If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. November is a special time to dig deep within our hearts and express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. To be grateful is to accept the “Great Fullness.” The more we are grateful, the more we have to be grateful for.
Recent research has shown gratitude to:
- Relieve Stress (and keep in mind that stress is the number one cause of illness in our culture)
- Boost the Immune System
- Increase Alertness, Enthusiasm, Optimism, and Energy
- Reduce Depression
- Improve Overall Health and Well-Being
- Increase Spiritual Awareness, Regardless of “Religion”
- Enhance Sleep Quality
- Improve the Quality of Relationships
And, the really good news is that further research has shown that it only takes 60 seconds a day for gratitude to improve our lives.
Despite my belief in the power of gratitude, unfortunately, there are days I neglect to express it. Needless to say, those are not my best days. Yet the days I do take a few minutes to express my gratitude, no matter what happens, I feel more content, peaceful and optimistic.
I am blessed to have a gratitude teacher (she doesn’t know she’s my teacher). Most mornings, I begin my day along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. While sitting on the sand, I watch my teacher as she and her yellow lab move down the beach. They move very, very slowly. The woman appears to have had a stroke. Yet every day she rides her electric wheelchair down to the beach, while carefully holding onto the leash of her beloved dog. Then, with great effort, she lifts herself out of the wheelchair and forces herself to take one itty-bitty step at a time. It sometimes takes her an hour just to walk a few yards.
One particularly dreary morning, which matched my mood, I began observing my gratitude teacher walking with her dog. I watched closely as the woman made a herculean effort down the sand. Her dog, unlike most dogs that sprint and chase after the gulls, waited ever so patiently as the woman painstakingly took baby-steps. About thirty minutes later, noticing they had only covered a few feet, I realized I had never witnessed such loving patience. My heart swelled with profound gratitude for the dog’s love for his owner and for the woman’s persistence and tenacity. Suddenly there wasn’t room in my heart for both gratitude and gloom. Something had to give. So I took out my phone and snapped a photo of the amazing couple. Although they were hard to see from where I was sitting, their silhouettes stood proud and strong. To this day, the picture reminds me that gratitude is all encompassing and is a state of grace.
Here are some ways to allow gratitude to become a state of grace:
- Keep a gratitude journal. I know you’ve heard this advice before, but it really does work. At the beginning of each day, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Then “book end” the day by writing 3-5 things you are thankful for from that same day. Simplicity is key; your baby’s smile, a gentle breeze, a colorful sunset or your best friend’s laughter. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.
- Express your gratitude. Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite “thank you,” but the heartfelt emotions. Tell your friend how her support and sense of humor helps you get through tough times, how much it means to you. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
- Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. You may be frustrated by your spouse’s clothes on the floor, but thankfully you have a lot of love in your life. The environment is being over developed at alarming rates, but there is still beauty in every living tree, flower and bird.
- Practice gratitude with your family and friends. At dinner, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day, something they feel grateful for. Send a “gratitude text” to a friend, and while you’re at it, send one to yourself—writing what you appreciate about yourself will give you an immediate and positive boost!
“Dreams show us how to find meaning in our lives, how to fulfill our own destiny, how to realize the greater potential of life within us.”
—Marie-Louise von Franz
Rich with symbols and archetypes, dreams are an invaluable healing instrument, and when regularly processed and understood, can be a pathway to higher consciousness, healed relationships, fulfilling your life’s purpose and greater abundance. Dreams are jackpots of information, especially when you ask for answers to specific concerns. Edgar Cayce taught, “Dreams work to solve problems of the dreamer’s conscious waking life, and they work to quicken in the dreamer new potentials which are his/hers to claim.” Such is the capacity of your nightly dreams.
It’s important to keep in mind that each of your dreams, however silly or insignificant they may first appear to be, are abundant with information. They only await your willingness to learn. Further, dreams are meant to help you, not scare you. Being “stories of information,” they are expressed from your higher self through your subconscious to lovingly guide you. Countless times I’ve heard people exclaim, “I want to learn from my dreams, but mine seem so weird or negative that I’m hesitant to work with them.”
LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF YOUR DREAMS
Dreams are highly personal and using your dreams as a pathway to your soul is a process. In the book Season of Changes, Ways of Response it states, “The greatest book of study is that of your own, written by the soul upon time and space—that of your dreams.” Three key questions to keep in mind while working with a dream is:
1) What am I currently dealing with, or being affected by, that my dream wants me to know?
Dreams tend to reflect your life and its current situation. They bring authenticity and intimacy into your relationships, healing forces into your health and provide insight into other issues you’re facing in the present.
2) What do I need to know from my dreams so I can take the next step in my personal and spiritual growth?
Dreams occur to help you in every area of your life, even those areas that we tend to block and may not want to see. (Examples: addiction, self-destructive behaviors, unresolved relationship and childhood issues, unfulfilling career, etc.
3) How may I see the world around me with a new perspective from my recent dreams?
Your night-time dreams are not ghosts passing through the night, but an active and present reality that you can learn from in your daily life.
For the first time in 5 years, Laura is offering a live dream course. For more information, click HERE.
Dreams are alive. Rich with symbols, archetypes and metaphoric meaning, dreams are an invaluable healing instrument. When understood, dreams can be a pathway to higher consciousness, healed relationships and understanding your soul’s blueprint.
Dreams possess the power to free you from programmed beliefs, status quo thinking and false personas. They provide ideas, insights and solutions. Edgar Cayce taught, “Dreams work to solve problems of the dreamer’s conscious waking life, and they work to quicken in the dreamer new potentials which are his/hers to claim.”
Dreams cover the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life. They emerge from the point of contact between spirit and matter, human and divine, male and female, ego and Self. Carl Jung calls this point of contact the soul.
Below is a VLOG on the power of your dreams. Enjoy!
Once while attending a night-time dream retreat—a topic near and dear to my heart—I found myself in awe of the teacher teaching the program. He took all of us hungry students on an unforgettable journey into the underworld of our psyches. Effortlessly, he imparted wisdom on mythology, archetypes and the inner worlds of our minds in ways I had never experienced. Like a magician, he magically exposed the language of our soul. He was able to bring our dream-images to life, animating them in ways that felt surreal.
Tending to dreams while asleep had never made me feel so awake.
But as the retreat winded down, my near-perfect-teacher-bubble popped. For some reason, he decided to entertain us with a personal story. It was a narrative that I didn’t find amusing. To my ears, it sounded crude and rude and I walked away feeling confused. As evening approached, my inner critic had a field day. My beloved teacher began toppling down from the very high pedestal I had carefully placed him on. Evening turned into night and down, down, down he plummeted until…splat! He hit the ground beneath my feet.
What had happened to my all-knowing teacher? How could someone who was so wise sound so superficial?
After all, this was a man who not only possessed numerous credentials, but more importantly, was vastly aware of invaluable matters such as the soul, the future of the planet and the importance of all living creatures. This person spoke my language! And how often, in a higher education setting does that happen?
Feeling restless and out of peace, I called my husband. After sharing how I was feeling, he said something that snapped me back into sanity, “You’re learning so much from his teachings, do you really want to throw it out the window? After all, he’s human just like the rest of us.”
How often do we elevate our teachers? The tendency to make them higher than we are is natural. Yet inevitably, it leads to disappointment.
As I prepared to go to sleep that night, I realized how close I had come to throwing the baby out with the bath water. My ego had done its best to divert me on to my teacher’s human foible and away from what really mattered: his teachings.
The next day, I awoke and like a dream (pun intended), my inner critic was no longer complaining. In fact, as I stepped into the classroom and greeted my teacher, I was filled with gratitude.
As a teacher myself, how many times had I fallen off someone’s pedestal? I’m reminded of a saying a friend and spiritual teacher once shared: “Remember, I’m not your savior. I’m a sailor, and just like you, I’m trying to sail home.” Touché.
Laura V Grace
Living Like Water
One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things. He moves in harmony with the present moment, always knowing the truth of just what to do.
