lori.
I’ll never forget Jon’s voice on the line, “I think Lori is dead, Stacy and Michelle are on their way up to the hospital.”
What unfolded is surreal, unthinkable, and unfortunately not unusual on this planet. Our town is still reeling; her funeral was an international event that was live streamed over the internet. Over four thousand people gathered on the sports field at the public high school in Poway for a unity rally against hate the night she was buried.
Try these directions for mindfulness of breathing, a basic concentration practice: When you’re ready to meditate, close your eyes and bring your attention to the motion of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Keep your focus at the nostrils, noting the full passage of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Don’t follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air; just watch its flow in and out of the nostrils. If you can, notice the subtle sensations of the breath as it comes and goes. Be aware of each in-breath and out-breath as it passes by the nostrils, just as the doorman watches each person who comes and goes through a door.
Peace is the way.
If you pick up a magazine or scroll through the internet these days, it’s likely you’ll encounter some kind of self-help article or program that features 4 Steps, 6 Ways, or 7 Secrets to magically make your life “work.” Instant wealth, health, peace of mind, and the perfect soul mate are yours if you just follow the streamlined advice provided. Even experiencing God can be reduced to a checklist of actions or strategies. Like this recent article I ran across online: “How to Find God: The Five Ways.” Really? God? Aren’t we losing something in this pared-down process?
The deepest experiences of life and God can’t be translated into short summation paragraphs. There is no Dummy’s Guide to the Cosmos (or if there is, there shouldn’t be). No fast lane to divine connection or a peaceful life. It is within awareness itself that God and peace are found. And awareness arises from slowing down and being present in each moment. The only action necessary is breathing consciously. When you pause and relax into the slow eternal rhythm of your own breath, you align perfectly with the center of your being, where peace and spirit always reside. And where the answer to every life question you could possibly ask resides.
When was the last time you took time to really be still, perhaps through meditation or conscious breathing?
With so much chaos and distraction in our lives, it can be beyond tough to find time to be still and connect to a peaceful center. Between hectic work schedules and endless to-do lists, and the fixation with social media, many of us barely have a chance to come up for air. Sure, you want to make time to be still and meditate, but it just gets lost in the shuffle and before you know it, it’s bedtime and you’re too exhausted. Without taking time each day for stillness, our minds become chatterboxes and we lose ourselves in our busy lives listening to a barrage of mindless noise.
We’ve all had this experience of resolving to find the time to meditate, but then it just keeps moving down the priority list. Has this happened to you?
So, take a deep breath and keep reading. Today I’m going to help you get on the road to more stillness without missing out on your to-dos.
Even though teams of scientists around the world are working on great mysteries, from the origin of the universe to the origin of life, the greatest mystery remains personal, the mystery of the self. So far as we know, human beings are unique in pondering our own existence as selves and also our place in the universe. You would think that this trait is enough to solve the mystery. After all, if I am aware of myself, I should be an expert on how the self operates.
But exactly the opposite is true. No one can say, with any hope of reaching a consensus, even the most basic things about the self. For example, “self” is both a word and a concept, yet no one knows how or when human speech came about, and concepts, which imply thinking, confront us with our ignorance about what a thought actually is. Take the simplest statement about the individual self, “I am.” When you say these two words to yourself, is it really possible that your brain cells know English and possess a voice?
The world’s spiritual traditions can be reframed as explorations into “I am.” Jehovah uses the phrase when he speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, as well as in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” In the ancient Vedas, supreme knowledge is conveyed, mysteriously enough, in the declaration, “I am That.”
The upshot, if we gather these statements together, is that “I am” is a statement beyond what we ordinarily think ourselves as individuals and holds the key to truth, life, existence, and a higher power known as God. The gist of the Upanishads is that all things are done by, for, and because of the self, the foundation of reality. However you parse our different types of scriptural heritage, as a species we have been fascinated and baffled by our own self-awareness.