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Stevie Ray

What is a spiritual awakening?

Jan 27, 2014 11:17 am

A waking, an allowing, an embracing of spirit. A spiritual awakening is a new birth, a renaissance, of the undeniable existence of our one connected spirit, connected to a living universe, connected to a God of flux, connected to billions of other conscious souls, alive and in flux, all merging with increasing awareness, all perfect in the dazzling light of this very instant.

A spiritual awakening is not a denial of ego, nor emotion, nor instinct, but a cooperation of all the various facets which make us individually and indivisibly human, a cooperation of apparent physicality with divine bliss, a simplification of time not into the categories of past, future, and present, but a single moment that encompasses the reality of timelessness. There is no length of holy bliss for bliss is not constrained by a time line. For there is no perception, no reality, of time in the perfection of spirit.

A spiritual awakening requires no belief, only experience. Thus, the path to the choice of allowing that awakening requires a willingness to surrender beliefs, beliefs in limits, beliefs in the equanimity of the physical and apparent world with the world beyond comprehension. The physical exists—this is our experience—but not at the exclusion of spirit. The physical world exists not in spite of spiritual truth but because of spiritual truth.

Spirit creates. The world is born. Spirit breathes. The world is renewed. Spirit dreams. The world is changed.

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Sustaining and Building Faith

Nov 18, 2013 03:34 pm

How do we build faith?

Faith is a gift; faith is continually expanded in a state of grace.

How do we then achieve and maintain a state of grace?

Grace, by its very definition, is freely given. Grace needn’t be deserved nor earned. Nonetheless, grace, like any gift, can only be received by a willing and ready receiver. We first open our minds and hearts to God. Then we open our mouths and ask. Finally, we open our arms to receive.

Regardless of religion or specific belief system, the process is the same. We set aside our selfish natures and seek some higher power. We ask that higher power, who we seek to continually know more fully and intimately, for the gift, the grace, of faith. We start small. None have ever begun the path with perfect faith. Few ever achieve lasting and consistent faith. That’s perfectly okay. God doesn’t insist on perfection, only humble obedience; we ask and we receive.

But why does my faith falter?

This is human nature. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Practically no one has perfect faith. The better question is: how can I continue to sustain and grow my faith? And the answer to that question is simple. Practice. Whether through studying inspired writing, through prayer and meditation, or through communal seeking with like minded others, practice is required in the care and feeding of faith. Very much like the reality that we must feed ourselves well and exercise to maintain physical health, we must feed our minds, hearts, and spirits in order to keep fit with sufficient faith.

Decide today to exercise your faith. Commit to renewing that decision each day and to consciously engage in activities which will strengthen, grow, and bolster your faith. Study, connect, live with gratitude, pray, listen, and give. Choose to ask for more faith in each difficulty. And choose to ask for more faith in the calm and bright days, too.

Love and grace,
Steve

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Returning to Grace

Nov 18, 2013 10:21 am

Dear God,

I seek your refuge. Please accept me. Please forgive me. Please allow me to enter into your peace. I am nothing without you. Outside your calm rest is only chaos. And the chaos has tortured my wounded spirit. But my spirit cannot be wounded, not really. My heart is wounded, my mind, lost and confused; but my spirit is, and has always been, perfect.

Jesus, save me, a lost and wandering sinner.

I have become lost in the vastness and mystery of you. Let me be found in your perfect simplicity.

Jesus, lead me, a lost and wandering sinner.

The raging seas have captured my attention, impeded my certainty of your divine pervasiveness. Embrace me.

Jesus, hold me, a scared and wandering sinner.

In my wisdom, I have forgotten your perfect simplicity. Move my hands. Guide my words. Fill my heart.

Jesus, fill me, a prodigal, returning.

In my arrogant understanding, I have lost my way. Flood me in your light. Displace every fear with your abounding love.

Jesus, purify me, your little brother.

Welcome me into your arms. Let me be unafraid of my flowing tears—tears of holy surrender, of wondrous release.

Jesus, temper me; I need your cleansing fire.

Burn away every last fear. Grant me the courage to stand, and walk with you.

Jesus, enlighten me, a child of a dark world.

God’s light is my saving grace. God’s light is my sole understanding. God’s light is my only need. God’s light heals me.

