Spring (or at least the promise of it) is finally in the air. This is the season of rebirth. And it’s only natural that as dark, depressing winter gives way to budding greenery, we find ourselves longing for physical and spiritual renewal.
“We’re wired to feel joy and hope when we can see life bursting forth everywhere we look,” says David Solomon, a Christian minister and the author of The Dead Saints Chronicles: A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife (Dead Saints Media, April 2016, ISBN: 978-0-9972454-0-0, $24.95, www.deadsaints.org) The Earth is literally clueing us in to the spirit of rejuvenation that people of all walks of life should embrace.”
Read on for nine simple tips to help you renew your spirit this spring:
Really savor life’s simple pleasures. Take time out of your day to enjoy the taste of delicious food (hello, Easter ham and marshmallow Peeps!) and perhaps a glass of good wine. Inhale the rich, mysterious fragrance of dirt as you prepare your garden. If you have a moment of pure silence, tune into that moment so you really experience it. Get a massage as a treat and make a point of staying present throughout.
“Life is abundant with gifts of indescribable beauty,” says Solomon. “The more you practice alertness and experience life happening now, the more you will be able to appreciate the good parts of life—because you are paying attention to them.”
Keep a spiritual journal. One of the best ways to practice self-care is to keep a journal. Solomon is meticulous with his journaling practice (he refers to his journals throughout the book as Chronicles), and having a written record of his life has been an invaluable factor in his spiritual journey.
Each day, take 10 or 15 minutes to write, he advises. Write what you feel: your thoughts, dreams, questions. By checking in with yourself daily through writing, you will gain a keen sense of what peace means to you, and your soul will go to work to find the answers.
Embrace an art form that gives you goosebumps. Art is one of the most transformative modes of communication. It helps us connect to our humanity and the Earth on a deeper level— sometimes that connection is even beyond words. Solomon, who practices Bonsai, believes that art helps us connect to our spirituality on a deeper level.
“Find your own meaningful form of art to either practice or appreciate,” he suggests. “Some examples may include painting or sketching, learning a musical instrument, or taking a sewing or acting class.”
Practice gratitude daily. Maybe you’re having a tough time right now, or maybe things are going a-okay (we hope!). Either way, get used to feeling grateful for the gifts you do have. Sometimes writing them down in a gratitude journal can help, but you don’t have to do that: Just use your senses and pause to reflect on the beauty you see, hear, taste, and smell around you.
“Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving, because it forces you to continually find the silver linings during life’s storms,” comments Solomon. “Acknowledging the positives in your life makes even the roughest paths seem more tolerable and in time will make you more resilient.”
Find a spiritual practice that resonates with you. If you don’t want to go to church or adopt any sort of belief system, that’s fine. But it is important to work on connecting your body, mind, and soul in some meaningful way. Check out a yoga class, or meditation, or find a spot by a stream or lake that gives you a peaceful feeling. The possibilities are endless; you can even create a “shrine” in your home. It doesn’t need to mimic an altar; it’s enough to have a collection of photos and objects that remind you of people you love or make you feel serene.
Weave random acts of kindness into the fabric of your life. There is no better way to celebrate the spirit of Easter than being kind and loving to others. You don’t have to be showy; sometimes a smile is all it takes to brighten a stranger’s day. But if you really wanted to, you could buy a bunch of flowers and give them to a neighbor who seems lonely or heavy-hearted. Or just be extra generous when tipping your server.
“Paying it forward is a kindness that will only perpetuate love, and love is the primary force of Heaven,” adds Solomon.
Find something to smile about every day. Choosing joy over sadness is a continual journey. You’re not going to feel great every day. Bad things are going to happen. But choosing how you respond to life’s ups and downs will affect you deeply in the long run. That’s why it is so important to smile every day. Soon, you may notice that your outlook is more hopeful than ever before. And hope is what it’s all about.
Cultivate a springtime garden. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what Heaven looks like. Let your imagination run wild. Now open your eyes and figure out how you can incorporate a literal interpretation of Heaven in your own garden or home.
Solomon, who has extensively studied the phenomenon known as the near-death experience (NDE), says that a common theme is that the Afterlife is a place of stunning, indescribable natural beauty. Many NDE survivors strongly believe that this place they visited is Heaven—and that visit changed their lives forever. Even if you’ve personally never “seen” Heaven, Solomon says you can envision it.
