Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Light is Upon Us

People seldom understand the power of repetition. What is repeated over and over can become enduring: what is done in a moment is seldom lasting. If farmers do not tend to their field every day, they cannot expect a harvest. The same is true of spiritual practice. It is not the grand declaration or the colorful initiation that means anything. It is only the daily living of a spiritual life that has meaning. Our progress may range from dull to spectacular, but we must accept both. Each and every day should be linked together, strung into a long line of prayer beads. ~ Deng Ming-Dao

The long-anticipated date of December 21, 2012 is approaching. We are entering into a very special time in history. It's a time in which we must to truly open our hearts not only to new beginnings but to true transformation. You have probably been hearing about this date for quite some time. It signals the end of the Mayan calendar and the close of a 26,000 year cycle. There has been much anticipation and many predictions, many negative and downright scary, about this time in history. 

This date indicates that we are moving into a period of great change. We are all being brought back to our authentic divine self, to where are soul has always resided. It's time to accept the gift this date brings and each step into a natural state of love, peace and oneness. We are moving from separateness to connection with the Divine.

The light is upon us. How do we step into this light that is flooding our planet? How do we move from the difficulties in this world and that each of us may be facing and embrace this magnificent energy? The answer lies with you. The world truly does transform one person at a time. We each have the God-given power to not only change ourselves but the planet. It's time to shift from fear to love. As we commit to our spiritual practice and growth, we are each contributing to the raising of the consciousness of all.  

Believe in and trust your capacity to change not only yourself but the planet. Know that there are angels, guides and many light beings guiding and supporting you through this time of transition. Be open to calling upon them. Set your intentions for 2013, open your hearts, pursue your passions and honor your spiritual practice every day and watch how your life transforms.

With love and blessings this holiday season and all the best for a miraculous New Year.

Victoria and Lois

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Choosing an Authentic Life

A Beautiful View from Dawn's Balcony
A few months ago, we came upon a post by a woman named Dawn (@islandblog) on Twitter. Upon reading her profile, we were immediately intrigued. Here was someone who had been a big-city lawyer, decided to ditch it all and move to a tiny island in the Bahamas. What we especially liked was reading Choosing the Better Life, her personal blog that's full of wonderful posts about her experiences and all she is learning about herself.

So many of us imagine what it would be like if we could pack up, move on and begin a new kind of life – especially in a beautiful setting such as Tuscany, the south of France or an idyllic island surrounded by Caribbean-blue water. We dream that our struggles, both within and without, would somehow magically drop away and that all would be different - and better.

The reality is that we follow ourselves no matter where we go. We can’t expect a change in lifestyle to make our challenges disappear. But there are times when a new way of life is calling us - and we should heed its call.

When we are able to listen to our own hearts – through prayer, mediation and the like - we can find clarity. We become better at seeing who we really are and what we really want. It might very well be a decision to live a life that's very different from the one we've been leading. If so, we are not escaping a life we are having trouble managing. Instead, we are being led to a life that’s in alignment with our authentic self.

In Dawn’s case, her decision to create a different kind of life came from an understanding that she was not being true to herself. She had never fully identified with being a lawyer. It was her identity to the outside world, but not a personal fit.

Many of us live with an identity that has never felt right to us. It's one that we've developed over time from our interactions with the world, the expectations of others and a desire to feel safe. We're so often afraid to let that old identity go. It’s become a friend and we fear who we would be without it.

A Sailing Regatta Offshore Dawn's Island Home

Dawn writes:

In this Choosing the Better Life blog, I have referred to "inner nudgings" - simply my label for the quiet guidance we all have inside, regardless of what we call it, or what we consider its source. Those inner nudgings are very important to me because - when I listen to them - they have helped guide me toward decisions and actions that have brought so much good and joy to my life. And when I have ignored them, I have paid dearly. I also have found that, for me, those inner nudgings start out quietly.

However, if it is about something significant and I continue to question my "gut instinct" or attempt to downplay, suppress, explain away or otherwise ignore the subtle prompts from inside, those little nudgings eventually turn into something external and equivalent to a baseball bat knocking me upside the head! So, now I prefer to pay attention while they are still quiet little nudgings.

Anyway, I opened my 
Daily Word today and saw such a perfect description of this that I thought I would share it with you:

The spirit of God within me lovingly navigates my way.

