Sacred Contracts

January 2017 Book of the Month

New York Times bestselling author and medical intuitive Caroline Myss has found that when people don’t understand their purpose in life the result can be depression, anxiety, fatigue, and eventually physical illness—in short, a spiritual malaise of epidemic proportions. Myss’s experience of working with people led her to develop an insightful and ingenious process for deciphering your own Sacred Contract—or higher purpose—using a new theory of archetypes that builds on the works of Jung, Plato, and many other contemporary thinkers.

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On Love

 

I have a beautiful garden in my backyard. The woman who helped me plan it made it clear that we needed to have a diversity of flowers in the bed. We laughed a lot during the planning – you see, I happen to really love lilies and other July blooming flowers. Debra reminded me that I wanted a garden that flowered throughout the year. And, she was right. In the spring, I have tulips and daffodils, in the summer I enjoy my lilies, in the fall I have mums and in the winter berries.

Love is born out of allurement – a gravitational pull toward something. This allurement or attraction is related good smells, a soft touch, a pleasing image, a shared laugh. Love is born out of this attraction.

With meditation and the expansion of consciousness, a new form of love spontaneously flows through us. This love is a love for the sake of love. A love related less to a figure-it-out mentality of evaluation but the simple flow of love as an undercurrent of feeling. An internal lighting up in the mere presence of other. Living in this state of love turns the world into a garden without any favorites.

On the Distinction Between Love and Desire

 

Feelings of love can sometimes seamlessly merge with feelings of desire. Culturally this connection is continuously reinforced by the media, by conversation, by our understanding of modes of expression. But, in truth, love and desire are distinct from one another. Certainly, expressing our love in a physical way can be meaningful and enjoyable. But it is not necessarily a required parallel action to be pursued every time we feel the stirrings of love deep in our heart. This is not a judgment. It is simply a reflection that is often overlooked in our hyper-sexualized culture.

Does Constant Interaction Add to Stress?

 

A meditation on interaction that needs to be watched over and over again to capture its rich, resonant beauty.

Produced by Aj Jackson & Narrated by Molly Beauregard

 

The Invention of Wings

December 2016 Book of the Month

It’s winter break! Thought we’d pick an old favorite novel of ours to dive into…

The Invention of Wings, a powerful and sweeping historical novel by Sue Monk Kidd, begins, fittingly, with an image of flight: Hetty “Handful”, who has grown up as a slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, recalls the night her mother told her that her ancestors in Africa could fly over trees and clouds. That day, Handful’s mother, Charlotte, gave her daughter the gift of hope— the possibility that someday she might regain her wings and fly to freedom.  Throughout Kidd’s exquisitely written story, Handful struggles, sometimes with quiet dissidence, sometimes with open rebellion, to cultivate a belief in the invincibility of her spirit and in the sacred truth that one does not need actual wings in order to rise.”

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On Happiness

Real happiness is found in increasing the happiness of others. In giving to others, we forget ourselves. Forgetting ourselves – even momentarily – allows us to feel our own internal silence. That silence is actually the truth of our nature – pure happiness just waiting to be found.

Moving Beyond the Meme

Popular culture is littered with tag lines intended to lead us to enlightenment. “Live in the moment.” “Don’t be attached.” “Meditate.” “Just Breathe.” “You are who you choose to be.” Operating outside a broader understanding of an articulated spirituality, these abstracted ideas become diluted and meaningless. Like signposts in a desert, they point in the right direction but they leave us without any road to travel.

Our new series “Moving Beyond the Meme” will expand on the following abstracted ideas both by offering short blog posts and directing students to our developed book club offerings. 

Up first:  On Thinking

Thinking is important. It is also complex. In order for you to read this sentence several million neurons needed to fire together coherently. A working brain is an important asset. However, it is not all you are.

Thinking is simply a thin layer of activity that functions on the surface level of your existence. In the deeper more expansive regions of yourself, you are connected to the totality of the universe. When we concentrate our energy on controlling the thinking mind, we swirl in the top level of our existence: the thinking level. The goal of truly knowing our most expanded selves is to transcend the thinking mind. We do this by exploring our own consciousness in a state of silence beneath the level of thought.   

