“Make of yourself a light.” — said the Buddha, before he died.
The picture above is a space in my yard where I go when I need to center myself. It is my sanctuary. It is where I come when I feel overwhelmed. It is where I sit when I can’t figure out what I think about, well, anything.
There is so much to think about these days. There is so much to fret about. There is so much to get angry about. (How about Jon Stewart testifying this week to a near-empty Congress with all the families from 9/11? His message was powerful and should fire us all up.)
There is also so much to be excited about. So much to be hopeful about. So much to be grateful for. When I sit in my backyard and look at the calm statue pictured above, that’s where I end up—in a place of peace, a place of calm, a place of gratitude. “Make of yourself a light,” said the Buddha in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Buddha’s Last Instruction.” (You can read it in our Sunday Paper Reflection section below.) So, that’s what I want to focus on this morning: making myself a light.
That invitation goes out to each of us every day. It’s also a challenge that each of us can decide to answer take on, regardless of what’s going on in the world. You can make yourself a light for yourself, for your family, for your community, for an issue you care about, or for injustice in the world.
On this Father’s Day, I want to shine a light on all the men who step into this role with light, joy, purpose and passion. I want to shine a light on those who take it seriously. Who show up to their roles, regardless of whether or not their fathers showed up for them.
A father’s positive involvement can change a child’s life. It can build character, instill values, and inspire hopes and dreams. Fathers can make themselves a light in their children’s lives. So today, I want to honor those who have thought deeply about this role. I want to shine a light on the men who do the work. Men who father their own. Men who father the fatherless among us. May we honor those who have stepped into the lives of those who need a father and said, “Let me make myself a light in your life.”
“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future.” — John F. Kennedy
How does one stay in the know, without getting lost in the noise?
This is a topic I touched upon in my essay last week, but I want to raise it again because it’s a question that I think about almost every day.
It’s a question that I’ve started to pose to my friends, to thinkers that I admire, to our Sunday Paper columnists, and to those who actually are awake to what’s going on in the world. I want to know what they think and how they’re dealing. I want to know how they are balancing the weight of the world with the need to stay focused on one’s own life and inner world.
The near-death experience (NDE) has entered popular culture, starting in the 1970s, and "going into the light" is considered by the average person to be what happens after you die, assuming that anything happens. But the largest study of NDEs, which examined 2,060 patients who died under emergency or intensive care, arrive at the conclusion that death isn't a single event--it is a process. During this process, there are ways to reverse death. If you are successful at getting the heart, lungs, and brain to come back to normal functioning, about 40% of those who died and came back remember that "something happened" when they were flat line.
This part of the study, which was titled AWARE and was led by intensive-care doctor Sam Parnia, seems irrefutable. But very quickly the details of "something happened" become controversial. We have to dive into a few details to see what the issues are. Out of the 2,060 patients who died (the study went from 2008 to 2012 and included 33 researchers in 15 hospitals), 104 were resuscitated. The first point to note is that all had actually died. They were not "near death." Their hearts and lungs had stopped functioning, and within 20-30 seconds their brains showed no activity. The decomposition of cells throughout the body actually takes several hours to commence afterwards. During the interval between dying and being brought back is when 39% reported the memory of being conscious even though their brains had stopped.
Recently, my initial excitement and the newness of moving to Florida began to ebb somewhat, and day-to-day life took on an unexpected, almost bipolar energy. I found myself ricocheting back and forth between two rather extreme reactions: joy, optimism, positivity, appreciation, gratitude, love, inspiration on the one hand and sadness, fear, heaviness, pessimism, lack of motivation on the other. This could occur within the space of one day or even one hour, seemingly unrelated to what was happening around me. At times I was thrilled with my new home and surroundings, and then at other times I felt trapped, out of place, and uncomfortable. It took me fully another month to realize that I was experiencing what it is like to bridge two worlds: old paradigm and new dimension.
Every evening for many years, I continue with this little ritual that I’d like to share. Although it’s quite simple, I find it’s really powerful to have an intended thought powered by light. The simple act of lighting a candle every night for me reminds me that all thought has power, and keeping a candle lit safely for a while helps me to send and keep positive thoughts on a desired intention.
