Gratitude is a potent force

The power of gratitude never ceases to amaze me. Such a simple act has such a dramatic effect on life.

Being grateful changes our perspective of things. We as people in modern society are taught and learn to focus on the things we dont have in life. If we dont own a home, we may yearn to own one. Once we buy a home, we start dreaming of a bigger one with a pool and a three car garage. If we obtain that, we may start setting our sights on a house higher on a hill with a view or more property. No matter what we have, it never seems to be enough.

One day on vacation sitting by the pool, i was sipping a beer. I rarely drink so sipping a beer feels special and even a bit decadent to me. So there i was, soaking up the sun and sounds enjoying my decadence when a lady in a beautiful big floppy hat sat down beside me. She was holding this beverage in a tall curvy glass. The drink was blue and came with a skewer of fresh fruit. This was a very regal looking drink and my first thought was, “i want one of those”… I didn’t even know what was in it but it was bigger, brighter and shinier then my beer, so i craved one. My first reaction was desire. I was in a place of lacking something that i thought i wanted. Within a moment or two i reminded myself, i dont enjoy sweet drinks. I further reminded myself that i dont enjoy the taste of hard liquor much either. This drink surely had both flavors going on. Suddenly, i was content with my beer again.

Wanting more, bigger, shinier things in life is not wrong. It’s a part of our experience here on earth to dream of things that we want and when we accomplish those things, to dream bigger.

For me, often times the dream of something is more fun than obtaining it. But it is crucial to remember, as we dream for bigger things, to never stop appreciating what we already have. A pace to live, food, clothes,.. are never things that though be taken for granted.

Appreciating all that we have in our lives changes our mindset to “having” rather than “lacking” something. It may sound backwards but feeling like we have plenty in life typically leads to more coming to us easily. If we come from a mindset of lacking something, we are more likely to struggle to obtain more of anything. We tend to manifest what our thoughts reflect. If we feel like we have less, then we will no doubt have less. If we feel like we have a lot in life, then we will attract more.

Gratitude also reminds us to appreciate things in life. I appreciate my very reliable truck. I appreciate people in my life who love and support me. I appreciate a very comfortable home. If we forget to be grateful, we lose appreciation for these things. Like the little child who has a bedroom that is knee deep in toys but is unable to appreciate any of them. Or the child who has one over-loved teddy bear who adores it and cherishes it.

Gratitude suits all demographics in life. Rich, poor, tall, short, healthy, ill… we ALL benefit from being grateful. People around us benefit from us being grateful as well.

Gratitude sets our vibration to a frequency that the universe responds easily to. When we are grateful for our friends, we attract more. When we are grateful for our job, we get promoted. When we are grateful for a great meal, the meal becomes more delicious.

When we forget gratitude, the universe responds to that as well. When we are not grateful for a meal, all food tastes more bland.

Here is a little experiment that i really love: find a pebble or a piece of beach glass or even button from an old shirt. The object itself really does not matter. I call these gratitude stones. Carry the stone in your front pocket every single day for a period of two weeks more. Here is the key to this experiment- every time you reach into your pocket and feel the stone, it will remind you to think of something that you are grateful for in that moment. The stone is a gratitude reminder. It will be really odd at the times you find yourself touching the stone. When i do this, i end up touching my stone dozens of times per day. Sometimes i get a little tired of thinking of things to be grateful for,.. which makes me chuckle because of how silly that is. But this simple act of gratitude will change your vibration in life and you will no doubt notice good things coming to you.

Here is one last gratitude exercise: when you find that something irks you or frustrates you, in that moment where you recognize that you are not happy and not grateful, think of a positive aspect to that moment. If you get stuck in traffic, just consider that it is more time to listen to good music. If this line at the post office is long, think of something that you admire about the person in line ahead of you. You get the picture. Small adjustments in our thinking changes our perception of all things.

