Time to Turn Up the Light

“Turn up the light.”

During periods of darkness we all search for more light. Some of us have flashlights in every room in case the power goes out. Children often have to have a night-light on to feel secure enough to fall asleep. Especially at this time of year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s no accident that so many holidays and festivals around the world involve the lighting of candles, strings of lights, even fireworks. We want – we need – light.

In the context of our spiritual lives, however, this directive takes on a deeper meaning. As Jesus, our Gurus, and all the wisdom traditions have taught, the light is always on in every one of us. Its source is the Divine; therefore there truly can be no “on” or “off” switch. It is our own dimmer switch, in the form of ego, that determines how much God’s Light may shine within us and extend outward.

Just in the Bible alone, there are dozens of references to light. Do we “let it shine”? Are we “following it in our footsteps”? Or do we “hide it under a bushel” or “turn away from it”?

I confess that, at any given moment, my own conscious connection to the divine Light still varies widely. Still, like everyone, this soul having a human experience is a work in progress. Many reminders of that Light are available to me daily, in the form of prayers, chants, music, affirmations, meditation and inspirational messages from our teachers and guides. What a joy to sing, during each Sunday’s Festival of Light, “Aum…Gone is delusion in the light!” and “Thy Light within us shining / Has shown where freedom lies!”

In a world filled with turmoil and despair, may we all turn up our individual lights just a bit more to dispel the darkness. This season, however you celebrate, may your Light touch someone else and help them shine theirs more brightly.

Christmas Blessings,


Christmas Crafting

I’ve always enjoyed crafts, especially during the Christmas season. Growing up, it was an annual tradition for me to stitch, fold, glue, macramé, paint or otherwise create various small items for decorating or giving as gifts. My mother’s 50-year collection of tree ornaments alone is a testament to the different phases of my crafting career.

As an adult, however, different circumstances have periodically depleted my enthusiasm for this past-time. For the last several years, in fact, I had not been able to summon even the desire to pull out any of my crafting materials, much less create anything by hand. What would usually be a fun and soul-enriching activity was pushed to the bottom of the priorities list by the pull of other, seemingly more important “shoulds.”

I didn’t realize just how much I had missed the experience of creating until I attended a local craft bazaar last month. While there I found some gifts, but more important, I also found the inspiration to try my hand at something of my own making again. This month I am back in creating mode; although it’s on a smaller scale than in years past, I still feel the same joy in making something by hand.

Today, however, I realize a deeper truth. The joy that comes from crafting something with my own hands, while lovely, may be fleeting. The joy that comes from creating space in my life to connect with the Divine, meanwhile, will endure forever.

Get the Message?

We all know about the “still, small Voice” of God, the inner knowing that only comes when we are quiet enough to hear it. I’ve heard that still, small voice. I know how it feels to have it reveal itself.… but I confess that, most of the time, the poor Voice is drowned out by the hurly-burly inside my mind. The chatter can get very loud and obnoxious.

As a result, as I’ve often joked with friends, if I seriously want to know God’s will in some situation, I consciously pray, “God, please reveal Your will to me—and make it so obvious even I can’t miss it!” It’s not really a joke, though. I have learned that I can be quite obtuse — and sometimes downright obstinate – when it comes to picking up subtle clues. Sometimes, I need a “tap” from God’s 2 x 4 to finally listen to Him.

Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I recently sat down to journal and actually “got” His lesson right then and there. I was feeling discouraged about a situation I was struggling with, and I hoped to gain some insight. Then, as I wrote the words, “sometimes I feel like a wayward child,” my pen ran out of ink– on the word “wayward.” I pressed harder, trying to get the ink to flow on the word, to no avail. Ordinarily, I would have by now simply gotten myself another pen and continued from where I’d stopped. This time, however, I didn’t. Instead, I moved the pen over slightly on the paper and saw that, once it was away from that word, the ink flowed again. Interesting. It was as if God was saying I shouldn’t judge myself so harshly. OK, thank you God. I got it!

Two sentences later, using that same pen, the ink stopped again– just as I was acknowledging how self-critical I can be. In the middle of the word “critical.” (I told you I can be obtuse.) When I skipped over the word and the pen began working again, I could only laugh. OK, God! NOW I get it! I am Your beloved child, Your creation. Negative self-talk will never solve my problems or bring me home to You. Message received.

As I completed my writing, I felt God’s laughter and love enveloping me. “Ah…she got it!” This is one patient Creator we have here.

Thanks… for Everything

Dear friend,

The other day a friend began sharing about her anxiety for an upcoming trip. As with so many folks this time of year, she was traveling to spend the holiday with members of her family, some of whom she had experienced challenging dynamics with since childhood.

My friend has several medical degrees, practices meditation and Reiki healing, and has spent years working hard to forgive and heal the wounds of her past. Still, after all this time and effort, she found herself with a knot in her stomach and uttering those oh-so-familiar words: “I thought I was done with that already!”

Ah, yes. I imagine there are more than a few of us who would nod our heads in agreement with that plaintive cry. I certainly did. The particulars may vary, but who among us hasn’t at some point wondered, “How has this [person-situation-feeling] come up for me to face, yet again?” Aren’t we ever done? Apparently not yet.

