Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

What you can give for Christmas this year that will REALLY matter!

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New Christmas Wishes

Every year at Christmastime I write a little inspirational piece about love, understanding and such things… and I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I want to take a peep under the Christmas tree as it were, and have a look at the shadow side of the season ~ so eloquently stated below by Rush, the Band, and personified, funnily enough, by folks like Rush, the Limbaugh:

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand

As we approach 2009, a year of profound hope and change, we will also bump against ignorance, prejudice and fear.  So let us be mindful – when we see these shadow elements in ourselves and in others, let’s shine the light of acknowledgment and compassion upon them.  This, after all, is what Christmas is about ~ light in the darkness, warmth in the winter, and hope’s ability to conquer fear.  I am hopeful that those crippled by ignorance and poisoned by anger and fear will be healed, and that’s my deepest Christmas wish this year.  So now, it’s on to the good stuff!

Christmas is a time of Remembrance and Gratitude for the most important things….

Abiding friendship (Anam Cara) ~ the kindness, fun, fidelity and understanding we share

Beauty ~ and the capacity to see it in all that is in and around us

Caring ~ for those we love and for those in need

Compassion ~ and the many times it is given and received

Generosity ~ of heart and resources

Hope ~ and the vitality it brings us

Joy ~ for all that makes us smile

Laughter ~ and the ways it lifts us

Light ~ in ourselves and in all sentient beings

Miracles ~ did you know you’re made of stars?!

Peace ~ “All we are saying is give peace a chance” ~ and we are!

Love ~ which envelops all these things and more…

Wishing you all these gifts, at Christmastime and all through the year.

Merry Christmas and Namaste!

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The House that Glowed – A Christmas Story

This story is one of my childhood favorites. It was published in Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, 1950. Let it warm your heart.

It was Christmas Eve, and poor little Johann, driven out of his home by an angry and brutal stepfather, was trudging wearily through the snow. His coat was ragged and sodden with melted snow. His shoes were worn and split at the seams, so that his feet were numb with cold. His quaint cap, pulled well down over his ears and forehead, had a gaping tear that let in the biting wind.
winter_in_the_forest

Night was falling, and the gathering darkness found the little boy still plodding on his sad and lonely way. “If only I could find some shelter, some place where I could get warm, and the wind would not chill me so,” he thought to himself. “If only someone would give me some food to eat and something hot to drink!”

Coming to the edge of the forest, he caught sight of a little village nestling in the valley below, with several fine, large houses dotting the hillside all around. Lights were already twinkling in the windows, while the smoke from many chimneys, curling upward, blended with the murky sky.

A great new hope sprang up in little Johann’s heart. Here at last, among so many lovely homes, he would find someone to care for him. He walked more quickly, so sure he was that his troubles were almost over.

Soon he came to the entrance of a fine, big mansion. There were many lights in the windows and a very bright one over the front door. “Surely,” he thought, “people who could live in such a house must have lots of money and would be only too pleased to help a poor, hungry little boy.”

Very bravely he walked up to the front door, and by standing on tiptoe, managed to reach the bell. He pushed it hard, and there was such a noise inside that it frightened him. But he was more frightened still when the great oak door was thrown back and a big man dressed in the finest clothes looked out at him.

“Did you ring that bell:” asked the haughty butler, frowning.
“Y-y-y-yes,” stammered Johann, “I-i-i’m very cold and hungry, and I thought you—–”
“This is Christmas Eve,” snapped the butler, “and the house is full of guests. I’m sorry, but we haven’t time to bother with the likes of you just now. Good night.” And the door was shut.

“Oh!” said Johann to himself, “I never thought anyone would do that. But perhaps they are too busy here. I must try somewhere else.” So he walked on down into the village itself, passing by the other big mansions for fear the people inside might also be too busy to care about hungry little boys on Christmas Eve.

From the first house he reached there came sounds of music and laughter, and feeling sure that there must be very friendly people living there, he knocked gently on the door. But there was so much noise inside that he had to knock again and again, each time louder than before.

At last the door swung open, and a young man wearing a funny paper cap looked out. “Excuse me,” said Johann, “but I wondered if you could—–”
“Sorry,” cried the young man, “we’re having a Christmas Ever party in here, and we can’t stop now.” “But please, please!” pleaded Johann. “Sorry; good night!” cried the young man. And Bang! the door was shut.

Terribly disappointed, Johann went next door, but the people there were making so much noise that they didn’t even hear him at all, loud as he knocked. At the next house a crabby old gentleman looked out of an upstairs window and told him to run home and not bother the neighbors. Run home, indeed! At another house he was told to call another day. They would help him then, perhaps, the people said. But he needed help now!

So, going from house to house through the entire village, he sought shelter and food and found none.
Almost hopeless and heartbroken, he trudged out into the night, leaving the twinkling lights behind him. He felt he could lie down and die in the road, he was so tired, so hungry, so discouraged.

