The Gift Of Emptiness

Seeing the good in what is left when everything you have has been taken away. 

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For centuries humans have recognized the benefit of stillness and quietness in forms of meditation and spiritual practice. For some of us, we already practice stillness and mindfulness in our daily rituals of prayer, meditation, yoga, journaling and decluttering walks. For others of us, it is not so easy. Life inundates us with lists of things to do. Now that we are “connected” all day to newsfeeds and tickers, pings, dings and rings, disconnecting is even more difficult to do, for fear of missing out! I usually say that “God sends people to the desert when he really wants to talk to them because the reception is really good out there.” I think there’s some truth to this. Barrenness and stillness is where we are most connected with the soul of the world.

One thing that we need to remember is this: where there is emptiness and barrenness, there is potential for miracles.

Sometimes the universe will deal us a heavy blow if for no other reason than to get our attention. One day everything is going smoothly. The next, we’ve lost our job, our house burns down, there is a divorce or a loved one passes away- in the blink of an eye the entire world has changed.

Sometimes the storms of life happen if for no reason but to bring us back to these places of nothingness so we can build again.

Sometimes life breaks us so we can be rebuilt from the pieces into something even more beautiful.

For some of us, the shock and grief of losing everything can throw us into quite the tailspin from which we have a difficult time trying to recover. Our pain comes not from our brokenness, but from our unwillingness to be broken. We have to learn to let go and be okay with being broken.

To understand what I am saying, one needs only to look at nature. None of the seasons last forever. There is the time for sowing seeds and time for harvesting, and then there are times when the land lies fallow, whether intentionally as a result of an individual, or due to corporate activity around it as in the wild. In and of itself, that land does not lose its worth. Farmers (Mother Nature included!) understand that leaving land unseeded for a while allows it to build up it’s nutrient resources before sowing seeds for harvest once more.

In wintertime there is snow covering the ground and the trees look dead, but we know for sure that when springtime rolls around the snow will thaw and the leaves and grass, flowers and animal life will all be back. So too, when life razes us and we feel like there is nothing left, right there in that moment is potential for growth- finding one’s self, hearing one’s soul; there is opportunity for rebirth among the ashes. We must remember first that this too is temporary- no season lasts forever; no storm lasts forever. We must not lose hope. We must look forward to the next season, and we must do it today.

 

Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis makes this recovery much easier. I’m not saying this to seem harsh or uncaring but quite the opposite- the self love and self care that goes into building this habit into our daily routine often pays off in the face of disaster. If our ear is already pressed to the soul of the world, then we are attuned to what the universe has to say even when, to the natural eye, everything has gone wrong. If we can find the strength in the midst of the storm to be still, we will find the strength to endure the storm. When we are removed from the noise, we can hear what the universe- what our souls- are trying to tell us. We can hear all the things that the busy-ness and business of life drowns out by keeping us distracted. God, as you understand him, is always there.

If you are facing emptiness and barrenness in any area of your life today, I want to encourage you to embrace it. This too is a gift.

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I’ve decided to call this series Lessons From The Lighthouse, in homage to the imagery found in the film, Life Of Pi. These lessons have served as an inspiration to me in my personal growth and development in the past year and half, and now, I’m sharing them with you. I hope that they are instrumental in helping you find your inner ability to create miracles in your own life.

Light & Love!

To find the entire series, click here.

10 Things I Learned About Friendship

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This article was featured in its entirety in elephant journal at http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/03/10-things-ive-learned-about-friendship/ 

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Over the past year or so changes in my life have caused me to take a good look at the people I consider friends. Growing up, my parents dispensed a lot of advice about friends and friendship- some good, some not-so-great- but as I grew older I realized I had to be smarter about my choices. I needed to make my own rules. Not everyone who smiles with you is your friend; not everyone who seems mean to you is your enemy either. People who mean so much to you one day may not mean so much a year or two out. Be that as it may, I still have some very good people in my life who confirm to me not only that I have good friends, but that I know how to be a good friend.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1: Your friends celebrate with you when you are happy. They don’t look for ways to diminish your happiness, even when they are not happy themselves.

2: Your friends cry with you when you are sad. They don’t downplay your grief as though it were insignificant, even if they believe differently.

3: Your friends will call you out on your bullshit. They will be the first ones to tell you when you are being an idiot, when you are being petty or rude, when you are being a moron or a jackass. Your friends are not “yes” people. Your friends help to keep you in line with the truth of who you really are.

4: In the dark times of your life your friends will find you and turn the light on. Your friends don’t add to the drama and insanity by punishing you with insensitivity.

5: Your friends learn your song and will sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words. There will be times when you feel so lost, like you’ve forgotten who you are. There are people who know you inside and out who will be happy to remind you because they love you. These are your friends.

6: Your friends will take great lengths to understand your quirks, your flaws, likes and dislikes. They will not judge you. They will love you just as you are and will not try to change you.

7: You know your friends because they are the ones who help you to be a better person just by virtue of who they are and by their presence in your life, whether you talk to them every day or once every seven years.

8: Facebook may say you have over 100 friends. In real life, you only have seven, plus or minus two. Of those seven, only three are in your inner circle, and there is only one person whom you will call at 3 a.m. when you cannot sleep. Understand those numbers. The entire world cannot fit in your front row, nor should it.

9: As you get older, your friends will change because your needs and wants will change. Your true friends will understand that and be okay with it.

10: Friendship, like love, is a form of energy. It can neither be created nor destroyed; it simply transfers from one state to the next. Cherish your friendships and pay attention to them. They are important in navigating the seas of life. In order to have good friends, you must practice being a good friend.

What are your friendship rules? Share in the comments! I’d love hear about your friendship experiences.

Asa-Mari

Equipped To Survive…And To Live!

