Essay submitted by: Honee Barnowski
Student of Gratitude Keeper® Academy
Om - Mani - Padme - Hum
Praise to the jewel in the lotus
Meaning: Follow Dharma with love and compassion and enlightenment will follow
(From discussions in Maxine McLean’s Meditation Master Course)
Spiritual growth can be a challenging journey. Daily, we are challenged to
change our thoughts, emotions, speech, and behaviour, to navigate our approach and path to life. We are influenced or conditioned to make it inclusive, expansive,
compassionate, forgiving, understanding, appreciative and loving. It’s a journey of
diverse failures, resets, growth, and spiritual awakenings. Each setback in life becomes an opportunity to learn, adjust our perspective, rebuild and grow spiritually.
In many instances, these markers can be a hindrance to our success. In
committing to a regular meditation practice, these hindrances can be examined, and all these energetic blockages are resolved. As a result, our conscious growth and spiritual enlightenment become more apparent and the spiritual path easier to navigate. In essence, we become true to our path and the inspiration to others, we live what we preach and teach.
To gain the insight or to see the vision of our spiritual path, we must explore our
inner fears, examine our self-lovelove and forgiveness, and understand the power of our faith. In doing so, we explore the four awakenings of human consciousness in search of spiritual fulfilment.
My journey began before I even knew I was on it. It started with familiar territory,
the church. Repeating the words like a robot with loneliness in my soul, wanting with
such devotion to feel spiritually content and not knowing where to find it or how to find it. It led me to look in different directions for an answer. I felt sanctuary in the holy temple and in listening to the holy stories and I knew this grounded my beliefs and feelings; however, questions arose, love was undoubted but a search for some sort of awakening emerged. Catholicism was re-examined and a search for knowledge began with a desire to fill the heart with serenity and make one feel whole and connected again. My mind was not quiet, racing with the desire to connect my mind, body and soul to ME.
We are each our own greatest mystery and our life's work is to solve ourselves…none of us ever succeeds, but it is our duty to follow the trail regardless of how long it is or where it might lead (Sendker, 2002)
The big question: “With so much love around me, so many people with such good
hearts, such joy and love in their lives that they share with me…why then do I feel like
this? Why have I searched in some good spaces and why have I allowed myself to fall into an abyss of self-indulgent behaviour? (from the journal of Honee Barnowski,
Meditation Course, 2020)” Perhaps some of us need to feel all of life's pleasures - good or bad - to truly know the ones we want to keep as part of our belief system, the ones that make us feel whole and connected. I’ve looked up to the sky from many countries, in the vastness of the universe, in hopes to find more meaning. In my travels I have looked to the Brahmin, to Budda, to God and many Yogis, and to many spiritual writers to find a path to my soul to feel spiritually content. Mediation helps us explore our fear, our love, our forgiveness and all of this is greatly influenced by our beliefs. Every experience we have influences our beliefs and affects how we feel. The time we spend in meditation allows us to re-experience our feelings without hesitation, to feel more connected to each emotion…to feel more whole, as our feelings are the antennae of the soul. My journey led me to explore many cultures, many other belief systems, and many souls on a similar path and although I do not have all the answers, this journey has made me think in ways I have never before and continues to fill my soul.
The Lord is my light and the one who saves me. I fear no one. The Lord protects my life; I am afraid of no one. Evil people may try to destroy my body. My enemies and those who hate me, attack me, but they are overwhelmed and defeated. If an army surrounds me, I will not be afraid. If war breaks out, I will trust the Lord. I ask only one thing from the Lord. This is what I want: Let me live in the Lord’s house all my life. Let me see the Lord’s beauty and look with my own eyes at his Temple. During danger he will keep me safe in his shelter. He will hide me in his Holy Tent, or he will keep me safe on a high mountain.
(Psalm 27 - Anderson, et al, 1991)
We face a lot of challenges every single day in our personal lives and in the
world around us. Some are easy while others seem unbearable…and the fear of having to deal with a difficult moment leads us to vulnerability and to reach for a less challenging path or, at least, one that we are most familiar. Facing a challenge can leave us excruciatingly vulnerable. This fear comes from not feeling capable of the challenge or not feeling good enough, strong enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, smart enough…etc. However, if we look at this as an opportunity for growth and know that our faith in God/Budda/the universe/etc. will always lead us through, we can develop a strong sense of love and belonging, which can dismantle the fear and help us gain new skills as we lean into the discomfort of the challenge.
