Book Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is truly a spiritual classic. While the language is simple and easily understood, the message is as powerful as any other spiritual fable. Sadly, as I read the reviews on Goodreads.com, I noticed many reviewers did not understand the powerful message, or chose to degrade it by pointing out the simplicity of the text.

I found the book child-like in its approach, which is not necessarily a bad thing in that it easily avails itself to even children, allowing a wider audience for its message.

I found several messages in the book:

  1. We tend to outcast those that are different from us. We allow society to dictate how someone should act and what they should spend their time on.
  2. The true intent of religion gets lost in the ceremony. Rather than read the bible, for example and understand its message, we glorify those that give us the message and the message gets lost in pomp and circumstance of organized religion.
  3. We should value those with different dreams. It is the dreamers who create and discover and advance this world. History is full of dreamers who were outcast or persecuted for their differing views. In actuality we should be grateful for their dreams which allow the human race to progress and evolve.
  4. Sharing our dreams and our spiritual messages with others is part of the journey, but we cant force it, they have to ask first, they have to want to recieve the message.
  5. We are all great and we all have a gift to give the world. We all have the power to change our thoughts and we should not allow anyone to stop us from pursuing our dreams.

I enjoyed the book, it was a super quick and simple read. I knew what it is going into it. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but, I think it is a great book to use for children, to teach them about following their dreams and paving their own paths regardless of the pressure that may be applied by others.

Have you read it? I would love to hear your thoughts

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Roots and wings…courage to let my children go

roots-and-wings.jpgYesterday, I watched my middle son graduate from high school and later, I kissed him goodbye as I depart for a new job in a new state and he remains in Northern California to start his adult life.

I have, in my recently discovered spirituality, the ability to navigate my emotions fairly well. Yesterday was an exception.  I sobbed. I sputtered. It was heart wrenching  for me.

I have tried to do my best, to give my children both roots and wings. I found myself wishing my spirituality was further developed, farther along, so that I might have instilled in him some of my new found knowledge and peace. I found myself afraid, what if something happens and I am so far away? Did I teach him enough? Did I give him enough time and attention?  Did I give him enough education? Will he make good choices? Will he own his mistakes and learn from them?

On the surface, I am proud of him. He has a dream and he is going after it. His dream is not the one I would have chosen for him. But, it is his life and his dream. I have encouraged him to go get it, to be the best man he can be. I have taught him that hard work and perseverance pay off and that relationships are important.  I have taught him to not let anyone or anything get in his way. I’ve shared my successes and failures and owned my poor choices, hoping that he can learn from them. I’ve tried to teach him that we are each responsible for our own choices and ultimately,  we are the sum total of the choices we make, both good and bad.

Yesterday was painful for me. Honestly, it was the hardest mom moment I’ve ever had. 20 years as a mother, I was unprepared for the agony of watching one of my sons spread his wings and fly away from the nest. All thier lives, all that I’ve done has been in preparation for this moment. My greatest fear is not that he will fail. My greatest fear is I have somehow failed him.

My new spiritual practice has not prepared me for this moment. The raw emotion of watching my son set sail for his dreams. While intellectually,  I know this is right, this is good and I probably should be doing more to move my 20 year old son in that direction.  But, my heart is not intellectually versed in these matters. My heart is not ready.

Today, with a heavy heart, I seek strength, courage and wisdom. Not only for my son, who is 17 years old and just beginning his adult life, but for me, as I transition from a hands on mother, to one who must now let him go. He is free to make choices without my guidance, although, I hope he will always seek it. He is free to celebrate his good choices and suffer the consequences of the choices that are not the best, without my intervention.  He is free to live his life, by his own compass. He is free to spread his wings and fly. I hope I have given him both roots and wings. I hope I have done my job.

The next thought that occurs to me, is as a single mother, the past 13 years have been so much about my boys. Every thought, every decision,  every choice takes thier well being into consideration.  I can see how women lose themselves when the nest becomes empty.  I never once, before yesterday, considered the possibility that I would have trouble watching my sons build their own lives, separate from me.