Amen

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Dark Calling

Nov 16, 2013 02:25 pm

I feel utterly powerless. I try so hard yet breathe so little. The hour of discontent has stretched relentlessly, impossibly, for decades. I am my father and my father is me. Who is the greater coward? He, who took his life? Or me who ran from mine? I have grandchildren I have never met. Only one of my nine children have I seen in the past two years. My discord I keep tucked away, hidden I think, but perhaps many see my secrets, sense my true nature.

I was lost and withered most of my life. I knew little of love and joy and fulfillment. And peace? I knew not at all.

I descend timidly down the dark staircase, knowing only vaguely what I will discover. I am drawn to my calling mistress; her song is my drug, my addiction, my yeast, my prominent ingredient. I can pretend no longer. The Light has never been my friend. I am a child of darkness. This is my destiny.

And so, I take another step, feeling with my bare toes the creak beneath as it calls to me, as it reassures me. “Come,” is its simple beckoning.

Around me I see only the implements and discarded junk of years of neglect: three old window air conditioning units; carpet remnants, rolled in their musty fragrance; dozens of near empty paint cans; a cheap print of a bad painting of Venice, from the 70s, with burnt orange frame. But in the eye of my mind, in my true seeing, what appears to me are my brethren, those lost and wandering souls whose place is the darkness, whose calling is to provide the ebb to that mysterious flow that is life, and their unwanted yet needed mistresses: sorrow, pain, confusion, and sensitivity to all things bright and pure.

We are the great impurity which must balance that which is good. We are the forsaken. We are the welcome residents of the place of dark seed, the hidden and secret underbelly of the world.

Another step and I have found firm footing on the hard and dusty concrete floor. Its chill is welcome; its chill provides comfort. I am home in the darkness.

I’ve visited this place before, many times, but this is the first time I see the door, in the corner, where the light from the staircase above dare not reach—the door. The door is locked but the key hangs from a golden necklace around my neck.

Key in hand, I unlock the door. With the barest hint of trepidation, I enter.

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God, I need a miracle.

Nov 16, 2013 01:05 pm

God, I need a miracle. 

Maybe I need to work harder.

Tell me what to do, God. 

Maybe I need to love myself more.

Show me the way.

Maybe I need to have more faith.

Please.

I so wish I could have better survival skills.

What would you have me do?

I feel like I’m sinking.

I’m begging for a miracle. 

Have I taken wrong turns? made bad choices? Am I being punished for being lazy? for my weak faith? What’s the purpose in my endless suffering?

Tell me God; use my hands to give my your words.

What will you do today for my glory? What gifts will you bestow upon a waiting and wailing world? Be not distracted by the naysayers and ne’er-do-wells. Let my light shine through you. Let your mouth sing my song. Let your heart feel my love.

Test me, Lord. Tempt me. Temper and strengthen me in your holy fire. 

The days of testing are long past. Today is the day to shine, my son. Be ye of strong faith. Be ye of me.

Thanks.

 

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When Skyler Woke – Chapter One

Nov 05, 2013 09:56 am

I hope you enjoy the first chapter of my latest book, When Skyler Woke. Below you’ll find links to purchase either the paperback or Kindle version. Thanks!

 

Chapter 1: a chance meeting

When Skyler Woke - front coverSkyler looked at the October sky, gray, ominous, matching Skyler’s mood. This morning didn’t feel much like a day for collecting nuts, climbing trees, doing the things squirrels did best. Deciding instead to go for a walk, Skyler wandered into the Dark Wood.

Unsure how much time had passed, Skyler noticed the clouds growing darker. There was a tree, an oak—nearly a hundred years old by the look of it—offering shelter. Skyler would find a place, not too high off the ground, to be sheltered from the storm.

A blue jay surprised Skyler just as the perfect spot came into view. Not very much in the mood for company, but less in the mood for a wet and muddy tail, Skyler decided to risk sharing the opening between the two massive limbs with the bird.

The wise old jay, magnificent in both color and presence, spoke. “Hello Skyler. Welcome.”

“Hello,” Skyler replied.

“You have had a long journey this morning. We rarely get squirrels this deep in the Dark Wood. They call me River. It is nice meeting you, Skyler. I have been waiting for you.”

“How do you know my name? How did you know I would come? What do you mean you’ve been waiting?” Skyler had many more questions, but these were the only ones that came out.

“Some things are inexplicable,” was River’s obtuse reply. “I understand you have asked for a teacher. I am here.”

