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The Sacred Art of Listening

ears The Sacred Art of Listening

Just as presence is the heart of meditation, so deep listening is at the center of all conscious, loving relationships. This talk explores how our wants and fears block listening, ways we can deepen our capacity for listening, and the healing that unfolds when we truly feel heard by another (a special talk from the archives).

What happens when you’re really listening? 

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How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

compassionateheart How can we cultivate a compassionate heart to find freedom?

We all know our humanity too well.

That is why we put the focus on recognizing the part of us that isn’t stuck in the human-ness. Not to deny our humanity, but rather to bring it into balance through a compassionate heart.

That’s what you offer another person. When I look at some of you, I know you have problems with addiction and sexual obsessions, problems with loneliness and problems with anger, diseases and frigidity. I see the whole sea of stuff and you tell me about it, and I see curriculum after curriculum.

I see a group of beautiful souls on earth, each having its own karmic work to do.

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The Power of "We"

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Human beings came to this planet to learn how to live together in peace. To realize and express the love in their hearts through compassion and kindness. It’s a simple as that. We didn’t come here to accumulate wealth and material possessions while others have nothing. We didn’t come here to distrust and hate everyone who is not an exact carbon copy of our beliefs and physical appearance. We didn’t come here to build walls and wage wars against difference. While those may be the polarities the human species experiences along the way, our final destination is beyond all those divisions and separations. Ultimately, we came here to recognize that “I” alone is incomplete; only in “we” do we find strength and commonality in being alive. Only in loving ourselves and others are we made whole. As the song says: “We are the world…”

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Take a Spiritual Selfie & Lessons from the Goddess Green Tara

greentara Take a Spiritual Selfie & Lessons from the Goddess Green Tara

This week I am spotlighting the Tibetan goddess Green Tara. When I was searching for a goddess to bring us a message this week, I wanted to find one from Tibet since it was at a Tibetan temple in Toronto that I first learned to take meditation seriously 33 years ago. My spiritual practice in the early days was greatly influenced by my experience with Tibetan Buddhism.  

There are many aspects of the goddess Tara (many colors too!) but Green Tara is my favorite because in this aspect known as “she who saves” she represents the enlightened activity of us when we recognize that we can’t do life by ourselves. We need each other and we need to be in a relationship with one another, without being in a codependent trap, as highlighted by the goddess Demeter in the alignment position in this week’s reading. As a goddess, Green Tara is very loving and inclusive and is known to be everyone’s best friend especially when you really need one. Inherent in that friendship is the kind of salvation we often think has to come from someone who rescues us.

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The Concept of True Forgiveness

The Concept of True Forgiveness The Concept of True Forgiveness

Several weeks ago, I was honored and humbled to have been asked by my friend, the Reverend Mark Lord, to be the guest pastor at the Unity of Naples Church. I have to tell you that it was a remarkable experience.

First of all, if you’ve never been to a Unity Church, I strongly recommend that you consider attending a service. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, I can guarantee that you will be warmly welcomed with a complete absence of guilt, fear, or dogma.

My sermon was based on the second of the Four Agreements – the idea that you should never take the words or actions of another personally. This important foundational idea is central to the concept of true forgiveness. Because real forgiveness is all about letting go.

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Why the “Pathless Path” Makes Sense

pathlesspath Why the “Pathless Path” Makes Sense

More people than ever have undertaken a spiritual path of their own, independently of organized religion. “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual” has become a common expression, and I count myself among those who struck out on their own as a seeker. My search has covered a lot of ground over the years, from mind-body medicine to quantum physics, higher consciousness, the future of God, and personal transformation.

What all of these disparate topics have in common is reality, in the sense that everyday reality is hiding from view the “real” reality that needs to be unveiled. (Readers might want to look at last week’s post, “Unveiling Reality,” which details what it means to unveil reality.) There’s no question that the five senses detect the world in a very limited way, since they give no clue that molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles exist, not to mention genes and DNA. But unveiling a deeper physical reality is far from the whole story.

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How do you reconcile faith and reason?

angel-in-meditation-picture-id117146656 How do you reconcile faith and reason?

We have come out of a period on the evolutionary journey of us as beings, where man evolved these great frontal lobes and this capacity for rational thought and self-consciousness. And this is, in the Hindu system, what would be called a siddhi or a power. That power can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used in the service of what I call the third chakra, that is, in terms of a man’s control over his environment, which is the way we’ve been doing it, which the rational mind controls. It’s man over nature in the anthropological Florence Kluckhohn differentiations. She talks about societies that are man over nature, societies that are man in nature, and societies that are man under nature. Attachment to the siddhi of the rational mind put man in the group of man over nature.

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Is There a Special Place That Touches Your Soul?

Trevone Is There a Special Place That Touches Your Soul?

Have you ever experienced a particular place where you’ve felt closer to God, Spirit, or Heaven? You just know there’s something special about that place, and it feels as though it touches your very soul.

