Vigilance, faithfulness, to one’s practice is important on the spiritual path. As Joan Gattuso reminds us, “Without spiritual discipline we are never going to wake up or advance on our journey through this life.” It’s true, if we are not alert, our spiritual practice can become shoddy and prone to excuses. Spiritual laziness is a real danger. It is good to be watchful for these tendencies.
On the other hand, we can also place too much pressure on ourself to get our practice exactly right. Unconsciously we may strive to become the perfect pray-er, meditator, devotee, or disciple. Our practice can actually become a source of pressure and angst because we have burdened it and ourself with unhealthy “shoulds” and expectations. We live in a culture that focuses on human perfection, and sometimes, mistakenly, we link the quality and frequency of our practice to some sort of divine reward system.
Wisdom resides in walking a middle path. We keep our eyes on the goal of practice (self-realization, God-realization), yet at the same time, we treat ourself kindly and gently. Spiritual progress is not about achievement but about accessing more gentle places within us. Quiet places where we can hear our own compassionate voice saying, “Rest”; where we hear a divine voice whisper, “Welcome home.” “Progress not perfection,” is a wise mantra to keep.
You can learn more about and read excerpts from this transformative spiritual formation book here. Available in our online store.
A writer I deeply admire, Anne Lamott, wrote the most enticing book on prayer. Its title reflects what is so often in my heart, “Help, Thanks, Wow.” She names these as the three essential prayers. They are essential, and I find that this truth-telling trio is the very nature of my prayer these days.
I ask for help quite often. I simply cannot manage my life as it is all by myself. Many days, I don’t even have the words to formulate a hearty prayer. “Help” is the only word that comes, and it has to be enough. This is an emptying-of-self sort of prayer because, in the moment it’s offered, I feel pretty darn help-less, fragile or weak. “Help” works to reorient me, to re-align me with Grace. I then await its appearance.
“Thanks” is the prayer that is often in my heart when I am able to rise above my small self to see the glory of what is here, what is always here. Abundance is present and ever-flowing. Life is ripe with opportunity. Gifts are being given all the time. When my eyes are open, my heart too, “goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life.” The invitation is to look at life through the eyes of my heart.
“Wow” is the result of “Thanks.” The grateful heart is an inner reservoir of awe and wonder. Simple wonders—the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, the cry of a newborn babe, the wind whistling through the reeds. Complex, mind-blowing, miraculous wonders—the cure, the windfall, the long-held dream come true. With “Thanks” we bow our head. With “Wow” comes a full body prostration, bowing down to the One who makes all things possible.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from"Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart.
What is YOUR Prayer today?
I am pleased to announce the release of my new book, "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart. A timely collection of my ORIGINAL writings on gratitude, thankfulness, & appreciation. I invite you to learn more about the book, read excerpts and watch a short video here.
E-books and print versions are available.
With purchase, you will receive a bonus 90-minute audio seminar, "Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice" to use along with your book.
Another selection from my book, "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart.
It is difficult to see the good in any tragic situation.
© 2016, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
Thankfulness Is the Fruit of Spiritual Growth ...
I have a wonderful new offering for you. A collection of my original (and most requested) prayers, blessings, affirmations and reflective essays on how to keep gratitude in our heart, even in difficult times. Gratitude is a potent spiritual practice and one that can transform us and our lives from the inside out if we allow it to.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
"Ask and it shall be given to you."
Many spiritual traditions teach this belief about prayer.
It illustrates how we believe that a Higher Power
is ever present and receptive to our needs and desires.
The power of prayer is in the asking.
In petitioning Spirit (or Love or the Universe or the All) for assistance,
we open ourselves to greater goodness, to flow.
In surrendering control and admitting we need sacred support
to guide us, heal us, sustain us,
we expand our own capabilities to let go
and receive the gifts of the spirit.
© 2016, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
The Season of Thankfulness Is Upon Us ...