~~Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching, 8th Verse
Water is a commonly used metaphor in one of my favorite spiritual paths, the Tao te Ching. It symbolizes fluidity, gentleness and strength. When we’re free to flow as water, we’re more apt to align with our inner guidance. Yet, in our culture, living like water can be very challenging. Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Our need to stay busy, busy, busy, limits our ability to be fully present.
A few days ago, some of my own plans were put to the test. While waiting for my next meeting, I decided to take a walk along the beach in a nearby seaside town. As I made my way to the shoreline, I looked down and saw a young pelican sitting on a sidewalk. It wasn’t moving, just sitting there looking sleepy. A sheriff was talking to a woman about it so I assumed it was being tended to.
Fifteen minutes later, as I walked back to my car, the baby pelican was still there. No sheriff this time, just the water bird. Looking down at the winged creature, I realized it needed tending to, although exactly what it needed, I didn’t know. I was at a crossroads; I could either continue with my busy day—or—I could try to help the prehistoric-looking creature in front of me.
How many times do we encounter something or someone that is in need of assistance yet look the other way? Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what to do or we don’t believe we have the time. It seems easier to hope that someone else will deal with it.
Living like water teaches us not only how to be in the flow of life, but how to focus our attention where it’s most needed. So I picked up my phone and called the local marine and wildlife centers. “Yes,” they said as they answered my call, “we’ve received several calls about the same pelican (apparently she had been sitting on the sidewalk for two days). “Unfortunately, we cannot pick her up. Can you bring her to us?”
“Straight away,” I said, not having a clue as to how I would transport a pelican in my two seated sports car. But as soon as I committed to rescuing “Pella” (short for pelican), help arrived. (Later, I discovered that “Pella” is an ancient Greek name meaning a “defensible citadel on a cliff.”) Within minutes, a woman walked by and asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes,” I quickly replied, “I need a box.” She set off and promptly returned with a box the perfect size for Pella. As she sat the box down, a young British couple stopped to observe the feeble pelican and kindly said, “I have a pocket knife and can cut a hole big enough for her beak if you’d like.” Brilliant.
Removing a towel from the trunk of my car, I gently placed it around Pella’s beak. She was so weak that she barely resisted. I carefully placed her in the box and set her on my passenger seat. I securely held the box in place and with my right hand as I shifted my 5-speed manual transmission with my left hand. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the shelter and Pella joined thirty other juvenile pelicans being treated for starvation.
In the book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life Dr. Wayne Dyer discusses the teachings of the Tao and states: “When you’re free to flow like water, you’re free to communicate naturally—information is exchanged, and knowledge advances in a way that benefits everyone.” Lesson 100 in A Course in Miracles echoes the same truth in a different manner: “You are essential to Love’s [God’s] plan. You are Love’s [His] messenger today. And you must find what Love [He] would have you give.”
Living like water doesn’t mean that we don’t keep a schedule or we won’t be productive. Rather, it entails being fully present, remaining fluid and flexible to what most needs our attention. After rescuing Pella, I felt a sense of fulfillment from choosing to follow the natural flow of life. I not only knocked off all the “to do’s” from my list that day, I also fell asleep that night feeling inspired and aligned with a higher purpose.
Today I invite you to lay aside your ideas about how your day should flow. Practice keeping an open mind and heart as you encounter every situation. May you allow Love to guide your vision in every decision you make today.
As we celebrate the 4th of July in 2012, may we remember the deeper meaning of freedom. Real freedom is not only about being free as a nation, but being free from limiting beliefs, self-doubt, fear and negativity. In honor of our inner and outer freedom, I invite you to read “A New Pledge” written by David Ault, a New Thought musician, keynote speaker and workshop and retreat facilitator. I’ve shared this pledge at the Circle before, and because it is so powerful, I encourage you to read it today:
A NEW PLEDGE:
I pledge allegiance to breaking the self-imposed barriers of my humanness. I recognize that my time on this planet is precious and limited. Every day is a canvas on which I can create. Everyday is an opportunity for me to move in the direction of the dreams and the expanded vision I feel inside. By setting aside petty grievances, past mistakes, righteous anger and my broken story, I pledge to move forward and embrace the experience of freedom right here and right now.