Yesterday was so bitter sweet for me. On the one hand, I am so proud of him, on the other, I will miss him so much. Using what I’ve learned,  I allowed the pain to come. I allowed the fear to wash over me, envelope me. I sobbed harder than I have in many years. I didn’t try to hide my vulnerability or sadness, I let it come. I held my son and told him goodbye. I am not ready to let him go. This shows me where I have room for growth in my spiritual development.  Attachment causes pain, intellectually, this I understand.  I am a mother and he is my son and no amount of spiritual growth can change that bond or turn my love for him. I pray for strength to let him live his life and make his own choices. I pray for courage, to let him face the result of those choices without trying to intervene or rescue him. I pray for serenity and a mind free of worry. Finally, I pray for wisdom. For my son to have the wisdom to make good chouces, to own his mistakes and to know that no matter what, he will always have a soft place to land.

Navigating the political minefield in spirituality

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Politics, Religion. Two subjects we are not supposed to discuss in mixed company.

As someone who served this country for 22 years and had deeply ingrained republican roots yet also seeks truth through what some may consider mystical thought, navigating the political mine fields of this country has become increasingly difficult. I have recently begun to shed some of my deep republican roots.

Raised catholic, certain views were ingrained into my young mind. Well read, educated and somewhat worldly, the views that were ingrained in me growing up, do not always fit with the things my own eyes have seen, my own ears have heard, my own heart has felt.

Deeply patriotic, I have a strong desire to support the political party whose agenda is nothing more than what is in this country’s best interest. But, what exactly is in this country’s best interest? As a citizen of this great country, I have a moral obligation to support someone, yet no one candidate matches my ideals. Doing nothing, such as choosing not to vote is not the answer. So what does one do, choose the lesser of the evils? The very first president of this great country stood for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought. Freedom of thought! Can any single candidate in this country truly express freedom of thought? Campaign funding does not allow this. Big business and special interest group make it impossible for any candidates to actually think for themselves. George Washington ran unopposed.

The best leader for this country has not been presented. Each candidate has one flaw, ego. Whether you read the bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita or any of the great religious texts, the true goal of religion is to live honestly, love and respect one another and treat everyone equally. Mythology, fables and folk songs all have a moral lesson very similar to the books we humans have chosen as our moral guides.

The “phrase history repeats itself” gives us a clue have we learned enough from the history of other great civilizations to not repeat the same mistakes? If you look for it throughout history, you can clearly see the pattern. Every great civilization begins to decline when the ego gets greedy. It could be a single ego, such as a king or dictator, or it could be an organizational ego, such as a religion, but the beginning of the end comes when civilizations start thinking they are better than a neighbor through religious beliefs. Or through greed, they take and take and take land, money, art, freedom. The only truly noble war would be for peace and freedom of all. Not for greed, not for pride.

The best civilizations were free thinkers,where technology, art, science, philosophy and math flourish. Man evolves.Free thinking allows complete freedom of thought. If someone never believed the earth wasn’t round would man have ever found this land, the “land of the free?” The kind of thinking where no one is persecuted for their beliefs. The kind of thinking free of pre-conceived notions. The kind of thinking where man evolves beyond our wildest imaginations. Where no one tells another what to think. (media, religion, parents, teachers, politicians) Everyone is free to discover, to express their beliefs without fear of persecution. We take that freedom of speech to an extreme in this country, but, we forget what that really means at its core, its intent.

Look again to history to reveal some of the greatest minds of any given civilization. They may be spiritual or religious leaders, like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed. They may be great philosophers, like Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche. They may have been entertainers, in the form of literature, art; the likes of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Michelangelo or Whitman. Look to the great minds of science; Einstein, Franklin, Tesla. Look to all of the greatest minds in history to see they all lived by some sort of moral code, many of them were not interested in fame and fortune, only in improving man, furthering evolution.Each of them contributed to the evolution of man. Each of them with such great desire to give humankind a gift. Many of them delivering the same message in some lesson, through stories, allegories, fables, paintings or other expression. The message to free our minds of hatred, to free our minds of greed, to be peaceful and love one another. The very same lessons contained in our greatest spiritual texts, the messages in the fables of great shamans, in the mythology of polytheistic religions, in the philosophy of the noblest, most egoless spiritual masters. Many of them persecuted for their thoughts, thoughts often opposed to the monkey mind way of thinking, yet in hindsight, were the impetus for many great human advancements. This is what the first amendment is about, freedom of thought, the freedom to pursue our wildest ambitions and to contribute to the human race as a whole, to evolve. This is what freedom of thought should be about.

