Monday, March 23, 2009Stillness
I have been very busy and have missed a couple posts recently. I have been preparing for the health class and my lecturette on the stress response and the cascade of hormones that results from it. So when Marjorie pointed out this quote is was particularly apropos.
As you take each situation as it comes, one at a time, it's very easy. As soon as you feel overwhelmed, or reactive, relax, rest, and gently pull your energy field back in, strengthening it by being still. Maybe you maintain your inner stillness for a moment, or a day, or a month. You simply maintain your equilibrium, looking at the situation, thinking, "Why does it think it can outlast me? While it is in a state of change, I can be in a state of spiritual holding and fulfillment and outlast the change."
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, with Paul Kaye)
SInce we have been speaking about, and will continue to speak about, trust and values, I also found this quote to be relevant. I have often said that the world works as well as it does because of the many silent saints that surround us and go about their lives without any thought of compensation or recognition for what they do.
The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Monday, January 12, 2009My Favorite Tool
Here is a Twitter (via Twitterrific) received from my wife Shelley today:
Picked up scissors in pencil cup on desk and lopped off ponytail. Salon appt. over!
Yup, in our home we take frugality and the Bohemian lifestyle really seriously.
The following quote from J-R knocked my socks off when I first saw it:
Creative imagination is not wishful thinking. It is bringing the divine into action. It is bringing the Spirit into the mind, into the emotions, into the physical body, and into the physical world to manifest it.
It keyed me into the importance of the imagination, something I had relegated in the past to the lower levels of consciousness. It really helped me to use my awareness, and the way I move through life, in more creative ways.
And of course it is entirely relevant to the process of seeding as we imagine/envision the seeding scenario, and ourselves in it.
From the I don’t Really Need to Know This But It Is Interesting Dept. (courtesy of veryshortlist.com):
South Dakotans have little use for yoga instructors, Floridians love Cuban food and drum circles, and Californians have the cleanest teeth. That’s according to StateStats — a search engine that shows us who’s been Googling what, from where, across the country.
The site lists the most popular search queries in every state and links them with data (on obesity, income levels, violent crime, etc.) provided by the U.S. Census Bureau: Alaska, which tops Google searches for “guns,” comes in second for suicide; Hawaiians, who devote large chunks of time to “tofu,” have the nation’s highest life expectancy (and an inordinate interest in “breast implants”). Maine is tops in searches for “chocolate labs.” West Virginia, “meth labs.” And Wyoming residents, who lead the nation in “alcoholism” searches, might want to partner up with the New Yorkers who pushed their state to the head of the “hangover remedies” list.
Monday, January 5, 2009True Luxury
How do you know your tithing works? By the results that it’s bearing. And what if it doesn’t bear the results? You didn’t do it out of your heart. God says that He loves a joyful giver. You forgot to smile as you wrote the check. You forgot to say, “Thank you, Lord, and there’s more coming. And thanks for the health and thanks for this and this and this.”
The thankfulness is like a litany, almost like chanting the spiritual exercise mantra. It will start to produce changes in us that are remarkable. And often it also produces changes in other people around us that are equally as remarkable, because with those we love and care for, we share the goodness and the bounty of our spirit.
From God Is Your Partner by John-Roger, DSS
I took a "vacation" today to complete my year end finances, bring our budget up to date, and prepare for filing year end tax returns. I keep everything on Quicken so it was all organized and I could produce a financial statement virtually with a click.
There were some surprises, our grocery bills were down over last year-I think because we did less in house entertaining. Our meals out were a lot of money despite the fact we don't go to restaurants and none of the bills were over $50--except Thanksgiving at Prana! This proves that small amounts on a regular basis really add up.
Overall, things were tighter than I thought and I therefore wondered why I had felt so abundant lately. After chatting with Shelley the key was that we are living the life we want to live. And while we don't buy luxuries and lead a simple, frugal lifestyle, we do buy what is essential to us--food, books, art supplies.
