The Summer Day

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Who made the world?

Who made the swan, the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaw back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

2016-10-20T22:09:53+00:00 October 20th, 2016|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on The Summer Day

Forgiveness

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Self-reflection often brings us face to face with painful feelings that are difficult to examine.  But efforts to reflect on and release energies like anger and resentment can lay a foundation for the process of forgiveness.  As we learn to face our own impulses and reactions, it becomes easier to understand the actions of others.  Forgiveness then becomes a practice of looking beneath the surface of a person’s behavior to acknowledge the deeper spiritual essence that is worthy of our respect.  

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2016-10-18T22:11:04+00:00 October 18th, 2016|Tags: , |Comments Off on Forgiveness

Self-reflection: Insights for Lasting Change

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Every faith I’m familiar with encourages self-reflection in some form as an element of spiritual practice.  Reflecting on our behavior in a neutral and objective way is an important way of acknowledging and learning from our mistakes.  It calls us to look beneath the surface of our actions to the intentions behind them, and to consider if we are acting with the well-being of everyone in mind or thinking only of ourselves.

This practice is inherent in a teaching from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali called svadhyaya.  While svadhyaya is often translated as the study of scriptures, it is clear that such study is meant to guide us in reflecting on our behavior.  By observing ourselves carefully, we can see where our behavior or thinking is not in harmony with spiritual truths, and causes us to struggle with life.

Self-reflection can reveal to us the very roots of our suffering by examining the relationships we have with people, objects and our goals.  If, for example, I get upset by someone’s behavior, I may see them as the cause for my disturbed condition.  They may have acted inappropriately, but do I have to be upset?  Is my state of mind in their hands? If I reflect honestly on my relationship to that person, I will see that it was my expectation, my desire for them to act in a certain way, that caused me to be disturbed.

If we become anxious as we are pursuing some goal, reflecting on the cause of our anxiety will reveal that we are counting on some result in an unhealthy way.  There is nothing wrong with giving our all to achieve something, but if we depend on our envisioned outcome as a source of happiness, we lose our ability to stay focused and perform at an optimal level.  Any athlete or performer knows that worrying will cause them to freeze up.

Another significant benefit to looking deeply this way is that it empowers us to change.  As soon we become aware that we are attached to someone or thing in a way hurts us, we have the choice to let go or change the way we feel.  We all must learn, for example, that we cannot please everyone and we must do what we believe in our hearts to be right even if someone else doesn’t like it.  The more I can let go of trying to please others or win their affection, the freer I am to do the right thing and have peace in my heart.

In this way, self-reflection becomes a companion to the other spiritual practices we do, and to our daily activities.  Observing ourselves carefully gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make amends for any harm we’ve done.  Ultimately, even our missteps can be seen as part of our step-by-step progress on the spiritual path.

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2016-10-15T01:44:19+00:00 October 3rd, 2016|Tags: , |Comments Off on Self-reflection: Insights for Lasting Change