It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Count Your Blessings – You Are One of Them!

One of my favorite teachers is Mathew Fox, whose book Original Blessing made probably the biggest impact on my life when I was really struggling around the holidays. My mentor, Margueritte, who bless her sweet heart was like Aunt Clara from Bewitched (for those of you who remember the dotty old witch whose spells sometimes landed her in a trash can, or she’d accidentally turn herself into a cat) handed this book to me along with the same author’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. The holidays seemed to trigger all my low self-worth buttons and behaviors, and all she said to me when she gave them to me was, “God doesn’t make junk—and you are a treasure.” She also used to call me her exotic bird too, while others in the church basements we frequented would look at my goth appearance and look away in fear and loathing muttering that there should be a dress code for sobriety. Ya right. 

The gist of this book was that we are all born in Original Blessing, not Original Sin, that each of us is born innocent and blessed by the Divine, and that our task in this lifetime is to discover that sparkling thread of this Truth and weave it into the fabric of our lives. In this way we could free ourselves to be human, to keep committed to a conscious contact with a benevolent Higher Power, and if we make mistakes we can be accountable and take action and make amends when needed. We were not the sum total of our mistakes, that they, in fact, are each an opportunity for growth and a return to Love and to Spirit. 

For someone newly clean and sober, this was a revelation because I had so much shame and unprocessed rage I didn’t know how to be other than to say, “I’ll show you how hurt I am. I’ll set myself on fire,” or just sit in a corner and stuff my face wondering if I will ever feel safe, or free from myself. (Oh! Right! If you’re new to my blog, I’m turning 34 years clean and sober soon, and the holidays are when I get right into looking for blessings everywhere even in the face of pain).

So this concept changed everything for me. Since then, every year I have started taking my inventory of the year before around now.

It’s when I clean house, both my actual environment and my inner. I take away what I don’t need from my outer, which is relatively easy, but before I focus on what needs to go internally, I do a slightly different inventory. I first look for the treasures in my life, experiences that were both obvious and obscured.

It’s kind of like a hidden object game called Where’s Waldo—Elf of Holiday Blessings? 

So I’m going to invite you to do what I do. 

The question I ask myself is where can I find the blessings in my life hidden in plain sight? 

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How to Create a Life Changing Mantra

Mantras are honored in a vast variety of spiritual practices and traditions, through many centuries. They elevate daily lives, and have an important place in both mindful and intentional living. Mantras are also one of the main ingredients in successful manifestation. They can be words, sounds or even repetitive actions.

Many people experience life without recognizing their personal power.  The words and thoughts we repeatedly tell ourselves are basically mantras that are void of sacred energy and intent. I invite you to take charge of your life by using intentional mantras. Follow these simple steps and get ready to celebrate your dreams:

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Making the Season of Peace Really Matter

A world ceaselessly in a state of unrest seems to mock this time of year as a season of peace. Most people are simply grateful that unrest hasn’t touched their lives, and hope fades for the victims of war and strife who will probably never enjoy peace except during brief truces. The link between holidays and holy days may be fragile in these times, but you can be a unit of peace consciousness starting now.

This  happens at the level of intention and attention.

First, intention. Holidays are about gatherings, first of family but also of events that embrace community and nation. It's therefore easy to feel, on the negative side, that you have little or no control over what's happening around you. Swept up in holiday rituals that are simply a given, surrounded by squabbling family members and old tensions, you can easily be overwhelmed.

The way out is by centering yourself and being clear, first on the inside, what you intend your holiday season to be.  A helpful exercise is to sit quietly with eyes closed and say to yourself, I want joy. I want peace. I want grace and love. As you say each phrase, pause and feel joy, peace, love, and grace as  the silence of your Being. Joy, peace, love and grace are your essential nature. It doesn't matter how you settle into this  feeling/knowing. Putting your attention on your heart is often helpful, or seeing a soft light in that region.

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Doorways

Everything in our life is here, because at some point, we walked thru a doorway and summoned  the experience.  I will share an example of this; outside my window there are rabbits and an occasional red cardinal eating pieces of lettuce and carrots.  Earlier in the day I put the produce out knowing it would attract some animals.  My thoughts and actions created the enjoyable encounter.  I also credit thoughts and behavior for the not so sweet manifestations.

What ever shows up in our life, we play a significant role in how and why it has appeared.   Our mind creates the door frame and our response leads us through the passage that holds our experiences.  The power of our mind is responsible for building everything physical and non physical on our journey.   Imagination holds the potential for everything.

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Ram Dass – Here and Now – Generosity

Ram Dass sits down for a conversation with Raghu Markus around generosity and sharing the gifts of spiritual life.

Show Notes

What About Generosity? (Opening) – Ram Dass and Raghu look at the delightful consequences of generosity. They talk about the methods and modalities that allow us to cultivate and share our generosity with others.

