By Robert Gerzon
We yearn for balance in our lives. We often feel that there is simply not enough time to do all the things we need to do each day. And usually we blame ourselves for not doing a better job at balancing the conflicting demands of work, family and friends. During a radio interview, the woman hosting the program said to me, "I have so many things going on each day, sometimes it drives me crazy! Isn’t it hard to find balance in our lives today?"
To her surprise, I replied, "It's not just hard...It’s impossible!"
For a moment she didn’t know whether to feel discouraged or relieved. Then she responded, "You know, I do think a lot of my stress and anxiety comes from thinking I should be able to balance it all. If it’s impossible then I don’t have to feel so bad about not being able to pull it off."
"Exactly," I replied. "As a husband, a father of five, and a self-employed writer, psychotherapist and speaker, it’s very easy for me to become discouraged when I compare my actual daily life to an ideal state of perfect balance. I find that the more I try to balance all these competing roles, the more they seem to pull me apart. One of my first steps toward finding serenity was to accept that almost every day would be unbalanced."
This autumn, Nature again teaches us a valuable lesson about balance. The autumnal equinox marks a brief moment in the earth’s yearly journey around the sun when day and night are exactly equal. I find it reassuring that even after centuries of practice, Nature can only find perfect balance between light and dark two days out of the year!
Nature’s seasonal cycle further instructs us that imbalance is beautiful — imbalance makes life interesting. If the earth were perfectly centered on its axis we would have no delightful spring mornings, no summer beach days, no crisp autumn afternoons and no crystalline winter nights — just one perfectly balanced, bland, monotonous climate all year round.
It is thanks to Mother Earth’s imperfect, wobbly axis that she spins out everything from tranquil breezes to hurricanes, teaching those of us who ride upon its surface to appreciate the richly varied spectrum of the year, to savor the unique imbalance of each day.
Practically speaking, how can this lesson from Mother Earth help us deal with the often painful conflicts we experience living in today’s rushed society? Four suggestions come to mind:
First, and most important, we can begin to accept imbalance as a fact of life and let go of the guilt and self-blame. Why not simply and humbly accept that it’s impossible to balance it all? This frees us to enjoy each day’s unique and often surprising imbalances as much as possible.
Second, we can recognize how fragmented our lives have become and take steps toward greater wholeness. Wherever possible we can begin to knit together the separated pieces of our life. Instead of spending longer hours at the office to pay for commercial yard maintenance why not combine exercise, family time, and values education with accomplishing a necessary chore?
Third, we can accept daily and even weekly imbalance while aiming for a more realistic "rolling balance." Some days will be mostly work, some mostly household chores, some mostly family activities. But overall, like nature, we can achieve an imperfect, somewhat messy, yet workable rolling balance.
Fourth, we can make sure we really enjoy those fleeting moments of perfect balance. We can savor those equinoxes in our lives when we have the perfect day. What are your favorite "equinox days" like?
Mine are usually not spectacular days, but surprisingly simple and ordinary ones. I delight in those wonderful weekend days when the bonds between me, my family and the natural world can grow stronger, unbroken by the countless interruptions and separations of the workaday world. These blessed times are all the sweeter for their fleeting nature.
If we accept today’s unbalanced basket of gifts, remember past gifts, and trust that what is missing in today’s basket will appear in a future one, we can find greater serenity in this age of anxiety.
Today the Town of Concord holds its annual Holocaust Memorial Observance in remembrance of the six million Jews who perished under the Nazi regime. Having lost family members in that Holocaust this day has special relevance for me.
As an American, this day includes another dimension of remembering for me. I recall the genocide of millions of Native Americans on this continent through killing, dispossession of their lands, disease, enslavement and removal to concentrations camps (so-called "reservations"). Hitler noted the success of the U.S. government in the ethnic cleansing of Indians in justifying and planning his campaign against the Jews.
As a planetary human being, this day also reminds me of the global destruction that is happening today during this era of mass extinction of indigenous cultures, ecosystems, plants and animals.
May we all find our way to healing the legacy of fear and violence on this planet by returning to the Original Teachings of Love and Truth.
My talk about the impact of the Holocaust on my family and my life is available here
I too will end up in the dustbin of history.
Naturally, that didn't make me feel very good so I decided to take a look at why.
Being fascinated with language, I like to think in pictures. I got an image of "the dustbin of history."
Today instead of "dustbin" we use the word "trashcan." So I got an image of a trashcan. I immediately could feel what a toxic industrial image it was. I don't want to end up in anybody's trashcan, not even History's.
I'm always looking for ways to express ideas using more truthful and more beautiful language than the kind that society installed in my brain. I usually look to Mother Nature for guidance.
