Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas Present

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
 Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  

I believe the holidays provide us with a unique opportunity to connect with Spirit.  We are surrounded by reminders of the Light within us this time of year because, everywhere we look,  there are symbols of that Light, as well as symbols of the gifts God extends to all creation – love, peace, joy and life itself. 

A truth I invite you to consider this year is that the Christmas you are experiencing is exactly as it should be.   As Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ Christmas Carol points out in the quote above, the Past, the Present and the Future all live within us at this moment.  Many of us suffer from the need to make this holiday please the “spirit of Christmas past”, or we judge the present Christmas against a romanticized ideal Christmas in the future – you know the one - when everything finally lines up perfectly and we can relax and  be happy.  What happened to the spiritual wisdom of living in the moment?  In the power of now?  What would that even look like in practical terms, especially in December?

We are free to enjoy Christmas 2015 exactly like it is.  When we look at life from a spiritual perspective, we know that we are surrounded by the people with whom we are supposed to spend this holiday.   We know that we are always in our right and perfect place, having the exact experiences we have drawn to ourselves this year.  There will never be another Christmas just like this one – ever.   The food may be unique this year, the presents under the tree may be more plentiful, or from new people, or non-existent.   Whatever is here, is here for us to experience on purpose.  There is no reason to compare this year to any other year – past or future.  We are here right now, and if we are mindful in this moment, we can find the special gifts that are available to us.  When we do these things we are enjoying the spirit of Christmas Present.

Gratitude is the most powerful state of mind, for when we are in gratitude we know that all is well and we are fully present in the NOW.  Look around you this year and consciously move into a grateful heart for everything you have co-created with the Divine.   Spirit is all around you, in every person, every circumstance, every element just awaiting your recognition.  Everything is a gift. 

If you are alone this year, lean into the gift of silence and serenity and know that you are surrounded by a Universe of Love and Light.  If you are facing a challenge of any sort, be cognizant of the gift of Strength and know that challenges come and go and that your holiday season is unfolding as it should be.   If you are not around the people you long for, acknowledge the gift of those who do grace you with their presence.   If you find that it wouldn’t be wise to spend your resources in ways you have in the past, relish the gift of receiving and exchanging pure love and appreciation.  Allow Christmas 2015 to be different and perfect, exactly like it is and find all of the gifts hiding in the circumstances.   They are there.

Always remember the wisdom – “This too shall pass.”   That wisdom applies to the situations and people and circumstances that we cling to and cherish, but also to any challenges we may face and wish would disappear immediately.  We can never recapture the joys or the pains of yesteryear.  So, whatever is going on in 2015 won’t be the same next year, or ever again.  Each moment stands alone.

A dear friend of mine is spending this Christmas very differently than any holiday in the past.  This gorgeous man is one of the most generous people I know.  He is so thoughtful and kind and loving.   He takes great delight in gifting his friends with wonderful things and experiences.  Realizing that this year he would have to do things differently, my friend felt it necessary to apologize for not participating in the traditional way.  The conversation that we had about holiday traditions inspired this spiritual stretch.

We are each called to create a new tradition.  This new tradition for the holidays is about living in the now, allowing Spirit to surprise and delight us in unexpected ways each year.  It calls for us to keep creating and recreating the divine idea of expressing the holidays with one another in new ways.  It calls for embracing the unique and changing face of the “Christmas Present”, allowing all things new.

And, of course, this stretch is not just a holiday stretch.   And it certainly applies to all holidays of all faiths, not just Christmas.  We must make this our tradition any day of the year – even way down at the bottom of December.  We must honor the Spirit in the present Christmas.

Let’s actually gift ourselves the freedom to enjoy this moment!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch - Just Married!

Yesterday was an emotional day for me.  At 10:07 am I got a text from my wife, Becky, that announced to me that the Supreme Court ruled to remove all bans on gay marriage.  Although on some intellectual level, I completely expected it, on an emotional level I was rocked to my core.  A very long journey had taken a sudden and sharp turn.

