meaningofstrife

Seeing the best in life's challenges

The Answers to Everything

We are spiritual beings.  We are souls, temporarily in a body here on Earth.  We have free will to use our time here in whatever way we wish.  We can remain in reactive mode, live our life under the default settings, let life “happen to us”, maybe never even consider the purpose of it all, and that’s just fine.

We also have the option of choosing to be proactive, to examine our choices along the way, to consider the implications of our choices, to try to find our purpose in being here.  We can work to understand the deeper meaning of it all. Take it to the next level.

Whatever you choose is right for you.  Be happy with your choice!  Enjoy your life for what it is!

Wait…..you’re not happy?  You’re frustrated?  Something’s missing?  Life isn’t going the way you want it to? You can’t shake this feeling that there’s something more?  Can’t shake the loneliness?  Well, you have a choice – you can maintain the status quo and just live with it, or you can try to figure it out, to FIND THE ANSWERS.

Don’t know where to start?

Well, the most important thing you need to know is that YOU are the only one who can figure it all out FOR YOU.  There’s no formula, no class you can take, no book you can read, no list of rules you can follow, no guru that will give you all the answers.  It’s a lot of work, and that may sound intimidating.  But nothing worth doing is easy, right?

Now wait a minute, you say, I’ve seen your blog, and you keep writing about books and articles you’ve read, you have all these opinions, what’s all that about?

Well, no one can tell you THE ANSWER, but there are lots of hints out there, there is lots of wisdom.  It comes from the Bible, it comes from the many wise souls who have come before us, we can find it in our friends and family, we can see it in nature.  Wisdom and guidance is EVERYWHERE.  I’m a researcher at heart, and I love digging for wisdom.  People can help and support each other in this process, but they can’t determine someone’s answers for them.  By sharing my process, my thoughts, how I see my answer, MAYBE someone else is supported in their own quest.  Maybe not.

It doesn’t matter what you call it:  becoming a better person, becoming enlightened, ascension, spiritual maturity, being born again, transformation, raising your vibration, higher consciousness.  All these terms describe the quest.  It’s not a task to be completed, it’s a process.

So, from my perspective, here are some steps that seem to be universal, things to consider, helpful hints, in no particular order.  As always, if they seem useful to you, great!  If not, skip to the next one.  If you find this stuff helpful, feel free to share with others!

Become the Observer  Whenever you encounter a situation, step back and pretend you’re a fly on the wall.  You might have to wait until later, when you’re alone, but run the situation through your head as if you were not involved.  Pretend that everyone is just an actor in a play, and watch.  Let go of the feelings, the expectations, the preconceived notions, the judgments, and just OBSERVE.  This is an exercise that helps you gain a perspective.  Get curious.  Be interested without an agenda.  Observe yourself – how did you feel, how did you react, what pushed your buttons?  What judgments did you make, what expectations did you have?

Abandon Survival Mode  Dig down and figure out what your basic Intent is.  Is it to take care of Number One?  Survival of the fittest?  Or is your primary interest the well-being of all, the greater good?  Do you believe in win-win solutions?

Recognize and Manage your Ego  Understand that your ego is useful.  It keeps you safe; it’s a survival mechanism.  It watches out for Number One.  But your ego likes to have control.  It can get you in trouble if you’re not careful.  It needs to be understood and managed.

Conquer Fear  What are you afraid of?  Fear is another survival mechanism.  The right kind of fear keeps us safe.  But it’s another thing that can take over and get out of control.  And it may also be the biggest obstacle to moving forward.  Don’t let the fear of doing something wrong keep you from TRYING.

Question Everything  There is nothing wrong with questioning everything.  It’s why we have a brain.  It’s a thought process that helps us understand things better.  Any time you are told that something should not be questioned, a big red flag should go up in your head.  If something is TRUE, then any questioning will only lead back to that truth anyway, right?  What are you afraid of?  While we’re at it, do you judge others who consider ideas that are outside of your box?  Why do you care?

Recognize Drama  Do you love drama?  Drama is fed by the ego and by fear.  It’s seductive.  Drama can keep you very busy if you let it.  We all know people that create and thrive on drama.  Just remember that participating in drama is your choice.

Cultivate Faith  The religions of the world all focus on a Creator that is benevolent and loving.  Do you believe this to be the case or not?  Be honest with yourself – do you act as if you have faith that things will work out, or are you always worried?  Do you really believe in a God that punishes?  Does this feel right in your gut?

Stop Judging  How much time do you spend playing the Blame Game?  Besides the fact that the Bible says don’t judge, spending your time judging doesn’t change what’s been done.  Ok, you might be feeding your Ego so you can feel superior, or you might have other reasons to be doing this.  The more time you spend blaming, the less you have to spend figuring out a solution to the problem.  Besides, you can only control YOU.  Observe yourself, and make a conscious decision about how much judging you want to be doing.

