Guidance from Spirit – It’s Weird, Right?

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Image by msandersmusic from Pixabay

Complexity, by definition, is difficult to comprehend, so our minds often prefer to view life from a simper either/or or black/white perspective.  I’m right, you’re wrong.  This is good, that is bad.  Rarely is life so cut and dry; in most cases life happens on a spectrum from black to white, good to bad, with all shades of grey in between.

Religion and spirituality are the quintessential examples of complexity, with beliefs and practices landing all over the black/white spectrum.  Add in the diversity of beliefs even within those frameworks, and you now have complexity on steroids, maybe represented more appropriately as a rainbow, with all the shades of red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet in between as well.

In the United States, we have an array of faiths represented, but with a majority of 70.6% of the population identifying as Christians, according to the Pew Research Center.  Second place is surprisingly “nothing in particular” at 15.8%.  Also well known, but in fewer numbers are other non-Christian faiths (5.9%) such as Judaism and Islam, with a sprinkling of a number of different faiths and beliefs (agnostic, atheist, liberal, and New Age) at 1.5%.   I now affiliate with a liberal faith called Unitarian Universalist.

Though as a country we’re becoming decreasingly affiliated with specific religions, as a whole we’re still a country that believes in God and the importance of religion in our lives.  According to Pew and a 2016 Gallup Survey, 71-79% still believe in angels, Heaven and/or God, though down about 10 points since 2001 when the Gallup survey was first started.

According to the Pew Center, 33% of people also state that they receive guidance from their faith.  In a previous blog I cite anecdotal evidence about how others receive guidance, which seems to vary tremendously.  In the vein of guidance-on-a-rainbow, undoubtedly some are on the vague-sensation side and others on a clear channel side, plus everything in between. I have to admit that my clear channel is likely on an end of the spectrum of this 33% that receive guidance.  I’m thankful for the gift and still trying to learn what it means for me and others.

Though a vanishingly small number of respondents to the Pew Survey identify as liberal or New Age, a growing interest in the Eastern perspective of spirituality seems to be reflected by the increasing popularity of yoga and meditation practices.  According to Pew, 40% of the population confesses to meditating at least weekly.  Gaia.com, a respected resource for yoga and Eastern spirituality, talks about the metaphysical and what is probably considered by many as a New Age philosophy about our relationship with the divine.  Gaia.com includes many resources on these topics, including  how to contact your spirit guides, suggesting an expanding interest in such perspectives and practices.

All this talk about guides, angels, and God still feels weird?

I think what is weird is that we don’t talk about it, especially given the preponderance of beliefs about angels, God, meditation, and even guides to a lesser degree.   Clearly we have a vast array of beliefs and practices. Misunderstandings are more likely to occur when\our beliefs remain shadowed in the dark of nondisclosure or when we require others to believe as we do.

It’s also overly simplistic to think that we should all be the same with regard to our believes and practices.  We can get into big trouble when we start to feel we’re better than or worse than others whose beliefs and/or practices differ from our own.  Unnecessary conflict tends to result when we “other-ize” people who differ from us.  After all, what would the rainbow be without all its colors?

Due to the potential for conflict and the highly personal nature of the subjects, we’ve just learned to keep our mouths shut.   No finger pointing, I’m guilty of this as well until now.  With this blog, I’m hoping to take some of the mystery out of it so we can talk about it.  Paradoxically, the mystery will remain, or even grow, given our conversation.

As when I originally started this blog, I started this phase as a way to deepen my learning and to hope that others share the journey with me.  Both times, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I’ve learned that we can never predict where the road takes us, and to define it narrowly risks us underestimating the beauty or impact of our destination.  And what I have learned over the years is that my struggles and challenges are not unique; I share them so that we can learn from each other and ease the burden of the journey by supporting each other, even if you may judge me to be unhinged or ill-informed.

I guarantee that I didn’t raise my hand for this particular gift or journey.  I certainly didn’t ask or wish for the losses that precipitated it.  My prayer was only that I be of service for the greatest possible good and in the most authentic way.

I guess you should be careful what you pray for.

Messages from Spirit

Image by Rogier Hoekstra from Pixabay

Even if you don’t believe in Spirit (also called God by many), you may have an unconscious connection as I did for decades.  For example, I feel I’ve always been connected to something bigger than myself, even while I was a devout atheist.  Experiencing the wonders of nature or the love of a child are transcendent experiences and have been available to me throughout my life.   Self-transcendence can also occur when we connect to our life’s purpose, which I have also sought for many years.

