Wise Words – Your Most Important Spiritual Task: Opening Your Heart

“If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis

A sadness comes over me as I read these words and recognize the truth of it in me. Over the years, I have learned how to protect myself by armoring my heart.  

We all do, I suppose. Shortly after our birth, the world began to show us it can be a hurtful place. One moment, we felt a sense of union and safety with our parents, and the next, we felt the devastating ache of absence. So, we learned to shield ourselves from painful feelings by shutting off the heart. 

These preverbal lessons embedded themselves in the first layers of our psyche. And perhaps the most painful early scar was to adopt the false belief that somehow the fault must be in us, that we are not lovable. In various ways, we all share the early tragic misconception that we are not okay as we are.

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Wise Words – A World in Chaos, or the Birth of a New Consciousness?

Just before [an airplane] cracks the sonic barrier, there’s increased vibration and greater resistance . . . In our present state of evolutionary development, you might say we are flying just beneath the sound barrier of consciousness . . . On the other side of the sonic boom, we discover heightened connection, transparency, integration and resonance – more unity. 

People all over the world are experiencing decidedly tumultuous times.  Perhaps this is a sign that we’re moving closer to the “speed of sound” – closer to new consciousness. Of course, the faster we travel, the more volatility we meet – until we have breached the membrane and exceeded previous evolutionary limitations. What a beautiful boom that will make.

Thomas Hübl, from his book, Attuned

We live our lives in the day-to-day, so it’s easy to miss the longer view. In the day-to-day, we attend to the details of living life. The coffee pot, the kid’s breakfast, the list of appointments, errands, deadlines, and obligations, these all have their rightful place and deserve our attention.

We usually view the news while in the day-to-day mode of attention. Each item appears on the screen as a separate event and taken together, they sometimes paint a distressing picture. Extreme weather events, shootings, scenes of war, political gridlock, social unrest, hateful displays – we absorb the parade of disturbing headlines and react to each, feeling our emotions and grappling to make sense of it. 

And it seems to be getting worse, each day more extreme, the suffering amplified, our bodies more fatigued, and our emotions more numb. The speed of it is disorienting. We want it to slow down, for the madness to stop, for things to go back to normal.

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Reasons for Hope

Without hope, life is pretty dark. 

Hope is the faith we hold for a better future and the confidence we have in our ability to help bring it about. Hope motivates us to meet the challenges we face, even in tough and uncertain times. It’s an attitude we carry that we can make it through and make it better.

Our capacity for hope is influenced by external factors we can’t control. Given what I see in the news, it’s easy to lose hope that the world can right itself. But the most significant factors maintaining hope are internal – our ability to direct our attention to what’s going right and our faith that we can take action to create positive change.

Let me give you two examples I recently learned about that make me hopeful. 

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One Small Act Against Jim Crow Still Ripples Today

How can a quiet act against racism performed a century ago still affect us today?

Let me tell you a story about a college football team and its black quarterback to answer that question.

Washington and Jefferson is a small college near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They had an outstanding football team in the 1920s (they played in the 1922 Rose Bowl, sending only 11 men to California by train and fighting Berkeley to a 0-0 tie, but that’s a story for another time).

Their quarterback was a black man named Charles “Pruner” West.

During the 1923 season, Washington and Jefferson was scheduled to play a segregated team from Virginia. Like many southern colleges, it relied on a “courtesy” where northern schools would agree not to field their black players.  

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Giving Money on the Street – My History of Failure

I live in Sacramento. Like many urban areas, the number of people living in tents under the freeway continues to grow. People wait at intersections or outside stores and ask me for money.

I am moved and want to help, but I don’t know what actual help looks like. The scope of the problem paralyzes me – immense and complex with a confusing mix of structural, societal, economic, medical, psychological and personal factors. The situation requires me to ask, what are the limits of my moral obligation to others?

I feel powerless to affect real change at a large scale, but there must be something I can do at the human scale, a response that alleviates suffering in a meaningful way. I have tried different approaches over the years, struggling to find something that does more good than harm. I never know if I am succeeding.

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Wise Words – We Only Have What We Give

“We only have what we give.”

