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.
If you were raised in the Christian tradition, you are familiar with Lent. And depending on your family of origin, perhaps you honored Lent in a particular way.
The German mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote,
“If the only prayer you ever offer is
‘Thank you,’ that will suffice.”
So often our prayers are supplications.
We ask Spirit for things, people, opportunities.
Our needs naturally bring us to the act of prayer.
Yet, prayers of gratitude, of thankfulness, are important acts
that deepen the connection between ourselves and Spirit.
To offer a heartfelt, “Thank you, God!”
delivers us to the realm of unseen abundance.
We view life as blessed and fruitful instead of scarce;
we begin to live from a place of fullness in our lives.
We are and have enough.
From "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
I enjoy the holidays and the fond memories they bring to mind. I am one of those women who likes to be organized for the holidays, well prepared before they arrive. In years past, I’d have a goal for myself to have the gift shopping done by Thanksgiving. This way I could enjoy the month of December; play with my kids, bake, gather with friends, and savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season— without succumbing to the hustle and bustle of it all.
And yet, there is a whisper inside of me that cautions me not to place so much attention on finding the perfect holiday gift for everyone. Most recently, I find myself thinking, instead, about intangible, “boxless” presents we could exchange with one another. Considering, what things mean the most to us? What would we like to receive from someone else? I know what I’d like to receive from the loved ones in my life. I’d like to be given the gift of their time. In my view, there is no better gift than being able to spend time with the people I love.
Moving through life at the pace we are, it's our free time that becomes a precious commodity. Might it be possible this year to ditch the "To-Do" List and create a “To Be” list for ourselves—a roster of all the ways we can be with the important people in our lives—giving the holiday gift of our presence instead?
What might be on your “To Be” list? Perhaps a leisurely walk with someone who needs a listening ear; reading a book with a grandchild; reliving old memories perusing photo albums with an aging parent or grandparent; a phone call to a childhood friend (or someone with whom you’ve lost touch). These are the things that mean the most: the gifts of listening, caring, and presence. They are things that cannot be wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the Christmas tree. They are entities of enduring value. They are also memories in the making, gifts that will last and last.
Time moves quickly. Life is short. When all is said and done and we look back upon our lives, what we’ll remember most are the people with whom we spent our days and nights. We will recall the warm hugs of friends, children, and grandchildren; hearty conversations at the dinner table; the late nights we shared comforting one another through the ups and downs of life.
It’s interesting isn’t it, the similarity in these two words: “presents” and “presence”? Which would you prefer to receive? If gift giving is at the top of your priority list, my hope for you this holiday season is that you will dig deeper than your pocketbook and creatively design some quality time--the gift of presence—for the important people in your life. And that you will receive some in return, as well.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy
Savor the Days with Me
The "Season of Light" is upon us. Are you feeling busy and overwhelmed? Stop, breath, take 5 minutes with me each day to enjoy a period of ritual and prayerfulness "bearing the Light."
12 days with 12 short, candle-lighting rituals with meaningful prayers for keeping "what matters most" front and center. Begin today and rededicate yourself to cultivating presence in this holiest of seasons.
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.
Self-compassion is not just about being nice to yourself. It's so much more than that.
Often we confuse self-compassion with pampering or indulging ourselves—like getting a massage or eating that extra cookie because we "deserve it," or taking a bubble bath.
While those activities are nice and they feel good (they relax the body-mind, decreasing cortisol while amping up oxytocin), they are only the bandaid for the hurt that lies beneath.
When I began my inner journey, I didn't know what self-compassion was. I thought it was "self-nurturing" or "self-care." I did a lot of that in my early years because my body-mind required it for stability. I'd done some real damage to myself because of harboring too much stress. I required gentle activities to heal. I received my first massage, got a facial, went on retreat, took naps and gave myself treats. What I didn't give myself was a break.
Meaning, beneath all of the stress and overwhelm (to which I applied band-aids) were stories I kept telling myself about who I was and how I was supposed to be. Lots of stories! Pampering and self-indulgence worked to relax me but they didn't release the stories that kept me stuck in what I thought I needed to do to be a worthy human being; to be loved; to be successful.