With some trepidation, Skyler accepted the answer, remembering the wishes for answers, and somehow feeling, knowing, that River could be trusted and was wise. More important questions begged asking. “Why must I be a squirrel? Sometimes I don’t feel like gathering nuts and climbing trees. I’m a little scared of heights. But I think I’m even more afraid of being just like all the other squirrels. It seems like there’s more…”

River only smiled.

When Skyler Woke - back cover“I want my life to mean something. And I want to taste the colors of the morning sun. But when I tell my friends these things, they just laugh at me. I can’t explain why I feel I have to be more, but I just do.”

“What is it that the winds whisper to you, Skyler?”

Of course the winds sometimes made sounds, sometimes sounded like whispering, other times like howling, but talking winds? Skyler thought this a silly question.

“Speak from inside,” River prompted.

Listening to the growing wind, Skyler took a breath. Time passed; Skyler wasn’t sure how much. “The winds are telling me it’s okay to feel different. They say it’s time to change. The winds say that they call out to many, but only few listen.” Skyler was surprised by the words but let them flow naturally.

“Yes,” River said, “that’s just right.”

Skyler felt lighter, different, and was surprised that the skies were clearing. Walking home, Skyler noticed a quiet, not from outside, but from inside.

“I’ll never be the same.” Skyler realized the words were from the whispering winds.

When Skyler Woke is available on Amazon:

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Practical Spirituality

Oct 20, 2013 01:06 pm

DSC01697There are many abstract and obtuse philosophies and precepts of spirituality. It’s often useful and valuable to simplify these principles and to make them more concrete and practical so that we may incorporate them into our daily lives. Spiritual practice is far more fruitful than spiritual theory and thought.

  • Be loving: Practice kindness and empathy in all affairs with others as well as self. What we receive is a reflection of what we give. Life rewards us with kindness and respect when we give kindness and respect to our fellow participants of life.
  • Seek truth: Be willing to let go of old habits and beliefs in order to continue learning better ways to both think about and live life.
  • Know thyself: Trust that the journey is not ended; use imagination and quiet contemplation to find what makes you happy and what you really want so that you may go and get it.
  • Forgive: Change your thought patterns such that you don’t see yourself as a victim. Realize that your story is not yet finished. Know that you can’t change the past so it’s better to make peace with it as a calm and peaceful mind is more fulfilled and creative.
  • Acknowledge oneness: With a recognition of divine connection, it’s far easier to be loving, to know thyself, and to forgive. That we are connected divinely in no way diminishes your unique and wondrous individuality. You are a drop in a vast ocean. And you are the fullness of that ocean. You are the butterfly in Brazil that flaps its wings and causes, through a chain of events, a rainstorm in Texas.
  • Live in the moment: Whether or not time is illusion or relative doesn’t matter. What matters is that we can best experience life with a mind and senses focused on the present. When focused on the present, we can be more creative and productive when working. And we can more fully appreciate a sunrise over the ocean when vacationing. Accept the past. Hope for the future. Live in the present.
  • Embrace Change: Life is in flux. There are countless examples in nature. And life is growth, or more aptly, evolution. We live and experience life in the community and society of the world in which we exist. People who resist change are left behind. Species which don’t evolve die out, and by contrast, species which grow and evolve thrive. It’s the same with people. And with you.

With an awareness and choice to live, as well as think about, contemplate, meditate on, or merely theorize about such principles, our lives improve. We become more fulfilled, more giving, more creative, and more happy.

 

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Embracing Doubts and Feelings

Sep 15, 2013 11:37 am

I’ve been asking myself a question for months: “what if I simply started to live my ideal life?”

The question was sparked primarily by Earl Nightingale and his talk, The Strangest Secret. In it he quotes six steps by Dr. David Harold Fink:

  1. Set yourself a definite goal.
  2. Quit running yourself down.
  3. Stop thinking of all the reasons why you cannot be successful and instead think of all the reasons why you can.
  4. Trace your attitudes back through your childhood and discover where you first got the idea that you could not be successful if that is the way you’ve been thinking.
  5. Change the image you have of yourself by writing out a description of the person you would like to be.
  6. Act the part of the successful person you have decided to become.

Steps five and six suggest writing specifically who I’d like to be, the ideal me, and then start living that way.

Seems simple. it is simple. But, for me, there were a few things holding me back. Six months or so later, I believe I’ve found the answers.

