Category Archives: Being Spiritual & Awesome

Articles on all aspects of connecting with the spiritual for guidance on living your best life.

What is the “Will of God” for your life?

godswillI’ve been thinking about this concept of the will of God. When people talk about a desire to follow the will of God for their lives, what are they talking about? Is there some already-decided plan for your life, that you have no choice about and you’re just the puppet carrying out the steps of that predetermined destiny? Or is the will of God something more like an adventure that’s been meticulously and uniquely mapped out for you; an adventure that is self-directed and undetermined?

What if your best outcome and the path to it is laid out, like a map? What if it’s like a destination that is your happiest place on earth and a specific route has been highlighted uniquely for you to get there? What if there’re many ways to go, but the one that’s best for you has been identified?

With any journey, you can choose to take the route that’s been highlighted for you, that’s ultimately the best for you, or you can choose to take an alternate path. The alternate road could have miles and miles of flat valleys with limited variety or points of interest—-nothing but an endless landscape of sameness. Or the alternate path could have treacherous terrain with huge potholes that you fall into, some so deep that after many failed attempts to get out, you end up waiting for someone to rescue you, and once you do escape, you’re met with stinging nettles, sticker bushes and red ants.

Your best path

Your best path, has variety. It has just enough potholes to provide challenge and excitement and just enough rolling plains to provide calm during the in-between.

You get to choose how much, if any, of your highlighted path you wish to travel. When you’re on it, you have peace, even during times of challenge. When you’re on a different route, you have unease and unrest, even when things seem to be “going your way.”

In this illustration, your best path, is what is referred to as the will of God for your life. It doesn’t mean that your life is predestined, any more than taking a road trip is predestined. But just like going on a voyage, there are some places and ways of getting there that are perfect for you and some that are perfect for others. Some people love to walk a well-worn path in the woods and would feel miserable and overwhelmed walking the concrete streets of a city. Others love the vibrant energy of being surrounded by people and tall buildings and would feel lonely and abandoned by the isolation of the forest.

You decide

Follow your highlighted road and maximize your experience to the fullest expression of life that is available to you, or take an alternate route. It’s never too late to jump back on your path, and you can always step off again. The beauty is that every moment of every day you decide how much of your ultimate life you wish to experience.

Love at first sight: How to fall in love with yourself

lovemeThe following experience was the inspiration for my current fiction project (working title) “Falling in Love with Me.”

Recently, at my 3-day retreat, I did a Timeline exercise (where you list all the significant events that have happened in your life from birth to now. You list the age the event occurred, what the event was, and what you felt at the time about the event). I had 21 life events and only 6 of them were positive experiences. The remaining 15 were not only negative, but most of them were so horrible, that any one of them could have changed the course of my life in a tragic way.

While looking at this two-page summary of my life, I became overwhelmed with compassion for myself and where I am today, given where I could have chosen to be. Overwhelmed with emotion, I thought to myself, “How am I still standing?” Two powerful words came to mind, “Good job.” In that instant, for the first time in my adult life, I extended the same compassion I have always had for others, to myself.

Before that moment, on a daily basis, all-day-long, I would critique myself for what I saw as my weaknesses. Saying things to myself, like, “You’re pathetic,” “That’s just stupid,” or “What were you thinking?” Constant negative self-talk. Criticizing everything that didn’t measure up to some ridiculous standard I had set for myself. Since that moment 2 weeks ago, I have not said one negative thing to myself.

I now know what it means to love yourself. It’s not some flowery positive thinking mantra, or outward displays of affection toward yourself. It’s that moment, when you finally see the truth about who you are, all you’ve been through, and where you are today in spite of where you’ve been. That moment when you finally see how amazing it is that you’re still standing, still living, still loving, given all the alternative ways you could have responded to the circumstances over the course of your life.

Real honest love, for yourself or anyone else, comes from a place of actually “seeing” the person for who they really are. Seeing their heart, their intention, regardless of what things may look like on the outside. This is the way I have always been able to see others, but now for the first time, I see me. And I love her.

