Things do fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller ego's will to prevail. To listen to the soul is to stop fighting with life-to stop fighting when things fall apart, when they don't go our way, when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood. To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty, and to wait.
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If it's not as easy as we thought it was, for women to speak our truth, to even know our truth, then the missing ingredient is some sort of inner courage. To first of all, believe in the validity of who we are. And then to speak from it. It takes inner courage. As a leader in a large organization, I've often been the only woman working with powerful men, especially when I was younger.
If family and society tell you its unfeminine, not really womanly, to be aggressive, to speak up, to have strong opinions, to take up space, then women won't trust their own voice, because to be heard and to be influential, you've got to have a way to sing out with passion and love and self-trust--to sing out your song for everyone to hear.
Read any of the top-selling business books, all of them talk about moving away from a top down manner of leading to a more inclusive one. It's not happening over night, but if you read the winds of change in most of the democracies in the world we are moving toward shared levels of power.
I accept that life is uncertain--that the goal is not to become more certain about anything but to relax more into the mystery of not knowing what will come next. And then, miracle of miracles, out there in the deep and uncertain water, I come into a peaceful knowing--a faithful wisdom that surpasses control and certainty.
When you approach spirituality as an adventure of being alive, you start as you would any adventure--with a sense of mystery and not-knowing. Instead of searching for answers that make you feel safe, you set out into the vastness of life and death, with a willingness to continually grow. You open up to the possibility that your ordinary life is an extraordinary adventure, and that your joys and sorrows have meaning. Spiritual practice becomes your rudder, offering direction and insight and discretion as you venture into the unknown.
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If you're interested in opening the doors to the heavens, start with the door to your own secret self. See what happens when you offer to another a glimpse of who you truly are. When your heart is undefended, you make it safe for whomever you meet to put down his burden of hiding, and then you both can walk through the open door.
Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things do fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller ego's will to prevail. To listen to your soul is to stop fighting with life-to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don't go our away, when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood. To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty and to wait.
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Meditation practice is like piano scales, basketball drills, ballroom dance class. Practice requires discipline; it can be tedious; it is necessary. After you have practiced enough, you become more skilled at the art form itself. You do not practice to become a great scale player or drill champion. You practice to become a musician or athlete. Likewise, one does not practice meditation to become a great meditator. We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living.
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May you listen to the voice within the beat even when you are tired. When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead. May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding, and leads you to freedom. If you are weary, may you be aroused by passion and purpose. If you are blameful and bitter, may you be sweetened by hope and humor. If you are frightened, may you be emboldened by a big consciousness far wiser than your fear. If you are lonely, may you find love, may you find friendship. If you are lost, may you understand that we are all lost, and still we are guided-by Strange Angels and Sleeping Giants, by our better and kinder natures, by the vibrant voice within the beat. May you follow that voice, for This is the way-the hero's journey, the life worth living, the reason we are here.
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I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith--faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don't waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. After years of teaching, I know only a few things for sure. One of them is this: We are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart's armor through which our true colors can shine.
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I do not wish upon anyone a descent into hell. But if your life has to be turned inside out in order for you to know yourself--if the shadow of a shaman crosses your path and you turn and follow it down--I pray that you use its force wisely. I hope that you take the ultimate responsibility for your actions and that you consecrate any destruction to the rebuilding of your higher self and a more radiant life.
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When we descend all the way down to the bottom of loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self - the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey.
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I recommend learning how to come into the presence of stillness and vastness. Learn any form of meditation. Spend twenty minutes every day if possible, in meditation, listening to the crazy monkey mind inside you, and learning how to still the thoughts and discover that big, deep soulful part of yourself.
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My understanding of God is an experience. God is. That's all I know. In the Biblical tradition, it would be expressed as, "Be still and know that I am God." God is the "I am" energy. Something huge is at play here - cosmic creativity, consciousness, God, whatever you want to call it. I do believe that it's a guided ride. We're on a guided tour of the universe.
It isn't so much that God is the unified state of consciousness that each of us came from and will return to, but more so that God is the creative energy flowing between all states of consciousness. God is in the land beyond the mountains, but God is also in the mountains and in the valley of illusions cradled within the mountains. God is not one thing or another, rather God flows between and through all things.
If men and women were equal, everybody would have the same values.Because at this point in time, many women feel compelled to care for the children, feel empathetically into another person's reality, more so than many men who often are on more of a straight-shooting path towards achievement come what may.
I think if you asked people "what's the biggest problem in your life?" They'd say, "I just don't have time for anything!" And at our fingertips, if it isn't e-mail, it's our Blackberry, and it's our iPods and telephones - we never stop. We never take those moments to stop the stimulus to find out "what's going on in there? What's really happening?" And then things start to build up. And then we are almost afraid to slow down.