The Essence of Faith – Part 1 of 2 – Caroline Myss

Miniature Footbridge @ Garden Lovers Club

~*~

From Caroline’s 2002 Salon – Part 1 of 2

The Essence of Faith

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The other day I was discussing with a friend a serious challenge she is going through in her marriage. We talked about the pros and cons of counseling, separation, divorce, and anything else that seemed like a viable option. At the end of the conversation, she leaned back in her chair and said, “Oh, well, I guess I just have to have faith that it will all work out.” I agreed with her.

Then I thought about how often “I guess I just have to have faith” was the closing remark in conversations I have had and continue to have. The realization that brought me to a pause was that I have never really taken the time to think about the nature of faith: What exactly is faith? How do we know if we have faith? And how is the power of faith manifested?

Growing up as a Catholic, “Just have faith” was practically a mantra in itself. But as I grew older, that mantra often came back to haunt me. I can remember times when I was so desperate for guidance that when someone suggested that I “just have faith,” I wanted to push them off a cliff screaming, “Just have faith! I’m sure there’s a net down there somewhere!” Every one of you reading this knows the feeling I’m describing.

What exactly is faith? How do we know we have faith? By what scale do we measure whether we have “enough” faith? And then there is the question of “unconditional” faith, which has to be the highest risk of all relationships with the heavens. That one is like giving the Divine a green light to send you on whatever missions the heavens deem essential — not to you, necessarily, but to the greater good. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, who, while kneeling at the infamous rock, inquired in prayer why he needed to die such a horrific death. With no answer forthcoming from above, he agreed with unconditional faith to follow through with his Contract.

The Essence of Faith

Faith is power. It is the power to stand up to the madness and chaos of the physical world while holding the position that nothing external has any authority over what heaven has in mind for you. That kind of power is perhaps the most enviable internal strength that any human being can attain. Like any good Catholic schooled in the lives of the saints and mystics, I know an endless string of stories that show why their faith was the proof of their sainthood. Against all odds, these individuals were able to resist the forces of the outside world that others would cave under and hold steady on their course. That course could consist of believing in the process of inner revelation that was taking place within their spirits, or of trusting that their needs would be met regardless of the odds.

Some years ago I read a book about the woman known as Peace Pilgrim. For twenty-five years, she walked across the country in behalf of world peace, carrying all that she needed with her. She ate when given food and slept when given a bed. Peace Pilgrim’s journey was one of unconditional faith, and it was that aspect of her life that captivated my attention as I read her story. Her plan was to walk across the northern part of the country during the summer and the southern states during the winter. One time as she was walking through the South, the weather turned cold and she lacked proper clothing. She heard a voice tell her to seek cover under a bridge and when she reached that destination she discovered a box large enough for her to fit into with a blanket and pillow inside. One could call that a miracle, but is it really? Could that experience be simply the way things happen when we walk in faith? Isn’t it more the way heaven would work with us if we followed the teachings of the spiritual masters and trusted that our needs would be met – IF, indeed, we trusted that our needs would be met? I love stories like Peace Pilgrim’s because I believe that heaven does watch us that closely and can intervene in a moment’s notice – and part of my inner struggle is that I just can’t seem to live in that space. Nor can most of the people I meet. So many of us (perhaps you included) want to reach that place of living free from the parasitical fears that prevent us from being fully alive.

When I was growing up, I believed that heaven had to ask my parents’ permission to send me a crisis — that as long as I lived at home, I remained underage for “adult” problems. Later, when I was in my twenties and was just beginning to wonder about the nature of God, I met a woman I’ll call Marge, who had a magnetic personality. She lived a simple life that appeared quite attractive to me because she was perhaps the first person I had ever met who was truly content and did not invest her time in “wanting.” That quality alone was soothing to me because she so clearly loved her life just as it was. Marge was soft-spoken and small-framed, not that those characteristics have anything at all to do with faith. They did, however, stand in stark contrast to the enormous spirit that she possessed. I remember so clearly asking her why it was easy for her to believe that all things were taken care of and unfolded as they were meant to unfold. I challenged her with an obvious argument, namely, Would she offer that same posture to someone whose house had just been wiped out in a flood or to someone who had just experienced the loss of a loved one?

“Well, you know,” Marge said, “everything you believe depends upon how afraid you are of life, and how well you want to know the soul of life, because life itself has its own soul.” I loved the poetry of that response. It rolled around in my head like a line from an Emily Dickinson poem. Life itself has its own soul. I am still in awe of that thought because it is truth. We discussed the “behavior” of life, its precarious personality and whimsical nature. In the end, Marge pointed out that trusting in the nature of God is the same as coming to the realization that life should not be lived “safely” but “wisely.” To expect that God does not act through pain and pleasure equally is to maintain a child’s idea of God. It seemed to me, I said, that holding onto a belief that heaven means for you to lose your home in a flood borders on pure absurdity. (Keep in mind that at the time of this exchange, I was in my twenties and this is exactly what I believed. Looking back, I realize that I was in search of the rules to follow that would insure that it would never be my home that would be swept away under the waves.)

Marge told me that to seek a way to avoid chaos and pain was the true absurdity. “Life comes to call in full measure at times,” she said, “and faith is the power to accept the nature of life as it is and to cease the meaningless and useless task of trying to stop change from happening to you.” This final comment of hers reminded me that a touch of Buddhism always has a way of putting things into perspective.

But still…

Before I met Marge, there had always been something that irritated me about the belief that “things work out for the best.” It implies that today was empty and that tomorrow, all will be perfect. Faith, it seems to me, is the capacity to keep your attention in the moment and say, “All is as it should be now.” It shouldn’t mean speaking of that sweet comfort zone in the language of the inevitable, the not-quite-yet, the someday-down-the-road. The secret of Marge’s peace was that she did not live waiting for her tomorrow to be better. Whatever her day was filled with was “as it should be” and that was good enough for her. She had faith, a belief that in all things that looked still there was motion so fast that your eyes could not keep pace with the speed of change. She lived fully in the faith that all things could change in an instant, including the healing of an illness, an end to overwhelming poverty, or meeting the love of your life at the local gas station. Marge balked at the word “impossible,” saying that if she could ever ban something from her house, it would be spiritually disabling beliefs that had no place in the description of heaven.

How do you know if you have faith, and how much is enough to generate a miracle?

I can’t recall the number of times I have wondered about how much faith is enough to get what I want, or to make what I want happen. All religions have their rituals and prayer tools; Catholics, for instance, have the rosary and novenas. The power ritual involved with a novena is that you pray the rosary nine days in a row and – voila! You get what you want. At least that’s what I believed as a child. Would that it were that easy. I used to do rosary calculations: If I wanted something REAL big, that might take two novenas, which, by the way, required a good deal of effort. I would have to pray the rosary for eighteen days straight, without a break in the action. If you broke the nine day commitment, you had to start over again. Believe me when I tell you that I am not the first to do rosary calculus. It goes along with how many candles you need to light to show that you have faith in this or that.

