Gifts we are Given

A Gift is something that is given to you without payment or a talent you were born with. Either way it is something that has come to you with seemingly no effort on your part. Have you ever stopped to identify the gifts that you have as an individual? Do you ever wonder what you are going to do with them? 

The Big Gifts  

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The Biggest gifts that comes to mind are literally huge.  Our amazing planet with all its inhabitants revolving around the sun in a perfectly orderly solar system, within a galaxy of wonders, in an even Greater Universe. We are all a apart of this amazing Cosmic Play. An incredible divine expression of intelligence, beauty, science, art and mystery. This alone is a reason to wake in the morning. 

“Our talents are the gift that God gives to us… What we make of our talents is our gift back to God” – Leo Buscaglia

On the personal tip – I was thinking about my parents and my spiritual teacher when this title came to mind. My parents gave me the gift of Life. My teacher gave me the direction to use my gifts as means of contributing to the world around me. The greatest emotion associated with these realizations is gratitude. 

Allow me to enumerate some of these personal gifts. I hope this starts to stir your memory bank so that you too can feel the glow of such recollections. My mother passed on her amazing ability to cook, be a generous and gracious hostess. There is something about caring for others that brings a sense of accomplishment. In addition to her love of animals and children, she was a great beauty, proficient swimmer, sketcher and dancer. My father passed on a fierce tenacity and drive. He gave me the gifts of singing, humor, entrepreneurship, keen intellect and directness. He was a pioneer in business, dashing, clever, self-starter and never gives up. He can learn almost everything he decides to pick up. Were they perfect parents – No. Did they do their best – Yes. I love them for everything they are and their gifts were given freely. 

My teacher – PRT gave me the guidance on how to use my gifts, self-confidence, complete unconditional love, clear insight into who I was and what I was capable of. His counsel sits in my mind like pearls of wisdom that rest in the realms of the conscious and unconscious. Even more importantly he gave me my meditation practice. I rely on it to keep my mind to clear and steady. The first time I met him I felt like my entire soul was on fire and my heart blew wide open. He saw me as a realized and accomplished person. The gift of someone else seeing you for who you are and what you can become is priceless. He has managed to combine his gifts as an adept Yogi, scholar, father, teacher, community leader and contribute to philanthropic and academic achievements.  He has taught me how to bring my talents to the world and enjoy it all at the same time. This gift is still being unwrapped. 

Life is Rich.

Recognize Your Gifts

Take the time to look back on your life and see the gifts that you have been given, by your parents, family, teachers, friends and strangers. Recognizing them will bring a smile to your face and a glow in your heart. Think about other folks that had less than you and still manage to gleam hope and gratitude for what they did have – more importantly they overcame so-called set backs and used the talents they were born with to excel in life in spite of the obstacles. 

There are plenty of things in our lives that we could look at and think that we are being burdened by our mishaps, but when we turn the lens in a different direction you can get a glimpse of life and notice that even the mishaps were gifts. They were an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and other’s.  We may find ourselves crossing paths with people who have something to teach us or bring a ray of sunshine in the form of hope and inspiration. Almost every encounter can be an opportunity to receive a gift. Even the difficult folks in our lives give us the opportunity to practice compassion and discernment. 

A Gift we take for Granted

Stop – look at your hands, feet, limbs, eyes and ears. Now place your hand over your heart and feel the breath moving in and out  of your lungs as your heart beats.  Next – close your eyes with your hand in place and listen to your mind start to swirl with thoughts now use your steady breathing as a focal point. Do you have any idea how many things happened in this short time. You used your eyes to look at yourself, you used your hand to feel your incredible heart that keeps beating without you having to think about it. Then you utilized your mind to steady your breath and focus your mind upon your breath. Our body is a miracle. It is our vehicle and means of experiencing the greatest pleasures in life. Think about it!!!! I get dazzled by how fast I can type this. The nerves are firing back and forth from the brain to the fingers in a matter of seconds Crazy, right…

One of the greatest tools we have inside of these miraculous bodies is our mind. Imagine if we actually took the time to make friends with our minds instead of trying to kill it. It sounds drastic I know, but given the amount of drugs people are on, inordinate amount of time in front of TV & computer screens, texting, excessive alcohol and crappy food consumption. It’s a wonder our brains and minds work at all. If you’re not thinking clearly how does that affect one’s level of happiness or decision-making? Does our level of happiness weigh into how well our lives look and feel? I think you would all answer yes. Then why wouldn’t we invest in this gift we already have? 

