Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Gift of Compassion

Quote of the month:
Compassion is the ultimate and most meaningful embodiment 
of emotional maturity. 
It is through compassion that a person achieves 
the highest peak and deepest reach in his or her search for self-fulfillment.
Arthur Jersild

It's that time of year again... the stores are busy.... everyone seems to be buying. 'Tis the season for gift-giving.  This year, in addition to the gifts we buy and wrap, I'd like to suggest some other simple gifts that do not require a box or paper.  Before anyone calls me Scrooge, I am not anti-gift-in-a-box...  my simple suggestion this month is to consider that there may be some other alternatives to store bought gifts for the holidays.  Some of the "gifts" we can offer to others include...  love, encouragement, joy and the gift of your time. 

The "gift" I want to focus on this month, is compassion.  The quote above suggests that compassion is the peak of emotional maturity and of self-fulfillment.  I won't suggest that it is always easy.... but the reward can be great. 

This also overlaps with two of The Four Agreements  - Agreement #2 - Don't take anything personally and agreement #3 - Don't make assumptions.

How does this look in real life?  Say you are in line at the check out in the store.  The clerk barely acknowledges you and only spouts the price when she is finished, tosses you the receipt and moves on to the next customer without so much as a thank you or a good bye. 

The typical person might first, make the assumption that they had done something that upset the clerk and then secondly, take that personally and think something like she did not like them.  They might think they had done something to anger her.... or for some reason, she decided to be mean to them.  Following Agreement #3.... we are told not to make these type of assumptions and then following Agreement #2.... we are told to not take any of it personally.  How can that be possible you say... it is directed at me... how can it not be personal?!  Would you be rude back?  Would you grab the receipt without a thank you?  Would you stomp off without any niceties? 

What if I then told you that the woman's husband just walked out on her and left her with 3 little kids to raise on her own.  Only the week before, she found out that she had developed a life threatening disease.  Would you feel a little bit differently?  Would you consider how someone going through all that might feel and that they might not be in the best mood? 

If so, you may be feeling compassion for her..... the dictionary defines it as..... a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

In real life terms... it simply means that you understand how she might feel.  What if, instead, you dug down deep, put your own hurt feelings aside and smiled at her and said, "Thank you!"  It doesn't cost you anything.  It doesn't hurt you in any way.... what if you are the only person who was nice to her that day... maybe partly her own doing.... but even so.... one smile, one nice person may make a difference to her.   AND it just might even make you feel GOOD!  

Compassion involves a 2-step process of sorts.  The first step is to step OUT of your own feeling about the situation.  The second step is to step IN to what the other person may be experiencing or feeling.  I'll briefly caution not to get lost IN their feeling but allow yourself to objectively understand or appreciate what the other person might be experiencing.  Ask yourself how you might feel in that situation.  How would you wish for someone to react to you or treat you in that situation?  

Very often we do not know the "back story" of the other person.  I will go so far as to say nearly ANYONE who is behaving "badly" (I'll define "badly" rather loosely here) is in some way feeling badly about themselves, feeling down or upset about something.  This includes your parents, your kids and especially your significant other!!!!!!!!!!!  How about giving the gift of compassion this year to those people who you are closest to?  You can get them a wrapped gift in a box too if you like.... but try experimenting with compassion now and then.... see how it works!  Maybe you will get a gift back as well! 

One last suggestion.... make sure to include yourself on the list of people to give compassion to!

I'll leave you with one last list of things that either don't need much money or don't have to go in a box.... this list is borrowed, with permission from Zen Habits...
  • Do other things with family, such as caroling, baking, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, playing football outside. 
  • Volunteer as a family at a homeless shelter.
  • Ask people to donate to your favorite charity in lieu of gifts.
  • Make meaningful gifts.
  • Do a gift swap where you put a valued possession (that you already own) into the swap.
  • Bake gifts.
  • Have an experience instead of giving material goods: do something fun together, go to the beach or a lake.
As always, I'd love to hear your comments or questions.  You can comment or ask a question by clicking on the "comment" button below.
Have a happy holiday... and until next month.....
Keep it simple!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What are you Grateful for?

To post to our Community Gratitude List..... 
scroll down to the end of this post and 
look for the comments section. 
Thank you!

