Mindful Musings: Feb 6

“Dreams Worth Chasing”

(An excerpt from my book COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening)

Dream signage surrounded sequins

 John, a friend of mine from Colorado, shared his dreams with me on a (socially distanced) yet inspiring hike through the mountains together. In the year leading up to the pandemic, this highly talented sound engineer and music booker spent around 80 hours a week working at a music venue. While he found his work satisfying, he confided in me that the long hours and breakneck pace of booking bands six nights a week and running sound for those same acts had taken a toll on him emotionally. Like many skilled workers in the entertainment industry, John suddenly found himself unemployed when all bars and music venues were forced to shut down as COVID-19 began its rampage through the United States. But he was one of the lucky ones.

In contrast to the countless millions of frustrated and desperate laid off workers that would follow, John experienced a smooth transition to the unemployment rolls. He related to me that the time away from his job has provided him with greater balance and fulfillment in his life. It has also strengthened his relationship with his wife and filled him with more gratitude for all the positive things in his life. Most of all, his hiatus from the daily grind, has given John the courage to chase his dreams and live life to the fullest. His dream is to move off to a remote and beautiful track of land his mother owns outside of Moab, Utah. In inspiring fashion, my friend and his wife have decided that there is no better time than now to pursue their dream and take a courageous leap into the unknown!

            During this period of crisis, stories like John’s are growing with greater frequency. With far more time to spend contemplating our lives, many people are coming to the realization that now is the perfect time to finally pursue their dreams. With death staring us in the face and with the highest percentage of people out of work since the Great Depression, this moment has carved out an existential crossroads that we are all being called to navigate. Some of the questions we may be asking ourselves are as follows:

  • Once this crisis ends, do I really want to rejoin the “rat race” once more?
  • How might following a different path enrich me spiritually?
  • Is it really too late to change directions and follow my dreams?
  • How can I contribute to the uplifting of the human race?

As more of us begin asking these questions, we will inevitably come to find our answers through spirited moments of contemplation. And in these precious moments, the answers we seek will become clear as day like it has for my friend John. Despite its tragic death toll, COVID-19 has also been something of a blessing for many people who have felt “trapped” in the capitalist machine for far too long. The conditions are ripe to pour one’s time and energy into pursuits that more meaningfully serve the highest qualities of the human spirit. For other people, like my brother soul, Alex, this pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse has only confirmed for him that he wants to take decisive steps in the next year to leave his well-paying engineering job and follow his dreams of becoming a wood-worker and co-founding an off the grid peaceful community with other like-minded beings.

 In his mind, the economic system has badly failed far too many people and he would like the opportunity to show that a better way is possible. He envisions a community that serves the dual aims of providing a space fully conducive to spiritual growth while being grounded in the spirit of service. A beautiful and noble dream indeed! So beautiful and noble, in fact, that I hope to co-found this very community with him!

It is fully within our power to shift our perspective during these times from one of “doom and gloom”, to that of seeing this moment as a rare opportunity to follow our dreams through the grace of suffering. If we can manage to flip the dial of our awareness from pessimism to hope there is no limit to how far we can evolve in our consciousness and in our union with the One that has been called by many names.

Mindful Musings: Jan 29

“Earth Gratitude”

By: Forrest Rivers

man in white t-shirt and blue denim jeans walking on green grass field during daytime

Divine Forest,

Goddess of eternal wisdom

Your spirit is strong

Like the roots

Of your ancient trees

Whispering into the void

To the One with many names

Who is unimaginable in her glory

And beyond all conceptions and reason….

If you should be so lucky

To saunter through she who gives you life

Be still and honor your mother

With these affirming words of gratitude:

“Thank you for the gift of Earth.”

Mindful Musings: Jan 22

“The Great Blue Hills of God”

By: Forrest Rivers

silhouette of mountain under white and yellow sky

One Day,

The Great Blue Hills of God

Decided to speak

And this is what they said:

“Be present as you climb my hallowed peaks

Be still as you bathe in my breathtaking waterfalls

And be grateful as you stroll through my ancient forests

But most important….

Please remember to listen to the wisdom

And feel the boundless love

That emanates through these sacred mountains….

For no church built by the hands of man

Can ever compare

To my altar of divine worship.”

Mindful Musings: Jan 17

“The Day a Magician Learned Real Magic”

By: Forrest Rivers

woman holding sparklers bokeh photography

One day a popular local magician performed his act in front of a large group of people on the town square. The magician pulled all of his best tricks out of his hat to entertain the grateful audience. Everyone in attendance cheered wildly for the magician and his feats of illusion except for one young woman in the crowd who stood unimpressed with her arms folded. After he finished up his act, the magician immediately approached the woman, politely introduced himself and then asked if she enjoyed his act.

