When do YOU feel Weak?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Many times in my life I have felt "weak" for one reason or another - meaning not capable of taking one more step, giving it one more try, pulling myself back up and choosing to strive again and grow. When I set personal goals for myself and fail to live up to them I really beat myself up. It can become exhausting and very disheartening - especially when they are goals around my journey to become a more spiritual person. I end up feeling like that flower in the picture.

It's strange I guess, because in many ways I feel I am a fairly strong person (nowadays) than ever before. I stopped smoking seven years ago which was very hard but I kept on trying until it stuck. I became Vegan over a year ago because I saw no other choice in light of my life values. Again, hard, but I did it. Most times when I make a strong choice to do something, its done - my will is pretty dang strong!

Maybe that is why when I strive and fail to reach a goal, I am that much harder on myself. Most religions or faiths teach that ultimately we need to have faith in and depend on the support of a higher power to help us achieve our goals - especially if they are focused on heavenly virtues.

But sometimes that can be really difficult too, don't you think? Is there really some sort of invisible force out there helping push me in the right direction and support me in my efforts? Or am I all alone? How can I really tell one way or the other? Especially when I repeatedly fail?

Check out this video from this past season of "So You Think You Can Dance". It is a contemporary piece choreographed by the brilliant Travis Wall and danced by Robert and Allison. It is the story of a son striving to support his mother through her journey and struggle after major surgery. (The actual embed code is not working so you'll have to go to YouTube to watch it - but I highly recommend you do - its phenomenal.)

Isn't that the most beautiful and moving thing ever? It was by far my favorite piece of the season. And I thought it was appropriate to this topic due to the aspect of the mother feeling supported and loved through her struggle. The thing is, she KNEW he was there for her. But how can we know? How do we truly, and I mean truly continue to have faith that a higher power is there supporting us on our journey?

Here are some quotes from various world religions on this topic. As always, please, please share your own thoughts and quotes. In my mind, that's what makes this blog great. Love to all!

"Do not look at your weakness, nay, rely upon the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. Verily, It maketh the weak strong, the lowly mighty, the child grown, the infant mature and the small great." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v2, p. 274)

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (King James Bible, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

"'O my people! ask pardon of your Lord; then turn to Him; He will send the skies down on you in torrents; and He will add strength to your strength: do not then turn back sinners.'" (The Qur'an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura 11 - Hud)

"Thou art He Who changeth through His bidding abasement into glory, and weakness into strength, and powerlessness into might, and fear into calm, and doubt into certainty. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Beneficent. Thou disappointest no one who hath sought Thee, nor dost Thou keep back from Thee any one who hath desired Thee. Ordain Thou for me what becometh the heaven of Thy generosity, and the ocean of Thy bounty. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the Most Powerful." (Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha'u'llah, p. 249)

The Ego Dysfunction

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A couple of times in my career I have attended a workshop called "The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team". They are... (1)Absence of Trust, (2)Fear of Conflict, (3)Lack of Commitment, (4)Avoidance of Accountability and (5)Inattention to Results. Each one is dependent on the one before - meaning if the first dysfunction is apparent on your team, you will most likely have the other four, etc.

If a team has some dysfunction in all five areas it means that it all started with the "Absence of Trust". In my opinion, lack of trust usually comes about when one or more members of a team put their own individual self above the good of the group - when they focus on their interests, what they want and what they believe, and do not value or are even interested in other thoughts and opinions.

This should not be a "shocker" to anyone. Self-centered egos are not a rarity in the workplace, or in life for that matter. The way in which the world currently operates makes each one of us feel that we have to be better, smarter, stronger, richer and more popular than everyone around us. From a very early age we are taught to strive to be "the best" and if we're not, we are labeled as "less than". And in the opposite way, the more "successful" we are the more valuable we feel. We think we have to be invulnerable. Is it any wonder that we are consumed by our ego and by self?

Many of us become so obsessed by how others perceive us that we will manipulate, harass, ignore, dispute and violate the trust of the many in order to impress or glorify ourselves to the few. All just to get ahead and satisfy our ego. Problem is, the ego is never satisfied - its main mantra is "More, more, MORE!" It becomes a never-ending vicious cycle within the rat race of life. And it is certainly difficult to trust someone who has only their own interests in mind. How can you feel like they have your back with they are so focused on their own? This is also where politics come into play and dishonesty thrives...

"Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think." - Patrick Lencioni

So what to do? Well, in my opinion we have got to let go of all aspects of ego that strive to separate us from others and make us "better than". Meaning, we have to focus on the success of the team, rather than ourselves - to stop trying to lead and to instead work side-by-side. True humility, honesty and openness - that is what all the greatest teams have - a sincere and genuine desire focused on the team as a whole with all of the individual parts working in tandem, wanting the best for all. That is the only way we can build a strong and truly unified group of individuals.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any stories, anecdotes or quotes from your spiritual belief system to share? Here are some that I found... (this is the participation part) ;-)

"If five people meet together to seek for truth, they must begin by cutting themselves free from all their own special conditions and renouncing all preconceived ideas. In order to find truth we must give up our prejudices, our own small trivial notions; an open receptive mind is essential. If our chalice is full of self, there is no room in it for the water of life. The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity, and unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 136)

"Craving is the worst disease;
disharmony is the greatest sorrow.
The one who knows this truly
knows that nirvana is the highest bliss.
Health is the greatest gift;
contentment is the greatest wealth;
trusting is the best relationship;
nirvana is the highest joy." (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 2 (tr. J. Richards))

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (King James Bible, Luke 18:10-14)

"As long as man is a captive of habit, pursuing the dictates of self and desire, he is vanquished and defeated. This passionate personal ego takes the reins from his hands, crowds out the qualities of the divine ego and changes him into an animal, a creature unable to judge good from evil, or to distinguish light from darkness. He becomes blind to divine attributes, for this acquired individuality, the result of an evil routine of thought becomes the dominant note of his life." (Abdu'l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 133)

Water Park Wisdom (Part 3 of 3)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, the final "Aha" moment of my water park adventure happened in the wave pool. I just absolutely love playing in wave pools and this visit was no exception. But of course, since I was on a roll, looking at each of the rides as a metaphor for life, I did the same thing here.

I like hanging out right at the point in the wave pool where the waves start falling in upon themselves and come crashing down on you. It is extremely difficult to stay on your feet and sometimes you get water up your nose, but I think its a blast. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to dive into the wave as it is crashing into me so that I avoid being swept away. But you know - it becomes really exhausting after a while! LOL!

Anyway, I noticed there were many people "riding the waves" either by swimming on the surface of the water or floating in an inner tube. These people were enjoying the ride in a different way by rising above the intense challenge of directly attacking the waves like me. If you look at the crashing waves as "trials" or "tribulations" that you might strive to overcome, this by far seemed the more sensible idea.

It's almost as if they had decided they would use the challenging "test" of the waves to their advantage and look at it as an opportunity for growth. They rode their wave to get to a new "place" in their life where the waters became much calmer and serene. And that is exactly what was happening! The people rising above the waves would travel much farther than the rest of us who were left struggling and fighting just to stay in place.

It made me think of how many times in my life I have stubbornly refused to see the tests and challenges in my life as opportunities for growth. Instead I defiantly fight tooth and nail striving to maintain the status quo; scared and fearful to change and grow or move to a new place in life. It really can become exhausting fighting the "waves" all the time, feeling like you have to stay on your feet at all costs. Lately I have been striving to have more faith, to "Let go and let God" and ride the waves more often and this "Aha" moment was a nice reminder.

Do you look at the trials and tribulations of life as opportunities for growth? Or do you become bitter and resentful for having to face them? Do you find ways to use tests and difficulties to help you reach new levels of insight and spirituality? Or do you rebelliously fight against things thrown your way until you're exhausted and emotionally spent?

Here are some quotes from some of the Holy Scriptures of different world religions on this topic. As always please share your thoughts and any quotes that are meaningful to you.