Just then he happened to look up and found himself passing a tiny, tumble-down old cottage, so dark and dismal that he probably wouldn’t have seen it at all but for the white carpet of snow on the ground showing it up. A blind covered the one little window, but faint streaks of light gleamed through cracks in the wood.

Johann stood still and wondered what he should do. Should he knock there? What would be the use? Surely if the people who lived in all the big houses – who had money for lovely parties and things – couldn’t afford to help a poor boy, how could the folk in a house like this? No, it was of no use. Better not to bother them. Better to just give up.

Then he thought again. He had knocked at so many houses, there could be no harm in trying one more. So he turned from the road up the snow-covered garden path and tapped gently at the door. A moment later, the door opened cautiously, and an elderly woman peered out. “Bless my soul!” she exclaimed. “Whatever are you doing out there in the cold tonight?”
grandmas-kitchen1

“Please — ” began Johann. But before he could say another word, she had flung the door wide open and dragged him inside. “You poor little child,” she exclaimed. “Deary, deary me! You look so cold and hungry. Half starved, or I’m mistaken. And wet through. Let’s get those things off at once to dry by the fire. Wait a moment while I put the kettle on.”

Johann looked about him and saw that the little one-roomed cottage was as bare as could be, without even a carpet on the floor. The light he had seen through the cracks from one lone candle set on the mantelpiece. But he hadn’t time to see much else, for the kind woman was soon stripping off his wet rags, wrapping him in a blanket, and setting him up at the table before a bowl of steaming soup.

Then she went back to stir the pot on the stove. As she did so she suddenly noticed that something strange was happening. She looked up. Was it a dream, or were her eyes deceiving her? The candlelight had given place to a warm and lovely glow that seemed to be getting brighter every minute, filling every corner of the cottage with a heavenly radiance. Every drab piece of furniture seemed to be shining and glistening like burnished gold, as when God filled the temple with His glory.

And the rich man, looking down from his mansion on the hill, suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a strange light in the valley. Look! Widow Greatheart’s cottage is on fire!” The news spread swiftly from house to house, and soon all the parties were abandoned as the people, wrapping themselves up in their coats and shawls, rushed out to see what was the matter.

They saw the light too, and running toward the widow’s cottage, beheld the poor tumble-down old building glowing like an alabaster bowl. Very excited, they gathered around it. Peering inside, all they could see was the dear old woman caring for the same little boy who had called that night at all their homes. Then, as the light faded, they knocked on the door to ask anxiously what could have happened.

“I really do not know what happened,” said the Widow Greatheart, with a smile of wondrous joy on her face. “I just seemed to hear a voice saying to me, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My children, ye have done it unto Me.'”

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Things to be Thankful for

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

I’ve just watched the Paul Newman production of Our Town, and it reminded me of the many precious essentials in life. Coming up on Thanksgiving, it’s a good time to reflect on them…from the commonplace to the magnificent, with a nod to Thornton ~

  • Cleanliness & Beauty – I don’t know about you, but I am really thankful that I can get up in the morning and have a shower with French lavender soap, and moisturize with Origins, put on my face, and dress in beautiful clothing… I know – this is somewhat mundane – but what if everyday was like camping? And, so many people don’t have these little luxuries, which are true gifts. Being surrounded by beauty, being aware of it all around us, appreciating it, lifts the spirit. “It is very necessary to have markers of beauty left in a world seemingly bent on making the most evil ugliness.” ~ T.W.
  • Working and resting – I am especially thankful to be gainfully employed, working in my chosen field for a wonderful and kind boss, and having a fairly strong sense of security in these troubled times.  Work provides us not only with the means to live but with a sense of dignity, and it is my hope that all those looking for work now will find it.  Work is also frequently fulfilling, and rest well deserved. Both are something to be grateful for, for when we’re without work what do we do but search for it? And when we are without rest, we must have it before we can do anything well. “There are the stars doing their old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled on it yet but they seem to think there’s no living beings up there – just chalk or fire. Only this one straining away – straining away all the time to make something of itself. And the strain is so bad that every 16 hours, everyone lies down and gets a rest.” ~ T.W.
  • Nature – I’m very grateful for clear nights of star-watching, the sound of running water, and the splendor around us. We have more opportunities than ever to share in the preservation of the environment, and our voices are making a difference. “The planting of trees is the least self-centered of all that we can do. It is a purer act of faith than the procreation of children.” ~ T.W.

