Musings On The Path: Daily Spiritual Reading; January 21-28
January 21: Taking Care of Yourself
“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” Max Ehrmann
How are you? The question gets asked and answered many times each day, usually as a courtesy. But how are you really? Don’t just toss off, “Oh, I’m fine.” Take a moment to evaluate different aspects of your life.
How is your spirit? Do you take time to nurture and heal your soul? Spend some time today connecting to your spirit: walk in the woods and feel the energy of the earth infuse your soul; listen to beautiful music and allow the vibration to wash over and restore your soul; pray or meditate and allow your soul to connect directly to your Higher Power.
How is your brain? Spend some time reading, studying and learning today. Pull out the chess board, a crossword puzzle or an old algebra book. Practice a foreign language. There are many ways to challenge and exercise your brain and studies show that the more you continue to use your brain, the healthier it will remain.
How is your health? You don’t have to run a marathon, in order to be healthy. Gentle, consistent movement will get your blood flowing and increase the endorphins in your body. Yoga, walking, stretching: these moderate activities benefit your health without hurting your body. And don’t forget to properly nourish yourself with plenty of water, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a variety of whole grains. Being physically healthy doesn’t mean sacrifice, torture and deprivation. Healthy means paying attention to what your body needs and wants, and giving it that.
Today remember that you can bring balance into your life. Balance is achieved through a consistent, daily practice of moderation. No matter what part of your life, you can walk on a path of healing by taking small, balanced steps every day.
January 22: Moving Past Your Past
“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.” Wayne Dyer
It is easy to get caught up in the past. I had an opportunity to visit Germany several months before the Berlin Wall came down. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 and completely isolated West Berlin from East Berlin and from East Germany. This impressive and intimidating structure was designed to prevent people living in eastern Germany from deflecting to the west.
Over the course of nearly 30 years, the wall was a staunch reminder of the great ideological differences between east and west. When the wall finally came down, I returned to East Germany to visit family. While younger generations looked forward to a bright and hopeful future in unified Germany, older generations looked longingly to the past. After speaking to a number of elderly family members, I began to recognize a pattern.
With resignation, these elder East Germans would sigh and say, “Oh yes, the future will be good for the children. But it was better before.” It was better before. I heard that refrain more times than I could imagine.
Rather than embrace the beauty of today and look forward to the hope of tomorrow, many people get caught staring into the past. For others, the past remains a noose of negativity. It chokes and binds and prevents them from growing, healing and moving forward today.
Whether you look at your past with fond remembrance, wishing for a return to your glory days, or your past remains a painful exercise in unfulfilled desire, there is one common thread that links the past together. My past, your past, and he past lives of all who have come before share one thing. The past is gone. It is complete. It is finished.
Regardless of whether your memories bring fondness or fear, you cannot change the past. Every relationship and experience taught you lessons that were necessary for your particular path today.
Healing takes place in the present moment. As you regard your past, be thankful for your experiences, no matter how hard they were. They made you what you are today and they will help shape where you go tomorrow. Do not let yesterday overshadow today or strangle tomorrow.
Today, remember that the past is gone. Today is here and it is exactly enough.
January 23: Renew. Refresh.
“I can hardly wait for tomorrow. It means a new life for me each and every day.” Stanley Kunitz
The process of death and renewal is one that takes place every day. Most of your body’s tissues are under constant renewal and every seven years, nearly all of your body’s cells are completely replaced.
As the fields, plants and trees lie dormant during the winter months, to too must you take time to lie fallow. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be productive every waking moment. Look at nature. There are times of growth. Times of flowering. Times of rest. Without a season or period of rest, living things would be in a constant state of expansion.
Balance means finding room for rest between periods of expansion. Continual growth is not sustainable. Continued dormancy leads to decay. Balance brings together growth with rest.
Seek balance in your life between being productive, busy and moving and finding peace, quiet and renewal. Give your energy a chance t recharge. Give your brain a chance to rest. In those silent moments of renewal, you will recharge your life for the next season of productivity.
Today find some time to allow yourself to rest. Be productive as it is necessary, then allow your brain to rest. Allow your body to rest. Most of all, allow your heart to rest.
January 24: Count Your Blessings
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
In order to fully enjoy an abundant life, it is important to focus on your many blessings. Too many people get caught up with the word abundant, thinking it means having a big pile of money. Abundance in life takes myriad forms.
Jesus said in the bible, “I have come that you may have life and that more abundantly.” He wasn’t promising each of us a blank check. He promises a rich, full life of blessings.
You are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. An abundant life is one in which you are growing, healing and happy. Living an abundant life is living in the moment, content and fully satisfied with what you have.
Life is blessed by the laughter of children at play; by silent falling flakes of snow; by the warming rays of the sun. In all things, life can be abundant and beautiful.
Today, begin a list. Writing your blessings will make them real and tangible to you. The list will remind you, when you are in the depths of despair, that you live a blessed and abundant life.