Our saying/focus/affirmation for the year is: "What we need comes forward and we give of the overflow." I like it because it reflects our values--our trust in God and our love of giving.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008Feeling Ordinary
You don't have to pretend to be anything. You can just be ordinary. You can just breathe your air in and breath your air out.
You don't have to dramatize. Just be ordinary. That is the prior condition to the energy that you have conditioned. That's spiritual. YOU can't do it. IT does it.
The reason you can't do it is because as soon as you put your mind to it, you condition the energy, and then you can't have it. And as soon as you feel it, you've conditioned the energy, and you can't have it.
So you say, "Well, I might just as well let go and let God." That's right. There's not another way you can get it.
(From The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
For some reason, this whole financial meltdown business and the change in the mood of the country has been making me feel very ordinary. It’s nice to know, from and MSIA perpsective, that it’s a good thing. It’s a wonderful time to re-set, and renew the values I live by, to take stock of the things that are really meaningful to me, and make sure I do what is most important. And to look carefully and see if the way I spend my money reflects those values.
I am going to begin a series of posts re-looking at our finances and their relationship to our values. Of course the first step is knowing what our values actually are. For example, one of my core values is simplicity. Perhaps you can start to write down what yours are. Start with your five main ones, and feel free to share.
(The dictionary defines values as: One’s judgment of what is important in life. The principles a person lives by.)
Frugal Tip of the Day:
Check the air filter in your car
I didn’t even know I had one, and when my mechanic, Jim Matson, said I needed it changed, I just shrugged and put it off. A month later I read in the Wall St Journal that a dirty filter substantially affects a cars mileage--by as much as 10% I checked and sure enough my mileage was lower by 10%. I drove over to Jim’s immediately to get it changed.
Smile/Zen Moment of the Day:
Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?
(From Zen Judaism by David M. Bader)
This is a big one. Financial Comment of the Day:
In the last forty years, as relative wealth and freedom have improved, the birth rate has declined. The situation where fewer numbers of working people have to pay the pensions of increasingly large numbers of retirees is simply untenable. However politically unpalatable it is for governments to deal with, there is simply no way future pension liabilities can be paid for under the current system. This probably means that some mix of measures such as smaller pensions, higher taxes, later retirement ages and greater immigration will have to be implemented, and adhered to, in order to deal with this issue.
--David Fuller in Fuller Money
Monday, October 27, 2008Measuring Our Wealth
Tithing is a way of saying, “God, pour forth whatever blessing You have for me.” God is health, or lack of disease. God is always at ease, always present, always now, and is constantly creating and expanding.
(From: God Is Your Partner by John-Roger, DSS)
I love to measure things. My breakfast alone consists of about a dozen carefully measured ingredients. So it’s natural that I would want to find a measure for wealth. If I look to dollars to measure my wealth, I might as well pack up my marbles and go home now—the volume just isn’t there at this point in my life.
Still, I feel extremely abundant and wealthy. So how do I measure it? Happiness is difficult to measure and seems to fluctuate too wildly to be reliable. But one thing is a constant in my life and it is what I use to measure my wealth--my blessings. I can truly count my blessings, and when I do I am wealthy beyond measure.
Money has its place in our world and must be handled responsibly, but it is not something I look to for wealth. Perhaps you can start to count your blessings, even write them down and see how wealthy you are. It also immediately puts the times we are living into the correct perspective.
The true harvest of my life is intangible -
a little star dust caught,
a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.
--Henry David Thoreau (Thanks to Lisa Boone’s Heart-thoughts for this one)
And in that vein here is the Smile/Zen Moment of the Day:
I shall never forget the picture of him saying his prayers on a bare ledge just beyond the cabin, looking toward the west. He went out each evening alone after supper, and I can see his black silhouette kneeling there. If ever a man exuded a sense of wholeness, it was he. He knelt for a long time, part of the North he had become, of many expeditions by canoe, snowshoe, and dog team, of the bitter cold and near starvation, but also of the serenity that comes when one knows he has given all and asked for nothing.