One day as I was saying the rosary, I realized that I did not have an agenda as such. I was just praying for the sake of praying. It had to be one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my life. I couldn’t think of a thing to ask for — which was a bit like sitting on Santa’s lap and drawing a blank. I started to float in the experience of praying without an agenda. The feeling was truly euphoric. And then I knew that this was the first time I had experienced an unconditional sense of faith and trust in God. I had no complaints to state, no wish list, no this or that. I only wanted to float in this light space of trust. This sensation was so overpowering that I am struggling with ways to describe it to you. And I need to add that as much as I would like to say that ever since meeting heaven on truly holy ground I have remained there, that is far from fact. But I recall this place more clearly than I can see and feel my computer. In that moment I knew what it was to have faith. I lacked fear. I wasn’t dense with concern over my tomorrow or thick with regrets about yesterday. I was living in that place of “all is as it should be.” This same experience recurred once some years after I had met Marge. And when it did, I learned that everything that Marge had described to me about the lightness that naturally flows from having trust in the Divine was true. In that place, your spirit simply stops wondering and wandering. It has absolutely no desire to be anywhere other than in the present moment. Regardless of what is unfolding in that present moment on the physical plane, a sense of grace rushes through you that says “all is well” and “no need to worry.” And the miracle – if you want to call it that – is how easy it is in that place to believe that all is well in some way.

Next week – Finding, Nurturing and Developing Faith.

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/

🌹

Miniature Footbridge @ Garden Lovers Club

Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists & photographers ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah 
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Happiness According to the Chakras – Part 4 of 4 – Caroline Myss

Artist ~ Harsh Malik

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Happiness According to the Chakras
From Caroline’s 2012 Salon – Part 4 of 4

 

Just for fun, I used the chakra system as a map, charting the soul’s requirements for engaging with this organic force of Nature that we have named, “Happiness.” That is, if we could ask the soul, “What does the soul require us to know or to do in order to create a happy life?”– these are answers that might just work.

First/Tribal Chakra:
This is your tribal center that represents your connection to physical life as well as to the Earth itself. This is the chakra through which you are connected to the laws of Nature and to its cycles and rhythms. You are a part of this ecosystem. In order to thrive, you need to live in harmony with Nature’s ecosystem. You need to plant seeds, symbolically speaking. You need to stick your hands in the Earth and connect to the life force. You need to be rooted in something that matters. You need to be part of a community of people, a community of life. You need to matter to this community and find people who matter to you. You cannot define “meaningful” relationships only by those that are romantic. Life is filled with meaningful relationships of all kinds. You need to contribute to the living community that you are a part of on this Earth.

Second/Relationship Chakra: 
This is your center of relationships and creativity, as well as values such as integrity and loyalty. Knowing your values, then, becomes an essential ingredient for creating a happy life. You need to be in relationships with others. Friends, family, lovers, neighbors, community members, volunteer groups – you need people in order to thrive. No one can be alone and happy. People need people. And you need to stay creative. This means you need to feed your mind creative inspiration, like good books, film, theater, museums, and conversations. And you need creative outlets. Happiness requires expression and input. This is also your center of values. The absence of values – whatever your values are – leaves you adrift. You don’t know who you are because you don’t know what you stand for or what you believe. If you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, life will terrify you. You will never be able to count on yourself, much less anyone else. You have to know what you believe in and what you stand for in life.

Third/Self Chakra: 
This is your ego center. Happiness is built on healthy self-esteem. The shadow side of self-esteem is narcissism, a life that’s “all about you.” If you are serious about creating a happy and healthy life, then raise the bar on what you expect from yourself in terms of how you live. Decide to live the congruent life: walk the way you talk. Become a person who does her/his best to live without contradictions, keeps her word, and doesn’t betray others or lie. Such a personal code of integrity, I assure you, will improve your chances of creating a happy life because you will find you hurt people a lot less. You will discover that living at this altitude of consciousness requires that you are extremely mindful of what you say and do – and that quality of consciousness is exactly the type of thoughtfulness that creates the refined harmony we have named “happiness.”

Fourth/Heart Chakra: 
Clean out your heart center. Start fresh. If you want to be happy, reboot. Carrying baggage and repeating your wounded stories again and again – and again – is self-destructive. Punishing others for your bad days and unhappy childhood is cruel – although many find it useful as a control mechanism. If you want a happy life with someone, or just yourself, clean out your heart center. Get up tomorrow morning and fall madly in love with your life, or at least something about your life.

I told a woman to do this one time and she said she hated her life and everything in it. She said she could not imagine falling madly in love with her life. The idea, she said, was preposterous. I got that. So I told her to imagine that she was dying, that she had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given two months. She really got into this exercise. After a bit, I asked her, “Did you give in to the diagnosis or did you fight it? Did you want to live or die?” She started to cry, admitting she wanted to live. Indeed, she said, she would have fought with all her might to stay alive, even in her dire situation. We discussed that feeling – this desire to fight to stay alive even in her dismal situation – and she said, “I can’t explain it but I felt as if grace itself was talking to me, telling me to hang on because the situation was only temporary. I know we were just doing an exercise, but I think that grace really spoke to me.” Absolutely it did.

Happiness is about cleaning out your heart and nurturing the graces that matter: hope, love, and forgiveness. Let the past go. And don’t be shy about telling others you love them or that you are sorry for something. You may not have a second chance.

Fifth/Will Chakra:
Make important choices when you need to make them. Have the courage to be spontaneous. Do not let others make choices for you that you have to live with. Speak up. Remember that you are an adult. Children living in adult bodies never find happiness – remember that. Happiness requires that adults live, walk, talk, and act like adults.

Sixth/Mental Chakra:
Do not play mind games with others or yourself. Live the truth. If you live in denial about things or if you harbor secrets, creating a happy life will not be easy. Happiness thrives on open, clean air. You can’t be happy if you are always wondering if a secret has slipped out the back door. Keep your mind in the higher altitudes. Stay out of the trash: gossip, rumor spreading, etc. Don’t dwell in fear and if fears are controlling you, then do something about that. Everyone experiences fear. Big deal. Don’t let fears control your life. They seep into your mind, and then your heart, and then your bloodstream. Imagine for a minute that you have no fear of being who you are. How does that feel? Like pure bliss, right?

Seventh/Spiritual Chakra: 
Happiness requires that you have an inner theology or spirituality that can withstand the storms of life. It matters not what tradition it comes from. What matters is that your inner spiritual truth is, in fact, a genuine spiritual truth that truly nurtures you. You have to attend to your spiritual life, not just visit it when things go wrong. The Divine is not a hobby. The Sacred is in every breath of life, yours included.

Finally,

I hope this Salon has been a fun read for all of you. And I also hope that this has provided some insight for those of you actively seeking ways to become happier people.