... and I have a wonderful new offering for you. A collection of my original (and most requested) prayers, blessings, affirmations and reflective essays on how to keep gratitude in our heart, even in difficult times. Gratitude is a potent spiritual practice and one that can transform us and our lives fro the inside out if we allow it to.
Learn more and read excerpts here.
Pre-orders thru Nov. 9 receive a 25% discount.
I had someone unsubscribe from my e-mail list the other day saying my work was "flat, boring and irrelevant."
My main response to this unexpected missive was, "Really?" I'd been promoting my new book Portable Peace to my list. It's possible s/he had had enough e-mails about the book's release. It's also possible inner peace was not important to this person. Or that they thought peace was not even possible in today's world.
The timing of his/her comment was ironic. Just as the book was being published the Paris bombings occurred. More acts of terrorism ensued and I could feel a flood of fear begin to wash over the people I knew. I watched it surge through Facebook. I thought to myself, this is exactly why inner peace is so important.
The world is a crazy place, perhaps getting even crazier by the minute. I choose not to focus on the insanity in my postings or blogging because I believe that what we focus on expands. If we focus on fear of attack, we will become more fearful. If we worry that we or our loved ones might become victims of attack, we already are victims because that's how terrorism works. Terrorism is about instilling fear in an attempt to control the minds of others.
I choose, instead, to focus on "the good, right and true." I point myself (especially my thoughts and actions) toward what will help. What will uphold the values that we long to see more present in the world. Like peace and compassion and kindness.
If we want to "fight" terrorism, the best thing we can do is take control of our own thoughts and feelings. We must learn how to work with them skillfully so they do not run us—making us even more fearful, worried, anxious or sick. There is a deep well of calm within each of us. We just need to learn how to tap into that reservoir so it cools down our wild thoughts and fiery emotions.
It's imperative to know how to stay calm, wherever we are, no matter what is happening in our lives, or we will suffer immensely. We cannot let fear control us. Being run by fear is a terrible way to live.
The Buddha taught that peace in the world is absolutely possible and I believe this with all my heart. The peace we seek in the world begins with me. And with you. It has to. If we don't do our part to stay calm, clear and wise in the midst of adversity, all we are doing is contributing more suffering to the world. Peace is a matter of individual responsibility. Choosing it again and again all throughout the day is our path.
Inner peace practices are absolutely relevant—and completely necessary—for life in the real world. In fact, they might actually be more important now than ever before as our world community teeters on the edge of normalizing terrorism and offering warlike responses.
Staying calm may seem insignificant to some, but not when you put millions of equally calm people in one place. The results can be profound and game changing. I hope you will join me and make inner peace your priority, as it is mine. Breath by breath, choice by choice, we can create ripples, waves, of kind peace and change our lives as we currently know them.
Is this a question you ask yourself? Sometimes I ask it.
I used to think that we were put here on this planet to love. Just plain love.
Today, I hold a different view. I think we're here to embody compassion. Why? Because true compassion, in my view, anyway, is a step "above" love. Some people are easy to love; others more difficult by their very nature. But with training and practice anybody hold any person—even the most difficult or unkind—in tenderness and mercy.
The problem is that we are not really taught how to be compassionate. We are taught to like or dislike, to love or disdain. And the same applies to ourselves. We are not shown (nor encouraged) how to be self-compassionate, which is absolutely vital, before we can even begin to demonstrate genuine compassion for others.
This is why I talk and teach so much about self-compassion. Self-compassion is the pre-requisite for living in and creating a peaceful, kind, and loving world.
I'd like to share an excerpt from my book, My Deepest Me, on self-compassion. The text below serves as Day 14 for our 30-day journey. I believe it offers a solid explanation of my perspective and take on "the meaning of life."
Our faith traditions tell us we are supposed to be patient, kind, and generous, but sometimes that’s just plain hard to do. Life is challenging. People are too. This is why it is important to learn to treat ourselves kindly—to treat ourselves as lovingly and tenderly as we would a dear friend or a precious child. Instead of being disappointed in ourselves for missing the mark, or failing at embodying the spiritual virtues to which we aspire, we can choose another course of action: self-compassion.
