LET US NOT CONFUSE THE TWO

Much like last post, I must begin by saying in no way am I saying any religion, or religion in general is not good. Religion gives many people structure and guidelines that often help them to grow. As Haile Selassie pointed out in the statement above, it helps them grow spiritually. It is the goal of religion to help people grow and mature in a spiritual fashion.

Many of the practices include some of the same elements although they may be used in different ways. These include, but are not limited to, prayer, fasting, meditation and study. Whether you fast for Ramadan or for Lent you fast to mature and confirm your spiritual beliefs. It is your religious beliefs that are helping you to grow spiritually. Once again, this is a similarity to remember we all have in common. The same with prayer and meditation. The exact methods may differ but the reason and result is the same – to help us grow spiritually.

If you happen to observe someone engaged in a religious practice different than your own, please keep in mind they are doing what helps them grow spiritually. Just as people may use different exercise to improve their physical bodies or different types of learning to mature intellectually, we also use different practices to grow spiritually. Let us work toward and look forward to a day when everyone can become spiritually mature no matter what their belief. It will be then that we can accept each other in a spirit of love and understanding.

WHAT WAS THEIR RELIGION?


This is one of those quotes I really love. When you think about religion it is often, if not always created after the death of its most important figures. That being the case, as it is in the three examples above, it would be impossible for the individuals to be a member of a religion they inspired. That does not make these religions any less valid or take anything away from their beliefs or practices.
What it does is allow us to step back and take a good hard look at what is the common thread that was woven through all of these great leaders, and by consequence, through all great spiritual beliefs – Love. These individuals did not preach a certain religion, but rather a set of moral principles predicated on love. Love is the common thread that flows through most spiritual beliefs. It is a force that drives many of the other principles and tenets of whatever faith you may practice. It is the driving force behind a spiritual practice. Love, combined with faith and hope make up the basis for most of the world’s religions.
Which brings me to my point, if the founder of the faith you follow based their teachings on love, how can you not do the same? Interacting with those of different faiths should we not all come with a spirit of compassion, acceptance and understanding? Those are all aspects of love. The individuals mentioned above were strong in their beliefs and certainly strong in their love. When you are filled with faith, hope and love you do not judge another. You do not say evil words towards another because they are following a different path of love than you.
Let us all belong to the religion of love no matter what organized faith we may follow.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM NOT GETTING A TATTOO

Let me begin this by saying I have nothing against tattoos. In fact, this is a picture of my beautiful Margie’s arms, tattoos on both. I admire people who have the bravery to get a tattoo. The reason I have never gotten a tattoo is that I cannot think of many things I like on a consistent basis. Even people I admire have changed over the years. My favorite band is Ratt, but as of late they have become the most dysfunctional drama-filled mess. I used to be a big fan of Lance Armstrong. I admired how he overcame his cancer and went on to win several bike races. I could have gotten a tattoo of him. Then he came out and admitted he cheated and used performance enhancing drugs.

This got me thinking about what I do for happiness in my life. If you place your happiness in the hands of other people, no matter how wonderful they may be, they will at some point let you down. People are different and that is just how the world goes. Same with attaching your happiness to material things. Money can come and go. A hurricane can come and blow down your house you invested years and quite a bit a money on. As the saying goes don’t put the key to your happiness in somebody else’s pocket.

What, then do we have our happiness depend on? Make it internal. Things like our Faith, our sense of hope and those things that are eternal. In the above example, my lovely lady wanted to place her love for both singing and her mother on her arms. Those are things that come from inside her. It would do us a great service to spend some time on compiling a list of things that bring us joy that come from inside. Those are the things we should put our focus on. If we want true joy in our lives we should enjoy all of what life has to offer, but place our focus on what comes from the inside.

