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Cruz-ing through life…lessons from a sea lion

I had the honor of meeting Cruz the sea lion at my recent visit to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Cruz is no ordinary sea lion and he has quite a compelling backstory to go along with his outgoing and friendly personality. Cruz was rescued in 2013 as a pup along a beach in Santa Cruz, California. After examination it was found that Cruz was blinded due to bullet fragments that destroyed his right eye and blinded his left. He could not survive in the wild and was taken to a recovery center where he was nursed back to health. They knew that Cruz would need special lifelong care and so he was placed at Shedd Aquarium. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship and Cruz proved himself to be a fast learner and continued to thrive in his new environment.

By observing Cruz maneuver you would never know that he was blind. He relies on verbal and auditory cues to swiftly and easily navigate around his environment. It was clear to me from watching Cruz interact with the trainer and the people visiting Shedd that he is a true ambassador for faith, hope and perseverance. He teaches everyone he meets about the power of believing in yourself and never giving up. In fact, he displays in great grandeur the truth that disabilities do not diminish us but in fact can be the driving force that unearths the greatness we are meant to share, teach and instill in others.

It was truly heartwarming to see all of the children listening to Cruz’s story and witness him display his wholeness for all to see. I was so moved by the idea of what he would inspire in these young people…more compassion for animals, belief in a no limits life, a commitment to help stop animal abuse, the courage to thrive under adversity, and any number of other wonderful outcomes as numerous and unique as each person there witnessing Cruz’s offering. I must admit that it brought tears to my eyes.

Cruz not only reminds us all that animals are precious valuable additions to our world, but that they can be our greatest teachers if we take the time to see, hear and experience the lessons they are offering. I know that I walked away inspired by my encounter with Cruz and could feel with deep resonance that he is joyfully fulfilling his mission to open hearts and minds one person at a time.

Is my personal happiness really the goal of life?

Key to Happiness

When we think that the purpose of the world is to make us happy or that the goal of this human life is to achieve personal happiness – we are setting ourselves up for the opposite experience. That might sound off putting or even controversial, but stay with me on this one. How many times in life have we thought our happiness and fulfillment meant getting the certain job, relationship, house, acknowledgment…this list could go on and on. A few months or years later we look back and realize NOT getting those things that seemed to mean so much to us at the time ended up being the greatest gift. Sometimes a different opportunity came along that was a much better fit or the relationship breakup that was so devastating at the time led to us meeting the person of our dreams! When our happiness is dependent on some event or circumstance outside of ourselves then the target is always moving, always changing and always just outside our grasp. Even when we get what we want it seldom satisfies us for long until we are right back on the same wheel of suffering….waiting for circumstances or conditions to change so that we can grasp the elusive happiness that we are continually seeking.

The point I am making here is that sometimes we don’t know what is best for us because we are approaching life from the wrong perspective. As I started out saying, the purpose of the world is not to make us happy. I feel that all great spiritual paths and religions at their core have provided us with the true purpose of the world if we really take the time to step back and look at the commonalities between them all. The fundamental message being shared is that the purpose of the world is to evolve our level of consciousness. This means there is a goal beyond our present moment happiness within any given situation. The truth is that happiness is an inside job. You radiate it from the inside out, it is not dependent on circumstances but is a way of living that acknowledges our life has a bigger, greater purpose than us feeling comfortable and satisfied at every moment. When we live with this awareness then we begin to look at any given situation that we would have previously identify as a problem to be solved, eliminated or fixed – as a challenge for us to rise to.

The point I am driving towards is that ironically our happiness or satisfaction with the life in front of us is tied to our ability to see that life will always be pushing us and asking more of us than we might feel comfortable with at any given moment….that is the whole reason we are here. It doesn’t mean that we should pretend to not be discouraged when life seems to be throwing us a curve ball. It means that we develop the context to view these circumstances from a whole new light. In doing this, we allow our discouragement to be transformed and transcended into something greater. Paradoxically this is what creates in us a sense of satisfaction, freedom, peace and drum roll please…happiness. There are some questions we can reflect on that help us align with this deeper perspective. Where am I obsessed with the past or grasping towards the future? Where am I not being kind, compassionate or giving of myself fully? Am I willing to release the attachment to things happening my way and trust that there might be an even better solution or opportunity seeking to present itself in this seeming setback. When your mind is in right alignment with this way of thinking you don’t have to go out and get anything – everything fantastic will fall at your feet.

