Tag Archives: gratitude

Drive the bus to excellence

Dawn dawns, and all things go on, as usual. This is the way of things. It is not meant to be ugly, or controlling. It just is. If, when we walk down the street, there is nothing to think about, then is the street still a street? It is not thought of; it just is. A street. A journey path. An awakening to a newness that only comes without thought. Clouds roll. Wind blows. And in your experience, you want for other things… for the wind not to blow, or for the clouds not to block the sun. There is no sense in these thoughts of other things, for they only cause pain. Lack. Nothing of any use can come from them. How else does one think of ways of being in the world without useless thoughts? By hope of better things?

No. It is by belief.

By trust. Exuberant trust. Trust beyond all things possible and into the next millennium. Trust lays a bed out that is soft and welcoming and warm. It is the fear of lack of safety that is the enemy of trust. And trust is the stronger of the two. For it opens up the life experience to limitless… Absolutely limitless possibilities. With trust, all things become possible. Trust will drive the bus to excellence. The bus that does not know where it is going, and knows that it will eventually arrive somewhere. It trusts so much that it does not matter. There is no anxiety. No fear. No lack. Only openness to each and every moment.

“Oh. Here we are. Look at the view! See the present! Eat some delicious food. And rest and see what comes next.”

Trusting that there is only safety and security and compassion and presence. You say this trust is too difficult to find. We say it is not to be found, for it was never lost. Where is the deepest root of trust? It must be within, for it cannot come from without.

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Nothing to gain; nothing to lose

Do you feel as though you are running a race? That somehow, if you could just accomplish, gain, or achieve some worldly goal, that you could finally relax and be happy?

I remind you that on this playing field, where you perceive yourself (The One) to be manifold and separate, there is nothing to be gained, accomplished, nor achieved. Only remembered.

I invite you to ask yourself, what is mine? Is that car in the driveway mine? The day will come when it will deteriorate, cease to function, and no longer be of ‘value’ the way it is now. It is temporary. Finite. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Therefore, it is unreal.

When does this sandwich become ‘mine’? After I pay for it? After I make it with my own hands? After I eat it? It becomes part of this physical body, so certainly it must be ‘mine’, right?

No. Not only do we eliminate waste from the physical body, but the molecules of the human body are constantly being replaced, themselves. Everything we have is on loan. We are simply stewards. Even of these physical bodies. Especially of these physical bodies.

You mistake yourself to be the human body. Then you mistake yourself to be that which serves the human body. (Fashion. Status.) Then you fear losing what is ‘yours’. When, in reality, nothing is yours. And everything is yours.

On this playing field, you perceive nine players. But you are actually all of them. You are the team. And the field. There is only One, and you are that One. Not “you” as your small mind perceives, but the true You: the heart. The Source of Love.

Again, I remind you: this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with religious belief. With cults. Or with any system of leadership or followership on the planet. This is not a call to arms against anyone or anything.

As there appear to be 7 billion lives on this planet, so let there appear to be 7 billion journeys on 7 billion separate paths, all of which lead home, back to the undeniable, unshakable truth: What appears to be 7 billion separate lives is actually a manifestation of One Life.

Live the life that is right for you, remembering that there is no “other.”

Follow the spiritual path that feels right for you (including none at all), remembering that ‘separate’ is actually an illusion.

Do the work that makes your heart sing, remembering that each face is a facet of the same diamond.

Engage in the struggles, triumphs, defeats, and sacrifices with all of your passion, remembering always that it’s happening in a dream from which you will awaken. Guaranteed.

Look inward, and seek those blind spots in your life, in your personality — those places where the small mind keeps you on edge, restless, uncertain, unhappy, stagnant, and complacent. Find these voices in you that say, “I love this; I hate that.” “I’m better than him; I’m not as good as him.” “I am right; they are wrong.”

Recognize these voices for what they are: aspects of the small mind, where the ego resides.

Remember also that the intellect is a tool, like a monkey wrench. When it’s time to do your taxes, or go shopping for food, the intellect is a valuable tool.

Need to work on some nuts and bolts? Monkey wrench is a great tool for the job.

But when we forget that the intellect was designed to be in the service of the heart, then we create our own suffering. It’s like making the monkey wrench the boss. Like trying to use a monkey wrench to hammer nails… to cut wood… to mop up water.

We end up beating ourselves over the head, trying desperately to get ahead, and wondering why we’re so unhappy all the time.

So, to review:

Step One: Get quiet and listen to your heart. There’s no gaining or losing anything real in this plane of existence. Use your talents to be of service in the world. Give love freely. When in doubt, focus on gratitude.

Step Two: Use your intellect in service to your heart.

