Trick or Treat ?

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Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  One of the lowest points in my life occurred over a Halloween weekend when I was in college.  As the years pass, this holiday becomes less and less enjoyable for me.  Halloween is often marketed as a celebration of fear.  As a student of A Course in Miracles, I practice releasing fear and choosing love more consistently.  Celebrating fear has never resonated with me.  Even the seemingly innocent phrase “Trick or Treat” is based in fear.  Not that most kids mean it, but what they are saying is, “You had better give me candy or I will play a trick on you, or maybe I will do something to your house!”  Speaking of houses, you couldn’t pay me to go into one of those haunted houses at a theme park.  There is absolutely nothing appealing to me about intentionally placing myself in the vibration of fear.  The ego is a master at making fear seem fun, or at least normal.  In fact, its very survival depends on it.

Now before you go calling me a Pumpkin Scrooge, I can also see the other side of this coin.  Halloween is a time when people get to express their creativity and become someone or something else for a night.  That can be fun.  I had a great time as Ellen DeGeneres a few years ago.  During the seven years I worked in the entertainment department at Disney World, I had the privilege of wearing some of the best costumes ever.  Some of them even lit up!  I also discovered that there is something extremely liberating about being behind a mask or in a costume where no one can see your face.  You can do whatever you please and nobody knows it’s you!  While dancing down Main Street, USA in a pink hippo costume, or bouncing through Fantasyland in orange and black stripes, no one could see John.  I had permission to be as expressive and silly as I wanted to be.  In fact, it was encouraged! 

Believe it or not, that was a wonderful training ground for the work I do now.  Those who have only known me a short time may find it difficult to believe I was once painfully shy.  I assure you, before I worked at Disney, I was much more comfortable blending into the crowd than dancing down the street in front of one.  Little by little, with the help of the costumes and puppets, I came out of my shell and became comfortable being in front of people.  When I was cast as Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parade, that comfort in the spotlight was taken to a whole new level.  Now there was no mask to hide behind.  I was standing on the front of a glittering castle float feeling very self conscious, wearing purple tights, a purple cape, and a purple cap with a feather.  I didn’t exactly “blend in.”  Not only did I have my picture taken by thousands of park guests, but the parade was televised on Christmas morning.  I’m happy to say the Leo in me got used to this very quickly.  Now it’s not so scary to be in front of people when I am facilitating workshops and classes.  (Granted, I’m not wearing purple tights at these events.)  And speaking of Leos, with all due respect to my Leo sister, Madonna, if you’ve never worn a cape, you really must try it.  Something about it instantly transforms you into a superhero or royalty.  It’s very fun.  

So yes, I can see how wearing a costume has its benefits.  My point is, life can be scary enough.  Why add more fear by wearing an evil clown mask or chasing people with a chainsaw?  There are many among us who feel like they are already in hell, trapped in a nightmare, living in fear of cancer, terrorists, losing their job, or losing a loved one.  There seems to be no shortage of things to be afraid of.  Why not put on a cape or some Ellen underwear and spread a little love today?  This Halloween, I invite you to do as A Course in MIracles suggests in the very last section of the last chapter of the text. 

Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there. 

If fear is still getting the better of you, I have more tricks AND treats from A Course in Miracles and other sources to share with you.  They have worked for me so I know they will work for you.  Now is a great time to sign up for a four, six, or eight week Life Coaching package.  Give yourself the gift of a great spiritual tool kit as we head into the holiday season.  Family Constellations is another great tool to help you let go of fear and choose love more consistently.  There are plenty of workshops coming up in November, or sign up for a one-on-one session in person or by telephone.  Visit my website for more information.  And the next time you’re knocking on life’s door desiring something good, instead of asking “Trick or Treat?” perhaps a better question might be, “Am I choosing love or fear?”

Wishing you a Fearless Halloween!

The One You Love is Closer Than You Think

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This past weekend I devoured the book “Dying to Be Me” by Anita Moorjani.  It’s a book that has come up in conversation many times lately, so when I received an email from Hay House offering the ebook for only $1.99 this month, I downloaded it to my Kindle.  I’m so glad I did!  In the book, Anita vividly describes the significant events leading up to her 2002 diagnosis of lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system.  After four years, the cancer eventually overtook her body, causing her organs to shut down and Anita to slip into a coma.  What happened next is truly remarkable.  Using insightful metaphors and brilliant imagery, Anita describes in detail what it felt like to “die”, to leave her body and experience the limitless oneness of unconditional love that A Course in Miracles calls our true reality.  To understand this concept is one thing.  To hear someone recount a first-hand experience of it is quite another!  