Fear is a belief that governs our behaviour and influences how we feel. It is like
screaming with no sound. Fear threatens our survival and makes us feel insecure and anxious. We feel as though we cannot settle down, relax, or let our guard down. It leads to a fight or flight response by heightening our awareness and flooding our body with adrenaline. In essence, our body gets prepared for action to either run away from the challenge or stand up and face it. Whenever we feel these challenges as danger or deprivation, it is fear.
Working through this fear helps us to relax while still feeling the energy run
throughout our body. To acknowledge that we have fear enables us to build strength. When we combat fear it can help us understand it and understand its origins, and when we understand all of this, only then, can we release it. When fear debilitates us, we need to learn how to break the cycle of response. Create a healthy response to the fearful situation and repeat it in a safe comfortable environment, repeating this response over and over again, in hopes that the new healthy creation will take over in future fearful situations.
Meditation gives us time to understand the fear and figure out where the fear
comes from. By sitting in the feeling, and moving it throughout our body to engage each muscle with the memory of that feeling, the reason behind the behaviour can be identified. This takes time and practice, but through safe, comfortable repetition of meditation, it allows us to practice gratitude and joy in moments of fear. It allows us to be seen and to love with our whole hearts, strengthening our soul. It gives us time to realise we can live with vulnerability and fear…because in these moments we often find joy and creativity.
I may speak in different languages of people or even angels.
But if I do not have love, I am only a noisy bell or a crashing cymbal.
I may have the gift of prophecy. I may understand all the secret things of God
and have all knowledge, and I may have faith so great I can move mountains.
But even with all these things, if I do not have love, then I am nothing.
I may give away everything I have, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned.
But I gain nothing if I do not have love.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud.
Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others.
Love does not count up wrongs that have been done.
Love is not happy with evil but is happy with the truth.
Love patiently accepts all things.
It always trusts, always hopes, and always remains strong.
Love never ends.
(1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 - Anderson et al, 1991)
Each of us has the right to love and be loved. There are many different types of
love: affectionate, friendship, romantic and God’s unconditional love and it is how we respond to everything in our lives that makes us love more or love less. When it is
painful or challenging, we move away from love and sometimes when we are afraid we run away from love. The most difficult love…unconditional love…is unfathomable when we feel wronged. Or when we feel our love is conditionally based on what we can do, how we look, where we live, what we drive, etc. Our goal is to immerse our heart with agape love, the type of love that exists without conditions. The type of love that heals our heart and fills our soul.
“Travesties of love occur when the most needed element of life is twisted and
torn, withheld and used as a means of control” (Judith, 2004). But love can transform
the harshest of realities into a mystical one. It is our choice to learn how to change our brain waves, how to slow them down, and how to change the operating system of the brain to make changes in our conscious and subconscious mind. This is where meditation comes in and makes the analytical mind wake up. Through meditation we become more aware of love and more aware of the emotions that guide us. We realise that we can love in a state of pain and suffering or joy and inspiration. By making the intention to love in a state of joy and inspiration, one is ultimately finding contentment and a balance of energies. To heal the heart is to reunite mind and body, mystical and mundane, self and other, into an integrated whole…without love - the rainbow bridge
collapses (Hills, 1974).
“Love is the only force I truly believe in”
(The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan Phillipp Sendker, 2002)
The heart (anahata) chakra is associated with love, how you love, acceptance
and attachment. Christopher Hills (1974) tells us that the heart relates to the universe
through attachment and that when the heart can get free of its attachments, then the love is no longer exclusively for the love-object and is set free and pure. Meditation can help balance the chakras. The sound you can use to help bring balance to the heart chakra during a meditation is the sound “yam”. Or you can repeat mantras/affirmations:
● I am worthy
● I deserve love
● I forgive myself and others
● I live with gratitude
● I honour my heart
● I am loving
The heart chakra is not only the centre for compassion, empathy and love, but it is also the heart of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when something has
happened to confuse us or unsettle us. How we respond when someone wrongs us is a choice. We can respond to sufferings and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with acceptance and forgiveness. This does not mean forgetting or denying what happened and it doesn't mean the action was acceptable. It means you have decided to not carry the heaviness of carrying around the bitterness.
