This is the Day!

Water and Light

By Rev. Amari Magdalena

“This is the Day,” Graham Dashwood declares in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as he realizes that he’s through leading a life whose end game is not one he wishes to play.  Do you ever feel like you have a starring role in someone else’s life?  Are you aware that you are living roles of expectations that family, friends, lovers, employers and societal edicts have dictated? Have you wondered where you, your authentic self, has disappeared to?

We are living in fast moving and often precarious times.  Change is upon us with increasing demands on our mental, physical and emotional natures.  Many of us have had to wear a lot of hats to meet the demands of our different roles.  Perhaps we’ve felt like quick change artists in a play with many cumbersome costumes.  More likely a bit of us may have been lost along the way. We have mastered doing at the expense of being.

Yet some internal message we are receiving in the deep recesses of our minds, speaks to us. Its message may be soft or very loud. Basically it may be asking “where is my spirit.”  Where is that essential me?  Am I anywhere near fulfilling my dreams and living in concert with the real me? Will I just go on in over-drive until this little vinette I call my life is over?

When we get caught up in the doings of life, we often loose the magic that it truly represents. We are born because we chose to incarnate, to acquire this flesh and blood body.  Our life script is influenced by our early caregivers and takers and a plan for spiritual growth that is perhaps beyond our human imagining.  Each of us has a specific purpose in being here. Our soul wishes that we will realize our purpose and accomplish our mission. In between our birth and death, we are gifted time and experiences towards that end.

Though it may not always be apparent I believe we are actually here to enjoy this ride. Oh, maybe not every day, though we might choose that attitude.  Certainly we are not incarnate to be punished or ‘do time’ for our supposed past life regressions.  I feel we are here to have the full body experience in every possible way.  Along the way, hopefully we are also staying in tune with our eternal spirit and fostering its growth.

What I do know to be true, this nearly three quarters of a century down life’s highway, is that each day is a gift.  When we choose to be more present in the moment, we can experience gratitude for this wondrous gift; we can choose to life actively, magnificently, and dynamically. No matter the external circumstances, tugs and pulls, we can each declare, “today is the day!” We can embrace the day and surrender living the lives others dictate for us.  In our declaration, we can find our authentic self who knows how we can fulfill our dreams with whatever time is afforded us.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, sure it’s that easy, not!  She doesn’t know the stresses I’m under or understand my circumstances.  Who is she to say this?

What I will share with you is that I’ve been through the hell of life.  I’ve been at the edge of giving up.  At 47 I was so close to early exit that each day was precarious.  One day in rainy, cloudy, dark Seattle the sun shown.  I was out laying in the sun.  The warmth on my body caused me to totally relax.  I heard birds joyfully singing.  In that very moment, I came to a realization that I could capture more moments like that and turn my life around. I could choose heaven on earth.  That realization moved my life towards embracing each day and following my dreams.

What I wish for each of you reading this, is a moment in which you make an active choice to embrace life and declare, “This is the Day”!  That you quit living your life for and through others and recognize that at the end of your life hopefully you lived your life for you.  Trust me, others will appreciate that much more than you losing your special Divine Spark to please them. And, you will lead a life that you enjoy and are grateful for.

“You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s the one day that’s given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”  Louie Schwartzberger

 

Loss and Grief

by Rev. Amari Magdalena

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A recent program that I listened to on NPR discussed the impact of loss and grief on the airplane crash victim’s families.  It got me thinking about all of the large and small losses, and resultant grief, that we each experience on this physical plane over a lifetime.  Some of our losses we more easily recover from under the old adage, “live and learn.”  The big ones may take a lot more time and for those we may find acceptance on some levels yet may not ever fully recover in the sense of being the same person we were before the loss.

Years ago I wrote in a poem, “Or would the moment die its own fleeting death anyway …As we are living and dying in moments.”  This was not meant to be fatalistic rather a recognition that there are all kinds of deaths that we come to cope with over our time on this Earth; each in our own way. The path to coping and acceptance are as varied as the causes or conditions of the deaths.

There were two times in my life that I’ve felt overwhelming grief at death.  One was the year that Martin Luther King, my cousin Patsy and Bobby Kennedy died in April, May and June correspondingly.  I could not fathom such grief at loss of leadership and a young, beautiful cousin. It took a good year to find some peace with their individual and collective passing.

