My mind is my shelter

Felicia

Right livelihood

Mandolin with Flowers_ Milton Avery - 1948

“The gifts you have been given in this life do not belong to you alone. They belong to everyone. Do not be selfish and withhold them.

Do not imprison yourself in a lifestyle that holds your spirit hostage and provides no spontaneity or grace in your life.

Risk being yourself fully. Let go of the expectations others have for you. Let go of all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ and consider what thoughts and actions bring you the greatest joy. Live from the inside out, not from the outside in.

To move toward your joy is not selfish. It is the magnanimous action you can perform. That is because you gift is needed. The spirit of others cannot be lifted up unless you trust your gift and give it unconditionally to the world.

Consider how empty life wold be if others around you chose to abandon their gifts. All that you find wonderful in life – the music, the poetry, the films, the sports, the laughter – would vanish if others withheld their gifts from you.

Do not withhold your gift from others. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have no gift to give. Everyone has a gift. But don’t compare your gift to that of others, or you may not value it sufficiently.

Your gift brings joy to yourself and others. If there is no joy in your life, it is very likely because you are withholding your gift or not sufficiently trusting it.

All gifts are creative expressions of self. They reveal the self. They break down the barriers of separation and allow others to know who you are.

To create is to bring an inner awareness into form. That awareness does not exist in the world in the way you would express it. Your expression of it is unique and authentic. It is fresh, honest, manifested out of your own experience.

A creative person does not take direction from the outside. She does not imitate established forms. She listens within.
She may survey the world. She may even study and scrutinize it. But she internalizes what she sees. She takes it in and digest it. She considers it in the light of her own experience. She feels it. She owns it. She makes it hers. And then she gives it back. And what she gives back is her vision, her unique perspective, her story.

And if she is honest, others will respond to her, because they hear their story in hers. They will share her vision and support her creative work. And their support will make it easier for her. The energy that she puts out will begin to come back to her. She will feel appreciated emotionally and financially. It is a beautiful process.

Perhaps you have tried this and it has not come to fruition. Perhaps you are still struggling to manifest your gift. “What am I doing wrong?” you ask. “Why isn’t the universe supporting me?”
The answer is a simple one. Either what you are trying to manifest isn’t your gift, or you don’t believe in your gift sufficiently.
“Well, how do I know?”, you inquire.
Ask yourself: “Am I doing this because it brings me great joy or because I am seeking the approval of others?” If your action is not joyful, it will not bring happiness to yourself or others. You may succeed or you may fail, but happiness will be missing.

Only that which comes from your heart with great enthusiasm will prosper on all levels.

Appreciation and approval are two entirely different things. Appreciation is the natural, spontaneous flow of energy back to you when others feel connected to you and your story. There is nothing you can do to precipitate appreciation other than to be yourself and tell the truth. You simply cannot be in control of what comes back. When you have shared authentically, something always comes back. It may not look like what you expect, because what your ego is looking for is not appreciation, but approval.

The search for approval is based on the consciousness that you are not enough. You want others to give you the love that is missing in your life. This search is a futile one. If you feel empty and seek to be filled from the outside, others will experience your request for appreciation as an expectation or demand. They may feel manipulated and turn away from you. And then you will feel even more empty, rejected, or abused.

Energy cannot return to you unless and until you put energy out. Putting out a demand is not putting out energy. It is putting out a vacuum that sucks other people’s energy. It shouts out to the world “I need you to value me because I don’t value myself”. Unless and until you love and appreciate yourself, other people won’t receive your gift no matter how hard you try to give it to them.

Putting out energy means taking yourself seriously, but not too seriously. It means valuing yourself enough to be willing to share with others. It does not mean attacking people with your gifts. When you have a lot of expectations about how people should receive your gifts, you make it impossible for them to receive them.

If you value your gift it won’t matter so much how people respond to it. Even if they don’t give you positive feedback, you won’t be dissuaded from offering your gift again and again.

Happiness and personal fulfillment flow from the commitment you make to yourself. This commitment will be tested again and again. Over and over, you will be asked by the universe to offer your gift in the face of criticism, skepticism or apparent lack of appreciation. And each time rejection comes, you will be faced with the decision “Do I do this again?”