Photo of the month:
Malibu, May 2010
Quote of the month:
Both abundance and lack exist 
simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. 
It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend... 
When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives 
but are grateful for the abundance that's present
/love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature 
and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure/ 
the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience 
Heaven on earth.
- Sarah Ban Breathnach

What Are You Grateful For?
It seems to feel like we are skipping over Thanksgiving a bit and rushing on to Christmas.  I hear it said every year... that the holidays seem to start earlier and earlier each year.  I saw holiday things out at Target even before Halloween.  I have no judgement about it being either a "good" thing or a "bad" thing.  I do, however, not want to miss the opportunity to focus on gratitude.

This year, I am going to devote an entire month to just that.  Since November is Thanksgiving, it seems the perfect time to also highlight gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful catalysts to a joyful life! It is important to take the time to reflect on the wonderful things that are present in your life.

I invite you to pause for a moment...yes, right now and just think about something you are grateful for. Go ahead, take a moment.... I'll wait.  If things are going well for you right now, this will be simple.  If you feel life has been a bit challenging lately, it may be a bit more challenging to think of something, but even so, there are still many things to be grateful for.  In fact, placing your attention on those things may help to lighten the load you may feel in other areas of your life as the quote above seems to imply.

For some examples - is the sun out where you are? Did someone hold a door for you today?  Was the clerk at the store polite to you?  Are you breathing?  Do you have clothing to keep you warm?  Enough food to eat?  Have you ever really noticed the abundance and variety of foods that are available to us in the grocery store?  Take a moment in the produce department next trip to the store and just observe what is there.  It is truly amazing!  For my Floridian readers, if this happens to be in a Publix Supermarket, you can be doubly grateful!  (No they don't pay me to say that!)

Do you have your one thing you are grateful for?  Concentrate on it for just a moment.

Notice how you feel when you focus on something you are grateful for. Bring your attention to your heart and recognize the feeling of love and joy that fills your heart. Doesn't it feel GREAT! Savor that feeling and know that you have the ability to take yourself there any time you choose!

In the evenings I often have my boys list three things they are grateful for from that day. I encourage them to be specific about something that happened recently. I wanted to take a minute to list a few specific things that I am grateful for and then invite you to do the same.

Last year, this idea evolved into a Community Gratitude list on the blog.  What I've done this year is pull that post forward, edit it a bit... and will make the same suggestion as last year, to take a minute and add to the list.  All you have to do is click the comments button below.  You may add to the list with or without using your name.  It is simple!  You can also choose to have follow up comments e-mailed to you, which in this case I would suggest.  I believe it can be cumulative, somewhat synergistic, and we can all benefit from the comments and gratitude of others.  For those of you who posted last year, it  may be interesting to go back and look at the list, possibly add a few new things this year.

I'd like all of us to experience what gratitude can do in your life! Also, how placing your awareness on gratitude increases it and just how good it can make you feel!

The photo of the month is from a hike in a canyon during a trip I took earlier this year to Malibu, CA.  A trip I am very grateful to have experienced... where I experienced new places and things, ate healthy food, visited with a lifelong friend.. and made new friends!  

Thank you to all of you for your continued support of my blogging endeavor! For that I am also supremely grateful!

To read last month's post on your True Colors.... click here.

Until next month,
Keep it simple!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

True Colors

Fall True Colors, Minnesota, October 2010
Quote of the month:

I see your true colors... shining through…
so don't be afraid, to let them show,
your true colors... are beautiful,
like a rainbow.
-Cyndi Lauper

This was originally posted in January of 2009, but I have referred to it several time recently, so it seems appropriate to revisit it again this month.   

The True Colors of fall are shining through in the photo above!  This month, we will talk about allowing your own true colors to shine through as well. In  December of 2008, we talked about making a list of characteristics, successes or accomplishments, then sitting with that for a while to get a feeling around it, then trying to put that feeling into your own words.  I call this your True Colors Phrase.  You may have several true colors phrases, one for each particular area of your life that you wish to experience differently.  To keep it simple, I suggest working on one at a time.  It is also generally easier to begin with an area of your life that is not your biggest challenge.  

Here are some more suggestions for coming up with a true colors phrase.