Love,

Caroline

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/

🌹

Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists & photographers ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah 

 

art-harsh-malik - female face - colours

Artist ~ Harsh Malik

 

Reasons Why People Are Unhappy – Part 3 of 4 – Caroline Myss

Linger in the Shadows art by Christian Schloe

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Reasons Why People Are Unhappy

From Caroline’s 2012 Salon – Part 3 of 4
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Entitlements… I could write a book on this one topic alone. I’ve met more people drowning in their misery because of feelings of entitlement than I can count. Entitlements include: inheritance, apologies, real estate, promotions, raises, bonuses, special seating arrangements, invitations to events, the list goes on and on. And then there is the belief that you are entitled to: respect, privilege, attention, the position of first in line, the best seat in the house or the front row, special attention because you were a Wounded Child or have some other suffering history.

Divine entitlements include: The belief that bad things won’t happen to you because you are a good person; You don’t get sick, other’s do; Your child is special, therefore, ordinary events such as accidents and illnesses will never happen to your child; You are entitled to special protection from your God because, well, because you were born for something special – you just know it.

Sound familiar? Not only do these entitlements have a formidable influence upon a person’s life; they have the power to exert complete control over an individual’s life. Entitlements are not just destructive; they are made-up. They are extensions of our ego that we indulge in to create a landscape of power and protection around ourselves, maintaining the illusion that we are anything but ordinary. After all, ordinary people are not entitled to anything. One has to be extraordinary to be entitled, right?

A guaranteed recipe for unhappiness: A long list of entitlements.

Having an aggressive attitude about aging

If that’s you, knock it off. Seriously? Either you love being alive – which includes the natural process of aging – or you don’t. You decide.

Being a Taker
You will fit one of the two following sentences:

The Taker: What I want out of life is…
Takers do exactly that – they Take. They unconsciously view life as something to get something from. Often motivated by greed, Takers find it difficult to embrace the view that life is an integrated ecosystem and that Earth is a living creature. Takers walk into a relationship and situation with this mindset, “What’s in this for me?” Takers are easily disappointed in life and in relationships. Often they expect “life” to produce something for them, effortlessly.

The Giver: What I would like to contribute to life is…
Givers strive to make a difference in the lives of others. Meaning and purpose are gravity centers for them. They look for possibilities and strive to make things happen. Givers tend to be optimistic about life and they instinctively know how to rise from the ashes. Givers stand a much greater chance at creating a happy life.

You decide which one you are.

Needing someone to make you happy
I’ve heard many people say, “I need someone to make me happy,” or “He doesn’t make me happy.” No one can make anyone happy any more than you can make someone fall in love with you, or make someone forgive you. Waiting for another person to make your life perfect is the kiss of death. Let’s say you find someone and you think, “Finally, I found someone who was born specifically to make me and only me happy, hmmm, I wonder if he/she knows that? Do I tell him?” And so the story goes. If this isn’t a recipe for raging insecurity, I don’t know what is. But it surely isn’t the secret to a long and happy life.

All Talk and No Action
You cannot talk your way into becoming a happy individual. Happiness is hard work. Becoming anything worthwhile takes effort. Couch sitters are likely to stay exactly that – people who “sit” their life away. Depression comes upon them naturally, not because of chemicals in their body but because of dwelling on themselves and their problems over and over again and doing nothing about them. Problems inherently seek solutions. Nouns seek verbs. Same thing. Talking eventually requires decisive action. Think, talk, act. The absence of action in your life will always lead to depression and unhappiness. It cannot be otherwise.

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/

🌹

Linger in the Shadows art by Christian Schloe

Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah  

Happiness as a Force of Nature – Part 2 of 4 – Caroline Myss

Artist Wendy Ng

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Happiness as a Force of Nature

From Caroline’s 2012 Salon – Part 2 of 4

We have given a name to an organic force of Nature that we recognize has a certain quality to it that results in states of bliss when we are in harmony with it. We call that force “happiness.” I am not surprised people find “happiness” difficult to define for exactly this reason – the elements are rooted in an organic life force. Here’s an example of what I am talking about: We are happy – if not happiest – when we are living in harmony with our inner nature. We feel most content, most balanced when the choices we make reflect our true feelings. We feel honest and clear. We are not hiding secrets from anyone, we are not betraying ourselves, we are comfortable speaking honestly when in discussions (not about wounds, just about life), and we feel openly and generously loving toward others. Feelings of insecurity such as, “Am I loved as much?” do not enter your mind. You are confident about being loved and loving – not in return, just loving because of the quality of person you are.

At the core of this life philosophy is a deep understanding that you are a part of Nature and you reside within the cycles and laws of Nature. You, and everyone else, are therefore subject to the on-going cycles of life: Death and Rebirth; Gain and Loss; Joy and Grief; Feast and Famine; Bonding and Abandonment.

Further, as a human being, it is a given that you will age and experience the breakdown of your physical form. Responding to aging as if it were the enemy of your physical body is a guarantee of misery.

During your life, you will experience betrayal, both as someone who will betray others and be betrayed by others. You will lie to others and others will lie you to. You will judge others unjustly and you will be judged unjustly. You will hold onto grudges and others will not forgive you. You will be introduced to strangers to love and strangers will fall in love with you. You will be saved miraculously from harm many times, sometimes knowingly – most times invisibly. You will be guided to be certain places on time. Sometimes those places include accidents. Other times you will meet future partners and best friends. And when the time comes, you will be called home, ending the journey of your physical life on Earth.

There is nothing personal about these cycles of life or these experiences. They are archetypal. That is, they are essential ingredients that make up the alchemy of the human character. These ingredients make us the same, and vulnerable to each other. They tie us together like invisible threads through our weakest links so that we may stand humbly before each other. One of the roots of unhappiness is telling yourself that you are better than others, that you do not do what others do, or that you are incapable of their negative actions. No you’re not. None of us is incapable of any negative action because we are all made up of the same ingredients.

When we tell ourselves we are better than others, then we begin to believe that we are separate from Nature itself and the cycles of Nature. We begin to tell ourselves nonsense like, “The cycles of Nature do not apply to us because we are special. We are not like those people.” And soon we begin to feel entitled. We tell ourselves that because we are special, we are entitled to protection from the cycles of Nature, such as: Death and Rebirth and Abandonment and Bonding and Feast and Famine. In fact, pretty soon, we start believing we can strike up our own bargains with God. Here’s a popular one: If I am a good person and do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me. After all, I’m special and entitled.

Separated from the cycles of Nature and armed with a head full of self-constructed mythologies, off you go into a made-up world that doesn’t really exist – except in your own mind. Your happiness becomes based upon these myths holding intact, all of them built upon illusion, as Buddha would say. Inevitably, of course, one of those cycles and one or two of those experiences will manifest, shattering this fantasy. (This is usually the point at which people ask, “What kind of God does this to people?”) Perhaps a betrayal erupts in a marriage or maybe a sudden job loss happens. There is no shortage of examples of how the cycles of life express themselves in our lives.

