A Walk by the River on a Winter’s Day

The mind stills, silenced

by the presence of beauty.

I am free to be.

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Being In The World, But Not Of It

Quoting Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Picture credit: http://www.iwantcovers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/We-Are-Spiritual-Beings.jpg

I don’t half pick my topics – or rather they pick me is a more accurate description of what it feels like. And this one feels big. Almost too big for me to handle. I mean, this has to be one of the most well-known phrases in the Western world, and, as far as I can tell, paraphrases what people believe to be Jesus’ teachings on how we are to interact with and behave in the world. What can I possibly have to say about it that hasn’t already been said? And, (perhaps more unnerving), what can I, a believer in the sacredness of life and the uni-verse rather than Christianity or any other religion, possibly say about it that won’t be considered blasphemous by at least half the people who read it?

That being said, recently this very teaching about ‘Being in the world, but not of it’ has come up several times for me – in seminars and podcasts, in the words of a friend, and in the pages of a book I’ve been reading. I’ve discovered over the course of the past year that the synchronicities in my life are much more than mere coincidences and are, in fact, trying to tell me something; so, round about the second or third time it came up, I started to pay a bit more attention and to contemplate what its message might be for me.

With the ‘being in the world’ part a given – by sheer dint of living in this world I am, we all are, inevitably and inextricably ‘being’ in it, whether aware of it or not –  I was at first drawn to the ‘but not of it’ aspect. It seemed to be asking me to reside more fully in the ‘spiritual side’ of my being.

I can’t deny that the balance between my human aspect and my spiritual aspect is one that has needed some readdressing. Until the last year or so I had resided very firmly ‘in this world’ with little or no awareness of there being anything beyond it. Not going quite as far as denying perhaps – but definitely ignoring and shutting away in a deep, dark closet that very rarely saw the light of day – any spiritual aspect of my being.

I was preoccupied with life; or, to be more exact, with ‘my life’ – ‘my’ job, ‘my’ friends, ‘my’ family, ‘my’ hobbies, ‘my’ relationships, ‘my’ dog, ‘my’ home… All the things we build up around us to help us create the identity which gives us our sense of security in the world.

And yet, even as I write this, I am aware that all that time the river of life – the process of being in and living in this world – was gradually awakening in me what we would traditionally call ‘spiritual’ qualities and values – a love of and deep respect for nature; the gifts of gratitude, compassion and wisdom; a sense of wonder and awe at the magnificence of the world we live in. I just didn’t see them as such.

The last year and a bit has seen a period of transition and deep transformation in my life and, as a result, this delving into the spiritual side of my being has become a conscious choice on my part. I am taking the time and space needed to connect in with my soul and ask what it really wants to experience in the world, and how it wants to self-express; spending time in meditation and in gratitude; learning how to be an active co-creator with life, rather than just letting life ‘happen’ to me. While still being engaged in the day-to-day processes of ‘my life,’  I’m now also preoccupied with LIFE! in a much larger sense of the word – the LIFE! that runs through all of us and is the life-force behind everything in the Universe; the inter-connected nature of all that is; how I can come into ever greater harmony with this sacred life-force energy that is behind all that is and is what some people know as ‘God;’ and the impact that these new knowings about LIFE! have on the way that I live ‘my life.’

When it comes down to it, I feel that I am residing more fully in the ‘not of it’ aspect  – the spiritual aspect of my being – than ever before.

Well, okay… if I’m ruthlessly honest with myself, I’m residing more fully in the spiritual aspect of my being than ever before when I’m by myself and taking the time to ‘connect in’ in this way.

This connection with the spiritual side of my being more often than not flies right out of the window as soon as I enter into interaction with others.

I don’t mean this in the way that it might sound – that I turn into a screaming ball of fury who forgets all about embodying gratitude, compassion, wisdom and any other of the so-called ‘spiritual’ qualities and values.

No, it’s far more mundane and far, far more subtle than that.