                The woman replied:

“I thought your tricks were very good. Certainly, you know how to entertain an audience. However, did I hear correctly that you said you could perform magic?”

The magician took a few nervous steps backwards and then said in a defensive tone:

                “I stand by what I told the audience. I am a magician; therefore, I can perform magic.”

A warm smile broke out across the woman’s face as she replied:

                “I mean you absolutely no offense. In fact, in my humble judgement you are a very talented street magician. What I question is your claim that you can perform magic.”

                The magician scowled and grew more defensive:

                “I am afraid I have no idea what you are getting it. I am a great and revered magician.”

                The smile on the woman’s face grew even warmer and more inviting.  Remarkably, the magician then saw a heavenly white aura emerge around the woman. In a gentle and soothing voice, she then said:

                “Can you love your neighbor as you love yourself? Can you perform the glorious act of serving the poor without seeking any praise or honor from others? Can you see within yourself all the earth’s forests, mountains, rivers, plants, animals and all the people too? Can you live in this world but not be up of it? Can you embrace death as your friend so you may live this life to the fullest? If you can accomplish all of these things, then indeed my kind magician, you can perform magic.”

                The magician froze in silent reflection and then he suddenly placed his magic cap before the feet of the mysterious woman and handed her his wand. For the first time in his life, he humbled himself before another person, bowed, and then said:

                “In truth, all I am is an entertainer. In my heart, I believe it is you who might be able to truly perform magic. Please, teach me your ways of wisdom. Please, teach me your magic.”

                An angelic smile swept across her face as the beautiful goddess like woman waved the magician’s wand and out of thin air a radiant ball of swirling golden and purple light appeared that washed over the magician with overwhelming love. In that moment, it has been said that that the magician achieved cosmic understanding and learned how to truly practice magic for the first time.

Mindful Musings: Dec 20th

heart shaped pink sparklers photography

2020 Taught the World Gratitude for Love

By: Forrest Rivers

When we look back on the past year, we will undoubtedly remember it as the “year of the pandemic.” And all the painful associations that we have had with 2020 will be relived again in stories told to future generations who are too young to recall the tragic loss of life, challenging periods of social isolation, and crushing poverty caused by COVID-19. In addition to all the world’s suffering, we will also remember this year for the utter lack of compassion exhibited by such world leaders as America’s Donald Trump, Great Britain’s Boris Johnson, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro in response to the crisis. We will also associate 2020 with long-standing racial tensions that boiled over, billionaires who turned record profits, and ballooning cases of mental health issues.

However, despite all the real pain that this pandemic has visited upon the world, this year in passing will also be remembered for something that many news outlets have overlooked all together: a renewed gratitude for the power of love. More now than in past years, the world is beginning to re-awaken to the spirit of a mystical force so profound that it can transform us from the inside out.  Something remarkable has begun to take root through our shared experience of isolation. A growing realization that we truly need one another has transformed from a concept that we occasionally waxed poetic about before the pandemic, to a living truth that we have only now begun to discover within ourselves since.

In my own life, I have come to realize just how wildly peculiar it is that it literally took a once in a lifetime pandemic for me to gather up the courage to reach back out to dear friends who I had lost touch with. In 2020, I have reconnected with more people through the phone than in any other year I can recall. The past year has had the effect of re-awakening a profound sense of gratitude for all the wonderful beings in my life. The circumstances of the past year have also confirmed for me an important truth that the Christian mystic Thomas Merton wrote about in his meditations on solitude: No man is an island. This powerful realization, alone, contradicts almost everything that we westerners are taught to believe.

Particularly in nations like the United States, where the value of rugged individualism is extolled, the mere mention of our intrinsic connection threatens to dissolve the illusion of separateness that the fabric of this civilization is built upon. To acknowledge that “no man is an island,” is to admit that we really are our brothers and sisters’ keepers. Undoubtedly, a renewed awareness of this sacred soul connection we all share is the greatest gift that this pandemic has bestowed on humanity. One day soon, the dust will settle, and we will be able to gather once more in song and dance, dine together again in proximity, and embrace complete strangers (though in a cosmic sense are any of us even strangers?)  with a handshake or hug. When that day comes, let us remember those difficult moments when we struggled in isolation and dreamed of how wonderful it would be to reunite with beloved friends and family in person.

May we never again take the power of love for granted.

                Om Shanti. (peace)