Walk Like An Egyptian

SphinxI had the privilege of spending two weeks on a pilgrimage to Egypt this past February. I was part of a group tour led by an amazing spiritual teacher. Of course we saw all of the wonderful sights, temples and historical artifacts that come to mind when one thinks of Egypt. However, the really big impact came from the way in which we visited these sacred spaces and the intention of the group I was traveling with. It made me realize how important and instrumental it is to live from a place of intention. We encountered many other people visiting the same sights and temples, yet it was clear that our experience was quite different. What occurred to me is the level of consciousness we bring to any situation is really what determines the outcome of our experience rather than the situation itself. We can often become deluded by the so called common sense thinking of the world that trains us to believe the level or depth of our experience is based on something outside ourselves. How cool or awesome an event or place is has everything to do with our thinking and not as much to do with the thing itself. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi…the end is inherent in the means. Everything we do is infused with the consciousness with which we do it. The outcome is inexplicably tied to the intention behind its beginning.

What really shifted in me while experiencing all of this in Egypt was the realization that thousands of years ago the Egyptian people knew this and had a grasp on what our lives are really about. It made me wonder how humans got off track when the Egyptians figured these things out so very long ago? It seems like we are finally in the midst of a huge awakening and remembering of the sacredness of who we are. Slowly the world is realizing that what I do to you I really do to myself. That animals and nature are gifts to be treasured and revered for what we can learn from them versus how we can dominate, plunder and use them for our purposes. I am still processing everything I experienced in Egypt and I look forward to sharing the many great offerings these ancient people had to convey. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Our animals’ perspective on death and dying

I feel moved this month to talk about the way our animals view their passing and the way this often differs from how we as their humans feel about it. Lately, this has come up in several readings and I was recently discussing the topic with a family member that is dealing with this circumstance. The concern that is often being expressed is a worry the animal is suffering or a fear the person will miss the cues and clues of when it is “time” to intervene and help the animal transition. When I was discussing this with my family member, she shared that she was trying to “fix” the problems her dog was having, however, there just kept being more issues to fix.

I suggested that she change her thinking about the situation. In this particular case, I compared it to offering palliative or hospice care. The goal being to make the animal comfortable and help them enjoy the time they have left in this body…not to fix them. The difference with people versus animals is that as humans we have a tendency to “suffer” more with illness and decline because we attach a lot of mental energy and thought patterns to the illness, pain, decline, death, etc.

In turn, we project that on our animals when they have an illness or are declining. However, they don’t view themselves or their situation in that way. They might have physical discomfort, but they don’t have a story about it or an attitude of “oh no…I must be dying…this is going to be terrible or really painful”. That is only a human thing.

Animals live in the moment and they are not at all afraid of transitioning back to spirit. They choose the time and the circumstances of their passing. I know this may seem hard to believe, but it is really what is happening. Everything they do and choose is in some way tied to the best way they can help their humans learn the lessons they have been teaching them.

The Hero’s Journey

Niagara Falls

The Winter Olympics start in a few days and I was contemplating the various paths and inspiring journeys these athletes traverse in order to make it to a competition of this caliber. Of course we have all watched the stories spotlighting a person’s journey to the pinnacle of their sport. I was reflecting on why we are all so moved by these stories. I think it is partly because deep inside of us we recognize it as the journey we are all on in one way or another. Our journey may not make front page news, or be a gold medal winning endeavor, but we are all on our own Hero’s Journey, to use the phrase popularized by Joseph Campbell.

We sometimes get lost along the way by thinking if our journey or purpose does not produce something big and impactful to the masses or get noticed on a large scale by the world then it is less important. That is where we start to get off track and can look at other peoples’ lives with envy. We may even get depressed with the thought that our life hasn’t really worked out and it’s too late to do anything about it. The problem is that we discount the reality that we are leaving a footprint and making an impact in every encounter and with every decision we make…no matter how big or small it might seem. We discount the truth that serving one person from a place of love is no less important than work or achievements on a global scale. The reason is because it all starts with one. One thought that is acted upon, one idea that grows over time, one singular inner knowing your life is about something more than accumulating stuff and worrying about yourself. The fact of the matter is the first and only place we can make an impact is in the life and circumstances we are dealing with every day.

