Traditions to bring people together 2

For this post I am again going to take from some of the religious traditions that were shared on Oprah’s Belief series and then share some of my own ideas of how you could incorporate the ideas into your world. Enjoy.

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Zen Buddhist Lotus Flower: In one part of the series you were able to catch a glimpse into the life and traditions of Zen Monks. They shared a special lantern celebration.  I did a little bit of my own research and found The Lotus Lantern Festival that celebrates Buddha’s birthday. It is traditionally called the Yeondeunghoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) and was originally more of a religious and national event, not like a festival.  Here is a link to give you an idea of what it is like. It looks amazing–lanterns take the form of fruits, animals…it looks beautiful. People can even make their own lanterns.

In Buddhism the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world and is realized through enlightenment. Traditionally the lotus (“padma’’) is a very important symbol in India and for Buddhism. The lotus has been ascribed with special meaning since the time of ancient Indian mythology.
The lotus flower grows in muddy water and rises above the surface to bloom with remarkable beauty. The flower closes and sinks underwater at night, to rise and open again at dawn. Untouched by impurity, the lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind.*taken from buddhachannel.tv      

My idea:   Create your own lotus lanterns with your family & then hang them somewhere special–above the dinner table, outside in a tree, etc.  Here is a Youtube with an idea of how to make them      This may be a great idea for a New Year celebration. You could create lanterns & even write something on them–hopes for the new year, gratitude for things from this previous year, dreams, desires, etc.

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Bringing people together through music: In the series it explained how Israel is a place torn apart by religious separation, but luckily a music group was bringing together young people from different religions and having them work together to create something beautiful–music.      Music has a power all its own–it heals, it transcends, it liberates, it inspires, it brings people together. It is a heavenly gift that swells hearts here on earth.

My idea: Step out of your usual music comfort, listen to something completely new, maybe even foreign and see how you feel. Music can have positive and negative effects, so make sure you select genres that lift and inspire the soul. Also, step out of your music comfort by attending a local concert and experience the symphonic melodies first hand. Try it out and see how you feel.

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Trust yourself: This part of the series I can honestly say, I was yelling at the television. I could not believe this guy would free climb (no ropes or anything) to such incredible heights. It was somewhat terrifying. You would definitely have to have tremendous faith in your personal belief in what you could do. One slip–you would be gone.

My idea: Do something that you have never tried or something that scares you. When you are able to accomplish a personal hurdle, you definitely feel you have reached a higher point for yourself. When you continue to trust your instincts, feelings, gut, desires, etc. you will be in a better personal place.

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Pray: Prayer was a huge message throughout the series. Whether it was the woman with cancer and was surrounded in a prayer circle to people praying in a sacred place, prayer beads to traditional dances that went on for days…prayer was shared in every culture and religion. It was a beautiful sentiment.  Prayer I believe holds a very strong gift, whether you pray alone or in a group, there are answers to what you need.

My idea: Give thanks in all you do. Hold a prayer in your heart. If you have a big decision or struggle you are facing, do not be afraid to ask others to help pray for you and your situation. Have faith and know you are not alone. I just read a great story this morning that shares some great examples of prayers being heard. Check it out—http://www.faithit.com/the-refs-said-if-he-points-at-god-again-hes-done-thats-when-his-sister-slipped-him-a-note/

Well, I hope these ideas help you to have a beautiful day.  Peace to you. -H

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Are you Sleepwalking through life?

Oh, the wonder and magic of learning!! Yesterday I took an hour and watched a young man’s journey, Take it with you, where he went across the world to a variety of countries in search of meaning, the peace that was missing in his life and his soul’s yearning for something better. 

It seems for many of us there is always a constant searching, a yearning for something more. 

I just read an amazing quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, “the greatest enemy of the spiritual life is the human tendency to sleepwalk through life.” That thought hit me square in the heart because I have been thinking a lot about spirituality, creating a beautiful understanding of it in my family and having that as a center for all things we do. My husband is in a job that is a revolving door of no time, stress and a void of any type of spiritual awareness. He has been caught in a exhausted state, unable to balance and I have been praying to know how to help him, so this quote hit me and almost knocked me down. THE GREATEST ENEMY of the SPIRITUAL LIFE is the human tendency to sleepwalk through life!! WOW.

