Monday, February 22, 2010

Opening to Inquiry and Understanding

It takes a lot of courage to admit when we’re wrong. Being wrong for the longest time was never my strong suit; in fact, my former Self would fight to the bitter end to be right. Self-righteousness has been one of my most challenging lessons in this lifetime but over the last several years, I’ve learned how to step out of it, and how unproductive it is in my life and relationships.

How does self-righteousness serve you? For many, it’s a security blanket that protects us from our vulnerabilities; exposing and sharing these with others can feel painful. Self-righteousness is often used as a protective shield for our lack of self-confidence and understanding of things outside of our comfort zone. It serves as a firewall for fear, not allowing anyone or anything to reveal or admit underlying fears we hold within about others’ judgment, rejection, or perception, and more specifically, what we think and believe of ourselves. Self-righteousness serves as a cover, a misty haze that hides our deepest uncertainties and self-doubt about who we are, what we believe, and how we feel about ourselves. In this case, we use the energy of self-righteousness as a defense mechanism to hide self-doubts about our own beliefs that we’ve adopted as our truth but aren’t fully resonating within us. Through self-righteousness, we steel ourselves with the very belief we are questioning, heels dug in without open-mindedness or inquiry that can lead to deeper understanding and clarity. In digging in, we stand on the defense when threatened by a new idea or belief to protect ourselves from faltering in our own comfort zone of “what we know.” Finally, self-righteousness can be worn like a badge of “I’m holier than thou.”

The problem is we simply don’t nor can we ever know everything. If we step back and really take a look at what’s going on beneath the stormy surface of self-righteousness, we may reveal a new truth about ourselves, one that presents an opportunity for growth and ironically, an even deeper faith in what we do believe in. A practicing Catholic for most of my life, I remember questioning God and my religious beliefs during difficult times. In one instance, I sought information through participation in a program supporting those seeking conversion to Catholicism. The group was facilitated by an eighty-something year-old Catholic woman who had more energy than I did, and by all appearances was a steady ship of faith and conviction. On a break, I asked her how does she never question her religious belief and the Catholic teachings, to which she responded shamelessly, “Oh, but I do question all the time!” She went on to tell me that it was in the questioning that she became more certain and rooted more deeply in her faith.

Her teaching remains with me thirteen years later as I continuously ask questions not only of my own beliefs, but that of others, seeking a deeper, richer understanding of myself and others. Through this effort, I have moved from the space of self-righteousness into a place of unconditional and respectful acceptance. When I hold confidence in and around my own personal faith and beliefs, I enjoy greater peace and harmony within myself and with others. But those moments around judgment and self-righteousness are faith-deepening opportunities revealed. I lean into these classrooms to further release any fears and feelings of threat that I hold within myself. To release self-righteousness means that we stop “should-ing” on ourselves and others, we cease controlling how people need to believe or show up in a belief or viewpoint. When we focus on others’ beliefs, our own personal and spiritual belief gardens are left unattended and neglected. Share your beliefs with others through how you show up in the world. We can stand firmly within our beliefs without hammering others over the head with them. We can share our beliefs when appropriate without disrespecting another’s through criticism, argumentativeness, dictating how they should think, show up, choose, live and act in their own life. In doing so, we stop robbing ourselves of all the infinite possibilities of rich and meaningful relationships and knowledge available to us; and, we expand our consciousness in our world and its unique God Expression.

No one can take what we believe away from us; the unfortunate events leading to the Holocaust proved this truth especially for the Jewish faith. Only we decide what we believe and don’t believe, whether we seek harmony or judgmental conviction, understanding or ignorance. Trust your own faith system, and if it’s challenging you, open up to exploring that uneasiness you feel when encountering a different belief. You may learn something new and find shared commonalities within the differing beliefs; and, you may affirm more deeply that which you believe personally for yourself. Either way, through the release of self-righteousness, we create a world of greater harmony and peace, one that is inclusive and respectful, one without dictatorial attitudes. Choose understanding over ignorance. Choose inquiry and healthy dialogue over self-righteousness. And choose peace and love over upset and judgment.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Greatest Love of All

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a day for love. Many relish in the romance; others despise it. Personally, I was one who detested it for many years. My ex-husband asked me for a divorce on Valentine’s Day weekend fourteen years ago, thus my feud with February 14th began. I resented my ex and St. Valentine who had nothing to do with it except be guilty by association! I blamed my misery on anything related to the holiday, including those who enjoyed it. I resented the commercialism that took something pure such as love to make a profit while simultaneously “making” me feel less than because I was alone.

For many single men and women, V-Day can feel like D-Day. Hopelessness can overwhelm as we watch others in love coo like doves, relish in chocolate hearts and bling-bling, receive office floral deliveries, and enjoy romantic dinners. But our own misery is by our own design. While the focus is on couples and romance, the bottom line is that Valentine’s celebrates the love of God and for God.

