The Third Spiritual Key: Awareness (aka the Divine Instructions)

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It’s time to expand the conversation, folks.  So let’s get back to business, shall we?

Willingness is a great place to begin the spiritual journey.  And Presence is a fine place to expand it.  But it’s utterly futile to be willing and present and fail to acknowledge the insight and guidance knocking on your door.

This is when Spiritual Key #3 – Awareness – poses for its close-up.  Here, we take things one step further.

Awareness is the paying attention part to the whole kit and caboodle, and a must-do to receive the Divine Instructions from the Youniverse.

The Divine Instructions?  English please!

Right, right, my whoops.

When you get clear about your vision (which I know you will), the Divine Instructions will arrive on your front porch. Timing, of course, fluctuates from student to student, but the Instructions can, at times, outpace Amazon Prime.  So, be sure to keep the door open.

Door open?!  Nowadays?!  In this political climate?!  You’re off your hinges!

It’s figurative, bro.  Jack my flow one more time and you’re outta here.  Now, where was I?

The Divine Instructions will arrive in the form of creativity, teachings, inspiration, assignments, new activities, books, fresh ideas, clues, alternate routes, etc, etc –  (they too fluctuate from student to student.)  Make sense?

Ohhh.  So it’s kinda sorta like a treasure map…?

Precisely!  You’re catching on.

(FYI: Because you’re willing and present, you are (by default) a magnet for opportunities.  Do humanity a service and accept them.)

ORIENTATION DAY

The planet is one big classroom – Globe School let’s call it – and we’re all enrolled.  It’s in perpetual communication with us every day of the week, every moment of our lives (even when we sleep.)  It speaks in a variety of dialects and comes in a multitude of guises.

From the demotion to the promotion…
The nightmare to the dream…
The “Help Wanted” sign to the “For Sale” sign…
The speeding ticket to the lottery ticket…
There’s always a link that connects to its existence.  Your job is to listen and notice.

Put even simpler, play a little detective. (But don’t overanalyze. More on this in a future bonus post.)  Just pay attention.

Uhh… to what exactly?

Glad you asked.

Pay attention to the moments when you feel most connected.
Pay attention to the flashes when time flies by.
Pay attention to the times you’re thrilled to share with others.
Pay attention to the days you can’t wait to start and dread ever ending.
Pay attention to the stuff that aligns with your Code.
Pay attention to when you respond (not react)/ACT without hesitation.
Pay attention to the moments when you’re LIT UP.

In vanilla terms, all paying attention means is “attending to your Presence.”  And no, it doesn’t mandate laser-focus to every single detail of every single day.  The more its adhered to (a little bit here, a little bit there), the more it becomes your natural expression to be aware.  Reminder not needed because you’ll merge with it.

THE NEXT STEP

Now, the flip side of paying attention is having the awareness to recognize when we’re not feeling enthused and guided to continue.

Whoa! You mean focus on the bad stuff?

I prefer to think of it as the delayed good, uh thank you very much.  As you very well know by now, I like to keep things light in this here neck of the woods.  And the delayed good is just as important as the inspired guidance.  Why?

Cause if you’re wholly unsure of which path to take, what your purpose is, where to go/what to do, the stuff that doesn’t fire you up can also bring you that much closer to that which does.

It’s a trial and error, been-there-done-that, process-of-elimination sort of mentality. It’s not always the most efficient course, but it certainly is effective.  And I hate to break it to you, but most people take this path, consciously or not.

Think about it.

How many times have you adamantly known what you don’t want in life, but still aren’t sure what you truly do desire?  Or, how many times has the wrong bumpy road led you to the right aligned road?  For me, it’s happened an innumerous amount of times.

Take the journey of your typical college student.  On average, they change majors three times before graduation.  Even then, many graduates take jobs not in their given field, or decide, once again,  to pursue a different field post-college.  What does this tell you?

That the job market is shit?

No.  Well… that’s one way to look at it I suppose. Certainly not the light route, but hey, to each his/her own.

This speaks to me of evolution – to the basic human necessity for AND BEAUTY OF growth and change. That we ALL evolve in our own time. That the delayed good allows us to home in on what fills our cup the highest that we might not’ve figured via any other route than our current one.  Think: the art history major turned successful hedge fund manager or the financial advisor turned professional fisherman or the kindergarten teacher turned media maven.