Second:  On Choosing Positive Thoughts

I have read a lot about positive thinking these days. Memes and Facebook posts dedicated to this notion of directing our thinking toward growing a positive outlook. While well intended, these images and short posts ignore one very simple truth: Working to choose positive thoughts is a bit like throwing a blanket on a pile of garbage and then pretending it’s not there when your friends come to visit. It’s important to note that how we feel colors our thoughts. False positivity generally confuses both the speaker and the receiver. True positivity comes at the hands of removing our personal stress. When we think and behave from a place of true contentment, that contentment is reflected in our actions and words. 

Third:  On Consciousness

The best way to understand consciousness is to experience it. That is why I offer students the opportunity to learn to meditate in my course, “Consciousness, Creativity and Identity”. The subjective experience of diving deep within themselves offers them the experience of feeling the expansiveness of their truest self in rich and nuanced ways. Consciousness is infinite. It is divine. It is absolute. Within it, all the mysteries of the universe are held. It is simultaneously both empty and full. It flows freely. 

Fourth:  The Relationship between Thinking and Consciousness

Talking about thinking without understanding its relationship to consciousness is like getting in the car without turning it on, pushing down the gas pedal  and never understanding why we don’t seem to get anywhere. 

Thinking is consciousness and it isn’t. And, this seems to be where many of us have gotten terribly confused. Thinking is an aspect of consciousness. When we are connected to the vast well-spring of consciousness that lies at the very core of our being, we are able to connect our individual mind with the universal mind. With that connection, we gain clarity of thinking. The act of thinking is akin to threading the needle of consciousness, enlivening the infinite through the finite.    

Literature that supports this blog is woven throughout the past four years of our book club picks. Some especially strong examples: January 2016, March 2015, December 2014, April 2014 and December 2013.   

 

From Anger to Clarity

From Anger to Clarity: Transforming Frustrations into Effective Actions

This past week offered many in our country a true opportunity for reflection. The atmosphere felt ripe with heightened emotions. Limiting my interactions in this atmosphere felt like a smart move. The temptation to blame anyone, everyone, someone for my internal sense of rumbling emotions felt overwhelming at times.

And, so I slept. I meditated. I listened to music. Fuming internally is no fun. I actually woke in the middle of the night to the smell of burning embers. It took me a minute to realize it was my own emotional stew pot simmering on a low boil. Experience offered me the comfort of knowing that this too shall pass.

We have all heard the expression anger begets anger. Which leads to the question can anger or any heightened emotion – for that matter – be used as a motivating force for good?

Years ago during a media studies course I was teaching, a student stopped me midstream and said, “Molly, I just feel so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems I see in the world. It’s so depressing and so impossible to imagine my personal ability to impact change anywhere.” His sincerity silenced the room. Emboldened, I tossed my organized syllabus in the trash and totally revamped the semester’s learning objectives. By the end of the course, a cohort of students within my class had raised $5,000 by designing and implementing an entire “Who Cares?” media campaign dedicated to supporting Habitat for Humanity programs in Detroit. It was a small step, but an important development in my work as an educator. I had witnessed the most disgruntled and disengaged students in my course transform their attitudes with a simple shift in focus: away from cynicism, and toward engagement.

The simple truth is that when my students slowed down and asked in a moment of deep reflection, “Who Cares?” They discovered, they did. Rather than sitting and stewing in their own frustration, they turned toward service to others. And, in giving from a place of care, they made a meaningful contribution to their community.

In the Vedic literature, connecting with others through the experience of yourself is described in the following way: “I am That, thou art That, all this is That” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10). Expanded consciousness allows individuals to actually “see” the personal in the diversity. This is why I believe meditation in the classroom is so important. Consciousness based education reminds students to slow down and interact with an awareness of their own impact on their surroundings.

Feeling anger is okay. We all get mad sometimes. But acting out of that anger is not so smart.  We must learn to transcend the calling to such primal states of understanding. Remember in addition to asking individuals to “be the change they wish to see in the world”, Mahatma Gandhi believed that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world” and that a “nation’s culture lies in the hearts and souls of its people.”  

