Giving and Receiving Our Talents

pixabaysunrise

Photo: Pixabay

Many of us wrestle with an underlying feeling that it is not OK for us to succeed at anything we attempt. This deeply buried belief keeps us from fully embracing our talents and our own understanding of God. We hold ourselves back. We self-sabotage and we keep ourselves small.

For years, I felt it was not safe and somehow wrong for me to fully express myself or to allow myself to receive anything in return for my talents. I subconsciously felt intimidated and resentful of others who were free of this belief and who lived in grace and abundance.

I told myself it was much more important to be a good person, to love others and serve Truth, God. I believed that it was impossible to do these things while feeling whole and being blessed in life. As if being happy, safe and well somehow nullified any good that had been done. What I am realizing is that I can serve God best by fully being the light I was created to be, by fully using my talent and by fully following my intuition, insight and inspiration. When I do these things, I find that I am serving God and all Creation to the fullest of my ability. I am also happy.

When I shine, I feel most in alignment with God. I recognize that everything each of us does can be done in service of each other and God. It is a matter of doing it from a standpoint of love and service, rather than fear, limit, lack or greed. My being unafraid of my own light allows those around me to also be happy and shine in their own way.

Holding myself separate from those that made more money than me or had more success was being judgmental of them and myself. I saw myself as better or more holy than they were because I had less.

Recently I was listening to a successful musician who chants and sings of the love of the Divine. It was deeply moving and very beautiful. Her face was happy and serene. She embodied the love she sang of. I thought, ‘What a wonderful service she does for all who hear her! She is at peace and encourages that in her behavior and her music. She uplifts others to that same Peace of God.’ And it flooded my awareness that she is a very holy person using her talents to serve others and being rewarded for it. I was grateful that she decided to let her light shine and grateful she earned a living doing it so that as many as possible might be able to hear her.

The most important thing, for me, is to do everything I do in the full service of God and others. It is not for my own ends, though I may greatly enjoy the outcome. The point is to release my own expectations of what I should or should not be provided with and serve. Serve all day, in every way, in everything I do and with every being I encounter. To me this means being happy in myself and happy that I am serving so that I can share my happiness with others in all that I do.

Neuroscience has shown again and again that kindness, compassion, forgiveness and gratitude increase our brain’s capacity for happiness. When we are happy, we have even more to share! It is the same thing that every religious tradition has taught for all of history. It is healthy for us and healthy for those around us. It is freeing and rewarding, both on an energetic and a physical level.

This is being in alignment with a spiritually healthy life and with serving God. This is the opposite of being selfish and greedy. This is actually allowing our cups  to be filled so that it can overflow to others.

As long as we see our abilities as small and our blessings few, we will never be free to fully give of what we have. What is there to give if we don’t believe we have enough or that we are enough? We first must have faith in what we have and be full of gratitude for our talents and the abundance that flows from them. Through this, our talents will expand and so will our service and the rewards that flow from using our talents for the greater good. When we believe we have little and may lose what we have, we don’t allow for anything different to happen.

This all made me think of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, 14-30. The ones who were given talents and made use of them in the world received more talents and were rewarded. The one who hid his talent and made no use of it for fear it would be taken away lost his talent and had nothing. When we use our talents for the good of others, we are rewarded with more. And when we fear we don’t have enough and may lose what we do have, we never enjoy what we have and therefore have already lost it and may lose even more. Those that are grateful don’t demand more, yet they receive it.

Surrender your demands and expectations. Choose to be filled with gratitude and service. By allowing what is good to flow through us, and freely allowing it to flow from us, we honor the flow of giving and receiving. We can stop fighting Universal Law and recognize we are fully part of it. We can open our arms to embrace it, loving it and letting it love us back.

We can celebrate each day and all that flows from us and to us.

Sweet Cleansing and Immunity Boosting Tea

0208151057This tea is great for boosting your vitamin C levels, supporting your immune function and supporting the cleansing  and detoxifying ability of the kidneys and liver. It is helpful for anyone who is undergoing a stress on their immune system, be it a cold or cancer. It can also help to support your body as you detoxify from medications you may need to take for an illness. As a wonderful bonus, it tastes wonderful, even without any sweetener, and it looks and smells heavenly.

I don’t get really technical about the measurements when I make this, so adjust this as you feel you need to for taste. The ingredients can be found in the bulk section of most natural foods stores or you can find them online at places such as Mountain Rose Herbs and others.

