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Turn It Around

We live in a culture that uses labels

as a means of understanding the world

and the people living in it.

As a result, many of us find ourselves

laboring under a label

that has a negative connotation.

Unless we can find a way

to see the good in such a label,

we may feel burdened

by an idea of ourselves

that is not accurate.

It is important to remember

that almost nothing in this world

is all good or all bad,

and most everything

is a complex mixture of gifts and challenges.

In addition, different cultures

revere certain qualities over others,

but this does not mean

that these qualities are inherently good or bad.

For example, a culture that elevates outgoing behavior

will label an introvert in a negative way,

calling them antisocial.

In truth, the ability to spend time alone

is one that most great artists, mystics, and visionaries share.

Owning the positive side of this label

can lead us deeper

into our gifted visions and fertile imaginations.

When we look into the lives

of any of the great people in history,

we always find that they had quirks and eccentricities

that earned them less than ideal labels

from the societies in which they lived.

Many famous artists and musicians

were considered to be isolated loners

or disruptive troublemakers,

or sometimes both,

yet these people altered history

and contributed to the world

an original vision or advances

in our understanding of the universe.

If we can remember this as we examine our own selves

and the labels people use to describe us,

we find that there is a bright side to any characterization.

If you have been labeled,

remember

that all you have to do to see the positive side

is to turn the label around.

For example, you may be considered to be overly emotional,

and the fact that you are perceived this way

may make you feel out of control.

But notice, too,

the gifts of being able to feel and express your emotions,

even in a world that doesn’t always encourage that.

You might begin to see yourself

as brave and open-hearted enough

to stay alive to your feelings.

You may also see

that there are certain paths and professions

in which this is a necessary ability.

As you turn your label around,

the light of your true nature shines

to guide you on your way.

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Trees grow up through their branches

and down through their roots into the earth.

They also grow wider with each passing year.

As they do, they shed the bark

that served to protect them but now

is no longer big enough to contain them.

In the same way, we create boundaries

and develop defenses to protect ourselves

and then, at a certain point,

we outgrow them.

If we don’t allow ourselves to shed our protective layer,

we can’t expand to our full potential.

Trees need their protective bark

to enable the delicate process of growth

and renewal to unfold without threat.

Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses

so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves

can safely heal and unfold.

But our growth also depends upon our ability to soften,

loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses

we no longer need.

It is often the case in life that structures we put in place

to help us grow eventually become constricting.

..

Unlike a tree, we must consciously decide

when it’s time to shed our bark and expand our boundaries,

so we can move into our next ring of growth.

Many spiritual teachers have suggested

that our egos don’t disappear

so much as they become large enough

to hold more than just our small sense of self—

the boundary of self widens

to contain people and beings other than just “me.”

Each time we shed a layer of defensiveness

or ease up on a boundary that we no longer need,

we metaphorically become bigger people.

With this in mind, it is important

that we take time to question our boundaries and defenses.

While it is essential to set and honor

the protective barriers we have put in place,

it is equally important that we soften and release them

when the time comes.

..

In doing so, we create the space for our next phase of growth.

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The flow of the universe moves through everything.

It’s in the rocks that form, get pounded into dust,

and are blown away…

the sprouting of a summer flower

born from a seed planted in the spring…

the growth cycle that every human being goes through…

and the current that takes us down our life’s paths.

When we move with the flow, rather than resisting it,

we are riding on the universal current

that allows us to flow with life.

Many people live their lives struggling against this current.

They try to use force or resistance

to will their lives into happening the way they think it should.

Others move with this flow like a sailor using the wind,

trusting that the universe is taking them

exactly where they need to be at all times.

This flow is accessible to everyone

because it moves through and around us.

We are always riding this flow.

It’s just a matter of whether we are willing

to go with it or resist it.

Tapping into the flow is often

a matter of letting go of the notion

that we need to be in control at all times.

The flow is always taking you where you need to go.

It’s just a matter of deciding

whether you plan on taking the ride

or dragging your feet.

Learning to step into the flow

can help you feel a connection

to a force that is greater than you

and is always there to support you.

The decision to go with the flow can take courage

because you are surrendering

the notion that you need to do everything by yourself.

Riding the flow of the universe can be

effortless,

exhilarating,

and not like anything that you ever expected.

When you are open to being in this flow,

you open yourself to possibilities

that exist beyond the grasp of your control.

As a child, you were naturally swept by the flow.

Tears of sadness falling down your face

could just as quickly turn to tears of laughter.

Just the tiniest wave carrying you forward

off the shores of the ocean could carry you into peals of delight.

Our souls feel good when we go with the flow of the universe.