Isabel Allende

You have gifts to give that only you can deliver. You bring to the table a set of qualities, thoughts, quirks and capacities that no one else possesses. The beauty, flaws, swirls and knots in your grain are the result of your adventurous, stress-fractured, fun-filled, glorious roller coaster of a life. The universe has been growing itself for 14 billion years, waiting to claim its prize, which has shown up in you.

You are uniquely qualified to be you, fully and precisely you, dropped into a world that needs exactly that.

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The Divine Human Journey

I think of myself as a spiritual person, but I have many moments when I’m gripped by anger, resentment, irritation or shutdown. Why does this keep happening? Don’t these episodes hold me back from making spiritual progress?

Well, maybe those episodes are the point. Those moments are not to be avoided or suppressed, they are the fertile ground of our growth. Maybe it works like this.

Let’s say the purpose of the human journey is to bring Divine Light into the world of form. We come into the world as sparks of the Divine, fully immersed, wholly connected, with no sense of a separate self. We don’t even know we’re Sacred, we just sense life as pure being.

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Wise Words – The Seed Never Sees the Flower

“The seed never sees the flower.”

Zen Saying

There is something the world is asking of you, something that is yours to do. Are you raising a family, running a business, coaching a team, helping a cause, starting a movement, or just working every day to be a better version of yourself, bringing more care and kindness to a world that needs it?

All of these are endeavors worthy of your effort. We give them a beginning not knowing how the ending will look. We start them because we are motivated by a vision of what could be. The vision gets us started and guides our early steps, but as it meets reality, the vision adapts. We learn things as we go that we never would have learned had we not started.

Planting a seed is an act of faith. That is what happened when I started the Stumbling Mystic blog. I’m a spiritual seeker who wanted to write about how we connect to the Sacred. I didn’t know that writing every day would strengthen and open my spiritual life. Writing is a discipline that shapes vague ideas into coherent form. It deepens my thinking about sacred experience by putting me in direct contact with Source more often.

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Wise Words – The Song I Came to Sing Remains Unsung

The song I came to sing remains unsung. I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument.” 

Rabindranath Tagore

When I read this line of poetry from Rabindranath Tagore, I feel a poignant tug at my heart. I recognize the truth of his words and am inspired to use my strengths and talents in service to the world.

We are each a unique being with a combination of spiritual gifts that have never existed before. Part of our purpose in life is to express those singular gifts. By adding our individual pieces to the puzzle, we make a contribution, we bring a light that may help someone who feels their life has too much darkness.    

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Wise Words – The Only Choice You Have Is to Begin

“The only choice you have is to begin. The only place to start is where you are.”

Seth Godin

Looking through one of my prior journals, I came across this bold statement, a quote from Seth Godin, that struck me enough to write it down. Reading it again causes the same stunning note to ring inside me, speaking directly to my spiritual life.

The first part of the quote is provocative. Is to begin really the only choice? Couldn’t I just as easily choose not to begin, maybe just sit this one out? But no sooner do those words float across my mind than I feel a resounding “No!” coming from my bones. To refuse to begin, to stand at the threshold and reject the invitation, is unthinkable.

And so I take the leap. I make the choice to begin. Begin what? Whatever is before me at this stage of the journey, today and each day forward. The choice

to spend the morning writing,

to sit on this cushion,

to stop and marvel at the colors of the sky,

to open the iron gate that shields my heart,

to feel the buried things I’ve tried so hard to forget,

to start the painful process of forgiving that one person,

to connect to my soul,

to move forward toward whatever is next for me. It is this that I begin.

But how can I begin if I don’t know how it will end, whether it’s too big, too grand, too much, too far? That’s the second part of the quote – the only place to start is where you are. It turns the overwhelm into something simple. The choice to begin doesn’t rest on the promise of an ending. Like everyone who begins, I choose to start not knowing where it goes.

For anything worthwhile, the choice to begin can’t contain the forecast of its full completion because the walking changes both the person walking and the road traveled. To choose something less is playing in your own backyard.

So I choose to begin regardless, starting here, because this is where I happened to be standing when I heard the call.

Photo by Carolina Pimenta on Unsplash