At age 19, in my college dorm room, I finally labeled the feelings I had been having throughout my childhood. I admitted to myself that I was gay and on some level, I was devastated.  Two things about my future as a lesbian, that I thought were inevitable, broke my heart.  The first was that I would never be able to get married.  I had always dreamed of a wedding, a lifelong companion, someone to grow old with and now, as a lesbian, I would never have that dream come true.  The second was that I would never be a mother, never hold a baby of my own.  I thought at the time that the second dream would be the hardest one to attain.  But, I joyfully hurdled the barrier to being a mother through the process of donor insemination, and my beloved daughter was born in 1995.   

The first dream of being married proved to be far more challenging and heart breaking.  Through the years with my partners, we tried everything available to us to have a close facsimile of the real thing – we exchanged symbolic rings, ate symbolic cakes, had commitment ceremonies, registered as domestic partners at city halls and in HR departments, and created official legal documents of protection.  Marriage eluded me until October 2011, when Becky and I, on our 5th anniversary, traveled to Vermont and got legally married in the eyes of the laws in that state.  It was exciting, but we returned home to Georgia and were still not married.  We triumphantly filed a joint federal tax return, then slumped backward to file separate state tax returns. 

A month or so ago, while creating my medical record at a new physician’s office, I was asked if I was married by the receptionist at the front desk.  I hesitated.  Was this a social question or a legal question?  If a legal question, who was asking – a representative of the federal government or the state government?  Is insurance a federal thing or a state thing?  The woman stared at me, waiting for my answer.  Finally, I just said – “Well, I am married, but not in Georgia.”  She smiled and replied, “Honey, always just say yes!” 

Yesterday, as I watched television coverage of the Supreme Court ruling and scrolled through social media, I found myself wiping my wet cheeks.  There were so many leftover tears I had never cried that needed to spill out in joy and relief.   Years and years of pent up frustration and sadness melted away.  Yesterday, my first dream finally came true.  I began to seek a spiritual perspective on my feelings.

Love. Joy. Connection.  These words describe our inherent nature as divine, spiritual beings.  We are naturally drawn to these qualities in life and to experiences that provide intense moments that are filled with these qualities.  Human relationships give us opportunities to learn about cultivating these qualities as we journey together on this physical realm.  Marriage provides the most intense experience as we learn to find love, joy and connection through many lessons in gratitude, forgiveness, and loyalty with our spouse.  These spiritual qualities are of God and know no gender, no barriers, and no sexual orientation.  

So, what did it really mean to me?  I changed my Facebook status to “married”.  I hugged my wife a little tighter when she got home.  I embraced and celebrated with a group of friends last night.  I prayed a prayer of deepest gratitude.  Nothing big changed in the external world of my personal life.  But something tremendous changed in my mind and in my heart with the overwhelming feeling of validation and acceptance settling into every cell of my being.  I felt a greater sense of Oneness with all human beings.  I felt love, joy and connection.

And, from now on, I will always be able to “just say yes!”

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch – Becoming a Lioness

As I sit in my office writing, I am aware of a nest of fluttering baby birds outside my window. Today is flying lesson number one.  I have been watching the parent birds come and go for a few weeks, but today I finally get to see the babies!  The adult birds are chirping encouragement and instruction as the little ones flap about from branch to branch.  I imagine that tomorrow they will all be gone to begin a new chapter in their life – suddenly all adults.

I recently celebrated my 50th birthday and I was surrounded by a large group of friends who are around the same age.  Most of us are enjoying successful careers, many of us are parenting growing children and we are in the prime of our lives.  Some of my friends are also facing the reality of aging parents, and shifting responsibilities related to their parents.  Like the birds, we too have begun a new chapter in our lifelong relationship with mom or dad, or both.

If we survive childhood, and our parents survive it too, we must renegotiate that relationship many times throughout our adulthood.  Often, it is this reason that brings a client in for coaching because either the parent or the adult child has difficulty accepting a shift in this particular relationship.  I remember just such a client from several years ago, whom I will call Gretchen.

Gretchen sought spiritual coaching because her career had lost its luster.  She was restless and seeking her purpose in life.   We quickly uncovered that she had always wanted to teach, however her father was a businessman who devalued the teaching profession and would only pay for college if Gretchen majored in business.   Since he refused to entertain the possibility of Gretchen becoming a teacher, she dutifully entered the world of business, working her way up the corporate ladder into her current position which she found boring.  She was able to realize that her entire career was built to please her father and live up to his expectations.