If the gift is false, sooner or later you will stop offering it. It will become apparent to you that your expectations are not going to be met and that continuing to offer your services is a way of beating yourself up. So you will stop attacking yourself by offering a gift that no one wants.

On the other hand, if the gift is true, you will learn from your apparent failure and rejection. You will learn to value the gift more deeply and to offer it more authentically. You will gradually stop attacking people with your gift and start creating a more loving space in which the gift can be offered and received.

An authentic gift will develop as you trust in it. A false gift will not. The former is the gift of Spirit and it is your responsibility to nurture it into existence. The latter is the expectation of your ego, which must be surrendered if your true gifts are to emerge.”

art-and-literature_William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Nurturing the gift

“Your gift always lies where your joy and enthusiasm run deepest.The only difficulty you will have in recognizing your gift is that it may not fit your pictures of what a gift is supposed to be.

Suppose, for instance, you have excellent listening skills. People come to your with their life dramas and leave happier and more peaceful. Over and over again, others tell you they like being around you. They feel that you accept them as they are. They feel empowered by you. You don’t seem to take on their problems. And your presence has an uplifting effect on people.
You don’t do anything in particular, so you can’t understand there is a gift involved here. You keep looking for your gift outside of your experience. You think: “Maybe I should go back to school and become a librarian?” But you already have two master’s degrees. You’ve already had all the training you need. Training is not the issue. Changing careers is not the issue.

The issue is that the gift is staring you in the face and you refuse to see it. You think the gift is “a doing”, but it is not. The gift is “a way of being” that is effortless and exultant. It comes naturally to you. It immediately and palpably brings joy to others.

“Well, you think, “maybe I should go back to school and get a degree in counseling. Nobody will want to come to me and pay me money unless I have a degree”. But you miss the point. It doesn’t matter what you do. We are not talking about a doing, but a way of being. Whatever you do, you can express your gift. You don’t need a special role, a special platform.

Seeking a special role is a way of pushing the gift away. It’s saying: “The gift doesn’t really meet my expectations. It can’t support me. Why can’t I have a real gift? Others do. What’s wrong with me?”

If you could take the same unconditional love and acceptance that you offer to others  and offer it to yourself, you would turn your entire world around, because you would begin trusting your gift. Until you value and trust your gift, how can the universe support you?

Many of your gifts go unacknowledged because they don’t match your pictures about what a gift should be. Or you devalue your gift by pushing it away or by comparing it to the gift of others. You envy their gift. You would rather have their gift than your own.

Every time you judge your gift or place a condition on giving it you push it further away. You say “I will sing only if I have an audience of 1,000  people and I make at least $5,000!” Supposing not that many people have heard of you, how many offers to sing are going to come your way? How is your lifework to evolve if you do not take the first step to bring it into existence?

If you are not willing to start with small projects and modest expectations, you are programming yourself for failure. If you want to succeed, take the time to develop your gift and to learn to trust it.

Your lifework is like a baby. It needs to be nurtured in and out of the womb. When you first become aware of what your gift is, don’t go around announcing it to the rooftops. Keep your own counsel. Begin singing in the shower. Find a teacher. Practice every day.
Then, when your gift is ready to be shared with others, find an informal, low-key environment that does not put a lot of pressure on you to perform or on others to respond. Be easy with your gift, the way you would be if you were six years old and wanted to share a song with your best friend. No matter how anxious you are to grow up with your gift, you must take the time to be a child first.

Learn, grow, and let your gift be nurtured into manifestation. Take small risks, then bigger ones. Sing to small audiences and gain your confidence. Then, without pushing it or putting pressure on yourself and others, the audiences will grow.

Those who refuse to start small never accomplish anything. They shoot for the moon and never learn to stand on the Earth.
Don’t be afraid to be an apprentice. If you admire someone who has a gift that resembles yours, don’t be afraid to ask for lessons. That is one of the ways you learn to trust the gift.