The Little Gifts 

Friendship is one of the most amazing gifts I have had the good fortune of cultivating. It brings me an immense amount of joy to share life, stories, laughs, hugs and deep thoughts. We exchange gift of time, love, books, clothes, perfume, music, money, food and knick knacks. 

Today I was given a gift by a dear friend during a phone conversation.  He is an older gentleman recently retired from a life of serving as a professor in a university. I have always admired him and our conversations are always full of life and insights, in addition to a great deal of laughter. We met at the Himalayan Institute almost 2 decades ago. Right before we hung up he asked me if I remembered giving him a blanket. I said honestly no, I asked him to describe the blanket. He said he was nondescript, but that it played a special role in his life. He has been using this blanket to wrap around his shoulders while he meditates every morning. It lies by his meditation cushion awaiting his arrival every morning. He said he brought it up because he wanted me to know that I was an important person to him and that every time he puts this simple blanket around his shoulders it was a reminder of our friendship. 

Simple gifts that we share between strangers or dear ones leave a lasting impression sometimes without us being aware of it. It is the small things in life that can make a huge difference when we add them up over the course of a lifetime. 

Enjoy Your Gifts and Share Them with The World around you. 

Peace,

VL

Nothing

 

Space

As in space there is no sound and in the presence of Dark Matter there is seemingly little holding the galaxy together, in life we too sometimes experience something going on in a whole lot of nothing

This notion of nothing going on has been prompted by life as of late. I’ve been experiencing a shortage of words to write and clarity on what actions to take. This is kind of a big deal, being a  doer and talker. This in no way means that there is a shortage of things happening around me. Although, it feels like nothing is really happening. When in doubt – do nothing. 

This blog site was meant to be a medium of communication, to share thoughts and ideas with the world outside of my actual grasp. Teaching used to be a day-to-day occurrence in my life. It has been 5 years since I last taught on a regular basis. I thought this would be a means of continuing the process of sharing on another level. The ideas flow into my mind, but then drift away. quickly. So, figured I’d write about the lull or rather nothingness that is occupying my space currently . I’ll keep it on the bright side. 

The Beauty behind Nothing

There are times when we find life a bit dull and quiet. It’s where nothing seems to find it’s way into our lives and we start to wonder, what the hell is going on. Tell me if any of the following resonate with you.

Life becomes more of a private affair and sharing with other’s seems like it’s not worth the time. Work takes a toll and yields little satisfaction. It not only takes a toll,  but robs us of energy to do much else. Things seem a bit lack luster and we start to lose motivation. You get the sense that this could be the best time to stop and reflect into areas of your life that may not be so comfortable or it could simply be that life is slowing down because there is a much needed shift that you have been longing for. 

What do you – should you stop and take the time to ‘go in’- BORING, right. No, it’s not – it’s an opportunity to see what’s going on in your head. More importantly, it’s about getting in touch with the feelings behind it all. If it’s about redirecting your life then you have to take the time to dig in and sit with it. The key to redirection is to use the moments of ‘nothingness’ to gain perspective and get in touch with your feelings. This can get awkward for some folks, it feels like you’re unraveling a never-ending story, which is exactly why you should do the unraveling sooner than later. If you get too tangled up it takes a lot longer to unravel the knots. 

We are constantly doing, doing, doing.  We don’t give ourselves the opportunity to ask the vital questions, like why, how did I get here, where is this going – you get it. Asking these types of questions can be scary and sometimes we can beat the heck out of ourselves when we hear the answers, but it’s necessary. I mean, if we want our lives to be meaningful and fruitful. Of course everyone has their own version of meaningful and fruitful.

