Tag Archives: Spiritual practice

AWAKENING TO TRANSITIONS

“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”  Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

How do you feel about transitions?  Does the uncertainty about the future disturb you or fill you with anticipation?  

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Autumn slipped in when I wasn’t looking.  Suddenly there was a tree along the highway that had turned red and yellow and began dropping leaves when all the other trees remained green and lush.  Soon a few older brown leaves that had clung to the oaks all summer began to fall, and some of the grass in the yard started dying.

Life May Grow Out of Endings

On the other hand, the side of the yard that was recently dug up to replace a drainage pipe has been reseeded and underneath the straw is  growing new grass, an interesting contrast to harvest time.  These contrasts in nature are a reminder that, we may find life where there seems to be death and death where we thought there was life.

As soon as I graduated from college, I married, and two years later, my husband came home and announced he did not want to be married any longer.  I was utterly shocked.  The thought of losing him felt like death.  As it turned out, he didn’t leave then, and we managed to keep the marriage together for another eight years of turmoil.  When it finally ended, it still felt like death.

But out of that death, I found a new lifeone in which I learned how to take care of myself so that I could make decisions from a position of confidence and choose to pursue an independent life.  As I felt more empowered, I no longer felt desperate to find another husband.  I was creating a life I liked and would only consider relationships with people who respected who I really was.

An Ending May Lead To A More Spiritual Life

Because of the economic changes in our society, many people have had to give up the life they led and adapt to a less extravagant way of living.  Others, who lived moderately, have had to pare down to the absolute essentials.  It is not easy to let go of what we considered the comforts of life, but it can lead us to something else of value.

When we can spend less money on things, perhaps we will spend more time with loved ones and also have the time to look within and develop our spiritual lives.  When we have nothing to lose, we may find the courage to follow our passions:  create art, open a restaurant, teach in a foreign country or become a hospice volunteer.  Endings can be the beginnings of a new life.

Years ago, when I taught drama in New Mexico, my students wrote a play “The End Is the Beginning.”  It was about some teens who made harmful decisions like getting pregnant and being involved with drugs, but in the end, they realized they had to change, and each chose to create a positive life.  I hope their characters were role models.

Transitions Are Rites Of Passage

Resisting the changes we can’t control is futile.  Finding a pleasure in the new will always make the transition easier.  Often the transition is a rite of passage following a major change that forces us to shift how we think about our lives.  When I had to stop teaching modern dance because of knee problems, I realized that far too much of my identity was bound up in being a dancer.  It took time for me to accept that my real identity had little to do with the specific thing I did.

A photo of the sculpture "Dancer and the ...

A photo of the sculpture “Dancer and the dance” by John Safer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This transition was not easy.  I felt like a ship adrift at sea. Over time, I began to see that creativity was a large part of who I was and that I was creative in many areas of my life: decorating my apartment, handling my finances, teaching English, and solving life’s problems.

My creativity was not limited to dance, and as I explored my creative nature, I looked deeper into the source of my creativity, realizing it was connected to my spiritual core.

It was then that I began to explore how to grow spiritually by reading, studying new philosophies and spiritual practices that would allow me to change in the ways I wanted to change.  What had once felt like the death of a part of me became a passage through which I found a richer life.  I would always be grateful I was a dancer, but it no longer defined me.

Spirit Is Always There To Guide Us

Transitions often frighten us because we can’t yet see what will replace what we have lost, but we have to learn to trust ourselves and know that we will be guided in the right direction.  When we have a spiritual life, we know that there is guidance beyond what is apparent on this earthly plane.  We can go within, release our fear, and allow Spirit to guide us to the next step.  Every change in life is an opportunity to expand and that is why we are here.

How has a transition led to a positive change in your life?  Please comment.