ANOTHER WORD FOR FAITH

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Above is a picture of my beautiful Margie and I at the gym after a good workout. Not so glamorous, but it serves the point we are talking about here quite well. One of the most important words in both personal development as well as in spiritual development is faith. This can be a difficult concept for some to describe. To be quite general faith is a belief that everything is going to turn out for the best. Those with a good amount of faith tend to lead a more positive life. Faith can certainly serve us in the darkest of times.
What about living in faith? How can we live a life that demonstrates that we have a good deal of faith? This can be even trickier than defining exactly what faith is to us. Just so we are all on the same page, I am going to being referring to a more secular type of faith, but the principles apply equally to both.
Faith can be a great motivating tool if we use it to better our lives. It is with this thought in mind I would like to explore another word for faith. If we really understand what I am going to say next, I believe it will not only make our definition of faith a little clearer, but help us discover new ways to live a life of faith.
Earl Nightingale is one of my favorite authors and philosophers. If you do not know who he is yet, I would recommend looking him up and listening to his work The Strangest Secret. Earl once said “Persistence is another word for faith. If you didn’t have faith, you wouldn’t persist.” If you think about it, that is very true. Faith motivates us to keep going when times are tough, knowing there is a greater plan and that things will eventually work out. If we have faith in humanity, we can keep from getting jaded when we read stories in the news of the terrible things people can do to one another, or when we experience some of those things ourselves. To the above example of putting yourself through a workout on the faith that eventually you will be fit and healthy.
Faith is also being persistent when things seem to be going against you. You have faith in your friend and then they let you down. Having faith that your friend is a good person allows you to trust them again and be forgiving. After all, haven’t we let people down before? Even the example of being healthy. Les Brown, another personal favorite author and speaker, once said, “You have to have faith in your plan. I have lost 20 pounds…several times.” In addition to being able to relate to that statement, it serves to remind us of the importance of having faith in ourselves. By doing so, we can persist in pursuing our goals.
Live a life of faith. Be persistent in your efforts for good. Be forgiving and compassionate towards others. Most importantly, use those two statements on the most important person in your life, you. Have faith in yourself. When you make a mistake or let yourself down, know that you will do good once again. You may have gotten off track, but as long as you know what the track is, you can get back on again. By doing so you are demonstrating your faith.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEKEND


When I look at this picture one word comes to mind – FAITH. The essence of faith to me is a kind of positive perseverance. It is not for the weak and takes a great deal of strength. How, in the middle of the storm, can we have faith the sun will shine once again? The answer is surprisingly simple, because it always does. The seasons of life, much like the seasons of weather always repeat themselves.
When we are experiencing a winter period in our lives it can be hard to hold tight knowing eventually spring will come. In the depths of winter it can seem that spring may never arrive. As I write this the temperature is well below the freezing mark and there is plenty of snow. As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder this can seem like a very dark time indeed. I have been on this wonderful planet long enough to know that eventually the temperature will rise and the snow will melt. Birds will return to sing once again and the trees will regain their leaves. Feeling this in your heart and knowing it emotionally can be a difficult thing to do.
This very same scenario is the same when it comes to dark and cold periods of our lives. It may seem things will never turn around and it will be winter forever. Of course we may very well know in our heads that is not so, but if we do not feel it in our hearts it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
So, how to beat these feelings, keep our faith and remain positive while waiting for things to turn around? That is the million-dollar question. There are many different things we can do to help ourselves in this arena. I have learned many of them while doing my best to deal with my S.A.D., but they work for increasing the strength of your faith as well. I suggest doing as many of these as you can. It never hurts to have another option when it comes to increasing your faith.
Surround yourself with pictures of both things that inspire you (for example I have plenty of tropical pictures everywhere during the winter) as well as pictures of your accomplishments. Knowing you overcame challenges in the past can be just the boost you need to do it in the present.

I also recommend creating a ‘Happy Playlist’ on your MP3 or even on your cell phone. When you start to feel your faith slip and you begin to wonder if the darkness will ever end, a push of the button can begin to change your state and turn things around. Also keep a great selection of inspirational material at hand. This can range from the Bible, to your favorite joke book. You can have your favorite movie that inspires you or a book of inspirational poetry. Perhaps a picture with an inspirational saying on it. Don’t have one? Take some time to shop for one. Can’t afford it? Perhaps creating one of your own could be the answer.

Speaking of creating, my last suggestion is a vision board. This is simply a board of any nature filled with pictures of both your goals you are working towards, and accomplishments you have achieved. The more you can put yourself into it, the better. Get it that dream car and go for a test drive. Photoshop yourself onto that perfect beach or in the perfect house.
Try all of these and more! If you have any other tools you use to keep a positive attitude while waiting for the dark times in life to pass please share them with us.

