Posts Tagged inspiration

Some Advice I Need to Follow


Enthusiasm I wrote this seven years ago.  I just updated it.

I have found one of the best ways to keep my life interesting is to make a regular practice of doing things I haven’t done before.

If I am bored, apathetic, uninspired, or generally in a rut, it is usually because I have allowed myself to become a creature of habit.   I have found the best ways to renew enthusiasm include exposure to new ideas, a new hobby, continued education, or even a new career.

We are all born with a natural curiosity to explore the world around us and the world within ourselves.  This innate curiosity is often most evident in children.  As we grow older, there is a tendency to lose touch with this curiosity as survival needs, responsibilities, and pressures to conform literally choke the life out of our thirst to know more.

Nature hates a vacuum.  If I am not moving forward, I am automatically moving backward, even though it may seem I am standing still.  Within us, there is an urge to expand.  I must make a conscious choice to move forward; to expand.  If I don’t, the default choice of moving backward and becoming smaller will automatically be engaged.

It takes an act of will to grow, to reach my highest potential.  It takes courage, determination, and perseverance to blaze my own path. I must constantly remind myself the rewards far outweigh the risks.

I must always remember Self-realization and the achievement of personal freedom require discretion, discernment, and self-examination.  I am endowed with the creativity to shape my life into the reality I carry in my heart.  The path stretches before me.  I only have to take one step at a time.

How do I begin?  I listen to my heart.  I summon the courage to follow my heart, even if it tells me things that may make no sense at first.  I live with my heart on fire as much as possible.

I am very clear about what I want now.  I am Love.  I am Peace.  I am Joyful.  I am creative in a way that benefits others.  I am Radiant.  I am having fun.

The most important thing to remember is that I am not alone.  I make an effort to connect with my Divine Self every day.  I seek the things my heart yearns for, and then prepare to receive them.

 

 

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Whispers From My Soul


The Way to Heaven

While opening a dialogue with my inner divine being, these words came to mind:

Peace

Power

Persistence

Presence

Poise

Purpose

Potential

Patience

Plenty

Positive

Perspective

My feet are firmly set on a path of divine realization.

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Giving Up to Get Ahead


Sunset Over MexicoEvery so often, it’s not such a bad idea to give up.

The word I really want to use is surrender, but I’m not really sure what that word means in the truest sense. I’m going to barge right ahead and use it anyway.

Once every ten years or so, I get to the point where I just want to surrender. I feel like I have done everything that can be done to accomplish my goals, and nothing seems to be happening. The feeling usually lasts for anywhere between three minutes and three days.

The funny thing is I find that I actually get somewhere when I reach this point. In one sense, it’s a scary place, a place of desperation, a feeling of being at the end of my rope. But I’ve found it can be an auspicious place. I wrote this yesterday on the subject (in less than three minutes).

I want to go higher, but don’t know how. It seems like I’ve tried everything, only to fall, crashing back to earth, unkindly.

I think, however, I’ve been this way before. When it seems like I have looked in every crevice and corner, turned over every stone, in search of the faintest glimmer of light—the light is usually not very far away.

There comes a time when Grace is met by human effort. I know that Grace will have to come sooner, rather than later, because I have been relentless in my pursuit of peace, joy, and love. Life becomes much easier when you know what you want.

One of the good things about advancing age is that it makes it easier to focus on priorities. I mean real priorities—the meaningful stuff, because the clock is ticking, louder and louder. There simply isn’t time to screw around with trivialities and false values. I’m tired of the tricks my mind plays on me. I’m tired of chasing my tail. I’m tired of being lost in the fun house of illusion.

I want the real thing—the beauty within my heart—and I know that it can’t be far away. I’ve been everywhere, done everything, made a fool of myself, and accomplished a few things. You can’t elude me much longer, dear Friend.