© 2013 Georganne Spruce                                          ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles: Transitions and Changes:  Practical Strategies, How Endings Make Room for Beginnings, How to Make the Most of Your Life Transitions

AWAKENING TO SPIRITUAL SURRENDER

“When one approaches any effort with the energy of reluctance or half-heartedness, the result will not be satisfying.  When you choose a spiritual path because your mind tells you that you should, you can expect to be disappointed.  When you practice a spiritual discipline begrudgingly, enduring the repetitions, rather than savoring them, the method will prove fruitless.  For the vibrancy of any approach is based not on the mechanics of the practice but upon one’s total surrender to the direction in which the practice leads you.”  Oneness

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How do you deal with your frustration when your meditation or other spiritual practice does not give you the peace you seek?  What expectations do you have about the spiritual path you follow?

Has your spiritual practice always led you in the direction you expected?  Mine hasn’t.  In fact, I would describe my spiritual journey as a spiral dance, often changing direction and going where I least expected.  At times, my life has felt stuck in an uncomfortable and unpleasant place, and it has taken me many years to understand that, in most instances, my resistance was keeping me stuck because I wanted the experience to be what I wanted it to be, not what it actually was.

Living  With Traditional “Shoulds” and Should Nots”

Growing up, my family attended a traditional Protestant church and I learned many “shoulds” and “should nots.”  That, along with my perfectionist tendencies, made me a person who was comfortable with a situation only when it was the way I thought it should be.  But as time went by, it seemed that too many things happened that shouldn’t have.  My brother shouldn’t have had polio.  I shouldn’t have had rheumatic fever.  We were good kids and our parents were good people.  Why was this happening?

Eventually, as a young adult, I realized this spiritual path wasn’t working for me.  I knew I was supposed to be religious, but I gave up and allowed myself to find the inspiration I sought in the fine arts where each creation I experienced was a glimpse into the artist’s soul.

Perfectionism Limits Freedom

I was so conditioned with “shoulds” that they continued to haunt me.  Early in my modern dance training, I was so focused on not falling and doing every movement perfectly that I was always tense.  As I became more confident and skilled, I finally surrendered and let myself become one with the movement, choosing the exhilaration over the perfection.  I felt free for the first time. That’s when I really began to dance and dance began to feed me spiritually.

Learning to Savor the Moment

When I learned to meditate, I tried so hard to do it correctly.  I judged myself for not being able to be calmer more quickly until my teacher finally said, “You don’t have to do it perfectly, you just need to sit there.  Just notice your thoughts and let them go.”  Eventually, I learned to “savor” the stillness and quiet of sitting.  I saw it as a vacation from my busy life.  Like lying on the beach listening to the ocean waves brush the shore, I let my thoughts flow through my mind without judging them.

Exploring Spiritual Practices

Exploring Spiritual Practices (Photo credit: robinsan)

Surrender Opens Us To A Spiritual Connection

As Oneness points out, the only way we can move forward with our spiritual practice is to “surrender to the direction in which the practice leads you.”  As we practice, a feeling of peace may come over us with guidance that helps us take a step forward in our life process.  It may seem strange, but we have to learn not to pay attention in order to notice what really matters.

Having Courage To Follow The Path

When the direction the practice leads us is one we like, we look forward to practicing because we envision a positive and refreshing experience.  But if we truly practice, we do not control what appears and it may be darker rather than light.  It is human to want to avoid the unpleasant; yet we cannot grow and expand without acknowledging the negative aspects of our thoughts.  These are often the moments when our fears appear, flooding us with despair or anger, and we have to acknowledge them and then let them go.

Often, in being able to see and feel the fear, we are able to understand what to do about the problem that created it.  It’s not unusual for so much clutter to be cleared out during mediation or other practices that we can finally see a solution that comes from our spiritual self rather than the ego that is so busy trying to be right.  The solutions that include the deeper aspects of a problem are the most satisfying ones, for they don’t just gloss over the problem, they expose it so it can be solved.

Savoring each repetition and moment of silence in our practice centers us and raises our vibration, allowing Spirit to guide us to what we most need to experience.

What is your most meaningful spiritual practice?

© 2013 Georganne Spruce                                                            ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles:  Yoga, A Spiritual Path, Enlightened Beings: Secrets to Walking A Spiritual Path, Wayne Dyer – There Is a Solution, What Is the Meaning of Surrender in Spiritual Practice

AWAKENING TO LISTEN

“When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely—the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears—when you give your whole attention to it.”   Jiddu Krishnamurti

In conversations, do you wait with irritation when a person talks too long or are you able to sit, quiet within, and really listen?  Which do you value more, listening or speaking?