Autumn Mandala

  • Books – You can just never have enough books. Remember that Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last” where Burgess Meredith was the last man on Earth and all he wanted to do was read? I can relate.  Books are a joy every day, and every one seems to have something good to tell us about ourselves. “The Cartwright interests have just begun building a new bank…and they’ve asked a friend of mine what they should put in the cornerstone for people to dig up a thousand years from now. Of course we’re putting in a copy of the New York Times…..a Bible, and the Constitution of the United States, and a copy of William Shakespeare’s plays. What do you say folks – what do you think?” ~ T.W.
  • Music – I never go through a day without music, even if it’s singing in the bathtub. My iPod is technology I am super happy to have. “Music came into the world to give pleasure. Get it out of your heads that music’s only good when its loud – you leave loudness to the Methodists – you couldn’t beat ‘em even if you wanted to.” ~ T.W.
  • Friends – I have *really* good friends who are fun, compassionate, caring, intelligent, open, honest, insightful and who just make my day! A special thank-you to all of you – you know who you are. “I’m celebrating that I’ve got a friend that tells me the things that ought to be told me.” ~ T.W.
  • Art and Culture – “Seek the lofty by reading, hearing and seeing great work at some moment every day.” ~ T.W.
  • Travel – “It seems to me, once in your life, before you die, you ought to see a country where they don’t speak any English and they don’t even want to.” ~ T.W. You said it Mrs. Gibbs – and more than once is just fine too!
  • Humor – “The comic spirit is given to us in order that we may analyze, weigh, and clarify things in us which nettle us, or which we are outgrowing, or trying to reshape.” ~ T.W.
  • Little things we take for granted – as Emily: said in Our Town, “Good-bye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you! …Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute? Stage Manager: No. Saints and poets, maybe–they do some.” ~ T.W. Every once in a while I like to pay attention to the little thing we take for granted, like stocked shelves at Whole Foods, the smell of something good cooking, the easy hugs of friends and family, 24-hour electricity, etc.
  • Living in the present – “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate–that’s my philosophy.” ~ T.W. Time goes by pretty fast and if you don’t pay attention, “you’re 21, 22 years old, you make a few decisions and whap! You’re 70.” ~ T.W.
  • Ice Cream
  • Hope – “Hope, like faith, is nothing if it is not courageous; it is nothing if it is not ridiculous.” ~ T.W. “Hope” was my favorite station as a Rainbow Girl. It’s important to have love, faith, nature, immortality, fidelity, patriotism, service, and charity as values and experiences but for me, hope is a the constant and needed resource that I draw on… hope for myself, the people I love, the World. I am especially thankful this year as we look forward to the inauguration of Barack Obama as our President ~ he is bringing a new sense of hope to the nation and the world.
  • Love – “And we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” ~ T.W.
  • Understanding – “When God loves a creature he wants the creature to know the highest happiness and the deepest misery He wants him to know all that being alive can bring. That is his best gift. There is no happiness save in understanding the whole.” ~ T.W. Yes it’s true, as my wise friend Sabrina said, that if you hadn’t made some bad calls and hadn’t suffered, you wouldn’t be who you are today and you wouldn’t be a complete human being. So let us give thanks for all the dead-end jobs, boyfriends and girlfriends we’d like to forget, ex-spouses, orange shag carpet and Dorothy Hamil haircuts – we learned something!
  • The part of us that’s eternal – “Now there are some things that we all know, but we don’t take them out and look at them all that often. We all know something’s eternal and it ain’t houses, it ain’t names, and it ain’t Earth, and it ain’t even the stars. Everybody knows in their bones something’s eternal. And that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.” ~ T.W.
  • Our address – (substitute your own) “Grover’s’ Corners, Sutton County, New Hampshire, The United States of America, continent of North America, Western Hemisphere, the Earth, the solar system, the Universe, the Mind of God.” ~ T.W

Universe

  • Wisdom that comes with living – “True influence over another comes not from a moment’s eloquence nor from any happily chose word, but from the accumulation of a lifetimes’s thoughts stored up in the eyes.” ~ T.W.
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Making a Difference ~ A list of helpful organizations and their websites

The nice folks at Credo put together this list of organizations that you may be interested in checking out, participating in or giving time and resources to. Pass this list along! More people, more power, more change.

There are so many ways we can all make a difference!!
Peace & International Freedom

Acción International

Provides microloans, business training and other financial services to poor men and women who start their own businesses.

Americans for Peace Now

Campaigns for a nonviolent political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Amnesty International

Takes action to prevent and end abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.

Center for Victims of Torture

Works to heal the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and their communities and to stop torture around the world.

Doctors Without Borders

Delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics or disasters in over 70 countries.

Global Fund for Children

Advances the dignity of vulnerable children and young people worldwide by supporting and strengthening grassroots groups.

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Gives a voice to the many active-duty service people and veterans who are against the war but under pressure to remain silent.

Oxfam America

Creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

Pathfinder International

Provides women and men throughout the developing world with access to family-planning information and services.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Supports women’s rights activists working to create cultures of justice, equality and peace.

Environment

Alliance for Climate Protection

Works under the leadership of Al Gore to persuade people around the world to immediately address global warming.

American Rivers

Protects rivers and raises awareness that they are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Center for Biological Diversity

Advocates to secure a future for animals and plants on the brink of extinction and for the wilderness they need to survive.

Earthjustice

Serves as the law firm for the nation’s environment, litigating critical cases to block environmental destruction.