YOU TOO CAN SEE THE GOOD!

Today’s post is a guest post brought to us kindly from Kathy via her blog See the Good. there will be a link at the end of this post for you to check out more of Kathy’s wonderful blog. It not only helps us shift the focus to one of positivity, but gives us tools and ideas to do so.

A little more about today’s post. Kathy’s words on her personal definition of faith and how it helped her deal with the loss of a loved one close to the holidays is a message I feel could benefit a lot of us this time of the year. I encourage you to learn a little bit more about the author, enjoy the post and then do what I do, check out See the Good for your daily dose of inspiration.

Kathy is a wife, a mother, a friend and a writer. Her interests range from scuba diving and riding motorcycles to staying home with a good book or movie. She also enjoys the rejuvenating effect of time spent in nature with her husband. Writing has always been a passion of hers throughout her careers as a landscape designer, sales or as a laborer. Understanding the power of words to hurt or heal, Kathy is the first to put them into a positive healthy use with the aid of family and friends.

The holiday season seems to be a signal to me that after all of the celebrating there is an end coming. In most cases, it is the end of a year which is followed by an opportunity for a new beginning if we choose to take it. New Year’s resolutions can range from being more fiscally responsible, to personal health goals or working to become more mindful of the world around us. But each person must make the choice to set a goal for the new year and then invest the effort in reaching it. Sadly, many of these goals fall from our minds in just a week or two.

This time of year always makes me think of days gone by and loved ones who I miss a great deal. And it also makes me think about the future, both theirs and mine. I have lost a few very special people close to the holidays, and that always pulls my thoughts to their transition. The folks we lost close to the holidays have been mercifully taken to relieve them of their pain, and the burden that their earthly body had become. I try to look deep into my heart and feel enough joy for them that it blocks out my own selfish pain and sorrow.

During these moments I also begin to evaluate my own beliefs and faith. I say faith because I don’t have another word for it, but many would accuse me of stealing a word that they hold reverent and using it in a blasphemous manner. They look at me and say that I have no right to the term, or any right to expect mercy when my journey comes to an end. I have not lived the life of a good Christian, nor should I expect to be welcomed as if I were one.

And for many years I believed them. I even worked to come to terms with my fate as they described it. I had religion forced on me as a child, teen and even young adult and I just never fit into the mold. I will admit to, and even own, my rebellious nature, my incessant need to ask why and my stubborn nature which were all seen as issues by the church. The older I got, the more clearly I understood that these were a part of who I am and not parts that I was willing to give up to conform to someone else’s description of a good Christian.

But somewhere along the way, I also began to understand that nothing in this world is a one size fits all equation. We are all unique, and we were meant to be that way. If some higher power wanted a flock of replications, then that is what we would all be. But we are not. Now my reflections were focusing more on what I was doing and not what I was not doing. I did believe in some higher being and in heaven. I pictured each of my loved ones in that setting. They were no longer in pain or ill. They were happy, healthy and whole again. I can’t think of any other term for what I pictured, other than heaven.

So as it turned out, I did believe, just in my own way. For many years, I kept this revelation to myself, because a small part of me still thought that I might be doing things all wrong. And that in the end, I would not be going where I thought I was. After my father passed, I had a long talk with my aunt. She is an amazing lady, who can be quite the fireball. But she has a heart of gold, and she always call it like she sees it. Rosemary was never one to be the pushy religious type, and I never recall hearing of her attending church regularly, so I felt we could be kindred spirits in a way.

She told me that she knew exactly where my Dad was, and it was heaven for sure. She knew this because she has a personal relationship with the man upstairs. I must have been very quiet at that point because she paused a moment, and then went on to tell me that she didn’t need any intermediary and neither did I. A church was fine for some people but others could choose to speak directly, and the man upstairs would still hear us. I felt such relief having someone whom I respected and loved so much, finally affirming that I did have faith. And that I was doing it right, or at least right for me.

Many years later another very special person shared her thoughts with me and helped me define what I have, even more clearly. Janet said that in her heart she felt that religion was more oriented to a church or formal relationship with a higher power, while spirituality was a more individual relationship. That thought just seemed to resonate within my heart and soul. And between these two ladies, I have found the comfort and security of knowing where I will be when I find the end of my journey here on earth.