There is beauty in this stillness of life and it doesn’t last forever. Life will soon enough give us a jolt and spur us into action. Hopefully this inspired action is being led by our intuition, feelings and knowing that we are moving in the right direction. By the by, meditation and relaxation are great tools to implement at this point of our lives, if you haven’t already. If you are already a meditator then hone these skills so that when your intuition speaks loudly, there will be no mistaking what comes next.

When the Nothing is Over

What happens when it’s time for inspired action. This is an individual process. I can only speak from my experience, I notice that people and circumstances start to shift rapidly as if magic were a foot. Yeah it sounds hokey, but I assure it’s real. There was a time when I had no idea what was coming next, my life had almost come to a dead halt and I was just waiting for an answer and then ‘poof’, my mentor PRT asked me for the 3rd time to move to the Himalayan Institute. Later on in life I had been wanting to move out of state I was living in and I got fired from a job. This was my cue – I was leaving. It was an exhilarating feeling. So here I am years later once again having moved through another growth spurt and I am anxious to get moving on to the next chapter.

You may find yourself in a similar situation, chomping at the bit to get things going, but the universe is telling you, wait, digest the experiences thus far, redirect, come back to your roots, make the next decision based on what’s in your heart and your greater purpose. Listen and wait for direction on how to move forward. Not just to fill the time doing, doing, doing, but to get clear on the purpose behind the action.  Enjoy the silence, get comfortable with not being in control of what’s happening , master yourself and connect with your inner guidance. It’s nice to not always be the one driving and trust that there is a force that will lead you exactly where you need to go, at exactly the right time, live in gratitude, there is still time to figure it out and this time is really affording you the time to get closer to yourself. 

Not so much Nothing after all, eh.

Peace

VL

 

Genuine Generosity

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Reflections in repose by VL
Reflections in repose by VL
Reflections in repose by VL

True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share. – Suze Orman

 Big topic of discussion these days, perhaps its because I find myself noticing more and more the motivations behind so-called generosity. Let me give you some examples.

  • This is an oldie – donating money to your local church, mosque, temple or university so that you can have your name on a building. Is there something wrong with wanting your name on a building – of course not, but would the building still hold the same meaning to the benefactor if their name was not on the building, just sayin.
  • Giving someone a  gift, then expecting that this someone give you something in return or favors. Kind of makes you feel like you wished you had never accepted anything from them in the first place, right. 

I am sure that we have known, met and perhaps have found ourselves acting in such ways. It’s a cause for pause to ask, why?

The Why

Do you ever feel like you have to do something because people expect it of you and then you resent others and yourself?  Who benefits from our actions and do our ego’s seek admiration for them? Yes, everyone loves a genuine thank you. Another question that comes to mind is, would we still perform great deeds if no one ever knew we were the ones responsible for them

Let’s go a little deeper here – Do we find ourselves going the extra mile because there is a big pot of gold on the other end of the rainbow or because we are truly love doing a great work? Do we find ourselves giving because we really want to be needed and keep others around us? There are no wrong answers, but they are revealing. 

Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.  – Albert Camus 

Charity is typically grounded in giving money to a cause or people. This is a tricky business because throwing money towards a difficult situation without discernment can turn things quite sour. How so, let’s take a look-see:

  • A married couple that rarely get to spend time with their children, because they are busy with business or their own personal interest, they in turn buy the children elaborate gifts, send them to unending extra curricular activities. They think that because they give them things they do not have to do the work of being a parent or taking the time to get to know their children which is what the children want in the first place their love and genuine interest. Charity begins home, ring a bell?
  • Attending endless so-called ‘benefits’ for who knows what cause, tickets cost a fortune and by the time the event is over there is hardly anything left over for the Actual Cause they’re promoting. And yet folks get to brag about how ‘charitable’ they are. Side note – not for profit organizations were initially established as tax shelters. I am not saying that all not for profits are corrupt, but you know what I am talking about. 

The only things standing between you and the compassionate, wise, and creative person you want to be are matters of choice. Your choice. No one can occupy your generosity except you.  – Gary Zukav

How do we come to a place of genuine generosity? The first thing that comes to mind is volunteering our time for a cause that brings joy to our hearts. When devotion is brought into the picture it sheds an entirely different light on to things. A heart full of joy and love is the best way to invoke generosity. The notion of volunteering ought to be instilled in our youth population at a very early age. It gives them of a sense of what it is to be of service for the sake of being in service to others. Not to be confused with being in servitude which happens unwittingly in today’s culture. 