It must be TRUE! You may say that a true colors phrase sounds similar to coming up with a mantra or affirmation. Mantras are fine too, if they work for you, but there are several ways that this is different from a mantra. Often, a mantra is not a true statement, but rather the way you want something to be. Repeating over and over that the sky is green will not make it so. In our example from December 2008, about a new endeavor, the subconscious is still there telling you what it really thinks. You are trying to say, I can do it....whatever "it" is ....and the mind or subconscious is there in the background calling you a liar! You will hear underneath your voice, your subconscious saying, "No you can't!!!" This is what you will really hear and really feel on an emotional level. Last month the suggestion was to make a list of REAL positive situations where you have been successful. It is real information that the subconscious cannot argue with.

The true colors phrase should be short and concise. Try to boil it down to a few words. Something that you can easily remember and repeat when you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts.

Another difference is that a true colors phrase is designed to bring up a specific feeling. It will bring up the FEELING of the successes or accomplishments over again and the subconscious will be better able to believe it. It is important to note here, that you may not get to the feeling part immediately. Feelings actually start as a thought in your head. We don't realize this, as it becomes automatic, but if you can slow the process down you see that the thought comes first, which then creates the feeling.

Some of you have told me either that the true colors phase does not bring up a good feeling or that your mind is still in there telling you that you are a "liar" even on the real accomplishments. This is where the use of your will comes in. Facts are facts. The mind cannot argue with facts. If this is the case, start with reminding yourself each time the mind wants to tell you that it is not enough or still not good enough... or whatever your version of this is.  (You can also re-read September's post on Your Thoughts Create Your Reality, or "just the facts" on not making judgments about each and every thought that comes through your mind.)

Then, allow yourself to own your accomplishments. It may take some time and repetition, but over time, you will re-train your mind. You can think of it almost like reprogramming a computer....except that we are not machines and require multiple efforts to "reprogram."

Gary Zukav says the longest distance you will ever travel is from your head to your heart! Getting a thought from your head to a feeling in your heart may take time. Your "heart" (the feeling) has been listening to that other criticizing part for so long that says it's not that is what your heart may currently be "believing" (in the form of a feeling also.) Repetition is key for this also!

Probably by this time, if you have been following along every month, it is becoming apparent, that when you become aware of your I-pod/tape chatter saying something negative then becomes a matter of repeatedly replacing the old thought with the new thought...the true colors phrase. To continue the I-pod/tape metaphor….it is like going back and recording a new song on the tape or synching your I-pod with a new play list. In both cases, you are replacing the old information with new. As mentioned above, we are not computers or machines and it generally cannot be accomplished with just one time….but each time you become aware, challenge the thought and replace it with a new one, the new thought becomes stronger, especially when that thought is tied to a positive feeling.

Please understand the personal power this simple technique can give you…. Even if it is something you have believed or been told your whole life. I try to keep these posts light and simple, but there are some very powerful applications for this simple technique. Think of a child that fails a test or class....and the beliefs that child could adopt as a result. Think of a person who is fired from a job and the thoughts and beliefs that could result.... or a child who has experienced abuse or has been picked on or bullied... he or she may develop certain thoughts and beliefs about themselves, or thoughts about why the abuse or bullying occurred. Very often people attribute the cause to something about themselves...a flaw of some sort....or it could lead to a powerless feeling....or any number of different feelings or coping mechanisms. Again, there may be as many different ways of coping as their are people and situations.

The simple suggestion I am making this month is that there may be other ways to look at each of those challenges.  If you find yourself saying, "But that really is a terrible thing that happened to me!" I would remind you that you may have old coping mechanisms that are no longer serving you.  I would also suggest that losing yourself in the "terrible-ness" of it will not help you find a new job, pass the next test or deal with the next bully.  (An author that may help with this process is Byron Katie and her process she calls "The Work.")

Drawing on your accomplishments, successes and achievements by using your true colors phrase may help change a long term belief system into a new way of looking at life. It may change the way you experience a challenging situation and may help you relieve some of the stress in your life.

The true colors phrase is (real, true) information in the form of a thought in your head that works its way into a feeling in your heart. Once it reaches the feeling stage, it is more likely to become your new way of viewing that particular circumstance. I personally know that this process can work and can change the way you experience your life.  It can allow your own beautiful true colors to shine through, as Fall's true colors are in the photo above.

Before you go, if you would like to hear Cindi sing the song... and those words.... to you, then scroll down to the next post and watch the video!

As always, I would love to hear your comments, questions or challenges in the comments section below.  