Stop Seeing Yourself as a Victim  Do you wish things were different than they are?  What do you choose to do about it?  You can choose to feel sorry for yourself, get mad at the world for being the way it is, get depressed about it.  OR, you can accept that things are the way they are, it JUST IS, and then decide what actions you can take to deal with it.

Look for the Lesson  One way to deal with the challenges and mysteries of life is to look for the lesson.  Many say that you will face certain situations over and over again, until you learn the lesson that is presented.  Feel like the same stuff keeps happening to you?  Look for the lesson, learn something, gain wisdom.  The idea is, if you learn the lesson, you won’t remain stuck dealing with the same situation over again.  Also, if you look at life this way, you won’t be as likely to take these things personally and you will be less likely to see yourself as the victim.

Listen to your Intuition  This is probably the single most important hint, and the most liberating.  Trust yourself!  YOU are powerful.  YOU are wise, if you choose to be.  YOU have a piece of God inside you – use it!!  Not only are you an amazing human being, but God is on your side, and you only need to ASK for help, and it will be there!!

Have Patience…  This is the hardest one for me.  Things don’t necessarily fall into place as quickly as we would like.  We have to trust and let go of doubt.  Ugh.

Lastly…

Find the Humor in Everything  Despite all this serious talk, don’t ever forget that life is to be ENJOYED!!  It’s easier to see the humor in life when you are in Observer Mode.  When you recognize a challenge that pops up in front of you as one you have seen before, laugh at the fact that life is giving you another chance to slay the dragon!  When you see drama unfolding, and you see the participants as actors in the play, appreciate the wonderful acting job they are doing, and laugh!  Appreciate each character for the caricature that they are!

Most of all, learn to laugh at yourself.  It’s ok to be vulnerable.  It’s ok to make a mistake.  When you laugh at yourself, when you enjoy your own journey, and others see you, it gives them permission to go easy on themselves.  Hey, we’re all here together doing the best we can.  Why not enjoy it while we’re here?!

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The Game of Life (Video Game Version)

Let’s play “What If…” with a new video game called The Game of Life.  Pretend with me.  Let’s play along together and see what happens.

We’re going to pretend we’re just our soul, and we’re hanging out with God and family and friends, and it’s before we’re born.

God says to us, “ok, it’s your turn to play the Game of Life on Earth, and here’s what you need to do.”  He hands us a controller.  “There are lots of decisions to be made to set up your life experience.  All the decisions affect each other, but don’t worry, you can decide the details in any order you wish and you can make as many changes as you like until you are satisfied.

Keep in mind the experiences and lessons you wish to experience, and make your choices consistent with them.  And coordinate with everybody else.

So, we go to the video screen where we pick the avatar.  The questions start popping up, too many to list:

  • Male or Female?
  • Personality?
  • Motivations?
  • Ego characteristics?
  • Appearance?
  • Body type?  (you get to pick all the details)
  • Disabilities?
  • Birthday?  Easy birth, difficult birth?  Home or hospital?
  • Astrological sign?

Now pick your family situation and location:

  • Pick your family…..mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, pets, etc.
  • Rich or poor?  Social status?
  • Education levels?  Professions?
  • Family dynamics?
  • What part of the world?
  • What kind of house?  Neighborhood?  How often will this change?

Who else will you play with and what kind of relationships will you have with them?

  • Friends
  • Enemies
  • Teachers
  • Lovers
  • Spouse(s)
  • Children
  • Wise old man that lives across the street

Pick the situations you would like to experience, the theme of your life lessons, etc:

–What trait would you like to work on?  Patience, tolerance, self-worth, etc.

–Experiences:  War?  Cooperation?  Education?  Prison?  Poverty?  Wealth?  Dysfunctional family?  Challenging kids?  A carefree, simple life?  Etc.

So, we’ve made all our decisions, down to every last detail.  In fact, the level of detail is astounding, and can only be comprehended when we are with God.  We’ve had time to discuss and coordinate everything with all the other players.  We have a pretty good idea of how it could play out, but we still have to play the game.

(I am imagining, at this point, the Angels sitting around placing bets about how it’s going to work out, who will accomplish what, and trying to make all kinds of predictions.  Then the wise one says, “Hey, you can never tell what’s going to happen – that’s why we play the game!”)

Then God says, “Are you all ready?

“YES!!” we all shout.

Ok, but before we begin, I have to remind you about The Rules.

Well, I guess every game has its rules, huh.

