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A Love Letter into 2016

Italy PathOne of my favorite New Year’s Eve traditions is to write myself a “love letter” that I open on the following New Year’s Eve. Last year I was traveling and never took the time to do this, and I was a little bummed today and not having left that little surprise for myself. So today, I made some coffee, lit some candles, and spent some time getting my reflections onto paper.

By any measure, 2015 was an incredible year for me. Personally and professionally, it seemed like great things happened at every turn. And you know what I found out? When things are going good, it’s hard for me to believe that I haven’t “used it all up.” I find myself thinking that I better enjoy it while it lasts, because this is as good as it gets. [Really?]

I spent a lot of years as a pretty unhappy being. I felt like everyone had it better than me. I drifted from situation to situation (relationships, jobs, friendships, whatever) with no real sense of purpose or direction. There was a constant pit of resentment hanging in my gut all of the time. And while my life wasn’t exactly what one would call despairing, it wasn’t that great either. Even “good things” didn’t feel that good. I could never be truly happy for anyone else because I was always just thinking about everything that was wrong with me, and why it would never improve. As you can imagine, this was not a happy existence.

When things changed for me and I began to work on spiritual healing, my eyes were opened to a whole new way of being. Good things were happening for me all the time! In truth, they always had been, or could’ve been, but I would just drive them away. And you know what? Those old habits and ways of thinking are hard to break. So one of the things I’ll be working on in the coming year is affirming that the universe provides an endless flow of good, and it was only by opening the channels for it to happen that it finally started coming into my life. I’ve seen it for real in my life – what we believe on the inside comes true for us on the outside.

In my letter, I wrote out some goal for spiritual growth in 2016:

  • Don’t believe that the flow of good is limited and that you’ve received all you can get. Affirm the positive, be grateful for what you’ve received, and keep the channels open for the positive flow.
  • Those people who trigger you – the ones you resent – kick them out of your head as soon as they appear. Out of love for yourself, value your own serenity enough to keep those negative thoughts out.
  • Think only in terms of what it means to you in choosing your thoughts, actions, and words. These are not dependent on what someone else might think or say about them.
  • Be at peace with the people who’ve left your life, regardless of the circumstance, choice (yours or theirs), or even the manner (or absence) of a goodbye. Stop the guilty feelings around eliminating negative presences in your life.
  • Be gentle with yourself and treat yourself in a loving manner always. By extension, remember that everyone around you is also human and only reflecting outwardly the spirit that dwells inside of them.
  • By the same token, detach from people when necessary. Your job is not to fix someone else’s spiritual wounds. Subjecting yourself to attacks or abuse, or diminishing yourself as an attempt to help someone feel more comfortable, is not loving yourself, nor living to the potential of your divine greatness.
  • Spend every day this year doing some form of creating, learning, and exploring. Never stop offering gratitude. Value your serenity above all. Always choose love over fear.

I wish all of you a peaceful, serene, and prosperous 2016!!

Bless Them. Change Me.

LiveAGreatStoryToday I found myself annoyed. That’s not surprising; I’m a professional.

I was annoyed with everyone’s favorite online punching bag: Facebook. More specifically, I was annoyed with the political bantering (especially that with which I did not agree), particularly from people who’ve shown a tendency to habitually post things intolerant toward certain groups of people – groups that, in my self-righteous opinion, these online vocalizers do not know on a personal level. My opinion is that these people watch too much TV and listen too much to people who look and think and act like them. The vocalizers never leave their own cultural shell, my belief says. They are ignorant, fearful, and therefore … hateful.

Whoa.

First of all, it’s Facebook. I’ve loved Facebook for the fact it’s kept me connected to people with whom I otherwise would’ve lost touch long ago. There are things that make me laugh. People share positive news and photos of their kids and reminders of things from years back. And yet … instead, I’m focused on a minority of people who express opinions I find disagreeable.

Really?