The name "Valentine", derives from valens which means “worthy”; and the feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." Valentine was one of many Christians who were celebrated as a martyr on this feast. But for many lonely singles, we tend to cloak ourselves in martyrdom as we move through this holiday in resentment and bitterness thanks to the “wrongs” done to us by others. We root ourselves in feeling lonely and unwanted, and this space was where I resided energetically for many years hosting my very own Valentine’s Day pity party. Ironically, I, as well as many other singles that still do, missed the point of February 14 – it’s all about love. And while commercialism implies that we need someone in our lives to feel loved, this belief couldn’t be further from the truth!

We are loved!! Our Creator loves us. Our family loves us. Our friends love us. Here’s the big question: Do you love yourself? The Bible speaks of this many times, especially the point of “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” This quote demonstrates how our projection of feelings towards others is truly a mirror reflection of how we feel about ourselves; Luke, Leviticus, Matthew and Mark, to name a few, point this out. “Do onto others as you would have done onto you” is another famous quote that reflects the Law of Circulation: love another and know the love of others as well as for yourself. In this effort, we activate the Law of Attraction to bring greater love into our life. And Genesis 2:27 states that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Aren’t we worthy of loving ourselves as God loved us enough to create us out of his own Being? As we love ourselves, we love our Creator and its Creation. As we lovingly embrace God Within, we embrace love for ourselves.

After several years of these “pity parties” with only one actual Valentine during that time, I woke up one day and decided what a whiny butt I was being. I was exhausted, drained from the waste of time and energy in my resentment, and I knew I was better than this bitterness – it wasn’t fun or productive. So I took responsibility for my own misery, releasing all who I'd been blaming and became my own Valentine. Starting a new tradition that lasted many years, I prepared elaborate candlelight dinners that made daily frozen dinners pale in comparison; I enjoyed a glass of wine, treated myself to red roses, and listened to romantic music. I simply began a love affair with God. One year I even had flowers from a “secret admirer” sent to myself at my office; that got tongues wagging and it was a thrill and immensely fulfilling that the big secret was they were from the Greatest Love of my life.

For those alone on this day of romance, be your own Valentine! Celebrate love of self; as the word Valentine reflects, you are worthy! And for those with Valentine’s, consider taking it to a richer level that reflects God’s love expressing more fully through you both, everyday beyond this one day of chocolates, bling-bling, and romantic dinners.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fulfilling Life or BUST!

Energies are shifting right now and this is reflected in how we feel. Are you feeling tired and exhausted, more than normal? Having a hard time getting up in the mornings? Are you experiencing a sense of restlessness, or unexplained feelings of anger or irritation?

2009 was a major year for shifting, in which many of us experienced endings which lead us to new beginnings. We witnessed this globally. Some of us fought those endings; some of us didn’t have a choice in the matter. And while the endings took place, how we handled and dealt with them then and now are indicative of our willingness to shift into a higher way of living, a higher way of being.

Old patterns, old habits, old ways of doing things that haven’t served us well in the past may be causing added stress in our lives now. If we keep doing the same thing, and expecting different results each time, we create a cesspool of insanity for ourselves and for those around us. Endings happen for a reason. Regardless of the circumstances, blaming, responsibility, heartache, and the saga itself, our choices now, and before we came into this human experience, supported these endings. Our task in the human experience is to look at these transitions and learn from them: how we could’ve shown up more productively; how we may have chosen differently; what patterns or habits we may need to break; how our choices reflect our sense of self, self respect, and self-love, or worse, our self-righteousness, inner judges, self-loathing, arrogance and pride.

Just as tourist attractions teach history of a particular landmark, endings are the “human” tourist attractions in our journey to teach us about ourselves – at a human and soul level. Unfortunately, many of us just blow by these opportunities, anxious to get to a destination while forgetting we’re on a journey. We fail to realize that the information contained within these endings teach us how to how to create and enjoy a more fulfilling and gratifying journey. When we go from one experience to another without really getting intimate with our heart and soul about what happened, we live an unconscious life – one without inner awareness and self-knowing.

What endings have you dismissed or are you feeling around the bend? What transitions have you yet to fully ponder? In order to shift to a higher way of living, we must know our hearts, and to do this, we must take time to be brutally honest with ourselves and how we show up in our life: through our choices, fear, self-centeredness, actions (or inaction), habits, limiting belief systems, and judgment of self and of others. When we haphazardly move through and from one experience to another, we are simply sleepwalking in our lives. If you are feeling a growing frustration and disappointment, it is your signal to “Wake up!” Know the joy, love, peace, wisdom, abundance and creative power you already have within you to live a more fulfilling life. Know your heart’s desires. Know you are the creator of your own reality. The Great I Am, that presence of God Within, seeks to collaborate with you in your journey, to guide you towards that new experience of living a more conscious life. So let’s go! Let's post a sign on the back of our human vehicle that says "Fulfilling Life or Bust!"