Case in point, yours truly.

I went to college because, well, that’s what you do after high school, right? Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful and thrilled by my school of choice.  Would I do it again?  Yes and no.

Yes, with the caveat of a honed academic focus. I’d study French and literature and film and photography this time around. I’d write a lot and shotgun beer less (but just a couple less, you still gotta live, right?)

Son of a Bitcoin!  I could have even paired the two.  Should-Have-Been-College-Blog Name (wait for it…):

Keepin’ It (Busch) Light

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On the other hand, no I wouldn’t rewrite my college days because, well, I wouldn’t have gone period. (And the crowd goes silent!).  And I wouldn’t have gone because I’d learn by traveling the world.  And for the price tag of a private education, trust me, I could have gone far and stayed long.  (I wish I never ran those numbers.)

That said, none of what I say or feel or know or am passionate about today would be possible without MY college experience. Had I not tied one on every Tuesday night (yes, I said Tuesday) at the local watering hole for four straight years #5dollarpitchers, I wouldn’t have had the awakening I had at the end of college #fact. (I likely wouldn’t have become aware of my love for travel either NOR developed a gluten intolerance, but let’s not open that can, shall we?)

THE POINT

Do I regret not making the most of that time?

I could, but I don’t. Hindsight is a fool’s game. And the person I am today wouldn’t exist otherwise.  That I know with every fiber of my heart.

But you could have paid attention…

Well said, grasshopper. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing or present. My path took me where I needed to go.  Fortunately though, guess what?

I’m willing and present?

Nailed it!

Which concludes our current get-together…

If you ignore the opportunities presented, you void the willingness you surrendered to and the Presence you’re currently building.  Why be open to limitless-ness if all you do is turn your cheek when the Instructions arrive?

The Spiritual Keys are a staircase.  Willingness… to Presence… to Awareness.

So, pay attention.
Grab your compass.
Follow the Map.
And ride that wave.

Details are drops.

And drops fill the sea.
hi

TJ

 

 

 

How to Be Present: Spiritual Key #2 (aka the Keynote Address)

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Six savvy steps to expand your Presence:

(Take one and home in on it.  Then, the next.  Low and slow is a tender act.)

1.  Practice mindfulness.

Starting today, truly experience everything you do. The purpose here is twofold:

1.  To embrace the present moment (the hub of presence.)
2.  To quiet the automatic thoughts and feelings that arise ad nauseum.

Are you telling us not to think and feel?

No. I’m inviting you to simply observe your thoughts and feelings as the detached silent witness. In a mindful state, you see, instead of interpreting them as good or bad, right or wrong, you make Space – allowing your mental play-by-play to do its thing.  No labels attached.

And this helps to…?

Be in the experience, but not of the experience.

Now we get to enjoy the fullness of every situation without getting lost in the projections and associations of the world and what may be playing out.  It requires patience, compassion, a judgment-free ethos, and a helluva lot of redirection.

The benefit?

That Space between thoughts:  it’s where our Light lives.

2.  Meditate and radiate.

Don’t let the concept of meditation make you uncomfortable. It’s not as intimidating and demanding as it sounds.

You don’t need to sit in a special position, recite a specific mantra, inflict pain on yourself, shave your head, touch your thumb to your index finger while chanting OM, or renounce the world. You can meditate anytime, anywhere, and on your own terms. Truthfully, I encourage you to create an authentic practice.

That said, it is exactly that: a practice. If stillness is your kryptonite, you’ll have to meditate past the initial turbulence. If you (honestly) never get comfortable, consider a moving meditation. (If that’s your go-to, I still recommend a few silent minutes of breathing each day.)

The 411 on meditation…

It’s an exercise in getting still and connecting to your Source. It’s conscious breathing, ’tis all.

The best way to start is by making it a ritual.  I like first thing in the morning upon waking, and last thing at night before retiring.  A silent start and a silent sleep bookend most of my days. This way I enter and exit each day in quietude.  To begin, try the following:

1.  Place your hand on your heart and connect with its beat.  Lup-dup, lup-dup, lup-dup.
2.  Acknowledge it as your reason for being.
3.  Thank it.
4.  Follow your breath.