Recently a dear friend of mine experienced the loss of her home, her business, and her sister. She went through – and is still transitioning through – a heartbreaking cycle of death and rebirth. Though her grief continues to pulse in her heart, signs of rebirth are beginning to emerge around her, as that is Nature’s way. She can’t help but think, “I need to move on now.” Indeed. “I’ve had a few ideas about doing this and that.” Oddly, I’m not surprised. It takes time, but Rebirth is inevitable.

Let me add that she certainly recognized there was nothing personal about this trilogy of death events; that is, she did not make her sister’s death her death. Her sister’s death was not about her; it was about her sister, obviously. It was synchronistic to many other endings in her life, and noting that, she recognized that she was deep within the cycle of endings/death and new beginnings/rebirth. In other words, this was the Nature of life.

I am convinced that people cannot articulate their ideas about happiness because they are completely dissociated from its very mechanism, which is Nature itself. Not understanding how you belong to and are subject to the way life works, you have no alternative but to make up your own story, your own mythologies, and hope they work. You will shy away from people who threaten your “happiness” myths, and you will perform all sorts of silly incantations and heel- clicking, hoping to instantly transform your life into a happy zone. None of that will ever be more than a kick-fix – ever. Listening to music and talking with your friends will never, ever have the power to create a happy life. (Who believes that stuff???)

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/
~ 💚 ~

Artist Wendy Ng

Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah 

Why We Struggle with Happiness – Part 1 of 4 – Caroline Myss

Art: Blue Friendship by Luisa Villavicencio @ Fine Art America

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Why We Struggle with Happiness

From Caroline’s 2012 Salon – Part 1 of 4

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Small workshops are wonderful for several reasons, the main one being that they give me the opportunity to have more in-depth conversations with people about the subject matter I’m teaching. In a workshop a few years ago a woman noted that, “being happy is just so difficult these days.”

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard similar comments through the years, and many of them. But something about the way she said that made me stop for a moment. Maybe it was because I had noticed three magazines at the airport en route to this venue that featured articles on how to find happiness, steps to take that guaranteed you would be happy, and how to figure out why you weren’t happy. I have to admit that as I reviewed those magazines covers, my initial response was, “How typically American these days. I mean, really?”

I leaned back on a table and asked this woman, “What do you need to make you happy? What are the life ingredients you require?”

This woman, well into her forties, drew a blank. She actually had no idea what she required or what she wanted or what she associated with happiness. All she knew was that she was not happy. I asked, “Do you know what happiness is for you? Do you associate it with a feeling? Or is happiness a state of awareness for you? Or is it the defeat of a fear? Or is it the capacity to love without fear? Do you associate happiness with things or people? What exactly do you mean by the state of ‘being happy?’”

Again, this dear woman was baffled. I opened the question to all the participants, only to discover that almost all the people in this workshop were unable to articulate the following:

  • What being happy meant in terms of the big picture of their life.
  • Other than feeling happy, people could not identify another definition or state of happiness. Happiness was mainly associated with a feeling or sensation.

Because of the vague ideas these people held about what being happy meant to them, many lived in a type of dream-like notion about:

  • What do I need to make me happy?
  • Have I been thinking that my happiness depends on someone else?
  • Do I expect someone else to make me happy?
  • Do I even know what I mean by happiness?

I found the dialogue around the subject of happiness so fascinating that I included it in several other workshops, gathering data just for personal interest. But my intrigue grew along the way as I realized that most of the people I encountered were in a type of fog about what happiness was all about for them. Out of curiosity, I decided to take a look at how many books have been written on the subject. As of the writing of this piece, Amazon lists 15,744 books on the subject of happiness. You can read up on anything from “real” happiness, to “genuine” happiness to “authentic” happiness to “true” happiness. You can get to any of these variations of happiness in 7 days or you can extend your journey to 14 or, if you prefer to really invest time, reflect, deep thought, and a bit of yoga, you can become a fully happy person in 21 days. No kidding – just like that. Poof. Done. Wow.

Who knew it could be so easy? Recommendations include listening to music, sitting with friends, cleaning out a closet, (I am sooo serious here, folks), and staying in the present moment. Now, I’m not sure if these come from the 7-day program or the 18-day or the 32 ½-day journey to happiness. I’ve lost count. I’m really not surprised people keep searching for happiness if these are the books pointing the way.

What’s really going on here?

Should finding or understanding happiness really be so difficult? Really? What does it say about us when our society requires a library full of books on happiness – and yet audiences full of people remain unable to articulate their personal expressions of what happiness is for them? Given the availability of “happiness literature,” we have to ask, “What’s going on here?”

Maybe this so called search for happiness is not the real issue. Maybe we are finding the ingredients of happiness difficult to articulate, to achieve and to sustain happiness because we are the problem. Have we somehow become at odds with this force of nature that we have named “happiness?”

In this Salon, I’ve approached the subject of happiness first as an organic, archetypal force of nature. Then, I present a list of the leading reasons why people create unhappy lives. Finally, I offer you insights into what is required to create happiness according to Nature’s map.

Next week – Happiness as a force of nature.

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/
🌹

Art: Blue Friendship by Luisa Villavicencio @ Fine Art America

Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists & photographers ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah 

 

Big things that are really small – Part 1 of 2 – Caroline Myss

Angel of Illumination ~ Aeoliah’s Visionary Art

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Big things that are really small
Part 1 of 2 – From Caroline’s 2012 Salon

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Part 1 of 2 – From Caroline’s 2012 Salon

Buddha taught that life is an illusion and that we lose our power by believing something is “real” when, in fact, it is not. That teaching is a challenging one to comprehend, to say the least. I remember this one man in a workshop saying, “I don’t get it. If my wife dropped her iron on my foot, that would not be an illusion. That would hurt like hell.” (Ah, but for the literal mind, what would this world be like?)

True, I said. It would hurt like hell, but then again, Buddha was not saying, “Heavy objects dropped on your foot will not hurt you if you believe they won’t hurt you, was he?” Buddha was teaching a mystical principle, not a physics class or an alternate lesson on the law of gravity. In order to understand the nature of mystical teachings, it is best to learn the meaning of each teaching within the context of mystical consciousness.

While this may not be the best comparison, I recall the first time math class went from only numbers to including “letters.” For me, letters belonged to the realm of words, English, literature, and sentences. What were letters doing next to numbers? It was brain freeze time for me. No matter how much effort the math teacher poured into trying to explain the theory of algebra and higher mathematics to me, and how advanced mathematics required “letters” because you were now learning principles and theories, I stuck to my literary guns, insisting that numbers and letters just don’t go together. Nope. You can’t make a word or a sentence out of numbers – and what are you trying to teach me, anyway? Where’s Charles Dickens when I need him?

Well, I barely passed Algebra, not to mention Geometry, because I simply could not adjust my literal-literary mind to the higher realm of mathematics in which letters were required. I refused to go there. Truth be told, of course, numbers and math intimidated me to no end. It wasn’t until later when I grasped the theory of sacred Geometry that Geometry became delicious to me, but I had to find something “in it” for me.