“The one primary rule is that you will forget everything you know.  You will be immersed in the virtual reality world of the game, and you will believe that it is real.  You will believe that the game is all that there is.  You won’t forget right away, but you will still be getting used to your newborn body and figuring out how to make it work, and you won’t be able to tell anyone what you know.  By the time you learn to talk, you will probably have forgotten most everything, and you will become very convinced that the world is real.  Even if you do remember and are able to talk about it, most people will dismiss what you say because you’re a child or they won’t even be listening.  Remember, it is going to be frustrating.”

“Now, some of you may have picked really challenging scenarios for this time around.  I realize you are eager to experience some of the extremes, but make sure you are up for it.  Remember, when you experience abuse, pain, suffering, betrayal, and loneliness, it will feel extremely real.  Right now you know it’s just a game, but it won’t feel like that while you are playing.  The game is set up to support Fear, and you will have to fight to resist Fear from taking over.   You would not be playing this game if you were not a strong soul, but the game will be challenging nonetheless.”

“All of us understand your intentions, but once you are there you will forget them to a certain extent.  You will have free will – we cannot control what you do, you are free to play however you want.”

“But also know that you will not be alone.  First of all, a piece of you will remain with me and never leave you at the same time.  When you are in the game, this will seem impossible to you.  In addition, my assistants and I will always be watching, with controllers in hand.  We will nudge you when needed.  There will be many hints along the way.  And remember that we will work with you during your sleep as well.”

“Over the years, we have planted many, many seeds of wisdom and guidance.  They are everywhere, but finding them and recognizing them will only be possible with determination.”

“For those of you playing at the highest levels, your veil of forgetfulness will be more faint.  You will retain a sense of knowing that there’s something more, but you will have to work hard and pay attention to figure it out.  The skills you developed in previous plays will be a big help.”

“We all know that the ultimate goal of the game, once you have mastered all the levels, is to go in one more time and figure out that it is, in fact, a game.  To remember.  Even this final play will not be easy, because most of the other players will make you doubt yourself and will call you crazy.”

Hey, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a very good game, would it?

Now, are you ready?

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Beyond Right and Wrong

Moving beyond the need to determine what is right and what is wrong is a tough task on the road to spiritual maturity.  The Bible is very clear that we are not to judge, and what else is more clearly judging than determining  “right” vs. “wrong”?

In the days of Moses, the people needed rules to guide them.  The Ten Commandments were appropriate for their level of spiritual maturity.  A parallel is the rules we make for young children.  Until children are mature enough to make wise decisions, we need to have rules to guide them and to keep them safe.

Most of us recognize that we have outgrown many of the rules.  We no longer worry about whether we are eating meat, braiding our hair or covering our heads. How many of us keep the Sabbath?  Isn’t it interesting that we don’t give a second thought to the fact that we find some of the rules outdated and irrelevant, yet we cling to others, digging in our heals, sometimes to the point of fighting to the death?

Paul (!) had this to say:

The Believer’s Freedom:  I Corinthians 10:32-24 (NIV)

23 “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive.  24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

Wait…..EVERYTHING is permissible???  Whoa.  How many of us believe that one?

Jesus pushes us to take a higher level of responsibility for how we choose to treat others, to “love your neighbor as yourself.”   And the Bible is FULL of advice and examples of what it means to Love One Another.  The most spiritually mature individuals will be working on making choices based on love only.  The rules become irrelevant as we work toward a higher level of determining appropriate behavior.

Making choices based on Love is not always easy.  Situations in real life are complicated.  Lots of people might be affected by a decision you make.  Your actions might make some people happy and other people upset. And there’s the idea of “tough love.”  Sometimes, the decision based on Love just might break one of the rules.

(I’m adding this later…..an example from the Bible of exactly this point is found in Luke 13:10-17.)

It’s pretty much guaranteed that we won’t always make the best choices.  As with any new skill, it takes a lot of practice, making mistakes, self-evaluation, trying again, falling down, getting up…..that’s the process.  If you think of “Making Decisions Based on Love” as one of the Areas of Study in Learning about Life, it is not hard to imagine there will be many courses to be taken before you will get close to mastering the material.

There’s nothing “wrong” with sticking to following the rules.  It’s ok for each individual to be wherever they are in the spectrum of spiritual maturity, just as each individual child matures at his own rate, and gets to the point where he can take more responsibility for himself.

This subject area is TOUGH.  It can feel like a leap of faith or like jumping off a cliff, because letting go of the security of The Rules is scary.  It is scary for others, and they will let you know that.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

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The Mountain

Life is like a mountain, and we are all climbing to reach the summit.

It’s a huge mountain, with all kinds of varied terrain.  We are each at a different spot on that mountain.  We all start at the bottom, and work our way up.  Some face north, some south, some east, some west. Some paths up the mountain twist back and forth, but aren’t too steep.  Some of us are rock-climbing up some serious cliffs.  Some are moving fast, others taking their time and enjoying the scenery.  There are as many variations in paths up the mountain as there are people.