Photo Credits: “Sunset Over Mexico” by Bettina Schwehn / uniqraphy , Illusion Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

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Peace on the Inside–Introducing Peace Education in a Pennsyvannia Jail


Guest-blogger Chip Presendofer provides us with a unique perspective on the steps he and a dedicated group of individuals have taken to launch a Peace Education Program in Berks County Jail, Pennsylvania. Volunteers like Chip and his team are introducing The Peace Education Program in prisons, colleges, universities, civic groups, hospices, and other institutions around the world. Peace Education (PEP) and Food for People (FFP) are two humanitarian aid programs developed by the Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF).

PEP Team (Not All Members Pictured)

PEP Team (Not All Members Pictured)

In January of 2013, I reviewed the latest Peace Education Program curriculum  with three other people at a friend’s house. Ever since I first heard about the Peace Education Program,  I’ve been motivated to contact local prisons, but all my early attempts met with rejection. The curriculum renewed my enthusiasm, and seeing a video about the Peace Education Program in prisons titled “Peace on the Inside” last summer made me feel we had a real story to tell. I think the idea of bringing a message of hope to people who have made some poor choices in their lives is worth the effort.

Feedback from Dominquez State Jail in San Antonio confirms my feeling. We began by hatching an action plan. Two team members wrote an introductory letter and compiled a list of potential recipients who we felt would be able to help us get the Peace Education Program information in the right hands. We sent about ten letters and got a nibble in neighboring Berks County.

On Thursday, February 21st, we met with an official who told us to follow-up with a specific commissioner on the prison board. We persistently followed up with the commissioner, and on February 28th, 2013 we received a letter from the warden expressing interest in implementing the Peace Education Program in Berks County Jail.

Now what? We had to wait until prison management allocated staffing and space resources at the jail. In the meantime, there was paper work to complete for background checks and volunteer training. In April, the prison scheduled training for July 17th, so we were in a holding pattern.

At this point, it seemed like a good idea to bring together everyone who had an interest in PEP under the premise of reviewing the curriculum materials. The thought was that a team of volunteers would identify themselves over successive meetings, and that’s exactly what happened. Every Sunday for about six weeks we met, reviewed the PEP curriculum, and discussed all the information we could glean from everyone involved with PEP. A number of people in the United States, South Africa, and Canada were extremely helpful and forthcoming with information and advice. We were hearing about what volunteers had done, what not to do, what they had learned, and how rewarding it was to actually bring a message of peace and hope into a prison environment.

Five people attended the Volunteer Training at the jail in July. It became very real for us at that meeting. The list of things that could go wrong and the picture painted of the inmates was an eye-opener. As it turned out, the staff instructors were making us aware of what could happen in a worst-case scenario, but when we asked both of them if they would allow their sisters to volunteer, without hesitation they both said yes. This made us feel a little more comfortable, but there were still a lot of unknowns. We discussed our fears and concerns in our meeting and we all decided the risk was worth the effort. It was a real moment-of-truth that we shared and the experience solidified our resolve to keep moving forward.

Peace Education Classroom

Peace Education Classroom

On August 2nd, two PEP team members met with the volunteer coördinator at the jail to look at the classroom and confirm a start date on August 9th. The classroom we chose was large enough for twenty students. On Friday, August 9th, we held our first class. Seventeen inmates attended. After all the students arrived and took their seats, I briefly told them we were going to play a video to give them a sense of what was going to take place and then I would take attendance. All eyes seemed fixed on the screen at the beginning of the class. It was easy for the students to relate to the prison scenes and the inmate interviews kept their attention.

I took attendance by calling out everyone’s name and tried to make sure I pronounced the names correctly. Prior to putting in the first video, I thanked the students for coming and said that the information they were about to see was directed to them as human beings. I asked them to try to listen without comparing it to anything they had heard before. Then I pushed the button on the remote and the class was underway. The class proceeded smoothly, although it seemed the longer videos challenged some students’ attention spans. Experienced PEP volunteers had advised me that it would take a few classes for the energy in the room to jell and for people to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and expose their thoughts.

