Life Changes

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As I look out my kitchen window the sun is shining and a slight breeze stirs the leaves on the maple tree. The view is the same as last week and even last month. Few changes. Obviously this view is imperfect. In reality the earth is rotating on its axis at a speed over 1,000 mph at the Equator while the planet is soaring through space over 66,000 mph as it revolves around the sun. My kitchen window point of view is limited. Earth has moved over 11,000,00 miles since last week and 3.3 billion miles during the month. I am simply not aware of the change because of my limits.

We plot the passage of time by our favorite TV shows, TGIF celebrations and golf outings. Then one day another milestone confronts us. We have a birthday that sends us into a new decade. We lose a loved one unexpectedly and wish we could see her one more time so we could tell her how much we enjoyed her company. We are forced to make a radical change in our perceptions.

This is due to our microscopic view of life and who we really are. We prefer to pretend we are physical beings who will last forever once science and medicine figure out the correct DNA sequence that will catapult us into eternal physical life. Another part is our cultural background which views our world as an economic machine focused on being happy by possessing material goods. Clinging to the material world sets us up for undesirable experiences.

We hear people say we should be grounded; but grounded in what? The best answer I’ve found is groundlessness. We must learn to accept life’s changes as they occur, even when the change hurts or threatens to disrupt our lives, by focusing on the present. If you are interested in pursuing this idea further I recommend Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron. It’s a Buddhist approach using meditation but is written for non-Buddhists.

Final thought: We are spiritual beings experiencing life through physical bodies. Only our spirit, our soul, is eternal.

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Tips for Meditating

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Meditation is mental exercise. Choose a friendly, peaceful location. Sit in a comfortable position. Relax by breathing in and out several times. As with physical exercise, don’t expect immediate results. We change ourselves slowly over time, by taking baby steps. Make it a habit.

After relaxing, start following your breathing. Don’t become obsessed. Treat it like a game or practicing a musical instrument. Expect mistakes, that’s what practice is all about. When you find you’ve gone off on some problem or daydream, recognize it and say to yourself the word “thinking”. Just “thinking”, no self criticism. Saying “thinking” will interrupt the daydream or problem solving. Smile, be happy, and return to following your breaths.

Love your mind and your self. Pat yourself on the back. With practice there will be times when you can focus on your breath for a longer time. Eventually you’ll notice a subtle difference. Your reaction time be longer between an event and your response. In this longer time you will have the opportunity to decide how you want to react. You will no longer be on autopilot. You will live your life with intention.

The ultimate goal in meditation is to help us discover who we are. We will realize our bodies and our thoughts are passing, temporary. We will begin to see our true self, a soul which is peaceful and mindful of the present moment; a soul which is eternal, beyond all worldly change.

May the peace, love and harmony you find in meditation fill your life with such abundance that it overflows from your life into the lives of your friends and family.

Meditation and Fundamental Ambiguity

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In my previous blog I quoted Pema Chodron’s thought that we desire stability and foundation while living our life which is a dynamic, changing process. I claimed meditation was what we needed. How does meditation help? Meditation is a tool which allows us to challenge our thoughts.

Our thoughts control our emotions. On page 12 of Living Beautifully Pema discusses how an emotion, like anger, only lasts ninety seconds. What keeps it alive after the ninety seconds is that we focus on it and won’t let go. We keep replaying our memory of what made us mad. It’s so automatic we don’t consciously realize what we are doing. We get caught up in the problem.

In contrast, after we’ve been practicing meditation for a while, our mind sees the thought, the attached emotion, and our unwavering attention to the problem, and it shouts, “Time out!” We stop the automatic replay of the problem. During the time out we have the opportunity put things into perspective.

Unless you meditate already, you can’t appreciate how meditation changes the functioning of your mind. So let me share an experience. In the early 90’s I regularly attended Tuesday night meditations taught by Buddhist monks from Thailand. When I learned they were having a three day weekend retreat I immediately signed up. All we did for the three days was listen to talks, do seated meditation and do walking meditation. As I was getting ready to leave Sunday afternoon I felt disappointed. I hoped for a more significant mind change and I didn’t see it. Maybe I wasted my time.