When we choose to abide follow those with an ego-agenda, we choose to block our own freedom of thought. When we believe that any human (some would argue, any living thing) on this planet is better than another, we abandon the intent behind freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom in general. Our great forefathers intended this to be a country where no human could be persecuted for their beliefs, because belief fuels human advancement and evolution. Someone’s dream created outer space and we evolved to believe there was something beyond the clouds. Many dreams created the technology to actually go there and see it with our own eyes.Someone dreamed we would go to the moon. It is when we persecute those that may seem as crazy dreams, just because we do not believe them that we take a step back in the evolutionary process.This is the intent of our constitution, to allow all men to think freely. Someone’s “Crazy dream” created the very technology I use to write these words. There was a time in human history, that dreamer may have been labeled a witch or a crazy person and outcast, jailed, even put to death for that belief. We must stop thinking any one is better than anyone on this planet. We are all evolved from monkeys. When in history, we are allowed to and choose to dream, rather than follow, we make spectacular advancements in human history. Allowing everyone to have a belief as no better and no worse than anyone else’s is what evolves us, it is what shall bring us to Eden.But first, we must let go of the ego.

I believe in freedom. This means allowing everyone equal opportunities. Regardless of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation. I also believe in helping those that help themselves, I think we should have public assistance, but only for those who truly need it. Those who live on welfare because they choose to not work, I am not so keen on helping them. I believe we should allow creative minds to create. I believe in freedom of thought.

Education should have access to the same education, where students have the freedom to choose what they study. We cherish Beethoven but we stop funding public music education. We teach nutrition but we serve our young minds meals laden with fat and sugar and all types of unnatural preservatives. We value physical talent and those who learn to master the body yet we defund physical education. The fact that we value physical master is evidenced in the amount of money we are willing to pay for professional sports. Does that mean we value athletic ability over the mind? Scientists say we use only a small part of our brain. The greatest minds of our history valued something different, the advancement of the human race. Imagine if every child had the ability to pursue an education in anything that tickled their fancy. Imagine a world full of great minds because everyone answers their inner calling rather than studies what the religious or political leaders deem important. When we place more value “false gods” in the rich and famous, we choose to give up our own freedom of thought.

I am not saying it is wrong to enjoy the riches of life. Rather, I postulate that when we begin to value someone else’s excellence over our own, we give up our freedom. Many of history’s greatest minds did not value fortune and fame. Yes, they may have had luxuries, but few paid attention to them, as they focused on the pursuit of excellence in their chosen curriculums and professions. Fame and fortune may have found them, but they did not pursue it. True leaders rarely ask for followers, they lead by example and they inspire anyone they can reach to be excellent as well. They may find greatness in science, literature, math, philosophy, medicine, but they have little use for fame and fortune. We have to stop placing so much value on selfishness and ego.

Who can lead this country with greatness? Who can lead this country without the ego that requires them to follow someone else’s special interest? Who can lead this country and inspire a nation of peace, a nation where all are given equal opportunity regardless of their beliefs, regardless of their profession?Who will be humble? Who will be selfless? Sadly, those with these qualities are not keen on being leaders. So we need a leader with courage. The courage to navigate the political waters with grace and selflessness. To stand up to big greedy corporations and religious leaders? Someone who believes everyone in this country should truly be treated equally and given equal opportunity. Someone who will help those in need yet require everyone who can contribute in some way.

Our nation has become divided. Supposedly by two different parties. But, I hear someone every day, say they are not happy with any of the candidates. It is time to evolve now and recognize that perhaps neither extreme is the answer.