On the other hand, you cannot be a student forever. There comes a time when the student is ready to leave the teacher behind. When that moment comes, step forward. Trust the gift. Trust all the hours you have practiced. Step forth. Have faith in yourself. You are ready.

The way you relate to your gift says a lot about whether you are happy or not. Happy people are expressing their gifts in any venue life offers them.  Unhappy people hold onto their gifts until life gives them a perfect venue.
The perfect venue never comes. Usually, life does not match your picture of it, and real opportunities to express your gift will be squandered if you do not let go of your pictures and see what stands before you.

It’s quite simple, really. All your pictures have to go. Part of trusting the gift is letting go of the way you think a gift should be received.That is not your affair. It is none of your business. No matter how great you become, you will never know who will be touched by your work and who will turn away.

To give the gift, you must release it. You must not be attached to who receives it and who doesn’t. Nobody speaks to everyone. Some share their gifts with an audience of a few people. Some share with a few million. It is not for you to judge.
Don’t judge the gift. Embrace it, value it, and give it. And don’t judge the way it is received. Give it without attachment to results, without expectations of return.

You can’t hold on to your gift and give it away at the same time. When you see the absurdity of trying to do this, you will give your gift the wings it deserves.  You will take the risks that you are ready to take, your gift will reach out to others, and the energy it invokes will return to you. The cycle of creativity, of giving and receiving, will be set in motion in your life.”

the-painter-to-the-moon-1917_Chagall

Creativity and transformation

“Your commitment to the expression of your gift will transform your life. All the structures in your life that hold you in limitation begin to fall apart as soon as you make this inner commitment to yourself. Trying to change these structures from the outside in is futile. That is not how change occurs.
Change occurs from the inside out. As you embrace your gift and move through your fear of expressing it, old, out-dated lifestyle structures are de-energized.  Without receiving new energy from you, these structures dissolve. You don’t have to do anything. As they dissolve, they create a more open space within your consciousness for the gift to be recognized, affirmed and nurtured into expression.

Your work situation, your family life, your sleeping and eating patterns all begin to shift as you get about the business of honoring yourself and moving toward your joy. Without struggle, you unhook from roles and relationships that no longer serve your continued growth. This happens spontaneously. There is no forcing or violation involved.

When faced with your uncompromising commitment to yourself, others either join you or move swiftly out of your way. Grey spaces created by your ambivalence – your desire to have something and give it up in the same time – move towards yea or nay. Clarity emerges as the clouds of self-doubt and attachment are burned away by the committed, radiant self.

When one person moves towards individuation, it gives everyone permission to do the same. Dysfunctional family structures are dismantled and new structures, which honor the individuals involved, are put in their place.
This is what commitment to self does. It destroys sloppiness, codependency, neurotic bargaining for love, boredom, apathy and critical behavior. It frees each individual to be himself and find alignment with others in a more honest and authentic way.

One person’s fidelity to self and willingness to live her dream explodes the entire edifice of fear that surrounds her. It is that simple. And it all happens as gently as the first “yes” said in the silence of the heart.

No one can be abandoned by your “yes” to yourself. If you think otherwise, you will build a prison of fear and guilt around you. Your “yes” to your essential self and life purpose is also a “yes”to others who care about you. You cannot love another by abandoning yourself. Neurotic bargains for love in which boundaries are constantly compromised cannot stand in the light of self-affirmation. In setting yourself free, you call others to their freedom. Whether they answer the call or not is up to them.

The call to self-actualization is not a call to abandon others. It is not a call to separate or avoid responsibility. The call to honor self is also a call to honor others. It comes to fruition only when the heart remains open.

Sometimes – in order to be honest and authentic – you may have to act in a way that others cannot understand or support. That may be difficult for you, but you must learn to stand firm in your commitment to what is best for you. Please don’t capitulate to those who would make you feel guilty for following your heart. But remain open to them. Love them, bless them, talk with them, and they will come to understand and respect your decision.

Your commitment to other people must be an extension of your commitment to yourself, not at odds with it. How can you choose between your good and that of another? It is not possible. No one asks you to make such a choice.
There is a choice that honors you and also honors others. Find that choice. Make that decision. Don’t abandon yourself. Don’t abandon others.

