In 2008, my book Your Truest Self, was released by Sorin Books. When it made its way out into the big wide world, I felt tenuous about it. This was my most visible attempt yet to share what I had come to know was true about the nature of the spiritual journey. The book offered 12 Transformation Truths that could guide and enable women to live more peaceful, confident and open-hearted lives.
The first chapter alone, "I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making," felt especially risky, because in it I wrote about my non-traditional approach to the spiritual life. I had often described myself as "having Christian roots and Buddhist wings." But there was more, so much more that I was not ready, nor confident enough to share about the wondrously, unique way I had met up with, welcomed, and integrated the Divine into my heart and life. This was an interspiritual journey of grand proportions, and one I was certain would banish me from certain circles once I revealed it.
It's time for the next step for me. And a new story. In fact, one month ago a spiritual friend said to me, "When are you going to write your memoir? People need to know this stuff." Hmmmm, I thought, perhaps someday. It still feels risky to go "out on a limb" in Shirley MacLaine fashion.
What I do know is this. It is time for me to speak up again about "The Heart of the Matter", at least in my view when it comes to our spiritual journeys, thus the focus of this blog. As well as the focus of a new online offering I'm getting ready to launch soon. It's an interspiritual dive into Perennial Wisdom as a time tested trail we can follow to access the deepest truths about how to live.
I'm starting the conversation about this here on my blog, sharing scraps of a not-yet-written memoir to lend support to what feels like a sea change: a growing number of people globally who long to experience the Sacred in their own unique way. And to do as Rabbi Rami Shapiro attests, "work for the spiritual liberation of humankind."
I am not alone in this holy purpose. According to the Pew Foundation and their survey of America's changing religious landscape, a growing number of individuals do not identify with traditional religion:
• 22% claim to be "unaffiliated"
• 15.8% are "nothing in particular"
• 4% are agnostic
• 3% are atheist
Additionally, the Pew Research Center reports that as many as 40% of millennials do not consider themselves to be religious.
This is the "sea change" of which I speak. And it is swelling, not just in America, but all over the globe. Many seekers are out to sea, untethered from tradition, or have "one toe in the pond." Others are rooted in a religious tradition but "want more," as one friend said it recently. There is a longing for a heartfelt spiritual connection but after much searching, they haven't found their "perfect fit." Then there are those who appear to be "spiritual but not religious" or claim "spiritual independence." And what about those who see a deep connection between the beautiful truths at the heart of each of the world's religions ("Perennial Wisdom"), but are frustrated that they do not see these values played out in the world at large?
So, this is where I find myself this September, 2017, eager to bring this conversation to the forefront and, most importantly, provide "temenos space" ("safe place" or "sanctuary" in Greek) for people to explore their inner lives, including all of the confusion or conflict they may feel about religion and spirituality at this point in our cultural evolution.
There is a new story to be written and I hope you will join me for the writing of it. Your voice matters and I treasure your contribution to this conversation.
Where do you find yourself in this changing religious landscape?
“When you wish upon a star …” Do you remember these lovely lyrics, sung by the character Jiminy Cricket in the Disney film “Pinocchio”? They assure us that if our “heart is in a dream, no request is too extreme,” all of our dreams will come true.
When we were children, it seemed like anything was possible. Wishes could be granted with the wave of a wand or a sprinkle of fairy dust. As adults, we may hold a more mature, realistic view, understanding (from life experience) that wishing does not always make it so.
And, yet, there is something to be said about intentions, wishes of sorts, and holding a clear vision for one’s life. The ability to intend in this way—with passion and purpose—may lead us to the place where dreams are born, Jiminy Cricket style. The alternative—feeling hopeless or embittered—leads us nowhere.
This holiday season, as you find yourself making choices about gift giving, consider what gifts you might like to intend and consciously create for yourself this year. What treasures of the Spirit would you like to bring to life? Here are three of mine. I invite you to pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea, and write down three of your own. Wishing may not make it so, but wholehearted intention will.
One of the very best gifts I can give myself is to be fully aware of my thoughts and feelings. When I am awake and alert, I can choose how to respond to what is happening around me with grace—instead of reacting to others with sloppy words, impatience, or temper. React or respond, this is the key to inner freedom. We do have the power to choose our words and actions. This is an incredibly powerful gift! If we intend to stop, look, and listen before we do anything, it ensures peace of mind and harmonious relations with others—two more shining stars of the season!