Socialism does not work, when the government provides everything to the people, and they do not have to work for it, the government then has all the power. This makes room for a dictator who promises that if we are just good sheep and we go where we are told, eat what we are told and finally think what we are told. This is the exact opposite of freedom of oppression. When we choose to give our power and our freedom away, it makes room for someone to take it. At the same time, we should provide to those who truly need. We should take care of our elderly. We should take care of our sick. If we provided equal education to all we would all have the access to the same education, choosing what to pursue and what not to learn, some will naturally excel and some will choose to be content to wait tables and scrub toilets. Only when we all have the freedom of choice to pursue our natural interests will we have achieved a true country founded on the intent of freedom.

When egos lead our country, we charge more than our fair share for medical advancements. When the ego leads our country, we value entertainment over education. We pay our hard earned dollars to watch people with even bigger egos live their lives. We value the pocket books of our politicians over those who pursue a passion to educate. We pay our hard earned dollars for entertainment, which does nothing but distract us from our lives. Why do we have such a need to escape our lives? Surely the answer is not in reality TV and overpaid athletes. Those that excel at their art should be recognized for their talents and abilities, but should we value those things over educating our young? Over medical advancements? Over scientific discovery?

We watch in horror as our politicians bicker at each other like school yard bullies. We feed their egos by putting these ridiculous displays on television and in the news. We get violent at rallies, declaring our way is the right way and everyone else is wrong. Where is the candidate with integrity and respect and humility?

I took an oath to support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Our enemies are not somewhere across the ocean. Our enemies are right here in our own back yard. My enemy is anyone who tells me what to think. My enemy is anyone who thinks they deserve more than me. My enemy is anyone who tells me what religious beliefs to have or that their beliefs are better. My enemy is the media who glorifies school yard bullies in the media. My enemy is anyone who wants to take my freedom. I swore to defend that. I swore to defend freedom of thought. How do I do that when my only choices are one extreme or another? When none of my choices is about my freedom of thought, rather than their ego. A true leader is humble . A true leader inspires. A true leader does not judge others, regardless of their beliefs. A true leader believes in these things, none of my choices are a true leader.

I feel some sort of moral obligation to publish this commentary. I know it was long and if you are still reading, thank you for hearing my views. I truly believe there is someone else out there who shares my opinion. Where are the others who are disgusted with the direction this country is taking? Where are the others who are tired of the finger pointing and name calling? Where are the others who believe in helping those in need without giving the government power? Where are the others who believe we should inspire this nation to be great again, by inspiring true pursuits of greatness and humility? It is time for a revolution of thinkers. We must refuse to be sheep, following the egos of anyone, be they a politician, a religious leader, a public spectacle or the owner of a big business. Egos of a grip on our great nation and it is time we take it back. There is enough for everyone who strives to achieve. We vote with our money. We vote with our time and our attention. We can allow geniuses to achieve and discover and compensate them well for their advancements to the human race without sacrificing buying their egos as well. We all have the freedom to choose and its time we start choosing something different. There will always be those who choose to follow. But we are following the wrong leaders. We value material excesses rather than giving everyone equal opportunity. If we all have the same opportunity, we can all achieve greatness, if we choose to. The greatest, most inspirational people of the human race lived humbly. Yet we continue to value excess. When we all have the same opportunities, we can all choose what we will be great at and we can all be great. Until we realize that we are all part of the same evolutionary process. But evolution does not happen with ego. Fame and fortune are nothing more than false gods. Whatever our spiritual or religious beliefs, the messages are the same, love, peace and selflessness. When we all choose to value the evolution of the human race, we will transcend all suffering, we will manifest our own Eden. But, when we value anyone’s ego, or think anyone on this earth is better than anyone else, we worship false gods, we choose to be greedy and selfish. We value others’ greed. We give away our freedom to think. We give away our power. This country needs something different a selfless leader who inspires us all to be the best that we can be. To live without judging anyone else’s choices, to defend everyone’s right to think for themselves and to create and pursue natural talents and intersects without persecution. The religious texts deliver the same messages of moral character. The history books are proof to the burden of the ego. When we take our evolutionary right to free thought and demand it and demand a leader without ego, we will all achieve greatness and the human race will evolve. This is my heaven. This is my Eden, nirvana and utopia. When we wake up and stop following egos, we can all achieve greatness.