When I’m with others, I, quite simply, get so caught up in that interaction that I often completely forget to connect into that still, quiet place within and to listen for guidance about what my soul wants to express or experience. I neglect to be the witness consciousness and find myself unconsciously reverting to old patterns of speech and behaviour that, while not necessarily bad as such, are often not as empowering as I would like them to be; either for me or for others. And, more often than not, I’m not even aware that I’m doing it until after the event. If I was aware at the time, after all, I could shift and change it…

And this is what I think this teaching means for me; coming, as it does, at this time in my life: developing more self-mastery so that I’m able to sustain that sense of connection with the silence that is in my heart and which speaks volumes about what my soul is desiring in each and every moment; so that I can maintain the self-awareness that allows me to make more conscious choices about how I’m experiencing and expressing myself in the world all the time – when I’m interacting ‘in the world’ as well as when I’m spending time alone.

Because while it might be a lot easier to do when I’m on my own doing my ‘spiritual’ practices, how can I hope to create lasting change in my own life and have a far-reaching positive impact on the world (i.e. the people around me) if I’m not able to bring this more awakened self also into the times and spaces when and where I’m interacting with others? How can I shine the light of my soul, and in doing so allow others to come into closer connection with and to shine more of the light of their soul, if the moment that I come into interaction with them I become so absorbed ‘in (the things of) this world’ that I forget that I am, in fact, a soul undertaking a human journey?

It is this, still-new-for-me, understanding that we are all in fact souls having a human experience, that has led to the inverted commas around the word ‘spiritual’ at times during this post. For, this being the case, there can be no ‘spiritual aspect of my being.’

A ‘spiritual aspect of my being’ implies separation; a side of me that I can put on or take off as I choose.

But if I know myself as a soul on a human journey, then everything about my life becomes spiritual; from the smallest and most mundane occurrence right down to the most profound.

It is already and inextricably so, and, in fact, can be no other way. But when applied to the way I choose to live my life, this is a message of integration, not of segregation. Of merging the ‘spiritual aspect’ into myself and my every day life so completely that there is no separation: the spiritual and the human aspects become one as we embody the truth of who we are – a soul housed for a while in a human body; part of Divine LIFE!-force energy expressed in human form.

While I know that traditionally ‘Be in the world, but not of it’ has been interpreted as a call for believers to set themselves apart from the world as they embody the qualities of Christ as opposed to the values of the world; for me, at this time and place where I find myself in my life, it is far more a message of integration: how can I be in this world as I am (simultaneously) not of it? In other words, how can I integrate these two aspects of myself so fully that they become one?

It seems to me that the challenge is for us to really embody our Divinity – the ‘not of’ this world side of ourselves – in each and every moment, even as we are fully present in the world. In practical terms, for me this translates as being able to walk through the world engaging fully in it, while also retaining the sense of myself as an eternal soul who has only chosen to inhabit this body for a time; to be able to sustain the highly-aware self-consciousness necessary to do this; and to let this knowing of the truth of who I am inform all my choices – my choices about the way I think, my choices about the way I act, and my choices about the way I speak, both to myself and to others.

If and when I am able to do this, I believe I really will be able to say that I am in this world but (simultaneously) not of it. Until then I will rest in the knowledge that this is the ever-present truth of my being, even when I forget it is so.

The River Flow and Embracing Change

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.

It seems that in each act of nature there is a kernel of wisdom; an immutable and eternal truth. When we allow ourselves to be really present with the world around us, our eyes are opened and we perceive more. All that is left, then, is to allow our hearts to fully engage and to receive the gift of knowing that nature is gently and lovingly sending our way.

This is the story of me and a river. A river that is, literally, waved in front of my face every day; there being only a narrow road, a field of (right now) Chinese cabbages and a stretch of river bank between it and my house. Like most of the rivers in Japan it is dammed. I walk by this river almost every day with my dog and observe it in all its many seasons.

Today, as on most days, the water is moving freely, glistening in the sunshine, animatedly tracing its path downstream. This is the river in flow; vibrant and healthy; powerful and alive; moving purposefully towards its destination.

Just occasionally, when no water has been released from the dam for a while and there’s been a dearth of rain, the river loses its vitality. It still looks poetic, trickling between the stones and pebbles on the river bed; but the water flow shrinks to a dribble and stagnant pools of it collect between rocks, stranded there without the vitalizing force of the river flow to carry them forward and downstream.