My point, of course, is that each of us is our own master at constructing the boundaries of our reality, determining whether we will be open-minded or close-minded, literal-thinking or capable of imagining the universe in letters as well as numbers, or perhaps even within the design of the mystic’s inner self and soul. What did they see with such clarity? And how is it that their teachings have withstood the test of time for centuries upon centuries?

My reasons for Big and Small things

I decided to enter the subject matter of Big Things and Small Things through the portal of Buddhism for a few reasons, all of them connected to my experience as a teacher – no surprise there. But that role has taken more than one expression now. I’m a writer, a teacher, I do a call-in radio show, I have an interactive web site, and I have this Salon, FB, and sometimes I find time to write newsletters. I have many ways of reaching people and in return, people reach out to me. I pay attention to the letters I receive (even though I can barely get to answering most of them), but I read all of them. I listen intently to people I meet at workshops. And I take very seriously the people who call in for advice or counsel on my radio show. In other words, you are precious goods to me.

The majority of the questions I receive from people can be categorized in two distinct ways. They are either focused on matters related to a person’s physical survival or about a person’s emotional/psychological survival. The physical survival arena of life includes questions about jobs, relationships and life directions. The emotional/psychological and sometimes spiritual domain covers questions that speak of personal challenges, such as healing, working through emotional crises, issues of forgiveness and an appetite for vengeance, loneliness, and the search for meaning and purpose.

These two categories cover the challenges most people will experience in life. These are the issues that drive the engines of life, in other words. Most people would find it difficult to imagine that any of these, much less all of them, are, in the language of Buddha, illusions.

For example, telling someone who has lost his job that the humiliation of that experience coupled with the financial crisis that he now must confront is an “illusion” is almost preposterous. (At the very least, it requires just the right moment to introduce this teaching.) Similarly, I would never suggest to anyone going through the trauma of watching someone close die that this, too, is just an illusion. What could sound more cold-hearted, if not cruel?

I remember hearing one of those horrible, camera-grabbing reporters attempting to provoke an interview with an Amish spokesperson shortly after the brutal murder of all those young Amish girls a few years ago. With a smile on her face and a microphone shoved into the shocked, nearly paralyzed-with-trauma gentleman the media was trying to corner, she asks, “Are you prepared to forgive him?” What? Excuse me? This nasty reporter was trying to build a secondary story, suggesting or implying that the Amish community was “maybe not quite that authentic” because they were not considering forgiveness as an immediate response to the slaughter of their young girls. I wanted to reach through the television and ring her neck.

Ultimately, however, this courageous community, which wisely withdrew from amateur reporters and the gawking public in order to mourn, chose exactly that response – in their own timing. Their response baffled so many people, curiously most of them Christian (given the demographics of America). It wasn’t that the Amish collectively decided that the massacre of their daughters was an illusion; rather, they understood that they could not allow another person’s evil to destroy the good in them.

The question they confronted is this: Should any earthly experience have the power to ultimately destroy or command or take full control of the goodness in you? If so, then that experience is more real than your spirit is and you then position yourself through the choice not to forgive to serve the power and memory of that traumatic experience all the remaining days of your life. Or, you can decide to recognize evil in action and choose a position of consciousness that serves your relationship to life and truth.

This is what is true about evil: Evil things happen in this world. It is an illusion to think they do not. Evil does not discriminate. No one is immune. Nothing is personal about the actions of random evil. It is an illusion to think you are protected or immune from the natural forces of darkness, just as it is an illusion to think you exist separate from the natural forces of light.

Good things happen in this world. It is an illusion to think they do not. Goodness does not discriminate. No one is immune to goodness. Nothing is personal about the actions of random goodness. Impersonal goodness is often called “luck.” We live within the balance of these forces. This is part of the archetypal mechanism of life.

Truth versus illusion

We are such a curious species. We’ve spent so many centuries accumulating new learning and information, only to become blind and closed-minded when it comes to truth and knowledge. We continue to have the experience of discovering what we “believed to be facts” turn out to be “false truths,” replaced by later discoveries, but we dismiss knowledge that has remained solid and indisputable for centuries. The teachings of the mystics, for example, that pass down the wisdom of the ages fall into the category of what has always been true and what will always be true.

For example, entering the age of quantum physics has provided us with a type of companion physical science to energy anatomy and the “science” of the soul. We are now fifty plus years into a spiritual Renaissance in which we have had the benefit of learning Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, the Kabala, along with numerous other spiritual traditions and practices, only to see a rise in fundamentalism and creationism. Some people driving cars fueled by oil reserves that are millions of years old simultaneously believe that life began a mere 6,000 years ago because that’s what it says in the bible. And some of these people participate in the legislative body of this nation.

What, then, did Buddha mean by illusion? Buddha meant that you see what you want to see until you are able to perceive truth itself. We tell ourselves anything we want until we reach truth, which is an indisputable given that cannot be denied.

The Law of Gravity is a truth, for example. It exists with or without you. It has nothing to do with you. It is, in other words, impersonal. Let go of whatever you are holding and it will drop to the floor. It’s not personal that it drops to the floor. What makes the Law of Gravity appear personal is the reason why you let go of the object you were holding: Was it deliberate or was it an accident? Did you drop something of value to another person in order to hurt them or did it just slip out of your hand? Either way, the object will drop because it is subject to the Law of Gravity, but your intention personalizes that law.

Together, this forms the alchemy of “illusion,” the blending of the impersonal with the personal. Becoming “conscious” is the art of developing a keen eye that allows you to discern the “personal from the impersonal,” in your own actions as well as those of others. (So many lessons here, right? Whew). Where do we begin with this formidable task? Let’s start with learning to recognize the valuable from the insignificant.

The valuable from the insignificant

Most people do not clearly know what is truly important to them and if they do, they lose sight of it far too often. Wires get crossed and events, relationships, and things that are of no importance whatsoever rise to the top of the priority list. Here’s a guide list for you:

Valuable:

Relationships that make you more conscious of your positive and shadow qualities;
Opportunities to be of service;
Opportunities to learn and awaken;
Opportunities to give back;
Opportunities to start over;
Opportunities to cleanse and heal.
Insignificant:

Holding on to past injuries;
An attitude of superiority;
Entitlements;
Your personal sufferings weighed against the suffering of humanity.
You may think that having to start over in a business or re-entry into the social scene after a divorce is a position of powerlessness, but Buddha would tell you that is an illusion. Starting over – new beginnings – is symbolic of new birth, new life. If you could see past the illusion of loss and the pain of feeling hurt and perhaps humiliated, the truth of what is unfolding is the shedding of a world that no longer suited you.

The truth is that if we could step outside the tumultuous emotions created by painful events, we would be able to separate the personal from the impersonal and in doing so, recognize that we felt the oncoming of the new beginnings for some time.

Here is a truth worth knowing: The fear of being humiliated causes us to value the insignificant and discount what is truly of value in life.