Step Three: Relax. Your True Self can never be injured, threatened, nor killed.

Smile. Love. And remember.

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Feminine energy and radio towers

One of the most important things to understand is balancing feminine energy with masculine. Such strong identification with the physical body has taken place that you have lost the ability to balance feminine with masculine energies, and have actually moved toward fearing such expressions of balance.

This balance is not only natural, it is necessary for mastery.

Look to ancient symbolism in your human history, such as the yin/yang and the Star of David. Set aside all religious meaning for a moment and consider them simply as expressions of balance. The most beautiful art, paintings, architecture, etc… all have balance between masculine and feminine energies.

And yet the expression of balance of these energies in humans is somehow to be feared? Punished? Hated?

The balance of these energies in each of us recognizes — gives us the wisdom to recognize — that we are not our physical bodies. While the physicus is beautiful, a work of art in itself, it is but a crude vehicle for the expression of Spirit, and as I have said before, there is truly on the One, of which each of you is simultaneously a part and which you contain (the Whole).

Think of yourself as one piece of a puzzle. Puzzle pieces, quite literally, have both feminine and masculine expression: some protrusions, some recesses, in order to interlock with one another. This is regardless of what is printed on them. So a puzzle of a Monet painting can never be complete without every piece. Every one of you, without exception, is a vital piece of the puzzle, and at the same time, the whole puzzle. The duality you perceive is nothing more than a play of the Light.

To act out of fear, such as homophobia or sexism, is actually to deny the balance of masculine and feminine energies in oneself. In fact, to oppress anyone based on any sort of physical characteristic is to identify much too strongly with the physicus. It is a mistake (misperception) made early in the cycle/process of spiritual evolution/remembering.

You already have the technology to know that you are energy, and that energy can never be destroyed. The time has come for each of you to begin to embrace the expression of both masculine and feminine energies in yourselves and others. While sexual orientation and gender are part of this expression, it goes much deeper.

The feminine, or receptive aspect, is known for being passive, but there is an incredibly active aspect to this energy, as well. Need I remind you of the activity involved in the development of a child in the womb? Or the receptive power for a radio or microwave tower, hundreds of feet tall?

The tower obviously expresses masculine energy through its phallic imagery. But its tallness or height is also an expression of the Desire to Receive… the taller it is, the stronger is the desire to “hear.” Like that tower, you must each reach out, as high as you can, and listen as carefully, with as much vigilance as you can muster, to hear, see, feel, and sense the Source of Love radiating from every being on your planet.

To say the soul is bulletproof is not to suggest that striving to sense and recognize the soul is unimportant. Quite the contrary; the whole reason for your being here is to remember, and that happens through the recognition (re-cognition: re-knowing) of the true nature of things beyond the conceptual level.

You are not a physical body.

Stop attacking each other based on concepts of right and wrong, based on physical characteristics.

What is right is to love. Always.

Concepts of strength and power stem from the ego, or small mind. Is the oak tree strong, or weak? Good, or bad? Is the willow right, or wrong? Ugly, or beautiful? They simply ARE, in all their natural glory. So it is with every one of you.

When you seek to find and recognize the True Self, of which every one of you is an expression, you evolve. You remember what you have always known. You return to the Source of All, which is Love.

This is your work.

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Abundance Consciousness and the Art of Taking Full Responsibility

When we talk about ‘abundance consciousness’, what exactly do we mean?

Do we mean an attitude of, “Everything’s fine!”, no matter what is hitting the fan at a particular moment? Burying our heads in the sand in order to avoid discomfort? Magical, wishful thinking?

No.

Abundance consciousness simply means a focus on gratitude; acknowledgment of all the blessings that are, in fact, showering down upon us. Right now. As we speak. And it goes hand-in-hand with the art of taking full responsibility for our lives right now. In this very moment.

For example… I once worked for a food bank in the southern U.S. My job was to inspect 360 food pantries in 21 counties, ensuring that certain quality standards were met. One month I was inspecting a particular food pantry. The next month, now unemployed, I found myself visiting the very same food pantry. But this time, instead of carrying a clip board, I was empty-handed, and asking for food.

In that moment, I remember feeling a wide variety of emotions, most of them fear-based. Yet I realized that I had the choice to either focus on what I did NOT have, or to focus on what I DID have. I chose the latter, focusing on gratitude, and it moved me in the direction of happiness and the recognition of the abundance that was already present in my life. I shifted my focus to my arms and legs, which were still serving me quite well. I focused on my hearing, my eyesight, and other aspects of my physical health. I thought about how nice it was to have a car. To have a roof over my head. To have the privilege of having my own apartment. Of living near supermarkets. And food pantries. Of receiving this generous offering of food from this particular food pantry on this day. I shifted my focus to my good fortune of learning just a little more humility… of knocking just a few more rough edges off my jagged little ego.