First was my self-image and the idea that I’d attached to that says that I’m emotionally deficient. I think the model of humans as having four aspects has much merit. We are body, mind, heart, and soul. I thought of it, in terms of me, like IQ. I have a high IQ, and thus the mind part of me, the cognitive part, is sound, exceptional even. And the soul, or spirit aspect is even higher as I’ve reached a place of awakening, of awareness, of enlightenment.

But the emotional part of me I saw as underdeveloped. I said to myself, many times, that I was cognitively and spiritually very evolved and capable but I was emotionally limited, that emotionally, I was like a twelve year old. This belief came primarily from something I learned in twelve step recovery, that when we are in our addictive behaviors we stop growing emotionally. It was further supported by the self-observation that saw that I seemed to feel more than most people, and that very often those strong feelings would hinder me, occasionally even paralyzing me. I knew I was one with God. I knew I was bright and talented. Yet I also believed I had not yet reached a point of emotional maturity and thus I’d be handicapped by that deficit.

I came to realize, just yesterday, that I needn’t see my extreme emotionalism and sensitivity as a weakness. That I feel more and express more than most people doesn’t make me less capable but indeed has the potential to make me more capable, especially in my chosen dream career of being a writer—a poet and a fiction writer, possibly writing songs and screenplays as well. Writing requires cognitive thought, surely, and much practice in honing the craft. But good writing also requires a strong foundation of emotion. Emotionless writing has little value.

In embracing my empathic self, my feeling and emotional and emotive self, and in reframing my thoughts about my emotionality as not a deficiency but indeed as a gift, I remove a huge barrier that’s kept me from living the life I have wanted to live. I can see myself as whole and complete and not as lacking or immature.

The second barrier in my thinking was my ideas about trust. While I’d accepted the lack of absolutes in other areas, for example, love versus fear. Even the most evolved and loving among us encounters fear. It’s the nature of humanity to be fearful. And it’s the challenge of humanity to be loving, transcending fear, overcoming fear. The point is that while absolute and unconditional love is a goal many strive for, none attain love in its most pure and perfect form, constantly and consistently. This I accepted, that I would be as loving as I could be as often and as much as I could be, and that would be enough.

But with regard to trust, my belief was in absolutes. I’ve had lots of great business ideas, lots of great book ideas, too. Only a few have survived my doubts. For I believed that in the presence of even a scant and minuscule measure of doubt, I had no trust. And without trust, trust in myself, trust in God, and trust in others, I believed, unconsciously, subconsciously, and consciously, that significant achievement was impossible. Trust was elusive because I could not hold it completely; it was eroded by doubt.

A couple days ago, though, my beliefs began to change. I saw trust as a continuum. I released myself from the unattainable goal of perfect trust by allowing myself moments or even days or weeks of doubt. Doubt may delay the reaching of the destination but it needn’t preclude it. If my goal is to walk the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia, and the first day I walk twenty miles, and the second fifteen, but on the third I feel too exhausted to continue, doubting I’ll ever finish the  2,200 miles, that third day needn’t stop me. I might rest the entire day and then rethink my daily goal, for example, and decide to only walk ten miles per day. Even in a more extreme case, where I sprain my ankle and can’t continue for weeks, I could choose to make camp and start anew after I’ve healed, or I could return home and go back to the trail a month hence, or the following year.

Doubt, when accepted as a part of the journey, needn’t lead me to the idea that I have no trust in meeting my goal, or even insufficient trust in meeting my goal. And when accepted, I can begin to see that doubt can be a good and useful thing. My doubts can cause me to rethink the path to the goal. Healthy doubts (skepticism) can lead me to contemplation and to discovery of deeper and higher truths. Doubting old beliefs can lead to releasing those that no longer serve me and allow me to find new beliefs that serve me better.

With these revelations and realizations comes the ability in trusting in my own level of trust. My trust needn’t be perfect in order for my trust to be sufficient, sufficient in leading me to the life I desire.

I see my doubts clearly and embrace them. Embracing Doubt. Perhaps that’ll be my next book. (My other published books include Embracing Failure and Embracing Change.) My trust is sufficient, notwithstanding doubts, encompassing doubts. I have more trust than I have doubt and that is enough to allow me to live the life of my dreams and ideals.