Until next month,
Keep it simple!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is the Sky Blue?

Pink Flowers, Blue Sky
Key West, 2000

Quote of the month:
What people really want is to be fully themselves. 
They want the sense of aliveness.  
But they want it through this, that, or the other. 
They don't realize that nothing can give it to you 
because you already have it. 
And not only do you have it, you 
are it, you are what you're looking for already. 
You don't know that because you're always looking somewhere else. 
You can only know that in the Now by aligning yourself with the Now 
and with the power that is there within you.
- Eckhart Tolle

Is the sky blue?  

It's a simple question.... or is it?

I've been wanting to write about this for a while and it seems to have repeatedly shown up lately, so it seems like an appropriate time.  Here is what it looks like when it plays out in life.....

John:  She said I am stupid.....
me:  Did she really say that?
John:  Well, she implied it.
me:  Ok - well tell me this - are you stupid?
me:  If you believe that, why would it bother you if she said or implied that you were? Do you really believe that you are not stupid?
John:  Of course - it just burns me up that she thinks I am.
me:  But you KNOW that you aren't....?
John:  BUT she thinks I am!!!!!!!!!

John missed the point.  I can't blame him, I missed the same point for a long time.  I will attempt to share it here with you as it has brought me a lot of peace in my life.

Here is the key -  Whatever you are looking for someone else to give to you (in this case - not feeling stupid) is what I am suggesting you should give to yourself.  In fact, I would go so far as to suggest you already are it as the Tolle quote says above, but one step at a time.... that may be another post for another day!

We all like to hear compliments and good things - but I'll let you in on a little secret, we don't NEED to hear them when we believe it ourselves.  It is only when we do not believe it - inside ourselves - that we crave hearing it from outside ourselves. 

So, I'll pose to you, the next step in my conversation with my friend above.  What color is the sky?  Take a look at the photo above.  Most people would agree that the "normal" color of the sky is blue.  (I know there are all kinds of arguments to be made here theories about why the sky only appears blue.... it is gray on cloudy days.... white on snowy days.... black at night..... red and orange at sunset.... and can even turn green when bad weather approaches, but humor me please and play along for a moment.)  

So - the sky is blue.  You have a KNOWING about this.  No one can tell you that the sky isn't blue.  Right?  

So, now, I am going to tell you that, "The sky is purple."  What would you do?  You would say, "No, it's not, the sky is blue."  I am then going to protest - "No - it's purple.... PURPLE.... PURPLE!!!!!!"  Then what would you do?

My guess is that your response would be along the lines of, "Ok - whatever!" and you would then assume that I am crazy!!!!!!  Whatever your response, you would NOT change your opinion to the sky is purple!  Remember, you have a KNOWING that it is blue.... just as it is in the photograph above!

Going back to my friend above, if he had a KNOWING that he wasn't stupid, if someone made an implication that he was... he would say, "Ok, whatever!" assume they were wrong and go on his way.

This could show up in numerous ways in every day life!  How many of these do you recognize in people around you or even in yourself?
This could be....

the person who seems to need compliments from those around them...
the person who needs to know that they are the most important person to someone....
the person who needs to have a shiny car to feel they are special....
the person who needs to have a significant other in their life to feel that they are worthy....
the person who likes to be surrounded by "things" to feel validated....
the person who needs validation from those outside themselves to feel that they exist.....
the person that needs to buy the newest fashion each season....
the person who wants to be the center of attention....

These are a few examples.  The list is really endless.  Gary Zukav  calls this external power.... that is looking outside oneself and attempting to manipulate and control the world in a way that makes them feel a certain way.   

I will use myself as an example.  When I started writing this blog (2 years ago!!!!)  I wanted everyone to say it was wonderful!  I wanted to hear from everyone who read it.  Of course this is not even realistic! The first month or two, I did NOT have a knowing about it.  I wanted it to come in from the outside.  Know what happened?  I got a little bit upset in the beginning because everyone did not say it was wonderful.... and I did not hear from everyone who read it.  [I was making assumptions and taking them personally!  Another post for another day... inspired by The Four Agreements!]