The inmates came from different cell blocks. Some knew each other (fist bumps) while others were not acquainted. In general, the inmates had no trouble finding seats and being in relatively close quarters. They were orderly, quiet, attentive and helpful. Perhaps in our next class, I’ll invite them to share a little of what they heard and hopefully get them a little more involved.

Before we knew it, the class was over. After replacing the tables and chairs to their original positions, all the inmates wound up standing in a circle around the perimeter of the room. The atmosphere was instantly more relaxed and one man asked whether a person without a conscience could find the peace within. I said those are two different things. Consciousness is being aware of your existence and conscience helps us distinguish between right and wrong. I said I didn’t think a person without a conscience would seek the peace within, but I didn’t really know. He thanked me for being honest with him, and then he said he was just trying to sound smart and not to pay him any mind. I said I was just trying to sound smart also, and that got a laugh from a few people. It was the first time during the class that it felt like we might have connected a little more on the personal level.

Inmate Housing Unit

Inmate Housing Unit

I received another important piece of advice from my fellow volunteers: It’s important to connect personally with inmates without getting too involved. That advice makes a lot of sense to me. The students don’t have to like us individually, but they should know we relate to them as human beings, not as prisoners. This is a fine line, but one that holds significant promise for us as facilitators. If we respect the inmates, there’s a good chance they’ll respect the volunteer team and feel comfortable enough to reveal their thoughts in class. I don’t feel it’s my place to draw the students out, but I do feel like I need to create an environment that will allow them to open up if they wish.

The ability to walk out of the prison made me realize how fortunate I am and what a privilege it is to be able to make my own decisions about my day. Driving home, someone asked me how I felt, and I answered, “Relieved and curious.” Relieved we had broken the ice and now had an idea what we needed to do for next week and curious to see who will return.

With only one class behind us, we have many, many more to go. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and one lit candle can light hundreds of others. We’re on our way, and for that I’m thankful. Looking back, it took a lot of effort to get the program started, but the journey has just begun and the bulk of the effort is still in front of us.

Berks County Jail

Berks County Jail

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The Power of Joy


There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest.  This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me.  One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for 1950’s horror films.  We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.

One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man. The scene remains fixed in my memory in crystal clarity forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mown grass of an adjacent estate home. This is the thought that ran through my head:

Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.

Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note. It said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me. I was not in the least bit happy at the news.

Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience. Growing up is scary. We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey. I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of joy every day.

I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on something that approaches a regular basis.

Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity. It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it. Joy is the elixir of life in my universe. It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly. When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative. My work reaches a higher level. I am more motivated. I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals. I am more equipped to help others. When I’m feeling joy work becomes play. I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend. Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I practice meditation and recommend it to my readers to feel peace and joy from within. The meditation I do feeds my heart. Thinking the right thoughts is another essential element in the pursuit of joy. We attract what we think about. Currently, I’m reading “Ask And It Is Given” by Esther and Jerry Hicks. This fascinating book offers a unique strategy for manifesting your heart’s desires.

I wish you joy.

 

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The Journal of Good News


Is good news boring?  Is there a severe shortage of hopeful, inspirational stories outside of the sports section? Would it violate journalistic standards if the media served up more stories that motivated us to be better people and brightened our days a little?

The answer is you can find stories of hope and inspiration if you look hard enough for them. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a small part of some pretty amazing stories from around the world as editor of the TPRF blog for the past two years.  I’d like to pass my good fortune along to anyone in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

The TPRF blog began with a mandate to cover the developing story of the third Food for People facility planned for construction in the small village of Otinibi, outside of the metropolitan city of Accra in Ghana, West Africa.  Food for People  is a proprietary hunger relief program initiated by TPRF.  These facilities feed a nutritious daily meal to children and village elders in areas of extreme poverty.

Enjoying a Nutritious Lunch at FFP Ghana

Our first posts covered the Ghana Food for People project in detail beginning when the facility was an undeveloped piece of land awaiting governmental approval of the documents transferring title of ownership to the local charity set up to manage and run the FFP.  We literally watched the facility rise up out of the ground, culminating in a triumphant opening one year later.  The FFP in Otinibi has materialized thanks to the dedication of mostly local volunteers, an expert construction team, funding from TPRF, and donations from individuals following the story on the Internet.