Big things that are really small

We make small things big deals because we lack the capacity to see clearly, to discern the larger picture. We respond too quickly when we should take a deep breath. We take things personally that have nothing to do with us. We overreact and say things when we should remain silent. We make small things really big because we lack the ability to just let them stay small. The fear of being humiliated and its sidekick, pride, can generate some of the darkest illusions people have to deal with. We create hells of our own making more often than not because we allow a small thing to get out of hand. So here’s a guide of small things (illusions) that should not be allowed to get big:

Heartbreaks – A broken heart for whatever reason, divorce or death of a partner or spouse, or a breakup, is one of the core traumas of life. We all agree on that. It’s not an illusion. It’s a huge sorrow. So why would I include that in a section that says it’s “really small?” Because the “illusion” part of loss is that it often feels as if you are the only one that has ever or will ever experience such pain. Why this core life experience qualifies for the “really small” category is precisely because it is a core life experience, which means everyone can relate to this sorrow – if not today, then someday. It also means that because such loss is an inherent part of life, even if you don’t want to heal, part of you will begin the healing process anyway because the nature of life is to heal and return the body and spirit to a state of balance. Even healing is not personal, but subject to the laws of nature and balance.

It’s worth saying again: Even the healing mechanism in the body is not personal. A broken leg, for example, will begin to heal as soon as it is set, regardless of whether you are happy or sad. The same, believe it or not, is true of your emotional self. You have to work to stay depressed, sad, and mournful after a certain length of time – unless you’ve been exceptionally traumatized.

Remember that heartbreak is still part of the vast expanse of human experiences and though our personal experience is devastating, there is nothing unique about the experience of a broken heart. Such a position is not meant to diminish a person’s grief, but to reposition one’s personal experience within an impersonal or archetypal vantage point.

Losing Your Job or Home – Many people have contacted me because they have lost their jobs or have or are undergoing home foreclosures. On the one hand, nothing is as “big” as job loss, much less the roof over your head. What could be more frightening? On the other hand, it’s precisely because the loss of a job and home are so frightening that understanding the teaching of illusion as applied here is so powerful. No, it is not an illusion to look at a bank account and see the terror of only $100.00 left. That is not the right interpretation.

Rather, understanding illusion at a critical time like that means that you grasp the truth that while you may have lost your job, you did not lose your power, your creativity, or your spirit. The truth is your life – your destiny – is not in the hands of any employer. Your destiny is between you and the Divine. It is an illusion to believe that any one human being has authority over the journey of your soul on this Earth.

Thus, from such a perspective of truth, the loss of a job becomes a Small thing. Whereas the loss of your spirit would be a truly Big thing. Get the difference? So long as you have YOU, you can face starting again. You may have to confront illusions you have about yourself, such as holding on to titles and certain salaries and privileges. Those, too, are illusions – big things that are really small. The truly BIG thing is You.

Here’s a truth worth knowing: Only God has the authority over your life’s journey. No human being has more power over you than heaven.

Betrayal – Betrayal comes under “small” things because betrayal is a life experience common to all of us. We have all betrayed people. We will likely confront that situation again. And we have all been betrayed. Betrayal exists because we struggle with honesty and justice. We demand justice, but find honesty and integrity a challenge.

Betrayal is the one crime of which we are all guilty. It puts us all on equal footing, whether we betray by breaking our word to keep a secret, or stealing money from our boss, or infidelity with a best friend’s husband. It doesn’t matter. The illusion is to tell yourself that you are incapable of betrayal, that you are above this type of darkness, that you are always fair and just and without negative judgment, and that you never betray even your own values.

Having said that, it is also the case that we would like life to be fair and just. We would like all the pieces of the pie to be divided equally. But that’s just not the way it is. Rather, it is fair and just IF you truly understood karma. If we did understand the wheels of karma, we would perhaps grasp that justice and fairness are cosmic forces that take who knows how many lifetimes to come into balance. No one action can ever be given that much significance as it is connected to countless other actions unfolding in your life.

Here’s a truth worth knowing: It is better and indeed wiser to diminish the power of any and all negative actions in your life to small things than to elevate then to the status of significant and big.

It is an illusion to think you know what is really unfolding in your life. Hidden within the unseen forces of every experience of your life are the threads of the future, laying the groundwork for opportunities yet to come. It is an illusion to think that you know why things happen as they do.

Look carefully over your life. What is big to you? What is small? What do you make big deals out of? What causes you to overreact and why? What should you notice more but don’t because you think it’s just not that important? Perhaps you should look again.

It’s an illusion to think that you can’t change the whole of your life just like that: You can. Just pick any illusion and let it go. Watch what happens.

In Part I of this two-part Salon we’ve covered Big Things That Are Really Small. In Part II, we’ll explore Small Things That Are Really Big!

