The Hero's Journey

I just realized that we are all on the Hero's (Heroine's) journey.  The Hero's journey is a monomyth template offered by Joseph Campbell in his book, Journey with a Thousand Faces  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth.  When reviewing the information for some writing that i'm doing, i realized that the problems that we face in life can be located somewhere along the Hero's journey.  I also realized that we can better understand our problems and what to do to get back HOME.  If you look at the graphics in the above articles, you can probably identify where you are in life, realize that where you are is not so unique, terrible, traumatic, etc. as you think it is.  As a matter of fact, everyone who chooses to leave, or is forced out of, their comfort zone is faced with with the same problem, it just manifests in different forms.

All along the way, you realize that the Hero/Heroine ALWAYS has a choice.

However, we also realize that we can never achieve the greatness that we are destined for, unless we face the fear, and take the next step. Fortunately, on the Hero's Journey, everyone makes it HOME, either their earthly one or their eternal one.

Where are you on your Hero's/Heroine's journey.  Do you have the courage to make the next step?  The danger is great, but so are the rewards!

Riding the Dolphin

I often ask participants in my Life Skills class this question: "If you fell off of a ship in the middle of the ocean, which animal/mammal would you like to show up?"  The overwhelming majority say that they would like a dolphin to show up. When I ask why, they say that the dolphin will take them to safety. Why do I ask such a question?  Mainly because I think people remember better through analogies.  I liken emotions to dolphins.  If you ride them out, you will eventually arrive safely back to a healthy state of mind.  And arrive much quicker than if you fought them.

Many of us fight our emotions and this only tends to make things worse. Secondary emotions often appear to complicate the situation.  Fighting your emotions is like fighting a dolphin who has come to save you.  Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are just indicators of the quality of our thinking, and they are a gift given to us so that we can, if we choose, go back and look at the thoughts that caused the emotion in the first place.  The thoughts are the cause of our feeling. They are the culprits, not the emotions that the thought cause.

When I find my Self caught up in some unpleasant emotion, I find it helpful to, first, remember that it was my own thinking that caused the emotion.  Second, since my thoughts caused the emotion, if I don't like the emotion, I can stop focusing on the thoughts that created it.

It is never what someone else says or does that causes us to feel the way we do, it is what we "think" about what they did or said.

If you want to find out why we feel and act the way you do, look at your belief system. That is where the answer lies.

So if you find your Self caught up in some unpleasant emotion, RIDE THE DOLPHIN.   Focus on the feeling (ride it out) and it will go away.  Focus on the thought that created the feeling, and it will grow!

Life-Changing Power

Many of us find ourselves walking around like An Eagle in the Barnyard, not realizing the power that we possess.  We ALL have life-changing power, yet we fail to recognize it.  The funny thing is, the life-changing power that we possess is the power to change someone else's life.  We also fail to realize that, when we change someone else's life, we also change our own. What do I mean by life-changing power?  Here's an example:  There is someone out there struggling to survive, who has a job, but is stuck in a rut because, either they don't have childcare, or the cost is so high that they end up "robbing Peter to pay Paul," month after month after month.  By the time they pay for childcare, they have little left to pay for life's other needs.  There is also someone out there looking for "meaning" in their lives.  Image the blessings they would both receive, and how their lives would change, if they got together and met each others needs...  These kind of opportunities abound everywhere, everyday, right in front of our eyes.

Our power is unlimited, untapped, and underutilized.  Is it any wonder that we feel so little joy in our lives?  The answer to our unfulfilled life is "service".  How will you serve today?

Let me know of other ideas that you can think of, of how we can utilize our life-changing power.

Looking to Shift Your Perspective This Year?

It's amazing what a little shift in perspective will do.  If you are looking to shift your perspective and begin/continue to see that the glass as half full vs. half empty, join me in my commitment to help raise funds for Pilgrim Heights Camp and Retreat Center (pilgrimheights.org). For the last three years I have held a monthly retreat to discuss a book of interest. This year we are studying The Noticer (http://www.andyandrews.com/ms/the-noticer/)and The Noticer Returns (http://www.andyandrews.com/ms/noticerreturns/).  If you want to get away, get some fresh air, meet with a group of people looking to shift their perspective a bit, then join us.

You can find more information at:  http://www.pilgrimheights.org/attend-our-events/retreats/the-shift/.  We would love for you to join us if and when you can.  You need not attend every month, but if you do, you'll be glad that you did.

We hope you'll join us so, like Franklin Templeton, we can "gain from YOUR perspective".

What Are You Waiting For?

