Feb 05

Thoughts on ‘being spiritual’

all knowledgeA friend of mine (the lovely Diane Nicholson who with her husband Andy run ‘Relationship Insights’, posed a question on her Facebook page asking what sprang to mind when people read the word ‘spirituality’. One of her respondents replied: “Spirituality for me is something beautiful- but why is it that people automatically believe that someone who is ‘spiritual’ is a good person- kind of like it absolves them of any need for discernment? Unfortunately that means some ‘spiritual’ people are not good nor nice.”

And that got me thinking a little bit.. rather than sharing my thoughts on Diane’s page alone, I thought I would put them in my blog.

Now, I totally get what Diane’s respondent is getting at. People who claim to be ‘spiritual’ can be bigoted, cruel, harsh and some of the most unloving people ever. More damage has been done in the name of religion and spirituality than anything else in the history of the planet. And for that, we should hang our heads in shame. And yes, it does seem that those who are religious take their ‘truth’ and use it to destroy others.. whether physically or in conversation. They seem to have the opinion that they have ‘seen the light’ and that they are right and others are wrong. In the pursuit of ‘truth’, the need for love and compassion, respect and tenderness is lost. I see this in Christianity, in Buddhism, in Islam, in Mormonism, in Confucianism, in New Age religion, in Wicca, in shamanism, in atheism…where ever man has decided that ‘here is the Truth’. (Helpful hint: always watch out when someone uses ‘the’ in front of the word ‘truth’ – and be very concerned if ‘truth’ has a capital letter!)

To me this behaviour is what I would call ‘religious’ – concerned with the form of their beliefs and upholding their ‘religion’ in whatever form it is. (The dictionary may not define it that way, but that does seem to be how it’s used today). ‘Religious’ seems closed, cold, restrictive. ‘Religious’ works from old books, closed texts, commandments set in stone, ‘follow the rules or face the consequences’. ‘Religious’ works from ‘we’re right and you’re wrong’.

For me the word ‘spiritual’ comes from the heart of love. If someone is ‘spiritual’ then they are simply seeking, however they see it, to express their soul, the heart of their being. Some of the most ‘spiritual’ people I know actually don’t believe in God. But they do believe in the power of the human spirit, and in something bigger and more ‘real’ than just the physical realm that we see. 

You see, ‘spiritual’ is something that we choose to be in any moment. When we’re expressing from a heart of love and concern, when we are understanding our unity with the universe and with one another, when we are giving and caring, listening and respecting each other, then we are being ‘spiritual’ – connecting to our true spirit nature. When we step away from that, when we regard ourselves as different or better than someone else… we actually cease being spiritual. It’s impossible to be spiritual and be unloving (although even those amongst us who we might consider to be truly spiritual sometimes do step outside of that and act from a different place – because they are human. Even Gandhi was more concerned with facing his own internal failings than with any external opponent). And Gandhi knew that:

“Though we may know Him by a thousand names, He is one and the same to us all.”

Spirituality cannot exist outside of a heart of love, because that is the very nature of the universe.  Jesus said ‘by their fruits you will recognize them’: those who demonstrate pride, harshness and unkindness do not reflect the nature of God – those who demonstrate love, peace, harmony, kindness, humility are, at some level, in touch with the heart of Reality. They are the ones who are learning, growing, changing, becoming somehow more ‘true’. They are not going to get it right all the time – but they will be humble enough to be able to admit they make mistakes and that they don’t know it all. Listen to them.

(Photo is the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Picture © Tim Hodgson 2011 )

Feb 04

The magic is all around you..

magic earth

For me, magic is the otherworldliness that runs through the Universe, the sense that anything could happen, the sense that if we peel back the layers of the ordinary, we will discover something truly miraculous at the core of existence. At one level, it is completely alien, supernatural, out of the ordinary, unbelievable. And at another, truer, level, it is absolute normality… the miraculous is simply ‘how things are’.

The more we explore the universe, the weirder things get, the stranger, the more amazing…

Did you know that if two electrons occupy the same space they become entangled… and if you separate them, by many many miles, a change in one affects the other? Did you know that if you cool something down to absolute zero, the point at which nothing moves, there is still a mysterious energy, the zero point field, that seems to be everywhere and nowhere – at the same time? Did you know that some scientific experiments at the quantum level change depending on what the experimenter expects to happen?

