MAKING DREAMS INTO REALITY
As the days grow shorter and the nights become longer, I feel myself sinking into a more reflective mood. My mind wanders to Holidays past, of Thanksgiving Turkey at my grandma’s farm or Christmas toys beneath the tree at our house in Atchison, Kansas. But my remembrances begin to shrink as I begin to think over the happenings in the past year.
At around Thanksgiving, appropriately, I start to make a gratitude list for the things that have happened in the past year. Once that is completed, I say some thank you prayers to Creator. Some of the things that happened were planned but many were not. There are so many variables in life that are out of our control. So, plans get adjusted along the way. Nonetheless, planning has been part of my rhythm since my early 20’s.
I love the word manifest. What a beautiful word! Often this word is used in almost a magical sense, like I can just think something into existence, or simply will an idea into reality. Let’s face it, sometimes it happens, but my experience is that it doesn’t happen very often. Usually manifesting something happens through hard work and planning.
Here’s the definition of manifest: “to create something or turn something from an idea into reality.” Or, the psychological definition “to use our thoughts, feelings and beliefs to bring something into a physical reality.”
Although my planning has varied over the years, planning and executing plans has been an integral part of my personal and business life. I have had exhilarating successes and excruciating failures. Planning has always been my go-to rescue tool when I have failed. Learn, pick myself up, seek help when needed, make a new plan and go.
In this short series, I would like to present to you my simple planning tools, - those things that have helped me live my life with intention and purpose.
Let’s learn to manifest together. Let’s turn some dreams into reality.
40 YEARS CLEAN AND SOBER
I am convinced after 40 years living my life free of mood altering chemicals that my purpose on this earth is to learn and grow from every experience that life throws my way and to create some beauty while I am here.
My 40 years of awakening began when I was 39 years old. That’s when I laid down the bottle and threw away the pills and went to treatment. I woke up.
From that point on I began to experience life at its fullest. I could feel all my feelings. I could experience my body. I could think more clearly. I could feel at a soul level all that life had to offer. Sometimes those offerings were blissful and sometimes they were absolute hell, but I was alive and awake to experience them all.
Being awake forced me to deal with my past, my sexual abuse, and the rest of my childhood experiences.
Being awake forced me to face who I am and start to make changes to become that acceptable, responsible and productive member of society.
Being awake supercharged me to know my own value as a child of God,—to know at core that - THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH ME AND THERE NEVER WAS. I am gold! I am diamond! I shine like a million suns!
Being awake meant pursuing as many tools as I could find for my growth. For me this meant hundreds of sweat lodges! It meant being stripped to NOTHING in my Vision Quest. It meant becoming a yoga instructor, a teacher of meditation, and a Kirtan chant leader and yoga musician. TOOLS!
Being awake meant becoming the person that God truly intended me to be.
SYMBOLS - THE LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL
I have spent my life in passionate curiosity regarding spirituality in various forms, as a student of theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, around the sacred fires of the Lakota and Ojibwe people and as a student of Vedic literature and Bhakti Yoga.
Although there are many differences in these expressions of spirituality, largely determined by culture and geography, there are also many similarities. There is one thing common to all - Symbolic language.
It may be the Star of David for the Jewish community, the Cross and Crown for Christians, an Eagle Feather for Native Americans or an Image of Ganesha for Hindus. All of these symbols represent forms of spiritual truth from the perspective of the cultural that each represents.
I have concluded, humbly, that access to the spirit world, the world of the soul, is primarily through symbols.
A dictionary definition of symbol would go something like this: “a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract.”
Ashok Bedi in his book Path to the Soul, describes a symbol this way, “Symbols are images, events, people or things, that for us, are pregnant with meaning. Whenever we are fascinated by something whose meaning we cannot exhaust, try as we may, we are dealing with a symbol.”
Symbols are the bridge between the material world and the world of the soul.
Symbols come in many forms, metaphors, simile, allegories, stories, or signs. Written language itself is simply a symbol standing for a sound. For simplicity, and for my purpose here, we will just refer to all of them as symbols, - something pointing to something beyond itself.
God does not crank a loudspeaker out of heaven when he speaks to us. God’s messages come primarily to us through symbols.
TURNING SHAME TO GRACE: LESSONS FROM YOGA
It amazes me that sometimes how Creator’s messages come so simply.
We all carry hours and hours of negative messages digitally installed in our mental hard drive. These messages come from parents, traumatic events, church, teachers, classmates and others. They get imbedded deeply and they are begging to be over-ridden.
There is a Lakota exclamation, Anagonpta Yo! It means PAY ATTENTION! The phrase is often spoken at ceremonies. It means paying attention to everything around you, everything that you see, that you hear, that you smell, that you touch and that you taste. Why? Because the good, positive messages are there for us if we pay attention.
In my search for grace, I found yoga. Or, maybe yoga found me. I was encouraged by my vocal instructor to start practicing yoga because she said, it would help my singing. It would make me more conscious of my breath.
So, I followed her instructions.
What my vocal instructor didn’t know at that time was that my shame was badly in need of some grace.
I showed up at yoga class, day after day, week after week. I don’t know if my singing got better, but I am sure that my disposition improved.
The yoga instructor that I was blessed to have began her classes with child’s pose, balasana. While in child’s pose she would say these words, “Don’t judge your practice. Stay on your mat and don’t compare yourself with others in the room. And, remember, yoga is always a practice, not a performance.”
Hearing these words day after day, I started applying these grace principles to the rest of my life. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. And, remember life is a practice, not a performance.
The results of putting these simple rules into practice were profound and still are.
I found GRACE on my yoga mat and I continue to pay attention. Yes, Creator’s messages sometimes come so simply.
Turning from shame to Grace: Metanoia
In this series on turning shame to grace I have concentrated so far on how to deal with shame. Let’s make a turn today and focus on Grace.
There’s a great Greek word, metanoia, which my Greek professor, Dr. Harold Bulls, defined as “a complete about face.” It isn’t just changing our minds (noia). Rather, it is as if we were walking one way and did a complete 180 and turned to walk the other. We not only turn to face who we really are, we turn to face it with the force of Grace both in our rear view mirror and in our headlights. We turn around surrounded by Grace.
GRACE DEFINED - Χάρις (Gk) - “beauty, elegance, charm.” In Greek mythology Χάρις is goddess of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility.”
So, instead of seeing ourselves covered in shame, we see ourselves washed in the light of Grace.
This is not an instantaneous transformation for most of us, but a daily process of making better choices for ourselves.
In my morning journaling, every day I write at the top of the page: Miinoghiizhiigot! - “It is a good day” in Ojibwe. I know it is a good day, if I choose to make it so. It is my choice to walk in the light of Grace or swim around in a pool of shame. It is a daily choice, but often a choice moment by moment.
The Biblical writer, St. Paul said this in Philippians 4:8 - 8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
So, day-by-day, moment-by-moment we make a choice to metanoia, do a 180, setting our minds on things grace-FULL.
In the words of the old Gospel song,
“Walk in the light, that beautiful light
Come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright
Shine all around us by day and by night
Walk in that beautiful light.”
Aretha Franklin sings WALK IN THE LIGHT - here.