The sense of peace and tranquility encompasses your whole being, and for some inexplicable reason you’re drawn to this place, even though you don’t truly know why. When you’re there, it’s almost as if the veil between this world and the next has been lifted, if only for a short time.

In the Celtic tradition, such places are called “Thin Places.” There’s a Celtic saying that Heaven and Earth are only three feet apart, but in these Thin Places, the distance is even smaller.

Thin Places not only make us feel calm but also transform us, as if we’re being unmasked. While we’re at these places, we’re aware that we’re far more than just a physical being — we feel ourselves as a spiritual being, our true essential selves: body, mind, and soul. The Thin Places can be found anywhere on the planet, including churches, temples, beautiful landscapes, and ancient ruins.

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Unveiling Reality

first-thing-in-the-morning-for-him-is-yoga-picture-id1020703516 Unveiling Reality

I’d like to explain one of the great mysteries faced by spiritual seekers. On the surface this mystery sounds simple. The most basic statement of it is this: You don’t have to go anywhere to reach higher consciousness. At some level you are already enlightened. All you have to do is to uncover this level within yourself.

There are countless versions of the same teaching. “Be still and know that I am God” is a religious version. So is “The kingdom of Heaven is within.” Outside religion a version from India is called “the pathless path.” However different, all these teachings imply the same thing: The seeker’s goal is here and now. There is nowhere to go, no journey to take, no distance between the beginning and the end of the seeker’s path.

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Service to Others, Service to God

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Service to God, in spiritual or religious terms, can become a grandiose, almost inaccessible concept. Something only great mystics and masters can fully live out. Possibly forsaking all worldly possessions and moving to another country. We think of Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Or Martin Luther King Jr. and Peace Pilgrim. Lives of dedication and deep compassion. Yes, this is definitely service to God. But we don’t really have to be a saint or monk to be of service to others and God. Perhaps we need to simplify the definition itself.

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How can we reorient ourselves towards the divine?

young-man-meditating-picture-id961344078 How can we reorient ourselves towards the divine?

We all get preoccupied with where we’re not.


I mean, I get letters from people all the time with vivid descriptions of where they’re not. The amount of consciousness they invest in writing the letter to describe where they’re not…but every now and then, I get a letter and all it’s filled with is page after page of, “Ram Ram Ram Ram,” and I read every page. Every page. What else is there to write?

See, the process for those that have a scientific vent, that want it said that way, the process is really nothing other than completely reorganizing your cognitive map, so that you see the entire universe from another place – from your Divine Self.

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What Do People Do on the Other-Side?

candles What Do People Do on the Other-Side?

Your loved ones who have passed on have probably been gone awhile now … whether it's a few weeks, months or years. Have you ever wondered what they’re doing on the Other Side? Wouldn’t you like to know what they’re up to?

As a medium, I’ve connected with loved ones in Spirit who’ve wanted me to relay some of the most touching messages about what they’re doing on the Other-Side. In one such message, which took place at one of my intimate group readings, a young boy told me to tell his mom that he was out of his wheelchair, playing baseball and running the bases at a game. I remember his excitement connecting with me, as he knew he was talking to his mom again. He could barely get the words out fast enough, he was so excited to be telling her how he was doing all the things he was unable to do in his physical body.

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Realizing Your Deepest Intention

dog-at-window Realizing Your Deepest Intention

The Buddha taught that this whole life – including our thoughts, feelings and actions – arise from the tip of intention. While our intentions are usually marbled with wanting and fear, when intention comes into the light of consciousness, it unfolds into its most pure essence. This talk explores ways that when we are stuck in reactivity, we can become aware of intention, and find our way to the aspiration that expresses our most awake and loving heart.

Mary Oliver


“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

― Mary Oliver, from “The Summer Day”

 

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How does labeling our experience take us out of the moment?

labeling How does labeling our experience take us out of the moment?

St. John of the Cross said, “All that the imagination can imagine and the understanding it can receive and understand in this life is not, nor can it be, a proximate means of union with God.”

What we have touched or tasted or known through some vehicle or another has been a way of turning ourselves on and getting high. I mean, Eleanor Rigby gets her kicks in some way or other. It may be darning a sock, it may be cooking a bouillabaisse, it may be walking by the ocean, it may be turning on with something – pot or acid, it may be making love – a moment of sexual union. It may be pure service, just serving, just totally, “Not mine, but thy will, oh lord,” in everything you do. Prayer gets you high, singing holy songs gets you high. Everybody’s got a trip to get high. Funny what we are getting to at this stage – we start to say, “Well my trip is better than your trip. You mean you didn’t go surfing man? Oh, you’re nowhere baby.”

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Have you had a hugging dream?

huggingdream Have you had a hugging dream?

Did you know that many of us visit the Spirit World when we sleep?

We’re all aware that our physical body can’t exist without time to rest, regenerate, heal, and recharge our energy. Sleep is a vital function of our daily routine and overall well-being. It's my belief that our spirit also uses this time for a similar function. While we’re asleep (usually during our deepest dream state), it detaches itself from its physical encasement (our body) to visit the Spirit World to regenerate. During this time, it’s still connected to our physical body through what is known as the “silver cord,” or “etheric cord.”

