The Power of Pacing Ourselves

As we enter the middle of December, the busyness of these pre-holiday weeks in this last month of 2015 may feel a little overwhelming. I know I’m not alone in trying to accomplish a number of things before the end of the year, including adding in the festivities and other activities that characterize this season.

At this time of year, we generally want to move more slowly because of the
natural rhythms of the seasonal cycle; we long to do our human version of hibernation. Yet we find ourselves asked to fit in more than we usually do— and we have to do it when the days are shorter and the weather is less than ideal!

During this season of light, it is wise to pace ourselves where we can, and to forgive ourselves for things forgotten—or left undone. And it’s more important than ever to include those spiritual practices into our schedule that really nourish and nurture us. As Mother Teresa once said, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil into it.”

May we gently pace ourselves this week, and may we give ourselves permission to simplify where needed this season. May we create the space to include the personal practices that will keep our lamps burning; and may we give each other the gift of our inner light.

—Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon

The Power of Thinking Big

Given that our theme in August is “Experimenting,” I’ve been thinking about people who have been great explorers of new territory—people who have made a practice of trying new things, of experimenting. Over a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the late Thomas Leonard, who is generally considered the founding father of the life-coaching industry. What I particularly enjoyed about keeping my eyes on what Leonard created was his continual focus on the future. He truly was a visionary, and his work was always focused on what’s new, and what’s next. The kind of visioning he did is rare — and important.

Often we don’t hold a big enough picture about what’s possible; we tend to get bogged down in the details of our everyday life. Or, even if we’re actively working to create a big vision for our lives, we sometimes become so focused on what’s possible for us personally, that we forget to think beyond our own individual boundaries.

But, as Leonard reminded us, there is always a bigger game to play. We can always dream bigger, play bigger, be bigger. There’s a world out there that needs us. If we’re feeling uninspired about our own lives — or if we feel pretty good about our own lives — there’s always more territory to cover, and more possibilities to be lived.

May we remember that, as we are told in holy scriptures, “without vision, the people perish.” May we tend our visions with care, weeding out anything that chokes our personal vision, and scanning the horizon for new arenas in which to plant and cultivate our hopes and dreams. May our lives be evolving stories; and may we always realize the power, and importance, of holding the highest vision we can imagine for our spiritual center, our communities, and our world.

—Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon

The Purpose Is Love

Having been trained as a life-purpose coach, spiritual director, and minister, I spend a lot of time thinking about the purpose of life. And while everyone has a unique role to play in this world, there are commonalities of purpose that all of us share. In my research and reading, I keep note of what various teachers, both secular and spiritual, suggest as being the ultimate purpose of life, and I’ve noticed a common theme emerging. The purpose of life, most sages have proposed, can be boiled down to one word…love.

Isn’t that beautiful in its simplicity? The purpose of life is to love. What I love about this invitation to love is that it is something that we can do right now, no matter how confused we may be about finding our way in life. Whether we’re searching for our right livelihood, Mr. or Ms. Right, or any other purposeful aspect of life, we can still love right now. We can explore what it means to love in a job we’re unsatisfied with; we can explore what it means to love when we’re longing for a relationship; we can explore what it means to love when we feel hopelessly muddled about just about everything in life. And really, that’s what living our highest vision is all about: being aware of the love around us, creating from love, sharing our love with the world.

Your love is needed in this world. Sharing your love is the greatest gift you could give someone—and yourself—today.

The Power of Imagery

I once heard a statistic that gave me a lot of pause—that watching something three or more times affects our psyches as if we had watched the actual event! Think about this; think of the horrific images that have come our way quite unbidden by just watching the news. Think of the times we have willingly ingested such images by going to the movies to see a murder mystery, or viewing television shows focusing on crimes.

And the statistic doesn’t apply only to images containing violent themes.  Evidently it is equally true of the repeated viewing of anything—which could include other unhealthy situations, such as depictions of bickering couples or drug abuse. Even shows focusing on celebrities, repeatedly watched, could be seen as reinforcing the idea that what really counts in our society, what is valued and highly paid for, is beauty or notoriety—sometimes both.
May we remember that the images we take in do not pass through our consciousness without some effect. May we choose what we feed our hearts and minds with consciously. May we remember the wisdom of the guidance found in the New Testament’s Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things.” Becoming more mindful of the images we take in may seem like a small thing, but the quality of our lives depends on it—and ultimately, so does the future of our world.