What is Integrity?

integrity

I guess I’ve always had some floaty definition for the word integrity. Something resembling or even synonymous with the word authenticity—something along the lines of being true to yourself by being real with others. While this is good, and may even be valid, my son’s brilliant definition of this word is way better. He said, “Mom, it means ‘the same all the way through.’ It’s not positive or negative, just the same all the way through.”

Wow.

This got me thinking—What if we truly lived our lives with integrity? What if our thoughts, actions and behaviors were the “same all the way through”? What if, instead of believing (or saying we believe) one thing, and doing another, we actually took action based on our beliefs? What if, every time our thoughts and words didn’t line up with our actions, we took a good hard look at why, and went about fixing it?

I’m Not Broken, I Don’t Need Fixing

tree
You know how sometimes, someone, strings together the right words at the right time, and you feel like your whole world just changed forever? I had two of those moments last week.

The first occurred while I was describing how I needed to fix myself before I could take the next step in my life. The friend I was talking with, simply said, “Dayna, there is nothing to fix. You’re fine, exactly the way you are.”

In that moment, I realized that I no longer had to spend the majority of my time analyzing myself to determine what to work on next to get me to some state of unachievable perfection. I was both overwhelmed by the lifted burden of having to constantly dig up my defects and obsess over what needed repair, and elated at the prospect of the extra time and energy now available for other things in my life. I could feel big changes on the horizon, but had no idea what it all meant, or where it was all going.

When I got home that night, I discovered a major setback with my wedding book. The church that was providing the majority of my royalties, the majority of my income, wrote their own wedding book and dropped mine from their online store. I felt like my whole world had just fallen apart. After I initially freaked out, I decided I needed to let go of what success looked like for my book. I recognized that what I really believed success was for my book was the value it provided the reader, not the number of sales—that with few exceptions, everyone who had read it had found it extremely valuable in making their wedding meaningful. This thought gave me peace.
The next day I had another conversation, which exposed my identification with worldly success as the definition of who I am. In relaying the previous days events to a friend, I shared that I was feeling like the popularity of my book had somehow been a fluke, and that I felt like a failure. My friend strung together these words—“Dayna, you are not your circumstances.”

In a 24-hour timeframe, I had two major revelations:

1. I am who I am, regardless of circumstances.
2. I’m fine the way I am.

I still have no idea what lies ahead, but I have great peace and excited anticipation about it.

Have you lost confidence in an area of your life? Get it back.

I hadn’t realized how tightly linked the word confidence is with the word trust

Confidence – from the word “confidere” means “to have full trust.”

We gain confidence by building trust and we lose confidence by breaching trust–whether it’s trust in another or trust in ourselves. Broken trust leads to insecurity, which comes from the word, “insecurus,” which means “unsafe.” In other words, when we feel a lack of confidence in an area of our lives, trust is deficient in that area, and we feel unsafe.

When a subject comes up about something where we feel unsafe, we react from a place of fear. When we’re afraid, we have one of two physiological responses–fight or flight. We either lash-out at ourselves and/or others, or we metaphorically run, and avoid dealing with it.

Neither of these responses is likely to lead to an outcome we desire.

So, how do we regain trust in ourselves?

We start by focusing on what it will take to feel safe in the area where we’ve lost our confidence. We need to establish trust. What happened that sabotaged this trust? Was it a perceived failure, which caused us to no longer believe in our mastery?

Let’s take a closer look at what it means to “fail.” The dictionary definition of fail is “to not do.” Big deal. We do “not do” a lot of things, mostly by choice. So what’s so special about not doing something versus “failing” at something? Nothing. It’s all in our heads.