All we have to do is make the choice to ride its currents.

~~~

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We tend to associate youth with beauty,
but the truth is that…

beauty transcends every age.

Just as a deciduous tree is stunning in all its stages—
from its full leafy green in the summer
to its naked skeleton during winter
and everything in between—
human beings are beautiful
throughout their life spans.

The early years of our lives tend to be
about learning and experiencing
as much as we possibly can.
We move through the world like sponges,
absorbing the ideas of other people and the world.
Like a tree in spring,
we are waking up to the world.

In this youthful phase of life,
our physical strength, youth, and beauty
help open doors and attract attention.
Gradually, we begin to use the information
we have gathered to form ideas and opinions of our own.
As we cultivate our philosophy about life,
our beauty becomes as much about
what we are saying, doing, and creating
as it is about our appearance.

Like a tree in summer, we become full,
expressive, beautiful, and productive.

When the time comes
for us to let go of the creations of our middle lives,
we are like a tree in autumn dropping leaves,
as we release our past attachments
and preparing for a new phase of growth.

The children move on, and careers shift or end.
The lines on our faces, the stretch marks,
and the grey hairs are beautiful testaments
to the fullness of our experience.

In the winter of our lives,
we become stripped down
to our essence like a tree.

We may become more radiant than ever at this stage,
because our inner light shines brighter
through our eyes as time passes.

Beauty at this age comes from the very core of our being—
our essence.

This essence is a reminder
that there is nothing to fear in growing older
and that there is a kind of beauty that comes
only after one has spent many years on earth.

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Many of us experienced childhoods

in which the words good and bad were

used as weapons to control us—

you were good if you did what you were told

and bad if you didn’t.

This kind of discipline undermines

a person’s ability to find their own moral center

and to trust and be guided by

their own inner self.

If you were raised this way,

you may find yourself feeling shock waves

of badness

when you do something you were taught was wrong,

even if now you don’t agree that it’s bad.

Conversely, you may

feel good

when you do what you learned was right.

Notice how this puts you in something of a straitjacket.

An important part of our spiritual unfolding requires

that we grow beyond what we learned

and take responsibility for our own liberation

in our own terms.

You are a human being

with every right to be here, learning and exploring.

To label yourself good or bad

is to think too small.

What you are is…

a decision-maker

and every moment provides you the opportunity

to move in the direction of your higher self or

in the direction of stagnation or degradation.

In the end, only you know the difference.

If you find yourself going into self-judgment,

try to stop yourself as soon as you can

and come back to center.

Know that you are not good or bad,

you are simply you.

~~~

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Finding Our Own Paths

Entering into our own spirituality is a private journey.

Each of us will be drawn to a different gateway

to begin on our personal path to awakening

to a greater experience of ourselves.


Even though we may be taught certain philosophies

or beliefs as children, we still need to find

our own way of understanding

and applying them in our lives.


For those who are raised

without a spiritual framework,

they may not even know their process

as a form of spirituality.


But at some stage in their lives,

whether in youth or adulthood,

they are likely to recognize

the resonance of their beliefs,

the ring of truth in their philosophy,

and their dedication to their chosen purpose.


Our inner guidance will lead us,

so that we will be drawn

to the right doorway for us–

a doorway that only we can recognize

by the way it makes us feel inside.


It could be a picture of an angel or the gift of a crystal.


We may meet someone special

who shares their experiences with us

in a way that we find intriguing.


While visiting the home of an admired friend,

we may notice a book or statue of a deity,

and ask why they chose those tools.


Or a word or phrase

may catch our attention in a song, or a lecture.


For some, they may find their way

by walking through the experience of illness

before they begin the search

for what will help them to truly heal,

while others may seek physical improvement

and stumble across yoga or meditation–

only to find that it leads them

to an unexpected place beyond the body.


As we awaken to ourselves and to life,

we will become more attuned to what is right for us.


The universe speaks to all of us

through infinite channels,

but we each have our own frequency.


Others may share what worked for them,

but only we can decide what truly makes us feel

inspired… awakened…connected…

fully conscious…aware… and alive.


Whatever our path,

it is perfect and meant especially for us.


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Those of us on the path of personal and spiritual growth

have a tendency to analyze our unhappiness

in order to find the causes and make improvements.

But it is just as important, if not more so, to analyze our happiness.

Since we have the ability to rise above and observe our emotions,

we can recognize when we are feeling joyful and content.

Then we can harness the power of the moment

by savoring our feelings

and taking time to be grateful for them.


Recognition is the first step in creating change,

therefore recognizing what it feels like to be happy

is the first step toward sustaining happiness in our lives.

We can examine how joy feels in our bodies

and what thoughts run through our minds in times of bliss.

Without diminishing its power, we can retrace our steps

to discover what may have put us in this frame of mind,

and then we can take note of the choices we’ve made while there.

We might realize that we are generally more giving and forgiving

when there’s a smile on our face,

or that we are more likely to laugh off

small annoyances and the actions of others

when they don’t resonate with our light mood.


Once we know what it feels like

and can identify some of the triggers

and are aware of our actions,

we can recreate that happiness

when we are feeling low.

Knowing that like attracts like,

we can pull ourselves out of a blue mood

by focusing on joy.

We might find that forcing ourselves to be giving and forgiving,

even when it doesn’t seem to come naturally,

helps us to reconnect with the joy that usually precedes it.

If we can identify a song, a picture, or a pet

as a happiness trigger, we can use them as tools

to recapture joy if we are having trouble finding it.

By focusing our energy on analyzing happiness

and all that it encompasses,

we feed, nurture, and attract more of it into our lives,

eventually making a habit of happiness.

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