She talks about the state of pure joy and jubilation she felt after leaving her cancer ravaged body.  From this expanded point of view, she couldn’t understand why her mother and her husband were crying.  Why weren’t they happy for her?  She was finally out of pain and feeling better than she ever had in her life!  She was free!  Unfortunately she did not know how to communicate this to them.  She wanted to tell them that she was fine and that she was right there with them, but she had no way to form words.  Anita had many more insights and experiences during that state of being, but I will let you read the rest of her journey for yourself if you are curious.  Obviously she did not die that evening, or there would be no book describing her experience.  It reminded me of a similar experience from my own life.

My mother honored my brother and I by allowing us to be present in the room when she took her final breath on April 5, 2011.  It may sound strange, but I actually felt her life force being drawn inward through spiraling vortices behind her eyelids moments after she stopped breathing.  After the initial shock wore off, I remember how proud I was of my mother for finally being able to let go of the body and the mind that had been failing her for quite some time.  That’s not to say I didn’t feel the loss of her physical presence.  I did.  Later that night, while sitting in solitude in my backyard, a thunderstorm rolled in.  My mother loved thunderstorms.  We used to watch them together from the safety of our garage when I was a kid.  That night, as the raindrops fell from the sky, I let the tears fall from my eyes.  I felt very close to her.

A few months later, I met my friend Rene for lunch at an Asian restaurant here in Fort Lauderdale.  Even though they only saw each other a few times, my mother adored Rene.  He commented that the restaurant we chose was very similar to the restaurant where he first met her in Hollywood.  We ordered our meals at the counter, I grabbed a handful of fortune cookies from the basket, and then we walked into the dining room to choose a table.  When we sat down, I noticed that I had grabbed three fortune cookies. Interesting.  During the meal we chatted, laughed, and shared funny stories about our moms.  I also filled him in on the details of my mother’s last days.  At the end of our meal, we each opened a fortune cookie.  We also had the same thought that the third one was for my mother.  Imagine my delight when I broke that cookie open to find this message written on the small slip of paper inside.  “The one you love is closer than you think.”  What a beautiful message from my mother and another confirmation of what I believe to be true.  Our departed loved ones haven’t gone anywhere.  We are always together in that limitless oneness of unconditional love.  It just seems like we are not together because we are having the experience of separation here on earth. Thank you, Mom, for finding a way to communicate this to me.

Family Constellations is an amazing way to experience just how connected we are.  At these workshops, we often say we arrive as strangers, but leave as family.  If you have an unresolved issue with a departed loved one, or maybe with someone that is still here, Family Constellations can reveal the hidden source of these recurring patterns and help you create a new dynamic where love can flow again.  It is an experience like no other.  Life Coaching is another great tool to help you get the love flowing again and create more peace in your life.  I base all of my work on the strong principles of oneness and love found in A Course in Miracles.  Please visit my website for more information about both.  It would be my great joy to share what has worked for me with you. I will close with this beautiful quote from the Course that I ran across yesterday in my daily reading.  

“Only love creates, and only like itself.  There was no time when all that it created was not there.  Nor will there be a time when anything that it created suffers any loss.”   (ACIM Workbook p. 461)

May this comfort you in times of sadness, and may you always remember that the one you love is closer than you think…

What’s Your Problem?

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We think if we could just solve all of our problems, then we will be happy.  However, in this human existence, we are always going to have problems.  Think back on your life.  Was there ever a time when you were completely “problem free?”  This was the theme of a powerful and inspiring talk given by August Gold this past Sunday at the Center for Spiritual Living in Fort Lauderdale.  I encourage you to treat yourself to the gift of this soulful dynamo by visiting her website or attending one of her talks in the future.  With great humor, she told the audience about some of the problems she had as a teenager, then different problems she had during every decade of her life, right up until the current moment when she accidentally knocked the microphone off her ear.  It was a perfect example of how we are not immune to problems at any age.

The problem is, there is a part of our mind that only focuses on the problems!  It is so determined to keep us from getting hurt or feeling unhappy again that it can only think of solving or avoiding problems.  However, we will never find peace this way.  A Course in Miracles calls this part of the mind the ego.  The ego’s mantra is “seek but do not find.”  As long as there are problems to solve and things we think we need to be happy, it can keep us distracted from the awareness of Love’s presence and the Peace that is available in any given moment.  But the Course also says we really only have one problem, and that is believing we could somehow be separate from our Source.  It appears to take many different forms like sickness, loss, grief, conflict, and loneliness.  And then there’s the one that continues to try to get me… SCARCITY!  They all come from a false belief in separation.  August reminded us that Ernest Holmes said, “There is a part of our mind that is always in Heaven.”  Heaven is a consciousness where there are no problems.  I happen to call this Peace Through Oneness.  When I remember that I am connected to all things at all times, there can be no problems.  I can be lacking nothing, nor missing anything or anyone.