I’m not trying to imply that we become saintly, lord knows I am not a holy roller, but there is something about being of service to other’s. Small acts can cultivate into something greater. I know this world is turned on its head and you wonder what is wrong with people, which in turn makes you Not want to help others or be generous. Discernment is a key to being of service without depletion of one’s self. Not everyone is generous, there are those that seek only to gain and will use charm, lies and manipulation to get what they want. Discernment and clarity of mind can keep those with generous hearts safer. I feel it is worth mentioning because once it has happened to you there is a risk of becoming jaded and selfish. Deflect these notions by keeping in good company. 

Look in the mirror and ask yourself – are you going to allow the world around you change who you are, who do you want to be, what do you want to be known for, what kind of people are hanging out in your backyard? If we want things to change – it starts right here and now.

There will always be light & dark, yin & yang, but right now there’s an imbalance between the two. The level of Me-ism and selfishness has got us in a dire mess. Let’s clean it up. 

Genuine awareness and generosity are two steps in saving our humanity, because without it this world is going to be bleak. I think we can do better than this. I should hope so. 

Ciao for now, 

VL

 

Ma

MA!

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. 

William Makepeace Thackery

In addition to this quote – Mother is the name of the Goddess that nourishes and animates the Universe.

Your Mother 

Think of your Mother. The emotions that come forward. Are we the kind of children she would be proud of now… Do we have anything we need to forgive or be forgiven… Can we see the sacrifices that were made throughout our lives made by our Mother’s in order for us to have a better life. Do you recall the little things that you learned like kitchen dancing lesson that included the cha-cha, or how to iron, take care of plants, shovel snow, food shopping, cooking…

Remember the things that would come out of her mouth in response to your smart ass remarks in the middle of a disagreement.

You – So!!!!  Mom – Sew Buttons – and you would walk away feeling like an idiot.

Or how about the these lines-

Mom – I said stop doing that, you’re going to get hurt

You – No I won’t – la la la la

Mom – When you get hurt don’t come crying to me

Of course we wound up getting hurt and came crying to Mom – she’d clean the wound and bandage us Again, shaking her head and sending us off to our next adventure.

I never got mothers who would actually hit their kids after they had already gotten hurt. Such an abusive thing to do, as if hitting the child would stop them from getting hurt again. Anyhooch….

The Mother’s Around You

Now think of all the Mother’s you know, the children they have, married, single or divorced. Do you see the things they do for their children, the challenges of learning how to juggle work, life and maybe 5 or 6 children at a time. These were the Mom’s that would have everyone else’s children at their home. Food, toys, space to be crazy and kind words. These mom’s seemed to have it together or maybe they had gone crazy from all the children they had. They just seemed very at home with being everyone’s mom and always serving with a smile. Got a kick out their own children and everyone else’s. 

Your Other Mother

Now to the Mother figures in your life that never have had children of their own, but nourish those all around them.  These women are mentors, role models they fill the gaps in our development especially if our relationship with our mother was challenging. These women are beacons and sometimes a bit stronger for the sacrifice of not having their own children. They know that having children is a huge responsibility and realized if they could not provide a stable and loving environment for their own, they would rather not do it at all. They also know that they can be of far more service, because they have the freedom to do so. I have known such women throughout my life and I am very grateful. 

Throughout history we have been given great examples of this type of devotion and care. 

Here are two of my favorites. 

Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa
Sri Sarada Devi Ma
Sri Sarada Devi Ma

 

The Mother’s Role

The role of a mother is to protect, serve, nourish, teach, learn, provide stability, guidance and room for growth. It’s an ever-expanding role, mother’s are some of the fiercest warriors that I have ever known. She is a selfless person who also knows how to preserve herself and demonstrate the values and principles that are required for a stable, healthy and thriving community.  She is also a bit brazen, outspoken, full of mirth  and laughter. Her presence is felt when she walks into a room.