This river has been an important presence in my life ever since I moved to the village. Its beauty and quietness create a resonant peace and stillness in my heart, and I love to walk by its side.

This last year and a half it has also been a profound teacher; demonstrating by example the constant flux and flow of all that is, and reawakening in me the knowing of the necessity of embracing this change and flow in my own life.

As with the river, so it is with us; without any forward momentum our circumstances stagnate and we wake up one day to find ourselves stranded on a river bank in our lives, questioning if this is where we really want to be.

This is where I found myself at the start of last year, forced to confront the fact that the relationship, in which I’d thus far been very happy, wasn’t actually moving forward towards the kind of life of partnership and the shared future that I envisioned.

Even when we know a truth, it can take us such a long time to accept it in our lives; especially when that truth is a painful one.

And sometimes a stagnant pool of water or a familiar river bank can feel so much safer than releasing ourselves into the river flow.

Awakened from autopilot mode, I at first tried to control and shape my reality in a different direction, hoping for change within the relationship that would bring it closer to the kind of life I envisioned.

When this didn’t work, I was torn between the part of me who wanted to cling to the safe and familiar that was not only known, but had also been the biggest source of happiness in my life thus far; and the recently awakened part of me who had begun to accept that the only way I could stay in the relationship was if I chose to deny myself the opportunity to experience what it was I really wanted from relationship: a shared life built together.

This internal battle played out externally in bouts of anxiety, depression and tearfulness, as I desperately clung onto that rock in the middle of the river that my relationship had been and all the safety and security that I thought it provided; fearful to embrace the uncertainty of the river flow, even as the knowing in my heart told me that its time had come and urged me to let go and embrace the resultant deluge, allowing myself to be swept downstream.

Eventually I did pluck up the courage to relinquish myself to the river flow.

And, after a brief respite reminiscent of the stillness at the center of a whirlpool, that was when the resistance really kicked in.

It bewildered me that even though I was the one who had walked away, believing I was making a decision that served my greatest and highest good, I was still experiencing so much pain and strife at this very decision.

It is said that it’s not the change in our lives that causes the stress and anxiety, but our resistance to it.

I now know this to be true on a very personal level. It was my inability to let go internally  – to accept that circumstances and people change and some things just aren’t destined to last; that all of life is change and flow and we can never hold onto anything in the physical world, its security is all an illusion; to forgive myself for not being able to make it work and for walking away from this person who had shown me such love and kindness; to release my attachment to someone who had been such a large part of my life for so long –  even after I had let go externally, that was the cause of my pain; not the actual change in my circumstances.

And in this, too, the river became my teacher; a physical representation of the inevitable flow of all that is, as I learned to consciously release attachment and embrace change and flow.

I spent many an hour walking by the river, exhaling my resistance and attachment to the old, my fears of the unknown, my doubts and insecurities about myself and my future… Breathing in surrender to the river flow, acceptance of what is, the belief that everything in life is occurring for our greatest and highest good, trust in myself and my decision, faith in the Universe and its design for our lives, the courage to step forward into the new and unknown and embrace its infinite potential…

Being by the river and its physical reminder that all of life is flow and change calmed my heart and gave me strength. It showed me the necessity of putting my faith in the never-ending unfolding beauty and flow of life, rather than trying to cling to the illusions of the physical world or control the flow of reality

This was a process to which I had to surrender, just as the water surrenders to the river flow. And, painful as it may have been at times, I now find myself several miles downstream; more connected, more peaceful, more empowered, and facing a whole new view.

During the course of this life shift I have come to believe that just like the river we have a path, and that the flow of life naturally leads us there. I willingly surrender to this flow. I open myself to embrace change and the unknown. I am choosing anew each day to release fear and doubt and to embody courage. it is my intention to live like the river in flow – vibrant and healthy; powerful and alive; moving purposefully towards my destination as I enjoy the journey along the way.

In Celebration of Me

Picture Credit: Caroline Numina, Young Serpent;

Today I celebrated the anniversary of my 37th year here on Earth. I started the day walking my dog in the mist and the light rain, surrounded by the mountains and autumn colors of this beautiful village that I live in. As we walked I offered thanks for all that has already come into my life and all that is yet to come.

