Mindful Musings

“Nature’s Inspiring Qualities”

The Smoky Mountains vs. the "Smokey Mountains”: Who's Right?It would be an understatement to say that the natural world humbles our very being. For example, how many people have climbed to the top of a mountain and experienced the sentiment of feeling inconsequential? It’s impossible not to.

Anyone who has made the pilgrimage up a summit reports feeling profoundly humbled. For on the majestic peaks, our souls are moved by the sheer majesty of views that await us: a gorgeous colossus of trees, the mesmerizing stature of nearby mountaintops, the noble presence of soaring eagles and those subtle but dazzling flashes of white light that sparkle against the backdrop of a midday Sun.

As we inhale a slow, deep breath of the crisp mountain air, we become instantly aware of our own insignificance in relationship to the Cosmos. In so doing, we come to embrace the notion that humanity is but one tiny wave in a vast sea of oneness.

It’s from Mother Nature’s power to humble that we uncover the source of pure inspiration. We tap into this coveted but sacred energy through the Earth’s reservoirs of natural beauty. When we decide to descend back down the same mountaintop, we carry this feeling of renewal back with us, injecting it into our day-to-day lives.

For some people, this newfound inspiration finds its light through their commitment to previously neglected aspects of their being, such as their family and friends, their life’s work and especially their own spiritual growth. Yet, for others, transcendental experiences in nature will produce sudden and profound personal epiphanies.

In these moments of heightened clarity, we feel as though we’re viewing life through a new pair of eyes. In these moments, the art of existing finally starts to make sense, as one begins to live their life with a greater sense of purpose and awareness. In these instances, it’s not uncommon to make major life changes like leaving a longtime job or long-term relationship to devote oneself to a higher calling.

For others, nature so inspires them, that they’re moved to express these emotions of divine love through creative outlets like poetry, painting, photography and music. For example, well-known writers and poets like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman were all so moved by nature that each felt compelled to share the wonder of it with others.

Further, entire forms of written expression such as Haiku (a unique form of poetry that emerged long ago in Japan) also remain popular and finds their medium through the observation of nature. And much of the remarkable art crafted by Indigenous peoples from around the world depicts various divine aspects of the Earth.

In fact, in my own dwelling, I have a beloved piece of artwork that was made by a Native American artist from the Hopi tribe in Arizona. This work of art is a mosaic of sacred images drawn from nature and painted on a smooth, rectangular slab of clay. This remarkable piece of work reminds me that the natural world is the purest source of creative inspiration.

Finally, cultural anthropologists have long accepted the notion that music—that most profound mode of universal expression—had its genesis long before the development of formal language in the earliest tribes. Today, still, the Indigenous peoples of the world reflect their love for the Earth in song and dance. It’s telling that more traditional music pays homage to Mother Nature. Listen to roots reggae, folk or bluegrass songs for confirmation!

(Excerpt from my essay: “Nature as Divine Love”)

 

Mindful Musings

A Meditation on Freedom During COVID-19

By: Forrest RiversSo What IS Spiritual Freedom? — Spirit Quest with LindaAs the United States begins relaxing stay at home orders it has made me reflect on the meaning of freedom in the age of COVID-19. During this period of self-quarantining and social distancing, freedom has come to mean many different things to people.

For the mostly conservative anti-shutdown protesters in the United States (and to a much lesser extent in Great Britain and Germany) freedom has meant the right to work and operate one’s own business without undue interference by government. For these protesters, it has also implied the liberty to make one’s own personal decisions free of state tyranny. Yet, for other folks, freedom has come to mean something different. For many liberal urbanites and senior citizens freedom has come to be seen as the right to be protected from the threats posed by others’ irresponsible actions. In the context of this pandemic, some shoppers’ insistence on not wearing face coverings in crowded public places is an example of such a threat.

Medical workers on the front line of fighting the virus have also arrived at their own unique understanding of freedom. My sister, who is an ER doctor, has expressed to me that she and other medical workers would just like the freedom to be able to perform their (very vital) jobs without encountering societal road blocks along the way. A prime example of such a road block, is the US Government’s colossal failure to provide an adequate number of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits for hospitals.