Sweet Cleansing and Immunity Boosting Tea

about a Tablespoon of Pau d’arco bark (large pinch)–immunity support/balance

2-3 whole cloves (NOT powder)–cleansing

about a Tablespoon dried Hibiscus flowers–immune support, cleansing

about 2 teaspoons dandelion root–cleansing, especially kidneys

about 2 teaspoons burdock root–cleansing, especially liver

Bring 32 ounces of water to a boil as you gather your herbs, roots and flowers together in a wire mesh strainer placed over a small to medium bowl. Once the water has reached a boil, pour it over the herbs in the strainer and allow to sit and steep for about 15-20 minutes. Place a small piece of cheesecloth over the top of a pitcher or a Mason jar. Pour the steeped tea through the cheesecloth into the Mason jar or pitcher. I usually brew 32 ounces more water and make a second batch using the same herbs, and then I toss them in the garbage. Refrigerate. Drink 1-3 cups a day over the next 24-48 hours.

Let Go of Your Chains

Photo Credit: Geralt, Pixabay

Photo Credit: Geralt, Pixabay

Don’t wait for another person to give you permission to be free. You are already free. Let go of your chains. You already have freedom–always. Remember.

We have so many ways to keep ourselves locked in and constricted, mostly thinking we are staying safe or being “good.” We tend to lock the doors to our cages and then give the key away to others, believing they control our ability to know joy, peace and wholeness. We can keep remembering to look for our own key.

This all comes back to lack of forgiveness, lack of trust in ourselves. We carry a judgment, trauma, hardship or a shame with us for so long because we feel it protects us from experiencing the same thing again. But really, we experience it every day, because we still hold it in our hearts and minds. There is scientific evidence now that we even carry it in the cells of our bodies.

There is so much talk about forgiveness. Unfortunately, we rarely hear what it really is or how to go about it. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. It does not let them off the hook for causing harm or release them to do it again. It does not make you soft and weak to another attack. It makes you strong and healthy. It opens your heart and makes your mind more available to clarity of thought.

Similarly, self-forgiveness doesn’t mean that we neglect the harm that our actions have caused or that we proceed to do it again. I repeat, forgiveness is not weakness or giving in.

When we wait for the person that harmed us to do something to atone before we allow ourselves to forgive, we create a situation where we suffer. We usually believe that we are making the other person suffer and we even feel justified for that. But justified or not, most of the time, the other person simply doesn’t feel our suffering. We are the ones that carry it, not them. Often they are never even aware of it.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”–Buddha

But even if they were aware, holding on to suffering because of something another person did only allows them to create more harm for a longer time, long after they actually stopped doing anything. We are doing it to ourselves, through our minds every time we relive the experience and our brains send that rush of neurochemicals through our bodies telling us it’s happening all over again. Over time, our bodies can even feel worse than they did during the first event. It’s repeat trauma every time we relive it and tell ourselves we are justified. We keep telling ourselves that it’s the other person’s fault, when we hold the key to our own prison cell.

So what is forgiveness? It is laying down your chains. Setting yourself free from the internal prison that the situation has created in your heart, mind and body so that you no longer have to carry it around with you every day. It is allowing yourself to release the event to the past, recognizing that it can live there, rather than in the cells of your body and in the neural pathways of your mind.

We can decide to free ourselves when we recognize that what we carry today is only ours, based in what we decide to do from this moment forward. It is not decided by past events or by other people, unless we allow that. The decision is ours and we have the freedom to make it.

It is a very liberating thing to realize you are not a slave to the past or to the memories, events and people of the past. It opens you to your fullest potential. It also invokes great responsibility for your own life. You can no longer blame the past or those who hurt you for your decisions. Your life is your own. You are no longer a slave to your wounds. You can heal.

You can begin to release those old traumas that you have stored through lack of forgiveness by simply acknowledging that you are ready to do that. It sounds incredibly simple and in some ways it is, but it’s the internal shift that is important. That is the turning point and it is the part that can be most difficult to wrap your mind and heart around.

Don't wait for freedom2Whenever an old wound comes up and you feel the constriction in your chest or throat or belly–wherever you feel it in your body–notice that you are holding that pain in your cells. That is body memory. Use that moment to recognize that you have options. You could become lost in the old stories about how painful it was, how wrong it was, how it was unfair, etc., but that will reinforce the old patterns. You will feel worse in body, mind and spirit. Ask yourself if this will heal anything in your life.