Environmental Working Group

Uses investigative skills to demonstrate the health risks of damaging environmental practices to consumers.

ForestEthics

Holds accountable those corporations that distribute and manufacture products that destroy forests.

Greenpeace

Employs nonviolent action to expose global environmental problems and encourage solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

NRDC

With the support of members and online activists, NRDC works to solve the most pressing environmental issues we face today: curbing global warming, getting toxic chemicals out of the environment, moving America beyond oil, reviving our oceans, saving wildlife and wild places, and helping China go green.

Ocean Conservancy

Promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten ocean life and human life.

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Expands availability of organic food by supporting research on best practices in organic farming.

Sierra Club Foundation

Funds projects that promote a safe and healthy environment, clean air, clean water, open space and a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Economic & Social Justice

America’s Second Harvest

Provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

Campaign for America’s Future

Challenges the conservative agenda through campaigns such as fighting against the privatization of Social Security.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Conducts research and analysis to inform public debates on budget and tax policy and to ensure the needs of low-income people are considered.

Corporate Accountability International

Campaigns challenging corporate control of water, tobacco industry interference in health policy, and watch-dogging corporate abuses.

Media Matters for America

Monitors, analyzes and corrects conservative disinformation in the U.S. media.

Mother Jones Investigative Fund

Produces journalism that informs and inspires a more just and democratic world.

Ms. Foundation for Women

Creates opportunities for women and girls and encourages investment in them to help them develop their voices and skills.

Physicians for a National Health Program

Engages doctors in the effort to create a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program.

Project On Government Oversight

Investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct to achieve a more accountable federal government.

United for a Fair Economy

Raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermines the economy, corrupts democracy and deepens the racial divide.

Civil Rights

Alliance for Justice

Leads efforts to block confirmation of right-wing judges.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Campaigns to create an America free from gun violence, where all people are safe in their homes, schools, jobs and communities.

Center for Constitutional Rights

Defends the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.

Center for National Security Studies

Works for control of the FBI and CIA and to prevent claims of national security from eroding civil liberties and constitutional procedures.

Equality Now

Documents violence and discrimination against women around the world and mobilizes action to stop these human rights abuses.

Family Violence Prevention Fund

Takes action to prevent violence in homes and communities and to help those whose lives are devastated by violence.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Promotes accurate media reporting to help eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Advances the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Works to end the death penalty.

Planned Parenthood

Improves women’s health, prevents unintended pregnancies and advances the right of individuals to make choices about reproductive health.

Voting Rights & Civic Participation

AlterNet

Creates original journalism and amplifies the best of independent media sources to inspire citizen action and advocacy.

Center for Independent Media

Creates independent online investigative journalism in key states where the mainstream media is failing to cover political corruption and progressive issues.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Promotes ethics and accountability in government by exposing political malfeasance and cover-ups of official corruption.

Democracia U.S.A.

Increases the participation of Hispanics in the democratic process through large scale voter registration campaigns and leadership training around progressive issues.

League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Strengthens the environmental movement’s ability to mobilize voters and advocates for sound environmental policies.

New Organizing Institute

Trains young, technology-enabled political organizers to work for progressive organizations.

Project Vote

Registers millions of Americans in low-income and minority communities to vote each year.

Rock the Vote

Engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its voter registration and advocacy activities.

USAction Education Fund

Works to take our democracy back from the corporate elite and special interests that dominate the political process today.

Wellstone Action

Honors the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work to educate and mobilize a vast network of progressive people and organizations.

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Marianne Williamson – Yes we did!

This article was written by Marianne Williamson – I’m posting because I can’t say it any better!

America has had a non-violent revolution.

As long as there are historians writing about the United States, this moment of fundamental re-alignment of our national purpose will be remembered, poured over and analyzed. It will be seen as one of the shining points along the evolutionary arc of the American story. Yet it will never submit itself to being summed up nicely in a little package that reason alone can understand.

It’s been noted before that Americans get excited about politics every forty years. Then, in the words of comedian Will Rogers, “We have to go sleep it off.”

We were certainly excited in the l960’s. This is 2008, remember; exactly forty years since the most dramatic and violent year of the Sixties decade: the year when both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were literally killed before our eyes.

At that point, a generation of young people — looking much like the youthful army so out in full force today, only grungier — marched in the streets to repudiate an oppressive system and to try to stop an unjust war. Yet bullets stopped us. The shots that killed the Kennedy’s and King carried a loud, unspoken message for all of us: that we were to go home now, that we were to do whatever we wanted within the private sector, yet leave the public sector to whomever wanted it so much that they were willing to kill for it. And for all intents in purposes, we did as we were told.

According to ancient Asian philosophers, history moves not in a circle but in a spiral. Whether as individuals or as nations, whatever lessons we were presented once and failed to learn will come back again, but in a different form. For the generation of the Sixties and for our children, the lessons of that time — as well as its hopes and dreams and idealism — came back in 2008.