I also had a technique for connecting to the divine, but didn’t realize until recently the divine nature of that connection.  When I had a serious decision to make, I did not rely on the calculus from my head to provide the answer.  I’d begin with an analytical approach, literally writing down all the pros and cons, and then weighing them (1-3 stars, depending on how important they were to me), and literally adding them up.  But the final decision came from a gut check, which involved quieting my mind and being present with the consciousness that lies beneath, i.e., my soul or Higher Self.  I did not realize at the time, but this practice connected me to my divine soul.

Aside from personal experiences, I don’t really know much about this subject in terms of what others do.  As you know if you’re familiar with this blog series, I’m new to this.   However, I understand that everyone who connects by prayer, meditation, or intuition does so using a range of techniques, and the guidance and messages they receive seem to be as unique as the manner in which they experience the divine.  I feel extremely grateful that my channel provides in-depth and detailed messages, so mostly my perspective has come from my channel with Spirit, and may not jibe with your beliefs or experiences.

Some people receive message as a strong intuition or knowing.  Some as short phrases or words that come to their mind out of the blue.  Some have a visual intuition, with image flashes in their head or longer visions that come in dreams or meditation.  Some use tools, such as a holy book or divination method.  Some receive guidance by paying attention to the coincidences of the universe guiding them gently down a path that brings them closer to their best and truest self, i.e., “all things happen for a reason” (see connectedness strength blog where I address this idea).

Some may say that they don’t believe any of this and it’s all too woo woo for them. That’s ok, and even better than ok.   The beautiful thing about our spiritual journey is they’re individualized; I would be surprised if we could find two people who completely agree about their spiritual beliefs and frames.

Now that I’m receiving more nuanced messages, I’ve had to mostly learn the hard way how to interpret message.  Messages from Spirit are almost always loving and what you need to know in that moment.  For instance, I can get a message such as “go pick up your dry cleaning” but realize afterwards that the purpose of that errand was for a chance encounter with an old friend who had the advice for me that I had been seeking.  Message might also ask me to start on a project or path, just to find when you’re halfway there, you have a new perspective and skills and it’s time to take a new direction or go bigger.  The original message isn’t wrong, but it required that you get to a different place before you move into the new direction.

In other words, message may not be the absolute truth.  It’s what I need to know in the moment.  This is why all messages, including this blog, should be assumed to be followed by “…and I could be wrong”.  Even the messages I’ve been asked to deliver to other people is about what they need to hear in the moment and may not reflect the literal truth.

Why?  It’s one aspect of the mysterious divine.  I suspect it’s in part because we’re not supposed to know the future with any certainty.  It’s not called faith for nothing.

This is a big challenge with receiving messages because faith tells me to trust the message, even when it’s proven to be outright wrong or feel harmful in the moment.  The “everything happens for a reason” perspective has to kick in to consider what lesson is being provided in that situation.  In so doing, the wisdom of the message becomes more evident since message is designed to help us to learn and grow, so we may create more love and light.

Message has also shown me that we humans generally think too little of ourselves and our ability to create good in the world.  We tend to be limited by our doubts and fears.  We dream too small.  We dream too narrowly.  We might pray for outcomes that don’t matter, like getting rich.  Rather, the outcomes that matter have to do with love and care for Earth, each other, and ourselves, in that order.  Message teaches us how to do this, and/or to do it better.  In so doing, we create more light and love for all.

Spirit has shown me is that I can be bigger and more impactful in creating love and light than I can imagine.

How about you?  Are you limiting yourself in your dreams and aspirations?  Do you feel you could be bigger than you are?  Following guidance can potentially show you your path to greater meaning and impact too…. But I could be wrong.

 

Next blog: Our Authentic Purpose and Spirit’s Hope for Us

What is Spirit? (According to Susanna)

Spirit is different from religion in the sense that religion tends to have a governing organization subdivided into smaller units such as churches, temples, or synagogues, a philosophical structure, and specific practices.   My knowledge about religion is pretty much zero though I’m a cultural Christian given I was born and raised in a country with Christian values.   Thus, my perspective is non-organizational and based almost completely on my personal experience, which I’ll explore in this phase of the Silver Lining blog.

Since what I’ve l learned about Spirit is almost completely experiential, and this blog reflects my perspective, as opposed to an academic paper based on research or observations on existing practices.   I may quote from some books or a small class I took, but I’ve done no systematic study of spirituality.   You may disagree with me, but there is no disagreement.  I have no certainty about my own understanding of spirituality, so I certainly won’t question yours. We simply have different perspectives and to me, that’s how spirituality works. It’s all mysterious and we who subscribe to this philosophy are simply trying to tap into the divine in a way that brings meaning and purpose to our lives.