As usual, I begin my new year in reflection.  This year, I was led to read some of my vintage journals and was pleasantly surprised to discover a gem from around 2000.  At the time, I was reading a lot of Stephen Covey's books and taking notes from my reading. My journal entry led me to delve back into the book, First Things First,  by Stephen Covey, with A. Roger and Rebecca R. Merrill.  While I was reading it, I came across 3 questions that I found to be quite profound.  The 3 questions are:

1.  What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?

2. What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your professional life?

3.  If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?

A friend and fellow facilitator/life coach, Ernest TUG Phillips (www.tugcoaching.com) added a fourth question that I think is equally profound and moved me toward action. His fourth questions is:

4.  What would it take to start doing those things?

Why not answer the four questions for yourself and let me know what you think, and how they impact on your quality of life?  Also, if you like them, share them with those you care about and/or give them a link to this page.

What are you waiting for?

Look At What God Has Made

Do you ever take the time to watch the river flow? Or listen to the birds sing?

I wonder what they're saying?

Do you ever take the time to see the may shades of green on the trees?

Or the blueness of the sky"

I wonder why it's blue.

Why not red or green?

Do you ever take the time to enjoy a cool summer breeze?

Or hear the rustling of the leaves in fall?

Do you ever notice the moon in the late morning sky?

I thought it only shined in the night?

Do you ever notice the water lapping at the shore?

I wonder where the river waters came from?

Do you ever notice the sun shining brightly on the downtown skyline?

Or smell the fragrance of the river?

Do you ever stop to tell your friends how much you appreciate them?

Or thank God for your many blessings?

Why not?

Have you gotten too busy trying to make a living?

Rather than taking time to enjoy the life you have?

Maybe we all should stop for a while and notice all that we have and all that we've been given.

Maybe that is the real key to happiness.

Enjoy what we have.

We won't have it for ever......

The Butterfly Effect

I once heard a story about a little girl who was a lover of insects.  One day she came upon a butterfly, struggling to escape its cocoon. Not wanting to see the butterfly struggle, she took a small knife and cut the cocoon so that the butterfly to escape more easily.  She then watched the butterfly for several hours, waiting for its beautiful wings to unfurl. Much to her dismay, the butterfly's wings remained crumpled and deformed.  In her sorrow, she went to her mother to tell her the story and to ask for her help.  Her mother sat her on her knee and explained the part of the natural process of growth for the butterfly was to struggle to escape from the cocoon.  In the process of struggling to escape the cocoon, juices were forced to all parts of the butterfly's body, including the wings.  When she cut the cocoon, she had innocently interfered with the natural growth process of the butterfly.

This lesson can be helpful to us as we try to protect ourselves and those that we love from struggle.  Struggle is a natural process of growth.  Through struggle, we grow and become the beautiful person we are destined to be.  No struggle, no growth.

This Little Light of Mine...

There is a song that we used to sing in church when I was a kid called This Little Light of Mine that reminds me of what I and others are supposed to do. The opening verse says, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine".  We all have a divine light inside of us that, fortunately, can not be extinguished. That light is often dimmed by how we see and deal with life, but it continues to shine, though sometimes very dimly. Our challenge is to shrug off the cares and worries of the world and reconnect with our inner Self, that self that was created in the image and likeness of the Creator.  Many of us have forgotten who we are.  We put labels on ourselves such as loser, felon, lazy, unintelligent, unhappy, etc., all of which are a diminishment of who we are.

We are divine beings, full of love and light.  Once we do what the Prodigal Son did and come to ourselves (our divine being) and return home (our true state), our light will begin to shine brightly again.  We are much more than what we have become.  Like the Source from which we come, we are Powerful, full of Knowledge and Wisdom, and connected to all things and all people.

When our light shines, we become the light for others to find their way out of the darkness.  Darkness and light can not co-exist.  Once light comes, darkness must vanish.  Shrug off the false images that we have of yourself and join me in Letting Our Light Shine.  With each brightening of our light, the world is one step closer to banishing the darkness forever.

Year of Service Update

In my blog on December 28th of last year, I pledged to provide 12 free training sessions this year, one per month.  So far my record is good.  I was invited to make a presentation to youth and their parents in an afterschool program at Norwalk Christian Church.  We talked about the power of thought and how to recognize when our thoughts are not helpful.  We touched on how this information could be used to inoculate kids against bullying.  Maybe some of the participants will comment on this blog so you can get their perspective. One down, eleven to go.  My session for February is on February 28th.  I will be speaking to the alumni group of my alma mater, Central College, at the Waterfront Restaurant.  The topic will be The Health of the Helper.