Health and Longevity
I want to be healthy and strong. I’d like to live for a very long time. I love this life! It is a precious thing to be born a human being. But wishing for my body to be healthy is not good enough. Each year many of us intend to eat healthier, organic, and lower on the food chain. We intend to get more exercise to build muscle and stamina. And simply thinking about this by sitting on the couch eating fast food we purchased at a drive-through restaurant does not support that intention. Choice by choice, we give our body a healthful gift or a booby prize. We must make choices every single day to give it what it needs to be strong, fight off disease, and maintain energy.
Did I save the best wish for last? Perhaps. The older I get the more I realize that not much in life matters if I don’t have love. Love of my partner, of family and friends. Love of work and creative expression. Love of the Earth and her bounty. Love of growth and the opportunity to be all that I can be. But in order to receive this love, I must have an open heart. I must be able to fully give love, too. So my third and final wish would be for me to live with a wide-open heart as best I can; to not shut down or close off to others; to not judge or discriminate or neglect. I wish to be kind; to extend myself to others as best I can; to live with unconditional friendliness toward all beings—both animal and human. This is a life worth living, one rooted in love.
“Fate is kind,” sang Jiminy, “She brings to those who love the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.” These are my secret longings this holiday season— inner freedom, health, and love—and because I do love, I hope they will be granted.
What are yours? Perhaps we can meet under the tree and share our gifts. What bounty we would have!
(Originally published in Women's LifeStyle, Dec. 2010)
I love Autumn. It may be my favorite season. There is so much change happening all around me, moment-by-moment, that it is good and wise (and pleasurable!) to bear witness to all of it.
This beautiful maple tree in my yard is a perfect example and it is my touchpoint for the season. Each day I step out onto our deck, take a few deep breaths, and acknowledge the shift in hue that is happening nearly right before my eyes. Today, a little less green, leafy tips dipped in orange. Stunning!
This lovely tree reminds me that change is always present—a constant, in fact—and that there is no point in resisting. Leaning into change with an open mind and hospitable heart can serve us very well. Why resist a "holy invitation" to let go of what no longer serves us and to embrace that which does?
A New Year's Gift from My Heart to Yours
I've always appreciate the old adage, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else." It seems true for life—regular, daily life—and it also seems true for the inner life.
If we are dedicated to our spiritual path, there is value in taking time to assess what our intentions for growth are. To do so is really quite simple and enjoyable. When we speak of setting spiritual goals, we are not talking about "crack the whip" sorts of goals, but, instead, a holy purposefulness. We can do so with gentleness and self-compassion and, obviously, as a co-creative effort with the Divine. Spiritual goal setting involves:
• getting in touch with your highest purpose
• creating a lifestyle that is in alignment with this purpose and your core spiritual values
• incorporating daily practices that nourish your spiritual connection
• establishing a deep and meaningful relationship with the Divine (as you understand it)
In January of 2014, I created a 90-minute tele-seminar titled, "Jumpstart Your Spiritual Life." It was widely attended and those who participated felt that it was a valuable tool to launch a new year.
This tele-seminar was recorded and exists as a downloadable mp3 recording. There were also handouts that went with the program: workbook pages to set and clarify spiritual goals, a daily schedule to help you find time for your inner life, inspiration, and more.
I would like to offer this audio-seminar to you as a New Year's gift.
"Jumpstart Your Spiritual Life," the tele-seminar, is completely self-guided. Just listen, have your handouts printed out, and I will talk you through how to get your inner life on track for 2015. We'll do this together!
It could be your happiest New Year yet by attending to your inner being in loving and peaceful ways with the help of this program.
Here's how to get started:
Click here to download the audio seminar (90 min)
Click here to download the pdf handouts
Enjoy! And may you have a blessed and most happy New Year!
A brisk autumn walk yesterday revealed its own share of delights.
In northern Michigan, everything appears to be in a state of letting go. The leaves on the trees are now falling into untidy piles on the ground or being swept away by wildish winds. Many of the trees are already barren, stumps of singular beauty. As the vibrant colors of fall are fading to dull browns and grays, my heart has a tendency to feel this loss and usher in feelings of melancholy.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered scores of trees that were indeed barren of leaves but now abloom with red fruit. Joy! I hope they're edible fruit for the birds that will brave the coming winter.
While these trees were transforming, beginning their own process of letting go, I didn't see the new life that was also sprouting. Dense leaves had covered up these glorious red berries. And now that serious shedding had begun, they were finally revealed. Just beautiful. And hopeful.
Their presence reminded me of some important things:
Even in the midst of letting go, there is holy newness.
Even in the sorrow of loss, there is plenty.
Even in the struggle to accept change, there are places of appreciation and beauty into which one can rest.
And hope. There is always hope that each new day brings with it possibilities, opportunities ...