I am solely responsible for my state of mind and the emotions I feel. Nobody controls that but me, though I’ve had a long habit of giving up that control to other people – and there’s nobody else to blame for that. Outwardly, we are reflections of our inside selves. So if I find someone else’s opinion inferior to my own … if I have to dwell on how much better I am than someone else … if I have to put someone down to feel better about myself … what’s that saying about my inner spiritual condition?

Just for today I’m making a pledge to enjoy the POSITIVE parts of Facebook (cat photos, long-lost connections), and put aside the things I don’t like.

And if you find yourself struggling with the same, might I make a suggestion? Two of Facebook’s greatest features, IMO: “Unfollow.” “Restricted List.” (I might be working on setting emotional boundaries, but I don’t have to put myself out there to be bombarded with negativity either.)

And of course, when I find myself not in agreement with someone’s opinions or actions, I’ll remember this simple prayer: “Bless them. Change me.”

Dear Stranger at the Park …

I’m sorry if I came off as rude.shades and rocks

No. I’m really not sorry at all. The only thing I’m sorry about is that my first instinct is to still say “I’m sorry” when I don’t do what someone else wants or expects me to do.

I had stopped to get some food, eat and read for a few minutes, then get on with my errands and my evening. Striking up conversation wasn’t part of that plan, certainly not with strangers who imposed themselves into my space and ignored every physical cue I was giving that I really wanted to be left alone.

I was fine with telling you where I got the food, but when you kept asking questions I just gave you a nod and looked away. Thankfully you got it and left.

You likely walked away with an unfavorable impression of me, but really I don’t care. I know who I am, and I am comfortable with that, even the areas that could use work. I can’t control what other people think of me, and it’s none of my business anyway. I like myself a whole lot. No other opinion merits much value, if any. I’ve worked very hard to get here.

There are a whole lot of boundary-less people out there, and I used to be one of them. I did things I did not want to do for people who were not always nice or respectful to me, sometimes for people I really didn’t even like at all. But, I felt like I had to do this thing, these things they were requesting of me. To refuse would mean I wasn’t nice. I really wanted you – ALL OF YOU – to think I was nice. If you didn’t, it was just confirming some of the bad things I was already thinking about myself.

But I’d do these things I didn’t want to do, and I’d get resentful. Sometimes it would make me not very nice to be around. I could complain that I was coerced, but that wasn’t true. I had said yes, and sometimes I had even volunteered without being asked. It was nobody’s fault but mine.

Back in those days it seems like I had a lot of unhappy people around me … people who tried to prove their problems were the worst or their achievements were the greatest or whatever. They aren’t bad people, but they are wounded, and they were looking to other people and other factors outside of themselves to heal those wounds. One day, I decided I couldn’t be in the healing business anymore. I found out it was a bottomless pit and a never ending battle. So I gave up and focused on healing my own wounds instead.

And what do you know! Now I’m mostly surrounded by positive and happy people. Respectful and kind people. Once I stopped acting like a victim, I stopped attracting people to prey on me.

And so, stranger at the park, I guess that brings us to our encounter. My intuition told me you were the kind of person who did not easily take no for an answer, and I knew if I gave you any sort of entry point, that would be my own fault. I’d be pressed to answer questions I did not want to answer, desperately searching for an escape from something I allowed. So instead, I didn’t even let the cycle start. That’s why there was no smile or air of welcome from me.

I’m not sorry about seeming rude or unfriendly. But I am thankful to you. Today you showed me how much I have grown.

A Smack-Talking Fast (or an attempt, anyway)

The lenten season is upon us! I know, while I talk a lot about spirituality on here, I generally stay away gotmailfrom what could be defined as “religion” … because (1) I don’t want anyone to get the idea that this is an exclusive club for one faith or another, and (2) that kind of talk can make people nervous. I get it. My relationship with God is individualized exclusively to me.