Serenity comes from wholeness, and one finds it in strange places. Once in a large city, while I was riding a subway, a woman took a seat just opposite mine. She was neither young nor old, but for some reason the profile of her face struck me, and it was not until she turned and smiled briefly that I saw the serenity in her eyes. I wanted to talk to her but did not dare, and although this happened many years ago, I have never forgotten the look on her countenance. She got off shortly and I watched her go with regret, but her serenity left itself with me. What gave her a sense of peace and wholeness I shall never know.
Sigurd. F. Olson from Reflections from The North Country
Still no one knows. Financial Quote of the Day from Floyd Norris, the chief financial correspondent of The New York Times. And if he doesn’t know....
Now we have hedge funds, which have accumulated, without regulation or disclosure to anyone, huge positions with high leverage. The rumors say they are being forced to dump, further depressing prices. Are the rumors true? Who knows? How much more selling do they have to make? Another good question.
Monday, October 6, 2008The Simple Act of Kindness
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. -- Henry James
There is a lot to talk about this week as, through these posts, I attempt to make sense of the recent financial events and their place in history. However, before we go there, I thought a change of pace was in order for today. The following story is from www.helpothers.org. The story is amazingly simple, yet that’s what gives it its power. It is good for us not to lose track of the simple things we can do as human beings, that can transform the lives of others, often without us knowing.
“You probably don’t remember me,” she began, “but I have come back to file for Graduation with Distinction.” And then she pulled out a piece of paper from her wallet and gave it to me to read. It was my handwriting, but I didn’t remember writing it.
As the Assistant Director of the Honors Programs at the university, one of my jobs was to review student transcripts to make sure they met requirements for continuing in Honors. It was not uncommon for freshmen to have a rough start and be notified that they could no longer continue in Honors after their first semester. Sometimes second trimester report cards would be sent to us anyway, even though students were no longer in the program.
The note she handed me read, “Congratulations on your terrific second semester. While I know you may have been disappointed from your fall grades, you should feel wonderfully proud of how you have turned your effort around. That is an impressive achievement! Best of luck in keeping up the good work, and remember with a 3.5 average (which you can do) by your last semester, you qualify for Graduation with Distinction.”
I didn’t remember sending the note, handwritten (and not very neatly) on the bottom of her second semester transcript.
The student went on and said, “You can’t know what this meant to me. I have carried it in my wallet for three years and pulled it out anytime I didn't want to do my work. For three years I have been planning on walking into your office and giving you this note and this transcript." She handed me her latest transcript, 3.502. "I would like the paperwork for graduation with Distinction."
I was awed and humbled. She cried and I wanted to. Writing the note seemed like nothing to me, but had meant so much to her. I really had no idea my actions had such meaning.
I have enjoyed this memory for many years -- with gratitude for such an act of kindness. The kindness of course was not mine in writing the note (I only wish I had written more notes to more students), but her kindness in wanting me to know that what I did had mattered.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008The Sacred in the Ordinary
Let’s take a break from the world of money for a post or two and attune ourselves to more important things. After all this blog is about the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity.
I find there are times where a situation calls for patience and when the best course is to stand back and wait, and other times when I need to put on the armor of the spiritual warrior and stand forward. I like this quote from Carlos Casteneda:
The recommendation for warriors is not to have any material things on which to focus their power, but to focus it on the spirit, on the true flight into the unknown, not on trivialities.
Everyone who wants to follow the warrior’s path has to rid himself of the compulsion to possess and hold onto things.
We already discussed how the best antidote for the turbulent times we are experiencing is gratitude. I also mentioned the idea of slowing down the other day.
We do not live merely to "do something" –- no matter what. We do not live more fully merely by doing more, seeing more, tasting more, and experiencing more than we ever have before. On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less than usual.