During our forty years in the desert, we learned many things. Then, we marched in the streets; this time, we marched to the polls. Then, we shouted, “Hell no, we won’t go.” This time, we shouted, “Yes, we can.” Then, we were so angry that our anger consumed us. This time, we made a more compassionate humanity the means by which we sought our goal as well as the goal itself.

In the words of Gloria Steinem, “I feel like our future has come back.” And indeed it has. For in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “No lie can last forever.” What Bobby Kennedy tried to do, and was killed for trying; what Martin Luther King tried to do, and was killed for trying; what the students at Kent state were trying to protest, and were killed for daring to; Barack Obama and his army of millions of idealists with the audacity to hope have now succeeded at doing.

Praise God. Praise God.

And that praise to God didn’t just go out last night, when Obama’s election to the Presidency was finally achieved. That praise was part of what allowed the waters to part here in the first place. Millions of Americans have been deeply aware that this kind of historic and fundamentally positive effort has not gone well in the recent past, and the spiritual understanding of this generation of Americans — an understanding not yet fully formed forty years ago — created an invisible light around the Obama campaign. How many people over the last twenty-one months have posted, in their own way, angels to Obama’s left and angels to his right, angels in front of him and angels behind him, angels above him and angels below him. I know I have, and so has everyone I know. May we continue to do so.

The Obama phenomenon did not come out of nowhere. It emerged as much from our story as from his; as much from our yearning for meaning as from his ambition to be President; as much from our determination to achieve collective redemption as from his determination to achieve an individual accomplishment. And those who fail to recognize the invisible powers at work here — who bear witness to the external political events, yet fail to discern the profound forces at work in this campaign that moved mountains by moving the American heart — well, they’re just like Bob Dylan’s Thin Man to whom he sang, “You don’t know what’s going on here, do you, Mr. Jones?”

Back then, Mr. Jones didn’t know what was going on, but we did. We knew what was going on then and we knew what needed to happen; but we simply weren’t mature enough and we were too wounded then, as people and as a culture, to pull it off.

Yet this time, we both knew and we did. The violent American revolution of 1776 entailed separating from another country. The non-violent revolution of 2008 — a non-violent revolution that did not quite fail, yet also did not quite succeed in the l960’s — has entailed separating from who we used to be.

In the l960’s, we wanted peace — but we were angry. Yet this time, after hearing Gandhi’s call that we must be the change we want to see happen in the world, we came to our political efforts with a deeper understanding that we must cast violence from our hearts and minds if we are to cast it from our world; that we must try to love our enemies as well as our friends; and that when a genius of world-historic proportions emerges among us, we cannot and we must not fail to do everything humanly and spiritually possible to support him. For his sake… and for ours.

Having gone to a higher plane within ourselves, a higher level of leadership then emerged among us. A higher level of leader now having emerged among us, he calls us to an even higher plane within ourselves. And these two forces together can and will, as Obama has told us, truly change the world. Having moved one mountain, we will now go about the work of trying to remove the ones that remain.

With God’s help, yes we can. Yes we did. And yes we will.

Marianne Williamson is the author of Healing the Soul of America. Her website is www.marianne.com.

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Welling up with joy – The Obama Presidency

I am just beginning to let myself feel what it will mean to have Obama as our President.  I am just beginning to allow the feelings of hope, excitement and joy fill me up.  Until today, I’ve been too afraid that somehow, the election would go the other way.   But every pundit and poll shows Obama with more than enough electoral votes to win. So I’m just beginning to let the sunshine in.  It’s like Springtime! It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s like the first warm day of summer after a winter of rain!  It feels as good as spontaneous laughter. It feels as good as seeing all your old friends at a reunion. It feels as joyful as a wedding day.  It feels like being rescued from a desert island.  It feels as thrilling as the scene in LoTR Return of the King when Aragorn takes his place and peace and prosperity return to Middle Earth, with the added benefit that there is no longer any huge darkness to fear.   It feels like Sauron and The Nine have been defeated.

I’m just beginning to imagine what it will be like to live in a country I can once again be proud to be a citizen of.  It feels like I can hang my American flag again and it will mean hope, liberty and freedom.  It feels like the values of Thomas Jefferson will once again guide our actions.

Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people-a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

It feels like we can live in the nation that John F. Kennedy envisioned:

… if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them. Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.

In short, it feels really good.  I am so grateful for Obama, and for everyone in this country who is voting for change.  Welcome to the new world.  Welcome Hope.  Welcome Obama!

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Guess Who’s Coming to the White House

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on TCM today.  I watched again and remembered that the first time I saw it, sometime in the 80’s, interracial marriage was still shocking; something that made you look twice and perhaps judge negatively.  Watching it again now, 20 years later and 41 years after its release, it seems to me that the shift in our culture toward acceptance of interracial marriage has been phenomenal.  The year 1967, when the movie was released, was the same year the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, in which the court “declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924″, unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.”   It’s amazing that it took so long for those laws to be overturned, but it’s equally amazing how far our culture has progressed since then.