A huge part of “finding the extraordinary in the sacred ordinary” is being able to see the sacred in the ordinary. 

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As children, we believed in magic. We saw the world through innocent eyes- we believed the stories and knew in our hearts that all our dreams would come true.

Then, the storm came.

We grew up and some of those dreams didn’t come to pass. Someone we loved and made promises to made promises back and didn’t keep them. We had our hearts and our spirits broken by tragedy and violence. Our dining tables piled up with bills. Somewhere along the way we forgot about our magic and subscribed to “real life”.

We ruminate over things and let things linger from one day into the next, carrying along baggage with us that weighs us down. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Our hopes are desperately sinking, and systematically being replaced with misery, or worse, complacency.

Too many times we travel through life feeling like we are inadequate.

Too often, we use our pasts as reasons not to try harder. We convince ourselves that where we are is all we’re ever going to be. That dream we once had is just a dream. There’s no way we could follow our dreams now!

We’re too old,

too tired,

too broke,

too small,

too insignificant,

too broken,

too busy,

too lost…

…the list of excuses goes on and on.

What we don’t realize is, that dream- no matter what it is- was placed on the inside of our hearts for a reason.

Let’s face it- everyone has been through something- some loss, some hurt, some pain- everyone has their own monster to face, their own obstacle to conquer. No one gets to corner the market on pain.

Here is the good news- 

No matter what you have been through, everything you need to survive this life is already inside you. 

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Even in the midst of the mighty, terrible storm, there is a plan. Nothing happens by coincidence. No one crosses your path by accident. Everything that has happened to you- both positive and negative- has happened to prepare you for what is now and what is to come. Embrace your experiences and validate your own existence by choosing to live your life on purpose!

If you can train your mind to see the good in yourself and the good in your story, you will find the courage to power through whatever it is that is holding you back from achieving your truest potential.

Training your mind to see the positive in the negative, the light in the darkness- seeing the sacred in the ordinary- gives us a glimpse of the divine in everything and in everyone.

And then…oh, my friends…then…

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Life begins!

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I’ve decided to call this series Lessons From The Lighthouse, in homage to the imagery found in the film, Life Of Pi. These lessons have served as an inspiration to me in my personal growth and development in the past year and half, and now, I’m sharing them with you. I hope that they are instrumental in helping you find your inner ability to create miracles in your own life.

Light & Love!

To find the entire series, click here.

A Grateful Heart Is A Happy Heart

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“…the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying,
“Give thanks to the LORD Almighty,
for the LORD is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 33:11, NIV)

The hand of the LORD was heavy upon His people, molding them, shaping them, purifying them into the people He knew He created them to be. In the face of their sinfulness, He had no choice but to deal with them according to their ways. That meant destruction and famine, homelessness and waste, sickness and death. But greater than His anger, was His love for them. For even among the darkness, God sent them a messenger who spoke to them words of hope.

Praising God is always the right thing to do, whether you are having a good day, but especially when you are not. God loves a cheerful heart, one that is full of faith and is willing and able to declare His name boldly in times of trouble. If we reflect, we can easily call to mind the times when God delivered us from some thing or other; times when we thought our backs were against the wall and we thought surely we were about to die! But if we remember clearly, God did not abandon us then. He came through, just at the right time, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

The reason why God loves a cheerful heart such as this is that the heart that remembers His faithfulness will always be faithful to Him. When we get in the practice of praising God, we get to the point where we are unstoppable—the obstacles don’t matter, and the disappointments don’t faze us—because our hearts are focused on the promises of God. Our faith, then, is built on the personal history we have with Him, a first hand knowledge that God is powerful and all-mighty and able to do what He said He would do. God calls us to be a powerful people such as this, a people who believe with their heart and worship Him in spirit and in truth. Purpose yourself to praise Him continuously, and watch the circumstances of your life transform into your most powerful testimony!

Sing A Song Of Praise

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“I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9: 1-2 NIV)

David had a very intimate relationship with God. He felt no reservations in telling God how he felt at any particular time. The psalms capture a range of emotion- happy, joyous, angry, enraged, defeated, depressed, sad, lonely. David knew what it felt like to be admired by and hated by people. He knew what it felt like to have an entire army come against him and have no one but God in whom to seek refuge. He knew what it felt like to have sinned against God and to endure the consequences of his bad decisions. David also knew first hand of God’s mercy and goodness toward him. No matter what happened in his life, David knew for sure that the one place he could turn was to his Heavenly Father. He knew he could count in God’s faithfulness. And God saw David as a man after His own heart.

David wasn’t just praising God that day because everything was going great. On the contrary, things in his life at the time seemed to be falling apart. In the verses immediately following, he describes his enemies and those who seek to destroy him. No doubt he knew no end to trouble and heartache. But David knew something about God that we often seem to forget-he knew that in times of trouble, the most powerful thing to do was to offer God praise. Most of us find it super easy to shout praises to God when life is peachy-keen and everything is okay. But none of us find it easy to praise God when life is hard, and the walls seem to be closing in on us, and when the rain is falling so hard it is difficult for us to see what is ahead. The truth is, this is precisely the time when our faith in God-the same God who has rescued us before and who is willing to do it again-should kick in. It is the exact time when our mouths should be filled with praise because we just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God will move on our behalf. And of course, it doesn’t come easy, but as with anything, the more we purpose ourselves to practice praising God in times of trouble, the easier it becomes. We will soon find that our attitude toward life and circumstances begins to change and we become a happier and more successful people; we find that we have become people after God’s own heart.

I’ll praise you in the storm and I will lift my hands, ‘Cause you are Who You Are, no matter where I am And ev’ry tear I cry You hold in Your hand; You’ve never left my side And though my heart is torn, I will praise you in the storm…” (Praise you in the Storm /lyrics, Casting Crowns)