Also very helpful to me is the idea of discovering the sacred in the ordinary, in the everyday. It can even be found in even in the most horrendous of circumstances, so surely we can find it in our blessed lives.
"In my youth," Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote of his childhood in Warsaw, "there was one thing we did not have to look for, and that was exaltation. Every moment is great, we were taught, every moment is unique." Heschel was renowned for his unflagging sense of wonder.
Rabbi Shapira, the Warsaw Ghetto's Hasidic rabbi, preached "sensitization to holiness," a process of discovering the holiness within oneself and the natural world. This included mindfull attending to everyday life. He gathered this teaching "from the world as a whole, from the chirping of the birds, the mooing of the cows, from the voices and tumult of human beings; from all these one hears the voice of God..." It is only through wonder and transcendence, the ghetto rabbi taught, that one could combat the psychic disintegration of everyday life. "To project the supernatural powers of kindness into the realm of speech, so that they may take on concrete, specific form."
Janusz Korczak didn't relate sinister ghetto events in his writings, for example the deportations to the death camps. Instead of all the clangor and mayhem on that day, we wrote only of, "the marvelous big moon" shining above the destitute in that unfortunate quarter. He taught the children the mindfull salve of mindfull chores, like the slow, attentive picking up of bowls, spoons, and plates after a meal. "When I collect the dishes myself, I can see the cracked plates, the bent spoons, the scratches on the bowls.."
The legend says that the 36 Just Men, whose pure souls make possible the world's salvation, are ordinary people, not flawless or magical, and that most of them remain unrecognized throughout their lives, while they choose to perpetuate goodness, even in the midst of inferno.
--Diane Ackerman (writing in the Shambhala Sun)
Saturday, September 20, 2008Smelling the Roses
As the country’s money madness continues around us and trillions of dollars are spent propping up financial institutions, with an intensity that has never been seen in either health or education, I have mentioned gratitude as an effective antidote. Another antidote I have found effective is the not so simple act, in our culture at least, of slowing down.
Here are a couple of quotes to inspire you on your Sunday to slow down and take in the beautiful gift of life, in and around us, that we gave been given.
A thousand years ago when they built the gardens of Kyoto, the stones were set in the streams askew. Whoever went quickly would fall in. When we slow, the garden can choose what we notice. Can change our heart.
"We believe that we can add meaning to life by making things go faster. We have an idea that life is short--and that we must go fast to fit everything in. But life is long. The problem is that we don't know how to spend our time wisely. And so we burn it.
"Fast food is not our enemy. We can all eat as we want. If we have an enemy, it is the abnormal rhythms in which we are living our lives.
"To be slow means that you govern the rhythms of your life. You are in control of deciding how fast you have to go. Today, you might want to go fast, so you do. Tomorrow, however, you might want to go slow, so you can. That is the difference.
"It is useless to force the rhythms of life. If I live with the anxiety to go fast, I will not live well. My addiction to speed will make me sick. The art of living is about learning how to give time to each and every thing. If I have sacrificed my life to speed, then that is impossible.
"Ultimately, 'slow' means to take the time to reflect. It means to take the time to think. With calm, you arrive everywhere."
Carlo Petrini -- Founder "Slow Food"
Sunday, August 17, 2008The Great Bohemian (part two)
Simplify your life. You do not need all the clutter you are holding on to. Get rid of it now because it is stealing your energy.
The clutter in your life takes energy to maintain. Start with the smallest things. Clear away a little and you’ll be amazed at the vast amounts of energy it releases inside of you.
Keep around you only the things that give you energy.
John-Roger, DSS from Spiritual Warrior
Back to Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety:
In July 1845, one of the most renowned bohemians of nineteenth century America, Henry David Thoreau, moved into a log cabin he had built with his own hands on the north shore of Walden Pond, near the town of Concord, Massachusetts. His goal was to see if he could lead an outwardly plain but inwardly rich existence and in the process demonstrate that it was possible to combine a life of material scarcity with psychological fulfillment. Proving how cheaply one could subsist once one had ceased to worry about impressing others, Thoreau gave his readers a breakdown of the minimal costs he had incurred in building his cabin, in all $28.12.