Alas, as I look to the election and my obligation to uphold this great nation of free thought, I am saddened. I am saddened because I want to exercise my right to vote, my obligation to vote and I see no one who wants to inspire this country again. I see know candidate without some extreme view. I see no candidate who is thinking freely, believing that the middle ground is the only one where no religion, no special interest, no company, bank or ego has the ability to sway them. I see no candidate who is not in the race for their own selfish egos and belief in giving all equal access to education. I see no candidate who will give my children and all children equal access to an education where all are free to pursue their greatest aspirations, regardless of the path. I will vote, It is my right, it is my freedom of speech, it is my duty as a citizen. I guess I will choose the candidate who is the lesser evil. I guess I will choose the candidate who truly values greatness of all over the select few. I do not know how I will vote because my candidate is not on the ballot. This country needs an overhaul. This country needs to be inspired. This country needs something somewhere in the middle where individual citizens have equal access to a good education and no one individual is treated better than another, where fame and fortune are irrelevant. Where is that leader who values the rights of all over their own ego-agenda? Where is the leader who values freedom of thought. He or she does not need to be perfect, we are all human after all, we all make mistakes. But this leader should have integrity to own their mistakes, to learn from them, to constantly seek moral self improvement. Where is that leader? That is what this country needs. This great country is divided into two extremes, both fueled by ego, both fueled by excess. Neither ego nor excess will inspire others to be great. We need to find this leader soon, before this great nation finds the same as all other nations in history who failed to keep ego at bay. This great nation needs a Lion who refuses to be a sheep, a person who does the right thing without fear of losing the backing of  any group, be they political, religious, or big business and yet do so in the best interest of the human race rather than their own ego.

dabeast786: “True story…  ”

Minimalism does having less help you be more?

 

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Before finding my spirituality, I could not understand the connection between spirituality and minimalism. I am not even sure I understand it still, but I have to acknowledge some connection.

I have too much stuff. As my 17 year old son and his girlfriend embark on adulthood in a different state (I am moving, they have chosen to stay), I found myself saying to them, “When I left for basic training at your age, I had nothing but the backpack I was carrying and I was only permitted to bring clothes and toiletries. Everything I have here, this entire four-bedroom home, I worked for.” As I said this, I was packing my house for a move to Hawaii from California. Having worked for the government my entire adult life, I have moved many times over the past 25 years or so. Packing and moving and unpacking are such an incredible hassle. While I have always been somewhat nomadic in that I find moving to a new city and adventure and a chance to start fresh, the actual physical act of moving sucks! I hate packing! I hate wrapping all the trinkets, I hate all the box-cuts on my fingers. I hate when the tape gets stuck to the tape gun or worse, sticks to itself, and I have to find the end again. With all this moving, you would think I would have less stuff, it would make me more mobile. The truth is, I have entirely too much stuff!

I have books, lots and lots and lots of books. I have boxes of books, shelves of books, drawers of books, books on tape and a kindle. While I love the idea of electronic books, I still love the feel of a good paperback book in my hand. I like the feel of it, the smell of it. I like writing notes in my books, hi-lighting, underlining, dog-earing my books. You may wonder if I have read all of these books and rightly so, my son’s girlfriend asked as much one day, as she answered the door for another amazon delivery. YES! I read my books. Most of my books are remnants of some hobby I once had or still have, but I just cant bare to part with my books. I read them, I mark them, I write in them. I know I can read electronically, but I love my books, it is just not the same.

Speaking of loving the paper in my hands, I am also a scrap-booker. I love paper and pens and pretty stickers. I love pretty scrapbooks, and no, I cannot do digital scrapbooking, its just not the same. I have an entire room in my house filled with nothing more than bookshelves and books, scrapbook papers, photos, stickers and various scrapbook accouterments. This room is tedious to pack!

As I survey the contents of my packed house, I realize that I am changing. Somewhere between finding my spirituality in the past few months, and packing my home this past week, I have found a desire to have less stuff. Granted, part of this can be attributed to giving the kids some things to get started with in their apartment and some to the fact that I am moving overseas, but, the truth is, I am learning to let stuff go.