A Global Positioning System (GPS) in one's car shows the way to new places, while a friendly, automated voice gives turn-by-turn instructions on how to get to a specific destination. Similarly, we have an internal GPS which we can activate anytime to steer us on our spiritual journey. My internal guidance arises through intuitive prompts, gut instinct and an inner knowing that guides me where I need to be. The voice that speaks to me is the still small voice within, which helps me navigate through any challenges. I listen for Spirit's cues when I am quiet and still, and I confidently follow the prompts to my highest good.

A Bahamian Rainbow

Dawn took a leap of faith. She listened to and trusted her intuition. She didn't expect her new life to be perfect, but she believed it would be a life that was truly hers. And she knew that that would make a difference in how her life felt.

Dawn shares the "old" story of her life and contrasts it with her "new" story:

OLD: I’m tired. I’m overworked. I’m stressed. I don’t have time for friends and fun. I live too far from family. I hate winter. I’m sick – again. I’ve had nothing but heartache in relationships. I’m reeling from emotional trauma. I let others determine how I feel. I’m lonely. My beloved dog is the brightest spot in my day. I’m Type A to the max. Life doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it should. I feel like I’m just marking time.

NEW: Endless sunshine and water views buoy my spirit daily. I enjoy seeing my family more often. I love having time to be happily domestic at home and social with many friends. Deep, steady, solid love fills my heart. I am healthy and rested. I’m content within myself. I’m still highly organized and detail-oriented, but I can go with the flow, too. I take each day as it comes and am open to how the future will unfold. I am thankful for the abundance of good and Grace in my life. I still love my dog but we’re no longer co-dependent. :)

Dawn from Choosing the Better Life

It takes courage to rewrite one's story, but our genuine story is always there just waiting to be embraced. Thanks so much, Dawn, for being such an inspiration. We applaud your openness, your spirit and you desire to make your life the best it can be.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Book Review by a Woman Who's Chosen the Better Life

Dawn, Our Book Reviewer
In recent months, we've had the good fortune to strike up an online relationship with Dawn, the author of a great blog called Choosing the Better Life. Since we first connected on Twitter, we were intrigued with what this beautiful woman - with a beautiful heart - had to say about leaving her life as a lawyer behind and creating a new life for herself on a small island in the Bahamas. 

Below you will find a lovely review of our book, A Little Book About Something Much Bigger: The Gift of a Spiritual Practice, that she recently posted. We hope you enjoy it.

Dawn writes:

Hello, Better Lifers! Well, here comes another “first” for me - I’ve been asked to write a book review, which I present below. First, a little background . . .

In my About page, on the eve of my blog launch, I commented, “Although I won’t talk much about God here, spirituality is an important part of my life. My faith has deepened throughout this journey, and my soul thrives in this serene environment.” Over the next few weeks in the life of my new blog, I proceeded to write – with great response from readers – about spear-fishing, making my favorite hogfish dinner, differences before and after my island move, random bits about island life and other island-living posts. A month later, inspired by a morning devotional I’d read, I posted something a bit different – my thoughts about following my “inner nudgings” with a broad nod of appreciation to God/Spirit/Universe. The positive response to that little post overwhelmed me. It was my most popular post! Go figure.

Of the many readers who contacted me, one in particular struck up an online conversation with me. This lovely woman named Lois seemed to share a similar philosophy of life, and she conveyed her appreciation for Choosing The Better Life. Eventually, Lois stepped out a bit further, and asked if I’d be interested in reading a new eBook that she and her best friend, Victoria, had just published about making time for the connection to self and Spirit each day – and then writing a book review.

Hmmm, I certainly hadn’t anticipated this direction when I started the blog. However, I was interested in reading their book anyway. Moreover, I decided that I’d better follow my own advice to pay attention when opportunities cross our paths, and this was certainly a new type of opportunity for me. So, I told Lois that I’d be happy to read their book and would consider writing a review if I was still comfortable with the idea after reading their book.

Fast forward to present . . . I have since read their little book, and it is a delight. Without reservation, I offer Choosing The Better Life’s first book review!

“You had me at ‘Hello.’” You know that now-classic line from Jerry Maguire? Well, that’s how I felt upon reading the very first line of this little book. Even before the Table of Contents, the authors set the stage with an introductory quote from Henry David Thoreau, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” It just grabbed me. Certainly, I could relate to that. Of course, not everybody has to hit rock bottom in order to turn their lives around, but, especially as I’ve found through conversations with others about their own version of Choosing The Better Life, dark times often serve as a catalyst for change.