“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only dispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind,” wrote Thoreau, adding, in an attempt to upset his society’s connection between owning things and being honorable, “Man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can do without.”
Thoreau tried to reconfigure our sense of what having little money could indicate about a person. It was not, as the bourgeois perspective tended subtly to suggest, always a sign of being a loser at the game of life. Having little money might simply mean that one had opted to focus one’s energies on activities other than business, growing rich in things other than cash in the process. Instead of using the word poverty to describe his condition, Thoreau preferred the word simplicity—this, he felt, conveyed a consciously chosen rather than an imposed material situation, a simplicity which, he reminded the merchants of Boston, people no less noble than the Chinese, Hindu, Persian, and Greek philosophers’ had once willingly practiced. As he put it “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
Leaving Thoreau, Alain de Botton goes on to say:
“An insight of bohemians has been that our ability to maintain confidence in a way of life at odds with the mainstream culture greatly depends on the value system operating in our immediate environment, on the kind of people we mix with socially, and on what we read and listen to.
“They have recognized that our peace of mind can only be too easily shattered, and our commitments challenged, by a few minutes of conversation with an acquaintance who feels, even if he or she does not say, that money and a public profile are ultimately worthy of great respect. Or, by reading a magazine which, by reporting only on the feats of monied heroes, insiduously undermines the worth of any alternative ambitions. Bohemians have in consequence tended to display particular care when choosing with whom to spend their time with.”
Well, I’d like you to share your thoughts on this. Of course, one does not need to embrace bohemian values to simplify our lives, even if that simplicity is about the way we use our time and energy. Nevertheless, in pursuing the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity it is important to note that simplicity may result in “more” not “less.”
Saturday, August 16, 2008The Great Bohemian (part one)
If you really examine your life you’ll probably find out that you don’t need about 95% of what you have. John-Roger, DSS
"Impeccability, as I have told you so many times, is not morality," he said. "It only resembles morality. Impeccability is simply the best use of our energy level. Naturally, it calls for frugality, thoughtfulness, simplicity, innocence; and above all, it calls for lack of self-reflection. All this makes it sound like a manual for monastic life, but it isn't. Don Juan to Carlos Casteneda
It could be that I have never subscribed to materialistic values for the simple reason that I have not had the resources to pursue them. Coming from a working class family, our richness was found in conversation and in a loving environment. And there was always food on the table despite a scarcity of many other possessions.
It is therefore not surprising then that I chose a vow of poverty in order to work for MSIA in the seventies, and subsequently, upon marriage, a very modest salary. A case could be made for my not changing my beliefs, and being rather limited in my outlook, and while that is no doubt true, I did enjoy the values I was raised with and saw no reason to discard them. In fact, I sought to enhance them.
With this attitude, and having found myself out of kilter with mainstream America, and mainstream MSIA for that matter, I chose to opt out and live a life more akin to a bohemian, than the typical Los Angeleno. Consequently, wife number two is an artist and a drop out herself and we currently find ourselves living in a warehouse in one of the barrios of Los Angeles, and despite factory and street noise a constant, we are deliriously happy and abundant.
The dictionary defines a bohemian as “one who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or a writer. “ Or, “who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.” Despite all this, I am not the “Great Bohemian” referred to in the subject header of this post. I’ll leave that for Alain de Botton to describe in the following excerpt from his book, Status Anxiety:
“Just as money cannot confer honor in the bohemian value system, neither can possessions. Through bohemian eyes, yachts and mansions are symbols of arrogance and frivolity. Bohemian status is more likely to be earned trough an inspired conversational style or the authorship of an intelligent, heartfelt volume of poetry.”
So who is the great bohemian? I’ll post more about that tomorrow.