Self-compassion came onto my radar screen years later when I realized that many of my life choices had been based on what people told me when I was a child, role modeling, and old patterns I'd developed to stay "safe." Not until I was ready to take a good, long loving look at these was I able to begin to free myself of things like perfectionism, over-achieving, self-doubt, self-criticism, co-dependency and diminishing my own needs in difficult times, just to name a few. Many of us hold these stories deep within us. In fact, I believe most of us do!
Indulging myself, which provided temporary comfort and healing, did not get to the heart of the matter.
Good self-care could be thought of as "Self-Compassion 101." It addresses the basics and meets our immediate needs. And it's an excellent place to start! On a deeper level, though, there is a story to be uncovered: the story of why we don't care well for ourselves, or don't give ourselves permission to do so in the first place.
Self-compassion requires profound self-awareness and willingness to grow. It also demands absolute honesty and transparency. The path of self-compassion is a bold path. It requires courage and perseverance. It invites us to explore what keeps us in suffering (and sometimes self-neglect), deep into the truth of who we are in our essence. Self-compassion allows us to live more authentically with ourselves in good, loving, kind ways.
So while I do enjoy the occasional indulgence (especially taking long baths and eating chocolate chip cookies), what I really love is feeling at peace within myself, confident that I know how to, thoroughly and honestly, tend well to my whole self (body, mind, heart and soul).
Self-compassion helps me know that I am doing the best I can in any given moment to meet life head-on with courage and grace.
Dive into self-compassion—lovingly and gently!
Put yourself on the path of self-compassion with this directed retreat--a gentle "day in," learning to care for your whole self in nurturing ways. And to unravel a story or two!
"The Kindest Thing" self-paced, at-home retreat is a soulful exploration and experience of "Self-Compassion 101."
Through videos, audios, and self-nourishing activities, Jan will personally guide you through your retreat so you feel the transformational power of your own loving-kindness.
Learn more and download your retreat today!
Can you look at another with Jesus' or Buddha's eyes?
Can we see the Divine Spirit in each person who comes into our life?
Can we offer them unconditional love and understanding
as our Higher Power does for us?
This may be one of the most difficult lessons on the spiritual path because
it requires us to cast off our human vestiges of
judgment and expectations of perfection.
Spirit entreats us instead to cloak ourselves with celestial garments
of acceptance and love,
to strive to see the world and our fellow travelers with sacred vision.**
This is a beautiful sentiment, isn't it? To see one another as the Divine sees us? To witness someone's innate perfection, as well as the unique way each person is beautifully made? And, to view them this way, rather than focusing on all their flaws and the things you don't like about them, including the poor life choices they may make.
To view others through "lenses of love" is a "non-negotiable" on the spiritual path, but how do you actually do that? Some people are not easy to like, much less love, so how do you get around that real fact?
First, it requires a mental shift about who we are and who we are to one another.
Second, it requires engaging in regular practices that teach you how to do this; to retrain your brain (in terms of perception) and to open your heart (in terms of spiritual principles). Make sense?
You can't think your way to non-judgmental, compassionate boundless love. You can only get there by practicing it and over-riding the way you've been taught to think and feel about it.
I'm all about spiritual practices, as you must know by now, and "Being Love" begins as a spiritual practice. In time--with intention, attention, and even MORE practice--Love Itself will take over the transformational process and lead the way.
Give yourself wholeheartedly over to walking the Path of Love and be amazed at how the Divine will step in and show you how. But willingness is key, and we must be willing to let go of everything we've been taught about love to embrace a completely new model of how we can be with with one another.
** From Awakening the Spirit Within by Jan Lundy. © 2000, Heart to Heart Press.
"Being Love," a 14-day period of intentional spiritual practice on how to put on "lenses of love", will begin Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Learn how to change the way you experience love with others--through your spiritual identity rather than through your personality (ego-identity)—and transform your relationships with others, even hard-to-like people. Connect with and gain unconditional support for your "Being Love" journey in our private conversation community.
Learn more and register.