As I turned the page to the first chapter, the introductory quote to that chapter grabbed me again, “Turning points announce themselves through a variety of vague symptoms: deep restlessness, a yearning with no name, inexplicable boredom, the feeling of being stuck.” (Gloria Karpinski) Ahhh, yes, those subtle feelings surely resonate with so many people. But how many of us are able to recognize them as turning point opportunities?

I continued to read and to recognize so much of myself in the authors’ comments and observations – I felt like they were talking to me! The ultimate point of the book is the authors’ successful attempt to condense and share from a multitude of resources specific techniques that we can use to create a spiritual practice and incorporate it into our daily lives. As Lois and Victoria wisely state, “This isn’t an overnight process, but more of a piecing together of little ‘aha’ moments that, in time, become something much bigger.”

The authors present six chapters, each with a specific theme and tangible suggestions of what to do to incorporate the principles into our daily lives. To put it all in context, Lois and Victoria bravely share their own stories with us. Throughout, I found myself identifying with these lovely women who write comfortably, as though they were chatting with you over a cup of coffee. They conclude each chapter with brief lists (you know how I love lists!) of suggested exercises and ways to create new habits.

As with Choosing The Better Life, you’ll recognize in their book an overarching theme of gratitude as a basis for how we live our lives. “By appreciating what we have, even when we’re struggling, we open the door to joy, abundance and peace . . . Many of us are used to seeing what we don’t, rather than what we do, have in life. In doing so, we hold ourselves back from seeing the abundance that is already present – and we hold ourselves back from creating more.”

The authors also do a wonderful job of tackling the concept of prayer, which, in my opinion, is a tricky topic because so many people have such strong and/or preconceived notions about prayer. For me, Lois and Victoria nailed it. They outline my own evolution of thinking about prayer. They describe prayer just as I have experienced it – especially in times of despair and in how to identify the answers to our prayers – and they explain how we can use prayer effectively in everyday life. Victoria and Lois emphasize that prayer is available to each person in their own way – “It means different things for different people, but for us prayer is an open and heartfelt conversation with God” – and they offer suggestions for how to tap into it.

Additionally, Lois and Victoria describe how to simplify our cluttered lives and quiet our minds. They write about how to find clarity. Oh, if I could have read that section (indeed, the whole book) a few years ago! In a very bad place and time in my life, I was stuck on “what to do.” In this confused state, I prayed for months simply for “clarity.” Eventually, I figured it out – finally seeing what had been before me all along – but what a difficult, drawn-out process! Lois and Victoria point to an easier way and reminded me, “Pay attention to what’s in your heart, not in your mind. Be honest with yourself and go deep . . . It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed and frightened as clarity is gained and what’s been buried rises to the surface.” With their confident, supportive tone, the authors assure us that if we continue on that path, it will get better. And it does!

As the book nears its end, Lois and Victoria conclude, “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a huge epiphany. Although this happens for some, it’s more of a small series of moments that moves you into your higher self.” That’s how it started for me, and now, as I now continue down this road, I’ll put to use what I’ve learned from this book. Echoing my own philosophy from a recent post about not being a Pollyanna, the authors point out that “life will continue to show up and present challenges. But you’ll notice a difference in the manner in which you react to these situations. You’ll handle what comes your way with a new trust and understanding – and an awareness that all is unfolding as it should. As the challenges arise, you’ll now meet them with a new grace and ease.”

The book is “a little book” indeed. It will not bog you down in length or style of writing. Rather, it is a delightful, uplifting, quick read – one that I found myself going back to at different times, re-reading and re-visiting parts, using it as a toolbox as the authors intended it to be. The book is well-written, organized and concise. It is heartfelt and wise, helpful without condescension, and supportive of readers at all points on our respective journeys. I loved how Lois and Victoria synthesized so much material into a simple approach combining it all. Their approach is accessible to every person, regardless of religious affiliation and regardless of whether you are brand-new to the ideas presented or have already started down a spiritual path. As the authors write, “Begin where you are now.”

Lois and Victoria are warm and wise women. Best of all, these two friends are simply “regular” women, balancing marriages, children, houses, finances, self-image, activities and the hectic pace of life. They get it. They are relatable people. They have figured it out for themselves, and now they are generous in sharing what they’ve learned for the benefit of the rest of us. Already trying to choose a Better Life for myself each and every day, I learned new techniques, gleaned new insight and am refreshed and inspired again by this book. Thank you, Lois and Victoria!