There’s something about a birthday that awakens the reflective side of our nature. Surrounded by people all day, I didn’t have the chance for much self-contemplation; but as the day draws to a close and I’m surrounded by the quietness of the night, I find myself turning inward again. As I do so the desire to self-express arises; and so it becomes, simultaneously, a turning outward, as I create this space to share what is in my heart.

Being born in 1977, I was born in the year of the snake. The snake, with its ritual sloughing of its skin, has long been a symbol of rebirth and transformation. This year I have felt an affinity with the snake. It has been, more than ever before, a year of profound transformations, both internal and external, in my life. A year of shedding old skins and negotiating and embracing the new.

Put like that it sounds so easy!

And yet it has been a year that has taken me to the darkest places within; as well as a year that has awakened in me a deep and lasting joy as I have discovered a deeper sense of connection and communion with myself; with nature; with the Universe and all that is.

Looking back I am deeply grateful for all of these experiences; the ones that my mind wants to label ‘bad’ as well as the ones it terms ‘good.’ I see now that each and every one of them has been a necessary stepping stone on the journey of deeper self-knowing and greater self-acceptance; that each and every one of them has helped me to integrate another aspect of myself and come more fully into the wholeness of who I am.

They have all contributed to bringing me to this place; a place in which I am living more authentically and more courageously than I have before; valuing myself more; thinking, speaking and acting from a more heart-centered space; and opening myself up to embrace the intrinsically spiritual nature of life.

Somewhere in the course of this year, I have started to understand what Ram Dass means when he says that we are all souls walking each other home; and to see that everything in my life is taking place with the Universe’s perfect design and timing for my greatest and highest good and my soul’s greatest and highest evolution.

For someone who, only a little more than a year ago, would have said that she didn’t even believe in souls, (or was at least undecided as to if they exist or not), that is a pretty bold statement. And yet I feel its truth resonate in my heart.

It was precisely being taken to the darkest places that allowed me to open up and allow this truth in. And so the darkness leads us to the light; in my case, the reconnection with my soul.

It is this reconnection with this purest essence of all that I am that has been the greatest gift of this year of change and transformation. A reuniting with the beauty and truth, the stillness, the Divine essence that lies at the heart of me; and also lies within the heart of you.

I center myself now and feel into this space within; it’s a place that holds the strength and the stillness of the mountains I see around me every day, contains the sunlight that sparkles on the top of the river, and the gossamer wings of the dragonflies that hover over it. It’s a strong, still, powerful, immutable place within that sings the song of my soul and the song of the whole Universe. That sings them in such beautiful harmony that they merge and  become one. A still heart; at peace with itself and all that is.

I am so grateful for this heart of mine. As I connect within my breathing slows; and I feel a deep and beautiful peace spread out from my heart and through my energy field. This beauty and peace, this love, is who I am at the core of my being; it is who we all are at the core of our beings. This is the Divine essence of me. And it is also the Divine essence that lives within you.

It’s my wish for my 37th year to live more and more from this heart-centered space; to emanate my Divinity – this great reservoir of love, peace, beauty, joy, wisdom and compassion  – in everything I do, so that these qualities permeate every cell of my being and radiate from me out into the world.

It is my desire to continue to slough away the old and to embrace deep and profound transformation in my life so that I can embody this vision more fully; actualize the purest and truest essence of myself and share this gift with the world. It’s my hope that others will read this and be inspired to do the same.

Even as I write these words I know that the very human being that I am will fall short of my desires time and time again. I hope that I have enough love and compassion towards myself to simply pick myself up, recenter in my heart, and start all over again.

Every moment is a new moment, a new start; a fresh chance to come back into our heart space, activate the qualities of our Divinity, and embody the person we want to be. The seeds of transformation have been sown in my heart; it is up to me, now, to nourish them and help them grow into an outward expression of all the beauty that lies within.

Our Suffering Our Greatest Gift?

‘Suffering? A gift? Has she gone crazy?’  (Or so I can imagine some of you thinking). And in many ways I’m inclined to agree.

I hate suffering. I would love to live in a world in which none of us have to suffer. A world of peace, joy and harmony. A world without pain, sickness, war, abusive relationships of any kind, separation or death.