I embrace my empathic nature, my elevated level of feeling. I’m grateful for being highly sensitive. My emotionality is a wonderful and divine gift that serves me in living a wonderful and divine life.

That’s a huge shift from where I was just a few days ago. Then I would have said “I don’t trust enough in myself as evidenced by my doubts. I am emotionally immature and thus unable to have a truly stable and expanding life. I have big dreams that I can’t achieve because of my frequent doubts and my inability to control my underdeveloped emotions.”

Today I say: “I embrace my doubts. I celebrate my emotions. I love all of me, especially my healthy skepticism and my feeling nature.”

And with this shift I’m able to practice and live the six steps above. I’m able, beginning today, to live the life of my dreams, healthy, fit, active, productive, creative, expansive, and connected with others. Each day I have time to work, time to walk, time to write, time to connect, and time to rest. Starting today. Starting now.

Freed from old beliefs, I become a new me.

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I am afraid of being vulnerable.

Sep 11, 2013 08:19 am

I am afraid of being vulnerable. On the surface, I know that I am attractive, intelligent, diligent, and passionately creative. But beneath the surface, I am, in large measure, a confused little boy led by impulses and the need to feel and appear bigger than I am.

I’ve made some important and valuable changes in myself and my life this year. I’ve grown in confidence and focus. I’ve become more willing to speak my truth without fear of reprisal. And I see the benefits, the results. I live in a nice house, not far from the beach. I own my own business. I’m fulfilling my dream of writing novels.

But still, there’s a hole. There’s something missing. And today I believe that something is the willingness to be courageously vulnerable, to take down the walls, and to let others see and know the real me.

Vulnerability is a challenge for me because it requires trust. It requires trust in a greater good, a surrender of control to that greater good, and a willingness to falter, to fall, to be hurt. And the scared little boy that is much of who I am doesn’t like to be hurt.

Who, after all, would want to be hurt, but a masochist?

But that’s not the point. The point is that without exposing the real me to the real you, we can’t connect on any significant level. And with that exposure, that connection, comes the risk of being hurt. When I choose to see the benefit of connection as far outweighing the risk of feeling hurt, I can make the choice to be more open, to connect at a deeper and more meaningful level. Isn’t that what life here is really about? Connecting with others and sharing, good and bad, sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain, wonder and disenchantment? What is the value of love when love is not made real in its sharing? And what is life without love?

Thanks for reading,
Steve

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More.

Aug 31, 2013 09:53 am

Prioritize. Don’t envy; admire. Accept everything. It’s your life; make the best of it!

I often wonder why I’m not living the life I’d like to live. I’m clear on what it looks like. More writing, more exercise, more confidence. Less worry, more faith, less disappointment, more trust. Less distraction, more focus, better prioritization, being the best me possible.

I am blessed with many gifts, intellect, kindness, faith, creativity, and lots of others. My life is better today, in most respects, than it’s ever been. I live in a nice house, a mile from the beach. I have a sporty convertible, lots of electronics, books, food, fine wine and Scotch.

I have no health problems, good eyesight, a sharp and clear mind. The odds are good I’ll live many more years.

So what’s the problem? It’s subtle. It’s that I know well that I’m not living to my potential. I’ve published eight books but I have many more aching to be written. I’ve shot thousands of amazing photographs but lack the confidence to call myself an artist. I own a business that’s healthy but not thriving. The problem is I settle for good. I settle for mediocrity. The problem is that while I often talk about greatness and share moments of greatness in the form of my writing, my programming, and my photography, those moments are short-lived.

I could blame it on distractions, for there are many. Or I could blame it on laziness, but that’s not really true either; I work hard most days. The real problem is both deeper and simpler. The real problem is a low self-worth — a lack of belief in myself and my gifts and talents, a lack of trust, both in myself and in the universe.

DSC00222I know there’s not likely a simple fix. Life is a process. And my thought patterns have been with me for a long time. (I’ll be fifty in December.) It takes time to let go of beliefs, time and work.

I don’t blame anyone. My childhood wasn’t great but nor was it particularly bad. I’ve known hardships but I’ve also known great joy. It’s been a good life thus far, and for that I’m grateful. I simply want more. I want to love and trust myself more so that I’ll have the confidence to create at the highest level at which I’m able, with a recognition that today’s highest level is not tomorrow’s — we exist in a rising river.

Less worry, more trust. Less fear, more love. Less fretful procrastination, more focused creativity.

More.

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