ARE YOU SLEEPWALKING?? We all do it from time to time, from one mundane activity to another, so would you like to hear something that is the solution…PRAYER calls us to wakefulness. -Thich Nhat Hanh

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Prayer is a beautiful piece to any puzzle that longs to fit contentment. Watching the movie yesterday made me see even more connections that the world has in happiness and prayer. Every tradition, different rituals, different religions, no matter there place on earth, has a well of history, knowledge, symbolism and divinity held within their temples, their churches, their synagogues, their arch ways…it was beautiful to see the Japanese gardens filled with large, red archways that symbolize stepping into a more spiritual place. It was humbling to see a tribe of people in South America who, to this day, still protect their ancient, natural spiritual places and the deep beliefs they hold with the deepest part of their hearts. It was interesting to see the one symbol that is seen all over the world–the flower of life symbol that this young man (from the movie) was able to find in every part of the world, in every temple, every sacred space. It made me understand the even deeper connections that have been placed on this earth so long ago. I enjoyed watching the different rituals of prayer, with candles, crosses, clapping, beads, kneeling, symbols…to see the respect and love of something bigger than us all. Prayer has a deeper connection for all of us, if we take the time to tap into the beautiful beyond.

 

Prayer is different for everyone. You may be able to focus through meditation or yoga, maybe you sit outside and give thanks with your mind, some may need to kneel in darkness to find clarity or maybe you can talk out loud while driving in your car, or maybe you feel it necessary to be in a church, prayer is different for everyone…BUT…everyone can pray.  Here are some resources and ideas to help you get more connected on a deeper level with your higher self:

 

ImageMaybe you find meditation or visualization a gift & the easiest way for you to get lost in your mind. Wisdom Film’s has done some amazing videos that are beautiful images with messages to slow you down and be mindful. Here is one of their videos: “Set Your Champion Free”—They have additional videos on youtube.

 

ImageGreat Article. Wow! Another quote just struck me—Reading this great article by a women who I have loved listening to [great podcasts], Elizabeth Lesser, I came across this “The Sufis say that our longing for GOD is GOD’s longing for us.” WOW. Does that not break you open and make your heart sing of peace! Here is the article—take what moves you. http://www.oprah.com/spirit/What-Prayer-Really-Means-Elizabeth-Lesser/2

 

ImageI have been reading, pondering and trying to get the best sense of how to help instill the faith of teaching prayer to my daughter. I just began reading the book Parenting with Spirit by Jane Bartlett and here is what she says:  Prayer is a language, a way of dialoguing with the divine. Like any language, it has to be learned. Prayer is not the preserve of any one religion: all faiths have prayer. It’s humankind’s most natural and important way of connecting to a larger reality, and it is available to us all. 

Here are her tips to help your family through prayer—-Prayer Nurtures a Family’s Spirit:

Prayer helps children feel connected to a larger reality. Prayer is an expansion of the consciousness and a suspension of ordinary thought. In some ways, prayer is a small act, as easy as reaching out and flicking on a light switch. However, once that light is shining, everything appears differently. You are seeing life as it truly is, albeit briefly. In praying with your children, you are showing them how simple it is to press the switch: to close their eyes, go inside, and “turn on” an experience of a larger reality.

Prayer promotes the development of an interior life. In prayer we quiet the hubbub of the day and hear a deeper part of ourselves instead. Children, just as adults, have an inner life, a world of thoughts and feelings. In prayer, they begin to learn how to attend to these emotions, to sort through them, understand them, and possibly change them. Prayer teaches children self-awareness.

Prayer encourages an examination of conscience. In prayer, we allow God to enter in. In so doing we shine a light on the dark corners, where we might otherwise have preferred not to have looked.

 Prayer acts as a tool of transformation. Prayer is an act filled with hope. We pray in faith that things can be better, that the world may become a happier place, and that we may fulfill our human potential. In so doing, we accept that we currently have limitations, but we invite God to help us overcome these.

Prayer develops gratitude and joy. In prayer we count our blessings. Think about all the good things that you have in your lives, and to thank God for them. Big and small things can be included in thanks. Prayers and gratitude help everyone appreciate their world and the people in it, and cultivate an attitude of joy. They also counter feelings of greed.

Prayer increases children’s engagement in the world. We can use our prayer to contemplate the wider world and set our lives into a bigger perspective. Encourage your children to think of people who are sick or lonely or experiencing personal problems. Think too of people in other countries who might be suffering from poverty, famine or war. Prayer promotes compassion.

Prayer brings parents and children together. Praying with your children can be an extremely intimate moment. This is especially true if you are speaking aloud spontaneous prayers. On one level this type of prayer is a profound sharing of thoughts and feelings. In joining each other in this, we overcome our sense of isolation. Your children feel tremendously valued and cared for when you say prayers and ask God to help them in their personal struggles.

Prayer develops reverence for the world. In prayer we take a moment to value the world God has made. Reverence helps nurture respectful behavior in children.

Prayer helps children feel safe. Prayer is a comforting ritual that prepares children for sleep, for their day…It is an opportunity to let go of cares and worries, to feel safe and loved.

Prayer encourages positive behavior. Loving and compassionate thoughts will ultimately translate into loving and compassionate behavior. Children will be more mindful about their actions and aware that they should be behaving in a way that is acceptable to God.