We will talk about gratitude more in the future because it is a glorious and enormous subject. But in the meantime, let me leave you with this,.. most of all, be grateful for all of the tiny little moments in life. The smile of a child in the car next to you. A bird on your window sill. A spider lurking in its web. These are each things to cherish in life. It will serve us well to not ignore them.

Suffering- “change your perspective, change your life…”

Why does suffering exist? Why cant life be nothing but shear bliss?

Let’s start with the why does suffering exist question. I touched on my views about this in previous posts but will break it down again here. Suffering exists for the purpose of contrast. Food always tastes better when you are really hungry. You can not appreciate how nice it feels to not have a headache unless you have had a headache before. The loss of a loved one makes us value and appreciate life more. We can not appreciate the warmth of the sun without knowing what it feels like to be cold. Suffering is a part of the human experience. Suffering provides contrast.

If we lived in a utopia where there is no crime, now anger, no hunger, no violence,.. how would we know that we were in bliss? When we experience hate, we are able to learn more easily about love. We learn about who we are as individuals by learning what we are not, or what we do not want to be.

If a guy throws a fit and the local steakhouse because his steak was over cooked and berates the staff loudly as a side effect of his anger, every other person in that restaurant reacts to the mans rage. Nearly all bystanders in that situation would think or say “geez, what an a-hole”. By watching a man display behavior that offends us, we realize that we do not want to be that type of person. Without the contrast of witnessing the jerk with the over cooked steak, we would be less likely to learn to be more loving and tolerant in our own lives.

It is my opinion that we are each extremely evolved beings who choose to live in this human body for no other reason other to have lucid experiences. Good experiences and bad experiences. Esther Hicks refers to this process as “sorting and sifting”. By sorting and sifting through life’s experiences, we learn what we do want by figuring out what we don’t want. If i am tasting different roasts of coffee to figure out what roast i like best, i have to experience them. The first one might be too bitter. The second one might be too weak. The next one might be too nutty. Eventually by sifting through the roasts that we don’t enjoy we find one that we really do enjoy. This is how we learn. We learn through experiences.

All of this data that we gather via experiences helps us evolve as beings. The more each of us evolves, the more we benefit all or the greater good.

So,.. back to question number two. Is it possible to live life here in earth in a stature of shear bliss? I would say, yes,.. it is possible. But it is also EXTREMELY unlikely. The whole purpose of living this human life is to learn love through contrast. Right? Well here is a little secret that many of us have discovered. Our perception is our reality. How we perceive our reality becomes our reality. Let me give an example:

If someone backs into my beloved little pick up truck in the parking lot, there are an infinite ways to perceive this event but here are two scenarios:

A. I can stomp my feet and utter profane words while being frustrated at the time and expense and inconvenience that the accident will cause me. I can foster these unpleasant emotions like anger and greed and fear. All of which will inevitably make my situation worse and more challenging.

Or

B. I can perceive the event from a place of gratitude with thoughts or words like, “I am glad that no one was hurt” or “its just a truck and it can be fixed”. From this perspective this challenging situation can become an opportunity. Repeat- a tragedy can become an opportunity. More positive thoughts start flowing: “i was a little bored of driving my little truck anyhow, and now i get a rental car for a little while while my truck is being repaired” or “hey, there was already an old scratch in the same spot where my truck got hit that will be fixed as part of the process”. This positive perspective will likely begin to ripple. You may happen to meet your new best friend working at the shop or at the rental car agency. A person you may have never met without the accident. As a sign of gratitude for you’re business, the auto shop may shampoo the coffee stain out of your carpet which will later be a pleasant surprise for you.

If we perceive ourselves coming from a place of despair and lacking, we will suffer.

If we perceive ourself in a place of positive thinking, the suffering will evaporate. In that moment, there will be no suffering. In the place where angst is absent due to positive thinking, more great things will go down. Positive thinking is really a Pandora’s box. A really fun adventure.

One last observation about suffering and perception of things. Greed, anger, selfishness, hate, jealousy are all emotions that take a tremendous amount of energy to sustain. Holding these emotions is exhausting in the same way that swimming up stream is exhausting. Holding these fear based emotions will provide very little benefit for a tremendous amount of effort.