I got in my car and pulled out on to the nearby highway to head home. Whoosh! A car passed me so fast I wondered what the guy was thinking. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Three more cars sped past, one beeping his horn. I was thinking of showing them a sign of my displeasure when I glanced at my speedometer. I laughed. I was in the left lane going 30 mph in a 55 zone. I moved over, gradually increased my speed to a respectable 50 mph, and made it home safely.

Meditation won’t change you after one session. It will change your thinking slowly and surely over time. It will give you the ability to call your own time outs. It will help you feel at ease in this fundamentally ambiguous existence.

The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human

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I’m reading a wonderful book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, by Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun. I’m reading it because I’m going through changes. It doesn’t matter what they are, just that they are changing, that’s always the scary part.

Chapter One is titled The Fundamental Ambiguity of Being Human. Pema notes we are focused on attaining things which will give us a sense of stability and foundation: a new job, a little house with a white picket fence, our soul mate, wonderful children, and the opportunity to live ‘happily ever after.’ Those are my words, not hers. They are memories I focused on. I use them, not as recommended goals, but as personal examples.

There is, however, a problem with that focus. I had many jobs in my career, some good, some not so good. I’ve had many homes, five in the last sixteen years. My wife, Marilyn, passed away. My children, whom I love dearly, weren’t perfect and are now adults. How’d they mature so quickly? And  what about happily ever after? I’ve lost my hair, my arthritis bothers me, and I’m now a senior citizen. I quit wearing my glasses when I shaved because I hated seeing my wrinkles. Well, I had to put the glasses back on because I was missing those thin white hairs that are hard to see but obvious to casual observers. Sometimes you can’t win.

Don’t reach for the Kleenex yet. My point, and Pema’s point, is we strive for those items which will become a solid foundation in our lives. Yet the greatest constant in life is (take a deep breath and type it) change. Life is a dynamic process, not well suited to our building block philosophy. That is the fundamental ambiguity of being human. So what is the solution? Meditation. More on that subject in my next blog, hopefully tomorrow.

New Year’s Resolutions

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I was going to blog about healing but when I sat down at my computer today I realized it would be helpful to me to post my resolutions for 2015.

  1. I will get back to blogging on a regular basis. I find that blogging is like so many other activities we like to do. We go along at a good pace, enjoying ourselves and then – zap! – life intervenes. That’s what happened to me: the holidays; social obligations – some sad, most happy; shopping for Christmas presents; and, (ugh!) things that broke and needed to be fixed in my apartment building – I’m still not through with the last item.
  2. I will get back to journeying more often. Life … again … intervening …
  3. I will continue to consult my Mana Cards; they are a source of inspiration and comfort. They help keep me focused. If you don’t know, Mana Cards are the Hawaiian version of Tarot Cards, which I have studied and loved since 2005. I like both types of cards, however Mana Cards help me learn about Hawaiian culture and spirituality and they seem to fit more comfortably into my life at the present time.
  4. I will express my daily gratitude by reading the list of people and things for which I am grateful. It is twenty plus items long and growing.
  5. I will continue to say my daily prayer which blesses our earth and its elements, all people on earth, and my spirit-walking path; it also petitions helpful spirits to give all of us abundance, good health, spiritual insight, and the blessings of long life.
  6. I will continue to learn to ‘see’ with my heart in order to cut through the misleading appearances of life and find the true essence of the Spirit which underlies what we call ordinary reality or the real world.
  7. I will continue to search for ways in which I can render valuable service to others as I learn to age gracefully.

Happy New Year! May God bless you, your family and your friends!

Ritual: Eliminating Negative Thoughts

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Last blog I discussed dreams and negative thoughts. Some may be eliminated by recognizing them. Others may have become bad habits and are more difficult to shake. For example, I grew up in the 1950’s when school, church, family and friends all supported the idea that we should suppress our own needs and desires in order to become a better person. This had a big effect on me, especially since I had a problem with self confidence. For me it was counterproductive. Over time it became a habit, a difficult one to break. I became non-assertive, embarrassingly so. Eventually, in my 30’s, I stated to learn to become assertive, but that’s a long time.