We all have the chance and opportunity in each moment that passes in front of us to raise it by our presence. What does that mean? It means living from a place where we start to view every moment as an opportunity to bring our best and highest selves. When we start to live this way we begin to see that every experience is giving us a chance to serve the moment in front of us versus wondering what is in it for us. Just that shift alone will change your life and the life of everyone you encounter. Could you imagine what the world would look like if everyone was approaching each moment with the intention of “how can I serve and uplift this moment by my presence”? By approaching life this way our journey and purpose is laid out in front of us moment by moment. Every circumstance and encounter needs a hero. Luckily there is one available…it is you.

New Year Visioning

Happy New YearThis time of year everyone is usually setting New Year’s resolutions. The hope is the new year will be different and we will finally see our desired results. I have personally found that making resolutions doesn’t seem to work. What has worked the best in my life, is using a visioning process that really moves the energy and changes the frequency/vibration of what I am attracting. I recently held a webinar on this visioning process for Danielle MacKinnon’s Be Open community and thought that I would share with you a brief introduction to this process. By the way, if you haven’t checked out what the Be Open community offers, here is a link…it is really awesome!

I started using this process about three years ago and it has made a big difference in my life. At the time, I had been suffering from chronic neck and back pain for over 10 years. Having tried countless traditional and non-traditional approaches, I decided to give this visioning process a try. My approach to the process was really a distillation of books, lectures and other information that I was coming across on universal laws, quantum physics and changing the frequency/vibration of what we are attracting. It seemed everywhere I looked I was being bombarded with this type of information, so I took the hint from the universe and started to write a vision of what I wanted my life to look like.

Everything I was reading was telling me to mentally rehearse the results I wanted and to behave as if those results were already here. So, I started to spend time everyday imagining that I had full mobility, flexibility and was free from pain. I imagined that I could do any activity I wanted and I had a body that worked for me versus a body dictating my limitations. The more I took my focus off of what wasn’t working and put my attention on the results I wanted, the more things started to shift. I began to see opportunities I didn’t see before and I felt encouraged by the little signs and BIG signs the universe was giving me that I was on the right track. Things didn’t change overnight, but three years later, I am living the life I had visioned…freedom in body, mind and spirit. The pain and restriction are a thing of the past. I am grateful I decided to take my life back and consider the idea that I had the power to do something to change my situation. What I know for sure is our thoughts have power beyond what we realize. I can see clearly now the life we want is always trying to make its way to us…it is our beliefs, thoughts and actions that get in the way. I hope 2018 will be a year in which all of your dreams, visions and aspirations become a reality.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

There is something magical about the first big snow storm of the season. I don’t know if it is the fact that it has been 8 months since seeing everything blanketed in fresh white fluffy powder or the fact that it came the week before Christmas. Whatever the reason, for me it takes me back to being a kid and getting so excited every time it snowed. At the first sign of falling flakes, I loved to go out and play in the snow, go sledding, ice skating and of course pray for snow days off of school! As we become adults, sometimes we lose the magic and joy we once had as kids….about so many different things. So with that in mind, I decided that I was going to go out and build a snowman. My husband thought I was nuts! He said, “What are you doing, it is freezing out there.” But I didn’t listen to him. I went out anyway, and guess what…I had so much fun! I had forgot how much fun winter could be. I could see that for years I had been missing the fun of winter because I was caught up in the adult responsibilities of what too much snow usually means – and none of those thoughts filled me with joy. When I let myself really SEE what was right in front of me, my whole viewpoint changed. So, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that gives you a front row seat to Mother Nature’s amazing winter carnival of fun – go out and enjoy it. Recapture the joy and delight of your childhood, after all, winter fun isn’t just for kids!

When not helping is the best approach…

I just got back from spending a week working as a teaching assistant for Danielle MacKinnon’s Soul Level Animal Communication Level 1 class. I expected to be there to assist the students in their process of learning and exploring the area of animal communication. While I certainly did witness some amazing transformations and growth, I was not necessarily prepared for my own “stuff” coming up in the process. You see, I was really excited to help and to me that meant jumping in whenever I saw a student struggling with the reading or looking uncomfortable. I would notice this and move into “fix-it” mode – which meant intuitively getting into the reading and helping them parse out the intuitive information they were seeing, hearing, feeling. Sounds helpful, right? Well, as it turns out, there was a better approach for helping the students and myself.