In every spiritual tradition, compassion is highly valued. Compassion for ourselves, however, has often been aligned with self-absorption or selfishness. And we are not taught, nor encouraged, how to be self-compassionate.
In truth, self-compassion is one of the most powerful spiritual virtues we can adopt to walk peaceably in the world. First, we must learn to walk peaceably with ourselves. Then we can learn to walk this way with others. We cannot exhibit true compassion for others if we have not cultivated it for ourselves.
1. Self-assess and reflect: How skilled are you at self-compassion? Do you talk nicely to yourself or are you self-critical? Do you make kind choices for yourself or do you tend to push yourself? Do you have high expectations of yourself and find fault with yourself if you don’t meet them?
2. Reflect on this teaching about self-compassion by the Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” What stirs in you when you read this?
3. Right now, place your hand over your heart and offer self-compassion to yourself, saying “I am enough.” Breathe in, breathe out. Allow a sense of “enoughness” to wash through you. Feel the transformative power of knowing you are good enough—just as you are.
Self-compassion opens my heart to myself in a kind and loving way. It routs out feelings of selfishness, deservedness, and guilt. When I am tender with myself, I can be more gentle with others.
Excerpted from My Deepest Me by Janice Lynne Lundy.
©2015. All Rights Reserved
Reading My Deepest Me is like taking a soul-nourishing, one-month retreat with the added bonus of having a loving and supportive spiritual mentor by your side.
Learn more and order your copy here.
I've often referred to the practice of "Metta"—loving-kindness practice—as an "inter-spiritual practice," even though it appears to be Buddhist in origin. There are variations of it in other cultures, specifically within the Celtic Christian tradition and Judaism.
I've also often wondered if we can share this practice with others (or by formal teaching) without mentioning where the practice came from. Does it still honor and serve the practice well if it's roots are not recognized?
Mindfulness teacher and educator, Saki Santorelli, has shed new light on this for me. In his book, Health Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, he deftly introduces the practice with absolutely no reference to Buddhism. Nor does he name it as "loving-kindness" practice. For him, Metta is simply a human practice—a way to befriend ourselves, sourced in mindfulness practice.
"Dwelling in the awareness of the breath, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, experiment with the the possibility of embracing yourself as you would embrace another person dear to you and needing to be held. If you like, try silently repeating a phrase on your own behalf. You might offer yourself one or more of the following:
That's it. That's all he wrote.
At first, I struggled with this. I asked myself, 'Shouldn't he say more, provide details, including the origin of the practice? Shouldn't he call it something specific?'
And then, with mindful attention (and non-judgmental awareness), I saw how I was becoming trapped in my own way of seeing, and, yes, transmitting/teaching the practice, and how I might resist doing it a different way.
Was my way a better way? No. Was my way the most effective way? Of course not.
In that moment, I befriended myself and my own tendency to think that things should be done a certain way, one that was more comfortable to me. We all struggle with the unfamiliar, don't we? Usually we don't like what's uncharacteristic or different at all. This is one of our human frailties.
Thankfully, I recognized this and, in that moment, was able to let go of my resistance. I allowed myself to receive Dr. Santorelli's method as a listener, purely as a participant, and as I did so, I felt relief. Pure relief.
In the next moment, I felt compassion for myself because I was able to see (yet again), how I can so easily get caught up in a "should" and the tension that comes with that. In this case, how something I deem important should be taught.
How I love this practice! How I love that mindfulness does bring respite from the struggle when I allow it to flood my awareness.
How I love that a simple, self-compassionate phrase like, "May I be gentle with myself when I trip over a should," can keep self-judgment at bay and growth at the door.
Today, may we all be gentle with ourselves—no matter what arises, no matter what we discover about ourselves.
To learn more about Metta Meditation and how to do it, visit this page.