In an inspiring development, a growing number of spiritual seekers, too, are coming to their own profound realization of freedom. In the context of the times, seekers of truth are regarding freedom as something that extends beyond the individual AND as one’s conscious choice to use their free will to alleviate the suffering of all beings. Such an understanding of freedom is akin, in a Christian sense, to being our brother’s keeper. And, in a Buddhist sense, rising to the level of becoming a Bodhisattva or one who devotes their life to service. This perception of freedom has everything to do with right intentions and challenges us to step outside ourselves and to flow with the great river of life. In the end, this acknowledgement of the interrelation of all things (oneness) is possibly the highest truth that mystics of every faith have discovered. Very fortunately for humanity, it appears that more people are beginning to understand that true freedom springs from an awareness that we are all connected. Below, are two powerful examples of this kind of freedom in action:

Example 1: My friend Jamie

For as long as I have known him, Jamie has been passionately devoted to the path of spirit and spreading the light of love. Recently, he began a live stream on Reddit centered on the themes of positivity and personal self-improvement. In just a few months, his platform has drawn up to 500 people at once from across the world. However, it is not the number of participants that matter in this story, but how Jamie has chosen to use his vehicle of expression to uplift others in this anxiety filled time. Recently, Jamie related a touching story to me about how he has been coaching (in his terms) one of his live stream participants through a difficult period of depression and sadness. Most significantly, Jamie revealed how this individual has been finding peace and comfort through their correspondences online. Incredibly enough, this participant lives in Australia! Jamie’s inspiring story is a testament to the fact that the vibrations of love can literally transcend the barriers of both time and space!

Example 2: My friend Austin

Austin has to be one of the kindest souls I have met in my life. And, as an inspiring musician, he has always succeeded in moving others to God through his creativity. During the thick of the stay at home orders, Austin could sense that his neighbors were feeling a little down from this extended period of isolation. So, he took out his guitar and started playing soulful melodies daily with the intention to uplift everyone around him. Austin brought so much joy to the people around him, that he received humbling letters of gratitude from some of his neighbors for spreading peace and love during an otherwise dark time for many.

The examples of Jamie and Austin are powerful reminders that you can still (responsibly) respect social distancing guidelines while positively impacting other beings through your freedom of choice to acknowledge the cosmic threads that tie us all together. In these unprecedented times of suffering and hardship, shift your perspective of freedom from what is good for you to what is also good for all your brothers in sisters!

Mindful Musings

Bryant McGill Quote: “Rejection is merely a redirection; a course ...

“Rejection Serves as a Guide to One’s Destiny”

By: Forrest Rivers

One day, I received a depressing (and snarky) email from a small publishing house. This letter was in response to an inquiry to publish a book I had finished writing, the Hippie Revival and Collected Writings.

A representative of the company wrote me the following message based off a brief questionnaire and not having actually read my book:

“I hate to rain on your parade but as presented your book has limited marketability. The word “Hippie” is “loaded” and retrograde. Using it in the title severely limits the market. Essays and poems on any issue are a hard sell. Interest in reviving hippies is a small pool. And I doubt that hippies are big book buyers. You say your book is “about [the resurgence of] the spiritual ideals of peace, unity and love” (I’d drop “resurgence” which is, again, backward focused) This is a broad market populated by people who buy books. You need to do your homework and that involves learning about what a publisher is looking for – something that SELLS!”

Some things to ponder,

-Publisher-

I have to admit that it hurt to read this critique. However, this response did serve as a reminder of sorts. The reminder was that all creative souls encounter rejection in their desire to share their expressions of the divine. Inspiring persons (to me) like Albert Einstein, Henry David Thoreau and Pablo Coelho all met rejection along their paths of exploring the Infinite. Einstein’s fascination with the laws of the Universe drove him to explore the depths of what he called a “cosmic religion.” Likewise, it was Thoreau’s awe for the sacredness of nature, which pushed him to move to the woods and (eventually) achieve transcendental states of awareness. Coelho, too, was so enthralled by a desire to share his faith in personal destiny that it led him to create one of the most inspiring and celebrated characters(Santiago) in modern literature. Crucially, each of these men experienced rejection for pushing the parameters of conventional thought at the time. The world was not yet prepared to receive their visionary takes on reality.

Primary school teachers and peers famously ridiculed Einstein for his unique powers of perception. Thoreau died in a state of destitution, never enjoying the wide literary reception he receives today. Coelho, the Brazilian born novelist, also experienced his fair share of rejection. A publisher once dropped his future international best-selling novel, The Alchemist, for poor book sales. From these three inspiring stories, one might gather that rejection is a crucial experience toward the fulfillment of one’s destiny.

One’s encounter with rejection provides an important check on their ego. Through humbling us, it is a reminder that we are not God’s gift to the world. The Universe does not spare any soul from enduring life’s trials and tribulations. Therefore, when we finally do somehow align with our cosmic destinies, we remain humble and gracious for our good fortune. We remember how challenging it was to achieve our dreams.  In the end, all that we are left with is heartfelt gratitude for that omnipresent source of inspiration….Oneness.