The messages of this film are especially significant now because of the election. Barack Obama is of mixed race, a fact that people who interpret the Old Testament literally have used against him.  Citing prohibitions that God gave the children of Israel against intermarrying, literalists view intermarriage as a sin and the children of those marriages to be “less than.”  These ideas remain with us, a legacy of racism and bigotry.  But a legacy that is dying.

In the film, Spencer Tracy stated that he thought that public opinion against interracial marriage would not change within 50 or even 100 years. Yet only 41 years later, look how far we have come.  In spite of the fact that there are still people out there who object to Obama because he is black or part black, there are many more people for whom race and mixed race is simply irrelevant.

It says a lot about our level of maturity, our ability to accept people of all nationalities, races, creeds and mixtures thereof, that Barack Obama is electable in our nation.  Not a month ago, when I told a colleague that I thought he would win, she responded “Oh no, not in this country.  We’re not ready.  There are still too many bigots.”  But today the polls say something else, projecting Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain’s 187.  Last week, Obama gave a speech attended by thousands in front of the St. Louis State and Federal Courthouse – a building on whose steps slaves were sold and where Dred and Harriet Scott in 1850 had their petition for freedom overturned because they were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The 158 years since that decision have brought massive changes in our human and civil rights.  It has been a long struggle, and it isn’t over yet, but is encouraging to note that in my lifetime (I’m 40) interracial marriage in this country has gone from being illegal and “wrong” to being legal and no big deal for most people.

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Obama in front of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis

Our movement toward tolerance can also be viewed in our acceptance of same-sex-marriage. It’s easy to imagine the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with two fiances of the same sex instead of two fiances of different races. The same objections are raised – the problems the couple is likely to face in society, the judgment and condemnation they may receive regarding children, the objection that they have no right to marry at all.  But Spencer says it very well in the film – what matters is love.  “…because in the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything. As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you’ll have no problem with me, and I think when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him you’ll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against. There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”! Anybody could make a case, a hell of a good case, against your getting married. The arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them. But you’re two wonderful people who happened to fall in love and happened to have a pigmentation problem, and I think that now, no matter what kind of a case some bastard could make against your getting married, there would be only one thing worse, and that would be if – knowing what you two are and knowing what you two have and knowing what you two feel- you didn’t get married.”

And to circle back to Obama, and America, we have a choice now. We can choose love or we can choose fear. We can focus on our separateness or on our unity.  Obama said, “We can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.”  Obama represents, in so many ways, that what matters is what is in our hearts and minds (not our pigment).  What matters is how we treat each other.  If we choose our better angels and focus on our more noble history, then we can make our way into a better future.

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Yes We Can

Oh, yes we can people!

Robert F. Kennedy said, “Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. {And elsewhere he said} Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws–but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted–when we tolerate what we know to be wrong–when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened–when we fail to speak up and speak out–we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”

And ~ We are the Ones! Anne Lamott reminds us that Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward freedom.”  Molly Ivins said “freedom fighters don’t always win, but they’re always right.”  Our road has been long but we are moving once again towards freedom, and together we can make the difference that brings hope to all of us and to the world.  Sí Se Puede. It’s our time to win.

There is hope, and it is US.  Lift up your voice!

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.
Yes we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.
Yes we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
Yes we can.
It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes we can to justice and equality.
Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world.
Yes we can.
We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. (We want change.)
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea: Yes We Can.

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Wasillans for Obama

A friend of mine said “it pisses me off to hear our hometown mentioned on NPR in relation to the frikkin Republican ticket.”  I couldn’t agree more.  So I thought I’d pitch in my two cents about Sarah Palin, her beliefs, and why she is not a representative of all Wasillans, or Alaskans, or indeed of many women or men that I personally know.

I moved to Wasilla in 1975 and lived there from first grade through high school graduation, in 1986.  We were a one high school town, and as such, everyone knew everyone.  It’s a small town, with the benefits and drawbacks that includes.  If you’d like to see the teeming metropolis (I kid) that Wasilla is today, click here. Of course not everyone in even a small town believes the same things.

From Moveon.org, here’s a list of Sarah Palin’s stand on several issues, with my comments on the other way of looking at things.

  • Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is “God’s task.” She’s even admitted she hasn’t thought about the war much-just last year she was quoted saying, “I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.” 1, 2
  • Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, believe that “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” Many of us, even though we are very busy, are paying attention to the war in Iraq and are actively involved in promoting Peace.  We know that this has been a war that has failed.  Many of us believe in an end to all political violence, and seek actively to create a world of understanding and one in which “God” and “War” are finally and forever dissociated from each other in the lexicon of humanity.   We read extensively about current events.  Oh and we watch The Daily Show too.
  • Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party. Six months ago, Palin told members of the group-who advocate for a vote on secession from the union-to “keep up the good work” and “wished the party luck on what she called its ‘inspiring convention.'” 3
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans feel it is ironic that someone who is married to a person in favor of Alaskan secession from the USA is hoping to become the Vice President of the USA.
  • Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. She hasn’t made clear whether she thinks evolution is a fact.4
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans have degrees from accredited Universities, and know that evolution is a factDouglas Futuyma writes in his Evolutionary Biology book “The statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors–the historical reality of evolution–is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth’s revolution about the sun.In fact, they even taught us this at Wasilla High.
  • Palin doesn’t believe that humans contribute to global warming. Speaking about climate change, she said, “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being manmade.” 5
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans have seen the film An Inconvenient Truth, and are using canvas bags and driving a Prius.  Additionally, we know from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that “this era of global warming is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin and the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence of the global climate.”  Many of us know the consequences of, and are actively trying to reduce the effects of Global Warming.
  • Palin has close ties to Big Oil. (And supports oil drilling in the ANWR and OCS) Her inauguration was even sponsored by BP. 6
  • Many Wasillans and former Wasillans know that human beings have a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet – after all, its the only one we’ve got.  While oil is currently a needed commodity, we know that the future of energy lies in renewable resources and not in more drilling of oil, and especially not in the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders of Wildlife says, “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge in the United States, encompasses 19 million acres and provides habitat to a diverse array of wildlife including millions of migratory birds, caribou, three species of bears (polar, grizzly and black bears), wolves, Dall sheep, muskoxen, arctic and red foxes, wolverines, plus many more. The nearby continental shelf provides the coastal waters with a rich nutrient base, which in turn supports a variety of marine mammals including the endangered bowhead whale.”  Sarah supports the aerial shooting of wolves and opposes placing polar bears and beluga whales on the list of endangered species, despite “overwhelming scientific evidence that such listings are warranted.”  Learn more about why it’s so important to protect Alaska’s environment.
  • Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She’s said she will only support abstinence-only approaches. 8
  • Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, are the beneficiaries of sex education and remained thankfully un-pregnant, even after all those Saturday nights learning about love in the back seat.  Many of us believe that sex is a normal, healthy activity, and want the children and teenagers of our society to learn about it in an age-appropriate way, enabling them to make healthy choices.  Many of us know that sex-education in schools is a good thing.
  • As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library. Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them-shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time, “news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.” 9
  • Book banning, Really??!?  As a former English Teacher, I can’t possibly imagine what Sarah could be thinking.  Maybe she needs to get out more.  Maybe she should read some of these books. I know I don’t want to live in a government that believes in banning books.  If a book is being challenged or banned in your community, the ALA can help you do something about it.

So, I’d like the world to know that while Sarah is from our hometown, and she is from a very nice family, she doesn’t speak for all of us.  Many Wasillans, and former Wasillans, will be voting for Obama, a man with a dream for America.  You can read his stance on the issues here.

I’d like to add that with the current media fixation on Sarah and the Republican party, (a party that induces nasty hangovers) it is easy to become fearful that they might actually win.  Do not be discouraged… focus on the good.  Hold a space in your heart and mind for Obama.  Contribute to the rise in consciousness that is happening on the planet.  Think positive!  And, read and share this article by Eve Ensler on her Palin nightmares.

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The Important Moments in Life

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings,  not the great goals achieved.  The real milestones are less prepossessing.  They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave.  Our lives are measured by these.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to start a new journal with a catalogue of your most important life moments.  Describe each of the moments.  Include drawings, pictures, cuttings, clippings, a list of people who were there, a reference to the song that was playing, what scent was on the breeze, how you felt, how it makes you feel to remember the moment now.  There is no limit to the number of moments you catalog.  They can be moments that were happy, sad, life-changing, or quiet moments of appreciation or epiphany.  Update your journal as memories come back to you. Update your journal as your life goes on.  Include in your journal a list of important moments that haven’t happened yet but that you wish for.  Turn back to the list some years from now and see if those wishes came true.  Make copies of your journal or parts of it and share it with your loved ones.  Leave your journal to your children or your friends when you pass on.  This is one of the true records of *you*.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

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How a wristwatch or a cookie can save your life

Harold Crick: Am I OK?
Doctor Mercator: [with facial indifference] Well, you’re not dead. On the other hand, it looks like you cracked your head, you broke three bones in your leg and foot, you suffered four broken ribs, fractured your left arm, and severed an artery in your right arm, which should’ve killed you in a matter of minutes, but amazingly, a shard of metal from your watch obstructed the artery, keeping the blood loss low enough to keep you alive… which is pretty cool.
Harold Crick: Wow.

Kay Eiffel: As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.

~ From Stranger Than Fiction

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Enlightenment Tools

In Transcending the Levels of Consciousness, David Hawkins offers “Simple Tools of Great Value,” asserting that spiritual enlightenment is not necessarily complex or the result of many years of study, but rather knowing and applying a few simple tools with consistency, and devotion to spiritual truth.