And I remembered that I had choice. I had the choice of getting fired up, updating my resume and getting it out into the world. Knocking on doors. Getting up early. Hitting the pavement. Researching. Making phone calls. Following up. Smiling. Being friendly. Cheerful. Polishing my strengths and sharing them. Working on my weaknesses to improve them.

Focusing on gratitude helped me to keep my chin up during this time, and helped motivate me to move forward. Yes, there were times of intense pressure that required keen focus and sustained action. Times when the adrenaline was flowing and my nerves were rattling. But my focus on abundance consciousness helped me to remember that I had many talents, abilities, and gifts at my disposal; that it WAS worth trying, risking, and continuing to get back on that horse, no matter how many times I felt I’d been thrown.

I’m not so sure I would have taken the same path, made the same choices, and maintained the same positive outlook had I focused on deprivation and all that was going ‘wrong’ in my life.

I chose abundance consciousness, but I did not choose to try to shut out discomfort. (Okay, maybe once or twice.) It IS possible for us to choose gratitude while simultaneously choosing to fully experience all of our emotions, including discomfort. This discomfort can propel us forward, motivating us to persist in our efforts toward healthy, positive change. While discomfort is, by definition, uncomfortable, it certainly isn’t in-and-of-itself ‘bad’. It’s a signal. A street sign. A tool. It’s information. And if I let myself sit in its presence long enough, I can come to the understanding that it’s my teacher. My cheerleader. Maybe even one of my best friends.

Abundance consciousness does not say, “everything’s fine; no need to change.” Abundance consciousness says, “Wow… look at all the tools I have! Let’s get busy!”

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Focusing on contentment

Just spoke with someone I know who just turned 21. The day before his birthday, he was called into his lawyer’s office and presented a check for $9,000, as part of a settlement for an accident he suffered last year.

I asked if he’s saving it. He said it’s already gone.

Week-long road trip. Hotel suites. Parties. And now, a week later, he’s right back where he started: unemployed and broke.

It got me to thinking about my own financial practices and my beliefs about money. How often have I wanted my oompah-loompah and wanted it NOW, and followed that emotional pull all the way into debt? Far too often, in my past.

How about now? I have to confess that like the young man I spoke with, I still, at times, catch myself disregarding the blessings in my life and focusing on what’s lacking; on those items that I could purchase that I believe would make things perfect… “If only I had this particular __________, THEN I could be happy.”

What a beautiful reminder to come back to the present moment. To now. To grace. To contentment with what I have, and with what I don’t have. To gratitude for having enjoyed so many blessings with so many wonderful people. I’ve already had a really good run.

Where I point my eyes, so follows my mind. Where I point my mind, so follows my life.

http://merman13.livejournal.com/115973.html Edric Hsu's calligraphy: "Happiness is to be contented with what you have."

Focusing on gratitude. Getting out of debt. Saying “no” to the inner child who throws a tantrum from time to time. Enjoying the feeling of self discipline; finding beauty in that little cringe of disappointment. Enjoying the challenge of creating something new and beautiful with only the tools at hand. Like that famous jazz ethic… “everything I need is already in the room.”

If you’d handed me $9,000 when I was 21 years old and asked me what I’d do with it, I’m pretty sure I’d have made the same choice he made. “I’m gonna live it up!”

Here’s to setting the intention that I’d save or invest, given that option today. And here’s to saving and investing right now, today, with the resources I have at hand.

So I can live it up.

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A Place Of My Own: 112% Funded!

I’m humbled by everyone’s generosity, love, and support…

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A vinyl road to the past

I’m not going to lie. I love vinyl.

And not necessarily for the ‘cool’ value of excusing myself from some deep dinner discussion with friends to flip the LP.

Well, okay. Maybe a little bit.

But there’s something else at work here, too. At least two different things that I can tease apart. Or maybe three.

First… there’s history.

Today I picked up Queen’s “A Night At The Opera” and Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” at Southwest Sounds on Main. (*They just expanded their vinyl section. I highly recommend you check it out. Everything from used Stones and Bowie to vintage Clash. I’m pretty psyched.)

Thing is, this Queen album takes me back. Back beyond my 30’s. Back beyond my 20’s. Beyond my awkward teen zit years. I’m talking all the way back to being 9 or 10 years old. My stepdad Wayne had this LP… and on Saturday mornings we’d build tents with the blankets and the couch and dining room chairs, and this album was in tight rotation with “News of the World” as the backdrop for those mornings. It was freezing cold outside on those miserably damp, icy, snow-covered, Rowley, Iowa mornings. I figured every other ten year-old kid was listening to the same stuff. That every other family stopped whatever they were doing for just a moment to choose the next LP to play. I figured every other kid with a pulse cared as much about music.