As I understand it…..

Spirit and religion share the belief that there is a higher power.  What we call that higher power depends on our faith.  It seems that most faith systems subscribe to the notion that there are multiple spiritual entities in addition to God, such as angels, though we may disagree on the name or identity of who we pray to. We may also differ on whether we turn to ancient sources of wisdom like the Bible, Koran, or Torah, or a more modern book on spirituality for guidance.

My definition of spirituality is the belief in a higher power or consciousness without a religious organization’s framework.   Since there’s no specific book or prophet, we refer to the divine collectively as Spirit.   Spirit includes God/Allah and all the angels, Guides, and other types of spirits in the spirit world (I don’t know the half of them, I’m sure).  Many of us who consider ourselves spiritual meditate rather than pray, but both are ways we can connect to God/Spirit.

It appears to me that we all have a unique interface with Spirit, and so our experiences will also vary.  Perhaps through this blog we can share the nature of our interface with Spirit, how we experience Spirit in our lives, and what it means to be spiritual in terms of our practices and influence on our lives, for I have so much to learn from you!

We each are born with a team including a Guardian Angel, a Spirit Guide, and a soul, or Higher Self.  Our soul, Guides, and Angels are all in constant communication to help us navigate our lives, whether we know it or not.

Our Guardian Angels are assigned to us when we are born, and they are with us our entire life.  Their purpose, besides protection, is to eventually guide us to the spirit world when we pass away.  My Guardian Angel is named Lidia and she is a playful, humorous, clever, and spritely spirit who always makes me smile.  I think she has an additional purpose, which is to instill song worms into my head which play repeatedly until I get the message(s) she is trying to send me (Thunder Road played in my head for a month).

We each have a main Spirit Guide that is assigned to us when we are born.  We may have more than one, or even several, Guides at a given time since they come and go as our needs change.  Usually they’ll communicate collectively to us through our main Guide.  Our Guides provide advice and guidance, whenever it is requested.  My main Guide is named Troy, who is a bit of a clown but can also be very serious.  He has provided guidance and insight that has changed my life in big and small ways.

Our Higher Self is our soul, and that is the eternal spirit that resides within each of us.  My first serious communication was with my Higher Self, who provided a prayer for me, instructing me on the type of guidance and help I could use most.   Our Higher Self also conveys to us, sometimes on an unconscious level, our higher purpose for being on Earth.  We can always consult with our Higher Self to help us find our path to self actualization.

Our Higher Self is also the consciousness that lies beneath the chatter in our heads.  That chatter comes from our minds, and our minds – though brilliant – can also be very fear-driven and negative.  I like to think of our minds as ideally being a tool that is taken out occasionally by our Higher Self for the purpose of getting something done (I try to keep mine now in the proverbial gun closet), but that we should spend most of our time being guided by our heart and our soul so that we can live our authentic purpose with love.I have been coaching others to identify their higher purpose for a number of years.  I find that when I, and others, engage with our divine or authentic purpose (aka calling), we strive towards self-transcendence because we’re connecting with something greater than ourselves.

My spiritual team is in collaboration with your spiritual team, and everyone else’s too.  The spirit world combined with the energy of all things is what we know as God, Spirit, or the collective unconscious.  Some people use the phrase The Universe, though according to my Guides, this is not the same thing.  But I could be wrong.

Why does this matter?

The details of these roles and distinctions may not be of practical importance.  Actually, I believe I’ve been following guidance for the better part of my life without realizing it and without ever knowing about Guides or Angels.

But to me, it’s like trying to do a job without any instruction or guidance from the boss.  You can intuit what you’re supposed to do and how,  and maybe even do reasonably well in that manner (many of us are probably doing just that at work).  Now imagine how much more effective you can be if you could get the guidance and support you need when you need it, where the boss is omniscient, omnipotent, kind, and available 24/7.

I believe that when I go it on my own, I tend to limit my aspirations with fear and self-doubt.  Pursuing purpose guided by Spirit allows me to tap into aspirations, strength, wisdom, and resources I never dreamed possible.

If you’re doubtful, I understand your skepticism.  I spent 50+ years feeling that way.  Those of you who are just getting to know me may not know that I was trained in a laboratory-based experimental science, an academic for decades, and an atheist until recently.