I was very fortunate because very early on I realized I was doing this (looking outside.)  This is the good news because when you become aware of something like that, you can then set about changing it.  I only write what I have a Knowing about.  Sometimes it comes to me at 3 AM and I feel like I have to write.... other times it comes after a meditation and still other times after a conversation with someone that triggers an entire post (or in this case conversations with at least 4 people!!!!)  Since I only write from that place inside of me - today, I know that what I write is Truth for me.  I now know the sky is blue!  I do not ask it to be Truth for someone else.  If it resonates with someone else - all the better!  

In all of our lives there are those things that we have a Knowing about and those times when we might wonder if the sky really is purple.  The nature of each of those will vary for each of us, depending on our background and life experiences.  The simple suggestion that I will make this month is that if you find yourself looking outside yourself for validation, for meaning or even for love.... take a moment to reflect on a time when you felt confident, knew you were loved or even better, a time when you truly loved someone else.  Remember how that felt.  Use that as a reference point to help you remember that the sky is Blue!  

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, questions or ideas!  

Until next month,
Keep it simple!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Photos of the Month

Happy first day of Fall... AND full moon......

Full Moon Over Pacific Ocean
May 2010

Full Moon Over Atlantic Ocean
July 2010


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday Simply Spirituality

Constantly amazed by
the blades of the fan on the ceiling....

Simply Spirituality is turning 2 years old!  

Wow!  Can you believe it?  When I started this blog two years ago, I thought there would be 6 or 7 posts!  Here is it 24 months and posts later...... hard to believe!  A special thank you to those who have been with me, encouraging me, on this journey.  

To celebrate this birthday - I wanted to share some of the things I have learned from writing this blog over the last couple of years.  Though each of these could be a post in themselves.... here they are briefly:

1- Release the outcome - applied to the blog - never click the "post" button until I have no attachment to how people react to the post.  This is an internal shift ..... it is NOT about not caring.... because I care deeply about this blog.  Non-attachment means more that no matter how someone reacts to what I have written, it is OK!  That is because I know I have written a post that is "true" for me and coming from the best place I can today.... then it  does not matter if someone does not like it.  It just is not true for them, today.... and that is OK too!  (But I still love comments!!!!!)   ; )  
A simple way you can apply this in your own life - don't attach to what someone else thinks about your clothes, your house, or car.  You can take it further by not attaching to what someone else thinks about you personally.  Try it with something small..... feel the freedom in it... and then try it with something bigger.  Remember that if someone does not like your car, that is a statement about them and their preferences, not about you.

Taking this idea one step further, and possibly more challenging, it also means not attaching to it when someone DOES like what I've written.  If someone likes my shoes, again it is a statement about their particular shoe preference, not about me.  Maybe you can try not attaching to even the positive comments.   

2 - Trust - in the beginning I thought I would share a few ideas ... maybe covering 6 or 7 posts.  My intuition  has always said.... post a solid, useful, post once a month.  Every month, something has come to me following this schedule.  I have staying in trust about that and it has always happened ("trust" might need its own post one day!) 

A simple way you can apply this in your life - trust your own internal feeling about something.  Don't look to or wait for confirmation from someone else.  The post titled Road Maps of Life touches on this a bit more.  

3 - Take ACTION!  Or MOVE when the spirit moves me! The moment I get inspiration for a post, I WRITE!  I used to think that I would be able to remember it... but not so!  At least not with the same initial intensity and energy.  I prefer a computer, but if I don't have one, paper will do.... I've used napkins in a restaurant before and the back of a picture. 
A simple way you can apply this in your life - how many times have you had a flash of insight or some sort of inspiration only to allow your brain to discount it or talk you out of it.  Usually in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds.  At the very least, write the idea down and consider doing it over the next day.  Is there some small action you can take towards doing it?

4 - Speak and act from the truest place you can in the moment.  I only post those things I know as Truth for me.  I do not ask them to be truth for you.  If something resonates with you, great!  Try it out in your own life... if not, that is fine too.  Explore what is true for you!
A simple way to begin applying this in your own life - check out, internally, what you are about to say.  How does it feel?  Does it feel congruent with your internal beliefs?  Also, don't say something is "ok' if it is not.  If someone asks you to do a favor, like babysit their kids, and it is not convenient..... don't say, "OK."

5 - Take time for stillness every day!  Stillness is like "magic" that opens up creativity.  Not just in writing or arts.... but in every day life.  It helps solve problems, comes up with something fun for the kids to do..... or a new way of doing something you've done 100 times before.  Posted in the next post below is a simple stillness exercise you can try yourself!  See if you can be amazed by the blades of a fan on the ceiling as the quote above from the Jimmy Buffet song says!  Enjoy!