I saw leaves falling and becoming nutrients for next year's seedlings. I saw myself taking kitchen scraps out to the compost bin.
I felt much more relaxed with the image of a compost bin instead of a trashcan. It actually gave me a warm feeling.
I don't mind ending up in history's compost pile. That way I know that I am being valued, even after I'm gone. My body, my life's work and life's energy will be food for the future.
I like thinking that we will all become one again in Life's compost bin.
Maybe I'll meet you there some day.
Much of what we do in our lifetime ends up, as the saying goes, "in the dustbin of history." As I reflect on that I have to face the equally valid conclusion that
We are taking our mission to create a Conscious Earth to the next level. We believe in the need for healing on all levels from the personal to the national to the planetary.
America is having a mid-life crisis. Many Americans have the feeling that our society is heading in the wrong direction.
If we are to regain our health as a nation and find a new and inspiring direction we need to decide who we are and who we want to be. We need to know our history if we want to know our future.
America has become the planet's most powerful storyteller. Our story and the choices we make will determine the fate of the world. But what is America's story?
Turtle Island is the untold story of America and her destiny. Turtle Island (a Native American name for North America) is a four-volume epic (which we are currently writing) that follows the lives of two dynamic families from America before Columbus to the present day. It is myth, adventure, history, love story, and a consciousness-changing experience. Turtle Island transforms American "his-story" into a "his-&-her-story" that incorporates the views of women, Native Peoples and Mother Earth herself.
The Peacemakers is the first book in the series. It tells the story of America when it was still Turtle Island, before the arrival of the Europeans. It is a mythic novel inspired by the historically-based legend of a Native American spiritual leader and a charismatic clan mother who join together to bring a message of love and peace to their people during a dark time of conflict and hardship.
This ancient legend and its teachings were suppressed and nearly obliterated for centuries. Their rediscovery may well hold the missing key to America's spiritual identity and historic destiny.
We'll be posting updates about Turtle Island and sharing the story via Facebook and our blog. We hope you will join us for this exciting journey of rediscovery and healing
We all love a good story. Stories take us into new worlds of possibility.
Have you ever thought of your life as a story?
We write our life story with our thoughts. We live our life story through our actions.
It's not uncommon to get stuck in a repetitive story, a story that's become boring and limits our growth, or one that's painful to live. That's because our basic storylines were written long ago when we were younger and did have a lot of choice about what got programmed into our minds.
Since we are the ones writing our story we can change our story. If we don't like the storyline we're currently living, why not rewrite it?
New stories about who we are and what is possible for us can infuse our life with new energy and creativity. New stories can open us to solutions to chronic problems. New stories can change our approach to relationship issues and career questions.
Who is the author of your life story? Is it your true inner self? Or is your life story being written by a squabbling committee composed of characters from your childhood, from the media and society?
You can start writing a new story by asking yourself: "Who is writing my life story?" Your authentic life story can only be written by your true inner author. The words author, authority and authentic all come from the same root meaning "creator."
This New Year is a time of new beginnings. Please join us for a workshop or contact us for a Change Your Life Consultation if you'd like to get in more touch with your true inner voice and begin to write a more authentic life story.
Every religion has at its core the practice of gratitude.
I've identified two levels of gratitude; the natural and the sacred.
Natural gratitude is being appreciative of the "good things" in our life: having enough money, having things turn out the way we hoped, being treated the way we like by other people, etc. Even when we experience the good things in life, we sometimes take them for granted and forget to express our gratitude.
If it's hard to remember to practice natural gratitude, imagine how much more challenging it is to practice sacred gratitude.
Sacred gratitude means being grateful for Everything in life. Sacred gratitude is unconditional gratitude.
It is thanking the Creator for Everything She created. Appreciating Creation just as the Creator made it. No if's, and's or but's. No ego judging, picking and choosing.
If something exists, it is part of Creation. Many spiritual traditions teach that Creation is the Creator's Spirit embodied in material form. The Universe is the Creator's Body.
If there's something I don't like or don't think is right in this Universe, I have two choices:
(1) I can argue with the Creator about it.
(2) I can say, a little more humbly, "Thank you very much. I don't really understand the value of this part of Your Creation yet, but I want to learn to appreciate it because I know You created it this way for a reason."
Practicing sacred gratitude has enhanced my spiritual growth. It has confused and discombobulated me. It has changed the way I see the world. It has challenged many of my beliefs (especially those core beliefs having to do with "good and bad" and "right and wrong").
And my gratitude practice has had a most interesting "side effect." It has dramatically increased my enjoyment of life.
I sometimes still get confused and discombobulated in my gratitude practice. But I'm finding I prefer being confused yet in love with Life to being right but unhappy with Life.