Ma recognizes the divinity in all things and bestows love & affection to her beautiful children. She can also be a stern disciplinarian when need be, we all need a little booty spanking or ear tugging from time to time.   She provides us with clear and concise guidance in ways to live a happy and fulfilling life. She lets us know how well we are doing when need be and leaves us to our devices otherwise. She has faith in us and our abilities.

Their is nothing like the lap of the Mother. Her animating force of Nature enlivens everything, from art to music, dance, writing, singing and the care of flora and fauna. Taking the time every day to give thanks for such nourishment and guidance is vital to a happy life. These are the ideals that come to mind when I think of Ma!.

Gratitude and Grace for another Day Devoted to Mother’s All Around Us.

Jai,

VL

Family Matters

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“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
George Burns

It’s a bit funny to think that when one person in the immediate family moves away, they are sometimes viewed as abandoning the family, the black sheep or running away. If you are that person – you could say ‘I’m an adventurer and there’s a lot of world out there to see.’ Then again it could be all of the above.

Anyhooch, every family has it’s drama, some more than others. For years I thought, when I had my own family things are going to be different. I believed I would have the home that folks would want to come and visit, cook big meals, laugh a lot and play games.  If you have such a family – please do not take them for granted. It is a rare and beautiful thing in this day and age. I do not have that kind of home and why is a long story, stay tuned…

Soul Family

The ‘family’ that I created through out the years has been a combination of the biological family and what some call ‘soul family’. These are people that I have met through my travels and travails.  Absolutely adore them – we reach out to each other by phone, Facebook, Skype and letter writing either by email or hand. By the way, hand written letters and cards are a lost art. I am fortunate to have biological and ‘soul family’ scattered across the four winds. Which is great – if you are an adventurer.  Most of them are women and a small group of men. There are a host of children I have watched grow up from a far or in their homes. There are still little ones around and they are especially fun. The enriching thing about having ‘family’ outside of your biology is that you may find you have more in common, familial dynamics and such that are not charged with emotion.  We fill in the gaps in each others lives and support one another when the need arises. My ‘soul sistas’ & brothers have been there  me in ways that I can never repay.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”
Oscar Wilde

Forgiveness works both ways. Sometimes we can be assholes as kids.

Typically small children do not screw up parents, it’s usually the other way around. As we become adults it’s the children’s responsibility to avoid staying in the victim rut – there are plenty of ways to overcome childhood trauma. I am not saying all children are saint’s, but for the most part children are the more enlightened in a child-parent paradigm. I have spent years teaching children and I know what I speak of. That’s another story to be told. Stay tuned….

Getting things as straight as possible with the parents before they leave is imperative for mental and emotional health. Getting the ‘karmic record straight and the karmic slate’ clean is far more rewarding than holding a grudge. This way we can live a full life and love people regardless of the past. We can’t expect too much from people, especially once they get passed the age of 60. They are pretty set and it’s not going to change much. If we can get on our inner journey on track before our 50’s we’re doing all right, we’ll have an easier time of it when illness and death comes to the family.

It is imperative to mention – I love my parents and I appreciate every gift of talent, genetics, love of life and lessons that they passed on to me (even the crappy ones).

There may be no relationship…that’s closer, finer, harder, sweeter, happier, sadder, more filled with joy or fraught with woe, than the relationship we have with our brothers and sisters.

Jeffrey Kluger – NPR – TED Radio Hour

Being the eldest in a family has it’s challenges. It seems as though every thing you do is wrong or anything younger siblings do is your fault. Why…because parents are trying to figure it out on the first one, which in turn trickles down the line. By the time they get to the 3rd or 4th child they may be exhausted or they actually have gotten a handle on things. Each birth position in the family dynamic brings it’s own set of challenges. Sibling rivalry, who’s which parent’s favorite, who’s the loser, the rebel – you know the deal.

Then there are blended families with children that come from the subsequent union, which invariably brings about confusion and sometimes jealousy. There is also the possibility for incredible enrichment. At my age I have found that the most important thing is to remember you are family. You may not agree, but you’ve got each others back. Divisiveness creates fractious behavior, resentment and a great deal of loss. After all, we all just want to be loved, appreciated and mostly seen & heard.