Love,

Caroline

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/
~~~

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Small things that are really big – Part 2 of 2 – Caroline Myss

 

Lotus Pearl @ Thea Izzi

~*~

Small things that are really big
Part 2 of 2 – From Caroline’s 2012 Salon

Let’s start this Salon with a few questions that you’ve probably never asked yourself:

When you pray for help or imagine assistance coming to you, what is the form that assistance takes? That is, is help or assistance big? Is it obvious? Is it physical? Does it come in the guise of a person? Money?

Does help to you mean that your problem or situation gets fully resolved?

Do you associate help or assistance with external changes in your life or internal/interior changes – or both? This is a bit of a tricky question because once you pause to think about you, you are likely to say, “both.” However, let’s say that you are in a financial crisis and someone shows up at your door and offers you two packages, one containing a million dollars and the other containing wisdom. Which one would you actually take? That is your real answer.
What are the conditions that cause you to declare, “My life has come to a standstill?”

Commentary

I’ve presented these questions to audiences. Once they got through the confusion of the questions themselves, the answers were pretty much what I anticipated them to be. That is, by far most people associate assistance with something external as opposed to guidance from within. We look outward for some force other than ourselves to “come to our rescue” who has the wherewithal to make things better in our life. No doubt that goes back to our childhood and perhaps the Child archetype in all of us. Problems, no matter what they are, immediately make us feel vulnerable, and vulnerable brings out that feeling of being helpless. And helpless awakens the Child archetype in us, or the Damsel, or any of the other archetypes that symbolize powerlessness.

Secondly, people generally associate assistance or help with something physical. Help is a resource such as money or a connection to another person or legal assistance or a referral to a medical specialist. That’s logical as often that is exactly what is needed, but is it needed the most? Or, if that type of assistance is not forthcoming, do we assume that no assistance has been given to us in our time of need? Would you assume that? When I asked people in my workshops that question, the majority replied that they would indeed assume that no assistance had been given or at least the specific aid they were anticipating.

Now, mind you, I had to work through the initial wave of spiritual knee-jerk reactions in which people tend to say what they would like to mean or what they think they should say when asked these types of questions publicly – especially with me staring at them from the stage. But as I explained to them, replies based upon what you would like to say or do are irrelevant. We would all like to say or do things more consciously. What matters is what we actually would do or actually do in our life, at least at this time in our life. We may not always respond as we do today, but today this is who we are and how we interact with our world.

And with that in mind, we come to this question, which presents you with a challenge: Would you select money or wisdom as your means of solving your problems? Again, I needed to clarify for every audience that they were not allowed to state under what conditions they would select money or wisdom. These did not matter and certainly not in a public space where they could make up anything they wanted. What mattered was the dialogue they knew they were having with their conscience – not consciousness – but their conscience, which is the truth-teller in us.

People hesitated to share their answers when it came to this question, which of course told me instantly what they had chosen. It did not tell me, however, what their individual rational was for how they negotiated their inner dialogue between fear and faith, symbolized by money and wisdom. Money, as I pointed out, always seems like a big problem solver, if not the problem solver. Wisdom, on the other hand, is invisible. It’s a small gift carried into your life via a book or conversation. You can’t hold it in your hand or use it to buy your way out of debt.

In the immediate moment, therefore, wisdom can appear to be a small thing if not something useless, especially when measured against street currency that you can hold in your hand. Yet, one drop of wisdom that enters into your soul at just the right moment has the power to shift the direction of your life for the better. One wise person can save a nation. Think of Abraham Lincoln. We remember him precisely because of his wisdom. All the money in the world, conversely, cannot help a fool. Give a fool money to solve a problem and more than likely that fool will only “buy more trouble” for himself.

I want you to keep your answers in mind as we continue on to the next category, which I’ve entitled, Looking Back. I will tie these thoughts together following this next section.

Looking Back

I want to introduce a few questions that I hope spark some rich moments of reflection for you as I direct you to think about whether you are inclined to value “big and obvious, loud and expensive” as powerful or “instant and silent, inner and transformational.”

Everyone looks back on their life with the capacity to see things more clearly. We understand more deeply the complexity of people we knew when we were children and we appreciate even more acutely their significance and influence in our lives. Significance and influence are subtle forces in our energy fields. You can live with someone for years, for example, and yet when it comes to truly discerning the person’s influence upon you, often you will think in a very compact way, reducing your memories of life with that person to highlight words that were exchanged in either love or anger in a matter of moments. Or you will recall highlight memories of certain days that standout because of heightened feelings of sentiment or neglect.

We can’t possibly recall every day of all the years we’ve spent with people, even those whom we love the most. We remember small and big things, individual experiences, particular conversations or arguments, and days here and there or special dates and holidays. But certainly, people remember with great tenderness the small things that they shared with people. At least, that has been my experience with most people to date. The big things, like weddings, are right up there but it’s their own wedding and the weddings of their children that stand out, not all the other family and friend weddings that they attended through the years. I mean, do you remember all of those? I don’t.

But in addition to the wonderful memories that come from family and close friends, I always take note of extraordinary conversations that happen with people who tell me a story that takes my breath away. As soon as I hear one of those soul-stories, I recognize that I’ve been given a pearl of great wisdom that I will pass on to others through my teaching and hopefully those who hear it will be as inspired as I was when I heard it.

Stories in my world are small things that are really big. In fact, they are huge. A human being is a walking storybook, a diary of people that person has met that I will never meet, places he or she has traveled and lived that I will never see, and experiences that no other person on earth has ever witnessed. I have never met a person who did not in some way fascinate me. But once I encountered the majesty of the teachings of Teresa of Avila, I found that I listened even more intently to what people shared with me as I had been so profoundly influenced by Teresa’s mystical instruction to seek God in “all the small details of your life.” I took that teaching seriously, very seriously. I wondered, “What are the small details of my life? What do I consider a small detail?” In other words, what are the small things in my life that are really big things?

Teresa further instructed her nuns that any and every thing can serve as an answer to a prayer or as a vehicle for guidance. If you reflect upon the word “any” while glancing around the environment of your life – people, books, animals, symbols, sounds, music, food, synchronicity, driving, clothes, phone calls, emails, news – “any” is a big word. It also means that the Divine is in all things, hidden (not hiding, but hidden). The Divine is hidden from ordinary view, but obvious to someone who can see through the eyes of the soul. What does such a stunning phrase mean? And how do you “see through the eyes of your soul” in order to recognize (not see, but recognize) God in the small details of your life?

Mystical teachings, especially ones so sublime, are meant to drive your rational mind into madness. The mind in you, the harbor of the ego, always wants answers to be obvious, big, powerful, and immediate. You want problems to be solved, but solved your way and always with the outcome favoring you. Seeing through the “eyes of your soul” begins with appreciating that all things in your life have purpose and meaning.

However, purpose and meaning are not to be measured by a scale of productivity or financial reward. If you look through “those eyes,” you will always be disappointed in most of what you see, for how much in your life can actually be sold in that marketplace?

Purpose and meaning are revealed through values of the soul, not monetary ones. Learning is a soul value. Truth is a soul value. Courage, integrity, creativity, self-respect, and a belief in one’s own ability to navigate through a life storm are soul values. When you look at your life through “those eyes,” you hear conversations differently. Ordinary words enter into you as inspiration. A passage in a book grabs your attention because it sparks an idea. God comes through the hidden passageways that are everywhere. Everything that you think is small can suddenly become big and deeply significant because you perceive God through the hidden details of your life.

Stories about small things that are really big

A moment in time is not a small thing. A moment of your life is a small thing that is really big. Think of how many words you have exchanged with someone in just a moment’s time that have either filled your heart or broken it – in less than a minute. Or think about receiving an answer to a question that solved a mystery for you or changed the course of your health. Maybe that took only two or three minutes, but how big in terms of power and consequence to you? The truth is, your entire life can change in less than a moment. It often does.