Instead, you could shift your perspective and accept your own power in this moment. Ask yourself what you can do with the idea that you may not have to keep feeling this way. Say to yourself, “I choose to release this experience from the cells of my body and from the pathways of my mind. I accept the lessons and leave the rest behind. I am free.” Notice how that feels different in your body. You may feel lighter, more open.

See how that has nothing to do with the other person? Nothing is required of them. They have nothing to do with your healing at all. You are really free of them and of the past. You are also free of any past versions of yourself you may need to let go of.

Open the prison door. Let go of the chains. Pick up the key to your own heart. You have the power to free yourself, if you dare. Just remember.

Elderberry Syrup

elderberriesElderberry syrup is very easy to make at home and is a wonderful and tasty way to keep your immune system strong during the winter months or whenever viruses start making the rounds. It can be taken as a daily preventative dose or the dose can be increased during illness or after exposure to help you fight off the nasties. It only takes about an hour to make, costs about $3 for a quart or so and lasts for up to six months in the fridge. Take a teaspoon to a Tablespoon daily for preventative measures and up to a Tablespoon every hour during an illness, until symptoms subside or for the first 24 hours after an exposure to a virus or a bacterial infection. *NOTE*This is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you or a family member are ill, please follow standard precautions and all advice given to you by your health care professional.

3 1/2 cups water

2/3 cup dried elderberries

about 1-2 inches fresh ginger root, cut up

1- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup raw honey

1/4-1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar (optional, but adds immune boosting benefits)

Add all but honey and ACV to pot and bring to a boil, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain off liquid into a bowl and discard berries, herbs and ginger. Cool in fridge for an hour or so, then add honey and ACV, if using. Store in a glass jar with a lid, in fridge. Keeps for up to six months. Take a teaspoon to a Tablespoon daily for preventative use or a Tablespoon an hour when ill until symptoms subside.

Adding other herbs, such as 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage and/or peppercorns will strengthen the immune boosting properties of this syrup as well. Just add them into the water when you first put the berries on to boil and strain them off with the berries when done.

Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities

Rights Responsiblities2There seems to be a general clamoring, grasping and hungry dissatisfaction that infects so many individual people across the world. It spreads like a virus from one of us to the other. We often urge each other to carry this misplaced longing for more into the streets, the media, our politics, driving each other to anger and, often to acts of hate or at least unkindness and inconsideration.

I feel in my heart that we all hold the light of God inside of us. None are separate from this, as far as I can see, though some chose to hold themselves as separate. In my eyes, if we all carry the light of God, then we all are the same. Kindness and love are for all, without question.

Most everyone seems to feel that they have had rights taken away and many feel inner shame for taking the rights of others, though the latter are usually too defensive to admit it. In the end, it seems that people everywhere are mad as hell about the whole “rights” and “freedom” issue, regardless of their gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or anything else.

That leads to a whole lot of people pushing against each other. That is not the same thing as loving each other or being kind. It is not the same thing as recognizing the light of God in ourselves and each other. Whenever you hear someone say, “I have the right to fill in the blank“, that is said from a place of victimhood and anger. It is said with indignation.

I don’t deny that there are injustices. They are everywhere. But becoming reactionary certainly doesn’t resolve that. Many of the greatest injustices are created either by those who have forgotten their own inner light or by those who refuse to recognize it.

When you find yourself using your rights to do or say something unkind, even if you really do have the legal right, maybe it is a good time to consider the other person’s rights, even if only for a moment. Or even more importantly, consider the larger ramifications of the thing you are about to say or do. How will it impact you? How will it impact the other person or the people around you? Does it have possible larger consequences for society or for your family? Every action you do and every word you speak ripples out beyond your immediate sphere. It has an effect on others far beyond what you see right in front of you.

The right to worship as we choose does not mean that we are ought to mock those who don’t choose to worship as we do. It means that we are all free to perceive the world, ourselves and God in whatever way makes sense to us, without forcing those views upon others. That implies respect of each other’s views and an allowance that they will differ. If that respect is present, violence has no need to rear its head.

It may be true that we have the right to express ourselves freely, but does that mean we have to use that right to scornfully condemn or mock another? To use shame to control what another does? We can choose simply express who we are respectfully, with love, honor and dignity for ourselves and all others. We can honor the fact that everyone else has the right to express themselves freely, too. Even if we don’t like what or how they express. Otherwise we are only choosing this freedom for ourselves, not for others.