I believe that for me, my faith is a very personal thing. It is a relationship with a higher being that is mine, and mine alone. Because that is what works for me. I have no right to judge anyone else’s relationship, faith, beliefs or spirituality, just as I have no right to judge any of their other feelings or beliefs. For that reason, I very, very rarely will speak of God or how any person should find or relate to God or religion. But every once in a while, I remember how two special people showed me that I should trust my feelings and my own beliefs. And that my feelings are right, because they work for me. And in their honor, I share my story to offer hope, relief, and understanding to others out there who might be wondering if they have made a big mistake. My advice is simple… it is never a mistake to follow your heart. You were created to be a completely unique individual, and that is what makes you special and irreplaceable. Follow your heart, use your gifts and find peace in knowing that they will take you where you are meant to go. You are never alone, you have not been forgotten and your thoughts and prayers will be heard.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE OF SEE THE GOOD

LEARN ENOUGH TO UNLEARN

Continuing on our theme of looking at the world in an entirely different way, I present to you the quote in the picture above. To be educated just enough to believe what they have been taught but not enough to question it. I suggest you read that line a few times and really let it soak in. Most of what we have been taught has come from those who were around us when we were growing up. This group could include our family, friends, teachers and others. Let me ask you this question. As well meaning as these folks were in teaching us, could it be that perhaps they had a certain prejudice? Maybe they were just passing down beliefs they had been taught unquestioned? Do you think what may have been correct say 50 years ago, may not be correct anymore? Cigarettes and soda used to be considered ‘health tonics’ in the not so distant past.

Doing things because “That’s the way they have always been done” makes as much sense as riding a horse to work instead of your car.

I suggest questioning a lot of what you believe. That is not to say it is incorrect. Quite to the contrary. Questioning what you believe can lead to a greater understanding and strengthen your faith in it. I turn to the Dalai Lama for an example. One of the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, he could have easily just followed tradition and did things the way they had been done for centuries. Instead, he has challenged convention and opened up dialogue with other faiths. He also has questioned his own faith. Instead of accepting the power of his form of meditation, he encouraged scientific study of it. He challenged neuroscientist Dr. Richie Davidson to switch his focus of study from anxiety, depression and fear to study qualities like kindness, compassion and equanimity. He even gave permission to have Buddhist monks studied while they meditated. What he discovered only strengthened his faith.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to take a look inside at some of our long-held beliefs and ask why it is we believe them. Perhaps they could use a little tweaking? Perhaps they are totally invalid in light of our own personal experiences. Perhaps, like in the case of the Dalai Lama, by questioning them we will gain an even deeper understanding and appreciation of them.

WORSHIP WITH YOUR FRIENDS

Last week we looked at different places that serve as great locations to meet new friends. That was scheduled to be a one week theme, but due to all of the wonderful feedback and suggestions I received we are going to highlight a few more this week as well. I am grateful for each of you who shared with me your favorite places to meet new friends. Keep them coming for the benefit of all our readers.

Today’s post is about houses of worship. As I write this, Hanukkah is beginning. When I shared this idea with people around me, they seemed to fall on two extreme sides of the equation. Some would say that is the only place to meet true genuine friends. Others would say the place is full of people who are judgmental and condescending to different beliefs. I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think houses of worship are a great place to meet friends. Why? What about the two extreme arguments? Let us take a look at each one.

First, the fact that houses of worship are the only place to meet true friends. I find this argument to be ridiculous for several reasons. Even in the same faith there are many different houses of worship and you can run into fellow believers at many different locations. Personally, I have met some of the most spiritual people in some of the most unique places. Whether they were there to enlighten others or just enjoying their lives, it was only after getting to know them that I learned their spirituality. Great people of faith can be found anywhere.

How about the cynics view that everyone there is judgmental and condescending? Sadly, this is where a few bad apples tend to spoil the whole bunch. I find there are people like that in every faith and in every house of worship. In fact, there are people like that almost everywhere. Yet, houses of worship are a great place to meet people devoted to not only their faith, but their love for their fellow humans. Just like anywhere else, it is a matter of finding those that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Houses of worship can be a great place to find those who share the same values as we do and care about others. Whether your faith is Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion, you can find caring devoted people who love and accept others, even if their faith is different. If you can’t find such a person, be one and make as many friends as you can to be a shinning example.