"The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 178)

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (King James Bible, Romans 5:3-5)

"We have sent already unto peoples that were before thee, and We visited them with tribulation and adversity, in order that they might grow humble." (The Qur'an (Pickthall tr),Sura 6)

"In thy sorrow, in affliction, ever deeper lessons learn,
Righteous be your life in exile, happy be your safe return,
May these eyes again behold thee in Hastina's ancient town,
Conqueror of earthly trials, crowned with virtue's heavenly crown!" (Hindu, Mababharata (R. Dutt, abridged tr))

"O SON OF MAN! The true lover yearneth for tribulation even as doth the rebel for forgiveness and the sinful for mercy." (Baha'u'llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

Water Park Wisdom (Part 2 of 3)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I decided to make this a three part blog because once I had the first "Aha" moment I started looking at all the attractions at the park in a different way. And so a couple of other thoughts crossed my mind.

Anyway, once I finished the pool/slide/pool/slide ride, I went over to the lazy river. I had started to get relaxed so I thought I would continue in that vein. I went around that thing FIVE times! And I probably could have kept going but I was worried I was going to get sunburned.

Each time around was more and more relaxing, I just laid in my little inner tube, closed my eyes and floated along. Sometimes I would open my eyes and look at the trees I was floating by blowing in the wind. It was MEGA-relaxing. I tried to clear my mind and focus on nothing in particular. Just being. It was so nice I can hardly even describe it.

I started to think about the differences from the previous ride. The first one you really had no direction and had to depend on either yourself or other people to end up nudging you down the next slide. This one, you didn't need to depend on anyone, the water itself moved you along. You just had to lay back and let the flowing water of the stream do its thing.

I think that is what I really found relaxing. The fact that I could keep moving without having to do anything by my own volition. The inner tube was there, cradling me, keeping me afloat and the water made sure that I kept moving along. No effort was necessary on my part. It was so peaceful.

I think this could be likened to a lot of things, but the first thing that comes to mind is "Grace". It is always there, all around you, ready for you to reach out and let yourself be immersed in it. Sometimes we feel like its not there, but that's not entirely accurate. It's there, it just can't reach us because we have turned ourselves away from it and denied ourselves the opportunity to partake of its bounty.

It might be resentment, anger, envy or any other form of discontent and desire for something other than what we have or where we are in life. Isn't it ironic that when we get so lost in our own petty grievances we actually deprive ourselves of the thing we most desire - a little "Grace". When we are in the right place, and have faith, God will "take the wheel" to quote Carrie Underwood and carry us along the journey.

Here are some quotes I found on this topic. Please share your own thoughts and quotes! Signing off 'til next time!

"...the manifold bounties of the Lord of all beings have, at all times, through the Manifestations of His divine Essence, encompassed the earth and all that dwell therein. Not for a moment hath His grace been withheld, nor have the showers of His loving-kindness ceased to rain upon mankind." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 14)

"For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee." (King James Bible, Psalms 84:11-12)

"In thy thoughts
Do all thou dost for Me! Renounce for Me!
Sacrifice heart and mind and will to Me!
Live in the faith of Me! In faith of Me
All dangers thou shalt vanquish, by My grace;
But, trusting to thyself and heeding not,
Thou can'st but perish!"
(Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Water Park Wisdom (Part 1 of 3)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My calves are really sore today. Prolly cuz I walked all over a fabulously fun Water Park in Denver yesterday called Water World. I went by myself - long story - but it was the last weekend it was open and I hadn't gone in years and thought it would be fun. So I went and had a blast - even all by my lonesome.

The "wisdom' part comes in when I got on one of those waterslide/river run type rides. It has a short slide and then a small whirlpool type area followed by another short slide and then another pool and so on. Problem is that when you get to the pool, you sometimes get stuck just floating round and round and round it for awhile before you even get a chance to make it down the next slide.

On my way up the path to the start, I saw people on the ride getting in these traffic jams in the small pools and I almost turned back. I was all by myself and I thought it might be awkward. But then I realized I had just been talking on this blog a couple of weeks ago about living life 100%. My bad. So I kept going. 

When I got to the first pool and started to get stuck going round and round I began to try and push myself off the sides to try and get to the next slide but then realized, "Why am I trying to rush this? Isn't life frantic enough without feeling like I have to rush thru this ride? So what if I float around a whole lot first? Why can't I just calm down, relax, and enjoy the moment? What's the rush?"

So I chilled out and just let the water take me where it will. And it was nice to just let go. I noticed that most everyone else on the ride was doing what I had first started to do - almost getting frantic when they couldn't immediately get to the next slide.