There are strange and remarkable things in this world, and for me the more I expect the miraculous, the more I expect to be surprised by this wonderful and amazing planet, this strange and beautiful universe. Albert Einstein himself said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The more I look for miracles, for coincidence, for things to happen that I did not expect… the more they do. The more I relax into trusting that everything is going to be OK – then the more I find that it is. The more I simply let go and stop forcing things… the more delightful and wonderful and unexpected beauty appears in my life. The more I am thankful for the miracles that I already have… the more miracles happen.

The more aware we become, the more we learn to listen, the more we pay attention to the miracle in every moment, the more grateful for each and every single moment, the more we see the magic in a raindrop, in a spider’s web, in a child’s hand, in a touch, in a kiss, in a cloud scudding across the sky.. then the more magic rushes to meet us.

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Feb 03

There’s enough . . .

abundance

I live on a little island just off the coast of mainland Europe. The longest road journey possible is 1,351 km, from Land’s End in the South West to Duncansby Head (near John O’Groats) in the North East. In comparison, US Route 20 runs across the United States from Boston to Oregon – a total distance of 5,415km. 

In the heyday of the American railroad, the individual railroad companies fought huge competitive battles… for routes, for passengers, for freight. They made their trains as fast as possible, always seeking to get the jump on their competitors, to carve out the biggest chunk of the market for themselves. And they missed the important thing – the competition wasn’t the other railroad companies. The competition that killed the railroad came from elsewhere – from automobiles and trucks and, ultimately, from the air.

The railroad companies were completely shortsighted and blinkered to how competition really worked…

I do a lot of work in the dance world, as many of my readers know, and the dance world isn’t short of competition either. Timing events to compete for dancers on the same night, competition for venues, attempting to score points, using other people’s success and promotions to build their own business, scalping mail list and event attendee lists… all sorts of less than honourable tactics…and in that world, too, we miss the fact that our competition is not the other dance promoters – but everything else that competes for the leisure dollar. Movies. The pub. TV. Wakeboarding.

Yet the truth is, our concept of competition is fatally flawed. We think there is not enough in the world and therefore we have to compete for it – for money, for fame, for success.

Perhaps it’s time to stop competing and start co-operating. Perhaps it’s time to realise that, together, we can create something far better than if we stand apart. Rather than trying to compete for custom, we grow the market.

Here’s a thought. Money is money, for sure. We can count it. I have ten dollars, you have ten dollars. If I buy something from you for five dollars, then you have fifteen dollars and I have five. But prosperity doesn’t work by addition and subtraction. Prosperity works by multiplication.

Consider this. Fred, Bill and Angie have $30 between them. Fred has $10, Bill has $10 and Angie has $10. Fred buys a wood carving from Angie for $5. Angie buys a painting from Bill for $5. Bill buys some electronic doohickey from Fred for $5 (Bill loves his gadgets). Total amount of wealth? Still $30. Amount of value created… $15 plus the original $30. And the world has benefited from a sculpture, a painting and some electronic thingumajig.  Let’s do it again. We create another $15 of value. We have more objects of beauty in the world and a couple of weird gadgets that Bill likes. We still have $30 – but we’ve created another $30 of value. So we do it again. And again. We involve more people, we create more products, we include giving and bartering.. and the amount of genuine prosperity is infinite.

Prosperity is not measured by the money that we have, but by how that money flows. Success is not measured by how famous you are, but by how much you enable others to become successful.

It’s about the flow between us. And perhaps, after a while, we start not to worry so much about money, and start to think more about how we can create a flow of abundance and prosperity, of love and of blessing. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking differently…

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Feb 01

Why are you here?

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“A Course in Miracles” puts it very clearly and directly.

You are in the room to heal the room.

You are in the space to heal the space.

There is no other reason for you to be here.

At the deepest level, the reason for you and I to be here, wherever ‘here’ is, is to bring love and healing to others. “Who, me?” Yes. You. And each one of us. You might be surprised, but we’re actually very good at it – each and every one of us – unless we forget who we are. Because actually Love is who we are.

And ultimately, that’s how success in this life is measured, at least at a metaphysical level. Did we do what love would do?  Were we kind? Did we care? Did we bring healing into people’s lives?

Now I’m not necessarily talking about ‘nice’. Any parent will tell you that the best thing sometimes is tough love.. but, in the end, are we acting from love or from fear? Is what motivates us the best interests of the other person… or our own fear of rejection and loss of love?