I remember having one of those “pearl of wisdom” conversations with a man I shared a cab with in New York. He changed my life in less than a moment because of the wisdom he passed on to me. He told me about how much he respected cab drivers because of how much he always learned from his conversations with them. Then he told me about one particular time that stood out because the cabbie he was with taught him a life lesson that he, in turn, passed on to his children. He said that he was having just an ordinary conversation with the cab driver up until the time they arrived at his destination, at which time he handed the fare to the driver and said, “Thank you, sir.”

The driver immediately jumped out of the cab, ran around to the passenger door, and opened it for him. “I obviously had this stunned look on my face,” he told me, recalling this story. “He could tell I was wondering why in the world a cabbie would be opening up the door for a passenger. And you know what he said to me? He said, ‘You are the first person in this country to address me as, Sir, and I thank you for that gift of respect.’ I looked into his eyes and both of us just stood there for a moment. I could see the dignity in his spirit. I promised myself in that moment that I would consciously treat every human being with respect for the rest of my life. And that is what I have taught my children to do. Hopefully they will do the same with their children.”

Commentary

Respect is a small thing that is really big. We all claim that respect is a really big thing, but I would challenge that in terms of how we actually conduct ourselves in the field of life – because when it comes to being respectful in small ways that are really big, we all slip. Of course we do. But what we need to realize is that it’s the small things that actually matter. Here are two stories that illustrate that point.

I collected stories about how people experienced being of service to others or being the recipient of an act of service by others for my book, Invisible Acts of Power. Those stories and the writing of that book changed my life. The stories that people wrote to me were like gifts from heaven. They were pure soul gold. I have rarely been as grateful for anything as I was for the privilege of sharing the wisdom I personally gained from all those beautiful stories. Two of them are especially appropriate for illustrating the micro-level of respect and its power to re-boot a human life.

A man who had once been homeless said that he was no longer homeless today, and not because of all the money people had given him, allowing him to get back on his feet. That never happened. Rather, it was because one woman leaned down to touch his arm and whisper in his ear, “I’ll pray for you and you will get back on your feet again.” In recalling that woman and what she said, this man wrote that he felt his dignity pour back into his body as soon as he felt another human being “touch me with respect. She did not see me as a dirty, homeless person. I was a human being to her. I knew right then I would get out of this situation. She gave me back my dignity.”

Human touch. Saying the right words at the right time. Comforting someone. Having compassion for a person exhausted by life. These are small things that are really huge. Take them out of your life and you will find yourself feeling that life is a cruel and frightening journey.

Yet another man who had gone through a period of being homeless recalled that during those darks days, he would often go two days without food. He had to beg on the street for enough change to buy something to eat. But for him, finally having accumulated enough change was only part of his struggle. The other equally formidable challenge for him was actually walking into a grocery store. He was terrified of the experience, specifically of ending up positioned behind someone who would fail to hold the door open for him. Having a door slammed in his face, symbolically or literally, represented the ultimate lack of respect for this man. (The particular grocery store he frequented was a corner market, not one with automatic doors, by the way. ) In order to avoid his terror of having a door slammed in his face, particularly by a businessman, he waited outside for just the right moment when he thought no one else was around. Then he would walk in, buy his few items, and get out as fast as he could.

On this one day, he arrived as usual to perch in an observational position of the grocery store. He had enough money for food for the day. Now the plan was to get in, shop, and get out. His entire mind was filled with mapping out just the right moment. And then, the right moment arrived. No one was around. He slipped out of his perch, headed for the grocery store door, only to be cut off by a man in a business suit. They met at the door. One of them would have to open the door for the other. He was paralyzed with fear. He wanted to run away. Then, the businessman opened the door, stepped to the side, and held the door for Bill, the homeless man. As soon as they were both in the grocery store, Bill started to head for the canned goods area when the businessman stopped him, saying, “Excuse me, Sir. Could you help me out with something?”

Bill could not believe his ears. A businessman wanted his help? Couldn’t he see how he was dressed and that he badly needed a bath? Bill walked up to him, feeling as if his stomach were about to explode onto the floor. The businessman explained that he was just traveling through and needed directions. Could Bill tell him how to get to this location? Yes. Could Bill tell him where this highway was? Yes. Bill knew everything that the businessman asked. Then the businessman extended his hand as an expression of thanks. Bill was stunned. He had forgotten what the language of professionals felt like, much less to be treated like a professional man “for even a minute.”

After that experience, Bill resolved to get back on his feet again. And he did. But his story touched me so deeply on so many levels. The next time I went to a grocery store after reading Bill’s letter, I stood outside the store for about twenty minutes, watching people come and go. I imagined myself waiting for just the right moment to walk through those doors because I was so frightened of someone letting the door slip through their fingers while I was behind them. Would I take it personally? No. It would not occur to me to take that personally. But Bill showed me that every human action contains the power to lift or destroy the human spirit. Holding the door open for any person so he can walk through first – such a small thing. But it’s really big. Or, as in Bill’s case, perhaps the man asking for directions was God hiding in the details of his life. Angels wear disguises all the time in daily life. You never know who a stranger really is.

My final story is about choices we make that seem small but are really big because of their consequences. I met a man just a few weeks ago who is a chef. I wanted to know how and why he became a chef – all the fun facts that make a person who he is. So, in between telling me recipes and his cooking history, he shared that his mother abandoned him and his father and sister when he was three years old. She went off to “find herself.” Eventually she found her way to a community lifestyle situation. He decided to seek her out when he was in his early twenties as he did not know her but he had the wounds to prove it. He said that it was important to him to understand his mom so that he could heal and get on with his life. He decided to give his visit with her three weeks. Instead, he stayed three years, working in the kitchen, which became the roots of his career as a chef.

But he considered that he lived in “healing proximity” to his mom, giving his own heart and mind and spirit the maximum opportunity to heal as well as to understand her choices as a human being. He left that community feeling complete as a person, not to mention skilled as a chef.

At the time, he never could have imagined that his “small choice” to just go see his mom for three weeks would have become yet another game-changer choice in his life, lasting three years. He considered it a small choice because he thought that he was going for a visit, to just observe where and how she lived. He had intended to keep his distance. He wanted her to see him and the quality of man he had turned out to be. Instead, that small choice awakened an appetite to heal fully and completely.

Your Personal Choices

Only you can organize the scale of values that make up the quality of your life. I love the idea of being in “healing proximity” to someone, for instance. This young man told me that he could never join the community his mother lived in or believe what she does. But by living around her for a while, he realized the type of person she is, both her really good qualities and the challenges she has to confront. He said, “Who am I to change her? I did what was wise for me and it worked out for both of us.”

Small things that are really big, for me, are a constant find. The tone of voice we use in speaking to someone, giving of our time to someone, really listening to what someone is saying without interrupting, taking a few minutes during the day at times for reflection and prayer. These are all small things that are really big.

Here are others:

Hand writing a note to someone instead of sending an email.
Meeting a friend for breakfast – that’s a big deal for me. Maybe not for you, but I don’t leave the house during the day. I’ve stopped that insane work schedule now and I meet friends during the day on occasion. It’s a small thing that’s really big because friends matter so much.
Sending out a small surprise gift to someone. Though the gift is small, the thought that you are thinking of them is priceless.
Say hi and goodbye to people – acknowledge them. Acknowledging people is a small thing that is really big.
Being kind to yourself in the right way. Buying things is not the right way. Do not allow yourself to dwell in negative thinking. Do not feed self-righteous anger. Do not envy others. Do not poison your mind and your heart. Poisonous thoughts are small things that are really big, but in a negative way.
Finally, in this world of billions of people, stars, and galaxies, you may never believe this, but YOU ARE A SMALL THING THAT IS REALLY BIG. You have more influence upon this grid of life than you will ever be able to comprehend. It’s easier, quite frankly, to play dumb, to say, “I don’t understand.” But in your soul, you do get it. You know you are a force for change in this world. That’s why no one can stand to think about him or herself as insignificant. You’re not. You are incredibly significant.

Every choice you make matters. Every thought has a consequence as well. The truth is, there is no such thing as a small choice – not really. Remember that when you next arrive at that place in life at which you think nothing you can do matters. Everything matters. Live in that truth.

Love,

Caroline

https://www.myss.com/about-caroline-myss/

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Gratitude & Appreciation to all artists & photographers ~ Credit given where this is known. Any queries, please contact me, Shekinah

Lotus Pearl @ Thea Izzi