I know you are probably thinking, “That sounds really nice, Pollyana, but I still have bills to pay, my brother still drives me crazy, I hate my job, I miss my best friend who lives on the other side of the country, and I can’t find a parking spot at the mall.”  For that I offer this daily practice that I do before I get out of bed.  I imagine a beautiful light filling up my bedroom emanating from my heart space.  I want to join with this light, but before I do, I imagine an altar appearing beside me.  On this altar I place anything I think I need to be happy.  I also place any heavy thoughts about not having enough or not being enough there.  I place any concerns I have about what to do next on this altar.  When I am done, the altar disappears, and I merge with the light.  I let myself stay immersed in this beautiful light for at least five minutes while feeling loved and supported.  Then I go about my day.  Sure, the problems are still there, but something amazing happens.  Solutions to those problems drop into my mind throughout the day or in the coming days without me having to “figure them out.”  Try it and see if it works for you.  If nothing else, you will enjoy those daily five minutes without problems! (I am creating a guided meditation with talented musician to help you with this.  Look for it on my website soon!)

If you like this tool, I would be honored to share more with you.  I base all of my Life Coaching sessions on the profound principles of A Course in Miracles.  I know they work because they worked for me.  There were many new problems during the last years of my mother’s life that I don’t know how I would have managed without the Course and my Life Coach.  That was happening at the same time I was learning so many lessons from a four year tumultuous relationship that finally ended in 2008.  It’s a miracle I survived!  Please visit my website for more information about the four, six, and eight week Life Coaching programs I offer.  Family Constellations is another powerful tool to help you connect with the part of your mind that is in Heaven.  You will be amazed to discover the hidden cause of some of those problems when you attend a Family Constellations workshop or schedule a private session.  I look forward to working with you soon.  Until then, please remember how much you are loved and supported by that Light!

Expansion and Contraction

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Every expansion is followed by a contraction.  As my friend and colleague Ed Miller from Bridges of Wellness says, this is only a bad thing if we judge it to be bad.  We embrace expansion, but we resist contraction.  When we breathe in our rib cage expands.  When we exhale it contracts.  No one judges this as bad because we know it’s a natural cycle.  This is what I am reminding myself this week as I experience a bit of a contraction after my expansion in September.  If you have ever felt a little depressed on your first day back to work after an amazing vacation you know what I’m talking about.  It has taken a while for me to come back down to earth after the energetic high of the Big Sky Retreat immediately followed by the Hay House “I Can Do It” Conference in Orlando.  As the song says, “What goes up must come down.”

My contraction started last Friday when I decided to remedy some technological issues with my phone and computer.  Apparently my iMac and my iPhone are not on speaking terms anymore because of software compatibility issues.  It’s sad because they used to be such good iFriends.  I discovered this when I tried to restore the information on my iPhone from a backup created on my iMac as advised by an Apple Support Specialist.  This was not a happy discovery.  I am grateful that the iMac I am using right now has served me well since January of 2008, but it looks like it’s time to invest in a new one.  Unbeknownst to me, my iPhone must have been trying to restore itself using the iCloud while I was out and about on Friday.  I received a message from Verizon two days later saying that I had used 75% of my data plan.  It was only day 2 of my new billing cycle.  Yes, I was in an iContraction.

The expanded version of John (and when I say expanded I’m not talking about my waistline after all the huckleberry ice cream in Montana) came back with a new vision of what’s possible.  He also came back with a lengthy “to do” list.  Unfortunately, once I finally landed, I had a lot of catching up to do with earthly things, so I haven’t had the opportunity to tackle many of the items on that list.  Some of that catching up happened last weekend with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Some I hadn’t seen in months and others I hadn’t seen in over 5 years!  It was great to reconnect, but my ego later chastised me for too much socializing and not enough task completion.  The ego is a master at turning joyful events into sources of guilt.

Luckily, I have been a student of A Course in Miracles long enough to know when I am listening to the voice of ego.  It’s pretty simple.  If I’m feeling bad, I’m listening to the ego.  If I’m feeling good, I’m listening to Spirit.  The good news is, Spirit can use any guilt-producing plan of the ego to communicate a message of love and guidance.  One of those messages came during “The Martian.”  My ego was not happy I went to see this movie with two friends on Saturday.  It kept reminding me I had a new website to create, a book to write, a press packet to put together, a curriculum to write, emails to answer, phone calls to make, workshops to promote, and a floor that needed mopping too, by the way.  And there I was watching Matt Damon try to figure out how to survive on the surface of Mars for over 450 days.  But there was a message for me in that movie.  He could have gotten overwhelmed with all of the tasks he had to do and problems he had to solve.  The only way he would survive was to do one task at a time and solve one problem at a time.  Then he could focus on the next task or problem.  I don’t need to figure everything out all at once, nor can I do all of those tasks at once. I would add that, in truth, I don’t have to figure anything out.  My job is to become still and allow the inspiration and guidance to drop in, especially during a contraction.  If I do this, it won’t be long until I am experiencing another glorious expansion!