Thoughts will come and go, and well, it doesn’t matter.  The mind will do its thing.  Someday you’ll breathe beyond that. For now, inhale slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth (or all nose as I prefer – this way you’re consciously breathing.) Feel the stillness and repeat as necessary.  Continue as long as you deem fit (I recommend at least 5 minutes.)

And tada! You’ve just meditated. Congratulations. Real rocket science, I’m aware.  And you didn’t have to give blood or join a cult – although I could recommend a few good ones… (that’s a joke.)

Just one more thing…

Take that radiance (and presence) into the world.

3.  Charge it with LOVE.

Just like your iPhone needs a jolt through an electrical outlet, so too does our Presence. Make it habitual to plug in and charge intensely with the most powerful source in the world – L-O-V-E.

Wow, could you BE any more abstract?!

The more we charge our Presence (e.g. an afternoon walk, a good book, an extra meditation, a clean diet, a long massage, some verbal TLC, an epic guitar solo) with undivided and unconditional attention, the more we ARE it.  In doing so, nothing can disrupt your state of being.  Presence will be the gift that keeps on giving.

4.  Create sincere affirmations.

Speaking of verbal TLC and redirection, a quick way to bring all your faculties into the RIGHT NOW is by affirming and declaring your Vision.

In search of a calm day at the office?  Command it on the drive to work.
Looking for property for a new home?  State your desire of some Youniversal support.
Want a speech or blind date to go smoothly?  Recall a time of your utmost confidence.

What separates this from a traditional, read-it-off-the-sheet, pre-programmed decree is the upfront and honest nature backing it.  You’re not declaring artificial proclamations that unconsciously you don’t believe.  If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.  And most definitely don’t COMMAND it. It’s counteractive to do so.

If you’re scared shitless, worried sick, or stressed beyond belief, let it be known first, and THEN ask for assistance by affirming what you do want.  Like so:

Hey Youniverse, this presentation has me all sorts of nervous. Let me merge with it so that I may deliver the heart of my message: clearly and calmly.

What up Youniverse, the void I face through my social media cleanse has me crazy anxious. May the Space I create in its absence inspire and fulfill me in unimaginable ways.

Pretty simple stuff, really.  Checklist:

1. Keep it real,

then

2. Keep it Light.

5.  Pick some up at will call.

Like a ticket?

Si.

They sell Presence? Saweeeeeeeet! Do they take Venmo?

Holy millennial, but no and no.

What’s the catch?

They don’t sell Presence because it’s complimentary via the greatest gift of all – Free Will.  And through the simple act of choice (saying YES to ourselves), we can access it anytime.

At the Free Will counter, there’s a permanent ticket with your name on it.  Whether you pick it up is up to you.

6.  Give presence/presents, get presence/presents.

I’ll make this real simple.

You want love?  Give it.
You want abundance?  Dish it.
You want truth?  Live it.
You want joy?  Feel it.
You want peace?  Bring it.
You want presence?  Give presence.

The more you give, the more you get.  In my 32 years of living, I have yet to find a more sure-fire approach to spiritual health and happiness.

And that’s a wrap on Spiritual Key #2.

(As always, add your ingredients to the recipe.)
hi there

TJ

 

The Second Spiritual Key: Presence (aka the Keynote Address)

caley-dimmock-442468Now that you’ve had time to play with the willingness factor, let’s dive into fresh water and identify key numéro dos… PRESENCE.

So, what exactly is presence?  As K.LITE vocab ascertains:

Presence – the act of surrendering to the Now; attendance to Being;  God in Action.

Alternate jargon:  the Master Within, He/She That Governs, the Keynote Address.

Hold up! God?! Where?!

Right in front of me, bro.  (“Literal” student slowly gazes to his left, then his right – scared, but excited with what he might see.)

Is this some kind of joke to you?

If you’re looking for phenomena, your search will continue.  That, God is not.  In all honesty, I should have said:

In front of me, behind me, beside me, and all around me.  In front of you, behind you, beside you, and all around you.

I get it, we’re all God.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Yep.  And if you shift a speck of a speck of that sarcasm and the wall of fear it hides behind into your Presence, man, you’ll be a force to reckon with.

But yes, God, Love, Light, Greatness, Presence, we ALL have it. It’s in the front row, the back row, the janitor’s closet, you name it.