January 25: Gossip Girl
“How would your life be different if…you walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…you speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” Steve Maraboli
Have you ever regretted saying something: an unkind word, a choice piece of gossip, a little white lie? The tongue is difficult to master. Books have been written about the power of the words we choose to speak.
You use words every day to communicate. They are necessary and at the same time useless. Words are twice removed from experience. At your heart, you have experience. As you step away from the experience, you have thoughts about the experience. Words are filtered expressions of those thoughts. It is impossible to convey experience through mere words.
Writers, singers, poets and storytellers all try to capture the impossible. They try to convey experience with the vehicle of words.
When you use words to malign, hurt or make fun of someone, it is often because of a negative experience you have had. You don’t feel good and you don’t want them to feel good either. Or you feel envious of another’s good fortune and you want to “knock them down a peg” or “help them remember where they came from.” None of these intentions are helpful for you or for the people around you.
You may rationalize gossiping by saying that you are telling the truth, that you are exposing them for who or what they really are, or that it serves them right. There is no rationale that justifies bad talking. When you speak badly of someone you damage yourself, you damage those to whom you are speaking, and you damage the person about whom you are referring.
Words have power. With your own words you can tear down friendships and relationships and even taint the opinion of complete strangers.
Today, choose your words wisely. Rather than using your words to hurt others and add to the general negative energy of a conversation, use your words in a positive manner to build up and edify others. Mother was right after all. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
January 26: Finding Your Path
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers, grass-grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa
The path to spiritual awakening is a daily journey. Every day you must remind yourself of your desire. You must make a choice. And every day you must seek God, your Higher Power, The Sage or The Divine.
This is not to say you must sit in silence, staring at a bible every day. No. The path to spirituality is much deeper than that. God is everywhere. He is in the trees as you walk. He is in the falling snowflakes and the dripping icicles. And God is there, sitting with you in silence.
Many times, we surround ourselves with noise, because we are not comfortable with quiet. Noise distracts us from problems, fears and other things we aren’t ready or willing t face. God is there, even in the din you create in your life. A cacophony of noise cannot silence God’s truth.
God’s truth is simple. Love. In the silence of solitude, whether you rise early to study, or meditate while walking, or sit quietly for a moment at your desk, remember the veracity of God’s message. He loves you. Your job on your spiritual journey is to remember God’s love and share it with those you encounter.
Today, as you embark on your path, take a moment to absorb the full and complete depth of God’s love. You are deeply and completely loved, exactly as you are. Feel it. Absorb it. Allow it to be true for you, and for others too. You are loved. That is all you need to know.
January 27: Dear Diary
“When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago.” Thomas Merton
A journal is a place to keep yourself. In a journal you can freely vent, dream, imagine and conspire. Some days, when the many voices in my head refuse to quiet down and give me peace, I find that letting them all speak on paper releases them from the confines of my brain. It lets the voices be heard, without driving me crazy or keeping me awake all night.
A habit of daily journal writing is not necessary for spiritual growth. It is a way to keep track of inspirational thoughts or passages. It is a way to check your own growth and progress, and it provides an opportunity to closely examine your own struggles.
The pages of a journal allow you to freely work through challenges. Oftentimes, if you are facing a difficult issue or decision, writing about it will help clarify your answer. Try writing down a problem or concern. Wait a day or two and return to your problem to see if an answer has become clear to you. Even if no clear decision is forthcoming, you will feel better having written it down.
Today, write down some thoughts, concerns or ideas. You don’t have to journal every day. Once a week, write down what you plan to do next week, and evaluate how your previous week met or didn’t meet your expectations. If nothing else, a journal offers a wonderful opportunity to make note of the blessings in your life today.
January 28: This Present Moment
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” Henry David Thoreau
Your life is now. It can only be in this moment. Fretting about past problems or worrying about future circumstances prevents you from living now. Today is all you have. In fact, this moment is all you have. Give yourself the gift of peace by living mindfully right now.
You may wonder how, exactly, to be present in this moment. Many people spend so much time fretting about the past and future, that they have no idea what it means to be in the moment. Distractions surround us all day, every day. They pull our attention to and fro.
The first step to living in the moment is to breathe. It sounds simple, but it works. A simple breathing exercise suggested by Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh gives four lines to recite as you breathe in and out:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
This this a few times, breathing in and out slowly, fully connected to your body. Often, we resort to shallow breathing which leaves the body feeling anxious and constricted. Close your eyes for just a few moments, breathing deeply and reciting these lines. Allow the air to fill your belly entirely, then exhale completely. Feel connected to your body.
Another step for living in the present moment is to practice mindfulness. Fully concentrate on what you are doing. Rather than allowing your mind to wander hither and yon, like a free ranging tiger, pull your awareness into the current moment. Whatever task you are accomplishing, do it fully aware. Be aware of he feeling of the floor beneath your feet, the pen in your hand, the coffee in your mug. Fully savor the experience, no matter how mundane.
Today, enjoy the moment. Whatever you find yourself doing, become fully immersed in it. Tomorrow will come with its own set of challenges and its own unique beauty. Your job is to enjoy today.