I pledge allegiance to the expression of my spiritual honesty. I fully own the fact that my presence here in this body and on this earth is a celebration of uniqueness and importance. Creation makes no mistakes. I am a creation of life, of a higher power, of perfection. My reason for being here matters in the grand divine plan. I must be honest with my contract of life and walk the path of my destiny with conviction, purpose and grace.
I pledge allegiance to the quiet soldier within. I understand that the championing spirit that is already cellularly alive inside of me, that was already in place at the time of my birth, waits patiently for my current belief about myself to join it in its knowing. I march forward towards a history of my own making, wisely, lovingly choosing the means by which I spread my beliefs and convictions. I never make others wrong for their chosen path for I recognize the innumerable roads that lead to the One.
I pledge allegiance to a partnership with divinity. I choose to see others and myself from eyes that already view the wholeness and perfection within. I do not entertain our past damage or encourage us to identify with it for I trust that a grander calling card has been printed for us to distribute in promoting our lives. I champion all of us to celebrate what is working rather than what isn’t.
I pledge allegiance to wise discernment – knowing when to speak and when to remain quiet, knowing when to comfort and when to leave alone, knowing when to intervene and when to avoid rescuing and interfering.
I pledge allegiance to people and projects of substance. I cannot travel this road alone. If there is anything we as a species need, it is each other. I actively choose to support those whose work I believe in with my time, talent and treasure. I joyously give to those whose intention and purpose is for self-empowerment and the awakening of humanity to its personal magnificence. I rally to make others aware of such light bearers and do what I can to support them in furthering their vision.
I pledge allegiance to the freedom from comparison. I once and for all lay down my wearisome, stale beliefs of unworthiness and not being good enough. I know that my past does not define who I am. I am forever evolving, growing and learning. I recognize that I am a marvel. I now choose opportunities to let my voice be heard; to let my light shatter the darkness of futility so that every personal dream is explored.
I pledge allegiance in knowing that things are not always as they seem. Just because something can’t be seen with the physical eye or rationalized by our current mode of understanding does not negate its existence. Understanding the difference between reality and illusion, I move into a fuller acceptance of the non-physical – the mystical, intuitive, soul aspect of living that expands my consciousness and deepens my days.
I pledge allegiance to actions that fulfill the greatest good for all. By becoming a gatekeeper of compassion, tolerance and love, I move into a fuller conviction of pure intent with regard to the words that I speak and the choices that I make. I pursue a win-win in all activities of life.
I pledge allegiance to those who have gone before me, the ancestral lineage whose courage, sacrifice and conviction still live in my bones. I honor the privileges given to me today because of the sweat from their pioneering efforts and the fortitude of their convictions. I give thanks for my responsibility in creating the same for future generations.
I pledge allegiance to a love that has no agenda. I no longer choose to give for what I might get, to manipulate in order to control, to abandon before I can be abandoned, to tolerate because there are seemingly no other options. I choose to love as a way of being. I am content in my choice whether outside circumstances respond or not. In being love, I create fulfillment above and beyond what the human condition can provide.
I pledge allegiance to the sacredness of laughter, knowing that the greatest healing force that exists reverberates from the vibration of this holy and irreplaceable gift. I allow humor, joy and eruptions of laughter to make their home in my heart. I let my physical body respond to the sacred stimulus and biological wonder that laughter creates and vow to keep this attribute alive and thriving all the days of my life.
Enjoy a happy and peaceful Independence Day.
Laura V Grace
Summer Solstice is approaching on June 20th, 2012. It’s the longest day of the year for the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. During the summer solstice the sun sits highest in the sky. Astronomically, the summer solstice marks the moment when the Earth’s North Pole is pointed closest to the sun in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere.
Summer represents life in full bloom.
From a spiritual growth standpoint, the rhythms of summer represent a spiritual flowering. How many challenges or opportunities for growth (OFG’s) have you experienced in 2012? Well, now is the time to reap the rewards from facing those challenges. Summer is when we feel the effects and benefits from our accumulated spiritual efforts.