FINE PRINT:  We’re only God in action if we exercise that gift (refer to: free will.)
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PRESENCE 101

Imagine the opening credits to a Hollywood film.

Before things begin, the production company announces Such n’ Such Pictures presents Such n’ Such Movie.  Typically, it’s a hint of what’s to come.

I analogize this to presence. Try the following exercise:

(Insert your name HERE) Pictures/Productions

PRESENTS…

(Insert your gift to the world/Soul purpose/Radiance HERE)

E.g.  T.J.O. Productions presents Keepin’ It Light

Well done. Welcome to presence!

Presence is our second-by-second production to the world. Like a walking, talking movie poster of sorts. Better yet, a movie trailer. Its soul purpose – yes soul, not sole (that’s fishy business) – is to pump our spiritual gas tank as a means to fund our earthly experience.

The only difference, however, is we can rewrite and/or redirect our presence (aka our production) at any time. On demand. Free of charge. No hidden fees.  Or monthly inflation (ahem… Netflix… excuse me.)

Disclosure:  Be careful not to practice presence to be seen by others in a particular way. Unlike the movies, this isn’t for show. That’s not true presence. It’s a facade and an outer motive. Presence operates from the inside-out.  (As an alternate analogy, consider a radio.  Here, presence is your signal:  felt, but not seen.)

Now, why do we call this state presence?  Two reasons:

1.  It’s born and bred in the present (the only moment that exists)

and

2.  Like a present, it’s our gift to the world.

Your presence is all good things rolled into one – like a spiritual doobie of sorts (liberal toking permitted) – love, patience, gratitude, kindness, compassionate command, truth, self-care, (fill in the blank).  It’s vibrato hits the high note.  Your high note. Your KEYnote.

You know the whole “the truth shall set you free” bit?

Uh yeah, it’s in the Bible – where God lives.

Can’t let it go, huh buddy?

Anyhow, truth, in this case, equals freedom. It’s your presence in action. The adage should read “Your presence shall set you free.”  Cause it will.

You see, presence is the sun and it only knows light. It thrives on intention and grows from attention.

And when we harness our internal worlds with dogged devotion and service to our Presence (to the LIGHT within), nothing can block our flow. Nothing. It goes as we go, and conjointly, brightens the whole of existence.

If all we ever did was fund our presence with unmitigated, loving fidelity, it would be enough.  Wars would end and separation would cease. Presence is our guitar string.  It’s tune is in our hands.

CLOSING STATEMENT (aka THE PART THAT HITS HOME)

I find the most effective way to paint presence is through a set of self-reflective and opportunity-laced questions. h(Warning: lots of encouragement to follow.)

Ready? GO!

Do you know how grand you are?

The magic of your current inhale?  The miracle of your next exhale?

Do you have the faintest freckle of an idea of the level of mastery and peace at your command by simply choosing to be right here, right now?

No really, do you?

Are you willing to accept that?  Are you willing to go to that place?

To love all you can love?  To give all you can give?  To breathe all you can be?

To just be still?

And then…

Can you deliver that God energy – that Presence to everyone and everything you touch?

To friends, family, colleagues, and strangers?

To the doubters, the negative Nancy’s, and your piece of shit boss?

What about the ass in traffic and the bitch behind the counter?

Can you?

Can you be so adamantly committed to LOVE and LIGHT and HARMONY that it penetrates limitation and manipulation in the darkest of corners?

Could you move one step closer to the Light when everyone in the room is in a trance of limitation?

Can you leave your phone in the other room during suppertime – maybe even turn it off? And be oh-so present to the conversation and food and people before you that the notion of time and space are but distractions from the majesty of this moment, the only thing that matters and exists?

Can you be grateful for what you have regardless of how small life can feel?

Can you give one more ounce of unconditional love when all you want and all you think you need and deserve is to receive it in return for once in your damn life?

Can you pause and take a long, deep breath when speeding up is the easiest thing to do?  I mean, everyone else is doing it.

So, can you?

Presence can.
Start with 20 minutes.
Castles begin with a single stone.

Tune that String,

hi

TJ

 

 

 

{Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash}

Roadless Travel or (How to Join a Bahamian Choir)

A memorable trip requires immersion and spontaneity. Sometimes that means going to church.
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The beach and view right outside of church.