So if you're up for it, you can do an experiment:
Practice natural gratitude. Or practice sacred gratitude. Or if you want to maximize your happiness, practice both.
Here's the basic practice:
Whatever happens in your life, feel your natural feelings and then express an unconditional "Thank you!" to the Creator. Enjoy the feeling of "loving what is." If the situation requires an action step from you then you can respond authentically from a center of love and gratitude.
If that "Thank you!" provokes a resistant inner voice that says, "But I don't like this! I don't approve of it and I think it's just plain wrong!" then feel free to have a good conversation with the Creator about it. She loves to hear from Her co-creators.
Last Friday Chris and I visited Occupy Boston
which is Boston's version of Occupy Wall Street
. It's located on Dewey Square across from the Federal Reserve Building and South Station. Occupy Boston is a well-organized tent community on a small strip of land between two streets and towering office buildings.
The Occupy movement is now nationwide. They describe themselves as "a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%."
I felt both disturbed and excited by what I saw.
I was disturbed to see that here in America, life has become so desperate for so many people that they are willing to live on a traffic island and sleep in tents with temperatures getting down in the 40's.
Here in the world's richest, most powerful nation, one that prides itself on being a bastion of democracy and equal opportunity, millions of people, from recent college graduates to midlife professionals to elders, are living without meaningful work, without basic necessities and without financial security.
Combining the Tea Party and Occupy Wall St. messages paints a picture of the average American being oppressed by both tax payments and interest payments. The first goes to the government and the second to Wall St.
The mass media do a good job of ignoring the tidal wave of pain that has swept over this country since the financial meltdown of 2008. They report the facts but leave out the faces. The We Are The 99%
movement shows us the faces.
That's the disturbing part.
What got me excited about my visit to Occupy Boston is seeing people who have changed their consciousness and are helping to change the consciousness of America. These people have stopped blaming themselves, stopped believing in corporate media propaganda, and are directing their anxiety and anger toward an unjust system.
They are thinking for themselves and waking up from the trance of apathy. They turned off the TV and computer, walked outside into the real world and joined forces.
These protests are a healthy sign that the immune system of the country is still working. Our nation's families are being sickened by toxic financial viruses spread through a corrupt economic system. Now people of all generations are responding by speaking truth to power.
The government and the corporations have merged into GovCorp
, a monster that runs on our money and no longer cares about the people it purports to serve.
It's exciting to see people demonstrating in the streets saying, "This is what democracy looks like." It's exciting to see citizens practicing democracy in their General Assembly meetings. This is exactly how the patriots of Boston began freeing themselves from the domination of the British Empire.
No knows where this will lead. The ruling class (the 1% that owns 40% of the country's resources) will undoubtedly try to marginalize and suppress the Occupy movement. They tried to suppress the protests against segregation, war, greed and environmental destruction in the sixties.
The future of this country depends on how each of us responds to the crisis facing our nation.
Chris and I are returning this week with blankets, tarps and other supplies collected from our neighborhood for the people encamped at Occupy Boston. It's a start.
Is the economy getting you down?
Maybe it's not simply "the economy." Maybe it is also the way you're talking to yourself about the economy. Of course it's important to have enough money to pay your bills. But what a lot of people are learning today is that you can't depend on money for your sense of security.
Spiritual teachers have been saying this for thousands of years. Buddha taught that being too attached to material things means we will inevitably experience suffering when they are taken away. In fact we don't have to actually lose anything to experience suffering. Just worrying about losing things creates suffering. Jesus likewise advised his followers to focus on developing a rich spiritual life more than accumulating earthly treasure.
Spiritual teachers can teach, but each of us has to learn this powerful lesson for ourselves. The current economic crisis presents each of us with a priceless opportunity for genuine spiritual growth.
Our biggest asset in difficult times is our ability to stay calm, think clearly and act confidently. Instead of saying. "I need more financial security," trying saying "I need more spiritual security."
We can begin searching for a spiritual path if we haven't found one yet. We can focus on deepening our spiritual life if we already have an active spiritual life. There's no time like the present to think about what's really important to us and how to live our life purpose.
We all have direct access to the Source of Life. When we are connected to our Source we experience inner peace and find the strength to take our next step.
On a practical level we can use the current crisis to get our financial house in order. We can examine our relationship to money. If we've worshiped money or been a slave to money, we can turn money into our servant. If we've let our desires run ahead of our earnings, this is a good time to practice some practical Buddhism and upgrade our desire for more money into a deeper yearning for inner harmony. True happiness comes from within.
On a political level, if we feel the system is unfair and favors wealthy investors over working men and women, we can boycott credit cards (or pay them off in full each month). Credit card debt just transfers our hard-earned money into the already overstuffed pockets of the rich. And if the unholy alliance between Big Government and Big Corporations (GovCorp) gets us really outraged, we can channel that anger into demanding that this outdated, corrupt and broken financial system be replaced by one that is fair and just for all Americans.