About mid-week, Danielle and I had a discussion about my desire to go into “fix-it” mode. Through listening to her insight and my reflection on her comments, it became clear that this was a pattern for me. It became clear that sometimes my motivation to help others was based on the desire to make sure they didn’t feel any pain or discomfort. My own familiarity with experiencing deep pain and struggle was causing me to swoop in and rescue them from experiencing these feelings. What Danielle helped me to see was that part of the student’s process was sitting in those uncomfortable feelings and figuring it out on their own. This was a huge aha moment for me! I started to see that I went into “fix-it” mode every time I encountered another person in pain or hurt.

The real learning and take away was that by recognizing this belief and pattern I was able to create some space between it automatically driving my behavior. By the end of the week, I was able to step back and notice the urge to “fix-it” and then make a decision to choose a different approach. That is really the whole beauty of awareness. You don’t have to force yourself to be different or work hard at making changes. Just by observing and having the awareness of the belief driving the behavior, everything starts to shift. I was still supporting the students, but not by rescuing them from the situation. I allowed them to work through the uncomfortable situation in their own time by following their own process. In a roundabout way, I ended up learning that sometimes the best way to help is to step back and let the process unfold. And in my case, to notice what belief is behind the driving need to be so darn helpful.

Surrender to Life

Mary Morrissey quote

One thing is certain, during this human experience we will encounter circumstances that we celebrate and we will encounter circumstances that we would rather avoid entirely. It seems to me that where the rubber meets the road is how we navigate the challenging experiences in life. How can we be present in situations that are not our preference without being taken down and consumed by them?

It starts by remembering that we have an important decision to make, which is to decide how much power we want to give away to circumstance. If we make our happiness or peace of mind contingent on our health, relationships, or work looking a certain way then we are setting boundaries around our ability to experience the joy of life. The more preferences and parameters we put in place, the harder it is to feel happiness and contentment in our daily life. In doing this, we are trying to make life conform to our arbitrary constraints instead of letting life show us and lead us to our next greatest possibility. What if a health crisis is opening you up to a new way of looking at the world? What if a recent job loss is creating the opportunity for you to finally do the work you love?

What if life was bringing us exactly what we needed at every moment, but we just keep thinking that it should look different or be the way we want it to be.

The universe will bring us experiences that can show us where we are still holding back. That is how we heal, grow and evolve – by bringing our best selves to the task put in front of us at any given moment. Life will not bring us to the next step until we can inhabit our current life circumstances with grace and acceptance. Don’t wait for a better job, don’t wait for a better relationship, be the best version that you can be now in this moment and miracles will begin to happen in your life and in the lives of everyone you touch. Where you are right now, doing exactly what you are doing….is perfect.

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Here we are yet again, another tragic episode and senseless loss of life in Las Vegas. These are challenging times….between the hurricanes, political landscape and mass shootings, it is enough to cause us all to want to go in bed and pull the covers over our heads. If you think there is no way out of this mess then it is understandable that you want to turn away and divert your attention to anything else. But we have to live for another possibility. We have to walk in faith and the belief that we can actualize change. When we believe that we are too small, too weak, too limited in numbers to make a difference we diminish our power.

The truth is that change never happens by the masses, it happens at the grass roots level. Think of the historic changes in history…Gandhi and the British Empire, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. These men are viewed as heroic figures today, but at the time there was much opposition to their views and non-violent approach to changing hearts and minds. Now more than ever, let us reflect on what it means to take a non-violent approach to our own life. What part can we play? We can choose love over hate every day in a thousand different ways. We can make a difference. Every time we choose to act from love when we could choose to act from hate we are making a difference. We are all connected. We are all one. When we see others in the light of love and forgiveness it not only improves our own life, it improves the life of everyone we come into contact with – the result is a life that is fuller, richer, deeper and more joy-filled, for you and everyone your life touches.

We are all in this together, let’s pull ourselves up and dig deep during this most critical time in the world. I have been moved and inspired by re-visiting Gandhi’s Nonviolence Principles. I want to include them here as a reminder of what is possible when we make love our first, last and only viable solution.

Gandhi’s Nonviolence Principles

  • All life is one.
  • We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth
  • Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit.
  • The means must be consistent with the ends.
  • We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others.
  • We affirm our unity with others when we transform “us” versus “them” thinking and doing.
  • Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all.
  • The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.