It was 21 years ago the spring of 1998 and my wife Liz was six months pregnant but looked eight or nine months pregnant because she was carrying our twins. We were sitting in a large conference room full of people I didn’t know in southern Mississippi, and a grizzled older man who looked like a farmer in his overalls and a white t-shirt was angrily accusing Liz of teaching black magic and witchcraft to kindergartners. No really, I’m not kidding, this really happened. We were in the Bible belt in the Deep South of the Deep South, and as I looked over at Liz, I suddenly realized she was looking extra beautiful in her midnight black maternity dress, and I thought, “OH MY GOD, WHY THE BLACK DRESS TODAY?”
Kindness is important; that’s a bandwagon worth jumping on. Whether you are on national TV, or whether you are simply in your community with family and friends; your actions and your attitude matter. It makes a difference if you let the other driver go first at the stop sign, or if you show kindness at home or in the grocery store to loved ones or strangers. It’s not just about whether or not you reach your goals, but how you get there that matters.
My mother had requested for us to ‘sing her over’ when she transitioned from this life to the next, and when she died a few years ago from complications of lung cancer, some of my brothers and my wife and I were around her bed singing ‘Amazing Grace’ when she took her final breath. We all hugged and cried, and these were the first tears I had ever seen from some of my brothers. The moment was peaceful and silent as we were together in a loving space in the moments after Mom’s transition, and the connection I felt in those moments with my family and with my mother was tender and genuine.
Everything you really want is right here and right now in the silence of eternity that constantly surrounds you with the overwhelming embrace of pure, unconditional love. This field of pure unconditional love is really real; more real than all your goals for the future and more real than all the fears from your past that replay themselves in the cycles of conflict in your life. This eternal love is more real than all the emotional baggage of your ego. You are totally loved and accepted just as you are and there is nothing you have to do or achieve to find the happiness of this inner peace except to release your preoccupation with your ego concerns.
No matter their dysfunction, when I sort through the layers of anger, fear, complacency, narcissism, pride, hurt, or whatever ego baggage, I find people who profoundly love their husband, wife or partner, and I experience people who love their children, parents family and friends with a deep abiding love that is always remarkable and astounding. No matter who I talk with, I always find this love at the core of the human experience, and I can’t help but feel the profound unconditional love that unites us in our common humanity.
Heaven is not a time or a place, but is rather a state of mind where we know the profound joy of our intimate connection with those in our lives and with all creation where we directly experience the remarkable beauty and goodness in ourselves and in those around us. It is something we can experience here and now when we release our fears and shift our perspective. From this perspective, the truth about humanity is that we are all in love with each other and we just don’t know it. Our fears have blocked the awareness of our deep connection with others around us and so we feel alone.
We are all just different aspects of the One, experiencing itself from different points of view, and when I look on the people around me, I see an expression of the infinite love of God looking back at me. I know everyone has their fears, their emotional problems and their ego baggage, but they are all, every one of them a good person with their own hopes and dreams with someone who loves them and sees the good in them. They love and struggle and feel just as I do. Seeing past people’s emotional baggage to their core I see the divine reflected back at me and again I know I am blessed to be constantly surrounded by the reminders of the overwhelming love of Spirit in the faces of everyone I meet.
It’s time to wake up and release the fears that keep you locked in old dysfunctional patterns of blaming yourself or others. It’s time to find your center and embrace and release the pain and hurt of your past and wake up to the joy of living. There is a little piece of heaven inside you and in everyone you meet. Finding happiness and successful living in your goals and relationships just takes a willingness to release your fears and your old patterns of blame and guilt towards yourself and others. You can find and hold your center and open your eyes to the profound depth of love all around you now. This joy of heaven within you and around you is the pearl of great price and nothing else will satisfy you or bring you peace.
All of us act out because of our emotional wounds. Look past surface appearances to see the good in another person, and you will see the good in yourself. Help to understand and have compassion for the wound in others and you will heal your own wounds as well. Go with kindness towards the relationship or situation where you are the most hurt, the angriest, or the most afraid, because the wound is where the light enters you. When you see through the labels you put on others and consciously walk towards and through the fires of your anger and fear you will find just another being that is good on the inside, just like you. There you will find the beauty of your Soul in the healing moment patiently waiting for you.