As a society we are so caught up in faster, better, stronger, smarter, hurry hurry hurry! Timelines, meetings, appointments, schedules, errands - places to go, people to see, things to do, things to be. How can we let go of the rat race and just be where we are and not worry about where we're going or how or when we're going to get there?

You know, one of the things I noticed, was that even if I got going around in circles for a while seemingly with no purpose or direction, there was always a moment when someone would come along and nudge me down the next slippery slide to the next pool where I could then continue my journey. And it was nice to just sit back, stop trying to control it and let it happen.

As always, here are some thoughts on this topic from the writings of different world religions. And, as always, please feel free to add your own.

"Therefore, consider how base a nature it reveals in man that, notwithstanding the favors showered upon him by God, he should lower himself into the animal sphere, be wholly occupied with material needs, attached to this mortal realm, imagining that the greatest happiness is to attain wealth in this world. How purposeless! How debased is such a nature! God has created man in order that he may be a dove of the Kingdom, a heavenly candle, a recipient of eternal life. God has created man in order that he may be resuscitated through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and become the light of the world. How debased the soul which can find enjoyment in this darkness, occupied with itself, the captive of self and passion, wallowing in the mire of the material world! How degraded is such a nature! What an ignorance this is! What a blindness! How glorious the station of man who has partaken of the heavenly food and built the temple of his everlasting residence in the world of heaven!" (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 185)

"Tranquil inaction has given place to love of disputation; and disputation alone is enough to bring chaos upon the world." (Tao, Chuangtse (Lin Yutang tr))

"Whenever the disciple is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst contemplating impermanence, or the fading away of passion, or extinction, or detachment at such a time he is dwelling in "contemplation of the phenomena," full of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief." ((The Eightfold Path), Buddha, the Word (The Eightfold Path))

"Purity, constancy, control of self,
Contempt of sense-delights, self-sacrifice,
Perception of the certitude of ill
In birth, death, age, disease, suffering, and sin;
Detachment, lightly holding unto home,
Children, and wife, and all that bindeth men;
An ever-tranquil heart in fortunes good
And fortunes evil, with a will set firm
To worship Me- Me only! ceasing not;
Loving all solitudes, and shunning noise
Of foolish crowds; endeavours resolute
To reach perception of the Utmost Soul,
And grace to understand what gain it were
So to attain,- this is true Wisdom, Prince!" (Hindu, Bhagavad Gita (Edwin Arnold tr))

Meditating on Meditation

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"One hour's reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship." (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 238)

WOW! That's quite a statement. Do you ever meditate? I have to admit, I rarely, if ever, do myself. I have been trying to more often lately and I definitely see the value, but I still struggle with how to do it.

I mean do you have to cross your legs and put your hands on your knees? I don't think so. You could probably just be sitting there or even laying down.

Do you have to close your eyes? Maybe, but I think sometimes you could be looking at something - like the stars, or the sunset.

Do you have to clear your mind? I would have to say yes to that one. Isn't that the point? To free yourself from distractions and reach a state of complete detachment from the world around you? That is also the hardest part. Check out this commercial starring Ellen Degeneres:

That is what usually happens to me. I might start off kinda silent and focused but then I start thinking random thoughts and I can't clear my head to try and reach a state of peace and receptivity. Even when I am praying sometimes this happens which really frustrates me.

Is it because the world moves so fast that I am used to multi-tasking and have a hard time just turning down the dial? Do I have A.D.D.? Do I maybe just need to practice more? I have to say that I have been attempting to meditate more and seem to be getting a little better. I will keep my blog updated if there is any progress. :-)

Anyway, what do you think? Do you meditate? How? Are you successful at it? Do you have any good quotes on meditation from your belief system you'd like to share? Here are some that I found...

"Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit -- the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation." (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 174)

From meditation springs wisdom. From lack of meditation, loss of wisdom. Recognising these alternative roads of progress and decline, one should so direct oneself so that one's wisdom will increase. (Buddhist, Dhammapada - Sayings of the Buddha 1 (tr. J. Richards))

"O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation." (King James Bible, Psalms 119;97-99)

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