But this is not the world we live in. And in the interests of the fierce honesty that I’m striving to embrace, I must admit that sometimes it can feel like there’s one heck of a lot of suffering. Sometimes it can seem too much for us to bear, both in our own lives and when we look at the world around us.

Suffering is one of our common denominators. No matter who we are, where we live in the world or what circumstances we are born into, we all encounter suffering at some point in our lives.

It strikes me now. at this late stage of the day, that this is a deeply sensitive subject to write or talk about, and that I am foolhardy to even attempt to do so. But I made a commitment to myself that I would write about the things that I feel well up inside of me asking for expression, and tonight that happens to be this notion of suffering. And, most importantly, the idea of turning our sufferings into our strengths.

I’m not going to attempt to speak to the whys and wherefores of suffering, beyond to say that I certainly don’t think our suffering is a punishment for our sins as some would have us believe. I see suffering as a natural and inevitable part of our human condition. The experience of heartbreak as natural and inevitable as the experience of love, the experience of sadness as natural and inevitable as the experience of joy. Life is all about balance, and whatever circumstances we are born into we are sure to have a mixture of both what we, with our human eyes, see as ‘the good’ and ‘the bad.’

But I have learned that ‘the bad’ can also be ‘the good,’ thinly veiled in a disguise of pain and heartache. And if it’s a bit too much of a stretch of the imagination to turn things around and see ‘the bad’ as ‘the good,’ I think a lot of us are able to resonate with the idea that it can certainly motivate us to get to the good a lot quicker, and so serves us in that way.

I want to mention, very briefly, some of the ways in which I have experienced suffering in my life, as a route into the far more important part of the story – the gifts that I have gradually come to see these instances of suffering have opened up for me. I am of the mind that it is in the telling of our stories that we help others to validate and negotiate their own. It is my sincere hope that my story will be a source of strength and hope to some amongst you.

The sufferings I choose to present here are the ones that stick in my mind because they have been directly responsible for me choosing a new way of living in, and interacting with, the world around me. In each case my experience of suffering propelled me to move forward into action and create a better life for myself, and it is in this sense that I can now call my sufferings, perhaps, my greatest gift. For it is when we’re living a life of comfortable mediocrity that it is easy to become blind to our heartfelt passions and what it is that we truly desire from life. In truth it is often our deepest and most heartfelt sufferings that push us into the self-examination necessary to dig deep and excavate this gold.

And so a job with excessive overtime in my twenties led me down the road of exhaustion, eventually forcing me to confront the fact that this was not in alignment with how I felt life should be experienced. Life was here to be lived and enjoyed; there was so much more to it than the world of work, so why was I in a situation in which I channeled all of my energies into my job and, very often, had none left to even enjoy myself on the weekend? This bit of self-reflection eventually led to a drastic change in my working circumstances; I was determined to create a life in which I could enjoy my hobbies as well as my work; and this I did. It is largely thanks to all that overtime that I was so determined to pursue my dream of taking up pottery.  So the suffering I experienced in the world of work literally gave me the gift of motivating me to follow one of my dreams; and the joy and fulfillment that doing pottery has given me since then is immeasurable.

Similarly a verbally abusive relationship pushed me to confront the fact that this was not the kind of relationship I wanted to experience, and to really investigate and consciously decide, for the first time in my life, what kind of partner I did want to be with and what kind of experiences I did want to have in relationship. This led to the creation of a beautiful relationship of mutual respect and gratitude, in which I was very happy for a very long time.

And then the next gift of suffering came along, as I realized that my genuine and heartfelt desire for more time together as a couple was not being heard. This caused me great emotional suffering; for I couldn’t believe, couldn’t get myself to accept, that this relationship in which I had been so happy for so long was now the cause of my pain.

