(A Month of Sunday Walks, by Leanne Shapton, former Art Director of the NY Times.)
I believe EACH & EVERY ONE of you has the potential to become more spiritual / conscious / full of light, on any level you desire.
Here are a few things I recommend to get you started on that path, though there are SOOO many other things, too...many of which I have yet to learn. These are just some things I did & I found it all to be life changing. See if something here resonates with you. Even if some of this seems foreign to you, I recommend giving one or all of them a try to see for yourself if it makes you feel more centered & happy. I hope you'll join me on this journey. It truly is empowering...
- HAVE A DESIRE TO CHANGE. This is first & foremost. And oh so powerful. Once that desire is there, I really do believe that you'll find opportunities to learn more. Your life will begin to align with whatever it is you would like to achieve. Hitting rock bottom really gets you going & makes you desperate, but I think you can make changes & improvements throughout your life, no matter where you start from.
- DON'T WAIT ANYMORE FOR CHANGES TO FALL IN YOUR LAP. YOU really do have to choose to go for it. No one else can do this for you. Remember how I waited 30 years for truth to come to ME? NO WONDER nothing happened. We have to do the work & really start applying stuff to our lives before any good will come of it. But it's worth it!!
- BE READY TO DO SOMETHING HARD. Like...probably the HARDEST things you'll ever do. Think of your worst problems. i.e. forgiving an ex-spouse, deciding that you will find peace as a single woman, finding joy & meaning in your life even if struggle to get pregnant, removing fear from your heart as your kids grow up & start to make their own decisions, deciding that breast cancer won't ruin your spirit, facing a financially hard time with courage & grace, having strength as a new mother. Rising above this stuff is NOT EASY. BUT, figuring out what you are made of will be the most rewarding thing you'll ever achieve. I promise. It's what legacies are made of.
("The Jump" 1937)
- *BELIEVE* IN YOURSELF. I think too often, people don't believe in themselves enough to think they can change anything. They just feel like victims or feel dominated by their circumstances. "So & so makes me angry." "My parents never believed in me so of course I have no confidence." "If my husband treated me better, maybe I could be happier." "I have screwed up so many times already, I guess I don't deserve to be happy in a relationship." "Only creeps are attracted to me, what is wrong with me?" There are a million reasons to not believe in yourself. But for what it's worth, no matter who you are, I believe in you! I know you can do this! I feel this way because I believe that we ALL have something powerful inside us. And no matter how weak we are or how many mistakes we've made or no matter what we've had to face in our lives, we have the opportunity to improve over & over & over - as many times as needed. It's really beautiful & empowering that God offers us that. So no more thinking that you can't make changes because of this or that. You CAN. Keep at it.
- EXERCISE "FAITH". Faith is believing in something. It's powerful. And our lives will automatically start to align according to what we believe. BUT.....sometimes we don't realize that it works both ways! We can believe in things that are GOOD & POSITIVE. Or we can believe in things that are DESTRUCTIVE. i.e. We can believe that.......We don't have any abilities. We are worthless. We aren't loved & never will be. We are failures. We aren't good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, creative enough, funny enough, rich enough. Life sucks. God is cruel for putting us through this. Life is not fair. God has abandoned me, I don't see any evidence of his presence, etc. OR.... We can believe in things that are empowering & uplifting.....i.e. We are lovable. We are smart/kind/beautiful/happy! We are capable of changing & improving. Forgiving is worth it. We are full of light. We have worth as a person, no matter what mistakes we've made. We have so much to offer the world. We can rise above what we've been handed. God is full of goodness & love. God can be seen in everything we experience - the beauty of the earth, a little child, in the hope & love that we feel even in hard times. Basically, your faith is a self-fulfilling prophecy!!! No matter what you believe, your life will align in that direction (up or down) and that will determine your experience & the very outcome of your entire life!! So pay VERY close attention to the script running in your head.....are you exercising faith in yourself, your abilities & the goodness of God? Or are you exercising faith in your worthlessness & the unfairness of life?
- GET HEALTHY PHYSICALLY. If your body is not nourished, if you are filling your body with junk each day, if you are not taking care of this body that you have & moving each day, you can be sure that you likely will not feel as spiritual as you could otherwise. I believe a healthy body frees yourself to have available energy, which leads to the ability to be more in touch with your spiritual self. Angela would always say that you need healthy soil in order for things to take root. Guys, I know this firsthand. When I started on this road....I was living a crazy life working long New York hours at a hedge fund. This involved not nourishing myself enough, not exercising, not getting enough sleep. When I made changes to improve my physical health (eating healthy whole foods, exercising, working less), it's like my body said, "OK, I am no longer in survival mode. You are now free to focus on more important things." That's when things started improving...including the way I could handle my life & my trials & my challenging situations at home. Turkey Trot anyone?