(And I’m not necessarily talking about being selfless, either. Our deepest and most sacred mission is to love ourselves.  Often it’s harder to love and forgive ourselves than to love and forgive another.)

And, really, this isn’t hard stuff. It doesn’t take a lot. A kind word to the girl at the checkout line might make her life just that little bit more pleasant… and she might go home and be just that little bit kinder to her family. Letting that driver pull out might make him just that little bit less stressed – and he might end up making the right decision that saves an entire community. We don’t know what are random acts of kindness will bring… but the one thing is – the world will be a better place because you’ve been randomly kind!

Whatever situation we walk into, where ever we find ourselves, the first question we need to ask is “What would love do in this situation?” What would be the kindest thing, the most caring thing? What is it that needs to be done, right here, right now, to bring peace, to create love, to bring healing, to encourage another? And the second question is “Am I willing to do what needs to be done?”

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Jan 30

The time is NOW….

purple pad - time

 

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is found in ‘The Thief of Time’. It explains . .

“The first words read by seekers of enlightenment in the secret, gong-banging, yeti-haunted valleys near the hub of the world are read when they look into the Life of Wen the Eternally Surprised. The first question they ask is: “Why was he eternally surprised?”

And they are told: “Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, re-created anew. Therefore, he understood, there is, in truth, no Past, only a memory of the Past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.”

Sometimes we forget, as human beings, that the only moment that we can really enjoy is NOW. NOW is the only thing that really exists. The past is simply a patchwork of recollections, increasingly dimmed by the passing of time. The future is an assembly of conjectures, hypotheses, projections, hopes and fears. All we really have that we can do anything with… is NOW.

And NOW is the only point at which we have power. It is the fulcrum on which the earth moves, on which the lever pivots. The past has happened. Get over it. The future is yet to be. Look forward to it, but do not depend on it.

Immerse yourself in it. Enjoy it. Use it. Savour every single moment of it. Be surprised. Be delighted. Because NOW is the only place that you really exist.

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Jan 28

You are not dust . . .

Sunset_And_Lightning

I’m not sure I want to add too much to this… far better for you to consider it yourself, and let it speak to you. For me, we are all spiritual beings. I have my set of beliefs about what that means. You will have yours. I have deeply spiritual friends who don’t believe in God. I have atheist friends who I also believe to be some of the most spiritual beings I know. And for me, we are, each one of us, on a spiritual journey. A journey into the heart of truth, of wisdom, of power, of magic. The joy of life and the freedom that you have been given – is that you can get to decide what that means.

“We are all born with the perfect power to do and be all things. We have the right to do with it whatever we wish. If we keep our bowl free from rocks, we can go forward and backward in time, walk with the angels, climb the heights and live in paradise. It is everyone’s decision, where and what he is. We are all one, each part of the eternal whole. There is no line that divides one from another or those in body from those in spirit” – Tales of the Night Rainbow

It seems to me that at the core of your being, you are not dust… you’re magic.

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Jan 27

It’s Stardust….

infinite potentialSometimes, someone says something that’s worth reflecting on. Author Neil Gaiman often says something that’s worth reflecting on. Neil is the author of lots of wonderful books, including Stardust and American Gods, as well as the amazingly evocative, spooky and thoughtful Sandman comic books.

 

I’m particularly fond of The Graveyard Book (from which todays quote comes – this may in fact be my favourite quote ever) and I also loved his address to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.. worth reading the whole thing.. but here’s what I took away from it…

 

First of all: When you start out you have no idea what you are doing. Don’t let that be an excuse for not starting. As Morpheus observed of Neo in ‘The Matrix’:

“Everyone falls the first time. If you never know failure, how can you know success?”

But get going. Make things happen. Some of them will work. Do more of that. Some of them won’t. Learn from those.

Secondly, If you have an idea of what you want to achieve, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that. Don’t deny the call in your soul. Don’t say ‘I couldn’t possibly do that’ or ‘no-one can make money from that’. You’re going to be miserable unless you give free reign to the call of your inner truth.

Thirdly, you’re going to have to deal with the problems of failure. Get used to it. Even when you’ve got experience, you’re going to fail sometimes. But now they’re not beginner’s error. They are real up front slap bang ‘should have known better’ and ‘I feel stupid’ failures. Deal with it. Dust off your pride. Move on.