Buddhism teaches that it is our attachment to the things in the world that creates our suffering, and this certainly rings true for me. It was my resistance to the truth that the relationship was no longer serving me, my desire to cling onto it, that created the greatest suffering of all. For when talks with my partner didn’t create the kind of change I was looking for, my ego still stubbornly refused to let go to what had been my source of love, comfort, safety and security for so long. I tried everything I could think of to make it work, longing only for the relationship to return to what it was before; as I desperately fought to try and control reality and resist the natural flow of life. And finally, when I had run out of things to try; when every day seemed to be a tear-filled one; when anxiety started to eat me up inside and it felt like depression was looming on the horizon, I had to face up to what had been staring me in the face all along: something in my life wasn’t working. Despite having a fantastic job; a still loving and caring partner; a rich and fulfilling life in so many ways, I was no longer happy. In fact, I felt so broken I wondered if I’d ever be able to put myself back together again.

Appropriately my greatest suffering opened me up into my greatest gift; the gift of rediscovering myself. This past year I have walked the path of deep self-exploration. I have gotten honest with myself. Finally! I have examined what in my life makes me happy and what does not, and started to move away from those things that don’t contribute to my happiness and deeper into those things that do. Learning that our experiences in the world are a mirror, reflecting back at us our inner reality, I was forced to confront all the ways in which I wasn’t hearing myself; was denying myself the experience of my own feelings; to heal and nurture my inner child;  and to commit to being there for myself come what may. At some point my journey of self healing became a spiritual one of self-discovery and I learned the beauty and the joy of living fully in the present moment; am learning now, bit by bit, to love and value myself exactly as I am; to be my own source of my happiness and self-worth instead of depending on other people for it. And I have also rediscovered my soul and its passion for life and all that is beautiful and good and loving; and this has maybe been the greatest gift of all.

It is in our suffering that we become vulnerable; cracked open; more in touch with the truth of who we are and the truth of our reality, as the harsh light of our pain forces us to look at everything with new, more open, more perceptive, eyes. What remains unconscious within us cannot be changed. And so it is only from the experience of this heightened perception, with which we can see what is as it really is, that we can begin to change our world.

It is in our very suffering that we are driven to experience something better in our lives. It is out of our suffering that the desire for more joy, more peace, more love, more abundance in our lives; a life truer to ourselves, emerges. It is the gift of our suffering that makes our present circumstances unacceptable to us, and this that jolts us out of our complacency and gives us the strength and courage required to break out of our comfort zone and reach out, with arms and heart stretched wide open, to embrace change in all its scary unknownness. For once the known has become unacceptable to us, what is there except for the unknown?

And as we begin to look into the truth of who we are and what we really desire for our life in the deepest, most essential part of us, we can at last start to consciously create a life with more joy in it than suffering. A life in which our sufferings themselves seem to be transmuted into joy, as we see how each and every one of them has made us stronger; led us forward on our path; and helped us to come into greater connection with ourselves and the truth of who we are.

At the end of this tumultuous and, in many ways, difficult year, I find myself stronger; more connected; more in alignment with the truth of who I am; more empowered; more at peace; more joyful more often. I am deeply grateful for all that has been given me, for all of it has awarded me the chance to know myself more fully and to expand into greater depths of my being; and it is this that has opened the door onto who I am now becoming and what I am now choosing to create in the world.

Know Your Worth; Being Hit Over the Head with a Wet Fish; and Other Things

Picture credit: iliketoquote.com

I had a startling revelation today that I seem to have somehow spent my whole life thinking that I’m unimportant and don’t matter. More specifically that my feelings don’t matter. That I have been operating under the mistaken belief that it was more important to keep everyone around me satisfied than it was to take care of my own happiness. Where I got this wonderfully warped belief from I have no idea, and I have no particular desire to look into it, either. But this sense of my own unimportance has literally directed my life; manifesting in little ways – like making it a habit of conforming to other people’s desires rather than asserting my own, and bigger and more harmful ways – such as denying myself not only the expression of, but also the experience of my feelings in relationship, because I either believed it would hurt the other person’s feelings or was painfully aware that ‘Now is not a good time’ for them. (When is it ever?)

I’m shocked at the extent of my self-abandonment and how deeply this sense of my own unimportance has penetrated, seeping into every pore of my body and every aspect of my life. No wonder I have always had a problem with self-confidence! How can you hope to be confident, when you don’t place any worth or value on yourself?