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I’ve traveled more than the average person. When I set out, I wasn’t super adventurous – I spoke English my entire semester in Madrid and ate McDonald’s for dinner my first trip to Paris. (Phew! I finally said it).

Eventually, my curiosity grew and I began to open up.

Like most travelers, I started with guidebooks and went where they told me. The itineraries were safe and easy to follow. I stared at historical sites and photographed famous things. And despite my stance on foreign soil, I was unfulfilled.  My cookie-cutter route left me with the same souvenir, and even worse, the same story every other tourist imported home.

Since then I’ve shed the guidebooks and rarely consult with the internet. An authentic adventure – for this traveler, at least – means venturing without a script. I’ve let my guard down and developed an attitude of “yes.” If the sign points left, I’ll often turn right. The moment I forged my own road and followed my curiosity and nothing else, travel magic began to unveil.

Like the time I shared potato chips and a soda with a group of Indian children on the banks of the Ganges River.

Or the trip to Macau when I ditched an obligatory “press” tour to gamble on a soccer match with a Chinese bookie in a dimly lit backstreet and won $100.

Tales like these can’t be found on TripAdvisor.

Travel instantly became a way to not only explore the world, but an opportunity to trust what’s “out there” and relentlessly test one’s comfort zone.  A day in a distant land offered more of an education than the fifteen-plus years I sat inside a classroom.

As my happenings accrued, I began to document the effortlessness in which they occurred.  Case in point, a recent jaunt I took to the Bahamas.

It’s a hot Sunday morning on the island of Bimini when I make a sweaty half-mile trek to the local Catholic church. Religion is big in these parts –  or so I’m told –  and this is my Bahamian attempt to “do as the Romans do.” I pass a couple of conch stands before shadowing the entrance to the beachfront structure.

To say the church is toasty would be quite the understatement. My iPhone says it’s 80 degrees outside which means God’s House has no doubt eclipsed the century mark. Fortunately, I find an empty pew adjacent a fan that’s so dusty and rusty it appears it’s been pulled from a shipwreck. All this does is make me hot… and allergic.

The service itself fails to ameliorate the narrative. When Father So-and-So isn’t handkerchiefing his brow, he’s a healthy reminder of my innate ability to sin in a myriad of ways. Which, of course, doesn’t matter. If the good Lord reads minds, I’m a shoo-in for post-mass confession: I can’t shake the irony that this church is “hotter than Hell.”

With mass nearing its terminus – no more than an amen or two to go – Father So-and-So makes an announcement.

“In honor of All Saints Day, the men of our parish have a gift for the rest of the congregation,” he says.  Hmm… what could this be?

Slowly, the ringleaders of the scenario rise from their pews and steer all men towards the front of the altar; parishioners I assume. The woman to my left, however, gestures me to join them. “No, no,” I think to myself. “This is a parish thing. I didn’t even chip in.” But she insists, so I walk forward.

Lest I remind myself that I’m not at church on a perfect Caribbean beach day during a weeklong visit to the Bahamas for health reasons, right? I’m here for that travel magic – which on this balmy morning has left me with nothing but a pitted-out white tee and a steamy crotch.

Now facing the congregation with a group of 20 Bahamian men, the ringleader hands us our “gift” to the church: a sheet of lyrics to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which we sing together for a confused, wildly off-beat six minutes.

Someone recently told me that tourists collect photos and bring them home with the hopes of reliving the moment. (I’d argue they never really lived the moment to begin with, but that’s for another time). Travelers, on the other hand, bring back stories. They tell them and let you imagine.

So here I am singing my heart out with 20 of my newest friends and a pew full of children wondering what planet I arrived from. All eyes and photos were aimed my way; a detail that only seemed to power more electricity through my veins.  Hello there, travel magic.

“Travelers bring back stories.
They tell them.  And let you imagine.”

When I left church that morning, I almost asked a parishioner if they’d e-mail me one of their photos – you know, so I could give the story justice. (My grandpa likes proof of my tales abroad. He’s joking, I think.) But I decided to let the moment be.

Remember that scene in Forest Gump when Forest, played by Tom Hanks, is the lone white dot naively singing in Bubba’s Baptist choir?

Yeah, just imagine that.

hello there travel magic

TJ