Buddhist believe that to not forgive gives rise to suffering, that those who cannot
let go of wrongdoings fill their hearts with hate and therefore suffer unnecessarily.
Suffering is viewed by society as something that should be avoided at all costs;
however, it can transform us in unimaginable ways. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) It is a tool that can make us more loving. When we suffer, we can run from it or we can accept it and allow it to transform us by learning from it and letting our suffering teach us how to love more fully. The sadness we feel when suffering enables us to feel it, process it, and become aware of it, providing insight into our inner and outer world which helps us reconnect with others and recover. It is important to realise that we need to be aware of all emotions and that we need to observe these emotions without judgement, allowing them to coexist. Burkeman (2012) tells us that in his research he has found that to be truly happy, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions, or, at the very least, to learn to stop running from them. He reminds us that we need to be aware of all our feelings and emotions and to be okay with experiencing each of them.
“If you have faith, you can do anything.” Harold Fry
The power of our belief system comes from our interpretations of our
experiences. We derive meaning and purpose from our beliefs and we store this
information in our crown chakra (Chakra 7). Through the meditative practice, our
awareness of what we believe and how we derived our beliefs becomes more apparent. If we desire to change a belief, we need focus and mental clarity which can be accomplished with meditation. Intentions are powerful statements that resonate with the physical and emotional state of mind. Our successes and abundance does not happen by accident, our thoughts and intentions attract and usher them in. To make this happen we need to first believe it can. How you think and how you feel creates your state of being.
Intention is one of the most powerful forces there is. What you mean when you do a thing will always determine the outcome. The law creates the world.”
To make an intention come to fruition, bring your awareness inward, focus on the
calm within, take a few deep breaths and believe - release limiting beliefs and write
down your intention with steps needed to make it happen. This belief becomes stronger and stronger the more often you honour it and practice meditation. If we allow disbelief, we start to change the chemicals in our body, which lead to increased stress, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased sweat. Meditation helps train our minds to believe we have the power over stress…that we are bigger than the stress…that no matter what…we are going to be OK…because we have the power to handle it…WE BELIEVE and it is DONE.
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because
they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The parable of the Sower exemplifies how we can share our faith, and how we
need to be respectful about the path each individual follows while exploring their faith and beliefs. We can distribute seeds of faith, like the Sower in the parable, but we must accept that some will take, some will deteriorate, and some will flourish. It is not the expectation to have everyone with the same faith or beliefs, but to be open and accepting of where everyone is on their journey. We can sew seeds of faith in our life and share our journey but it is ultimately up to each individual to determine how they will nurture the seeds to grow their own faith journey.
Want a man to take off his coat - you don’t blow it off -
you make him feel warm enough he takes it off on his own.
Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. Vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom. There isn’t one practice better than the other. All three characteristics impose an essential aspect of how we explore our inner fears, examine our self love and forgiveness, and understand the power of our faith. To gain the insight, or use the intuitive powers, or see the vision of our spiritual path, one must explore the four awakenings with an open heart, a non-judgemental mind, and a spiritual body.
As the sun is warming my space and the
Wind is blowing gently, wrapping me in it’s embrace
The birds are singing softly between waves of leaves cascading on the periphery
The arm of the shade tree tugs at its roots
And the acorns tap the sand and bounce toward the blue sky
My mind is quieting, focusing on the breathe of the earth,
Lulling me into this secluded moment
Taking me in silence and
Wrapping my mind in a heavy blanket of calm
(From the journal of Honee Barnowski - Day 1 of the Master Meditation Course)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith
(2 Timothy 4:7 - Anderson et al, 1991)
Along the way, new paths were taken, knowledge was absorbed and even more
questions formed. And in the end…knowing there is no end, that the journey will
continue, awakens the mind, body and soul to new knowledge. Perhaps knowing the
journey prevails is part of the spiritual fulfilment. Each experience brings new
enlightenment and opens our eyes to endless possibilities. These moments that fill our life make us better humans. “It's important to allow yourself to be true to the instincts that made you. You…as opposed to anyone else” (Joyce, 2012). And like knowing what causes our fear to be able to face it better and release it, so too is our knowledge of who we are and how we came to be. In our spiritual meditation, we can sit in this knowledge and learn how to better deal with each emotion as we become more aware of how we feel with each thought. We can wrap our mind and body in fear, love, forgiveness and belief to awaken our human consciousness as we rediscover our spiritual faith.
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