The Power of Thinking Big

A little over a decade ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the late Thomas Leonard, who is generally considered the founding father of the life-coaching industry. What I particularly enjoyed about keeping my eyes on what Leonard created was his continual focus on the future. He truly was a visionary, and his work was always focused on what’s new, and what’s next. The kind of visioning he did is rare—and important.

Often we don’t hold a big enough picture about what’s possible; we tend to get bogged down in the details of our everyday life. Or, even if we’re actively working to create a big vision for our lives, we sometimes become so focused on what’s possible for us personally, that we forget to think beyond our own individual boundaries.

But, as Leonard reminded us, there is always a bigger game to play. We can always dream bigger, play bigger, be bigger. There’s a world out there that needs us. If we’re feeling uninspired about our own lives—or if we feel pretty good about our own lives—there’s always more territory to cover, and more possibilities to be lived.

May we remember that, as we are told in holy scriptures, “without vision, the people perish.” May we tend our visions with care, weeding out anything that chokes our personal vision, and scanning the horizon for new arenas in which to plant and cultivate our hopes and dreams. May our lives be evolving stories; and may we always realize the power, and importance, of holding the highest vision we can imagine for our church, our communities, and our world.

The Power of Spiritual Friendships

This week I had a wonderful conversation with a member of USC about the power and pleasure that can be found in spiritual community—the special kind of spiritual friendships that can be created between like-minded and like-hearted people. An anonymous sage once wrote that “a real friend helps us think our best thoughts, do our noblest deeds, be our finest selves”—and those kinds of friends can be rare. But in order to live from our highest selves—or at least make that worthy intention easier—we need to surround ourselves with people who will hold our vision with us, who will even hold it during the times when we ourselves can’t. Such friends are precious beyond measure.

Take a moment to reflect on your friendships—can you point to people in your life who hold the highest regard for you, even though they’re familiar with your challenge areas and history? Do you gift them with the same kind of regard? The Apocrypha says that “a faithful friend is the medicine of life.” How faithful are your friends? How healing are your friendships?

Such a reflection is useful to undertake on a periodic basis, both to see if we’re truly being supported by our friendships, and to track how supportive we’re being of our friends. It has been said that a true friend is a gift from God—so may we honor our true friendships as the blessings they are, and may we be willing to serve in the same way for our friends.

May we create and cherish the friendships that will support our highest visions for our lives; and may we support the highest visions of our friends.

The Importance of Voice

In today’s increasingly high-speed, wired world, it can be rare to quietly savor the sound of someone else’s voice. So much is done through e-mail or texting; so much of what we hear recorded is fast-paced or accompanied with a booming soundtrack. Even in the privacy of our own homes, we may listen to our companions only half-present, because of the distraction of household responsibilities; or, if we live alone, we may substitute the satisfaction of a talk with a friend for the din of another television sitcom.

In the next week, let us remember the power of the human voice. May we be mindful of how we use ours; may we allow ourselves the gift of being truly present to another’s. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded us,
“The human voice is the organ of the soul.”

May we remember that using our voices in service of truth, beauty, and goodness lies at the heart of living our best lives; and may we each have the courage to bring our own authentic voice forth.

The Importance of Voice

In today’s increasingly high-speed, wired world, it can be rare to quietly savor the sound of someone else’s voice.  So much is done through e-mail or texting; so much of what we hear recorded is fast-paced or accompanied with a booming soundtrack.  Even in the privacy of our own homes, we may listen to our companions only half-present, because of the distraction of household responsibilities; or, if we live alone, we may substitute the satisfaction of a talk with a friend for the din of another television sitcom.

In the next week, let us remember the power of the human voice.  May we be mindful of how we use ours; may we allow ourselves the gift of being truly present to another’s.  As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded us, “The human voice is the organ of the soul.”

May we remember that using our voices in service of truth, beauty, and goodness lies at the heart of living our best lives; and may we each have the courage to bring our own authentic voice forth.