For me, there is something to be said for the fact that I am handing over most of my furnishings and half of my dishes to the kids. Simply because I love my stuff, it is amazing that I am giving up so much. But, I do it with love, I am happily giving them my things. I don’t want all of this stuff anymore. Sure, I still need couches and a dining room table, but, I have the resources to get what I need. I have no problem passing along my furniture to the kids. But, I have been so very selfish in my life, I am surprised that I am doing so, so easily.

It’s not just out of necessity or love that I give up my things, I just feel the need to be lighter, free from the burden of all this stuff. Sure, I am still taking an entire scrapbook room with me, but I also found myself donating things to the school, takings things to goodwill, offering up dishes and things to other teens who spend so much time in my home with the kids. Even decorations that I have collected over the years, Christmas ornaments, camping gear , I happily give up, in the pursuit of getting my stash lighter.

I cant say for sure, that it is related to my spirituality, but I can say, in all the times I have moved over the years, I think this will be my lightest load. Something about being finding internal happiness allows me to stay happy without all of that stuff. I have read over the years that our homes are a reflection of our internal minds, perhaps in finding my spirituality, I have also found a desire to get rid of all this clutter. Perhaps in removing all of the old emotional baggage, the remnants of a life from the past are no longer needed.

I wanted to look in my books to find some quotes about this subject, but they are all packed, lol. And, in case you wondered, I still have way too many books. I got rid of some, the ones I read and feel I will never again need for reference, but still I have too many books. I suppose there are worse things to collect.

When life throws you a curve ball

So, if you follow my posts, you know that I am currently packing for a relocation to Hawaii. I shipped my car last week and the shipping container is sitting in my driveway, to be packed by us and picked up by the shipper on Friday. Today, I hopped in my truck to pick up a ramp for the shipping container and bam…My power steering is gone. Now, ordinarily, this would irritate me but, in the middle of a move overseas, car trouble is double irritating. This is my last week at work and I still had to go back to the office. It just wasn’t a good time to have my steering go out, my truck is supposed to be shipped in a few days.

I dropped the truck off to be serviced, got back to the office and sat down for a breather. As I rubbed my sore arms, (from driving a Ram 1500 without power steering), I reflected on my day. It was a stressful day, things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go. But, more importantly, I was able to look back at the day and recognize that I handled the challenges gracefully, I didn’t stress out, I didn’t verbally abuse anyone, I didn’t take my frustration out on anyone else, I handled the stress of the situation mostly effortlessly.

A few months ago, maybe just a few weeks ago even, the day wouldn’t have gone so well. It seems regular meditation has given me the ability to handle the stress of every day situations without loosing my cool. Not only that, but I wouldn’t consider this and every day situation. Moving is stressful, the kind of stress that one does not encounter on an ordinary day. Add to that, I am moving over seas, which adds an additional layer of stress because packing a shipping container, balancing it and making sure your stuff isn’t going to topple over a ship is not something you encounter every day. Additionally, as a single parent, motivating a bunch of teenagers to assist with all of these tasks adds another layer of stress.

Anyway, my point is, I handled it all pretty well considering the circumstances and I did so without much effort. Even my sons have noticed my changed state of mind. Yes, they give me crap about my “New Age” meditation practice, but that’s okay because I can see and feel the difference it has made in my life.  I am happy to report that my new serenity is stronger than I would’ve expected, given its recent acquisition. I thought perhaps, my new serenity was on shaky legs, too new to carry me through the stress of a move overseas.

As I said before, I think it is important to celebrate small successes in our journey. When I started to recognize the negative state of my own mind and self-talk, I laid the ground work for serenity in all situations. Today proved this fact to me. I feel confident in my practice. I have seen the positive results with my own eyes. I can feel the difference in my own skin and others have noticed my short temper has been replaced with a peaceful acceptance of the circumstances presented to me. My meditation practice has made all the difference. That gives me motivation to keep trucking. The ease with which I handled my stressful moving day was proof enough for me, to keep going, keep practicing, keep learning and keep growing.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my journey.