When we’re young, learning to walk, we “fail” over and over again, as we take one step, fall, take three more steps, fall–“failing” again and again. As babies, it never occurs to us to stop attempting to walk. Our little baby brains don’t say, “You failure, you obviously aren’t capable of walking, so please quit trying, you’re making a fool out of yourself.” But our adult brains do this to us constantly. Every time we “don’t do” something in the timeframe that we believe is acceptable, or in the way we believe it should be done, we label the effort—and sometimes ourselves—a failure.

Instead of this fatalistic approach to our efforts, what if we abandoned our belief in failure, and went back to the style of thinking from our youth … If you want to do something, pursue it, relentlessly. If you don’t “do it” on the first, second or tenth attempt, who cares? If you still want it, keep pursuing it. Don’t give up for the sole reason of perceived failure. Only stop pursuing it if you determine you no longer want to pursue it. Don’t let a belief in the failure-boogieman deter you.

Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

The Higgs or God particle, quantum physics, and a life experienced versus a life observed

Lately I’ve become intrigued with the “Higgs field” and “Higgs particle” (aka the “God” particle). These ideas were only a theory for over 40 years, until 2013, when the existence of these two additions to science were proven.

I already had a crazy fascination with Quantum physics. But this takes it to a whole new level.

Did you know that all things in existence are made of particles?

How many particles, what kind, how they move, and how fast, all this and more explain existence for us.

There is a field (the Higgs field) which exists that permeates all of space and within it, a particle (the Higgs or “God” particle) which gives all particles mass by interacting with them. Each gift of mass is different for each particle. Science cannot explain why some particles get more mass and others get less as they pass through this field.

Without this “God” particle, everything in the universe (including us) would just be formless energy.

Quantum Physics and the “Uncertainty Principle”

“Quantum physics reveals how particles can be in more places than one at any given time. And that this can be affected by simply observing. A particle can also travel instantly over any distance.“

There are no certainties in how a particle will react. This is called the “uncertainty principle.”
When observing a particle, the observer brings a probability wave, or “state of mind” to the observation and affects the particle.
Depending on how we observe, particles can also appear to be waves. This is peculiar, because particles form mass and object, while a wave is fluid movement. By observing electrons or photons we see particles, when we don’t observe them they react as waves.
When unobserved, they have no precise location and exist in what scientists call, “probability fields.” By observing, the probability field collapses, and they become particles.

We change or “collapse” the field of “probability” simply by observation or awareness. Does this discovery indicate that thoughts are “things” … that they have mass and substance … that when we think about something, we are actually giving that thing mass and form, and ultimately changing the fabric of the universe?

The ability to stop observing existence, to stop attaching to our thoughts, and free the mind (i.e. meditation, prayer), may in fact open a quantum realm of consciousness. Where everything is still a probability, a possibility, and has not yet taken on mass or form. In this state, do we have the ability to align with our best path of observation—to guide what ultimately takes on mass and form in our lives? And does our observation limit our realm of possibilities?

Do we limit our possibilities by thinking too much?

Ponder this … What is time? If no one asks me, I know. If someone asks me, and I try to explain it… I no longer know.

Some things we just “know” … even if we can’t explain it. Even in writing this article I find myself struggling, and limited to the words available to me in my attempt to explain what I feel I know and want to share.

Does our need to explain things, to assign meaning to things, to stay stuck in our thoughts about things, hinder our ability to know anything? Does it take us out of our current experience and put us in little box of limited perception?

Do you want to experience your life, or observe your life?

Extroverts Need to Socialize for Health and Wellbeing

extrovert
I realized something today. Something I’ve known all my life, but until now, hadn’t understood its significance. I’m an extrovert. See definition below …

Extroverts … “tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. Extroverts are energized and thrive off of being around other people. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. An extroverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.”

You see, I get my energy from being around other people (introverts become energized by spending time alone). What this definition fails to mention is the downside of an extrovert spending too much time alone (or an introvert spending too much time with others, which I don’t know anything about … you will have to ask an introvert).