So, what is a good devotee to do? The choice is ours. I know avoidance or complaining – both so tempting! — only prolongs the time when I’ll have to look squarely at what challenges me and deal with it. Or, as has been said many times by many wise ones, I can practice gratitude for whatever is my latest “growth opportunity.”

This Thanksgiving, I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude for all of it—the pleasant and the painful, the beautiful and the ugly, the calm and the turmoil. Our gurus and teachers have reminded us countless times that, behind all is the Giver, God, being played out in an infinite array of scenes for our education and entertainment. I still argue with God about His ways, but ultimately I trust that He knows exactly what I need at the time I need it. Thanks God!

Here is a passage from Whispers from Eternity, by Paramhansa Yogananda, that I found timely:

When the summer of good fortune warms my tree of life, it easily burgeons with fragrant blossoms of thankfulness. During winter months of misfortune, O Lord, may my denuded branches changelessly waft toward Thee a secret scent of gratitude.




Going Inward, Living Outward

Several days this past week I’ve woken up to find our street enshrouded in dense fog. This is a common phenomenon around the region as the warmer weather gives way – slowly – to chillier temperatures.

Fortunately for me, I rarely have to go anywhere while it’s still foggy out, and my “commute” to the Temple is less than a mile. Still, there’s always a list of things to do in the morning, and that’s ok—I’m generally a morning person. Truth be told, however, this kind of weather, combined with shorter days, just makes me want to sleep! Does anyone else relate? Many other species (and not just bears) are programmed to prepare for and begin hibernation when the temperatures go down.  I believe we humans still have vestiges of that instinct.

Thus we have the set-up for autumn stress. I set my alarm to allow what is generally a reasonable amount of sleep, and after the initial alarm goes off, I allow a 10-minute snooze.  I also immediately turn on a bright light. But apparently that’s still not enough. I’ve been hitting that snooze button at least two times every morning for the past week before finally feeling awake. The result?  I already feel “behind schedule” by the time I get out of bed.  My rational self appears to be competing against my primal self for control– that’s exhausting in itself!

Writing this, however, has offered an “ah-ha” moment:  this push-pull feeling is just one more challenge I can pray about and meditate on. We’re told our journey on the spiritual path is 50 percent God’s grace and 25 percent our Gurus’ blessing. So much of life is truly beyond my ability to control—so why not let my Divine friends do it? Once again, the goal is to find the balance, an inner harmony with what is rather than a constant feeling of stress and struggle.

For those who, like me, sense our primal instinct for hibernation but also have busy lives to live, finding a way to honor both “pulls” can be challenging. What strategies have you found to be successful? Below is a suggestion from Melody Hansen, an Ananda Yoga teacher located at Ananda Village, for an “autumn restorative yoga pose.” Let’s try it. And while we’re talking about grace, be sure to enjoy Jayadev’s article, “Cooperating with Grace,” at the end of our newsletter. In between you’ll find all kinds of opportunities coming up to help you revive or strengthen your own inner harmony.


The Never-Ending Story

I’m a writer. I come from a family of writers. In fact, back in the old country, one of my great-grandmothers was the designated letter-writer for her small village in the early 1900’s, as most of her neighbors were not schooled. For many years my professional life involved researching and writing business and technical papers for various companies. You’d think that, with writing in my genes, I would have enjoyed it. The truth was, not so much. This particular talent was a challenge.

Over the decades, people sometimes suggested that I could be a published author. “You should write a book,” they’d say. My usual reply was, “Maybe someday. Right now I don’t know what I’d write about that would fill a book.” It’s one thing to produce a dry report, usually under a company banner. It’s entirely another thing to write something personal that other people want to read for their own benefit.

Then, about two years ago I was invited to try my hand at producing Ananda Portland’s weekly e-newsletter. Although I had had some experience writing for my high school journalism club’s newspaper, and had contributed articles to some professional publications, I’d certainly never done something like putting out a weekly “publication” to a mailing list of 850+ souls. Still, the need was present, and I said “yes.” That’s what we do at Ananda!

At the beginning of my first e-newsletter, I introduced myself to all of the readers. The next week, I wrote something else in that space. Then the writings took on a life of their own. These little essays just started happening, and no one stopped me. Nearly 100 mailings later, no one has stopped me still. And apparently, I do indeed have something to write about. I love sharing my thoughts, and connecting with you about matters great and small, in the context of our shared aspirations for spiritual freedom. Knowing that something I have communicated touches someone else is a special joy in itself.

A number of times I have been asked, “How do you come up with an essay week after week?” Often, there’s an event taking place at the Temple, or Ananda in general, which inspires me to reflect on its importance. Other times, it’s a national holiday. Sometimes, it was something that someone said or an event in my own life during the week that had a message that I thought someone else might appreciate. Mostly, though, it’s from asking, “Master, what would you have me write today?” Often, the final product looks far different from what I’d originally intended—and it’s the joy of that discovery that compels me to do it again, week after week. Thank you, God, for this talent and for giving it a vehicle that is fulfilling to my soul!

Thanks to all who have taken the time to let me and the Temple Team know that you value and enjoy the content of these newsletters. We are always striving for ways to connect with, inspire and inform all seekers of Truth that resonate with our path. If there’s something else you’d like to see, do let us know.