When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
“Africans have a thing called Ubuntu. We believe that a person is a person through other persons. That my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Your mind is the most powerful piece of equipment in the galaxy and you can choose to tune it into anger, fear, hatred, or to unconditional love or anything in between. This is your choice, and no power in the universe can stop you either way. Your life circumstances are simply the out-picturing of your inner state of awareness and whatever frequency you tune in with your thoughts and feelings will translate into your actions and ultimately into the circumstances and relationships of your life.
I learned how to stay in relationship with my mom without becoming a doormat and without fighting with her all the time. Simply put it takes being honest about my own issues without taking her emotions personally. It takes avoiding both fight and flight and finding the third option by simply holding my center and realizing her emotions are not my fault and that I am not to blame for her anger or sadness. It is allowing her to have her emotions and allowing me to have mine. When I can do this, then we always got along just fine and I was no longer subject to the changes in her volatile emotions. Holding my center no matter what emotions or praise or criticism anyone projects towards me is what I do in my best moments with my loved ones and in counseling every day that creates a profound space of unconditional love that is beautiful and deeply satisfying.
About seven or eight years ago my weight went over 200 lbs and most of my clothes wouldn’t fit me anymore. Like many of adults over 40 in our society today, I was losing the battle of the mid-life waistline bulge and my body could no longer handle my addiction to Starbucks, carbohydrate-loaded snacks, deserts and other forms of sugar. Instead of dealing with my addiction, I packed up all the clothes that wouldn’t fit me and I put them in a box, vowing that one day I would find the discipline to lose the weight, beat my addiction to sugar and fit into my old clothes again. Well, I've recently lost weight on a paleo diet and today is the day.
The Sufi’s have an ancient saying that we have 50,000 layers between us and God, but there is nothing between God and us. I know the truth is that Spirit is with me here and now and that I am never alone. That is Reality, and the love of Spirit surrounds me, even when the fears of my ego blind me to the truth.
You can live in the paradigm of your fear-based thinking and allow the ghosts of your past make your choices for you, or you can face your demons and begin to wake up from the dream of your life drama to the reality of love that is the real Truth, and no power in the universe can stop you either way. You have the power to create your own heaven or your own hell here and now, and every moment of your life you are either digging the hole of your problems deeper, or you are moving towards an awareness of your essential wholeness.
your emotional issues are embedded in the history of your family tree as well. When you transform the problems and emotional breakdowns in your life, you are healing your family tree and you are breaking the cycles of suffering passed down through your family lineage. It can be helpful to step back and look at the big picture of your path of growth in life and learn to understand and embrace the legacy of the emotional suffering and find the joy in your family tree.
Are you ready to let your anger go? Are you ready to release your addiction to blame or feeling victimized by others or by life situations? Are you ready to look within to understand, embrace and begin to release the fears that sabotage your relationships, which block your success and steal your joy? You can live the life of your dreams and you can unleash the greatness within you when you are ready to release your fears and let the best part of you shine. But here’s the thing, you can have a life you love or you can have your anger, your outrage and all your other fear-based emotions but you can’t have both. You get to choose.
The bottom line is this: YOU DON'T HAVE TO SACRIFICE YOUR HAPPINESS FOR ANYTHING! You can use whatever happens in your life for growth and healing or you can let the fear-based narrative of your life story run your life. When your negative emotions are triggered by life challenges, you can self reflect and use the moment to face and release your fears. You can disconnect your experience from your life narrative about your experience or you can allow your fears to take over and you can become more bitter. Your choice. Whether or not you continue to center yourself on the present moment or whether you give into the fears of the narrative of your life story is your choice alone.
As I get older, I’m finding that my Spirit is not off on some mountain in Tibet but is right here at home at 4 o’clock in the morning with my son asleep beside me. I’m finding joy by embracing the daily routine and the responsibilities of being a husband and a father, and I’m finding God in the faces of my wife and children, in my coworkers and friends, and in the playful conversation with the checkout lady at the Safeway down the street. I’m feeling like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz saying that happiness is not somewhere over the rainbow but is right here in my own backyard. I’m also realizing that living a fulfilled life of abundance requires only that I let go of my fears and allow a shift in my perception.