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

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

 

For the Love of Prince

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It’s all coming back to me now, like it was deep in the ocean
I’ll beat me sword into a plow, and share a heavenly potion
with my future queen…
Half east, half west, the truth’s somewhere; rest in between – Revelation, Prince

I am, one of many that are reeling over the loss of the man Prince Roger Nelson. There are not many musicians in our landscape that can claim the brilliance that he embodied.

I just saw him perform in a one man show in Oakland, Ca on Friday, March 4th. To say it was great is an understatement. Firstly, he waited for his fans to get in the door. I arrived early and there were lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot way after the show was supposed to begin. The concert was delayed by at least one hour. It was him and his piano. The Jumbotron gave us a close up view of his beautiful face. His hands were flawless making their way across the keys. We were enthralled, this set did not seem rehearsed at all, there was a flow from one song to the next in completely different genre’s other than how they were originally recorded. He gave us everything – shade, fresh, coy, sexy, composed, brilliant, jubilant ecstasy. I experienced so many emotions I could hardly contain myself – crying, laughing, screaming and singing along. At one point he rose from his piano and started to conduct us in unison, on pitch, key and cadence. Oracle Stadium was bewitched by his Presence. A God Like Experience. I still get goose bumps when I envision it. A young lady seated next to me told me she was 21 and had never been to a concert. I told her that this concert was setting the bar very high and we would probably never witness it again in our lifetimes. How could it be so true. I am grateful beyond measure. Thank you Jean – Luc. When I left that concert I was as high as a kite and didn’t come down for weeks – I felt empowered and rejuvenated. This is what True, Authentic Genius brings to the World.

There have been many conversations with people these past few days about Prince – one thing we all agree upon is that he was Authentically a True Artist through and through. I can only compare him to one other composer and musician that I was this enthralled with – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I fell in love with both of these men around the same time. As a teenager I sang compositions by both of them on stage .  It is easy to compare them, prolific in their writing, completely original and inspired by Divinity. Unlike Mozart, Prince knew that in order to sustain his brilliant work it required a connection to his spiritual life. Which was evident in his Life

His indulgent play with sexuality and love of women is a sign of devotion to creative magic. It is where all life springs from, is it not.

The Music

Think of your favorite songs by him, not just the top 40, but songs you had to dig into albums to discover…

I have searched extensively for links to the songs, but as you know he had his music on lock down, so whatever little treasure we can find out there, it’s an extra gift.

And God Created Woman – Love Symbol

Ballad of Dorothy Parker – Sign of the Times

Darlin Nikki – Purple Rain

Take Me With U – Purple Rain

Beautiful Ones – Purple Rain

 

Starfish & Coffee – Sign of the Times

If I was Your Girlfriend – Sign of the Times

Revelation – Hit & Run Phase 2 – I have been listening to this song since the concert in March

Vicki Waiting – Batman Soundtrack

Get Off – Diamonds & Pearls

Controversy – Controversy

Do Me Baby – Controversy – I love this Video!!!!

Never Take the Place of Your Man – Sign of the Times

I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince

This list goes on and on.

His Love of Women

I don’t know a great deal about his personal life, but it is evident that this man adored women. He worshipped them. He elevated them around him to foster their creative abilities.

Let us begin with Wendy & Lisa. Aww….

With Wendy, Lisa & Sheila E. – Yeah, it’s great to watch these clips

His ability to create, collaborate and share his works of art was one of his many gifts.

He collaborated with Sheila E Kate Bush, Chaka Kahn, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, Sheena Easton,  and Alicia Keyes to name a few. Then we have the femme fatales he promoted – Vanity 6, (may Vanity RIP) and Apollonia 6. Need I say more. Sure why  not – check this out – 9 Hit Songs that had the Price Touch. 

Sheila E was still touring with him through out the years. I think she stayed with him the longest although all of these women were touched by him in profound ways.

His Generosity – Philanthropy

I received a gift from Prince. He gave all the fans that attended the concert in Oakland a free CD of his last album – Hit & Run Phase 2. I was so touched by it.

The truth is the man had been giving money away to multiple causes throughout the years. His humility around the subject is an indication of his sincerity and Huge Heart. He made a lot contributions on the QT which tells you that for all his flashy ways on stage he was open, loving, generous, quiet and his magnitude ran deep. Well we knew about the Love, didn’t we.

I had seen Van Jones last month speaking about Yes We Code on The Daily Show – come to find out this weekend Prince was behind the scenes on that one – (thank you for that tip Giulia). I am sure there was a great deal more that he did without any concern for the attention and praise. We, his fans fulfilled that role.