Second… there’s virtuosity.

The musicianship on both albums is incredible. Sometimes I witness excellent musicianship and I’m immediately inspired to play. (See the movie Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage.) Other times, displays of incredible musicianship just make me shake my head and hang my guitar up for the evening. Both of these albums blow me away through the beauty of their simplicity AND complexity. Words are failing me. Best way to describe it is simply to go put one of these albums on. Sit quietly. Listen. Fasten your safety belt.

Third… there’s masterful assembly of the amazing parts into a complete album.

Dropping the needle on this 180-gram piece of wax transported me back through time. It also transported me into another world, changing the very environment / mood in my living room, in my mind, in my heart, with the sound scapes it painted in the air. It truly IS one of the perfect albums of all time. I truly don’t care if you agree, dear reader. It’s simply the Truth, with a capital “T”. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I may be one of billions of anonymous voices in the night. But plenty of famous people agree. Just check out “The Making Of… A Night At The Opera” on Netflix. The lengths they went to in order to capture the perfect album… I bow in humility. On one knee.

The reason it feels like a knife cutting slowly into my heart and then ever-so-gently being twisted is not only because the album serves as a zoom lens into my own past.

In addition, the sheer beauty of the sounds that jump out of the speakers simply make my jaw drop.

As a recording musician, I know how many takes it can …. um… take… to get something ‘right’. I know how it feels to think, “this is as good as it gets” and then to push forward even farther. But how many takes did it take to get this album? (You can yell “Metallica’s black album” all day long… I know it took a year and a half, and I know it is another amazing album… but what kind of technology did Queen have to work with in ’75, compared to the early 90’s? There’s no comparison. Get out of my face. Besides, Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets are the best two Metallica  albums anyway. But that’s a story for another blog entry.)

Miles Davis — Kind Of Blue.

Top-selling jazz album of All Freaking Time. Seriously. I don’t want to sound melodramatic. But as I sat on the couch this evening, sun streaming in the window, at the end of a pretty frantic week, listening to the last track on side two “Flamenco Sketches”… (not to be confused with the Miles Davis album entitled “Sketches Of Spain”, which I absolutely hate) tears rolled down my cheeks. There is no more perfect piece of music than that song. At the end of that album.

I’ve tried making mix cd’s and including just one or two songs from Kind Of Blue. Can’t be done. You either listen to the entire album all the way through, in order, or you get up and walk out the door, down the block, and disappear into the darkness and don’t come back until you’ve had a chance to sober up.

Okay. To be fair, I’m okay with listening to just one Side at a time. (Admittedly, I listened to Side Two this evening probably eleven times before interrupting.) But certainly, no less.

To be clear, I’m purchasing vinyl (new and used) to ENJOY. To Play. On my cheap-assed turntable. I am not buying vinyl to ‘collect’ it, in hopes of increasing value or returned investment or whatever. I plan to play the living daylights out of my records (just like my guitars!) until they can’t be played any more.

I’m only here for a moment. And there’s gorgeous music here in the world. On pretty black vinyl. (Sometimes it looks so delicious I just want to lick it.) It is GOING to get scratched. Coffee and wine WILL get spilled on the glorious gatefold cover of A Night At The Opera. (And we don’t even have kids.)

Just like I’m going to die.

It’s simply going to happen. So forget about keeping it in ‘mint’ (or ‘mint-minus’) condition. I don’t care about that. I care about being able to put the needle on it and having it go round and round and being able to turn up the volume and simply letting it wash over my heart and my soul. I care about cleaning my ears so I can hear every tiny nuance, including the scratchy clicks and pops of the vinyl medium.

I’m also not a walking compendium of musical factoids. I don’t know what Miles Davis ate for breakfast on the morning he headed into the studio to start recording Kind Of Blue. I don’t know if Freddie Mercury brushed his teeth before tracking “The Prophet’s Song” (though I’ll bet he did). Some people pride themselves on that kind of mastery over minutae. Cool. Go for it. That’s not me.

I care about living, breathing music. I want to write it. I want to record it. I want to bathe in it. If it’s living, it salivates, sweats, and pulsates. It emanates passion and vibrancy, just like those heroes who laid down those tracks in ’75. In ’59. Before I was even born.

I am not a white glove-wearing collector. I don’t care to own a $60,000 turntable. I don’t have an awesome record collection, nor do I strive to catalog my records alphabetically, chronologically, or autobiographically.

I’d rather drop the needle and wallow in the music than put down plastic protectors on the couch and carefully observe.

I’m going to die. But the music never will.

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