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Freedom to Choose

The choices I make determine the quality of life I create.

Over the course of life I will make choices that cause me to suffer. Through the process of making bad choices I can choose to learn to make better choices. With willingness and observation I can learn from the negative choices others make. But to learn how to make good choices that result in joy, peace, and freedom from suffering or harming myself and others, I must make my own choices just as other people must make their own choices.

I cannot make anyone’s choices for them. Out of empathy and respect I can certainly desire for others that they choose not to make the same negative choices I made. I can let my actions and words serve as a loving and non-judgmental example of what I learned from negative and hurtful choices. BUT, no matter what I believe, I do not have the right to dictate the choices others must make.

If I attempt to order, legislate, force, or limit other people’s power of choice over their bodies or who they love, I have moved from respect and empathy (heart/soul/Divine motivated action) into disrespect and control (ego action). Ego (personal importance, self-centeredness, judgment) is powerful and uses everything within its means to justify entitlement to limit the choices of others or rationalize forcing them to believe as ego does. However, if I am to treat others as I want to be treated, then I cannot dictate the choices others must make, no matter my ego-motivated justifications.

To treat others as I want to be treated (heart/soul/Divine motivated action), I choose to allow the choices others make about their body and whom they love to remain between them and God. Just as to love me as Jesus does it is with respect and empathy that the choices I make about my body and whom I love remain between me and the Divine also.

 

To Believe, Or Not

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My most beloved friend is an atheist. He does not believe in God. He is highly educated and thinks deeply about things. He does not make snap judgments or come to emotionally charged conclusions. He carefully weighs subject matter with great attention to detail. I admire him for thinking deeply so he is truly comfortable with his beliefs, to the point he does not try to get others to believe as he does.

In fact his calm and peaceful conviction for what is true for him caused me to appreciate him on an even deeper level because our discussions about God challenged me to question why I do believe in God. Without being challenged to think outside the box of the rote answers programmed into me by my religious upbringing, I would not have come to accept the Divine as I do today. And, just because my friend does not believe in the Divine does not stop me from loving him.

I appreciate differing points of view. When taken as an opportunity to grow and expand ourselves they always prove very beneficial. The challenge we face in learning from differing with one another is keeping our ego in check. To benefit from differing we must stop ourselves from automatically ego-defending what we think we believe as truth must be truth for everyone. As ambassadors of love we choose to remain open to thinking deeply about what we believe so we peacefully and calmly stand firm, while not attempting to convince others they too must believe as we do. I believe to believe, or not, is the free will aspect God put into each of our hearts.

The Honesty of Soul

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You and I are souls – spiritual beings on great human adventures.  And, through much trial and error I came to appreciate we create our best life by living from the soul part of ourselves.

I know soul to be the part of our being where the original creative consciousness put a spark of itself into our human form. That Divine part of us, soul, is where the values of #LOVE (peace, kindness, respect, responsibility, honesty, intuition, wisdom, etc.) reside. In addition to soul, we are also a human being with a personality and ego – sense of self.

A healthy ego (soul in the lead) allows us to see ourselves in others, to consider the needs, thoughts and desires of others. With a healthy sense of self we can see the big picture and how all life is connected. A healthy ego welcomes constructive criticism and accepts responsibility for our thoughts, words and the consequences of our actions. A healthy ego desires to learn from the experience and observations of others, our history, and from our negative choices. A healthy, balanced sense of self depends on the moral and ethical integrity of soul to guide our thoughts, words, actions, evaluations and decisions.

Unhealthy ego (wounded, victim, arrogant, bully, controlling, blaming, vindictive, self-centered sense of self) discounts the ethical and moral soul part of ourselves, and others. An unhealthy ego is focused on satisfying its unending lust for power, wealth, praise, and control, and will vilify and blame anyone who gets in its way. Ego will justify any behavior to get what ego wants when and how ego wants it. Including being dishonest with ourselves about ourselves and being dishonest with ourselves about others. Self-centered ego has no problem lying about anything to anyone and is very skilled at getting others to believe the lies it tells. Therefore, I learned one of the most important values to uphold, to stay aligned with soul – the spiritual part of us – is honesty (truthfulness, freedom from deceit or fraud.)

