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

 

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

Mother Nature

Two Suns Collide – Watch Hill, RI Winter 2012 – VL

Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Animals are our friends, the waters that flow nurture us, the earth beneath our feet provides stability & sustenance, the skies provide shelter & beauty to behold.

Mother Nature is pissed off. Look around – natural disasters, global warming and climate pattern change. We have taken her for granted. Do we actually believe for one second that those that do harm to the planet and it’s inhabitants will go unscathed by their actions?  Mother Nature seeks her revenge without any bias.  She is fierce in her comeback. When there is a mighty storm brewing I relish in it.  Fierce storms remind me of washing away waste.

Polka Dot Beetle – Central Park, NYC Fall 2014 – VL

I walk by a tree – give thanks for the O2 in the air. Walk by animals tame or feral and pay my respects. While shopping I think twice about the purchase. Mindfulness is the key. Some may think this is some kind of hippie dippy shit – call it whatever you want. I call it being aware, grateful and responsible.

 

Vineyard Slope – Clearlake, Ca Summer 2014 – VL

If you have young students, children, grand children, nieces, nephews or god children think of what will be left behind for them…What are we modeling for them – they watch us very carefully. Who do we think we are – decimating the beauty that has been provided to us – for FREE!!!

 

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Upside Down Sky – Hammonasset, CT Summer 2013 – VL

The Greatest form of Respect for Mother Nature is to abide within in her parameters. She can not be controlled – to attempt to manipulate her is a fool’s errand. It’s incredible that ‘we’ drill in the middle of the ocean relentlessly for oil, or destroy already poverty stricken areas with fracking and utilize a more precious commodity to do it – Water, drill for gems because there is a total shortage cheap ass jewelry in the mall.

Muir Beach, Ca Fall 2014 – VL

I love this planet – all of it’s wonder, beauty, diversity and capacity for regeneration. Much like our own bodies. It is when we believe that we are separate from the web of life that we start to screw things up. When children are taught or rather continually reminded of the gifts that have been provided to us in the form of nature is when we start to shape a new generation of conscious individuals that will be great stewards of the planet. In other words – real humans.

Reduce, Reuse, Recognize & Recycle

Ciao

VL

 

VL Speaks Copyright © 2014-2016

The Game of Values

Values
Values

IMG_3162“Find people who share your values, and you’ll conquer the world together.”
John Ratzenberger

 

It’s been a hot topic in conversation lately. When you think of values what comes to mind – I looked up the definition online, here’s what I found.

Noun –

1.the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.

2. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Interesting that the worth or usefulness of something was #1 and principles and standard of behavior was #2.

The quote above is a true statement. Look at the state of the world today and the what energies are at play.  I can say that for the most part I do not share the same values with most of what you see in Media at large. So what does this tells us about how the world is changing? How can we change the world and is it really our job to be a part of a movement to change the world?

According to #2 definition – we could say that the answers to these questions lie with what are our own values or our standard’s of behavior. None of us are perfect – in the sense that we never make mistakes or that we don’t have room to grow, but let’s just say we are moving towards being the best version of ourselves. If we truly believe in honesty than our life will reflect that in our thought, speech and deed. People trust us because they know that our behavior is inline with what we believe in and what we say. If we are dependable and supportive, once again we engender a sense of trust and reliability.

Happiness in Maintaining Our Values

If we can imagine that our values are an extension of who we are at the core of us then this ought to bring us to a place of peace. When we are start to behave in ways in order to please others we usually start to feel some sort of discord. For example making decisions about how to live our lives in order to make other’s proud of us or more accepting of us in a group. To live from this vantage point will eventually leave us feeling empty because we are not in alignment with our own values, better put what other’s think is more important than we think.

Living from a space of our true happiness is what matters most. This is not to say that we live in a bubble where we are only concerned with our own selfish desires, to the contrary – us living from a space of inner peace & contentment only enhances our ability to live a life that is meaningful useful and contributing the very best we have to offer the world around us. This kind of living will enhance all that come into contact with us, unless they are not happy to begin with. We don’t have to resist their values or thoughts we just stay in a place of repose and happiness.

Get Connected to Our Values

How we interact with the world around us leaves a ripple effect. Thriving in the face of opposition – whether it be someone choosing to be with someone else instead of us in a relationship, a job or a group is not contingent upon anyone else. Our values and belief in ourselves with unconditional love is something that trumps whatever anyone else does or says. Examine why you choose the things you choose, when did you decide what other’s think was more important than your values, how did we lose our way in deciding what mattered most and did we ever have a grip on the importance of values in the first place? Ahhh – this tickles the mind a bit doesn’t it?

The importance of our values is in large part what shapes our lives. While we may not share the same values with some people it doesn’t make it any less important. The primary point of focus is understanding ourselves first. It’s very easy to judge what somebody else values and criticize, but does it really matter. No – it’s none of our business. Our Values are what matter most. Living by them with true conviction without judgement is a good place to start. Like attracts like so it is easy to say that we will attract like minded people along our path. Even if we don’t maintaining a steadfast grasp of our own will continually lead us to the path that is meant for us.

To tie back to the quote above – do we really wish to conquer the world, I would say we wish to have a positive influence on the world by utilizing our free will to dig deep into our own minds and see how our values impact those around us. Once again an inside job and one that starts with ‘I’.

 

VL