“Generosity, generous with love; generous with compassion.” – Ram Dass

Our Motivations (11:00) – When Ram Dass returned home from India, his goal was to share as many of the teachings he was exposed to in the East. He and Raghu discuss the motivation behind doing all that work. They look at the motivations of ego and attachment that are behind some of our expressions of generosity.

Maharaj-ji’s Gifts (19:20) – Our hosts reflect on the most important gifts that Maharaj-ji gave to his devotees and have filtered through to the younger generations across the globe.

Living from the Heart (27:20) – Ram Dass talks about the traps of spiritual materialism and ways we can prevent turning the gifts of spiritual practice into more decoration for our ego. We look at the refuge of the loving witness. He and Raghu discuss the shift in perspective about himself and the universe that Ram Dass’s stroke provided.

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The Still Small Voice Within

In this dharma talk from 1975, Ram Dass speaks of the still small voice within that serves as a constant reminder of our true nature and relationship with God.

Ram Dass reflects on the fire of the Living Spirit that exists inside each of us. A flame that becomes suppressed to just an ember by our time in the world. Ram Dass examines how that ember acts as a still small voice within that reminds us of our true nature and our relationship with God.

“Though we have lived our life totally involved in the world, we know that we are of the spirit. As you go towards God, you learn about yourself. When you return from God, you learn about the world. But when you are in the world you know not of the world. You cannot see the forest for the trees.” – Ram Dass

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The Answer is Always YOU!

When the odds are 1 in 1 million…be that one!

Learn to bet on yourself by cultivating a Divine connection with you. We relate to life through relationships. So why is cultivating a relationship with yourself important? My beloved brother Michael once told me, “When you fall so in love with yourself, the world will have no other choice BUT to fall in love with you.” Learning to respect, honor, and trust yourself will set the tone for every relationship you will have. Because you are literally the reflection of each person that you are in relationship with. Can you see that?

You can never have a relationship with another based on love, mutual respect, and collaboration if you are not loving, respecting, or collaborating with yourself. So who are you?

Take a deep centering breath and ponder this one question... Who am I? Not who the world wants me to be. Not the titles-whether they were given to you or self-imposed. Not your affiliation to or with? Do I like myself? Do I love myself? Do I really trust in the power of the unconditional love of God. This energy and essence that permeates everything.

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Navigating the Matrix of the Ego

We need the matrix of thoughts, feelings, and sensations we call the ego for our physical and psychological survival.

The ego tells us what leads to what, what to avoid, how to satisfy our desires, and what to do in each situation. It does this by labeling everything we sense or think. These labels put order in our world and give us a sense of security and well-being. With these labels, we know our world and our place in it.

Our ego renders safe an unruly world. Uncountable sense impressions and thoughts crowd in on us, so that without the ego to filter out irrelevant information, we would be inundated, overwhelmed, and ultimately destroyed by the overload. Or so it seems.

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Ram Dass Partners with Google Empathy Lab

“Don’t get lost in the details. Let your awareness go free.” – Ram Dass

I was lucky to attend an advanced screening of Becoming Nobody, the new documentary about Ram Dass, presented by Love Serve Remember Foundation and Google Empathy Lab. I’d like to share some quick thoughts on the movie, and also the really exciting partnership between Ram Dass and Google Empathy Lab, with the mission to ensure our most essential human values are designed into the future — shaping technology into an enlivening, soul-nourishing, human-flourishing force for good. 

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How to Defeat What's Defeating You

The biggest problem facing us as individuals is that we have all been caught up in the race of looking for relief. Our time would be spent far more profitably looking for strength.

We would never tolerate a dictatorial government, so why do we put up with all of the inner-tyrants, including the chief dictator, better known as the false self? We need not. A revolt is necessary, and I can promise you that victory is assured.

However, you must revolt intelligently. Don't waste your time planning a coup in the workplace or at home. Leave your relationships alone. They are not the problem. If you want to live the ever-pleasant, ever-present life, the only regime you must overthrow is your present way of thinking.

The first step in this right rebellion to reclaim your own life is to learn what it means to think toward yourself instead of from yourself. The difference being that when you learn to think toward your thinking, this special kind of self-separation allows you to question its intelligence.

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Learning to Connect to Inner Peace

Question: Why do some people seem to exude peace of mind while I struggle to be calm? What is the source of composure, and how can I work to develop it within myself?

Guy Finley: For better or worse, the quality and content of your life experience is determined by what you are connected to.

The next time you feel yourself becoming agitated, simply notice to what you are connected. See how simple this is, if you’ll do it.