It suddenly hit me today: I Am Important. I was listening to a seminar and this one tiny sentence about how we are all an important part of the Universe’s design literally jumped out and knocked me over the head with an impact akin to being hit over the head with a wet fish.

All of a sudden, I got it: I am important.

But more; I am precious, treasured, valued, cherished, worthy, deserving, beautiful, amazing, and oh so very, very perfect. Just as I am. With all my faults and flaws; with all the parts of me that are still ‘in process.’ Because there is no one quite like me amongst the 7 billion other people on this planet. No one with my unique set of skills, gifts and winning (and some not-quite-so-winning) flaws. No one that can touch the lives of the people around them in precisely the way that I can.

And if this goes for me, it goes for all of us. Not only am I important and precious. You are important and precious. We are all important and precious, each and every one of us, all of the time; even when we don’t know it yet.

Each of us, in our own particular uniqueness, bring a set of gifts to the world that only we can bring, Our every word and action send ripples out into the world. And we have absolutely no idea how far these ripples can travel, but I would take a guess that it’s far beyond what we can conceive.

I’ve often thought I have an over-active imagination, but I don’t think this scenario is too far-fetched. Perhaps because I smiled at the lady who was serving me in the supermarket and greeted her in a friendly manner, she let another car in in front of her in heavy traffic on her way home at lunchtime. Maybe the driver of that car ‘paid it forward’ by helping her elderly neighbor with her shopping bags, and that elderly neighbor then felt moved to phone her daughter to apologize for the petty argument they’d been having. Maybe that short phone call gave the daughter enough head space to notice that her son seemed unusually quiet when he got home from after school and to ask him if he was okay. And so it goes on. Imagine how important that moment of loving attention was to that child and to the future that he is going to create. And, albeit in a very convoluted and indirect way, it may all have started with a simple smile and a friendly ‘hello.’

So know your worth. Know your value. Know your importance. Know the significance of the ‘little things.’ You are the only one who can change the world in the unique way that you already are, one small word and one small action at a time.

I’ve decided to make a list each night before going to bed of five things that I did that day that were important because they contributed to the world in a positive way. I’m hoping that this simple routine will help me to be more aware of my words and actions and to consciously send out more loving words and actions into the world. I invite you to join me. Let’s change the world one small word and action at a time. We all have that in our power. And in the owning of that power we realize our importance.

I am Supported

I recently had a spate of things ‘going wrong’ with my house and the things in it. The floor in my corridor, which had always had a severe dip at one end of it even when I first moved in about 11 years ago, has, over the years, distorted so much so that for a few years now the nails that are supposed to be holding it up have been clearly visible above the flooring, and glimpses of the weeds outside can be seen through the resultant gap.

To be honest this hadn’t really worried me all that much. I knew that my landlord didn’t plan to spend any money on the house because of its age, and that they had said they were planning to knock it down when I moved out. The floor had never felt particularly unstable, and as long as I was careful not to snag my clothes or, worse, my bare feet, on the nails, I didn’t really see it as too much of a problem; more an idiosyncrasy of the house.

Then, a couple of weeks ago the floor in the room next to it began to make ominous noises when I walked on that side of the corridor to avoid the deepest part of the dip in the middle. On the same night the sliding door at the end of the corridor also began to play up, and was so difficult to move that I was afraid I might accidentally trap myself in the toilet and bathroom area that lies beyond. I had visions of myself naked and in distress having to climb outside the bathroom window to let myself back into the main part of the house.

Living far away from my home country and the support of family members, the next morning I duly called my pottery teachers, (one of whom is also a wizard with wood and had looked at it a couple of weeks previously and said he’d see what could be done), and explained the situation to them. He said he would come by that week and, in the meantime, I started to tread more gingerly, not wanting to make the situation any worse or, as he had indicated might be a possibility, fall through the floor.

I didn’t really think of it as anything more than a structural problem with the house, and maybe a sign that I had left things as they were for a bit too long. But then, the very next day, two of the wheels broke off the bottom of the cheap plastic drawers I used to store my computer-related things in as I moved it very slightly to one side as I had done hundreds of times before.

Now I was listening. I’ve been putting my attention on reading the signs the Universe sends me, and it seemed that the combination of these two things could be an indication that there was something wrong with my ‘foundations’ and that I wasn’t supported enough or building on solid enough ground.