I suppose another reason is because I see a lot of value in many different faiths … they all have great things to teach and wonderful concepts to apply to everyday living. If someone held a gun to my head, I’d say I’m episcopalian, but it’s more like Buddhist-opalian. I love the sacred rituals of the divine liturgy, but I also love the wisdom of dharma.

So that brings me back to lent. I’ve given up different things with varying degrees of success (never touched a packet of Splenda again after giving it up in ’13 … but when I gave up swearing in 2012 I didn’t even make it through the drive to the office on Ash Wednesday morning). This year I agonized over the choice between shopping or sweets, even thinking about chucking both.

But the real inspiration didn’t hit me until Ash Wednesday, which this year found me traveling across the country for a combo work trip-vacation. I decided I would do my best to give up speaking negatively about other people. At first I just started with “coworkers” – where my offenses are worst – but decided I needed to broaden it to include everyone. Including me!

One time, I heard the ultimate way to practice this – never, EVER talk about someone unless they are in the room and part of your conversation. (In practical terms, that can be difficult, but the intent is marvelous.)

I’ll admit it’s not always been easy, and I’ve failed a couple of times, but overall, I think it’s getting better. And even stopping myself when I can see I’m headed down the path, pulling back to either say something “neutral,” or to just keep silent, really puts me in a whole different frame of mind. Instead of just firing off, I have to be mindful and choose different words – or no words at all.

In a way I’m seeing this as an experiment to try out the spiritual laws of the universe. I absolutely know that what I give out, I will in turn receive. So what if I give more positivity, more love?

It’s not an overnight transformation, but there are payoffs. Today I got impatient when I was behind a driver who clearly wasn’t sure of where he was going. But I reminded myself of all the times I’ve been in that exact same situation myself … and my gentleness and patience were both found. I’ve been able to look at total strangers with a spirit of love, looking beyond their outer appearances and into their very humanity.

It’s powerful. I know I won’t be perfect but I at least strive to be better, especially toward the folks who’ve gotten under my skin. I do my best to bless them, love them, release them. My reward is a more peaceful state of being.

Before the Party … a Few Moments of Peace

NYE ritualsAs I write this, I am preparing for a very important ritual. I lit some candles, found some peaceful music. My home is suffering some “holiday chaos,” but I cleared and prepared and nice space before me for the ritual. After I write this, I will shut down the laptop, turn off the phone, brew a pot of tea, and spend a couple of reflective hours with myself. This isn’t a time for hurrying or for distraction. This is time I spend in the loving company of myself.

For the past several years, one of my rituals has been to write myself a love letter. Then, I open it on the following New Year’s Eve. This year, I’m doing the same, but with a twist – I am also going to write a letter to my Higher Power (which I call God), written as though all of my prayers for this year have been answered.

But this morning I was blessed to find this terrific New Year’s ritual from The Ford Institute. So I am going to embark on this as well – some writing, some prayer, some meditation. The ritual begins with taking a vow to myself and to the universe to find peace and blessings in the coming year, and to live in the best way that I can. After that, this is how the rest goes:

  • Make a list of 10 experiences that blessed and nourished you in 2013.
  • To complete 2013, write out why you chose the challenging experiences of the last year. Do this from the highest perspective so that you can find their gifts.
  • Notice if you’re carrying any dark, small or limiting thoughts into 2014. Write them all down. Affirm you don’t need them anymore. They’re not the truth. They’re just thoughts. Then rip them up into 100 shredded little pieces and throw them in the trash.
  • Choose one quality (e.g., love, peace, success, respect, etc.) that you most want to express and commit to in 2014. Write out 5 ways that you can give and share this quality with others.
  • Write down 5 goals that you feel inspired to commit to in 2014.
  • Read this vow or use one of your own each morning to reconnect with the power you hold to light up the world.

Whether tonight includes a festive gathering of friends, quiet time with a loved one, or a solo night relaxing, I wish you all a safe, happy, joyous, blessed, and peaceful New Year. Thanks for being with me on this journey for the last year. I am sending you all the love of the universe for 2014!

Andrew Hines

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