So take a moment to think about some of the obstacles you’ve worked through—or are working on—this year. Perhaps you’ve been giving energy to a financial situation, a significant relationship, a health issue or examining your life’s deeper purpose. Know that whatever area of your life you’ve been willing to evolve, it’s adding to your spiritual bank account.
Summer Solstice is the perfect time to express gratitude to the Divine for what you have and all that has been done for you. Despite the current challenges we face at this point on our planet, it’s still the best time to appreciate our life, the spiritual opportunities that are opening up, and being alive. The Light emanating from within and around us, gives us infinite chances to face our fears, heal negativity and grow in consciousness.
Just as sunshine nourishes the flowers as they bloom across the land, the solar energy vitalizes and strengths us as it shines upon us. Allow your childlike self to dance, sing and play. Radiate your light and love to people you encounter today. Stand in the sun and let your light shine, baby!
Laura V Grace
Each life is unique. Each soul has its own destiny. Unfortunately, we often lose sight of this truth amidst the myriad programming we have received. Our soul’s voice gets buried beneath the countless ideas and beliefs that have been handed to us over the years, and then are reaffirmed over and over again by society.
For many years, I’ve seen myself as an independent thinker. In fact, my husband and I used to joke that as long as we’re not living life in accordance with societal beliefs, we’re probably on the right track. As we have walked our spiritual path together, we have learned to take our cues not from the world, but from within. Following the rhythm of our own soul took years of practice. It meant unplugging from the fear-based thoughts that dominate this world and tuning in to the love within.
So a couple of months ago, when we made a decision that would dramatically shift our lives, I was surprised to discover that I was concerned about what others might think. I’ve made numerous choices over the years that were boat-rocking, unconcerned about the opinions of others. It’s what has allowed me to leave a traditional career and life path, blaze my own trail, and cultivate a purposeful path that feeds my soul.
So when my inner critic surfaced several weeks ago, I began challenging it: “Whose life am I living anyway?” Just because this particular decision may not be understood or supported by some, doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision for me and my loved ones. Posing this question became my spiritual practice. Every time a fear surfaced, I would repeat the question. It may have taken a hundred times, but finally, my inner critic took me seriously and began to quiet down.
In his best-selling book Wishes Fulfilled, Dr. Wayne Dyer reminds us of what our souls most desire:
“The ideal of your soul, the thing that it yearns for, is not more knowledge. It is not interested in comparison, nor winning, nor light, nor ownership, nor even happiness. The ideal of your soul is space, expansion, and immensity, and the one thing it needs more than anything else is to be free to expand…”
Whose life are you living? Your soul is infinity itself. The greatness, that on some level you know you’re capable of, comes from within your soul. So to limit yourself, in any way, squelches your greatness. And being concerned with the opinions of others, is perhaps, the quickest way to limit yourself.
As I write this, I’m about to announce the momentous decision I’ve made. My hope is that it will be received with open arms. But if not, I am embracing my choice with all the love and courage I possess.
As you make choices that may or may not be boat-rocking, may you live a life that allows your soul complete freedom. After all, it’s your life.
I AM: Your Highest Easter Truth
Recently, I was in the midst of a challenging situation with someone I care about. She was upset and reactive and I found myself struggling to keep my balance. After calling her to discuss it, the tension continued to grow and I knew I had a choice; I could either join her in the battleground, or channel my energy in a different direction. Although I was feeling pressure from her to remain in the upset, I chose the latter. Instead of engaging in a power struggle, I spent several hours creating a new project and moving forward with my life’s work.
If I had entered into the ego-clash, I would have felt drained and depressed. Instead, by choosing to focus on moving forward and doing what I love, I not only defused the situation with this person, I ended the day feeling enlivened and content.
Easter is a reminder to choose wisely. The symbol of the crucifixion and resurrection reflects our ultimate power of choice. We can either focus on fear or love, dark or light, lack or abundance.