Maybe a law has given you the right to express yourself in a way that allows you to say cruel things to another, to mock them and ridicule them. Maybe you have the legal right to even say that you want them dead, as long as you make it clear that you are joking or you do it within a creative context. Does this mean it is not hurtful or even frightening for that person or group of people? It would be for me, especially if this was done by a large group of people. This is bullying, not love. It does not honor our inner light. This is one person using their “rights” to violate the rights of another.

How many times in the last 20 to 30 years have you witnessed violence erupting because a person or group of people felt they had to push back because their rights were being violated? Particularly their rights of speech, expression or religion. If you look at the larger picture, how many times has it been because of situations just like the one I just described?

A group standing for their right for something can become very indignant and that can lead to irrational decisions. Our egos get in the way when we are stuck in being right and proving it. We lose sight of the bigger picture and of other people. We forget how to be kind. There are often much more important things than our rights. Like the rights of us all. Like simply being loving and patient and gentle with each soul on this planet instead of running with the belief that any of us have the right to trample on any of the others. Even if they trample us first.

Having the belief that we have to kill or be killed leads to us all treating each other like crap, every day. It leads to more death, war and chaos. There is no chance, ever, for light to come in and let something new grow. We have had a long rampage of destruction, hate and oppression in the world. The only way to stop that and turn it to something new is to be different inside ourselves and in the way we treat each other.

We have to start looking for what we can give to each other and move away from the attitude of concerning ourselves with what others may be trying to take from us. We have to look for opportunities to show compassion and to see the soul of our fellow human, rather than find opportunities to close our hearts and turn away. We have to do the best we can to see the fear that drives us, and recognize that it’s the same fear that drives our fellow human as well. We are not different inside, though we may live our lives in different ways.

We will not all get to the place where we can honor each other’s inner light at once. Try not to concern yourself too much with those who aren’t there yet. That puts you back in the mindset of believing someone else needs to change and the whole cycle starts again. Change yourself and your behaviors. Others will follow. This may be our greatest responsibility to ourselves and to each other. Rights don’t work very well or last very long without honoring that.

Stop Reacting and Look Inside Yourself!

Change yourself tolstoyEvery day I see people saying how much they want there to be love and peace in the world. I do it too. We want people to stop hating, to be kind, to be considerate, compassionate and respectful. We also want people to be wiser, stronger, braver.

In fact, it seems we all have a long list of things we expect from other people. Lots of shoulds and shouldn’ts. Even truly kind, loving and patient people have a hard time making it through an entire day without being rubbed the wrong way or feeling deflated by another’s actions at some point in their day.

There is nothing wrong with having our own perspective of how we wish to see things go. Each of us brings unique view of the world and this world would give us less to learn if that weren’t true.

But what happens when you feel yourself getting aggravated because someone is taking longer than you feel they should in front of you in line? Or they are behind you in line and are rushing you to finish?

What happens when you see a news story where people died because people were displaying their religious or political views in a violent way?

What do you do when someone speaks aggressively to you out of their own hate or their own intolerance for another’s hate? Or in any number of similar situations throughout the day when our views and needs push up against the views and needs of another?

Most all of us react, at least inside ourselves, at least for a moment, by wanting the person we are upset with to behave differently. We are internally alarmed that this person is not following the path we have decided is the safe and appropriate one. We are angry or afraid.

So our typical reaction is to respond by hating back or being angry with those who are angry. So that news story that outraged us? What is outrage but violence? When we rage about something we feel is wrong are we actually changing it or are we sending more hate and anger out into the world?

Emotions can be signals for us to make a change. These emotions are meant to protect us. But we can also get very swept away by the chemical reactions they create in our bodies. We can start to believe everything these chemical reactions tell us and we can develop thoughts and stories–lots of them–to back all this up.

Maybe a change does need to be made when we hear another story about a murder or a suicide or you hear others gossiping. But maybe the first change needs to start with how we respond inside ourselves.

Maybe we can pay attention to how we tend to our emotions and our thoughts and treat them as real things that have an effect on the world, because they do. Other people’s emotions and thoughts are what created the very issues we react to all day, right? We can’t ever change other people’s emotions and thoughts. But we can deal with our own. Those we can change.

When we feel someone is sending anger and hate toward us, it is hard to respond with something different. Your mind tells you it is only safe to respond with anger and hate. But that only creates more of the same. It is the mentality that starts arguments, leads to murders, suicides and wars. It leaves us all empty.