Once you have an idea of what Heaven looks like to you, find flowers and other plants that match the colors you envision. This is the perfect time of year to start a garden or even just plant seeds in a window box if you don’t have a lot of space. Pot indoor plants and trees to make your interior just as beautiful as the outdoors.
Find inspiration through music. You probably already know which music feels intuitively good to you. Find time every day to play music in your home that resonates and makes you feel connected to your own spirit—or to a higher power. Maybe you love to listen to jazz on Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee. Or, say, ’80s pop makes you feel joyous and giddy. (We’re not judging!) Find a time to get lost in your music and enjoy the peace you feel when that happens.
“The human spirit responds to music,” says Solomon. “It’s not surprising that many NDEs include descriptions of beautiful, otherworldly music. So whatever music feels good to you, incorporate it into your life to really internalize the hope and peace this season naturally brings.”
Creating your own Heaven on Earth is a powerful way to take a stand against dreariness, cynicism, and negativity. When you mindfully practice these tips (and come up with your own), you’ll find that each day becomes more colorful, more richly textured, more infused with joy and meaning.
“While Easter means different things to different people, each of us could stand to have a little more hope and peace day to day,” concludes Solomon. “Glimpses of Heaven are all around us, if we choose to open our eyes and acknowledge them. It’s my hope that the Earth’s rebirth here at the advent of spring inspires everyone to find a way to bring the essence of Heaven into their homes and hearts.”
About the Author:
David Solomon is a Christian minister. He is regarded as a leading philosopher and exponent of cosmological mythology, Bible interpretation, and prophecy. In addition to a lifetime of spiritual studies under renowned Christian and Buddhist teachers, David is the founder of a multi-million dollar payment processing company, Fast Transact, Inc. After receiving a terminal diagnosis of glioblastoma brain cancer in 2013, David retired to Virginia Beach where he currently focuses on completing The Dead Saints Chronicles series.
About the Book:
The Dead Saints Chronicles: A Zen Journey Through the Christian Afterlife (Dead Saints Media, April 2016, ISBN: 978-0-9972454-0-0, $24.95, www.deadsaints.org) is available at www.deadsaints.org/buy-the-
By John Nelson
While smart phones and social media allow us to expand our connection to others across the globe, they also split our focus and disrupt the flow of life in the present and can create a kind of adult ADD that impairs our ability to connect deeply or intimately with others. Even those aware of this dichotomy between connections and real connecting accept the tradeoff as they share their inner lives via this electronic interface and bathe in the glow of the self-gratification it brings. Others have said as much in different forums over the past ten years. What I would like to explore is how this seemingly innocuous tradeoff can lull us to sleep until one day, in the near or distant future, we wake up and look in the bathroom mirror and see the reflection of a cyborg-like creature looking back at us. For a split second we realize that something is amiss, some deeper connection to self, life, and some vague concept of a higher order, before we launch ourselves into our robotic life.
This is the situation faced by the main character in my novel, I, Human(Cosmic Egg, May 2016), set in the late 21st century when most people have neural implants that bestow 200 Plus I.Q.s but atrophy feeling and intuition and lead to massive emotional breakdowns. Alan Reynard wonders, recording his thoughts in a subprogram of his processor to be flushed later, “. . . if we hadn’t lost some essential quality as a species in our rush toward technological progress.” The problem for him and his techno minders is that after fifty years of their use, they have lost the capacity to understand, not less to program integrative functioning. The story revolves around Alan being sent to a spiritual healer in a borny enclave—those who refuse the mental upgrade—who has had some success in modifying these neural implants, which are made from human brain cells and are thus affected by subtle energy. They hope his sessions with her will reprogram his experimental neural processor, which they can then roll out to the masses as an upgrade to “fix the problem.” However, he has an awakening and gives his minders more than they had bargained for.
So how does our society, if this possible scenario has any predictive value, find itself in such a dystopian world? Well, as the proverb reminds us, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” or closer still Vigil’s version of it, “The descent to hell is easy.” It would be the result, I speculate, of the continual erosion of our self-reflective consciousness, or the “watcher” in our mindfulness exercises. Today most of us are already finding it hard to keep “present” with the frenetic pace of our lives, which seems to double in intensity each year—exponential growth is the term the techies use and attribute it to technological progress. So to keep up or just cope, we increasingly rely on tech devices like smart phones to manage the onslaught of information, and to pay our bills, read books or watch amusing U-Tube videos. In fact, as media sources claim, Millennials check their iPhones 43 times a day, and use them to connect to Facebook 14 times a day. This compulsive use comes while we’re eating lunch, working our jobs, even talking on the phone while emailing someone else, creating more split-focus.