Thorough examining my thoughts, actions and dreams (as I recommended in the last blog) I have become aware of negativities in my own makeup. I got rid of some of them over time, but others have persisted. So I was not surprised July 6th when my Hawaiian cards told me there were still many issues I had eliminate completely. I tried to think of a good way to do that and decided the best way was to make a list of each and every issue I wanted to eliminate. After I created the list, I could pray over it, take the list outside to my barbecue grill, and burn it until nothing but ashes were left.

As a writer I had discovered something called a mind map. In order to organize a story, you write the plot in the center of the page and circle it. Then you write other aspects of the plot; beginning, middle, end and circle them and connect them to the center. Around the circle for Beginning, you write parts of the story’s beginning and connect them to the Beginning circle … and so on. Eventually you have a whole page of ideas and your story is getting organized. I decided to do the same thing for my issues.

I put PJM (me) in the center and then had other categories of Body, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Relationships, and Finance. I connected them to PJM and created 47 negative thoughts, attitudes, and habits about myself that I wanted to eliminate. I also created a ritual. I lit incense and asked my helpful spirits for assistance (you can ask saints, or angels, or your guardian angel if you wish). I also asked for blessings on our earth, atmosphere, environment and ourselves.

I read the list of what I wanted to eliminate, washed my hands and face with water for cleansing, thanked the spirits in advance for their help and took the list outside. I opened the grill, lit the paper and held it up to be sure it burned thoroughly. There were nothing but ashes left in less than a minute. I returned to my house and drummed for about fifteen minutes to finalize my efforts.

I have felt noticeably better since doing this. It has a good psychological effect. Give it a try, even if it is only one negative thought or habit. Let me know how it goes.

A Recent Omen

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I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I would discuss a recent omen in my life. What is an omen? Some people think of it as superstition. I don’t. I see an omen as being a message from Nature that catches my attention and relates in some way to my personal life. In a previous blog I mentioned an omen where a blue heron flew low, directly over my head. It was unusual and I knew I had to look up information on the blue heron to see what it meant in my life. At the time I was thinking of creating a different blog, one related to the craft of writing . The message I discovered was that I needed to be aggressive in my self determination and self reliance. The omen convinced me that I should blog Spirit Walking Journal. Later when I did a journey to the spirit world on that idea, my spirit friends let me know they agreed. That’s how omens work, in my life and in the lives of others.

Recently I was at a friend’s house. Behind the home is a large pond. It is stocked with fish. A muskrat lives there. Water birds frequent the location. Usually I see white herons. Sometimes I see hawks, turkey buzzards and other birds. It’s where I saw the blue heron.

On a recent morning there were a few birds there, maybe three or four ducks. Then something caught my attention. One of the ducks went under water looking for fish. It didn’t just put its head in the water, it disappeared under water. When it happened again I timed it, 20 or more seconds; and when it surfaced it came up ten to fifteen feet away from where it went under. This bird was a diver. Its feathers were dark. It was on the far side of the pond. I borrowed my friend’s binoculars. The only distinguishing feature I could see was that its beak was long and seemed to turn down at the end. Then it left. I decided to look in my bird book to discover what I saw. The only water bird that matched was a cormorant.

Failing to find any reference to cormorants in my copy of Animal Speak, I went to Wikipedia; God bless Wikipedia. The name, cormorant, may be derived from the Latin corvus marinus, or “sea raven.” “Sea raven” was also an old Germanic name for cormorants.Their plumage is dark and they live around water; fresh water as well as oceans. Cormorants range in size from 18 inches to 40 inches. The one I saw was larger than a duck but smaller than a goose. Wikipedia indicated cormorants have dark plumage and a long, thin bill that is sharply hooked. OK, so I found it. What does it mean as an omen? For that you have to consider its behavior. It lives and feeds in the water (emotions). It eats fish, which are associated with the feminine (look up the latin term vesica piscis). And it flies – soaring to the heights.

I already knew from numerology that this year was a great opportunity for me to work on getting my masculine and feminine aspects to work in unison. So the omen was a reminder that, like the cormorant, I need to be comfortable in both worlds, the element of water (feminine) and my normal world (masculine). I took the water to mean that I had to express my emotions without letting them run away with my judgment.

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