We can teach our brains that it is safe to respond differently. We can learn to respond to our body sensations and our breath and recognize that underneath it all, we are feeling the need to protect ourselves or society. By responding to our immediate surroundings, body sensations and breath, we can begin to calm down a bit. We can see choices.

Sometimes the choice is simply to release the need to react. To have compassion for another’s human failings, just as we have failings throughout our own day. But, even if an action does need to be taken, having the space of calmness opens our mind to seeing what responses might make a true change in the situation. And it allows us to respond with an open heart as well.

Change made from an open heart and an open mind is expansive, creative and loving. It heals. Change that is attempted from a reactionary place of indignation, resentment or outright hate may even lead to something happening. We may even call this a change, but it will seldom be for the long term good and it will never be loving or healing. It is not growth.

I know we really want the world to heal. I know we really want to see, feel and experience love and peace in the world. I know we all want to be supported and accepted in the world. We each have to take our own responsibility for our part in that puzzle.

That doesn’t mean working harder to make the other guy change. It means we each have to keep taking a closer look inside. Over and over, all day long, every single day. And changing ourselves .

Not by shaming ourselves, but by being gentle, loving and strong with ourselves. We have to be our own guides and the kindest parents and teachers we could have ever hoped for.

As we practice that with ourselves each day, we will begin to practice love and kindness with each other more easily. As our sharp reactions change to loving and wise responses, the people around us will begin to respond differently. As our energy shifts, it will ripple out. Start within yourself. Have peace there first.

Finding Purpose When Life Sucks

Helen Keller quiet character

I got some pretty lousy news today that threw me for a loop. It made me angry and scared and sad and overwhelmed. Then, as I began to calm down, I started thinking it could have been so much worse. I started seeing all the things to be grateful for in the situation. Soon I shifted from feeling like life had just sideswiped me, to recognizing that I had been given an opportunity.

We often go through life expecting that everything is supposed to go to plan, be happy and without problems or difficulties. No one expects to have relationships problems, to be sick, to lose a job, to have an accident or for their car to break down. Yet these are fairly normal occurrences in the course of life. Often things far worse than these happen. The loss of a home, a spouse or a child. Why do we think life is supposed to be smooth? How could we learn and grow without lessons and tests?

True, we have no need to seek out struggle and hardship, but there is also no reason to assume that it should never be a part of life. One force pushing against another creates great things. Entire canyons are created because of eons of water flowing through, creating resistance against the rock, slowly carving out beauty and grandeur. Diamonds are formed through intense pressure on lumps of coal.

Sometimes these things that life gives us are nothing more than information about what isn’t working so well in our lives. We can listen and correct course or ignore it and it will continue to alert us in new ways until we recognize what we need to see. Guideposts are everywhere. In our bodies, in the environment, in our interactions with others and the way they make us feel. Our intuition speaks to us all the time, as well. Most of us don’t listen. We’ve been taught not to believe.

But here’s what I started thinking about my bad news. I learned about it in enough time to do something proactive. I listened to my intuition repeatedly and that’s what led me to learn about it that soon. I am so thankful for this Divine gift that we are all given. I am thankful I pay attention to mine more often than I used to. I also recognize that this is a signal. It is a chance for me to open my heart and my mind to learn more about the life I am living and the body I am living in. Am I expressing it, my body and my life, in the best way I can? Am I serving the highest good? Am I happy? What does that mean? Am I free to serve fully or am I holding back?

Every bump in the road is a chance to examine the life we are living. Big bump or small, it doesn’t matter. It may be your lesson, or a lesson you are participating in for someone else. Keep your heart and mind open to feel and see all you can. These bumps aren’t happening to you. They are happening for you. Even the harshest ones are for a reason. If you can’t see that, begin with gratitude.

Gratitude for the experience, even if it sucks. Gratitude that you are alive to have it. Gratitude that you are able to feel fully enough to know that it sucks this bad. Gratitude that it’s not worse. A wise friend of mine, a Holocaust survivor who lived in a concentration camp for years, was fond of informing me that it could always be worse. If the world is still spinning and you are alive, it’s true. It could be worse and it will eventually get better. As much as it sucks, if you really need a gratitude starting point, start there. Focusing on gratitude will help shift the focus off of “why is this happening to me?” towards “how can I see the purpose in this?” That shift changes everything.