Still Within

These days, with so many radar systems, channels and apps at hand, we can track changes in weather 24-7. Yet, with all that information, we still can’t control where the winds may blow or when the rains and snows may fall. Neither can we always predict the kinds of figurative storms which sometimes arise within us when we’re frightened, hurt, angry or confused.

Then there are the insidious storms, the kind we don’t notice at first, as they drip, drip, drip on us so long we believe they’re a “normal” part of life. These storms — sometimes called crowd or mass consciousness — are those which espouse that “Everyone says”; “All of us believe”; “They all think”; “We’re all doing.” When I became aware of these storms, I began to wonder: Which Everyone, All, They and We are these?

Of all the storms we encounter on our life journeys, these figurative storms can be more threatening to our lives — and more deadening to our spirits — than a category 4 hurricane. They also can be the most difficult to weather because getting through them usually requires a course correction. Sometimes, in the midst of an insidious storm, we need to change direction or leave the beaten path for the road less traveled.

By the time Jesus teaches about this (see Mark 4:35-41), his disciples already are astounded by his power. On their travels to bring the good news of God’s divine kingdom to all who will listen, they get into a boat to go “to the other side.” Although they “leave the crowds behind,” they notice that other boats are with them, which reminds us that even when we choose to leave the crowds behind, we discover fellow travelers on the way.

During their journey, a great windstorm arises. Waves beat against the boat. Yet, Jesus sleeps comfortably until the disciples wake him and ask, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re perishing?”

Then he awakens, rebukes the wind, and says, “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceases, and all is calm.

He turns to the disciples and asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Then they’re awed and ask one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

We may wonder: Did Jesus really stop the wind and sea? Perhaps. If we believe that Jesus acted like a mighty super hero, rather than a spiritual role model, maybe he did tell the wind and waves to be still — and they were. Though perhaps, when Jesus says, “Peace, be still,” the storm he really calmed was the fearful, worried one raging within the disciples as they journeyed in a new direction.

No matter what our life’s calling or which storms may rage around us, we too are assured: We have choices about how we’ll travel and how we’ll respond, no matter what everyone else says, believes, thinks, or does. As we center ourselves in stillness, with assurance and trust, we can continue faithfully on our way, leaving the crowds — and the storms — behind.

 

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

Be Your Own Guru – Part 3

When I taught high school English, I had a poster centered above the blackboard which said: “Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters.” I wish I had a dollar for every student throughout my teaching career who said, “Really. Wow!”

To listen, we first need to be silent. Many people wish to be effective listeners, although we aren’t always as effective as we’d like. Whether this has anything to do with technique, I don’t know for sure. Yet, the most effective way I’ve found to listen is still the advice Jesus the Christ gave in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 6:6), when he said, “Go into your room and close the door . . . .”

To be effective at anything we truly wish to do in our lives – as well as to be our own guru – we need some sacred, silent time apart, to commune with God (however we understand God) and ourselves. Jesus and every other master mystic did it. So can we – if we’re willing to gift ourselves with the time, place and space to make it part of our lives.

So, as we begin the season of Lent, when many people fast from particular indulgences, consider which activity, event or thing you could give up, relinquish, or “unfollow” (see “Be Your Own Guru – Part 2” for more about that). Then, use that newly liberated time and space to be silent.

Many types of silent meditation practices are available, so choose one which is most comfortable for you. However, if you’re someone who’s struggled to meditate because you thought you were doing it “wrong” or nothing was happening, remember that the true goal of meditation is two-fold: to connect with God and with ourselves.

Despite what we may believe, silent meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or finding bliss, although on occasion, both of these things may occur. Rather, meditation in the silence is a way for us to understand our own minds, thoughts and feelings. Even when it seems that nothing is happening, or that our minds are scattered and spacey, daily time in the silence opens our inner pathways so we can listen when our inner guru speaks, however softly.

The truth is, to be our own guru, we need to turn within. Otherwise, we’re constantly distracted by all the noise, commotion, drama and uproar around us. Even if the time for ourselves seems indulgent or selfish, ultimately, it allows us to be more present to ourselves and then to the other people, places and things which are most important in our lives.

Our silent time honors us, so then we may honor and be present to others. When we choose to embrace time in the silence, we put our own spiritual oxygen masks on first. Then we can support and serve others, as we choose, with renewed energy, clarity and strength. And sometimes we discover that the journey becomes easier also.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

Be Your Own Guru – Part 2

To begin nurturing our inner guru, we recognize that all people possess the innate wisdom and understanding to discern how best to live their lives. As Dr. H. Emilie Cady, a holistic pioneer and New Thought Christian writer and teacher noted in Lessons in Truth (2003 edition, p. 5):

“All joy and strength and good spring up from a fountain within one’s own being, and if we only knew this Truth, we should know that, because God in us is the fountain from which springs all our good, nothing that anyone does or says, or fails to do or say, can take away our joy and good.”

As we believe and claim this truth for ourselves, we begin to embrace our own lives and our personal power to choose how we truly wish to live. We also acknowledge responsibility for our choices – all the stuff we like and all the stuff we don’t.

Fortunately, the spiritual journey provides many do-overs, even though we can’t travel back in a time machine or rewrite our pasts. As long as we’re willing to examine our own choices, recognizing things which worked and things which didn’t, we have the opportunity to begin again, as we are, wherever we are. We have the joy – and the challenges – of fully participating in our own lives without giving away our personal power to someone else by following what they recommend, say, or do – or don’t.

To nurture our inner guru, we subtract (or release), all life-draining emotional, spiritual and/or mental baggage. This is a slow, deliberate, divine journey of self-awareness and self-discovery, filled with tears, laughter, and many Ah-Ha moments. It requires not only aligning ourselves with God, but also “unfollowing” what no longer truly sustains our lives. Which is perhaps why many people give up before they even begin.

So, begin slowly, gently, by considering these questions:

  • What, of your true heart’s desires, have you enjoyed from your bucket list? What are you doing to enjoy more?
  • Which books, newsletters, posts, and feeds do you think you “should” read? Are they truly providing the education, training and/or wisdom you need?
  • Which projects truly “must” be done? Are you the person to do them? Do they actually need to be done at all?
  • Which people truly listen to you and support you in living your dreams and passions? Which people try to catch you in their nets of drama, gossip and hassles?
  • When you request advice, do you understand what is said? Are you supported in determining your own needs, or does the advice-giver act as if they are the “only” expert, following the “only” path, offering the “only” offer there ever will be?

Only we can answer these questions ourselves. Trust that the answers reveal themselves, as we honor the still, small voice which is our inner guru, inviting us – sometimes urging us – to listen.

In Part 3 – Adding “listening” time, embracing silence, and resting in meditation.

 

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.