It’s been two months of anxiety with a heavy low-level sadness slowly building up in me. I’ve been wondering, what the heck is going on with me? Is it hormones? Sleep deprivation? Diet? Lack of exercise? I’ve made adjustments to all these things with supplements, better sleep habits, more exercise and better eating choices. But nothing helped. I was feeling worse instead of better.

Then today, in a moment spent interacting with a friend, on my way to spend time with a group of friends, I realized what was causing my emotional sickness … isolation.

The last two months I’ve spent most of my time alone, in my room, working on projects or reading books. Where before I would go to a coffee shop to work, and meet friends for coffee and socialize over dinner many times per week, now I was staying home all the time.

While an extrovert needs some downtime periodically, too much alone time can be draining. We all need to recharge our batteries. For some this means several quiet evenings at home alone. For others this means spending lots of time with people.

Amazing how a simple shift in awareness can have such a huge impact. Spending time with friends tonight, combined with the awareness that this was just what I needed, has been like someone snapped their fingers and healed my weary soul.

So if you are an extrovert, be sure to set aside plenty of time in your week to socialize. Your health and wellbeing depend on it!

What is Prayer?


Here’s a video, “Coffee with Jesus,” which demonstrates what many people think prayer is (watch the video)…

What is prayer?

Prayer is simply communicating with God—listening and talking to the Divine. Anyone can pray from the heart, freely, spontaneously, and in their own words or no words at all. Think about a walkie-talkie for a minute. When you press the button to talk, you can’t hear the person you’re talking with. You must release the button to listen. As with God, when we’re talking, we’re not listening. Therefore we must not only talk to God, but be quiet long enough to hear God also. It’s a two-way communication.

Prayer is connecting with your Source; God.

The more time we repeatedly focus on any one thing, the more distinctions we are able to discern about that thing over time. Until eventually we are able to see clearly many subtleties that we didn’t see before. Prayer is like this.

The more time we spend in prayer, the more familiar we become with how God communicates with us. Eventually we’re able to quickly and clearly recognize God’s voice over all the noise of the world.

By voice, we’re not talking about an actual audible sound (although some may hear an audible voice at times), instead what is meant by “voice” is a “sensing” of something magnificent connecting with us.

This connection occurs in many ways. Sometimes it’s just a sense of expansiveness as we sit quietly gazing upon a sunset. Sometimes it’s an underlying “knowing” that we need to take action in a situation. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling of compassion for the suffering of another. Sometimes it’s a sign of confirmation that we’re on the right path, doing the right thing, making the right choice; and sometimes it’s literally an actual “sign” with some statement on it that feels like an inside joke between you and God.

There are as many different ways of experiencing this connection, as there are people. Because we’re all unique and special, God communicates with us in ways that speak to each of us most effectively and honors and appreciates our individuality as well as our current circumstances.

Why pray?

To develop a relationship with God.

Like a marriage, if we never speak to our spouse or never listen to anything they have to say to us, our marriage will quickly deteriorate. It’s the same with God. Prayer—communicating with God—helps us grow closer and more intimately connected with God.

A couple of benefits of prayer are:

1. To reduce suffering. Both yours and that of others.

2. To discern moment by moment what’s needed next to fulfill your life purpose.

In prayer as in all relationships, we should spend twice as much time listening as we do talking. That’s why we were given two ears and one mouth.

 

Prayer exercise

Take a few minutes to briefly experience prayer.

1. Close your eyes.

2. Relax your whole body.

3. Feel the weight of your body in your chair.

4. Take a deep breath.

5. Silently ask this question and wait for a response.

“God, What do you want me to know?”

 

Open your eyes and write.

The Great Experiment: Unplugged From The World For 24 Hours

The Experiment Begins

Good morning, silent unplugged Saturday! It’s 6 am and I’m excited to encounter a new and profound experience today! I’ve been inspired by a friend’s story about personal revelation during a 10-day silent retreat. Because of my potential insanity without anything “to do” for one day—let alone 10 days—I have opted for a 24-hour version.