Speaker or Listener?

I’ve always been a big talker.  I love discussions.  But recently, something has shifted in a deep way.  In fact, it shifted gradually over the years, but I’m just now really understanding the value of this change.  There was a time when, during a conversation, my attention was mainly on getting my chance to speak as if speaking my thoughts out loud gave validity to them that just thinking did not have.  I suspect I even fidgeted a lot waiting for my turn.  I can even remember composing what I was going to say rather than listening and reflecting on the words of the person speaking.

Perhaps part of this was my need as a teenager and young adult to overcome my childhood shyness and conditioning that a woman was supposed to defer to others.  It made me nervous to speak during a discussion, and when I finally became comfortable with it, my ego probably enjoyed being the speaker too much.  With time, though, and experience as a teacher who had to listen to her students, I came to value listening more. As I progressed on my spiritual journey, attending workshops and reading, I began to listen more to my interior self instead of my ego.

Telling Our Stories Creates Loving Bonds

In the South, where I live and grew up, passing our stories on to the next generation is a way of life.  Perhaps that’s why we have had so many incredible southern writers.  As I child, I often sat at my parents’ or grandparents’ feet listening for hours to their stories.  I captured a sense of these times in my poem “Mysteries.”  Those stories were how I learned about my own heritage and how people lived before me.  The telling and listening created a loving bond between the generations.  I was taught that listening to others was a form of respect.

Ego Cares Only About Itself

When we are unwilling to listen to others, it is often because our ego has another agenda.  We judge the speaker as someone whose words won’t be helpful to us. One time I was facilitating a very large group discussion, and one man, fidgeting with impatience, decided I was allowing a woman to talk too long.  He suddenly announced to the group that there were too many people not getting to talk, took over my role, and called on someone he wanted to hear. Despite his perception, we still had plenty of time left for everyone to speak.  I was shocked by his behavior, but before long I slipped back into my role as facilitator without confronting him.

Listening Enhances Our Spiritual Journey

I’ve recently joined a spiritual discussion group where most of the members are excellent listeners and also are deep thinkers.  We use a process where we each speak a couple of minutes in response to a question, and we do this for two rounds.  Then we may ask each other questions and respond to what another has said.  This orderly process works well because it allows each person an opportunity to speak and be heard and allows for spontaneity.  Each person feels respected.  Because we are only allowed to speak once during the two rounds, it forces us to be listeners for most of time.  It gives us time to really process what we are hearing and reflect on what may be helpful to us.  As a result, I’ve found others ideas illuminating and stimulating new ideas that enhance my spiritual journey.

Listening Expands Us

Dr. Karl Menninger said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.  The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.  When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”  When I read this, I realized how true this is in my life.  The people who are my friends really listen and, in turn, offer their perspectives to whatever I share with them.  Because they are really listening, I feel valued by them, and I value their friendship by listening closely to them when they speak.  We learn and grow and expand together.

As a result of meditation and other spiritual practices, I have now reached a point where I listen more carefully and patiently to others.  When someone goes on too long from my point of view, I try to recenter to continue listening to them.  If I am really not interested in what they are saying, I remind myself that they deserve to be treated respectfully regardless of what they are saying.  My ego may protest this choice, but my heart and spirit know this is the one I need to choose. I go within and try to listen from my heart.

Listening Increases Understanding

By listening, I am often able to understand others who seem quite different from me.  I may not agree with their philosophy of life and how they handle situations, but understanding why they are different helps me to accept them.  Refusing to listen to those who have different views only creates a polarization—the kind that is now destroying our world.  When we allow our egos to control what we hear, we shut out any idea with which we don’t agree, but when we listen from our hearts, we are able to hear humanity speaking and remember that we are all One.

© 2012 Georganne Spruce                        ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles:  Spiritual Inflation,  Sifting Sand, Facing A World in Crisis: What Life Teaches Us in Challenging Times by Krishnamurti