Maturity brings a great deal of perspective, my biological sisters are a hoot. Now we can laugh about all of the craziness we grew up with. It’s nice to be women together. My younger brothers have some catching up to do since they are much younger than us. I look forward to them becoming full fledged men. All in all, it’s quite lovely to be on the Bright Side of the Moon.

Circling Back

If you live in another state or country, far from your immediate family – you might have found that the difficult relationships have smoothed out. You have all realized (with age & experience) that you miss each other, you value the bond of family and have put differences aside. Now when you see your family – it’s sweeter, there’s more laughter, less resentment and new memories are being created.

The antidote to hurtful memories – forgiveness.

If we are fortunate enough to have wonderful people that we love and cherish by our side when the last day comes, we are very fortunate indeed. Sure we are born alone (except for multiple birth siblings) and we go out alone, but really no one wants to be alone. Let people know you love them.

We all sometimes wish we were born into a different family, but we weren’t – it’s our duty to figure it out. If it seems insurmountable, ask for help figuring it out. Some things are worth fighting for and some are not. I think our birth families and soul family are to be cherished, make time for things that really matter.

Till next time

VL

VL Speaks © 2016

Day of Thanks

You gotta Love Jon Stewart
I’m Grateful for and Love Jon Stewart. Nothing like irreverent honest humor to brighten your day.

 

Autumn is my favorite season. Spring & Autumn I should say, you can’t have a harvest if you haven’t planted any seeds, right.

Anyhooch, this time of year is exhilarating and when I was a wee lass I enjoyed the holidays, even though I was not allowed to celebrate them. Why- because my mom is a JW and they don’t believe in celebrating pagan or man-made holidays. It’s alright I got over it.  I will say that it made me question where these rituals came from in the first place. At least now I can be an informed participant, if I chose to participate at all. Along with learning about the origins of holidays, I was a fan of Native American Indians and studied them as well (there is a lot to learn). I was appalled when I learned about the truth of how the natives were treated and the arrogance and falseness of the so-called founders. Of course once you start digging a hole the ‘bodies’ start to show up. These types of things have been happening throughout history and throughout the world.

How does one reconcile celebrating a holiday that was founded on lies and treachery – keep it real and give thanks that we are not in the same situation. Does that seem childish or simplistic – perhaps. I choose to give thanks and remember the good in people. At least there has been some restitution for the Native Americans and they are now bleeding many a folk at the slots. Seems fair. Karma has a way of working things out.

Grace & Gratitude – it’s a good primer

Giving thanks for what we have and are about to receive is a good way to count one’s blessings. I LOVE cranberry sauce, so I am grateful there are plenty of cranberries for sale. It’s a half full cup way of looking at things.

This in no way means that people are absolved for their actions, especially heinous crimes. The point is we as individuals can only control our own actions and be grateful that we have somehow managed to have better lives,  It’s also a time to give back. I used to bring canned foods & fresh fruit to a soup kitchen near my house when I lived in CT. It felt good to share -gave me a warm glow inside, they didn’t even know it was me dropping off the bags of food. It’s easy to look magnanimous when you have an audience.  A small act of kind will brighten anyone’s day.

Cornucopia

We live in a land of plenty. Yes there are still folks that are homeless and have no food. How is it that so many people have loads of shit in their garages, but they wont donate to good will – if we think that we are lacking, we will start hoarding out of fear. There is plenty to go around. The point is we need to share our wealth in order to multiply it.  If we do not give, why should we continually feel that we should be getting. Not saying to give it away indiscriminately, just share.

Melange of Life

In addition to cranberries, I love stuffing because it’s got a little bit of the turkey, veggies, bread and it goes really well with the cranberry sauce.  The melange of the flavors is a joy to experience. So is the melange of people who are brought together during the holiday season. Bringing people together that you would otherwise not meet. I have had some lovely Thanksgiving dinners with people from all over the world.

We can trump the origins of this holiday by making it about the people around us, all the things we have to be grateful for and sharing the abundance of the things in our lives.

Really, when you look around there is always something to be grateful for. Try it – you might find yourself with a list a mile long. As my mom would say ‘Everyday is Thanksgiving Day’!

Ciao for Now,

VL