Honesty keeps us connected to soul, to the Divine, to the good, positive and caring part of us. Being honest is a cornerstone of a true spiritual connection to the Divine because honesty creates a clean, positive life where we have nothing to hide and no one to hide it from. The transparency of being honest is the foundation of all successful and mutually beneficial relationships because truthfulness produces trust, respect, and no hidden agendas.

Truthfulness will always be hugely important in creating our best life. BUT in today’s world, transparent integrity is even more vital to our happiness and peace because some people commanding our attention are blatantly lying without remorse, regret or ethical and moral misgivings. There are people in positions of “perceived” power who are spreading fake news, conspiracy theories, and trash talk with absolute disregard for facts, research and the investigative endeavors of others. This dishonest egocentric lying creates a lack of respect for the reliable information necessary to keep us informed. And, of equal importance, anyone who does not care about honesty, or telling, knowing or acknowledging the truth, is operating without ethical and moral supervision over themselves, their actions, their thoughts and their life. Without a moral compass they cannot make the best decisions for themselves or anyone else.

No relationship, whether between partners, friends, neighbors, countries, political leaders and their citizens, or world-leaders will be peaceful, respectful, and beneficial unless there is a priority placed on honest and impeccable values. Only when heart is involved do we stop to care how our actions, our words, our agenda will impact others. Only with soul can we have the courage to treat others as we want to be treated. Only with soul can we truly know an untruth when we hear it. And, only with soul’s wisdom are we capable of seeing the big picture to view the challenges we face from a different perspective and bring a higher level of awareness to solve what egocentric blindness cannot.

God gave each of us a soul so we can care for one another. God gave us a soul so we can think before we act. God also gave each of us the power of choice to be ruled by a wounded ego sense of self; to discount and deny our soul’s wisdom in order to justify our actions and the actions of those in positions of “perceived” power. OR, we can choose to lead with the higher, wiser, loving part of ourselves to be truly powerful over our selfish egocentric side.

One way you and I choose to lead with the best of ourselves – soul (our LOVE connection to the Divine) – is through valuing honesty, in ourselves and others.

Outside the Box

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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, says, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” How beautifully humble and empowering. An uncomplicated goal; to be love in action. But this is not the religion I was taught.

I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian church in Texas. I was taught God is angry, vengeful and male. It was under a strict religious system I was continuously threatened with hell, unless I fit in by automatically accepting what I was taught to believe. By living according to their specific views I would go to heaven when I die. If I behaved in ways deemed contrary to those beliefs, I would go to hell.

Even as a young girl, I found attempting to accept such limited, disparaging ideas of religion and God caused me such anxiety, I lived in constant fear and confusion. How can such a fearful and negative experience ever have been God’s intent for our religions? Logically that makes no sense, merely because of how horrible judgment, blame and abuse of others in God’s name feels to our heart. And, how can God only be male when all life is birthed from female? Also, why would a loving God dictate we must all believe this, don’t believe that, even when those beliefs are contrary to our Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim friends? The answer I received was they were going to hell.

That is when I evaluated my religious experience as one of people desiring to neatly put the Divine into a box of their limited understanding. They wanted to control God and each other because once God was in the box they created, they felt entitled and righteously justified to force others to adopt the same beliefs they held or persecute them as non-believers. But, in my heart God, the loving original cosmic source, Divine parent and creator of all things is, LOVE – caring and affection always displayed as KIND action: peace, support, forgiveness, patience, honesty, forethought, responsibility, empathy, attentiveness, compassion, presence, respect, courtesy, and logical evaluation.

The infinite expansiveness of God cannot be boxed into one form or religion. Yet, today we continue to witness world-wide conflict because of the belief our religion is the one sanctioned by the Divine. We keep God in the box of a narrow perception. We justify ourselves as entitled to make one another wrong and ourselves right based on ancient religious text. We rationalize this practice as caring or having concern for one another’s salvation. And, to make certain we and others fall in line, we perpetuate the fear that to question what we are taught is blasphemous. This thinking is ego-driven, not love based.  You and I were born from the miracle of Divine love. We are souls, spiritual beings on great human adventures charged with ending conflict over God and religion. We are charged with bravely turning our focus from religions that divide to live as the Divine wants us to. To treat one another as God always wanted us to, following the only religion ever needed – that of kindness. Namaste (the divine in me honors the divine in you)

As We Want to be Treated

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I found a wallet yesterday laying on the sidewalk under a piece of newspaper. While walking Ruby I have a habit of picking up paper and trash. I figure making the neighborhood cleaner while walking my dog is sort of multi-tasking.