Guided Meditations provided. Enjoy!
When I lost my health due to stress and overwhelm in 1994 (or was it 1993, I don't remember, truthfully, life was a blur at the time), I didn't know where to turn for a solution. All I knew was that I was deeply, deeply, tired and just plain worn out.
Somehow, I knew to listen to that tired self who encouraged me to bend down even lower, put my inner ear next to my body, and pay attention to what it said it needed to be well. Organic healing from the inside out.
I paid attention to what I thought and felt through writing (journaling helped). I rested—a lot! I walked the beach for hours and simply listened to the waves lapping upon the shore, seagulls dipping and soaring overhead. Actually, I didn't do much of anything at all but to BE ... and I looked and listened deeply to what was going on around me.
I immersed myself in the present and allowed that "method" to begin to heal what ailed me.
I somehow knew that savoring was part of a healing process. (I'd been moving too fast to savor much of anything up until then.) Savoring is the act of allowing yourself to be absorbed into and to fully enjoy—to appreciate— your current experience, whether it's looking at a brilliant sunset or sipping a cup of flavorful tea.
Webster's describes it this way—perfectly. "She wanted to savor every moment: relish, enjoy (to the full), appreciate, delight in, revel in, luxuriate in, bask in."
(That was me then. It's still me today.)
Savoring saved me. Savoring brought me back to the simple blessings of a slower-paced, more intentionally lived life.
Walking was and is one of the avenues I use to savor. Thich Nhat Hanh style, when I walk, I walk. I try not to think too much; just take in my present experience. Doing so allows me to log in what I see as a pleasant experience—especially natural beauty.
This week I'm reading Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson. He affirms what I've learned organically about the healing power of savoring with some of neuroscience's newest findings. Dr. Hanson calls savoring "taking in the good." He writes, "When you take in the good, stay in the present, enjoying what is flowing through your awareness without trying to grab it as it goes by, opening to it so that it sinks into you."
It's the sinking in part that neuroscience speaks to. When we take in the good, "feel good" hormones take over, cortisol is minimized, and beneficial neural connections are made. He recommends staying with your experience for at least 10 seconds to let the process kick in. The more we do this, the more our brain changes, the more new neural pathways are created; pathways that can bypass old ineffectual ones that are conditioned to send us messages of stress and anxiety (and so much more).
In time, we'll feel inner struggle dissipate. Peace comes. Happiness arises and decides to set up housekeeping if we stay attuned to the good, the right, the true—that which nourishes body, mind, heart and spirit. We are, literally, retraining our brain to "see" the good and, as a result, we reap the benefits of body/mind ease, open-heartedness, and "at-one-ment" with life as it is.
For me, savoring—this taking in of the good—is one of the most self-compassionate things I can do for myself. That any of us can and should do for ourselves if health and healing is our heart's desire.
(That's a "good should," by the way. ;-)
May you savor something today and feel the body/mind benefits of supremely en-JOYing yourself wherever you are.
p.s. The lilacs pictured above are from my latest walk. They were the most fragrant lilacs I've ever smelled ... in my entire life ... no kidding.
This morning I awoke to the awareness that five of my dear ones are in the midst of great suffering. Five!
I also realized that I'd been carrying their suffering the last few days in a burdensome way. It was weighing me down, tiring me on many levels.
Four of the dear ones (two couples) are in the midst of their relationships ending, or, at the very least, transforming via separation. Such a difficult reality when you have been with someone for a long time!
Another of my dear ones is experiencing degenerative health issues and intense bodily pain. Nothing is bringing her relief.
When our dear ones are troubled, of course, we want to be as present as possible to them, but how can we do this in a helpful way? Instead of taking on their pain ourselves and becoming physically exhausted, mentally overwrought, or emotionally paralyzed, what can we do?