Here you are driving down the street and you start to notice that you’re feeling depressed. Or maybe you’re feeling anxious. That’s the first step: to see yourself, to be awake to what’s going on within you. Ordinarily, the nature that feels negative, the self that embraces that stressed state, looks to itself to explain to itself why it feels like that, which does nothing but forward the process. Now you have some new information. The reason that you’re in the condition you’re in is because of what you’re connected to. Period. And what you’re connected to in that moment is nothing but some self-limiting idea you have of yourself -- an idea that’s telling you who you are, defining you based upon its incomplete perception of life. For instance, in unheard whispers it claims: “Unless so and so approves of my actions they’re worthless, which means I am too.” Or, “If I lose that account, or relationship, all will be lost”… mistaken ideas delivering wrong conclusions, unconscious conclusions which become your tragedies.

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How can we begin to wake up in each moment?

A soul takes human birth in order to have a series of experiences through which it will awaken out of its illusion of separateness, in each moment.

The physical experience of being incarnated is the curriculum, and the purpose of the course is to awaken us from the illusion that we are the incarnation. Spiritual practices are tools to help us accomplish these goals.

You start from innocence and you return to innocence. A sage was asked, “How long have we been on this journey?” He replied, “Imagine a mountain three miles wide, three miles high, and three miles long. Once every hundred years, a bird flies over the mountain, holding a silk scarf in its beak, which it brushes across the surface of the mountain. The time it would take for the scarf to wear down the mountain is how long we’ve been doing this.”

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When You’re in Transition Hell, Is Everything in Divine Order? Your Choice

When you don’t get things that you want, many people will tell you “Everything is in divine order,” which loosely translates into believing there is a reason, a good reason, a beautiful reason for everything– but you lame grasshopper of a tiny, baser consciousness cannot yet behold why it’s just peaches and cream perfect that you’re in how shall we say it—HELL—and struggling to claw your way through your own black swamp– while someone else nabs their dream job, spouse, and home along the sunniest coast of Spain, and, yes, bless their hearts, tweets about it.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m in pain, it’s hard to see perfection in my life.

But then, and I say this grudgingly, that would be the point of having a spiritual practice or faith.

Spirituality is all about holding a perspective that it’s hard for your ordinary mind to see.  That’s why it’s an extraordinary path.

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Qualities of the Beloved

Once you have drunk from the water of unconditional love, no other well can satisfy your thirst. The pangs of separation may become so intense that seeking the affection of the Beloved becomes an obsession. When we were with Maharaji, we were intoxicated with his form, the colors of his blanket, the buttery softness of his skin, his tapering, almost simian fingers, the long eyelashes that so often hid his eyes, the red toenail on his big toe. As with any lover we, too, became fascinated and enamored of every detail, although these cues triggered spiritual bliss instead of physical desire.

In their way intoxication and addiction are analogies for devotion.

Once you experience unconditional love, you really get hooked. The attraction is to that intimacy between the lover and the Beloved.


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Sublime, Ridiculous, Terrifying, and Blissful: It’s All Part of the Path

So here’s the thing: I didn’t go to school for any of this spirituality stuff. I’m not a yogi from the Himalayas, a preacher in a pulpit, or a “spiritual teacher” with dollar signs in my eyes. The truth is, early in life my curiosity got the better of me and led me down some roads that resulted in years of heavy drug and alcohol addiction. These dark places ultimately brought me to a very real life-or-death search for something more: finding deeper meaning in life and waking up to the spiritual essence that imbues it all—from monasteries to stadiums, meditation to stage dives, skateboarding to serving food in a soup kitchen, and everything in between.

Wait . . . so by “everything,” do I actually mean every single thing? Why, yes—yes, I do, and I call this “Everything Mind”. So, what is Everything Mind? Well, I think a better question would be, “What isn’t Everything Mind?” We could start by saying that Everything Mind considers every-thing in our lives as part of the spiritual path. Our triumphs and heartbreaks, joys and suffering, the light and the dark—all are equally suitable teachers and lessons. Zen Buddhist teacher and poet Thich Nhat Hanh is famously quoted as saying, “No mud, no lotus,” which means that our best selves grow out of our darkest places—our pain and suffering. Experiencing life from the place of Everything Mind allows us to lay aside our fears of right or wrong thoughts and emotions. Then, we can begin to compassionately, and even humorously (at times), work with and through all of them with open and courageous hearts and minds.

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Higher Consciousness in Less than a Minute

There are very old, rich traditions of higher consciousness around the world, and diverse as they are, they seem to have one thing in common: Arriving at higher consciousness takes time, perhaps a lifetime. Along with this idea comes other, closely related ones. Higher consciousness is exceptional. It requires intense inner work. Only a select few ever reach the goal.