I highly suggest using your place of worship as a place to make new friends. Attend a social function outside of the regular service. Volunteer for projects that not only promote your faith but help the community. You will not only make great friends within your faith, but within your community.

 

SEE THE GOOD!

Look at the Brightside! How many times in our life are we told that? Especially in dark times. I do not know about you, but when that is the lone piece of advice someone gives me when I am feel down I feel like pushing them down. Not exactly, but it is tough to hear and even tougher to do on a lot of occasions. We are often left saying, or at least thinking, “Don’t tell me to look at the Brightside when my life is full of darkness. Show me how to see the good!”

Seeing the good in life is made infinitely more difficult if you subject yourself to mainstream media. Nightly news, online sights, radio and newspapers all seem to fight over telling you the most dramatic and negative stories about the world around you. Fear sells, tragedy sells, and to some degree conflict and hate sell. Throw in an election like the one we have coming up here in the United States and all of that is only magnified.

What is needed in the world today are tools that will show us how to focus on what is right in the world in the face of conflict. Someplace that will not only shine a light on great examples of the positive aspects of life, but help us to find even more examples on our own. Readers of Secret2anamazinglife.com know that we are committed to bring you all of the latest tools that can help you from across the globe.

Enter the website See the Good You will find the link at the end of this post. I encourage you to add this to your list of daily reading. On this site you will find not only stories of positive inspiration, which we could all use more of in our lives, but tools to discover the joy and gratitude in your own life as well. I know I will be reading more from this site during the holidays and in the coming New Year. I encourage you to do the same!

CLICK HERE TO VIEW SEE THE GOOD

WORRY ABOUT THE ROOT AND NOT THE FRUIT

On a site dedicated to living a positive rewarding life, it is sad we must address issues like the shooting that happened at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Living a rewarding life does not mean blinding ourselves to the harsh realities of the world around us. It means finding constructive ways to address and positively affect that world. It is easy to grow weary with each new report of these crimes of hate. It is easy to believe that things will keep getting worse.

To me, it creates a sense of urgency. Time to take actions to bring the people of the world together is more important than it ever has been. With people in places of power that propagate hate and division, it is up to all of us to not only make sure we put people in power who have an agenda of peace and understanding, but live by such a creed ourselves. It may seem like an individual person has very little power in changing the world, but that could not be further from the truth. It is only through individual change that we will bring about global change.

There is a lot of debate when it comes to gun control, placing armed guards in our schools and places of worship. There are also studies on the effect video games and the media that may desensitize us to violence. What are the answers from a legal and political standpoint I do not confess to know. What I do know is that is treating the fruit. What we as spiritual warriors need to do is treat the root. What causes this behavior in the first place. That can range from the disintegration of families, the forums we give those who preach hate, continuing hateful beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation, and the way we carry ourselves. No matter who you are, no matter what gender, what belief, what nationality or any other category you belong to, there is someone who harbors feelings of hate towards you. They only way to prove those individuals wrong, and to bring a better sense of understanding is to be a positive example of the groups we belong to. It is very hard to maintain of feeling of hate for any group, when every person belonging to that group is a positive example.

Another great thing that we as individuals can do to create global change is to change focus. Begin to talk about and promote positives, especially in those that are different from us. In the wake of the Tree of Life shooting, I have seen pictures of many interfaith vigils. This is great and should be spoken of with equal measure to that of the violence. It does bring to mind why there are not more interfaith activities before tragedy strikes. It is up to those as religious leaders to make that happen, but also to us as individuals. What is to stop a group of people from different faiths from coming together to pray, meditate or just to socialize and better understand each other? There is nothing. It can be extremely difficult for some to cultivate a sense of understanding for those who believe different from us. That in the end is what will change the world.

I encourage all of us to reach out to others and begin to speak peace and togetherness starting today. Focus on all the joy and greatness we share on this planet. If you disagree with someone, do so with tact and compassion. We are the peacemakers and the agents of change. It is time to put into practice the power we have.