Choosing a perception of positive thoughts on the other hand will open the world up to us. We will live easier, sleep better, form great relationships, and experience life with ease. This will feel like floating down stream rather than swimming upstream. With a positive perspective, we can live a life without suffering. The tragedies will still occur, but our perspective Will see these tragedies as opportunities rather than disasters.

I invite you to experiment with this- every time you catch yourself thinking a negative or judge mental thought of you more anyone else, replace it swiftly with a positive thought. Look to the bright side of every situation. In a short time you will see how the world opens up to you. Changing you’re perspective is easy, its free and it will change your life’s in ways you never imagined.

The BIG question

So lets dive right into the big question. Why are we all here in this life on earth? Why does all of this (the universe) exist? What is the meaning of life?

I am actually fairly surprised by how many people avert their attention from this question. It is very difficult to fathom such things, but who does not want to solve the ultimate riddle? Here is my current working theory on things;

I will preface my theory with two caveats. I would like to be clear that i am no more of an expert on the topic than anyone else. I am guy who has studied this riddle for most of my life. That is the sum of my qualifications. The second caveat is that the one thing that i know about comprehending anything, is that it is always detrimental to take firm stances on anything. All things expand and are in flux and a persons theory of anything should be allowed the same fluidity. As i learn and grow, my theory evolves.

So here we go… call it what you will, ALL things derive from one source. That source is pure love. This love is so pure and intense that it is challenging to even imagine. Every being on earth is a fragment of this intense love. Like droplets from the same ocean. As fragments of this love, we are each here with an opportunity to learn and grow. We are each here on earth to expand. Perpetual expansion is a vital component to this system. When we die, we return to our source/love. It’s that sample. Each human is a product of source love, each being exists on behalf of source/love and each human will return to source/love. That is the crux of it all… if i was holding a mic, I would drop it right now for dramatic effect…

Well then,.. if the answer to our existence is THAT simple, why is life’s so darn complicated? Great question, and here is the beauty of it all. Our human existence is noting more than a lifelong academy that provides opportunity for us to grow as beings on behalf of our source or “god” if that term suits you better. Life itself is a university for growth. Life is an opportunity to experience and expand.

If life is really is that simple and that beautiful, why then do horrific things happen in this world? War, rape, school shootings, slavery, violence, corruption, murder, oppression, the list of horrific things in this world is truly endless. Why do these horrific things happen in a world made of pure love? The answer is contrast. Horrific things happen in this world and are a part of this life experience for no reason other than contrast. It is impossible to appreciate the bliss that is warmth unless we have experienced cold first. We can not truly appreciate bliss unless we have experienced pain. The contrast that suffering provides excels our ability to experience bliss, thus accelerating our growth/expansion.

If you place a person in a stark white room with white walls, a white floor, a white ceiling for a period of time, that starkness will be their experience. Growth will be extremely limited in that environment. The human experience will be minimal. No expansion. If you place that same person on a trip around the world, their growth will be dramatic based on the exposure to many things. And if you take that exact same person on a trip that includes climbing Mount Everest and scuba diving to the bottom of the ocean and then to the hottest dessert followed by an excursion to the coldest glacier, that person will grow in a way far more dramatically still.

Humans have a distinct ability to learn most about who we are by learning who we are not. If someone tells me that thew stove is hot and that burns hurt, i will somewhat appreciate their advice. If I accidentally burn myself on the stove and it is painful, there will be no doubt in my mind that i want to avoid that pain in the future. Contrast. Pain and suffering is a contrast that causes us as humans to grow at an accelerated rate that can not be replicated without the pain.

My big brother died at The age of 42. His death was as painful and tragic as just about anything i can imagine. The pain from losing him sparked a spurt of growth in me that continues still nine years later. The tragedy of his death was the catalyst for my own expansion that would never have happened otherwise. As much as i miss my big brother, a am extremely grateful for this experience. From the contrast of the pain of losing him, i have become more able to experience bliss.