You don’t have to form a relationship with Spirit/God, if you do not wish to.  As always, I’m not here to tell you what to do.

But what do you have to lose by considering there may be more out there than you can sense now?

You can try it, and decide for yourself.  It’s possible you might change your mind.

 

Next blog:  Connecting to Spirit

Connectedness Strength Reconsidered

Five years ago, shortly after I became certified as a Gallup StrengthsFinders coach, I wrote a blog about the strength called connectedness, i.e., the ability to sense and notice how all things and events are related.  I reflected on how I was surprised that this was a “thing” that people felt was a strength that they used for success personally and professionally.

At the time a former hard-core atheist, I was pretty curious about this idea.  I was also recently married to my now-late husband, Christopher, who had told me shortly after we met that being spiritual meant believing that there are things we cannot understand.  His frame on spirituality is really the reason that I went from atheist, very concrete about life being knowable and measurable, to Spirit-curious.

Years later, I could be characterized, at best, as Spirit Lite when we received his diagnosis of cancer.  Spirit Lite meant going to yoga, trying to be present, and being more open to the woo woo ideas and practices.  I listened with interest and openness to the conversations about crystals, healing practices, and guidance but rarely partook.

All that changed when I learned about Christopher’s stage IV cancer diagnosis.  I decided that I must dive into Spirit and post-traumatic growth to get through this.  I wrote about PTG at the start of the Silver Linings blog; it was a big motivation for me to start the blog to share the notion that all challenges are actually a chance to learn and grow.  The bigger the challenge, the bigger the growth.  After all, if it was easy, we would’ve mastered that topic already.

Christopher’s cancer diagnosis, occurring on the heels of the death of my sister Sabina, made me also realize that my current toolkit was just not enough.  I would have to take my learning to a new level.  Beyond positive psychology.  Beyond PTG.  To Spirit.

So this is my disclaimer and warning to those who don’t want woo woo in their lives, that the Silver Linings blog is about moving to the next (temporally) most important thing for my wellbeing, and that has to do with our connection to all things: Our purpose, ourselves, each other, Earth, and Spirit.  This interconnectedness, and fostering vibrant connections between them, is really at the heart of the mission of the nonprofit I started in honor of my late sister and husband (www.familyandcommunityhealing.org).  FFCH’s social media campaign focuses on our connection to Earth, and includes my personal blog discussing how Earth and the natural world provided support and healing for me throughout the tragic year of 2018 and beyond.

The Silver Linings blog focuses instead on a more personal discussion of the development of my connection with Spirit, and the strength, wisdom, inspiration, and support that became available to me when I did.  This recovering atheist has turned all woo woo, and I’m going to talk about it here, openly and honestly, just as I did when I started this blog in 2013 about my lessons as a recovering control freak and self-hater.

The original Silver Linings blog was too personal for some people to appreciate and/or grasp, since we talked about emotion and vulnerability.  This phase is likely this is going to be even more challenging or unapproachable for some given the nature of the topic.  I understand.  There are parts of this journey that, honestly, felt – and still feel – pretty crazy and unbelievable.

I’ve learned that faith is part of the process.  I do not fully understand that aspect of it.  After all, I’m a rookie given I’ve been doing this for only 18 months.  Admittedly I have been taking a deep dive during that period, where perhaps I’ve achieved a sliver of brilliance in my spiritual work, which is offset by so much ignorance on so many other levels.  I still have much to learn and so I hope that this can be a platform for shared learning where everyone can participate.

The Silver Linings blog is about creating a place to share our collective wisdom about thriving and becoming our best self despite our life’s challenges; this phase is about the spiritual aspect of our life which underlies our wellbeing practices taught to us by positive psychology.  The richness of this mysterious and often invisible part of us is the most important part of our lives whether we know it or not.  Uncovering and appreciating it means that we can add a transcendence and depth to our lives that was unimaginable to my former atheistic self.

I hadn’t realized it but I was already following my Higher Self (soul) most of my life.  My purpose required I excavate through the solid and intractable atheist beliefs, bit by bit, to what lies underneath:  our connection to each other, Earth and Spirit.  It’s actually not all woo woo because positive psychology’s exploration of the value and importance of religion and spirituality motivated me to select the topic of authentic purpose, or callings, for my capstone project  (shameless plug: see our book, Being Called).