Because each of us is in our own unique spot, each of us has a different view of our surroundings.  Some people might be in a particularly wooded, flat spot, and they might not even know they are on a mountain!  Some might be so focused on their path, that they aren’t taking the time to notice that there is other terrain around them.  Those at the bottom might look up and find the mountain overwhelming.  Those at the very top might be looking up and admiring the sky…..or they might take the time to look down in every direction, and see the endless possibilities there are to get up to the top.

Is one path up the mountain better than another?  For each particular person, there is probably one path that offers them the appropriate number of challenges, without being too difficult.  The right path would depend on each situation.  For example, if you were traveling up with a group, you would probably pick a path that was suited to the abilities of the group.  Someone who enjoys the challenges of extreme sports might pick a very difficult path that no one has attempted before.

Maybe at some point, you or your group encounters a scout who has been up the mountain, and can give you really useful instructions for navigating your path.  The scout could give you a great set of rules that, if followed, could make your journey so much easier!!

Those who are climbing with you, if you are climbing in a group, are going to see things from the same perspective as you.  For example, the people climbing the east side, are going to see the sun rise each day, but after the sun goes behind the mountain, they will know they still have many hours of daylight, despite the fact that they can’t see the sun in the sky.  But the people climbing the west side of the mountain will have that daylight BEFORE they can actually see the sun in the sky, and they will get to see the sun set.  One side of the mountain is likely to be windward and rainy, while the other is likely to be leeward and dry.

Think about how different the eastern climbers and the western climbers would describe the conditions around the mountain.

Even on the same side of the mountain, the people following the gradual path with switchbacks, would have a very different perspective than those who are climbing the steep face.  If they described their experience of climbing the mountain to someone unfamiliar with it, they would give vastly different impressions of the same place!

So let’s say Joe Smith hasn’t yet figured out that he is on a mountain.  He hears rumors that there is this person named Jane Doe who tells stories of her path that make absolutely no sense.  They don’t fit Joe’s group experience at all, they seem far-out, and are actually a little scary.  Joe concludes that there is no way these stories can be true, they must be WRONG!  (Joe’s group might even decide that it is too dangerous to even speak to Jane, or maybe they should even kill this heretic!  But let’s assume Joe’s group is peace-loving and open-minded.)

Then Joe meets Jane in person when their paths cross.  To hear her stories and descriptions of her climb still seem unbelievable, but she seems like a pretty reasonable and nice person, not so different from Joe.  He likes Jane, even though she must be a little crazy.  As Jane shares her stories, Joe gets to know her a little better, so he decides that, well, another path might be possible, but his is still BETTER than hers.  (After all, his path is well-known and proven!)

Years go by, and both Joe and Jane are much further along on their paths.  They have had a wider variety of experiences, and because they are further up, they now have a broader view of terrain that is further away.  As Joe has gained insight, experience and wisdom, he now thinks about Jane and her stories, and concludes that maybe her path is right for her, while his path is best for him.  Maybe Jane’s experience is no better or worse, maybe it’s just DIFFERENT.  Joe is still happy to be on his path, with his group, but he is ok with others making their own choices and deciding what path is best for them.

The higher any one person gets on the mountain, the more they will be able to see, and the better able they will be to appreciate the challenges, the stories, the perspectives, of all the different people who they run into from different paths.  They will start to be able to understand why it takes some people so long to climb the mountain, while it seems easy for others.

The point is we each have our own perspective, based on our unique life experiences.  The way we see things is true for us, but that doesn’t mean that others who have a different experience are “wrong” and our experiences aren’t any “better” than theirs.  They are just different.

THEN, people start getting to the top of the mountain.  Suddenly, they can see the whole thing!  Now, they can see that there is A LOT of the mountain they never knew about!  They feel more than a little humbled, and realize how little they actually knew getting up.  They might also realize that they learned the most from the toughest parts of the journey.  What seemed like the worst situations when they happened, actually provided the very best lessons.

In hearing the stories and wisdom that these other people share it becomes clear that not only are all the paths different, they are COMPLEMENTARY.  To truly understand the mountain, its terrain, how the paths fit together, and all the lessons that can be learned, you need the experience of all types of people who have tackled all the paths.

Now think about this possibility:  the people at the top are sharing their stories of their adventures.  All of a sudden, a helicopter arrives and drops off a guy who decided to skip the climb.  So, he has arrived at the top, and can now look down at all the paths and see everything.  But he has no experience with the mountain.  His “climb” was the easiest in the extreme.  While we all sometimes wish for an easy climb, how useful do you really think an easy climb is, in learning to navigate life and in gaining wisdom?

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