Simple Truths of Great Value (pg. 333-334)

  1. Be kind to everything and everyone, including oneself, all the time, with no exception.
  2. Revere all life in all its expressions, no matter what, even if one doesn’t understand it.
  3. Presume no actual reliable knowledge of anything at all. Ask God/Universe to reveal its meaning.
  4. Intend to see the hidden beauty of all that exists – it then reveals itself.
  5. Forgive everything that is witnessed and experienced, no matter what. Remember Christ, Buddha and Krishna all said that all error is due to ignorance.  Socrates said all men can choose only what they believe to be the good.
  6. Approach all life with humility and be willing to surrender all positionalities and mental/emotional arguments or gain.
  7. Be willing to forgo all perceptions of gain, desire, or profit and thereby be willing to be of selfless service to life in all of its expressions.
  8. Make one’s life a living prayer by intention, alignment, humility, and surrender. True spiritual reality is actually a way of being in the world
  9. By verification, confirm the levels of consciousness and spiritual truth of all teachers, teachings, spiritual groups, and literature with which one intends to be aligned or a student of.
  10. Accept that by spiritual declaration, commitment, and surrender, Knowingness arises that provides support, information, and all that is needed for the entire journey,
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Cool websites you should know about

Stumbleupon is a fabulous website that discovers websites based on your interests. Try it! Through it I found:

Musicovery – Web radio (free) that plays music based on your mood.

Pandora – Web radio (free) that creates stations based on a song, artist or genre.

The Beatles – Fantastic access to everything Beatles related.

8 Irresistible Principles – Fun, fun, fun and inspirational

The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding – Really good stuff

Concentrated Wisdom for the Busy Self-Actualizer – Every inspirational/philosophical thing you ever needed and some you didn’t even know about are on this site.

PlanetEBook – Free classic literature to download and share

50 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do – You’ll be glad you read this when you’re stranded in the woods with no matches.

TasteSpotting – TasteSpotting is our obsessive, compulsive, addictive food-fiending lifestyle manifested as this collection of images that link to something deliciously interesting on the other side. Think of TasteSpotting as a visual potluck of recipes, experiences, stories, products, and anything else that inspires exquisite taste, shared by people like you and me.

ItalianFoodForever – complete with Dino soundtrack, this website is a luscious collection of Italian recipes and food resources.

The Bertrand Russell Archives – My favorite philosopher, who said:

Three passions have governed my life:
The longings for love, the search for knowledge,
And unbearable pity for the suffering of [humankind].

Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.
In the union of love I have seen
In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision
Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge.
I have wished to understand the hearts of [people].
I have wished to know why the stars shine.

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The Oneness of it all…

Today, my fav columnist Mark Morford wrote another fantastic piece about the oneness of it all… and in it he said … [remember that] “all matter, no matter how disgusting, joyful, vile or beautiful, is merely energy, that everything emanates from and returns to the same divine source, that all dualities of good/bad disgusting/delicious love/hate collapse together into the same moment. There is no difference. Grossness is merely a perception. Joy is merely an illusive state. Where they collapse into one, there lies the truth…You get the idea? Somehow, some way, you gotta take it all in, sit right in the center of it, conscious of all but attached to none, and be OK. It’s all just energy. It’s all the same divine breath of god, blowing in your ear, whispering sweet everythings. Collapse it all together. Shake, stir, swallow it down with a bow and a humble smile. Tasty, no?”

The idea here being, can we live in the world but not be of the world? Can we be grounded and awakened amidst our circumstances – the people around us, our jobs, our concerns, the things we think of as good and bad, right or wrong – and realize that none of that is the core of truth? That truth lies behind it all?

You know, good question.

I often feel segmented into the Spiritual me – the mediator, reader, pray-er, seeker – and the person that has to do and experience life. The goal for me is to bring the two aspects together… to wash dishes Mindfully, as it were …. to be spiritually awake during my workday, my commute, my stressful interaction with someone who is difficult to work with. To be grounded in the Oneness while experiencing uncertainty about the future, rethinking of the past, manifesting my desires. To realize my essential nature is the consciousness in which all things – my feelings, thoughts, perceptions, actions and circumstances – arise and subside.

Being in this state is its own reward because it allows you to feel at peace… and its a reward for everyone else too, because in this state we bring peace and lovingkindness into the world, raising the consciousness bar for everyone. It’s a happy place.

” The perfect and the imperfect, the sacred and the profane, beautiful and the ugly, sinner and the saint, evil and good are all manifestations of the one divine consciousness. This is the reality of an awakened being.

The nature of existence is bliss. it is qualified by auspicious qualities of love, compassion, connectedness and silence. Man’s consciousness is fettered by concepts, ideas, conditioning and mental constructs.

“When consciousness is purged of all its contamination, what remains is life – pure consciousness or God.”

Sri Bhagavan


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