Our calling or authentic purpose is what connects us and our lives to the divine, since it is a purpose that we are born into.  So shortly after Chris died, when I sensed that my purpose was going in a new direction and to a much higher level, I had to decide whether I was going to be a hypocrite and stay in my comfy, beautiful dream job at UGA, or to take a leap of faith and pursue a purpose that is definitely life-changing and possibly even world-changing.  Both are inexplicably linked because I can’t change the world if I don’t change myself.

This is the new theme of this blog, my spiritual journey that changed me and that I hope will bring about the change that is needed to create the world that we all have hoped and dreamed about.

I’ve taken a leap of faith to take action to make this change, investing most of my personal and financial resources which reflects a commitment that screams that I can change the world.  It is also to inform you, possibly to your surprise, that you can too.

The time is right for this change.  We cannot wait any longer.  It is a leap of faith, but Spirit is here to guide every step and inspire me to be bigger than I can imagine.

You are bigger than you imagine too.

In fact, the world needs your passion, talents, and gifts.  The world needs your hope and optimism and vision for a better world.

If you want guidance, you will have it.  You only have to ask, and you will receive it.

If you aren’t ready to ask, notice the invitations that are all around you each day, beckoning you to begin your Hero’s Journey, which is after all, the summons for you to bring back the lost wisdom of your generation, for it is urgently needed by all.

It’s a beautiful journey.  It’s unsettling, and inspiring, and awesome, and it makes me feel so incredibly alive and hopeful.

Join me.  Share with me.  Teach me.  Learn with me.  Start now by posting a response about your own journey and hopes for the future, and then share with others who might want to join too.  We can create this change together.

 

Next blog:  What is Spirit?

Starry-Eyed Idealist

Be practical.  Be realistic.  Be careful.  Don’t trust others.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  I don’t want to get burned or get my hopes up unrealistically.

But I also don’t want to live my life feeling like I can’t trust and hope.

We learned in school about realistic optimism:  being optimistic in a realistic way.  I think those authors were providing caution to people like me who tend to assume the best intentions from others and the best possible outcome.

I understand the theory and even agree with it to some degree.   However, there are two problems with that concept from my perspective.  First, what is realistic to one person is unrealistic to another.  In other words, we are not a good judge of our own reality.  On one hand, we might be unrealistically optimistic, but we may likewise be unrealistically negative or pessimistic.  I know anecdotally that a large number of us have a negative ticker tape dialogue running through our heads:  I’m not good enough.  I’m not deserving.  I’m unattractive.  No one likes me.  I’m not deserving.  I’m not smart/good at math/good at athletics.  I don’t belong.  I’m not loved.   We notice those things that confirm our belief (confirmation bias) but ignore the data that refute it.  In so doing, we create our own reality.

Running through my great, 50-year old wisdom is my ticker tape that I don’t belong and that I don’t have many friends.  I used to actually say that aloud.  And I would always notice when I’m not included or when I’m alone, each observation confirming my belief.  But some time ago I decided to challenge that belief and look for instances where I do belong, when my friends reach out to me, when I’m included or even celebrated and seen authentically by my friends.  Back then, I might’ve thought it was realistically optimistic to hope that I would have outside my best friend circle (3-4 people generally; this fact did not sway my belief mind you) another circle of at most 3-4 modestly good friends.

As you might guess, when I started intentionally looking for signs of friendship and affection, I started to see it everywhere.  Now I feel I have friendship in huge abundance – not that I’m ‘popular’ by any means – but that I have a wide circle of friends and affectionate acquaintances.  The graduate program that I’ve almost just completed expanded my circle of friends by more than 37 people.  In the old days, my ticker tape would’ve had me feeling like they’re not friends/they don’t care for me like the other classmates/we’ll never stay in contact.  I’m not naive enough to believe that all of us will be buddies forever, but with some effort I will be able to maintain contact and friendship with several of them and even expand the circle to other alumni and people in the positive psychology community.

In addition to not being a good judge of our own reality, the second problem with realistic optimism is that it will cause us to play it too safe sometimes.  Innovation takes leaps of faith, and if we all quit dreaming, where would our dreams be?

I can hear the naysayers out there saying that I’ll be disappointed or hurt by being hopeful or optimistic.  My answer to that is that I’d rather put myself out there to be hurt and disappointed on the rare occasion than to live my life without trust, intimacy, love or hope.  Yes, I’ve been burned, but I can honestly say that I’m more likely to be pleasantly surprised.  Life is not supposed to be free from pain or disappointment.  It’s part of the human condition and to close ourselves to that pain also requires that we close ourselves to pleasure and joy.

So when someone accuses me of being a starry-eyed idealist, I thank them for the compliment and say I would’t have it any other way.