Students ask me all the time what to “do” when others make them feel bad. They are often surprised when I respond by saying that they alone are responsible for how they feel. It’s okay to feel any old way but take ownership of it. It’s not “their” fault. It’s your opportunity.

~ Molly Beauregard

Image/Illustration by: @6bartwork   www.6bartwork.com

Habits of the Heart

November 2016 Book of the Month

First published in 1985, Habits of the Heart continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing debate about the country’s future. With this new edition one of the most influential books of recent times takes on a new immediacy.

Toward Recovery

 

Well, here we are, the day after – time to lick our wounds, hug our neighbors and get a move on.  I, for one, just put on my cowboy boots.

So, here’s my question:  How do we begin to move beyond the divisive politics, language and hurt so evident in our beloved country?

While the standard view of reality is that events influence how we feel, the truth is, how we feel creates reality.  This simple yet profound idea is the core basis of an articulated spirituality.  Identity politics misses this truth in a BIG way.  It is not just the angry white man — it is also the anxiety fueled elite, the cynical millennials, the frustrated yogi’s, the victimized, the lonely, the sad, the bullied, the egotists, etc. who influenced this result.  Our twisted emotional life led to this moment of collective responsibility.

If you feel lousy this morning, you need to take a good hard look at yourself.  It’s not Hillary’s fault or Donald’s.  It’s not your neighbors, your employers, your teachers or your friends’ responsibility.   

Taking responsibility for the way you feel this morning is the first step toward recovery.

One of the many things I have been reflecting on this morning is the philosophical underpinnings of our constitution.  To be exact, I have been thinking about the connection between “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.  Three lofty goals eloquently expressed by our founding fathers.  Freedom envisioned as a derivative of our willingness to participate in the government of affairs.  Individual happiness is the result of the exercise of that personal freedom.  That idealism rested on the premise of collective responsibility for the care and nurturance of our rights, institutions and our own sense of personal well-being.  Seriously, hear me out, this is importantthe American brand of happiness is literally founded on the principle of engagement. 

So, what happened?  Well, I would argue we all got pretty darn wrapped up in ourselves, we lost touch with each other and we failed to articulate common goals for a fair and just society.  As Robert Bellah argues in his book, Habits of the Heart:  “We have committed what to the founders of our nation was the cardinal sin:  we have put our own good, as individuals, as groups, as a nation, ahead of the common good.”  The American dream became a private dream of personal satisfaction.  The ironic consequence of the pursuit of this dream is the empty feeling of loneliness our “success” actually manifests.  In the end, pursuing individual goals without respect to the common good leaves many of us feeling detached, isolated and unhappy. 

The irony, of course, is that we live in a vastly more interrelated and integrated world – economically, technically, functionally – and yet, most of us do not seem to know how to articulate why our lives are morally related to others. We do not think about how our words echo and our actions sting.  Importantly, we do not take responsibility for the way our feelings reverberate throughout the atmosphere. 

Our behavior is a direct reflection of how we feel.  The better we feel, the better we act.  The better we act, the better our world becomes.  As participating co-creators of reality, we ourselves must take responsibility for ourselves and others by behaving out of a space of well-being and contentment.  Shaping new frameworks for thinking, compassion and kindness will take time.

How do we begin to feel better?  We meditate.  Meditation brings back to us coordination of mind and heart.  It is in the transcendent that we unite all the fragmented pieces of ourselves into something whole.  We come out of meditation feeling reinvigorated, grounded and full of being.  Our rested minds feel less emotionally turbulent.  Our behavior reflects this serenity.  Ultimately, unity in our country will be enhanced when supported by clear, unencumbered minds. 

In the end, perhaps, our future will depend not so much on solitary leadership but collective commitment to ourselves and each other.  Regaining our footing will require reaching out to each other with trust and a renewed sense of responsibility.  We must heal our own hearts.  In doing so, we will grow the energy and courage to reach out to others.  We will expand our compassion and relinquish our stubborn detachment from others. Finally, our collective healing will return us to the roots of our philosophical ambitions and allow us to “live” the truth of our constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

I, for one, am ready for the challenge.  Today is beginning to feel less like a disaster and more like an opportunity.  Let’s all get some much needed rest.  As Scarlet O’Hara famously proclaimed, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

~ Molly Beauregard

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