This morning I was reading from Jack Kornfield's wonderful book, Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are. I've been focusing on the chapter titled," Spiritual Maturity." In it he writes:
"Fruit falls from a tree naturally when ripe. After due time in spiritual life, the heart, like fruit, begins to mature and sweeten. Our practice shifts from the green hard growth of seeking, developing, and improving ourselves to a resting in mystery. It shifts from reliance on form to a resting in the heart."
This is precisely where I find myself these days. To me, the world feels unstable and what's happening in it (caused by my fellow humans, of course) beyond comprehension. And Kornfield's words also give voice to where I find myself in terms of my spiritual life. I desire more than anything to live in the landscape of the heart. I pursued spiritual practice as a means of self-improvement for many years; to be more this or that. Today, spiritual practice for me is not much more than a sweet roadhouse, a place of awareness to drop into that promises no cure or answers, just rest.
Resting, as Kornfield affirms, not struggling. Not caught in fear and worry. Not lost in sadness or anger. Not imprisoned by apathy or hopelessness. Resting in the "heart-mind" as my teacher Ram Dass calls it allows the world to be its crazy self, but frees me from feeling crazy too.
Resting in this place of love and peace allows me to hold myself compassionately when I am shocked, saddened and frustrated by world events (or even the "unwanted" events that have presented themselves in my own little life). It enables me to hold others in my loosely mended heart so that I stay in touch with the suffering of others, yet not paralyzed by such hardship.
How do you get to the place of being able to rest in the heart-mind or "spiritual heart" even in the midst of adversity? You practice. And you dedicate yourself to intentional periods of practice, to Sadhanas, as often as you can.
The Sadhana I propose for this purpose looks like this: You sit, you breathe, you listen to all that arises, but then you set those thoughts and feelings aside briefly, just for a few moments, so you can remember your true nature (goodness, peace, calm, love); so you can get beyond ego-based living and the limited confines of your personality; so you can hold the drama of the world differently and, ultimately, be of good use in the repair of world.
You do a Sadhana like this as often as you can for as many days as you can until it becomes a habit. You do it anytime, anywhere. You may do it around certain themes, like compassion, love, or peace. In time, with dedicated effort, you'll begin to feel the events of the world roll out at your feet and discover that you're able handle whatever has shown up with grace.
Why is having even a short, 5-minute a day spiritual practice non-negotiable? Because it provides a path for you to follow when you're struggling to stay steady. A Sadhana is one very good way to stay sane amidst the chaos and craziness of life.
©2015, Janice L. Lundy
Join me for 31-days of inter-spiritual practice beginning Friday, January 1. "Holding the Light," a dedicated period of Sadhana will guide and companion you as you go deeper into your own spiritual heart. Learn how you can stay steady amidst the chaos of life in as little as 5-minutes a day. Harness your inner good for the good of all beings everywhere this January. Here's how.
In the last few weeks we have witnessed some of the most disturbing events in recent history. It's a challenging time to be alive. And it's a challenging time to stay steady, positive and open-hearted when there is so much hurt happening everywhere.
When times are tough, what do you do? How do you maintain your equanimity? How do you diffuse your frustration or anger? How do you calm your worry?
What helps me?
I go to the water's edge. (Today, I am at the library writing this, sitting overlooking Boardman Lake.) I stay away from crowded, noisy places. I honor my need to be still and reflect on what is happening around me and within me. I pray.
Lately, I go to short prayers. Organic prayers. "Help us." "Help me." "Please ease the pain of all those who are suffering." "May the heaviness in our hearts be lifted." "May we not lose faith or give up hope."
Sometimes, I pick up a book that contains beautiful prayers; prayers whose language is so universal, so openhearted and filled with love for the Divine that all my emotions pale and bow to the passion expressed by the poet.
Today, I am perusing God Makes the Rivers to Flow: Sacred Literature of the World, selected by Eknath Easwaran. If your thoughts are running wild or your emotions feel difficult to control, you may want to go to prayers/meditations like these to anchor your attention. And keep your heart open.
My new book, Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook is an equally valuable resource for staying steady in challenging times. It offers 52 original practices, one each week, to help you stay calm-bodied, clear-minded, and open-hearted no matter what is happening in your life. Or in the world!
Learn more and order your copy here.
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 a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
Continue the conversation with me and others on my Facebook page.
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 director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.