Awake in the World

Awake in the World

The Lesson of Trees

posted by debramoffitt

Trees. We rarely consider them, but without them we’d breathe at lot less easy! They give and give, even when we harm them. They give us oxygen, fruits and nuts. They provide shade to everyone. They open their limbs to birds, frogs and lizards. They never say, “I will give my shade only to those birds and creatures I like.” Or “My fruits are only for people who have a certain status and dress.” Even when we chop them down they offer us their wood for desks, furniture, pencils and homes. The sandalwood tree offers its fragrance even to the axe man.

The tree’s nature teaches us ways of wisdom. It has often been a symbol of spiritual life throughout many cultures. It’s not uncommon to see a tree at the center of a Muslim prayer rug or in an Islamic or Jewish sacred weaving. When the tree grows and thrives, it’s seen as representing the vibrant inner life of an individual and a culture. The notion of sacrifice and giving is at the heart of the tree’s teaching. Its nature is to give its harvest and shade equally to all and it teaches us of the power of treating all as one.

Sitting quietly in a grove of ancient oaks, in Southern France, I realized that the trees has seen the times of Napoleon and even farther into the past. They held a regal bearing and sheltered me from a rising storm blowing in from the Mediterranean. Often when I felt a desire for peace I would walk up the mountain side to find this hidden sacred grove. The trees were so powerful in their silence that they were as much a presence beside me as a human. It’s impossible to be lonely with trees as friends. They are always there for us, always willing to listen. Even though you may not want to hug trees, at least notice them for today. Pay attention and with a heart filled with gratitude, thank them for all that they give.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

Dancing with Fire: Summer Rituals for Joy

posted by debramoffitt

In the South of France the summer solstice is a time of celebration. In Antibes, a bonfire is lit to pay tribute to the summer sun. Crowds circle around it and brave people jump the fire. This festival harks back to ancient festivals that expressed gratitude for the light that grows crops, brings warmth and opens hearts to joyful moments. Once the bonfire diminishes and the flames become manageable, the fire becomes a rite of initiation. Those who feel courageous leap over the fire. Some people leap alone and others hold hands and fly together. It’s a sign of courage and confidence and an exuberant celebration of the power of light to give and sustain life.

This ritual unites a community of people both old and young and from many nationalities. For ages this ritual has taken place. It reaches far back into time, probably farther back than the ancient Greek ruins of the city. It connects us with ancestors who labored hard and long for rare moments of ease and comfort. This ritual holds symbolic power. It gives a sense of unity to those who observe and a sense of confidence to the few who decide to leap the flames.

Though the scientific, rational mind often denies that something as simple as lighting and leaping over a bonfire can make any difference, on a psychic level, we know that it has a profound impact. It can send a message to our deepest, highest Self that we have the courage to face fears and leap the fires and obstacles of life. In this we gain an inner courage and strength. Rituals like these have marked the stages of life in many cultures. Baptism, graduations, weddings, taking communion. These all mark both inner and outer changes of situation.

One of my favorite rituals is to burn away attachments and obstacles using fire. On a piece of paper I write what is in my way (usually an inner obstacle) and then I burn it in a safe place – outdoors by the beach, in a fire pit or in an oven safe pan on the terrace. The gesture is an outward manifestation of the willingness to release. It’s active, energetic and it can make a difference.

Everyone has rituals that appeal to them – from taking coffee before work, to lighting a candle before meditation. Rituals can also be a great way to connect families and establish traditions. What kind of ritual might help you to grow?

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

“Do the Right Thing” Practice

posted by debramoffitt

“Do your duty until it becomes your joy.”

My favorite story about duty or dharma in Sanskrit (which literally means “right action”) takes place on a battle field. Arjuna, a brave young man has been trained as a warrior. But on this day of one of the greatest battles the world has ever seen, his spirits plunge. He rides down the center of the battle field in a chariot driven by Lord Krishna. On the opposing side he witnesses people who have been near and dear to him. They too are poised for war. As he looks into their faces he loses heart. “I can’t do it,” he tells Krishna. “I can’t fight and risk killing them.”

He slumps in the chariot, dispirited. But Krishna reproaches him: “You have been trained, oh warrior. To fight in battle for a good cause is your highest duty. Whether you fight or not, these men you see are fated to die in battle today. You have the choice of going down in history as a great warrior or a coward. The wise man would do his duty.”

Arjuna decides to fight and becomes a legend. This is one of the great teaching about dharma – and how to perform it even in difficult circumstances. This battle, according to Jack Hawley, author of The Bhagavad Gita: A Walk Through for Westerners, is symbolic. It’s about an inner battle, a struggle to slay our inner foes. These may include hatred, anger, greed, lust, envy and jealousy. These enemies get in the way of living a content, happy and spiritually fulfilled life

Be brave. Allow duty to become joy today.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

The Power of Sacred Spaces

posted by debramoffitt

The sacred space at Assisi, Italy played a key role in the inspiration for the polio vaccine. Jonas Salk was at St. Francis’ birthplace when he conceived of the vaccine that has saved millions of lives. He attributed his inspiration in large part to the power of Assisi and its architecture. Salk felt so certain of the power of place to inspire intuition and uplift the mind that he eventually commissioned world-renowned architect, Louis I. Kahn to create a sort of sacred space for research scientists. The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California is the result.

The Academy of Neuroscience of Architecture encourages studies of the ways that places and building influence our state of being. The link between psyche and space is undeniable particularly when we look at great cathedrals, temples and ancient sites of worship. Places like Notre Dame Cathedral uplift and transmit a sense of awe-inspiring power. The gilded Buddhist temples in Thailand inspire with their gold-leaf décor and brilliantly colored statues and paintings.

What makes a space sacred is more than just the building and the material. It is also the way it’s used. More and more people today are creating sacred spaces at home and even in the office. They represent places where the mind can focus on something that is elevating. These spaces may include images of saints and gods, icons, shells and feathers, candles and pictures of family. A Buddhist teacher kept an elaborate altar with photos of all of his teachers and his family on prominent display.

Noted mythologist, Joseph Campbell said that your sacred space is where you will find yourself again and again. It’s a space to come home to the spirit and rest. We can also transform any space where we remember the Divine into a sacred space. Will you choose to transform you place into a sacred space today?

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.


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