 

Mindful Musings

“Let Go, Let God”: Words of Wisdom amid a CrisisRecovery Greeting Card - Let Go Let God | RecoveryShopBy: Forrest Rivers

Like many people, when the outbreak of COVID-19 reached North America I found myself glued to my computer following the latest news about the terrible virus. Many questions from the media’s early coverage soon arose in my mind:

  • Was the crisis being overblown by money hungry corporate news outlets seeking to turn record profits?
  • Have I already contracted the virus?
  • Will my elderly parents avoid getting sick?
  • Are world leaders really doing all they can to protect us from the pandemic?
  • Should we even look to our governments to protect us or would we better off shifting that responsibility to individuals, families and communities?
  • How can I help to alleviate suffering for other people during this time?

 

The questions went on and on and on. Consequently, From the second week of March (the start of social distancing) right on through the first week of May, I spent countless hours reading everything on the web related to COVID-19 to gain a deeper understanding of this historic and consciousness altering event. After many weeks of having near anxiety attacks brought upon by “news binging”, I finally realized that like millions of other people, I had become consumed by the endless emotion train of confusion, fear, paranoia and genuine sadness for the fate of humanity. On the one hand, it is only natural for us all to want to know every developing detail about the pandemic and its cascading effects upon society. After all, we are presently facing our generation’s greatest existential, public health and economic crises’ all at once! On the other hand, such heavy preoccupation with COVID-19 related news also has the unsettling tendency to pull us away from the present moment.

Every minute we spend obsessively surfing the web is a minute we waste living HERE NOW. Is it wise for our own and our loved ones’ safety to keep an eye on the latest developments? Absolutely! However, there is a balance that must be maintained. From a spiritual standpoint, it may be more beneficial for us to focus our awareness on soulfully rich activities that increase our overall sense of well-being. Establishing daily routines built around positive and uplifting practices like meditation, nature walks and creative expression can go a long way in cultivating a peace within ourselves that can effortlessly be shared with those who are suffering in these times. My old meditation teacher, Dave Smith, used to have an awesome saying that helped his students let go of their anxious and fear-based thoughts during challenging life events: “this is how it is now.” Simple, yet profound. Far from asking us to close our hearts in response to this crisis, such a statement invites us to fully open our hearts through truly surrendering to what is…. even if what we find is discomfort. For that emotion, too, shall past.

Sitting in front of the computer or television set day after day reading every little tidbit of news on COVID 19 will only fill us with anxiety and make us unable to respond consciously to this crisis.  When I sat down to write this piece, I became aware of my own hypocrisy on this point.  So, I made the choice to begin each morning with a 30-minute meditation rather than pick up my computer and work myself up into a frenzy over the latest frightening news. For me, this was an empowering decision as it showed that I can in fact control my mind (I was beginning to doubt myself!) and find some semblance of inner peace amid a fearful climate of sickness and poverty. If I can empower myself, then you can certainly do it too! Maybe, in addition to my beloved meditation teacher’s mantra we can also adopt a second one that is just as relevant to the times we live in…. “Let Go, Let God”.

Mindful Musings

                    “Death is a Passage not the End”What Does the Bible Say About Death? 10 Important Things to Know Over the years, it has become as good as living truth to me that we are more than our bodies. When we die, I have no doubt that some essence of who we are transcends the act of death and the flesh of the body. Of course, exactly where we go remains one of the greatest existential mysteries. Similar to both the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs on Reincarnation, I intuitively feel that each of us has taken countless births as males and females, as rich and poor, as oppressor and oppressed and even as faithful lover and duplicitous cheater. It is even possible, as Tibetan Buddhists believe, that we have even taken animal form in our previous incarnations!

Perhaps, the Universe’s grand intention for reincarnation is for us all to steadily build toward full awareness of who we truly are through the many experiences lived and lessons learned from each incarnation. Buddhists might call this awareness “nirvana”, Hindu’s “self-realization” and Christian mystics “infinite bliss”, but the same idea is implied. Through each passing incarnation we move closer and closer to realizing our total union with the One, God, Tao, the Universal Mind. It is true, that hardliner materialist scientists cling to the notion that when our bodies die we in fact die too. However, isn’t it at least a little bit ironic that the very cycles in which they study can easily be summoned to rebuttal such closed ways of interpreting our being?

After all, the seasons undergo an eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth. The sun and moon partake in both an exquisite and cyclical dance of cosmic positioning. And, as theoretical physicists are just beginning to prove through reason and what sages have long known through meditation, the cosmos itself is constantly expanding, then imploding only to expand again. If we are truly one with all that is and comprised of the same universal matter why would our experience deviate from that same deeply profound and eternal law found everywhere else in our known Universe?