As I sipped my morning coffee, listening to the birds sing greetings to the early morning light, a song rose up in my heart for the well-being of my dear ones. Metta phrases, blessings of goodwill, filled my heart. This morning, the phrases were a bit different. Not the traditional phrases taught to me by my own good teachers. But those that felt more appropriate for the relief of great suffering.
They come from Mary Brantley and Tesilya Hanauer and their lovely book, The Gift of Loving-kindness: 100 Mindful Practices for Compassion, Generosity, and Forgiveness. This book is a favorite of mine.
I've been using these three phrases from their chapter, "Befriending the Monsters," for a while now (and have been sharing them with those whom I offer spiritual companionship).
May you be held in compassion.
May you be free from pain and sorrow.
May you be at peace.
To make the offering of loving-kindness feel more genuine, I often bring each person to my mind's eye, as if they were standing right in front of me as I offer the phrases. Sometimes I will imagine that I move closer to them and cradle their faces with my two hands. Tenderness infuses me when I do this. I am hopeful that somehow they will feel my tenderness too—and take comfort from it.
This morning, after practice, I felt more open-hearted and supportive to my dear ones. But I noticed the sense of "refreshment" I usually feel when doing this practice wasn't complete. I realized I hadn't offer Metta to myself because I, too, was suffering, feeling the pain of their travail.
I proceeded to offer the phrases of goodwill toward myself.
May I be held in compassion.
May I be free from pain and sorrow.
May I be at peace.
Indeed, relief flooded in. A few tears fell, opening and cleansing the tight places within me.
When life feels difficult for loved ones, it is good and wise to include ourselves in the compassion equation. In the spirit of inter-being, we never suffer alone. Your suffering is my suffering. Addressing one we tend to the other.
I am so very glad this is how life works.
p.s. Using the phrases above, sometimes I substitute the word "suffering" for the word "sorrow." "Sorrow" often implies loss or sadness to me, rather than physical or emotional pain. Feel your way through this and choose the word that best describes what you are feeling in the moment. Or what you sense another might be feeling.
I believe in dreams.
I also believe in hard work.
I believe in doing the "good work of self" so that we are worthy of receiving the dream we desire.
I believe that when we align ourselves with the Universe's deepest desire for us in a co-creative way, pretty much anything is possible—in the human realm, that is.
Co-creativity, by the way, means you do your part and the Universe does its part.
My newest book, My Deepest Self, is one of those long-awaited dreams. For many years, I knew I would write a book like this. I just didn't know how or when, so patience was required.
I believe in " divine timing" and honoring that timing, even if we are chafing at the bit to HAVE IT NOW—or in our own way.
Somehow, mysteriously, the Universe knows when we are ready and, at just the right moment, the door to new terrain is opened. Within the blink of an eye, it seems we are there ... the place we had dreamed of.
Without this blog post sounding too self-promotional, I simply want to say to you, don't give up on your dreams. My last book was published in 2008. I had to wait seven years for the next one to come forth. I stopped and started. Many times. I failed—often. I even lost faith in myself for a period of time when a fairly famous literary agent who chose to represent me, suddenly dumped me saying, "Nobody wants to hear what you have to say."
(As you can imagine, that was a big blow to overcome.)
I encourage you to trust divine timing. Know that something you may want isn't here because everything you need to make it a reality may not yet be in place.
Trust your soul-self. Wait. Be patient. Continue to do your part. Root your intention. Work on your inner being. Evolve yourself so that your are fully awake and aware and can read sacred signals. Stay positive and hopeful.
You will know when the time is right for your dream to be made manifest because nothing will be able to stop you. The Universe will be behind your every effort because you are now full of love and goodness and generosity. And patience! (The Universe likes patient people ;-)
Dreams are realized when we have fully surrendered to the will of the One. When you are able to do this the world cracks wide open.
You can trust me on this one. ;-)
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are: beings of unshakeable peace, boundless compassion, and deep joy.
A one-of-a-kind collection of original blessings, poems, affirmations and reflective essays to help you hold onto your grateful heart—even when times are difficult.