Five hundred children and adults will eat every day in Otinibi. The same thing occurs at two other Food for People centers in Bantoli, India and Tsarapu, Nepal, opened in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

The logistics and effort required to establish and keep the FFP facilities operating boggles the mind. Food and hygiene standards must be established and maintained. A chef has to plan the menus. The meals have to be balanced nutritionally and tailored to the tastes of the people in the area.  Managers have to train and supervise staff and volunteers. The list goes on. Yet it is happening.

FFP Staff Prepare a Meal

Thanks to these Food for People centers, children go to school instead of doing manual labor (like crushing rocks to support their families.)  The nutritious daily meals allow the children to grow and develop normally. Plus, they learn proper sanitation habits and enjoy watching educational television programs while eating.

With healthy bodies and the opportunity to learn in school, these children have a vastly improved chance to realize their dreams later in life.  And something more.  I have seen through these stories that Food for People is an oasis for these children, a place where they can flourish and enjoy their precious childhood.

Six months after the first TPRF blog post, we decided to open up the scope of the blog to other feature stories while still reporting on the progress of the project in Ghana. We regularly cover stories about  TPRF’s Peace Education Program in prisons, independent fundraising efforts, disaster relief, clean drinking water initiatives, and other humanitarian efforts undertaken by TPRF’s partner organizations.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe you are what you “tune into” as much as you are what you eat.

Food for People photos by Francis Ahore.  Ethiopia photo courtesy of International Relief and Development Organization (IRD)

Drought Relief in Ethiopia

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Living With No Downside


Image Source: http://www.grist.org

Open your mental windows.  Let your attitude bathe in the sunshine of optimism.  Don’t worry about the possibility of sunburn.

That’s a pretty corny metaphor.  Just imagine, however, what would happen if every chronic pessimist on the planet took this advice.

The cost of healthcare would plummet. There would be fewer traffic accidents. The unemployment rate would nose dive. The average human life span would increase by five or ten years.  These are just a few of the likely outcomes of a few billion upgraded attitudes.

My optimistic attitude is based on the belief that at the very center of the universe in which we live there dwells a loving kindness that cares about our happiness and well-being.

When I choose to believe and to feel this way, life becomes easier.

Through the eyes of optimism, I see the world as a place full of endless possibilities to express myself positively.

There is a voice in my head that tries to convince me otherwise.  I suspect I am not the only person who hears this derisive, discouraging voice.  The only difference between most of us in this regard, it seems to me, is how we deal with this voice.

I used to believe the discouraging voice in my head was a friendly voice.  I believed it was there to warn me not to try things I couldn’t or shouldn’t do.  It has taken a lot of growing through painful experience to learn the critical voice was not my friend most of the time.

On the surface, it would seem an easy task to learn the difference between healthy self-restraint and the paralyzing fear engendered by an over-abundance of self-criticism.  Perhaps the messages a person hears as a child from parents and teachers makes a difference in the way he or she responds to their inner critic.  A strong self-image provides a safe haven from the twin sirens of doubt and fear.

I have found it helps to express your fears to a friend or to a mental health professional to get an objective view of your thoughts as they relate to accomplishing goals.  Most fears, when expressed out in the open, prove to be phantoms made of irrational thinking.

The dream in your heart needs to be nurtured with positive, reinforcing thoughts in order for it to manifest into a concrete reality.  It takes a persistent, consistent effort to escape the prison of the jailing voice of discouragement.

Being optimistic is an act of loving yourself and your possibilities.  It is an act of flying above the clouds of doubt.

Personal fulfillment and the joy of helping others flow from the fountainhead of optimism.

An attitude of optimism leads to an active life of freedom.

Opportunities for growth and prosperity surround us constantly.  Smile. Open your heart and embrace these gifts as they come your way.  The loving force at the center of life beckons you to become your highest, happiest, and best self.

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