When I got home I looked through the wallet trying to find a phone number to call but could not find any contact information other than a P.O. Box on his driver’s license. So I called the bank of one of his credit cards hoping they would have a contact number and they would call him.

The woman told me she did not have that information so we agreed I’d take the wallet to a bank branch in my neighborhood today. I have an account at the same bank so the branch manager knows me. I took the wallet to her and told her the story. She looked in her system and called the man.

He was so excited someone had not only found the wallet but also turned it in.  It is important to me to do the right thing. I’ve learned being honest and treating others as I want to be treated is a great way to live. Just because I work hard to lead with my heart does not mean I always get treated kindly or respectfully by others in return. But, as mom taught me – being an ambassador of love always leaves me feeling good about me.

 

Angels Among Us

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I’ve never studied with a guru, master, or spiritual teacher. My early experience with organized religion turned me off the path of following the beliefs of others to forge my own trail. So, my heart-teachers have been real life people who manage to stay loving, peaceful and who find the positive in even the worst situations. One of my most profound teachers was a young woman of 17. When she was raped by a man she considered a safe friend, her response was “what do I have to learn from this horrible experience.”

As you can imagine I was shocked. At first, I did not comprehend how she could not be angry and want revenge? But then I realized she was making an intentional choice to take a terrible situation, one she was powerless to stop or change, and turned it around to find what SHE could do to move herself forward. That level of courage and self-reflection pushed my soul forward to fill my consciousness with a deep level of love and personal responsibility. I knew her strength was directly from God. I chose then and there, if this young woman could find the silver lining in her experience, there is no reason I cannot live the same way. I accepted the only thing standing between our living this way, or not, is a choice. That was the powerful realization that changed my entire perspective and solidified my knowing we are indeed spiritual beings (souls) on great human adventures.

Over thirty years later I am still passionately devoted to finding the light, even in the darkest situations. I am happy to report choosing a positive attitude has served me well; through Barbara’s cancer, the murder of a friend, death of loved ones, living in a world where acts of violence impact innocent people, job loss, relationship break-ups, losing almost everything, and so much more. Yes, I’ve certainly had my share of heart-break and loss. But I credit my ability to bounce back quickly and to remain focused on positive to the angels in my life. Those who taught me I always have the choice to see my glass as overflowing, even when the tap looks like it may run dry.

Love Goes First

God’s fundamental message on how we are to live is simple, universal and has been passed from generation to generation since the beginning of our modern human history. We honor God, one another and our ancestors, by living according to this request from our creator. Namaste

What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. ~ Judaism

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. ~ Christianity

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. ~ Islam

A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. ~ Jainism

Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence. ~ Confucianism

One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. ~ Hinduism

One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts. ~ African Traditional Religions

Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. ~ Buddhism

Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others. ~ Zoroastrianism

All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One. ~ Native American Spirituality

Be charitable to all beings, love is the representative of God. ~ Shinto

No one is my enemy, none a stranger and everyone is my friend. ~ Sikhism

This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. ~ Brahmanism

An it harm no one, do what thou wilt (i.e. do whatever you will, as long as it harms nobody, including yourself) ~ Wicca

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. ~ Taoism

We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent of all existence of which we are a part. ~ Unitarian

Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.” ~ Socrates 5th century BCE

May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me. ~ Plato 4th century BCE

Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself; this is the sum of righteousness. ~ From the Upanishads — the foundational document for Indian Brahmanism (circa 700 BCE)

A Very Wise Move

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I am not immune to being on the receiving end of behavior from those who attempt to tear me down to build themselves up. So I understand what a challenge it is to remain patient and to not engage when people gossip about you. Or they try and get people you know to side with them by spreading lies about you. Or they shun you without reason or cause.

Over the course of life I learned a powerful lesson that helps keep me in the kind and patient space. LOVE always reveals the truth about who is guilty and who is innocent. It may take time but the behavior we consistently put out ALWAYS returns to us. That is why it is so important for you and me to refuse to get caught up in the lies and drama people create about us in an attempt to elevate themselves.

