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A Movie to See

Last night I watched the movie “The Impossible.” There were three or four coming attractions and a request to support a related not for profit organization then the menu shot appeared. My hand shook as I tried to press play, then I began to sob and could not stop. It was only a picture of a peaceful beach but for about five minutes I was overwhelmed with the sadness I felt coming back into my heart.

I remember December 26, 2004 and the Indian Ocean tsunami like it was yesterday. And, it has taken me years to prepare my heart to go back to that space of raw terror and desperation for those who survived and sadness at the loss of over 230,000 of our brothers and sisters and so much life.

Watching violence or people getting hurt is so hard for me. I watched to be reminded what is truly important in life. I wanted to witness the miraculous and gut wrenching true story of María Belón Alvárez and her husband and three sons. My heartbreak for all those who suffered was tempered by engaging in the love, determination, faith, generosity and gratitude of the human spirit.

I watched this film because I wanted to remember, to be there in a way, to crack my heart open wider. This film did that, and so much more. I am forever changed, in a very good way.

Put Yourself In Another Person’s Shoes

I often keep the front door to my apartment open in the mornings and my little dog lays in the sunshine. Today a cable TV technician, who I did not know was around, abruptly left my next door neighbor’s apartment and startled my dog who let out one loud super big bark. Startled he screamed, very loudly and with much anger, “SHUT UP!” at her as he passed.

His tone of voice was so sharp it felt like being hit in the stomach. Had I not stayed in control of myself I would have said something to him. But I did not allow myself to react. Instead I took a deep breath and put myself in his position.

Although my little dog was inside our apartment I would have jumped too had I passed by and she barked loudly at me. She is and always will be protective. While I appreciate the “doggie job” she does I can certainly understand how startling it is when out of complete silence she barks. The same thing has happened to me when UPS sneaks up and I do not hear them approach the door but she does and lets out an ear-piercing warning bark. It sends me sky high. So taking time to relate to the man’s startle is what allowed me to let his screaming harshly at my little dog go.

I cannot tell you how dramatically my life has improved for the better since I learned to stay in control of myself. I really concentrate hard on no longer reacting without thought. I learned that by taking a moment to place myself in the position of another person I am able to see their side, which combined with my own observations leads to determining when to say something, and as in this case, when not to say anything. However, I did get up and shut the door so my dog, and I, and the man stayed peaceful as he passed by three more times.

Question Your Beliefs

When I was young I was taught there is a hell where we go after we die if we are bad while alive and a heaven if we are good.  As a little girl and young adult I lived in constant fear. The images of people suffering and burning haunted me when I was asleep and while I was awake. I once threw a gum wrapper out of the car window and was certain I was going to hell. I lied to my mom or took $5 out of my dad’s wallet without permission and was certain I would burn for all eternity. Overall I was a good kid who was convinced I was doomed from the start. It was an absolutely horrible way to live.

One day in my late teens I got fed up with living in fear and said, “Screw it! I am already in hell living in such fear and dread.” That day I realized how much of my religious upbringing was focused on controlling me through fear. But that did not make any sense to me because fear never aligned with the loving, supportive, forgiving God I knew in my heart/soul.

So I began questioning everything I had been taught to believe. Yes, there may be an all-powerful source that I must answer to when I die, but I have not feared it in years. I decided to live each day striving to be the best person possible. Not from fear of punishment or expectation of reward. But for the simple fact doing my best each day keeps me from living in hell and allows me to experience heaven right here, right now, while I am very much alive.


Surrender in Prayer

I pray often, but not like I used to. For many years I prayed for things I wanted. Heal my sick grandmother. Help me get an A on a test. Make someone like me. Make someone stop hurting me. Please give us world peace.  Most of what I prayed for never came about. So I grew resentful and angry with the higher power for not granting what I wanted.

Later in life I realized the Divine of my belief is within me, not something outside me. So through my actions I act on behalf of my higher power. With that “aha” I changed my focus from asking the Divine for what I wanted, to going within to listen for what the Divine wanted from me. To hear my higher power I had to surrender working my will and the idea there was something outside me coming to my rescue that would make my life and the world right.  I had to listen to how I could be of service rather than thinking of ways I could be served.

“Knowing” with Emotional Responsibility

I do not comprehend calculus, theoretical physics, string-theory, or quantum mechanics. But there are lots of people who do. So people who understand these things may think that I should be able to understand them too. Maybe some people think I’m not smart because I don’t. The truth is I’m not unintelligent because I do not comprehend higher mathematics, physics, chemistry, cosmology or engineering. My awareness and intelligence lie in other areas. In fact, each of us is at our own level of intellectual and emotional awareness.

This is important to remember since we often get angry with people because we think they should know something because we know something. Just because you and I may comprehend and care about the downside to negative, rude, judgmental, abusive or self-centered behavior does not mean everyone does.

Yes, I intellectually knew stealing twenty dollars out of my dad’s wallet was wrong, but I did it anyway. One day I woke up emotionally. I put myself in his position and questioned how it would feel to have money stolen from me. Asking ‘how would it feel’ connected me to a new level of emotional awareness, that I am personally responsible for the consequences of my actions.

There are those who know on an intellectual level but do not ‘know’ on an emotionally responsible level how their behavior negatively impacts themselves and others. Accepting that some people are emotionally irresponsible does not mean we condone their unconscious or destructive behavior. It means, instead of approaching them with a ‘you should know better attitude,’ we seek higher, heart directed ways to effectively communicate, interact and set boundaries with them.

When Love Smells like Orange Blossoms

Early spring in my neighborhood in Los Angeles, California is a heavenly time to lay in bed at night with the windows open. The orange trees in front of my apartment building are blooming.  Orange blossoms, while fragrant during the day, become intoxicating at night. The sweet perfume wafts invisibly in on the light evening breeze and collects heavily within my room.