Where are you right now?  Are you experiencing expansion or contraction?  Either one is fine.  Just notice where you are.  If it happens to be the latter, then now is a great time to schedule a Life Coaching session.  I’d be happy to share more of the tools I’ve learned from A Course in Miracles and other sources with you to help you hear the guiding voice of Spirit more often.  There are four, six, and eight week packages available.  Family Constellations is also an excellent tool to help you expand.  It uncovers the hidden sources of recurring patterns that keep you from the happy life you were meant to live.  What happens in these workshops and one-on-one sessions is absolutely astounding and miraculous.  Please visit my website for more information about both.  Feel free to call or email if you have any questions or to schedule a session.  

Until next time, keep listening for the voice of Spirit.  It will always guide you well whether you are expanding or contracting!

Can You Feel Your Feelings?

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Can you feel your feelings?  This may seem like a silly question, but it’s really not.  Most of us avoid feeling our unpleasant feelings at all costs!  We learn to avoid pain and seek out only things that make us feel good.  Some spiritual teachings actually tell us to do this, but there is a certain danger in that.  Many of the speakers spoke about this at the Big Sky Retreat in Montana as did many of the Hay House authors at the “I Can Do It” Conference in Orlando.  They might have used different words, but they were all saying the same thing.  We can only avoid our feelings for so long.  There is no way to go around them, only through them.  We have to feel our feelings so they don’t get stuck.  Magali, one of my favorite teachers from my massage school, was the first person I heard break down the word emotion as “energy in motion.”  When we stop that motion by denying, ignoring, or stuffing our feelings deep inside, challenges begin to manifest in our lives and in our bodies.  Many of us falsely believe that once we are on the spiritual path we will be immune to so-called negative emotions like anger, fear, disappointment, grief, and sorrow.  This is simply not true.  I loved when Kyle Gray said, “Just because I’m a Hay House author now doesn’t mean I never have a bad day.”  His Scottish accent made it sound even better.

 A teacher once told me, “John, you can’t airlift yourself out of feeling angry with your mother just because you claim to be spiritual.  You have to feel it so you can move past it.  She’s never going to be the mother that 10 year old wanted her to be.”  To feel and release the anger, he made me grab his fist and shake it as hard as I could while yelling all the things I was angry about because of her drinking.  Flailing your fists into a pillow is another healthy way to release pent up anger.  It burns up that energy without hurting anyone (unless you miss the pillow and hit the nightstand).  Be careful!  It was a little uncomfortable for me to do this yelling exercise because I didn’t know this teacher very well, but I did it anyway.  It was also difficult because the “spiritual” side of me didn’t feel it was appropriate to be angry with my mom because I knew how much she was suffering. This was exactly his point.  Those “shoulds” will get you every time.

I had to learn that all emotions are valid.  If I am feeling sad, no one can tell me that I shouldn’t feel sad or that I am not feeling sad.  The simple fact is “I am feeling sad!”  Things don’t always go the way we want them to go.  People don’t always do what we’d like them to do.  Sometimes relationships end and people move away or die.  This is part of the illusion of separation, yet that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the loss on the level of form.  Of course we do, and that’s okay!  Just do your best not to get stuck there.  There have been many times, some of them not so long ago, when life’s challenges overwhelmed me to the point where my yoga mat got soaked with tears.  All that deep breathing released the Kraken.  I simply allowed myself to have a good cry, and when it passed, I finished my yoga practice.  I felt much better having done both.

Perhaps it’s time to visit some of those emotions you may have been avoiding so you can start moving forward again.  You will be amazed by how liberating this is.  Family Constellations is a safe place to explore some of those stuck emotions.  Because participants show up with open hearts to be of service to one another, miracles happen.  It’s a beautiful and transformational experience.  Visit my website to read more about it.  I would be honored to have you join one of my workshops, but if you don’t happen to live in South Florida, ask me if I know someone who does this work in your area.  Everyone I know who facilitates Family Constellations is passionate about sharing it. We are happy to refer people to one another’s groups so anyone who feels called to try it can experience it.  If you don’t feel ready to share your emotions in front of a group, it’s also possible to schedule a one-on-one session in person or over the phone.  It is just as powerful.  LIfe Coaching is another safe space to explore some of the challenges you may be facing right now.  You can schedule a single session, or choose a four, six, or eight week program.  Details on these programs are also on my website.  Since my expansion at Big Sky, my schedule is filling up, and for that I am extremely grateful.  It brings me so much joy to share what I have learned with others, and that’s a feeling I can’t get enough of!