Check it out -A Philanthropic Life 

The Final Touch

While I drove home on Thursday, April 21st – I sobbed like a child realizing that HE (in the human form) had ceased to exist and my dreams of seeing him again were dashed. So selfish of me. Really, it is clear that his life was lived so fully – he loved, created and shared everything to the hilt. He is entitled to rest and who knows he may come back to us with even more talent and beauty than before. Lucky parents to be.

Praise be to the Prince who graced us with his Beauty in all it’s Forms.

Peace & I’m Out,

VL

 

Love – Life – Hope

Mahatma Gandhi quote

While I am not a holy roller – I do remember reading this quote and hearing it at practically all of the weddings I attended as a child.  It has stayed with me all of my life and a friendly reminder now and then is always helpful.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love – it’s a loaded word. Take a second to see what it conjures in your mind and body. 

Expression of Love

Expressing love comes in many forms, a kind word, a sentimental gift, an ear for listening intently, visiting a friend in need, a gentle caress on someone’s hand, a passionate kiss and sharing your body.  Accepting someone as they are is a great gesture of love. This doesn’t mean that you accept harmful actions from this person.  Expressing love ought to leave you feeling elated and renewed. If we are giving love from the vantage point of being selfless we are free from the angst of having to get something back.  Some folks have a hard time with this concept. Giving love for the sake of giving to someone in need, unconditionally can evoke the warm and fuzzies. Yes there are plenty of do-gooders in the world and some of them are truly serving the community, but there are those that use this as a mask, thinking that  good deeds  will absolve them from the past or something that may happen in the future. This is getting into an entirely different topic, but it’s worth mentioning.

Speaking of Love brings to mind the 3 types of love in greek –  Agape, Eros & PhilosAgape is that unconditional love – we give to give with no attachment to the outcome.  Eros is a physical attraction, intense sexual attraction to another which can turn into something deeper, but not necessarily. Philos is the brotherly, sisterly love that we share a special bond with.  A healthy marriage will most probably encompass all of these types of love.  Let’s face it looks and sex are one of the first things to go in a relationship if there is nothing substantial behind it, will it survive… Don’t get me wrong – sex can be an incredible healing and bonding tool in a relationship, but true commitment  requires devotion.  Anyhooch, moving right along.

Self Love

Self love is not to be confused with being narcissistic  or selfish. Sometimes it requires that we practice selfless selfishness.  At times we require a bit of self protection from things or people that do not have our best interest at heart. An example – you find yourself in a relationship (could be a friend or lover) where they hold all the cards. The conversations start or stop when they want them to, you see them when they want to, they have little regard for what you need or want. In other words you are taking a back seat to seat to their needs. If we do not speak up or stick up for ourselves it’s our own fault.  We may choose to keep these people in our lives.  The lack of reciprocity will eventually erode the bond. Self Love says I will do what I can, but will not sacrifice my well being for it.

Tough Love

There are times when we require that someone give it to us straight between the eyes. It can be delivered with a velvet glove or a full-blown sock in the face.  Accepting tough love takes a teaspoon of courage, a cup of humility and a heap of self-love. You can’t be sure when it’s going to come, but if you are asking for help with a situation you’re stuck in – be prepared. Some of us are more sensitive than others -accepting tough love requires that we trust the person dispensing it and that the delivery has some tough and love in equal measure.

Healing

If there are battle scars on your heart, join the club. Not to sound insensitive, but healing is not for wimps. True healing is one of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life. One of the biggest keys to healing is forgiveness. Forgiveness encompasses Love, honesty, awareness, letting go, assuming responsibility where one needs to and acceptance. Without these ingredients healing becomes a mire of self pity and victim hood.

Receiving

In order to receive love our hearts need to be open,  even if it’s just ajar. Our minds need to be discerning. We need a combination of courage and faith.  We must also believe that we are worthy of the love we are receiving. Which goes back to self-love.

Children are a great example of people that know how to receive love. They seek approval from their parents and those around them.  If they come from loving homes they are very discerning about who wishes to bestow love or malice. Children have the knack of giving you a hug, kiss or a smile just when you need it the most. I hope we can remember that when interacting with children – they are beacons of hope and love. Let’s make sure we nurture this beautiful part of children – they are the future.

I could go on and on –  Hope this leaves you with a glow and a little illuminated. Love is the Light of This World.

Ciao for Now

VL