Prayer may have a mysterious power all of its own. You may find it easy to believe that prayer changes something within the person who is praying. But prayer traditionally has another function too: it is thought to change the world beyond ourselves. [She expounds more in her book]

 

I hope these thoughts and ideas help you to get in touch with a deeper side of your self and avoid sleepwalking through your life.

Peace to you.  -Heather

We are Fearfully and Wonderfully made.

ImageWe are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I just had a tear filled conversation with my mother-in-law about one of her grandchildren who are in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). She was filling me in on the details that have happened the last couple of days—spinal tap, surgery to put in a pic line that feeds the little one through a small tube, pneumonia, lung collapse…

It was heart wrenching to imagine this little child that was born not quite a week ago, going through such pain. Then I envisioned her mother (my sister-in-law), the new mother of triplets and the pain I know she is going through, feeling like she isn’t bonding to this child, while the others are doing well, wondering what she is doing wrong as a mother, looking at the nurses with envy as they speak to her baby and having thoughts of her baby possibly dying…

Then my thoughts went to my mother-in-law who had lost two sets of twins after they had been born. I asked my mother-in-law how she was doing. She broke down and said, “We are trying to be positive. It is hard, but Lacey (her daughter) doesn’t want to be alone and neither do I, so we are sticking together through this. Everything will be alright.”

She was holding on to hope and faith, like any good mother, knowing in the back of her mind it is essentially not up to her. That anything can and will happen. She had been there many times.

Yesterday my sister-in-law was having an especially tough day, so I sent her a letter and some inspiring quotes to post around her house to help her remember she is not alone and that this experience is a time for growth, hope and faith. One of the images was the one above–I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

When I saw this image it reminded me of the humility we need to have through life. Every day, every moment is a gift that we are given. Life experiences may be scary or cause us to be fearful, but through those moments we learn so much. Through these experiences we learn the important things like faith, hope, true love, empathy, gratitude, sacrifice, etc. We learn the lessons our soul seeks to devour. It is through these faith building moments that we know we are not alone and that God is there to hold our hands. That fear can turn to an ah-filled wonder and that is where we find grace and humility.

I want to send her my best wishes and blessings. Please send her a blessing if you have a moment. Thank you.

Blessings to you today.  -Heather

Seize the day…every blessed moment

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We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

The fragility of life seems to be ringing all around me. The many things we seemingly take for granted…so many sobering stories hit me with such a need to be grateful for every little detailed gift we receive each day. We don’t think about hugging our kids, or kissing them in their bed & not a hospital bed. We don’t think about the gift of strong knees that can run or a happy outlook that keeps our day filled with joy.

These are the stories that have been ringing in my ear the last couple of days. Maybe they will help you stop for a moment and ponder the many blessings we take for granted…

Friends and neighbors were all praying, cheering, texting and conveying their need and support for Justin Bieber to visit a local seven-year-old girl who is struggling with her third round of Leukemia. Everyone waited in anticipation to receive a picture of Justin with this little girl in the hospital the night of his concert. Thank you Justin!                       It was a very sobering thought looking at this little girl with sunken eyes, dark circles, life slowly drifting away and thinking about what her mother must be going through in trying to give comfort, hope and faith for her daughter’s young life. I wondered how I would handle my nine-year-old grappling with such an illness. I thank God for my healthy daughter and send prayers of hope to this young family.

The very next day I heard another story about a woman with two young children who had got a babysitter to go on a bike ride one afternoon with her husband. She had a small bike wreck, her helmet had a dent the size of an orange, that left her paralyzed from the neck down. I instantly thought of the heartache you would feel not being able to hug your children, to wrap your arms around your husband, to skip down a path with your little ones, to make them breakfast, to hold a book and read them stories. My heart broke for this women, for the very thought of what she could and could not do, the depression she would deal with, the moments where you would miss your life while striving to embrace your new existence. How hard it must be to embrace an existence that leaves you immobile, fragile, feeling worthless and unable to do so many things. I can’t imagine. I pray for her family.

Then, if that was not enough heartache, my little neighbor came over and shared a story about a funeral she had just been to. It was for a mother of six children who had gone in for knee surgery. She returned home. One day she began to feel ill, yelled to her son to get his father. She looked at her husband and told him she felt like she was dying and passed out. She had a blood clot get into her lungs and she was gone. The family was left to miss her.

You just never know when or how or what will be your time. These stories shook me to my core and in sharing them I hope they give you a moment of sobering existence into the charmed life you have at this moment. Embrace your children, kiss your loved ones, dance in the kitchen, go outside, sing, smell the fresh air, breathe, yell, play, live your life to its best. Take each moment and cherish it, find every happiness possible in the little things that make life big!

Live your best day!! your best moment!

God bless these families in all they do. -Heather

Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.  It’s a way to live.                         ~Attributed to Jacqueline Winspear