The other time was even more egregious.  Within a period of three years, I lost a 3-year-old grandson, a 52-year-old sister and a 17-year-old nephew.  I’d had a premonition that major grief was about to descend several weeks before the first death; thankfully I was given no idea whatsoever what was to come. And, the grief wasn’t over I sensed after our beautiful Diego was gone.  What a roll-a-coaster ride those short years were.

Each of us must find a path through our grief and losses. What saved me with the latter griefs ultimately was the grounding that daily sustains me through earth-based practices and the medicine wheel of life. I feel extremely fortunate that I found this path as it has sustained me as no other in my lifetime.

In working with my personal grief, and others in my family and pastoral counseling, I’ve seen that there is no formula or time frame for processing grief.  The ‘get over it’ mentality that so very many people espouse to avoid deep feelings, just doesn’t work.  The degree of loss includes: the circumstance of the loss; the people or loved pets involved; the place one is in their life; the supportive environment or lack thereof; the time in life; etc.

For some people, counseling is effective; for others grief support groups.  Others may take solace in their religious or spiritual practices. I believe there is no right way.  Each of us, with some support, or help, can find a pathway that works.

I’m also struck by what I said in the poem, we are living and dying in moments.  That knowledge, for me, means that I want to embrace my life in the now with appreciation for each day and the people who are now in my life.  It also means that I can treasure what is presented to me today without worrying about what might be taken away tomorrow or what was taken in the past.

Dia de los Muertos ceremonies are a wondrous way to celebrate our friends and family who’ve stepped through the veil.  At that time when the veils are thinnest between the material and ethereal worlds, we can bring into our presence those loved ones and celebrate them.  At other times, memories and pictures help us keep a loving connection with our beloveds.

Birth, life and death are the triumvirate we all live with.  Being gentle with ourselves, allowing grief it’s due, and coming to feel thankful for whatever time is allotted us and our dear ones, can move us a long way to acceptance and appreciation for the fragility of this wondrous play, Life.  The key is living and loving.

 

 

Perspective

by Rev. Amari Magdalena

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There was a wonderful share the other day on Facebook about perspective.  It got me thinking about just how relevant perspective is to our state of mind and contentment in life. For many of us, particularly those living alone, it is easy to lose perspective when we encounter the bumps and detours that life presents; no one to bounce things off of.  For others even living with others, perspective can be skewed.  All of us are, at times, fairly insular in our world view; we are the center of our universe.

When our small universe presents challenges of body, mind or spirit, we often fall into feeling sorry for ourselves with the accompanying pity party.  At times, we choose to wallow in the suffering that we are experiencing.  Some choose to isolate themselves at times like this; others broadcast it through their downtrodden energy.

It strikes me that what is needed are new filters through which to view challenges, bumps and detours. We might liken this to using a camera.  Some people are more adept with the instrument; others not.

What is clear to me is that we each have an internal camera, along with our external one (our eyes).  To a certain degree, we simply take a picture of what we see with your eyes.  Yet through processing or developing the picture our internal camera tweaks the picture: in modern terms, we might say we Photoshop it.  That internal processing is very unique and determined to a great extent by our life experiences and cultural inculcation.

Additionally, we seem to have a propensity to repeat the very same processing method we’ve previously used for similar pictures.  We are on a form of auto-pilot with those. This can be time-saving yet may also represent a sort of blindness.  Perhaps we do this repeat procedure to save time; perhaps it is simply habit.

If we continue to process pictures on auto-play or pilot we are not considering the present moment, circumstances, and presentation before us.  This creates a lot of views that may be outdated or distorted.  The distortion effect may lead to misunderstanding, prejudice, assumption, and limited thinking.

We could apply this to the events in our own lives or to our perception of events unfolding before us in the lives of others or the world.  Truth may go begging when our camera lens is clouded or fractured.  Recognizing any distortion by running our perceptions through a new truth filter may be of great value.  Asking or questioning ourselves, when we find ourselves making judgments about a person or circumstances, may help us discover new truths.

In my own life when I question negative thinking, I often ask, “Is this true today?
Are the feelings or thoughts or perceptions I am experiencing based in what is presently before me or some half truth from another time and place?  This helps me greatly in clearing my filter and perhaps coming up with new ways to view what my camera is focusing on.