For years, I’ve had a picture of Jesus, laughing, on my wall, along with many other spiritual leaders from other faiths. Whenever I see Jesus laughing, I’m reminded that as much as some religions try to depict a crucified image of him, many of his teachings focus on joy. Through his choice of words “I AM,” Jesus chose to preface his statements so it affirmed his oneness with God. He didn’t say “I am not.” He declared “I AM the light of the world.” (John 8:12). “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev 1:8). “I AM the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5). And the perfect Easter affirmation: “I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25).
How will you choose to affirm your truth this Easter season? What will you choose to cast your gaze upon? Pain or Joy? Resentment or Gratitude? These choices may sound simplistic but they are radically different. And they contain the power for a miraculous shift in perception, or what A Course in Miracles simply refers to as a “miracle.”
While I was busy channeling my energy into the creative realm, my husband decided to go for a run. When he returned he said, “You’re not going to believe this, but as I was running, I thought about the situation with your friend and my energy dropped so low that it became hard to run (crucifixion). But then, I decided to shift my attention on to you and my love and appreciation for you (resurrection). And guess what happened? My energy shot up and I ended up having the best run that I’ve had in a long time.”
“I felt your love,” I replied. “And guess what? I shifted, too, and I AM a lot more at peace.”
What is your highest I AM truth this Easter?
Laura V Grace
Co-Creating Sacred Women’s Circles
“Groups run by women are our psychic turf; our place to discover who we are, or who we could become, as whole independent beings. Somewhere in our lives, each of us needs a free place. A little psychic territory. Do you have yours?” ~~Gloria Steinem
The Central Coast’s 2nd Annual Women’s Symposium was extremely successful. A whopping 90% of the feedback surveys rated it “Excellent!” We were honored to have so many loving, creative and empowered women join together in the same place at the same time.
Keynote speaker, Jean Shinoda Bolen, shared her infinite wisdom, including the power of women’s circles from her book The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and The World–The Essential Guide to Women’s Circles. As a result, several women have expressed an interest in co-creating circles for women and are asking for guidance on the best approach.
Circles contain their own energy and can be very powerful. Circle time is meant to be sacred. As we enter a circle, we step outside of our everyday routine and enter into a place of great mystery. Never underestimate the power of the circle. It can change us on many levels if we allow ourselves to enter it with an open mind and compassionate heart.
In the spirit of providing encouragement, below are some guidelines I have used in the past for creating a sacred circle:
1. Ask your deepest self for guidance in clarifying your intention for co-creating a circle. You may also want to invite the other women to share their intention. For example, you could explore the following probes:
What do I most deeply desire to EXPERIENCE in my life?
At this unique point in time, with all of my life experiences, what do I most deeply desire to CREATE in my life?
What do I most deeply desire to CONTRIBUTE to life?
Once you’ve clarified the intention for having a circle, decide how often you want to meet, the location, how will the facilitation be shared, how many may attend, etc.
- When you’re ready to begin meeting, take time to prepare yourself before entering the circle. This may be accomplished through a short ritual, prayer, meditation and so forth. The facilitator should be prepared to hold the “rim” of the circle. Please keep in mind that it is not the sole responsibility of the facilitator to ensure the circle is a sanctuary. Everyone contributes to the energy of the circle.
- Honor yourself and the other women in the circle and set your intention for a soulful, heart-opening and empowering experience.
- When another woman is sharing, give her your full attention. Remember that it is a privilege to be a part of each other’s journeys.
- Allow ideas and goals to surface and respect any differences.
- Create “authentic partners” (as Jean Shinoda Bolen mentioned) to empower each other to take action steps and stay on track.
- Practice being mindful and confidential of what is shared. “Circle magic and mystery” is best kept alive by keeping what is said in circle private. Try to remember the sacredness of the circle and honor the beauty and wisdom that manifests as the circle unfolds.
Finally, no matter how we choose to spend our precious life force energy, may we remember the guiding principles that Jean Shinoda Bolen graced us with on March 10th:
Is it meaningful to you?
Will it be fun being with others on this project/cause?
Is it motivated by love?