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas or questions.  Please feel free to leave them in the "comments" section below.

To read last month's post on What is NOW?..... click here

Scroll down to the next post for the Stillness Exercise.

Until next month...
Keep it simple!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stillness Exercise

Stillness Exercise

Inspired by the Jimmy Buffet song, "Little Miss Magic" quoted in the post above.

Constantly amazed by
the blades of the fan on the ceiling....
You will need a ceiling fan.  If you do not have one, other possible things you could use are a child's swing in the park or a pendant or pendulum on a string, necklace or chain.   Let me know of other possibilities you may come up with.

Turn the fan on and allow to come up to normal speed... then turn off the fan.   Watch the fan as it comes to a complete stop.  My suggestion is to lie down under the fan (like the view in the photograph in the post above) and watch it, but most importantly, be comfortable.  

Don't cheat and stop watching before the blades are still!
For swinging options:  If you are using either the pendant or pendulum, you will need to find a location where it can swing freely.  Pull the swing, pendant or pendulum back.  Find a place where you can watch it come to a complete stop. 

If all else fails, look at the photograph of the ceiling fan above.  Watch it for a full minute.
This entire exercise should only take 2 to 3 minutes max... depending on how fast your fan or swing is going.  

While it is slowing down, continue to watch, but also watch your mind.  Is it quiet?  Is it talking?  What is it saying?  There are no right or wrong answers.  The objective is to observe.  

If your mind is chatting away... what is it saying?  Is it complaining?  Is it saying things like...
I don't have time for this!
This is ridicules!
What a strange exercise!
This is peaceful!
Is it going over a mental to-do list as soon as those darn blades stop spinning?
Is it counting the time you are "wasting" doing nothing?
Is it enjoying the momentary break?
The possibilities are endless! 

My suggestion is to see if you can touch that place that Jimmy Buffet sings about, while watching his daughter, "Little Miss Magic."  See if you, too, can once again be "amazed by the blades of the fan on the ceiling!"  

Again, I want to stress that there are no right or wrong answers or outcomes.  This is an exercise designed first to help you become aware of what your mind is doing and second if your mind is chatty..... to become aware of what it is saying. 

If you are feeling especially introspective, you could follow up by asking yourself why your mind might be saying those things.  For example, if your mind tells you, "I don't have time for this!"  You could ask yourself why your mind is not willing to give you 3 minutes to do an exercise without also adding on some guilt!  Whatever the outcome, trust that it will be just right for you!

As always, I would love to hear your comments in the section below.
Keep it simple!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Roadmaps of Life

We are the only true experts 
on our journey to enlightenment. 
Filter all information through your own heart.
- Daily OM

The following was originally published on Daily OM... and republished with permission.....

All the major spiritual traditions serve the purpose of offering us a roadmap to guide us on our individual journeys to enlightenment. These roadmaps are made up of moral codes, parables, and, in some cases, detailed descriptions of mystical states. We often study the fine points of a particular ascended master’s narrative in order to better understand our own and to seek inspiration and guidance on our path. In the same way, when we plan a road trip, we carry maps and guidebooks in an effort to understand where we are going. In both cases, though, the journey has a life of its own and maps, while helpful, can only take us so far. There is just no comparison between looking at a line on a piece of paper and driving your own car down the road that line represents.

Some people seem well-suited to following maps, while others are always looking for new ways to get where they’re going. In the end, the only reliable compass is within, as every great spiritual guide will tell you. The maps and travelogues left behind by others are great blessings, full of useful information and inspiration, but they cannot take the journey for us. When it is time to merge onto the highway or pull up anchor, we are ostensibly on our own. Strange weather patterns, closed roads, and traffic jams arise in the moment, out of nowhere, and our maps cannot tell us what to do. Whether we take refuge in a motel by the side of the road, persevere and continue forward, or turn back altogether is entirely up to us.

Maps are based on observations from the past and we are living in the present, so we are the only true experts on our journey to enlightenment. We may find that the road traveled by our predecessors is now closed. We may feel called to change direction entirely so that the maps we have been carrying really no longer apply. These are the moments when we learn to attune ourselves to our inner compass, following a map that only we can see, as we make our way into the unknown territory of our own enlightenment.