Has anyone taken me up on the challenge and done the same?  Let me know by commenting on this blog.

Which One Will Win?

There is an old Cherokee legend called, "Two Wolves" or "The Wolves Within" http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/TwoWolves-Cherokee.html that talks about the struggle that goes on inside of all of us.  The story is told in many different ways in many cultures.  Sometimes we talk about the voices on each shoulder, each with a different message.  The choice is always between good and evil, or love and fear. We are confronted with that choice moment by moment, day by day.  And like the legend asks, "Which one will win?"  As the legend says, the one that we feed is the one that will win.  We so often forget that we are the ones who decide who will win.

There are always two ways to view a situation - we can view it with love or we can view it with fear (which comes in forms such as anger, hate, unforgiveness, etc.).

The good news is that the choice is always ours.  And remember, we reap what we sow.  Sow seeds of love, and love abounds.  Sow seeds of fear, and fear will grow.

Change the way you see things and change your world.

Creating A Healing Community

Many of us are suffering from trauma of some kind.  Trauma can come in many forms, including physical, mental, and psychological abuse; the death of a close friend or relative; negative messages from society; you name it.  If we have a supportive community to help us work through the trauma, we can recover from it and lead a more happy and productive life.  If not, we often maladapt and carry the hurt and pain for many years, and suffer unnecessarily.

That is where a healing community comes in.  We are all in community of some sort, but many of them continue to traumatize us rather that heal us.  It is important that we become part of, and take a part in creating, healing communities.  In her book, Restoring Sanctuary, Sandra Bloom talks about community as a sanctuary - a place where a person feels safe to be themselves, cared for, trusted, supported, and accepted as they are, without judgment.  That would begin to define a healing community.

We can create these healing communities, no matter who and where you are.  A good place to begin to "restore sanctuary" is in our own home.  I doesn't matter if you live alone or with many people, you still can create that safe place where you and others can return to in order to heal.  You can create a healing community through your place of worship, on the job, in your clubs, wherever you are.

If you're wanting to experience a healing community, feel free to visit our weekly Pathways to Peace Lunch and Learn.  We meet Tuesdays from 12:00-1:30 at 2708 Grand Avenue on the 4th floor.

And remember, the community begins with you. There is a saying, "You can't teach what you don't know, and you can't lead where you won't go!"  Begin to heal yourself so that you can begin to help others to heal. 

 

Priming the Pump

For those old timers out there, you know what "priming the pump" means.  For those more contemporary city folks, I'll explain.  In the "old days," if you wanted to get water out of a pump, you had to first pour a small amount of water into it to "prime" it.  Once it was primed, you could get as much water as you needed.  If you didn't prime it, you could pump all day and you would only get tired, no water.  And another important point was, you had to leave enough water behind for the next person, so they could prime the pump as well. That seems to me to be an analogy of life.  If you want something out of life you have to "prime the pump".  Like the well, the universe is unlimited and, once you prime it, you can get all you need from it.  There are many "sayings" that tell us how to get what we want.  "You have not because you ask not", "Knock and the door shall be opened", "Seek and ye shall find", and on and on.  The central point in all of these sayings is that you have to do something - you have to prime the pump.  If you want a different outcome in life, "do" something different that leads in that direction.  If you want to be healthier, "do" something that will lead you there.  If you are not happy, "do" something that will lead to happiness.  All your "doing" is an act of priming the pump.

The key ingredient in all of this is Faith, the "substance" of things hoped for.  Faith that water will come out of the pump. faith that your life will be different, faith that you will be healthy, faith that you will be happy.

Prime the pump with faith by asking, knocking, and seeking.  Don't stay in your rut by saying "yes but", don't just do sit there wanting and wishing, get up off your "but" and "do" something!  Like the water, the possibilities are unlimited.

Your Internal Navigation System

Does anyone ever hear a little tiny voice whispering about something you should do or say?  Chances are, that is your internal navigation system attempting to give you a pointer about which direction you should take.  I have learned, by heeding the advice of the navigation system in my car, to trust the process.  Even if I make a wrong turn, the voice in my system (I call her Ruth, for my "route" guidance system) will get me back on course and to my desired destination.  She is totally forgiving and non-judgment and simply recalculates the route until she finally says, "You have reached your destination..." I have learned to trust the tiny voice in my head because like Ruth, no matter what I do or say, the voice will continue to redirect me, without judgment.  The one problem that many of us have is that we are not clear on our destination. and as they say, "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there" and we roam aimlessly, wondering why we are not satisfied.