- LISTEN TO INSPIRING MUSIC. Certain kinds of music can just touch your soul. It's different for everybody. After my first husband left, I listened to choir music in the months that followed (as in, non-stop.) I had never really listened to it much before - just on Sundays here and there. But during that heartbreaking time, I clung to it. I played it day and night. Haha. This song rocks my world like none other (and so do the hair dos!! haha :). I listened to it 10,000 times on my ipod during my divorce. I think I blew some eardrums listening to this song, which means all commuters on the F train got a good dose of it, too. But that beautiful song & lyrics gave me all the peace I needed to stay strong. And it inspired me again and again and AGAIN to hand my heart over. Cause you have to do that about a hundred times a day when a spouse leaves you and you have to work on divorce docs & pack his stuff.
(print by Rachel Castle)
- MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING. Man's Search for Meaning was written by a survivor of a concentration camp and it's one of our favorite books. It's truly a book full of so much truth. It started us down the path of understanding the power of choice and agency, and the fact that there CAN be meaning in all things, including suffering...but it is up to us to choose to find meaning. No matter what life throws our way, we always have the ability to choose how we react.
- ECKART TOLLE. He is Oprah's spiritual guru, and thank goodness she has shared his teachings with so many people. I read "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" early on when I started making changes. There is so much truth in these books. I highly recommend them. He talks about spiritual awakenings and transformation of consciousness. He says to transform, it's necessary to transcend our ego-based state of consciousness (I know this as "overcoming the natural man"). Angela would say, "If you can do what he talks about, you can do anything."
- MEDITATE/PRAY. This is hugely powerful. I started doing this more when I was trying deliberately to become more centered and well. My acupuncturist recommended this fertility meditation which I actually really, really loved. The first time I listened to it (meditation #2 is my favorite), I was laying on the table with needles in me and just wept. I bought a copy for myself because it uplifted me so much....and many friends since have borrowed my copy and enjoyed it. I'd say it's good for anyone wanting to feel peaceful while trying to get pregnant. And PRAYER!...It's the most beautiful way to have a moment each day that is focused and centered and full of love, hope & gratitude...it just helps to align your life with God & all good things!! Talk about a good way to exercise the "good" kind of faith. It's such a wonderful ritual that I do not want to miss.
- READ ABOUT RELIGION. Obviously, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. Ha! :) You could even listen to what these guys have to say about it. I never thought I was religious at all, but once I started applying the simple & beautiful truths taught here, I have received no greater happiness in my life. BUT, of course there are many, many truths found in many religions! If you are associated with another religion that suits you, I recommend getting involved...it's just hugely motivating to associate with others who are on a similar path as you.
(Photo by Vivian Maier)
- LOUISE L. HAY. Louise Hay was one of the mainstream pioneers that started teaching that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life. She is one of those women that I may have thought was too "new agey". But now I know she teaches some very powerful things. She has many, many books and a DVD called "You Can Heal Your Life" which really got me thinking. I am sure you might want to pick and choose from this what resonates with you, but overall the info presented can be really life changing if you apply it. I saw this DVD early on when I started making some positive changes (it was recommended by Angela) and it was a great place to start.... I highly recommend it.
- GET INSPIRED BY OPRAH. That woman! She as done so much good for this world. I highly recommend watching her Finale Show, where she gives credit to God for all that she has done. It is so moving. (Note: the finale is divided into 4 parts...each one should start automatically after the other. Part 4 is my favorite.) She has done everything she can to share a message of hope with the world. Danny actually saw it first and said... you HAVE to watch this! And, I am just so impressed with what she is doing now, Oprah's Life Class...if I had more time (& a live T.V.) I'd be watching more of her stuff.
- SERVE OTHERS. When our ex-spouses left us, Danny and I both immediately turned the bulk of our new found "free-time" into service towards others. I was serving peers and mentoring young women in my neighborhood, Danny was visiting families, mentoring missionaries, and teaching Sunday school. We spent a lot of time in those potentially lonely moments "losing ourselves" in the service of others. This was one of the GREATEST sources of happiness, peace, and joy in those days (and it still is). I think for both of us, this was when we began to realize that we had a lot to offer others as we were learning how to handle our trials in a better way. When you serve others, you'll find that your problems either go away or at least come into a healthier focus and perspective.