Technology can be a great facilitator—I’m old enough to remember working jobs or writing novels without word processors and the Internet—and it improves efficiency but can also create a great dependency. It seems innocuous to have a digital online banking account and let the bank add up our monthly charges, instead of balancing our checkbooks. And it’s less stressful to have Internet exchanges with dozens of friends a day, instead of a sit-down with one person in which you look into their eyes and “feel” the truth of their being. Or, when we take our kids to a national park and let them keep their eyes glued to their “screens” instead of the “greens” of the natural world around them “to keep the peace.” As I said, this all seems rather innocuous, until the erosion of our feeling centers, which Jung would claim allows us to ascertain proper values, is such that a great many people can get taken in by a huckster running for political office because they can’t see beyond the sizzle to the bankrupted values of their platform.
It seems to me that technology can be such an extension of our mental framework that it becomes like our surrogate ego with all of its greedy needs, which are satisfied by its amazing reach into the world and its ready access to instant gratification. If you feel a mid-afternoon let down and need relief, online porn, shopping, and Chinese takeout are just a click away. If you can’t connect to your mate or boy/girlfriend, you can find superficial connections on an online dating site. If your boss doesn’t like your proposal, go shopping for a new job on an online professional headhunter site. This kind of kinetic environment just feeds the superficial aspects of our ego identification. Increasingly, if we don’t practice our mindfulness exercises like the author Jacob Liberman’s suggested 40 30-second mini-meditations a day and check out iPhones instead, we will lose our connection to the greater whole of ourselves and the universe at large.
This is how I see us buying into greater and greater technological intrusions into our bodies and minds to the eventual extent I depict in my futuristic novel. Just look at the plethora of pharmaceutical ads on television: 4.5 billion spent in 2014. Now think what they will offer thirty or forty years down the road: let’s say to go along with your Viagra or its future substitute, there’s a testosterone pump you can install that keeps the orgasms coming, as it were. Or, why suffer from depression—or use talk therapy or body therapy to integrate feelings—when there’s a Brave New World supermarket that makes Soma look like candy canes, and you can escape your misery for an hour or a lifetime. But, the real appeal I surmise would be enhancement technology, like the neural implants I posit in I, Human that raise I.Q.s to 200 Plus, allow you to read and absorb 30 pages of text a minute, make you a human calculator, and with logic circuits that can put a facile spin on any position. Just look how fast smart phones overtook us and shaped how we operate in the world. Could you resist the appeal of a neural implant, or not buy them for your children and watch them fall behind in school and get second-tier jobs?
How does the character in my novel pull out of his own society-induced tech coma? His experimental processor, while allowing the integration of more feelings, programs mental feedback like a monkey-mind on steroids. Alan must use an extreme mindfulness focus to counter and then offset its influence and stay sane. The trick is how to program new neural pathways into the processor that would be undetectable to the brain scientists of the day. He achieves this using rising Kundalini energy or the energy of life, which affects the human brain cells of his processor, and create the needed pathways to greater functionality for all.
My hope is that the extreme situation of my fictional world will motivate us, as the process of writing it did for me, to increase our connection to ourselves and to our concept of higher power, to be able to resist the ego temptations of such technology, which are here now with more coming down the road soon. Let me add that technology isn’t in and of itself bad, regressive, or evil, but how we use it determines its value, and that depends on who is using it and their consciousness.
About the author:
John Nelson is the sci-fi/visionary author of Starborn, Transformations, Matrix of the Gods, and the upcoming I, Human. He is also the author of The Magic Mirror, the 2008 COVR winner at INATS for best book of the year and best divination system. He is the former editorial director of Bear & Company and Inner Oceans Publishing, and today writes books and edits fiction and nonfiction at Bookworks Ltd. www.johnnelsonbookworks.com
By Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
The sight of someone eating will not appease your hunger.
The spiritual experiences of others cannot satisfy your yearning.
Q: Daily, I pray, regularly give to charity, do good works and always try to be a good person, yet spiritual experience eludes me. O I am so frustrated. Please, how do I go about having spiritual experiences?