This is a common spiritual lesson for many of us.   We come into this human plane to evolve and to grow and the relationship with our parents often sets up some of our biggest life lessons.  Learning to love ourselves and honor our inner wisdom is a universal lesson, and when we find that we are unique and different from our parents, we are especially challenged to love ourselves!  But, that is what we must do.  We can learn about this lesson by looking at nature.

Human beings are one of the few species in the Universe that continue the parental relationship beyond weaning.  Animals in nature quickly develop either a peer or competitive relationship with their parents once they no longer need them for sustenance or protection.  Animals do not expect their offspring to act a certain way, nor their parents to behave toward them in a special way because of the parental relationship. 
Human beings, however, often place great demands on these relationships and use the parent/child bond to manipulate each other.  Grown children are expected to do certain things for their parents, and they also expect certain things from their parents culturally.

When I pointed this fact out to Gretchen, we worked together to develop her self-identity and to become her own “lioness”.  If she could view her father as the head of his own kingdom, and honor him for sustaining and protecting her as she grew up, she could now release his grip on her life and make her own choices.   She could allow him to rule his life fully, but declare her own life as being under her rule, not his.

We determined that he was no longer financially supporting her and that she didn’t need him to play any role in her life other than grandfather to her children and loving father figure to her.  Renegotiating a boundary would be a long process, but she was willing to embark on it to free herself from the need for his approval.

Once she could stand on her own two feet as a grown-up separate from her parents’ expectations, she could re-evaluate her career choices and make a fresh decision to either consciously stay in the business career or get retraining to follow her original passion into teaching.  Her physical survival no longer depended upon having her father in the protector/provider role, and her emotional survival depended on her freeing herself from her father’s rule.  

Stepping into your identity as a grown lioness or lion is a part of becoming a fully evolved adult.  It is so important to know your place in the bigger picture of life, and your place is not to play small and please the people who raised you.  Maintaining a mutually loving and respectful relationship with your parents is a goal, but not to the detriment of your own life.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary is an expert on spiritual parenting.  She says – “The parenting journey holds the potential to be a spiritually regenerative experience for both parent and child, where every moment is a meeting of spirits, and both parent and child appreciate that each dances on a spiritual path that’s unique, holding hands and yet alone.”  

Spiritually, every human relationship is valuable and a part of our process of evolving.   The divine energy that lives in us and through us always seeks to relate to itself through relationship.  Our purpose is to show up as the love in every interaction, fully allowing another to show up as the love as well.   Our challenge is to make the parent/child relationship a spiritual one no matter how old we are.

Love yourself the most – always! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch – Beyond the Backyard

When I was a young child growing up with my two brothers in Colorado, my parents set many boundaries to keep us safe.  One such boundary was that when we were little, we were to play in our own backyard.  I am sure they had removed everything obviously dangerous from the yard and they had it fenced to keep us from wandering beyond this haven of safety.  I can remember being very content playing on the 1960’s metal swing set, digging in the sandbox and jumping on an old tractor inner tube that my father brought home for us.  We were safe, as safe as could be.

However, I wasn’t too old before I wanted to go play at my friend’s house, or roller skate around the block, or ride my bicycle down the sidewalk.  There was a whole world out there to explore!  So, my parents renegotiated the boundary over and over throughout my growing up years.  Pretty soon, I could go down the street on my bike, walk to school by myself, and play in a vacant lot nearby.  One of my childhood friends and I recently reminisced about traipsing around the entire downtown area of our small town all by ourselves – sitting on all of the sofas at a furniture store and riding the only elevator in town up and down repeatedly.   It was a gradual process, but eventually, I was physically free of the backyard.  I could roam and explore.

Like most parents, mine never gave me permission to leave our own SPIRITUAL backyard.  They truly believed that I was safer to stay inside the religion that they introduced to me, and expected me to stay within the spiritual boundaries they had selected.   They may have encouraged me to be brave and meet my friend down the street for a walk, but they never encouraged me to explore other churches or religions to see if something different might fit me better.  Of upmost concern was my salvation, and they believed that our fundamental religion was the only ticket to the heaven of their belief.   I think my experience in this aspect of growing up was typical. 