- FIND A MENTOR. Take a good inventory of people that have influenced or continue to influence your life for the better. I hope all of us know people who exude love, kindness, compassion, peace, and joy. These kinds of people tend to make us happy just by being around them. Start paying extra attention to how they interact with others, and begin trying to do as they do. Don't worry if the process of change is slow, just keep it up. Pay attention to how they speak, listen, express confidence, exude patience...and then one little attribute at a time, incorporate it into your life. All of the best traits in life are LEARNED...quit thinking they are just innate in some and not in you. Develop those things you most admire in others, even if it takes a lifetime. One of Danny's mentors is Clayton Christensen (read his amazing Harvard commencement address here). Danny had the privilege of working with him regularly on some mission efforts in Boston. This is when Danny realized how life changing a good mentor could be.
- DEDICATE A DAY TO FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL THINGS. Life can just be a wash real quick if we don't take a moment to focus on progression & becoming more happy & at peace. I already dedicated a whole post to this. But I can't recommend enough to choose one day of the week to do whatever it is that you feel will benefit your life the most.
- FORGIVE OTHERS. I can hardly think of any other thing we can do to feel peace and wholeness and freedom in our lives. Think of your worst offenders whether they be parents, ex-spouses, current spouses, children, friends, relatives, bosses, coworkers, schoolmates, anyone who has harmed you. Forgive them, and you will be free. I think forgiveness is ESSENTIAL to moving forward. It will liberate you more than you could ever imagine...and it will allow you to more fully progress as a person. Danny & I would not have connected as we did, probably wouldn't have married, and wouldn't be as happy as we are now if we had not forgiven our former spouses.
- A LIGHT IN THE WILDERNESS. (A book by M. Catherine Thomas). This is our favorite book of all time! I'm serious. We love every single word of this & basically have the whole thing underlined. We found this after our divorces and she literally wrote every word (& more) that we had been feeling during that time! She is a Mormon, but she uses truths from all over the world and in many religions. It's one of the most enlightening books we've ever, ever read. I can't get enough of this book and want to read it over and over and over for the rest of my life. If I could send a copy to each and every one of you, I really would.
- THE FIFTH WAY. (A book by David Brisbin.) If you'd rather read spiritual principles from a non-Mormon author, we highly recommend this book, which was definitely one of Danny's favorite reads this year (he reads a lot). It is full of unique insights on the message of Christ and his Way, and describes a very practical and personal spirituality that focuses on the idea that "the kingdom of God is WITHIN you".
- LISTEN TO GENERAL CONFERENCE. General Conference is a biannual conference (in October & April) where 2 whole days are dedicated to listening to men & women who have prepared inspiring messages for people all over the world to hear. I LOVE IT and look forward to it so much. All are invited to listen. Hard to pick, but this is one of my most favorite talks of all time. I watched this in Brooklyn with a diversified group of women listening in Chinese, Spanish, Creole, English. We all just wept cause it touched each and every one of us. Ok, shoot... I have to share one more of my favorite talks! It's on the healing power of forgiveness. The first time I listened to this I was already divorced and single. And I was taking a bubble bath. And I just wept. You can search for just about any spiritual topic from past General Conferences here. I often listen to these talks while I run or walk a loop at the park and they are SO very uplifting to me every time.
- READ ANCIENT SCRIPTURE. Now, I get it. It's old stuff. BUT, if you have a hard time viewing it as divinely inspired & preserved, at least view it like poetry, full of a lot of beautiful symbolism. The people that dedicated their lives to writing this stuff down were just trying to get the best message they knew through to anyone who reads it. The universal truths are there and written so simply. Yes, there is the Bible, which is chock full of beautiful & inspiring truths. And, I also have a soft spot for the Book of Mormon. To be honest, I hated reading scripture most of my life. And then when I realized all this good stuff I had been learning was in there, I was like.... what??? SERIOUSLY?? THAT is in there, too?? I really couldn't believe it. I love it so much that I'd like to send a Book of Mormon to any one of you (no charge). Just send your request with your name & address to my email address. The message of this book really is life changing. I really would be overjoyed to pass on some of that inspiration to you.
OK, I am impressed if you've gotten this far in this very full post. Whew!
Now, what I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you is......
WHAT DO *YOU* DO TO CULTIVATE YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF??
No matter what religion you are, I would be SO interested. I feel there is so much we can all learn from each other. And I know that there is much, much more I have to learn.