Sunday, April 24, 2011


One of the things that I have a hard time understanding is how some of us can get so adamant about religious beliefs. A few think that what they choose to believe in holds some sort of "absolute truth" over what someone else chooses. Personally, I think it's all nonsense. Not the idea of believing in a higher power or the spiritual realm. It's the idea that there are any differences between those beliefs at all.

There are people on this planet who feel justified in harboring negative feelings about the doctrines of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, and so on. Perhaps they had a bad experience with someone who claimed to practice that faith. Maybe it was a series of hurtful actions committed against them that were "done in accordance with" some sort of doctrine. Or it might just be an intense desire to be different and break away from the person they once were.

I'm not going to deny that "religious" people do bad things. Some use the "scriptures" to justify horrendous acts against humanity. There are certainly enough interpretations of "holy teachings" to make your head spin. Not all of it makes sense. Some of it resonates. A lot of it makes you question the meaning of existence.

But what I've noticed from my own spiritual experiences and the readings I've done from different religious "scriptures" is that they're really all the same. We humans are more than what we see in our individual mirrors each morning. We're all connected to something that is unseen and yet very alive and real at the same time.

The death of Jesus is as much a symbol of transformation as is the Buddhist teaching of enlightenment. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying. However, to me the idea that we can be changed and released from the negative thoughts and labels that aren't who we really are deserves to be celebrated. There's hope in that message. Some interpret one doctrine as someone else doing it for us. The other doctrine is often interpreted as a self-journey; something self-initiated and done for one's own self.

I say there's another way to look at both of those interpretations. Yes, Jesus made a sacrifice. But that sacrifice was an example of what can be. The believer still has work to do; their own work and self-journey that brings them to that same point of spiritual resurrection and transformation. They are not "rescued" unless they choose to be.

I think the second set of believers are right about transformation being a choice and something that must be accomplished within one's own "spirit," if you will. But that transformation doesn't happen alone. How could it? For no one exists as a single person. Everyone is each other and a part of something that doesn't have an end and doesn't have a beginning.

Life; Consciousness; God; Jesus; Allah; Buddha; The Source; Mother Earth. Whichever name you choose, it is all Truth.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bright Side of Disappointments

Each day I become more convinced that there are no accidents. We stumble onto books, films, art, jobs, companies, and situations that teach us something about ourselves. The hardest lesson, I think, is when we stumble onto another person who gets us to reexamine a piece of ourselves we'd rather leave hidden in the shadows.

They may come in the form of an overbearing parent who doesn't understand us, an unlikely friendship that causes us to awaken to a parallel choice and consequential loss, or a mentoring source of support that pushes us because they know we're limiting our own capabilities. The most difficult ones are those that end up disappointing us.

We have our hopes high. We take a chance. We think this might lead to something good and beneficial. There's possibility and the idea that we might just finally find what we've been yearning for.

In middle school there was this boy. He lived around the corner and he was of course one of the popular ones; a preppy jock type. This is the type that I'm still ridiculously drawn to today, even though I know that self-absorbed, superficial jerks and compassionate, absent-minded, random, self-contained creatives tend to not mix.

Anyway, we were friends for the most part. We talked and joked around in class. We helped each other with the parts of our schoolwork we didn't understand. We liked each other. He used to follow me to the nearby park, trying to appear somewhat nonchalant as he made his brothers tag along. Sometimes he would hide up in the tree in his backyard and tease me as I walked past his street on my way home. We even held hands once on the field at school.

But our would-be romantic montage was suddenly interrupted by the blonde. Her parents allowed her to wear heavy makeup and tons of hair spray. It was the late 80s and Aqua Net, teased hair, and pore clogging base were still in. She didn't have much substance as I recall and their "middle school crush" was more of a display for his father who didn't approve of his "all-star athlete" son liking the "smart girl," with the "reading glasses." Not to mention, I never caught on to the "teased hair, heavy makeup" look. In short, the blonde was a "better" trophy.

Good thing young hearts are so resilient. Five months later I was completely over him and when I ran into him in high school and later in college, I couldn't quite figure out what I ever saw in his 7th and 8th grade self. The only regret I had was that my younger self didn't think she was as worthy as his "blonde trophy" at the time.

Despite his obvious lack of good judgment, that boy still managed to do me a favor. Besides the fact that I might have ended up in a miserable, unfulfilling teenage romance, I discovered that I was ok with being me. I knew that I didn't want to change my outward appearance or my inward one either just so I could be someone else's arm candy.

Disappointments aren't meant to hurt us. So much of life is a process of trial and error that it doesn't really matter if someone decides that we aren't going to "suit" them. It usually means that they're there to help us figure out what it is that will eventually fit us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Have to Follow what You Feel

Last Friday was it. The end of my seemingly secure job as a sales representative for the number one snacks company in the United States. The job that I accumulated a healthy 401(k) balance with, a small vested pension and stock option benefit that I'll receive in the weeks ahead, and my two final weekly paychecks that I'll eventually use for an upcoming expense.

It took me a long time to make the decision to let go because it seemed like I fought so hard to achieve that level of financial security. I liked that sense of security and I liked seeing my customers. But, I wasn't happy. Not even at the beginning, before all of the "signs" starting pointing towards an eventual exit. I always had this feeling that I was like a fish out of water, wildly gasping for air so I could hope to survive.

I told myself that I was going to be as professional as possible during my exit interview. There was no reason to rant, rave or blame the company for my experience. I had to take responsibility for my part in this. I had to admit that I didn't follow what I felt. Not before I voluntarily advanced myself through the hiring process, before I accepted the position in lieu of another one, when I was performing the duties of the job each day, when things started to go wrong, or when I turned down other job offers so I could stay to please someone other than myself.

So when "R" asked me for my top three reasons for leaving, I was honest without being retaliatory. I said I was ready for a change and wanted to do something I was passionate about. I didn't feel like I was the type of person that fit in with the company's culture and that I was physically exhausted.

He said that he hated to see me go. I was a good employee and that I would be successful in whatever I did. But what struck me the most were his words of "you've got to follow your dream and you have to follow what you feel."

I think that's true no matter where we are in our lives or what happens to us. We have to trust our own feelings and listen to them. If someone hurts us, we need to acknowledge our feelings and decide if they still deserve to be in a relationship with us. We have to make a decision to either live an inner truth or pay attention to a mirage of promises.

Action requires a lot more than courage. You can be unafraid of making a decision or of its possible consequences and still keep your feet on the same path because you aren't ready to accept responsibility. What you can't be afraid of is living with how you'll feel each time you look in a mirror. Action requires a decision to acknowledge your responsibility for what you see and how you feel.

When you follow what you feel, there are no mirages or scenes of pretend. There's only truth; a truth that doesn't know anything beyond its own definition. It ends the phase of darkness and gives you the freedom to breathe as though no other possibility ever existed.