Additionally, I feel unless I have these, I will remain incomplete. O how I yearn to draw closer to God. I thought by following my birth religion and the Path, spiritual experience would be natural outcomes?
A: The answer to this question, like so many others on the spiritual path cannot be thought out or answered by ordinary reasoning (ego). The answers must be experienced or perceived through another mode of consciousness; intuition or Higher Knowledge must provide a personal answer. The Secret Protects Itself.
In this situation, mind questions so heart might respond. Or stated another way;
Imagination blocks you like a bolt on a door,
Burn that bar.
Substitute for the word imagination, expectations, ordinary thoughts, emotions and comparison with others.
The task of the spiritual traveler is to learn to ask the question in one mode of thought, and listen too or experience the answer in another. Like pre-setting the stations on your radio; Station #1 presents the inquiry-where are my spiritual experiences? Click to Station #2, spiritual awareness; which answers the question: spiritual experiences are natural outgrowths of a higher state of consciousness. They present at their own time. This higher state of consciousness is Love of God and a heart that is empty of all else. Again, The Secret Protects Itself.
Remember while the every day consciousness (ego) may be filled with all kinds of concerns, the traveler must learn to still them, for a time, so the heart- that burns for God- might come forward.
In this example, presetting the device for spiritual awareness, often with the help of a teacher, facilitates the change of station.
You must learn to listen to the quiet whisperings of your heart to perceive these answers and have these experiences. Often this training is supplied through right study, with right people, and in the right place. It usually involves freeing oneself of expectations and strong emotions.
Second, seeking spiritual experience is different than seeking God. Our teacher used to say: ‘When you come to me, come to me about God. Do not come here for anything else.’ Often this deception, in the spiritual search, about outcome is buried so deep that it requires continual work to offset its effect. The Secret Protects Itself.
Expectations & Emotions
Each spiritual traveler is born into a world of expectation. Daily behaviors and societal standards are presented by family, friends, co-workers, country, religion and self.
Overtime, these expectations form our operating system and world view. We want to go and do based upon what we have been taught and what we desire for self and others; expectations set standards for behavior that have attached to them a whole series of emotions. For example, joy at accomplishing our goal or sadness as we fail.
This set of personal expectation or goals, in time, can entrap and bind- yet serves an essential function for society as a whole; and is often the basis for our daily behaviors.
For the spiritual traveler, these are the chains that must be temporarily broken- for the Higher Consciousness to work. Cognitively and emotionally they are a door that blocks the inner awareness.
As indicated above, attached to expectations are emotions: both enrich our lives and help make us human. However, in a spiritual quest, they fill our consciousness and must be stilled temporarily so the Higher Impulse can be perceived and heard. Emotions and expectations are ‘a noise’ in our consciousness: blocking other things from happening.
In a spiritual quest, typical expectation sets run something like this. Many times, spiritual travelers are unaware, because these expectations are hidden, that it is precisely these sub-conscious thoughts, along with their emotional attachments, that are blocking spiritual progress.
• I have been meditating for five years and surely something should have happened by now. Or I cannot meditate for more than 2 minutes and surely this inability must be holding me back.
• Everyone knows, ‘we have been given enough for the journey;’ therefore I can pick and choose what I like from different paths. This technique has worked for me in so many areas of my life (i.e., picking a vocation, car and companion).
• When performing spiritual exercises, praying, or doing good works we all have an expectation about how we will be rewarded; for example, this activity will make me a good person, I will gain in good works and I feel good helping others. When the spiritual traveler has these often hidden feelings; these feelings become their reward and they do not travel further. This mind set is a form of ‘spiritual greed’ and must be disarmed by a neutral mental posture.
• When I reach a high level of spirituality, my life will be perfect and complete. Spiritual knowledge is one aspect of a healthy life; spiritual awareness serves as a catalyst to enable other things to happen.
• I love to meditate and pray; it makes me feel so peaceful and I am one with everything. Or I feel so good when I work at the soup kitchen, helping the homeless. Think about the emotional attachment.
In order to maximize spiritual potential, the traveler must learn to recognize when their expectation set is operating. Also the traveler must learn to differentiate between an emotional and a spiritual experience. While expectations and emotions are an important part of healthy living, for many, because they have not been disarmed- both become an obstacle to spiritual experience. The Secret Protects Itself.