For the next 24 hours, no technology (computer, phone, stove, etc.), no reading, no writing, no music, no people, no talking, no nothing. Just me, my thoughts and that spiritual presence I call God.

The birds are chirping just outside the bedroom window. It’s still dark outside but I see the beginning of sunrise on the horizon. I’m going to linger in bed for a while … after all, what’s the rush? I have nowhere to go. Nothing to do.

My legs complain, “We’re not ready to be awake,” with each step I take down the stairs to my morning coffee. So far this day is not that unusual. This is what I do every morning. The big difference today is I didn’t check my phone when I got out of bed, nor will I go into the office and turn on my computer.

I love coffee. The earthy aroma as it brews, the careful selection of the perfect mug, and the velvety flavor of that first swallow. The practice of waking up with a warm cup has been the only consistent ritual in my life.

The sun makes its appearance. The house is quiet. The birds still chatter. A train horn blows in the distance. My belly’s typical “coffee on an empty stomach” muffled-grumbling attracts my attention. I’ll make breakfast.

I bite into my banana, neglect my cereal and stare out the window. The forecast said 60s and sunshine today. I am looking forward to spending some time outdoors. I chew a spoonful of my favorite milk-covered organic grains. My monkey-mind is already fully engaged and stirring up trouble with thoughts that take me on the familiar emotional rollercoaster. I wash my bowl from breakfast and sit back down and look outside. It’s 10am.

I feel the tension in my chest as my thoughts continue their antics. I’ll go for a walk.

I dawdle along the 1.5-mile neighborhood loop of tree-lined streets and man-made lakes. No urgency. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be. Reminds me of my childhood, leisurely walking home from school while reading a book.

Today, many trees seem to have lost the battle with the ice storm last week. Broken limbs litter the ground, some severed completely while others barely cling to the trunks.

I cross the pond over a small bridge and around the corner ducklings are swimming on the lake. The bench by the water is calling me.

I sit. I ponder. I connect with a slow peaceful life pace. I connect with a new level of observation. My monkey-mind is no longer hijacking my brain with reactionary thoughts.

I invent stories about the ducklings. Two swim in a circle—they must be playing. Two older ducks make their way across the water to a grassy bank where several others are already basking in the sun—that must be the “hang out,” the duck “community beach.” They’re scoping for an unoccupied patch of land to rest their weary feathers. The location scout seems to quack, “Nope, not that space, too close to that duck family we don’t get along with. Nope, not that one either, most of the grass has been worn away.” And then, off they swim as if they changed their minds about joining the beach party.

Time to walk some more. The playground. Children laughing. No worries, just fun. I want to stop and watch them play, but I’m worried their parents will get concerned and think I’m some sort of stalker. Wow. The world has changed a lot in my lifetime.

At home again. My hunger reminds me I haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Make lunch.

Eat lunch.

Gaze out the window.

All my life, the presence of God has been like breathing, it just is. Like breathing, I don’t question it. I’m not even sure how to think about it, it just is. It wasn’t until I was 9 years old that I learned that some people call this presence “God,” and have a whole bunch of ideas about what “God” is and does, which didn’t—and still doesn’t—always match up with my personal experience.

I sit quietly, close my eyes and seek that essence. It always takes a couple of minutes to relax enough to quit chasing my thoughts and feel that still, calm presence. But I always do. There you are. Hi God! How’s it going? You know, I feel really peaceful. I’m gonna just sit here and wait for you to tell me or show me something.

I wait. And wait. I see a thought. I see myself chasing my thought, like a greyhound chasing a rabbit around the racetrack. I build a story around it. There’s another thought. I build another story. Before I finish, another thought appears. Random events appear seemingly out of nowhere—an unpleasant memory from a moment at the Nashville airport over a decade ago. Next, a memory of sitting on a park bench in the Miami sunshine. Then there are thoughts that appear from association with other thoughts, images, sounds and smells. Tons of life experiences all trying to claim my attention and interfere with my ability to give focus to the current moment. I’m oddly both thinking the thoughts and observing myself thinking them. Watching the intricate pattern and structure of my mind at work. Wow. This is fascinating.