I’ve been on a journey the last year or so of coming back into relationship with my soul, so I didn’t think it was that. I felt like I was building on more solid ground than I had in a long time. So what was the Universe trying to say to me? I wasn’t sure; but figured it would all become clear in time.

Sure enough, my teacher arrived on the Wednesday morning, complete with concrete blocks and thick and sturdy looking pieces of wood, and squeezed himself under the house to take a look. His verdict: there wasn’t enough room under there to get the materials in and raise the floor from beneath as he had hoped to do.

Briefly, I felt my heart sink. I didn’t feel quite up to the task of looking for a new place to live just yet, but didn’t want to live in a house that was considered unsafe.

Then he continued: the corridor was actually far more stable than he had originally thought. There was, in fact, a whopping great beam that ran right down the center of it; and the only reason the floor dipped was because when they constructed the house some space had  inadvertently been left between the beam and the flooring. That dipped part in the center of the corridor was actually the safest place to put your weight on. He even jumped up and down on it energetically a few times to show me.

Now I had my message: I am more supported than I can ever know. I have been supported all along. I’m supported now. And now. And now. And all it takes is a slight shift in perception to see it.

This rang true for me at last.

Despite a fantastic network of friends here, I have sometimes felt like I can’t ask for the support I feel I need, practical and emotional, because it feels like I might be putting them out too much. While most of us have some sort of issues with our family, at least in more cases than not we know that they can be counted on to be there for us and support us in someway if we need them. With friends I believe we often exercise a bit more restraint; not wanting to burden them with our problems when we know they have enough of their own things going on.

Until I, very recently, got my permanent residency, I hadn’t felt safe or secure in my right to be here in Japan either; fearing each time I renewed my visa, in case I somehow didn’t meet the conditions this time round.

And yet I now knew, with a conviction and certainty that surprised me, that even though I might not have seen it before, the Universe has been supporting me all along.

This has been particularly transparent this last year, as I have walked the path of awakening; gradually becoming more and more aware of such things.

When I was feeling trapped and stuck in emotional pain, along came a seminar on releasing your emotions and letting go. I decided I needed a new closet for my bedroom that was short enough to let in more light from the window behind, and my friend in the village asks me does anyone need two chests of drawers she has recently removed from her mother’s house. I noticed, again, in what bad repair the bookcase in my living room was and decided a new one needed to be procured, and a friend who is clearing out her office space has one that is the perfect fit for the very limited space I have. Even this week, I realized I needed to get some bins for the shelves that replaced the plastic case, and my good friend just happens to have two that she no longer needs.

And when I look back at my life, I can see that I have always been supported, even before I really knew that that was what it was. Succeeding in getting on the JET program and coming to Japan despite a dreadful, dreadful interview. In the past somehow always managing to surround myself with people who like to cook for me, at least enough that I’m not going to starve and go hungry despite my own, until recently, very limited cooking skills. Talking to the one person in the village who could tell me who I needed to ask to introduce me to the landlady so that she would be open to letting this house, when I had been told by others in the village that it was in no way an option.

The ways in which I’ve been supported are multifold and I could go on and on. All it took was a slight shift in perception to begin to perceive it.

I have now started to give thanks for this support as I notice it; to affirm that I’m receiving it; and to invite more of it in by giving thanks in advance for all the support that I will be given that day. As I incorporate these practices into my daily life, the support continues to flood in. I am more aware of it than I was before and notice it for what it is. I am truly grateful for all the goodness and abundance that has been given me. And I open my arms wide to receive more. I know that I’m standing on a solid foundation of support from none less than the all mighty Universe, and that however much I might feel like I’m balancing precariously on thin ice at times, all it takes is a slight shift in perception to see just how completely taken care of I really am.

Everything we have comes from and is given back to the Universe. I like to think that the Universe delights in our appreciation of its gifts, just as we delight in a small child’s excitement at and appreciation of his or her birthday presents. What can we be thankful for today? How are we being supported? When we open our eyes to these things, we realize just how beautiful and miraculous life is – life itself being the most precious gift of all.

(More on the plastic case in the next post).