Fourthly, I hope you’ll make mistakes. Welcome them. Value them. Learn from them. Use them. Remember Post It Notes? That came out of a project that was a huge failure. They invented an apparently useless non stick sticky glue. Yet someone saw the possibility of a non-sticky glue and made 3m a fortune. The history books are littered with things that worked out but that started out in abject failure. Take heart. Sometimes your failures are your greatest successes.

Fifthly, while you are at it, do your thing. Do the stuff that only you can do. We don’t want another version of someone else. We want you. YOU. Uniquely, wonderfully, powerfully you. Only you can bring your unique gift to the party – and the universe is waiting with bated breath for you to do it.

Sixthly. Stuff happens. Serendipity brings things together. Surprises will surprise you. Watch out for them. There is a huge amount of magic going on in the world. I agree with whoever said

“A coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous”

Pay attention. That song, that movie, that poster, that person you sit next to on the bus, the world is full of coincidences. Learn to spot them.

Seventhly. Make up your own rules. You think there’s a rule book for life. You think there’s some cosmic Santa Claus checking his list? As Neale Donald Walsch records God as saying to him in “Conversations with God”

“There’s only what works and what doesn’t, given what you are trying to achieve”

The greatest things that got done got done by people who decided to ignore the rule book and do it differently. I love this from DiscWorld:

Tiffany: “I thought there were rules?”

Granny Weatherwax “Oh? Really? Did you sign anything? Did you take any kind of oath? No? Then they weren’t your rules.”

The last word goes to Neil:

“And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes.

Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.”

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For Neil’s full address to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia – go HERE

Jan 26

Surprise yourself

gaimanAs we start into February, many of us start to lose our New Year motivation. Maybe the diet is proving tough, or we can’t find space for nights at the gym… our search for a new career is proving fruitless.. we can’t find the way to make the changes we want…(and if your year so far is working out just fine – well, ‘Go You!!’).

Maybe, though, as we let go of all the things that we feel we should do.. ‘I should make more money’, ‘I should lose weight’, ‘I should get fit’, ‘I should get out more’… well, maybe now the real dreams start to find a voice. Now our heart begins to speak, whispering true longing into your soul.

Maybe now the real desires of your heart start to bubble up. Maybe they’re more magical than you dared believe. Maybe they’re more outrageous than you thought. Maybe they take you by surprise, or catch your breath in their scope – and their simplicity. Maybe now you can dare to believe that this can be the most amazing, most wonderful year ever.

Go You!

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(I set out to create a poster for this one… but Neil Gaiman’s own banner seemed darned good to me. And since I think he’s got a bit more to say, we’ll have some more from Mr G tomorrow. Probably.)

Jan 25

Struck by lightning. . . .

Lightning_strike_jan_2007I was going to write something different today, I really was. But out on my bike in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside, the sky began to grow darker, and a light rain began to fall. Over the gentle slopes in the middle distance, the sky darkened to a deep, roiling indigo, and out of the blackness a shard of electricity carved its way from the heavens, while a millisecond later another joined it, to be followed by a third. A few seconds later, the sky was filled with a roaring as if of a landslide or the growl of an angrily awakened giant. A few moments later the scene was repeated, a little closer this time. I stood and watched the spectacle repeat itself, conscious of the dangerous energies that were gathering yet transfixed by the beauty of the sight as trees were silhouetted in the stark flashes  that ripped open a cobalt sky. The rain got heavier and turned to the harshness of hail, and I pulled my hood over my helmet and reluctantly turned my face away from the sky, working hard to make it to shelter before the arcs of untamed electricity got too close.

space dreamsThawing out in my office, my eyes were drawn to the image on my desktop, a picture of the billions of stars that make up the Milky Way, so many that many of them seemed to coalesce into clouds scattered across a night sky.

 

 

And I marvelled. Marvelled at the hugeness of creation, the wonderful, beautiful vastness of it all. I wondered what there was out there to discover, what amazing secrets it held. What wonders lie out there amongst the stars? And I marvelled at the energies that the sky could unfold with a simple rainstorm, effortless magic unleashes by Nature herself.

And yet all of this is almost as nothing compared to the creative power within the human spirit. Within each one of us crackles the creative force that calls dream into reality, that earths imagination and vision and turns into something real. Each one of us holds within ourselves the creative power of the universe, waiting to be released and to create, to build, to write, to paint, to play, to invent, to sculpt, to dance – to become something other.

That force is within you… and within me. None of us is special – and yet every one of us is special, gifted with the power to shape the universe. What will we do with it today?

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