I had a direct experience of this on January 1st of 2012.  When I woke up that morning, the tiny voice in my head (I should probably give it a name) suggested that I take all the training that I do, package it, and offer it to organizations with which I had worked with in the past.  I dutifully set out to outline such training, crafted an email to the organizations, and set up an informational meeting.  When the date arrived for the meeting, one person showed up and expressed interest, but there was no follow-up.

"Now what," I asked.  the answer was to take to the airwaves.  So I asked a friend of mine to host me on her internet station, which she did.  So for 3 months, I shared the curriculum on a weekly 2-hour talk show.  I consider that to be obedience.  Now the cool part...

On February 9th of 2012, I was meeting with one of the people that I sent the original outline of the training to, trying to help a friend get funding for a community project, and, out of nowhere (it seemed) she asked me if I would be willing to partner with her program to deliver the curriculum that I had outlined and practiced on the talk show.  I agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Fourteen days later I held my first class and February of 2014 will be my 2-year anniversary.  The training is going strong and I have two additional facilitator who will participate in a training institute beginning in January to refine their skills and understanding of the principles that underlie the curriculum.

All because I listened to that tiny little voice.  What is your voice telling you?

Emotional Intelligence Your Key to Success

One recommendation for your reading list for 2014 is the book, Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.  In his book, Goleman explains why Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is twice as important for success than IQ.  Unlike IQ, which remains pretty static throughout your life,  EQ can be improved.  That's the good news. By learning about the 25 Emotional intelligence competencies, you cans easily assess your areas of strengths and weaknesses, set out  a plan to improve in those areas, and watch as your success, both personally and professionally, increases.

If you're looking for a key to getting ahead in life, and getting out of a rut, this is definitely one of them.  Let me know if you agree.

A Year of Service

I have decided that I would lead by example and declare 2014 as a Year of Service.  I encourage everyone to accept my challenge to look around you and see how you can be of service to someone or some organization.  Your service could be in the form of time, talent, or treasure.  I have found that, if I'm ever in some type of low mood, I can lift it simply by being of service to someone or some organization.  Try it, it works. To begin my year of service, I am offering my gift of facilitation to any group or organization that would find my message helpful.  I commit to twelve 1-2 hour sessions this year (one per month).  If you are interested, reply to this post with your name and contact information.  The first twelve to respond will be the first twelve to be considered.  If you don't make the top twelve, reply anyway, I'll create a waiting list in case something falls through.

Join me in a Year of Service and let's make this a better world!

"A Course in Miracles" Study Group

I am what may be called a "seeker" because I keep seeking for answers about how to live a life filled with more love. peace, and joy.  I have read and listened to many, many books, tapes, audio downloads, and CDs in search for nuggets of wisdom that I can apply in my life and also share with others. One of the books that I came across was a book called A Course in Miracles and I was intrigued by a quote in the introduction of the book.  The quote said, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.  Herein lies the peace of God."  That quote led me to order the book and accompanying audio tapes (yes, cassettes.  Remember them?)  That was in 1998.  My first attempt to read the book proved to be difficult, so it went on the shelf.  I have revisited it again several times between then and now, getting a little more out of it and understanding it a little more each time.  Last January, I resolved to read portions of it every morning and make it part of my morning inspiration.

This time, I stuck with it, and finished the text in November of this year.  As I read it, the thought kept coming to me that this book was so Spiritually consistent, that i needed to share it with others.  I also got several requests from people who know that I was reading it, to lead a study group.  Well, I submit.  I committed to lead a weekly study group beginning January 5, 2014.  The Study Group will meet weekly on Sundays from 5 - 7pm at 2708 Grand Avenue, 4th floor in Des Moines, Iowa.  Drop by, or let me know if you have questions. No need to buy a book right away (you can access it online).  Come and see if you like what you see.  You'll be glad you did.

What It Is (from the preface of the book)

As its title implies, the Course is arranged throughout as a teaching device. It consists of three books: a 669-page Text, a 488-page Workbook for Students, and a 92-page Manual for Teachers. The order in which students choose to use the books, and the ways in which they study them, depend on their particular needs and preferences.

The curriculum the Course proposes is carefully conceived and is explained, step by step, at both the theoretical and practical levels. It emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology. It specifically states that “a universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary” (Manual, p. 77). Although Christian in statement, the Course deals with universal spiritual themes. It emphasizes it is but one version of the universal curriculum. There are many others, this one differing from them only in form. They all lead to God in the end.

Here are some additional quotes from the book that might inspire you to join us:

"It is not intended to become the basis for another cult. Its only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher."

Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. They are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less. (p. 1)

Perfect love casts out fear. If fear exists, then there is not perfect love. (p.12)

Corrective learning begins with the awakening of spirit, and the turning away from belief in physical sight. (p. 22)

The ego cannot survive without judgment. (p. 54)

Love will immediately enter into any mind that truly wants it. (p. 55)

Anger involves projection of separation, which must ultimately be accepted as one's own responsibility, rather than being blamed on others. (p. 84)

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself ... for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. (p. 132)

A therapist doesn't heal, he lets healing be. (p. 161)

The world is only in the mind of its maker. Do not believe it is outside of yourself. (p. 207)

If you did not feel guilty, you could not attack. (p. 220)

God calls and you do not hear, for you are preoccupied with your own voice. (p. 232)

You have so little faith in yourself because you are unwilling to accept the fact that perfect love is in you, and so you seek without for what you cannot find within. (p.293)

Heaven is not a place or a condition. It is merely an awareness of perfect oneness. (p. 359)

It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain. (p. 386)

Give faith to one another, for faith and hope and mercy are yours to give. (p. 394)

Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. (p. 415)

The memory of God comes to the quiet mind. (p. 457)

The miracle comes quietly into the mind that stops an instant and is still. (p. 547)

No one who hates but is afraid of love, and therefore must be afraid of God. He knows not what love means, he fears to love and loves to hate, and so he thinks that love is fearful, hate is love. (p. 563)

Let forgiveness be the substitute for fear. This is the only rule for happy dreams. (p. 590)

Only the self-accused condemn. (p. 606)

The holy ones whom God gave you to save are everyone you meet or look upon, not knowing who they are, all those you saw an instant and forgot, and those you knew a long while since, and those you will meet yet, the unremembered and the not yet born. (p. 618)

Tried by the Fire

There is a scripture that says that, when we are tried by the fire, we will come out as pure gold.  It doesn't say "if" we are tried by the fire, it says "when" we are tried by the fire.  Therefore, we can expect trials and tribulations (fire) and have the faith that we will survive them and we will be better for each one, closer to our true state (gold). We are all like gold, in various states of refinement.  Anyone who knows anything about gold mining knows that, when gold is mined, it is covered with dross. Dross is all the impurities mixed in with the gold.  The dross in our lives is all the issues that we are dealing with. When we remember that we all have issues that we're dealing with, it is easier to look past the dross, in others and in ourselves, and see the gold that is there.  It is easier to love, it is easier to forgive, and it is easier to be patient, when we look for the gold instead of the dross.

The refining process can not be complete without the fire.  So when the fire comes, and it will come, know that "this too shall pass" and know that you will come out the other side as pure gold.

A Shameless Plug

I am on the Board of Directors of Our Sacred Space at Pilgrim Heights Camp and Retreat Center near Tama, Iowa.  As a way to support Our Sacred Space, I conduct a monthly "Day Away" book study and donate all proceeds to Our Sacred Space.  If you are free to join us for a Day Away, please do. If you'd like to donate to a worthy cause, that would be welcomed too. Here's a link to the website that contains more information on the Day Away retreats:

http://www.pilgrimheights.org/events/the-shift

For more information, please call us at 641.492.6165 or on-line at PilgrimHeights.org

Endless Possibilities

At each and every moment, endless possibilities lie before us. In each and every moment we are free to choose whatever it is we want and to go after it.

If we don't get the result that we want, we have endless opportunities to choose again.

If we have chosen "wrongly" in the past, we have the opportunity to choose again.

Each moment brings us the chance to make a new choice.

Each new moment brings us the chance to be "born again".

We are never hopeless or helpless.

Realize - Accept - Decide

Take A Knee

It's interesting the gems that are found in movies.  In Will Smith's movie, After Earth, he had a habit of telling his son to "take a knee" whenever he needed him to calm down and focus.  He would tell him to "take a knee" and to focus on what he was hearing, feeling, seeing, etc. I think that is an excellent practice in the busy lives that many of us lead. When things seem to be spiraling out of control, it is a good idea to mentally "take a knee" by actually stopping what we are doing, listening to what we are hearing, seeing, and feeling. It is amazing how, by doing that, our focus returns to the here and now (the only place and time that you have any power), and we're better able to go forward with more calm and more focus.

I have started practicing "taking a knee" when my emotions begin to swirl and things are moving too fast.  It really helps.  So the next time you are feeling insecure, upset, anxious, or discontented, "take a knee" and see if that helps.

And while you're on your knee, why not say a little prayer of gratitude for all the many blessings you have in your life?