Candles have been used since the dawn of time for meditations, blessings, spiritual and religious ceremonies, healings, prayers, celebrations, abundance, psychic development, to feel comforted and protected, to hold the memory of a loved one, and yes … even romance! The uses are endless.
Many people choose candles by scent, some choose by color, while others are simply fine with a plain candle, or even a tea light in a votive purchased from a dollar store. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. No matter what you choose, it’s the positive use of the candle that makes it special.
Every day people use candles in a positive way without even knowing it. Ask yourself: “How many times have you blown out a candle on a birthday cake?” What you’re actually doing is that when you close your eyes to make a wish (holding that special thought) and then blowing out the candle, is that you’re actually sending off the wish while bringing your desires to light.
This week is an interesting one given that we begin with a serious New Moon on Monday, providing us an opportunity to make intentions for how to say goodbye to 2017, real and clear.
Then we close out the week with the Longest Night (in the northern Hemisphere/ opposite Down Under) followed by the Winter Solstice where we celebrate the rebirth of the Light.
Speaking of which I’m going to do a special Facebook Live on Friday the 22 at noon EST to celebrate- yes I am doing readings! You must come!
Symbolically this season is so rich with metaphor, that if you pay attention, you really can see the connections between all of it. Yes we’re still being invited to clean up the dirt in our lives in the last week of mercury retrograde, refusing, reassessing, re-calibrating, revisiting, repairing and reinforcing. Even though this is the symbolic time of greatest darkness there is so much Light being called into the world right now it’s amazing.
It was a great moment when I was thrown out of Harvard in 1963. I was the first professor from Harvard in 6,000 years or whatever to have it happen, so I was a really bad guy. I was on the front page of The New York Times. That was good.
So I found myself at a press conference and all the reporters and television people were there to interview me. I felt like a fighter who had just lost the ‘big fight,’ and was now going to sweep the gym for the rest of his life, and they were sort of bidding me goodbye, a fond adieu after having battled Goliath, you know. The problem was that as I stood before the cameras I thought, “I won, I’m right.” That thought was immediately followed by the thinking that that was a psychotic thought. Even I saw the diagnostic categories. When you think something is real that nobody else thinks. The next thought was, “Well, so be it,” because for me to have denied what it was that I had experienced would have left me with a life of total hypocrisy with myself.
No matter the circumstances, we are being reminded to live fully, love deeply and open our hearts to even the most unlikeliest of individuals because each of us matters in this greater unfolding of life.
It was another bucket list moment. Not long ago I was at a gospel brunch celebration at Oprah Winfrey’s home for the launch of her new book, "Wisdom of Sundays: Life Changing Insights From Super Soul Conversations,” a compilation of heart opening and profound insights and grace shared by thought-leaders and writers from her Super Soul Sunday television series. (It’s one of those books you should have on your nightstand to set your inner GPS every morning or infuse you with the spirit of peace and gratitude as you end your day.)
A lot of movers and shakers in the entertainment and personal development fields attended, however, my husband Panache had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it.
So I went in his place. Alone.
This past week has been a blur.
Have you ever felt that you’ve been swept up in a tornado of feelings that you can’t control and don’t even know the source?
It’s been surreal if you think about everything that has happened in the past month alone- a relentless tsunami of suffering and tragedy- all of it real, all of it needing to count.
Which do you pick? The devastation in the Caribbean? Texas? Louisiana? Las Vegas? Or should we look overseas?
I live here in North America and so what happens closest to me is on the news and I’m more exposed to the locale but this is all but a snapshot symbol of a deep insistent global pain, that we feel rising up from an unknown space within us, and we don’t even know what to call it and we resist it by deflecting it through rage and apathy, fear and denial.
But it’s all about waking us up – to what lies beyond this nameless pain.
Well here we are post eclipse and the energy is ripe for change in the best way possible. The significance of this phenomena will be felt over the next six months. The question now is how to we raise our vibe in a consistent manner so that our joy and our commitment to a better life is stronger than our fear of outer conditions?