On a societal level we can reexamine our priorities. Money is not the source of wealth. Wealth comes from Mother Earth: from fertile soil, sparkling waters and clear air. Let's take better care of Mother Earth. Wealth comes from healthy, energetic human beings working together to create dynamic creative communities. Let's take better care of each other and think about the kind of world we want our children to inherit.
So don't let the economic depression get you depressed. Don't let those negative voices drain your energy. Do what spirited, courageous people have always done. Turn problems into opportunities for growth. Transform despair into a deeper faith.
Invest a half hour a day in your spiritual life. Invest it any way you like: meditate for peace, pray for faith, dance for joy, sing with gratitude, serve with love. It's the best investment you can make. The dividends are divine and the rate of return is infinite.
by Robert Gerzon
We live our lives in the same way that we chew our food -- consciously or unconsciously.
Conscious eating: Eating with freedom, enjoyment and full awareness.
Unconscious eating: Eating from habit, with minimal enjoyment and awareness.
Living consciously is a challenging practice in today's world. I've found that conscious eating makes staying conscious during the rest of the day so much easier.
Conscious eating is the "guts" of conscious living.
When I eat calmly and consciously, I feel calm and conscious for hours afterward. The mood in which a meal is eaten persists for the duration of the entire digestive process.
The act of eating is a moment of profound energy transformation. In earlier times eating was accompanied by ritual, by prayer.
Conscious eating has many benefits including greater enjoyment, better health and optimal weight. The more attention I pay to my food, the more I enjoy it, the better I digest it, and the less I need to eat.
There are two "rules" to conscious eating.
Rule 1: Eat whenever you want, whatever you want and however much you want.
(No problems so far, right? I'd like to stop with Rule 1, but there is one more.)
Rule 2: When you eat, eat. Focus all your attention on your food and the process of eating. Enjoy your meal or snack fully by paying attention to it fully. Don't distract yourself with other activities, like reading, TV, computer, smartphone.
Here are some additional guidelines that have helped me eat more consciously over the past few decades (some days more consciously, some days not so consciously).
• Before I eat, I ask myself, "Is what I am feeling hunger or habit?" I take time to visualize the foods that I desire most and that will make my body feel the best. Eating the right food at the right time is deeply satisfying.
• I take a moment to breathe and feel gratitude for the food I am about to eat.
• When I eat alone, I often eat as an act of meditation -- with full awareness. I avoid distractions like reading and TV. I close my eyes and savor each mouthful. I meditate on the earth, water and sunshine that I am eating. I meditate on where my food came from and the people who helped bring it to my table. Meditating on delicious foods is one of life's easiest and most enjoyable meditations!
• When I eat with other people, I enjoy conversing during the meal. At the same time, I keep my attention focused on my own eating experience.
• I chew consciously. Chewing is the first stage of the entire digestive process and the only one I have conscious control over. Thorough chewing breaks food down into tiny particles and mixes it with the digestive enzymes in saliva. This benefits every subsequent stage of digestion from the stomach to colon. "Chewing meditations" can be very enjoyable. Sometimes I'll count each chew. I am still surprised how easy it is to get absorbed in it and chew one mouthful one hundred times.
• "Drink your food and chew your drink." Chew your food until it turns to liquid in your mouth. Savor and gently swish your beverage around in your mouth before you swallow.
• If I feel bored while eating, I stop eating until I find it interesting.
• I savor the flavor. I notice the subtle changes in how my food tastes while I'm chewing it. I'm aware of this magical transformation that's taking place: food is turning into me.
• I eat as much as I want. When I begin to feel full, I stop eating. My body is telling me, "Thanks, I have all I need for now." By listening to my body I can avoid that sluggish feeling that comes from overeating. I keep that light, energetic feeling.
• I remember all the people in the world who are literally starving to death because they do not have access to the good food that I am eating. This helps me to take no more than I need and to do what I can to make this world a place where all people have access to life's necessities.
• Having eaten this food, I ask myself "To what purpose can I best direct the energy I have received?"
Conscious eating is a simple, powerful idea. But actually doing it is not so easy. Our whole society fosters unconscious eating. My ego has been conditioned to use food in lots of unhealthy ways, like using food to feed a hungry heart. My ego gets anxious when its familiar habit patterns are disrupted by conscious eating. This reminds me that conscious eating, the most biological of practices, is also the most spiritual of practices.
If you are interested in eating more consciously, experiment with making the first mouthful of each meal a conscious one. Set aside one meal each week as a sacred meal to be eaten in a quiet and meditative way.