I’m sleepy. Must’ve been all that walking in the sunshine. I’ll just lie down for a little while.

Slept 20 minutes. Its 1:30p. Now what? I’ll go for another walk!

Home again. Time for a little something else to eat.

Make snack.

Eat snack.

Uh Oh, Now What?

It’s 3pm. Now what?

I’m not hungry. I don’t feel like walking. I’m not interested in looking out the window.

So, now what?

I have at least 7 more hours before I can even contemplate going to sleep for the night.

So, now what?

Nothing left to “do.”

I’ve filled the first 9 hours with activity. Even being unplugged didn’t stop me. Wow. I’ve kept myself busy all day. Just like I do every day.

Nothing to do for 7 hours??!! Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?!

OK. Take a deep breath.

I haven’t even had a profound supernatural moment! More than halfway through the day and I’ve only managed to connect with God the same way I do every day.

Nothing left to do but be. Just me, my thoughts and God. Be still. My breathing slows and deepens.

It’s 4pm. I’m sleepy. I feel my head sink into the pillow as I close my eyes.

It’s 5pm. OK. Here we go again. Be still. Breathe.

I’m sleepy. What time is it now? It’s 6pm. I feel my eyes close as I lie down again.

What time is it? I can barely see the clock in the moonlit room. It’s 7pm. It’s still too early to sleep for the night. I turn the lamp switch and a soft glow permeates the darkness. Be still. Breathe.

8pm. It’s still too early to call it a night, but the weight of my eyelids persuades me to sleep again.

It’s 9pm. One more hour. With all the napping I’ve done today, will I even be able to sleep tonight? Quit worrying. Be still. Breathe.

It’s 10pm. Goodnight.

The Next Day

It’s morning. The light outside hints at sunrise. I’m calm … relaxed … at peace.

I could check my phone, but I don’t want to yet.

I’ll make my coffee and watch the sunrise. Yes. That’s it.

Each sip of the warm creamy liquid lingers deliciously on my palette. I wait for the sun to gradually rise in the sky. There’s a bright light in the distance. Is that a star? No, it’s moving. It’s the headlights of a jet, waiting its turn to land at the nearby airport.

The sky is getting brighter.

There it is. The sun. It’s going to be another beautiful sunny day.

I did it. I unplugged for 24 hours. I didn’t go crazy.

Yesterday, all my attempts to sit still and just breathe were limited to less than an hour, before I would feel my struggle to stay awake. Was that because I truly needed rest, or was it because of my relaxed state, or was it my Ego lulling me to sleep to avoid what was in the moment? I don’t know.

Are we capable of making the “not-of-this-world” experiences happen? I’ve had many significant spiritual moments in my life. But they’ve all occurred unexpectedly at the exact moment I needed them.

Yesterday, I didn’t have any major revelations, no profound spiritual experience. But, without the usual distractions, my connection with God was less like a conference call and more like a dedicated line.

And today … I’m different. My monkey-mind is quiet and I don’t feel any urgency to “get the day started.”

Are You There? (A Poem)


Are you there?
       In each savored, sip of your favorite coffee …
Are you there?
       In the pealing-back bark on the trees …
Are you there?
       In the aging, crumbling concrete on the bridge …
Are you there?
       In the chemical-clouded sky …
Are you there?
       In the moss-covered cracks of the sidewalk …
Are you there?
       In the decaying foliage of the neglected garden …
Are you there?
       In the circular pattern being etched on the water by the ducklings …
Are you there?
       In the distant blaring of the train horn …
Are you there?
       In the polished texture of the rock in your hand …
Are you there?
       In the old man, smoking a cigarette on his patio in the sunshine …
Are you there?
       In the scent delivered by the wind that brings back a childhood memory …

Are you there?
       Yes, in the stories …