The quote below sums up my thinking on this subject.  One can just as easily apply it to “when watching yourself and your reactions….”  I believe that we can choose to change our perceptions through highly focused awareness and commitment to re-viewing all that is within our scope; especially when it is causing us any angst or unhappiness.

The choice to see heaven or hell each day is ours alone.  No external force can manipulate our inner camera, truly.  We alone can “Windex” our perceptions and click on a focus that creates greater happiness and contentment.

“…and so it is with life.  What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the Window through which we look.” 

Intolerance

By Rev. Amari Magdalena

 

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Intolerance, defined as “unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one’s one.”   It’s Latin basis: “in” for not; “tolerantem” for to bear, or endure. Seems, to me, to be a lot of that floating around these days especially on the social media sites.

We all have our opinions and beliefs.  Some are shaped by our life experiences; some by exposure to belief systems that we particularly resonate with.  Opinions and beliefs are valuable to the extent that our ego investment in them doesn’t allow for a change of mind or awakening to the new.  They become a problem mostly when we are disrespectful to those opinions and beliefs of others not in concert with ours.

Lately there has been major intolerance regarding the political debacle that we are witness to in this election year.  Another cyber world example of intolerance is regarding food-vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, etc.  Public breastfeeding is yet another example of polarized opining. Global warming or climate change, yet another.  Transgender use of bathrooms; another hot button.  So many areas of disagreement. The issue is not necessarily about our personal views on any of these subjects rather our lack of respect for views that are 180 degrees from our cherished opinions.

Many spiritually based people hold a precious view of a world that works for everyone, these days.  Much is said about bringing everyone on board to express their particular gift or talent and find appreciation in so doing.  The word Peace probably has exponential hits or clicks every day.  Yet it’s all just empty words unless we are willing to extend respect to those who differ with our opinion, beliefs, views.

As I’ve been contemplating this blog for a week or so, I have become painfully aware of my own areas of intolerance.  I’ve found myself observing something that doesn’t resonate with me and a judgment or intolerance floating across my mind.  To remedy this, I’ve turned my negative judgment around and found a way to express the thought in a more positive vein.  Perhaps there is something I may learn by what I am witnessing; or possibly it will give more credence to holding my belief with more reverence.  Yet R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is required if I am to move past intolerance and judgment.

Aretha socked it to us in her famous song.  It may be time to revisit its wisdom. “Ain’t gonna do your wrong.”  Catch that last word, wrong.  When we are intolerant, judgmental, and make the other person wrong, there is no possibility of respect–let alone peacemaking.   Respect too has Latin origins:  respicere (see respect (n.). Meaning “treat with deferential regard or esteem.”

Can you imagine a world in which we greet people “I esteem you?”  Possibly it is a better greeting than Namaste because it truly says that I/we/you honor the person in front of us and not just the spirit within. And that, my friends, is what I truly believe is necessary for us to create a world that crosses all lines of division: ethnic, creed, religion, culture, age, sexual orientation, etc.

If I want to know what makes you tick, I can only find that out by being willing to listen to you, truly listen and pay you due respect.  For example, my oldest son is politically my polar opposite in allegiances.  Yet, I learn something every single time that we have an in depth discussion about his beliefs.  I discover that some of it does in fact resonate; some does not.  I know that if we had more flexibility in our body politic of the moment, this kind of listening could only strengthen platforms by incorporating doable ideas that potentially serve all of the people.

Discussions about food could take on a different tone.  Instead of shaming and blaming, vegans and vegetarians could share their personal stories of increased health and energy.  Politicians could choose broader platforms that address a broader brush of their constituency.  Climate change could be opened up more for discussion without so much human shame and blame.  Breastfeeding and human sexuality would have their due if we were willing to explore our deeper feelings about our bodies and their function.  The growing LGBT community could be viewed with compassion for their deep struggles in societies that hold more concrete beliefs on what is ‘normal’ and not in human sexual behavior.

We are birds of many colors and hues.  By becoming more and more aware of respect, esteem, and tolerance, I believe we’d have a much better chance of creating a world community of love and compassion.  I’m committed to working on my areas of intolerance.  I invite you to have that “Come to Jesus” moment yourself and learn to give what you wish to receive; R.E.S.P.E.C.T.