Here are three truths I know about those who gossip or spread lies –

  1. Anyone who spreads lies about another person will eventually be revealed as a liar and someone who cannot be trusted.
  2. Those who know both parties but choose to listen to the lies one tells about another are themselves prone to gossip and lying to build themselves up. It’s the birds of a feather flock together thing.
  3. The negative things said about another person say much more about the person telling them than it does about the person who is being talked about.

We cannot prevent what people say about us. We cannot prevent people from believing lies or gossip spread about us. Protesting our innocence or getting involved in a defensive confrontation only makes us look guilty and weak. We are the strong one by knowing God, the energy that is love, will in time reveal the true nature of us all. For our peace and happiness it is best for you and me to let the hurtful words and lies of others go. We intentionally stay out of God’s way. You and I ask God for patience and peace as we will to will God’s will and allow the Divine to act in God’s time. That is the self-loving and respectful thing to do. Challenging – YES. Doable – ALWAYS!

Good vs. Evil

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As a child, Satan was real to me. The hell-fire and brimstone sermons I was subjected to in church enflamed my child’s imagination of an evil demon with horns and a pitch fork. I was certain the devil was lurking under my bed, around every corner, just waiting to steal my soul. As an adult, I do not believe in a flesh and blood evil creature who desires to steal my soul or who controls MY actions. BUT, being drawn to the “dark” side is very real, because the temptation to follow self-centered ego, rather than soul, is a challenge each of us experiences countless times a day.

Ego justifies getting what it wants when it wants it. Ego is impatient, prideful, judgmental, selfish, and controlling. Ego blames others rather than assume personal responsibility. Ego fears losing control of others but does not desire to practice self-control. Ego lies, is envious and lazy. Ego projects its shortcomings onto others. Living from ego we allow the worst of ourselves to create our relationships and our lives, in essence, selling our soul to the devil that is self-centeredness, closemindedness and spiritual unconsciousness.

The GREAT news is, we are completely in control of the choices we make because one of the greatest gifts we receive from the Divine is that of free will. So, with the power and responsibility of choice resting squarely on our shoulders, we are the ones who opt to behave from ego thereby, figuratively, selling our soul to the devil. Or, we can choose to overrule ego and act from our higher, wiser, kind and loving soul.

It takes mindful, purposeful and continuous effort to keep ourselves from allowing our thoughts to justify behavior that goes against God, which is Love. Thankfully, the Divine truly wants us to live from soul. That is why God’s gift of free will supplies us with all the power we need to master a mind with a mind of its own. To question our thoughts by filtering them through our soul. Is what we are thinking real, true, or important? Do our thoughts justify actions that can hurt us or someone else? Are our thoughts attempting to limit the cooperative, inclusive, and virtuous motivations of our heart? Stopping ourselves to care about what we are thinking and the motivations (self-centered or selfless) behind our thoughts, is the moment by moment choice we make to either sell our soul to the Devil, or keep our soul aligned with God.

Ordinary and Extraordinary

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When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama in the late 1980s, I had a friend named Libby. She had one son and made a living painting houses. She seemed to be an ordinary person living an ordinary life. But what many did not know is that she was actually an ordinary person who chose to live an extraordinary life.

Libby was 23 years old when her uncle and three other Ku Klux Klansmen  and segregationist planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite beneath the front steps of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963, was an act of white supremacist terrorism.  Although in 1965 the FBI concluded the church bombing had been committed by four known Klansmen, no prosecutions ensued until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of first degree murder of one of the victims. My friend Elizabeth (Libby) H. Cobb, was star witness for the prosecution against her uncle, who was convicted, in large part, as a result of her testimony. After the trial, threats and harassment from Ku Klux Klan members and others forced Libby and her son to leave Birmingham for several years.

Dictionary.com defines courage – the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with bravery.

I cannot tell you my friend Libby was not afraid to testify, to expose her uncle for his part in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the many other atrocities he committed. In fact, on several occasions she shared with me how afraid she was to do what she chose to do. However, she did not let fear stop her from standing up to courageously do the right thing.

You and I are surrounded by every-day heroes. People who refuse to allow fear, evil, injustice, hate, to have the upper hand. People of courage who stand up for what is right because it is the right thing to do. Brave people who show us how to live an ordinary life in an extraordinarily courageous way.