We are the means of reaching the goal. It is necessary that seekers should cut themselves away from us and think only of the goal.
– Bahauddin Naqshband
If love manifests itself within you, it has its origin in beauty. You are nothing but a mirror in which beauty is reflected. Because beauty and its reflection are both from that one source, it is both treasure and treasure-house.
About the author:
Read my book: Beyond The River’s Gate. Book is available on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle format or local bookstore.
by Joyce and Barry Vissell
The first three steps of the twelve step program for recovery from addiction have to do with asking for help, knowing that we are powerless without help from a higher power, and trusting that this higher power can restore our lives greater than we could even imagine. I have seen these twelve steps work miracles in the lives of many people.
What about people who are not struggling with addiction? I feel the twelve steps, especially the first three, can help all people.
Recently, we met with a family group of fifteen who were going through a huge challenge with very strong opposing views. The family was split in two by these views and were in a lot of pain. There appeared to be no easy solution and there was a possibility of multiple estrangements. In all of our forty five years of counseling people and leading groups, this was honestly the most complex and painful family situation we had ever encountered. I hardly ever feel nervous about a situation in our work, but I began to feel not only nervous, but also a bit fearful.
Then I realized I needed to turn the situation over completely to God, asking that this great power could come through Barry and me in ways that I could not even imagine. And that is what happened! Once I really surrendered to my need for help in working with this broken family, the nervousness and fear left me. I did not really have a plan other than to trust in the Higher Power of Love. Though the time with them was very challenging, the end result was greater than I could have ever imagined. This family has a long road to go in healing, but if they can continue to ask for help from a higher power, they will be even stronger than before.
Asking for help from our higher power is extremely powerful in our lives. Most people wait until there is an extremely challenging situation. There is the famous scene from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which Jimmy Stewart’s character, George, is desperate and wants to take his life. While sitting in a bar he prays, “God, I am not a praying man but, if you can hear me, I need help.” Then help comes in the form of a strange angel named Clarence.
What if we began asking for help with smaller things in our life, to build up a momentum of faith that we can be helped in all ways when we ask? Most people feel that it is best to not bother asking for help for smaller things as it is a waste of God’s energy. That view sees The Great Power of Love in such a limited way, that there is just so much energy and so we better wait until it is life and death before asking for help. But the truth is that the energy available to us is unlimited. We are loved so much that help is available always. I am not talking about asking for a brand new shiny car or to win the lottery. I am talking about real life issues however small you think they are.
I had an experience recently with what could be considered a very small need for help. We were at the breakfast line at the retreat center we use in Hawaii to lead our week long couple’s retreat. Before the retreat a woman volunteer asked us to give a talk to the community about relationships. At first we thought none of the volunteers would come, but she assured us she would get other volunteers to come. We agreed and set up a time and space for one of the evenings. We then got involved with leading our retreat and forgot about naming the talk. The morning of the talk came and suddenly we realized we had not given the talk a name to place on the daily activities board. While in line at the dining area, Barry suggested that we call it an “Aloha Talk.” I didn’t like that title but couldn’t come up with something else.
Then I said, “I’m going to ask for help that someone will come and tell us exactly what to name the talk.” Barry looked doubtful but responded, “Well I doubt that someone is going to come walking up and tell us, but if they do we will go with their suggestion. We have to have something up on the bulletin board within a few minutes.” We agreed and continued in the line. I closed my eyes for a moment and asked for help. Within one minute of my asking for help the original woman volunteer that had invited us came around the corner carrying some hot water. She stopped when she saw us and said, “We are all so excited about the talk tonight. What are you going to name it?” Barry suggested the “Aloha Talk.” She grimaced and said, “Nobody would come to that! Why don’t you call it ’Creating Healthy Relationships’?” Then she continued on her way with the hot water. We stood a moment in awe at the divine answer to my small request for help.
Help does not always come immediately, like with the name of our talk, George Bailey getting a visit from his angel Clarence, or when we worked with that troubled family. But help will come at the perfect time and it can go beyond your imagination. The important thing is to start asking for help and knowing that our Creator wants to help us as we live our lives upon this earth.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:
June 4-11 — Alaska “Inside Message” Cruise
Jul 17-22 — Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR
Oct 14-20 — Assisi Retreat, Italy
Feb 5-12, 2017 — Hawaii Couples Retreat
About the author:
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.