This realization inspired a bit of an epiphany for me. There is no evil. I know that’s is a statement that will annoy many folks as much as a getting a wedgie, but hear me out. The loss of my brother caused me great pain. As i processed this pain, my pain evolved into happiness, gratitude, appreciation for life. The pain of such a tragic event is not real. The only thing that makes that pain real is if i perceive it as pain. Our perception of things is what makes them so. If i perceive the loss of my brother as pain and sorrow, then that is what it will be. If I perceive it as beauty and love of a man i adored, then that is what it will be. Pain is nothing more than a perception. Adjusting your perception on anything in life is really that simple. If you dont like the radio station that is playing, turn the dial until you find a station that is one that you prefer.

It really is that simple. All beings are love. Pain and suffering exist only in our minds as a perception to offer us contrast that fosters opportunity for rapid growth. We each have an opportunity in any given moment in life to choose pain or to choose bliss. Happiness is a choice.

Despite your opinion of my theory, i really appreciate you hearing me out.

Me and God part two

So is it feasible for each of us as human beings to have our own interpretation of god? Is it possible that we are each correct in our interpretation of god? Is it acceptable for all of us to be correct in our various interpretations? It seems to me that it would benefit all of us as humans if each of us did develop our own interpretation of god. Assuming that we all agree that the fundamental basis of god or any deity is pure love. Who cares if one person thinks that god is an old guy with a long white beard who rides upon clouds while another person thinks that god is as dark skinned woman and another person thinks that god is a celestial mother who takes shape in nature? It seems to me that applying a limited form for god to exist within might only be beneficial to us as humans. Just as we love it when we think our pets display human qualities, we want our gods to be characters that we can relate to. Reflections of us. Why isn’t the idea that god is simply pure love, the love that all things derive from and all things return to at the end of this human experience enough?

Once again, i think that humans have used metaphors to explain beliefs for as long as humans have communicated. I think these characterized images of god are that too. A metaphor to make it easier to identify with god as a being rather than God as an energy.

Metaphors are a fantastic tool to explain things, especially things as complex as religion. But we must be able to see appreciate the metaphors as stepping stones to a less limited view of reality. Here is an example:

Is the Bible a metaphor or did every single event depicted in the Bible actually occur here on earth? Did Jesus actually live here on earth among us or is he a character utilized to make a point? Did an actual physical being die on that cross on behalf of his beliefs or was it a story to shore up a point?

We humans do love stories. Each and every one of us loves a good movie. We each live a story that’s we have told ourselves. In our minds we each create our character. We develop our character though our clothing and our behaviors and our words. We each portray who we want the world to think we are. There is nothing wrong with this, it is all part of being human.

My point is this,.. and Christians, please to not feel like i am picking on you here,.. but does it REALLY matter if Jesus actually walked on this earth among us or if Jesus is a beautiful glorious metaphor that has impacted the entire globe including the non Christian demographic? Does it make any difference whatsoever if Jesus was once a mortal or if he was always metaphoric? If this does matter, why does it matter? The beautiful lessons depicted in the stories of Jesus remain just as powerful either way. A society has been shaped by Jesus regardless.

What would be the down side if every human had their own interpretation of god or a higher power? If each of us receives the message of love, who cares where or who it came from. We each have our favorite foods and our favorite vacation spots and our favorite colors. Why cant we each create our own version of where our life force emanates from? Some of us may even believe in an amalgam of characters and qualities borrowed from multiple sources or systems of faith. I see this as a positive rather than a negative. Life is better with contrast. I don’t want to live in a world where every other person is having the exact same experience as me. I don’t want to exist on a plane where everyone likes the same food or was raised in the same small town. The variety amongst humans is to be celebrated. Contrast equals life itself.