Many people have reported having vivid dreams in which they communicated with loved ones who have passed on. When we see our loved ones in this dreamlike state, it’s usually just a fleeting visit. They appear younger, healthier, and more vibrant ... because in the Spirit World, that’s how they really are!

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The Mystery of the Eternal Now

eternalnow The Mystery of the Eternal Now

People have become convinced that there is a spiritual benefit to living in the present. This is a surprising phenomenon, because nothing seems more mundane than the here and now. You wouldn't expect anything special to emerge from the constant flow of seconds, minutes, and hours that fill everyone's life from the moment of birth. There must be a deeper reason for giving the present moment a special value. (As an introduction to the significance of now, please see my recent post, "What Does It Mean to Live in the Present?"

"Now" is a concept that runs deeper than you might suppose. First of all, it cannot be measured by the clock. Before the tick of the clock is over, it has vanished into the past. Likewise, the experience of now as a subjective event is ungraspable by the mind. A thought is gone the instant you think it, and there's an argument from neuroscience that says the words you perceive as a thought are after-effects of the brain activity that created them, since the electrical impulses and chemical reactions inside neurons take fractions of a second, while the words in your head take much longer.

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What does it really mean to live in our truth?

wolf What does it really mean to live in our truth?

Knowing you’re God and being God are two different things. I mean intellectually, we all know we’re God – most of us understand that. But the direct experience of merging into it is another matter.

What seems to happen as you evolve spiritually is that the impurities or the things that veil you from being in your deepest truth become more unbearable.

I’m not talking about the judging mind coming up and saying, “I’m bad for it” or, “It’s bad for me.” It’s like if you have a lover, but you’re always separated by some veil from that lover – it becomes unbearable after a while. You just keep wanting to rip the veil apart. I’m so aware in myself, for example, how when I don’t clear my mind, when I don’t extricate myself from identification with my thought forms, my whole life gets thick. I can feel the thickness of it and it’s a sort of dense quality. I end up like I used to be, “It’s all fine, and I can get through life, and it’s all going fine, everybody likes me, and I like everybody, and I’m making money, and I’m doing my life, and I’m getting up and going to bed, and doing good,” but somehow it’s not living truth.

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Life's Essential Truth: Impermanence

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“Birth and death in every breath…”
—Deva Premal and Miten

Recently, a dear friend told me that he is moving back to California, which he had left two years before for Florida, where we both live now. (This, only a few months after I moved here myself from Massachusetts.) A week later, I received news that a long-time friend in Boston had died of cancer. Hellos and goodbyes fill my life these days. Friends and family passing to and fro in my experience and my memory like vivid but ephemeral spirits. And I myself am moving with the flow of my own life’s journey, loving and letting go again and again.

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The Game of Balance and Liberation

monk The Game of Balance and Liberation

There is a story about an old Zen monk who was dying, who had finished everything and was about to get off the wheel. He was just floating away, free and in his pure Buddha-mind, when a thought passed by of a beautiful deer he had once seen in a field. And he held on to that thought for just a second because of its beauty, and immediately he took birth again as a deer. It’s as subtle as that.

It’s like when we begin to see the work that is to be done, and we go to an ashram or a monastery, or we hang out with satsang. We surround ourselves with a community of beings who think the way we think. And then none of the stuff, the really hairy stuff inside ourselves, comes up. It all gets pushed underground. We can sit in a temple or a cave in India and get so holy, so clear and radiant, the light is pouring out of us. But when we come out of that cave, when we leave that supportive structure that worked with our strengths but seldom confronted us with our weaknesses, our old habit patterns tend to reappear, and we come back into the same old games, the games we were sure we had finished with. Because there were uncooked seeds, seeds that sprout again the minute they are stimulated. We can stay in very holy places, and the seeds sit there dormant and uncooked. But there is fear in such individuals, because they know they’re still vulnerable.

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Why is it so important to face our low points on the path?

upsanddowns Why is it so important to face our low points on the path?

We have all been enchanted with getting high and having a free awareness, and so we have tried to repress or deny lows when our awareness once again gets caught in this or that.

We love the illusion of being high but we are afraid of coming down. As your journey proceeds, you realize that you can’t hold on to your highs and deny your lows. Your lows are created by the remaining attachments that blind your awareness. Facing your lows – your anger, loneliness, greed, fears, depressions, and conflicts – is the most productive fire of purification you can find.

As your connection with the spirit deepens, you might even choose to seek out those things that bring your attachments to the surface, so that you might confront them and free your awareness from them.

It’s a tricky business – playing with fire. You must feel your own way, unless you have a guide to say when to go and when to stop. If you don’t have a guide, trust your own judgment. For example, if anger still traps your awareness, you might put yourself in a situation which usually elicit anger and then attempt to maintain clear awareness.

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