Life can be good and fruitful, even in the letting go.
This morning I was deeply immersed in my writing. Writing for me is a spiritual practice, so when I do write, I feel plugged-in to God. Putting words upon the page firmly plants me in the present moment which, in my view, is the only place we can truly experience the Divine.
When I emerged from under the "spell" of the Sacred, I stepped out onto my deck for a breath of fresh air and a change of landscape. I was surprised at what I found. The leaves of the trees had been coated with a frosty wash of glimmer. They'd been kissed by Mother Nature, I imagine as part of her "putting things to bed" routine that accompanies Fall.
In that moment of witness I recalled how I had complained about the cold earlier this the morning, whining to my husband about the 30 degree reading I saw on our outdoor thermometer. Brrr ... I was thinking of going for a walk later today and my mind anxiously jumped to how many layers of clothing I'd have to put on to stay warm. In many ways, I am not ready for colder temperatures to be a longterm guest.
Yet, when I stepped out onto the deck and viewed my surroundings with sacred vision, I was overcome by a sense of wonder at the beauty I found: frost-laden leaves that glittered softly in the early morning sun. Whining was replaced by praise. Humility paid a visit too.
How important perspective is and taking the time to clear our clouded vision to see what's really here!
It was cold on the deck. I put on my coat and grabbed my camera. I snapped a few pictures then simply stood there. I listened and watched. I could not only see the leaves falling from the trees, but hear them too. At first I thought a squirrel was causing this abundant cascade, but, no. The leaves were tumbling down all by their own effort - or lack of it. They were simply letting go ...
I listened and watched their release and was buoyed with courage for another day of my own moments of surrender. For they will come, as has the frost, a now welcome visitor.
Today is not a day for strolling. The autumn rains have come and will stay with us for the next few days. But yesterday, and a trail of days before that, were wonderful for walking.
Everywhere I went I noticed evidence of the changing season. First to catch my eye were patches of brilliant crimson—Red Maples. They are the most glorious, offering dramatic change to all who see. Then I spied pockets of gold—Sugar Maples. These sweet trees are more discriminating when it comes to color change. 'Subtle' is the best word to describe them. They make a gentle transition from green to yellow to orange to red.
If truth be told, none of us is too fond of rapid and unexpected change. We don't like our world rocked in sudden, unsteadying ways. In fact, I've read that most people don't like change at all. Which is rather surprising when you realize that millions of self-help books are sold each year. All those book sales would seem to say that we like and want to change. Actually, I think most of us like to read about change rather than doing it.
Unless you are a Sugar Maple, because you are lucky enough to make a significant life transition more slowly. I like to imagine that these maples get to feel their way from green to red, with plenty of time to get used to the change. That they are fortunate to experience the gradual withdrawal of chlorophyll from their veins so they can manage life (and leaving it) much better. Not such a shock to the system you know?
If I come back in another life, I might just choose to be a Sugar Maple. I prefer subtle over shocking.
The trees of autumn model change, how we too can change: surrendering to the will of the world that sources and shapes us. And to do it with dignity and grace because everything changes. Everything. All the time.
May we accept the invitation of change with aplomb. Like the trees.
Each month, I offer a free, 30-minute audio teaching on one uniquely feminine issue that keeps us stuck and disconnected from our true self. I share inspiration and practical strategies to shift this issue so you can feel more free!
I call it "Wising Up!" Enjoy!
May 2013: "I Get Sucked into Negative Thinking" Listen here.
28 min. (downloadable mp3)
In this program, you'll learn:
• how "first thoughts" and early morning activities set the tone for your day
• how to "program" yourself for a positive day
• how input/media impacts your mood and energy level
• making wise choices that lead to "skillful" ways of thinking and feeling
Enjoy and may your heart be happier and lighter today!
"Being Free: Transforming Daily Struggles into Feminine Wisdom"
Each month, I offer a free, 30-minute audio teaching on one uniquely feminine issue that keeps us stuck and disconnected from our true self.
April's difficult issue is: "I Don't Like My Body."
In this downloadable recording, I share how you can begin to shift your feelings for your body from harsh and self-judging to compassionate. I also offer 3 important steps you can take to love your body more.
Listen to the podcast here.
"Being Free: Transforming Daily Struggles into Feminine Wisdom" premiers today!
Each month, I'll be offering a free, 30-minute audio teaching on one uniquely feminine issue that keeps us stuck and disconnected from our true self.
"I Don't Have Time for Myself" is the topic for the March program. The podcast is downloadable, an mp3). Please join me! Listen now.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this month's message. You can leave them below.
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.