One last thought here- If there is a god, regardless of his faith or form, do you really think he/she would be hung up on the semantics. Do you think that the great spirit would give a puff how they were characterized in our minds or our books? Do you suppose that Buddha resents being portrayed with a big belly rather than a six pack? Let’s please agree that whatever god is,.. god is an energy far beyond this silly superficial stuff. To be honest, i bet the source of all things gets a kick out of George Burns or Morgan Freeman portraying god just as much as we humans do. The essence of god/great spirit/Buddha/allah/source/divinity…. is what counts. Love is the universal energy that creates all beings. To know love is to know our source.

Me and God

Many folks including myself struggle with a word or words that accurately define the force that is life. Personally, I struggle a bit with the term God because despite the fairly generic nature of the word it does have some very strong connections with certain religions, particularly Christianity. I do not have a problem with Christianity or any other religion, but i do not want to imply that i am a member of any particular denomination.

In my younger decades i took the position that formal religion(s) were inaccurate. I have always resisted rules and that was my excuse for shying from religion. I have matured beyond those ideas. In fact, the opposite is true. ALL religions are correct in their fundamentals. They all preach love and the splendid side effects of love. In my opinion, it would be prudent to leave it at that. Love is always the answer. But as humans, we have a difficult time doing so. We want bells and whistles. If religion was an automobile, we want every possible option available.

The fact is that we as humans prefer to complicate things. We gravitate towards extra bells and whistles. So the fact that love could be the beginning of and the sum of all things seems too easy for most of us. So,.. we heap on to that notion and bury the idea of love under rituals and temples and hierarchy. We build giant churches and symbols of our faith. We created rules to define us. As a young student of many religions, one of my very first observations was that the Christian Ten Commandments were nearly identical to the Buddhist Precepts. It seems that letting love be the answer is not enough for us as beings. We feel the need to prove our faith, which is fine,.. but if each of us becomes our faith (love) we will no doubt lose them urge to prove anything.

Side note: I always struggled with religious texts that defined the rules until, i changed my perception of these texts to think of them as metaphorical stories than rule books.

What i finally realized in my exploration of formal religions was that all faiths are correct but at the same time all are limiting. In my opinion, formal religions are like the school system that teaches us the fundamentals. But once we graduate from the basics, formal religion leaves us without an essential component. Experience. Reading books and listening to teachers and stories about our faith are all great tools to learn. But just as with the school system, there is no substitute for experience. Life itself offers these experiences. So i concluded that religion is a beautiful tool, but for me, it was a bit limiting and overcomplicated. Once again, there is nothing wrong with the frills of any religion, but i prefer the minimalist version.

So,.. what do i call my god or higher power rot driving force? At 49 years old after decades of spirituality the truth is, i still do not have an term. The word that i use to describe the force that animates me as a being changes based upon my audience. I very much like how the native peoples think off and refer to god as “the great spirit”. I also used the word “God” for simplicity to people who know i am not a Christian. “Source” is a word that feels pretty good to describe a higher power as well. I have realized that it is not important what i call it as long as i get my point across. In fact, it is only my ego that cares how i refer to god.

As a younger man i always considered myself as a sort of individual being. I thought of myself and all individuals as sort of independent rovers traveling the earth. Deep down i always knew this was not the reality. Deep down i knew I was not a completely independent being.

As I realized that i am a part of nature rather than a being who is visiting nature, i slowly be an to realize that all things are one. Just like all of the cells in my body make up me as a being, all known things in this universe are one entity. I think of the entire universe as a sort of ocean filled with countless individual components. God/source/the great spirit are the ocean and all of the creatures and components within that ocean are one. We all belong to the source. If one fish becomes sick and dies it affects the entire sea in some way. If one reef or eco system flourishes, it too affects the entire sea. We, all creatures in the universe/ocean of life are all interconnected. If we look for this simple truth, it is not hard to find.

We are one. We are each god. In pages that follow, i will spend a great deal of time discussing our source. So, here is the question; What is the force that animates all beings? Can we define it in any way? Are words able to define such a thing? If so, i often struggle to find them.