The overall effect of these ideas is to discourage the average person from even considering that higher consciousness is within reach. For all practical purposes, society sets those apart who have become enlightened, saintly, or spiritually advanced. In an age of faith such figures were revered; today they are more likely to be viewed as beyond normal life, to be admired, shrugged off, or forgotten.

Much of this is a holdover from the merger of religion, spirituality, and consciousness. For centuries there was no separating the three. Most traditional societies developed a priestly class to guard the sanctity—and privileged status—of reaching near to God. But these trappings are now outdated and even work against the truth, which is that higher consciousness is as natural and effortless as consciousness itself. If you are aware, you can become more aware. There is nothing to higher consciousness than this logical conclusion.

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Everyday Immortality

Questions of life and death, including the existence of life after death, seem to resist any firm conclusion. Most people tell pollsters that they believe in God, the soul, and the afterlife, but for all practical purposes we live in a secular society. The reassurances of organized religion no longer persuade millions of modern people, while on the other hand, there is a sharp rise in skepticism, doubt, and atheism.

Living as if we are mortal is the choice most people now make—for practical purposes, they live as if nothing existed before birth and nothing is likely to exist after death. Yet there is another choice rarely discussed, which one might call practical immortality. It rests upon a simple but life-changing decision anyone can make, the decision to identify with consciousness.

Right now everyone’s allegiance is split. We identify with our bodies some of the time and with our minds the rest of the time. If you run a marathon, go to the doctor for a checkup, feel attracted to someone else physically, or drag through the day for lack of sleep, you are identifying with your body. When you feel sad, have a bright idea, or argue about politics, you identify with your mind.

These may seem like obvious things, but it is due to split allegiances that death poses so much fear. If you think that life ends when the physical body ends, the prospect is rarely pleasant, and no matter how much spiritual literature you read, a mental conviction that physical death isn’t the end won’t resolve your fear. Everyone seems to agree that nothing can be known about the existence of the afterlife until we get there—or not.

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How does unconditional love help us rediscover our souls?

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is part of our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It’s not “I love you” for this or that reason, not “I love you if you love me.” It’s love for no reason, love without an object. It’s just sitting in love, a love that incorporates the chair and the room and permeates everything around. The thinking mind is extinguished in love.

If I go into the place in myself that is love and you go into the place in yourself that is love, we are together in love. Then you and I are truly in love, the state of being love. That’s the entrance to Oneness. That’s the space I entered when I met my guru.

Years ago in India I was sitting in the courtyard of the little temple in the Himalayan foothills. Thirty or forty of us were there around my guru, Maharaji. This old man wrapped in a plaid blanket was sitting on a plank bed, and for a brief uncommon interval everyone had fallen silent. It was a meditative quiet, like an open field on a windless day or a deep clear lake without a ripple. Waves of love radiated toward me, washing over me like a gentle surf on a tropical shore, immersing me, rocking me, caressing my soul, infinitely accepting and open.

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A Path with No Steps

“There is no way to peace.
Peace is the way.
—A.J. Muste

If you pick up a magazine or scroll through the internet these days, it’s likely you’ll encounter some kind of self-help article or program that features 4 Steps, 6 Ways, or 7 Secrets to magically make your life “work.” Instant wealth, health, peace of mind, and the perfect soul mate are yours if you just follow the streamlined advice provided. Even experiencing God can be reduced to a checklist of actions or strategies. Like this recent article I ran across online: “How to Find God: The Five Ways.” Really? God? Aren’t we losing something in this pared-down process?

The deepest experiences of life and God can’t be translated into short summation paragraphs. There is no Dummy’s Guide to the Cosmos (or if there is, there shouldn’t be). No fast lane to divine connection or a peaceful life. It is within awareness itself that God and peace are found. And awareness arises from slowing down and being present in each moment. The only action necessary is breathing consciously. When you pause and relax into the slow eternal rhythm of your own breath, you align perfectly with the center of your being, where peace and spirit always reside. And where the answer to every life question you could possibly ask resides.

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Kute Blackson's Soul Talk - Michael Bernard Beckwith: LIVING A SPIRITUAL AND AUTHENTIC LIFE

The universe does not do do-overs, make mistakes or repeat itself, and it does not do meaningless acts. So who we are has meaning, value and is one-of-a-kind.

Success is an elusive concept. It is easy to feel unworthy or unsuccessful when comparing yourself to the rich and famous. However, celebrity and success are not necessarily synonymous. Listen to this insightful interview with Michael Beckwith, founder and spiritual director of the Agape International Spiritual Center, and learn how unlock the beauty, creativity and success in all areas of your life.

In This Episode You Will Learn:

  • Two things that stop people from fulfilling their potential.
  • The difference between Fate and Destiny.
  • The definition of Character.
  • How to achieve a greater sense of worldly success.
  • Two of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself in any situation.
  • The greatest challenges we face as a species.
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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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