Several years ago, I was working with a coaching client who was intensely attracted to a meditation center she drove by on her normal commute.  She would slow down and read the signs on the building. She felt very drawn by the possibilities within those walls, however she never stopped.  When we discussed her background, she explained her religious upbringing, but said that years ago she stopped attending any church.  She said that she missed a relationship with God, but couldn’t bear the thought of going to church and shared about the meditation center of her longings.  When I encouraged her to try it, she balked.  “My father would never understand or approve!” she explained.  She was trapped in her own spiritual backyard.

Over several sessions, we explored the reality that her father loved her deeply and only wanted the best for her.  His religion served him well, so he had shared it with her out of love.  He too wanted her to be “saved”, and his religious beliefs provided for that.   He had not explored beyond the religion that his parents had given to him, and he expected the same of her.  That was just the way this family worked and she felt that he would tolerate her not going to church at all easier than accepting her trying something new.  Other religions were portrayed as scary or sinful, so she was terrified to explore.

One aspect of fully growing up is discovering and choosing your own spiritual path, your own relationship with a Higher Power or God.   You may return to your own backyard and find that it is perfectly beautiful and sustaining, or you may look back on it with fondness and find that there is an entire world out there to explore spiritually.  You may decide that the prayers that you recited as a child still serve your needs as an adult, or you may find other words to express your communication with the Divine are more fluid and fitting now. 

Stretching and growing is just as vital to thriving in our spiritual being as it is to our physical being.  Run and play and explore!  

God is everywhere!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Spiritual Stretch – A New Blog

By Laine Morgan

Nothing feels better to my physical body than a really long, slow stretch.  I can feel a wave of energy move through the muscles, followed by a softening and relaxing.  I am no expert of the physiology of stretching, I only know it just feels so good!
I have been keeping a personal journal since 1985 and lately I have been reading those journals, looking for insights and patterns, evidence of my growth.  In doing so, I can see that for the past 14 years, I have also been stretching spiritually.  As I have stretched spiritually, I have also experienced those waves of energy, softening and relaxing my heart and soul – very similar to the physical sensation of the stretch.

My intention for this blog is to capture some of those spiritual stretches to share with you.  I am deeply aware that my journey is not special, that I have been learning universal lessons, exploring circumstances and situations that are familiar to others.  By writing about them, I know that I will grow even more and my hope is that you will be encouraged and uplifted on your own spiritual journey.
Recently I became aware that I have always been influenced by God and religion, starting even before I was born.  To give you some history, my parents lived near Salt Lake City, Utah for many months surrounding my birth, and since they were not Mormon, I can only imagine the conversations about God and religion that were washing over me prenatally and throughout my infancy.   My very first relocation, before I was even 2, was motivated by religious beliefs and when I look back over my life, several more major moves and life decisions were also spurred on for reasons related to God.

Early in my childhood, I adored Sunday school and would go to any church with any friend who invited me.  I sang “Jesus Loves Me” with all my heart!  It wasn’t until I was 8 that my own family began to attend church ourselves, and just like he did everything else, my father flung us headlong into the entire experience.  His own upbringing was in “fire and brimstone” Pentecostal churches, so he took us to worship the familiar, judgmental, angry God of his youth.  I often joke that “Even God was mean in my house.”  I fled that religion when I moved away for college at age 18 – the first moment I was free to do so.  I tiptoed around my Baptist affiliated college, trying very hard not to step into the quicksand of religion during those 4 years.  I wasn’t entirely successful, but I did learn about another faith there.  Once I got to be fully into adulthood, religion and God moved firmly into the shadows of my life where I left them for many, many years.  Those spiritual muscles stiffened and hardened into cynicism and doubt.
I didn’t learn the difference between Spirituality and Religion until I was 37 years old, but once I had that new perspective, I realized that I had a lot of stretching to do.  So many of my beliefs about myself, about God and about a vast number of words and concepts were steeped in fundamental Christian religiosity.   I needed to excavate each of them, dust the shame off of them, remove the fear from them, shine the bright light of love on them, and allow them to stretch.  These are the things I will share in this blog.

Come along on this journey with me!  Together, we will have some regular nice, long spiritual stretches.