For such a powerful fragrance orange blossoms are actually very small. This past week I spent thirty minutes picking up many of the tiny, paper thin blossoms that had fallen from the trees. Seeing them from the ground in clumps is deceiving.  Only when I was squatted on the ground did I truly appreciate how little the blossoms are.  It takes quite a number of them to fill even the smallest package.  But I carried on determined and stayed bent over, squatting and kneeling under my orange trees until I’d picked up hundreds, cramming the teeny zip lock baggie full until it was bursting. I found a cheerful greeting card, put the sealed package of orange blossoms inside, and mailed it to my mother.

With everything mother has done in her 88 ½ years, of all the places she’s traveled throughout the world, she shared in a recent nightly telephone conversation, that she has never once smelled orange blossoms.  As I sealed the envelop I felt the excitement of her surprise at opening the card. Of her wondering for a moment what in the world I’d sent her.  Of her opening the teeny zip lock package, and for the first time breathing deeply, taking in the intoxicating fragrance, the smell of my love for her in the form of orange blossoms.

Never Stop Asking Questions

We are being taken advantage of and we are apathetically allowing it.

To truly be spiritual people who lead with the higher wisdom of our heart it is important to accept that while we are to remain peaceful agents of positive change we have a responsibility to question what petitions we are asked to sign, what causes we are asked to support, what advertising, sales tactics, people, and “entertainment” we allow to influence us. We are responsible for questioning what we have been taught to believe, what we are exposed to on the internet, and what we hear, read or see over other media outlets.

Simply because it is out there does not mean it is true or real. Just because someone is good looking, famous, charming, seemingly intelligent, has a position of power, or is wealthy does not mean he or she is a person of honorable character. Merely because a company or long standing institution is well-known does not mean it is out for our best interest.

Let’s not allow ourselves to blindly follow anyone or anything. We have a higher responsibility to be intelligent, to think for ourselves, to gather facts instead of relying on opinion or blind emotion, so we are best informed about what we are doing, where we are going, and what and whom we are supporting, and why.

Let’s be powerful, peaceful, and positive agents of change and challenge status quo. Let’s carefully evaluate what and who we are exposed to with the positive, responsible values of our heart so we can differentiate between those who are truly honest, responsible, and who are devoted to moving us positively forward, from those who are not.

My Heart Goes Out to Lance Armstrong

My heart goes out to Lance Armstrong.  Not because I feel he is not deserving of the backlash he is receiving for his behavior. No, I empathize with him, because I know how it feels to one day wake up to the emotional reality of just how badly you’ve behaved and caused others to suffer. I know how it feels to have the slow drip of harsh reality burn regret and guilt into your heart. I know what it feels like to be caught by the truth of “it’s not a matter of if, but when.” I know what it feels like to have your egocentric arrogance ripped asunder to stand alone before the Karmic mirror of cause and effect.

He is not innocent. He must and will pay. Yet I cannot throw any “he should have” stones.  I clearly know what it is like to know what I was doing was wrong and to do it anyway. I clearly know what it is like to weave and defend a tight and longstanding web of deceit, to one day watch it unravel. I clearly know what it is like to want anyone to believe that I was, at last, telling the truth, even when I was not yet being completely honest with myself, so I could not be completely honest with others. I clearly know what it feels like to want desperately to be forgiven, and yet not feel deserving of that forgiveness.

Lance Armstrong is a public representation of our selfish human ego when allowed to run free, without ethical or moral boundaries. Without establishing and upholding a personal positive standard of behavior, he allowed himself to act with complete disregard to the consequences of how his actions would eventually impact himself and countless others. He was blinded by the egocentric justifications that everyone is doing it, I am invincible, I will never be caught, I am entitled, and I must cheat to win. Now, in hindsight, he is developing a clearer vision about what it really means to win at life.

But will we use this man’s pain, humiliation, and public chastising to turn the mirror of assessment in our own direction? We are not innocent bystanders.  The corruption, cheating, bullying, and attacking those who blow the whistle on bad behavior have become a common an accepted part of society. No matter if it is in sports, politics, finances, government, or our personal lives, each of us who falls is a call for all of us to face the lack of moral and ethical standards within our societies.  Mr. Armstrong is only one of many whose bad behavior is a sign for us to look closely at the cultures we have created and are tolerating. Until we do, the faces and names will change but the parade of corruption will increase.

To stop it, we must bravely make the individual decision that being a person of high moral and ethical character is what winning actually looks like. When the majority of us courageously lead the way toward this higher standard, honesty, fair play, and cooperation will become as prevalent as their negative counterparts are now. Lance Armstrong is coming to the realization that he never really won through cheating, lying, or abusing others. And, we must also learn that neither will we.

No matter what anyone says about the motivations for his confession, I am proud of him for bravely beginning to own up to his past. I refuse to limit him by it. I also understand that his awakening and assuming responsibility for negative behavior will be a process. It was for me and countless others.  I remain optimistic that he will continue to move toward accepting full responsibility and culpability. If not, he will be destined to live forever in the hell he has created. Honesty is the only key that will set him free to achieve the 180 degree change I believe he genuinely desires, for his life and the lives of the people he cares for.

I will continue to hold the intent that he finds the courage and self-respect necessary to become and remain completely honest, as any of us must do if we are to permanently change the course of our lives for the better. I will patiently watch how he chooses to behave from now on, because I am excited about the possibility this man has to rise from the ashes, to choose this time to unwaveringly stand on the side of the highest ethical and moral behavior. I am rooting for him to do just that.