Let the old form of your life go and the new form to emerge at its own pace. Go willingly into the open space of “not knowing”. Whenever you release the past you must enter this space. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be embarrassed. It is okay not to know. It is okay to let things evolve.
Just be present and tell the truth. Be patient. Growing is a process. Be gentle with yourself and others.”

Nicolae Grigorescu

The only work there is

“Spiritual work involves expressing the self joyously and uplifting others. If your work is not joyous, if it doesn’t express your talents and abilities, and if it doesn’t uplift others, it is not spiritual work. It is the world’s work.

Many times God has asked you to be in the world, but not of it. This means that you can do the tasks that other men and women do, but you do them joyfully, in the spirit of love. You give your labor as a gift. There is no sacrifice involved.
If there is sacrifice involved, there will be no joy. And so, there will be no gift. Do not work out of duty, even if you serve others. Do what you do joyfully or do not do it.
Do not do something you don’t enjoy just to earn money. Even if that money supports a family of people, they will not prosper through your sacrifice.

Nothing prospers that does not come out of love.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways, in which you can cheat yourself and work out of sacrifice or duty. There are just as many ways in which you can cheat others and work out of impatience and greed. Be aware of the many subtle ways in which you can betray yourself or others. Do not settle for the rewards the world will give you. Material wealth, name and fame will not bring you happiness.
Only work that is joyful will bring you happiness. Only work that is joyful will bring happiness to others. Do not think that happiness can come from sacrifice or struggle. The means must be consistent with the ends. The goal unfolds through the process itself.

Be wary of work motivated by guilt or spiritual pride. Do not try to save yourself by helping others. Do not try to save others when it is yourself who needs to be saved.

First, put things right in your own heart and mind. Learn to forgive the past and honor yourself hear and now. Learn to trust your gifts. When you are fully expressing who you are, joyfully, your work will naturally extend to those who will benefit from it.

Having found your lifework, the greatest obstacle to its fulfillment lies in your attempt to “direct” it. You cannot ‘make’ your spiritual work happen. If you try, you will fail. You will see the noblest work be tainted by spiritual pride and undermined by your ego expectations.

You cannot do your spiritual work the same way you did your worldly work. The former requires surrender. The latter requires the illusion of control.

As soon as you give up the need to control, any work can become spiritual. As soon as you try to take charge, the most spiritual projects begin to fall apart.
What is spiritual is not what you do, but how you do it. What you do joyfully is spiritual work. What is worldly is not what you do, but how you do it. What you do out of duty, sacrifice, or the search for approval is worldly work. It is not the outer shell that matters, but the inner motivation.

Do not try to discover your life purpose by listening to the ideas and opinions of others. It is not possible. You discover your lifework by listening to the voice of your heart. There is no other way.

It seems to be a lonely journey and, in a way, it is, because no one else can do it for you. You must run the first few miles by yourself. You must demonstrate your commitment. You must how that you will not be drawn off course by others.

In time, others come forward, who share your path. This is inevitable. You do not have to go looking for them. You meet them in the natural course of honoring yourself and being open to your experience.”

van-gogh-almond-blossom

The myth of material prosperity

Few people are genuinely committed to God’s work. That is because the world does not support your journey to authenticity.

The world supports only what it understands. And right now all it understands is duty and sacrifice. That will change in time, but don’t expect it to happen soon. Don’t go into your lifework with the hope of worldly support and approval.

Those who understand God’s teachings and try to live them are often treated with disdain by the world. Don’t be surprised if this happens to you. It is not a sign of divine disapproval (…). If this happens, bear it patiently and send love and acceptance to others.When they see that you have their highest good at heart, they will soften to you. If you are committed to the journey, your patience will be rewarded. But if you are seeking approval or recognition, you will not find it.

Pay no mind to the religion of [material] abundance. That is no more true or helpful than the religion of sacrifice. God does not necessarily reward spiritual work with material success. All rewards are spiritual. Happiness, joy, compassion, peace, sensitivity: these are the rewards for a life lived in integrity.

If material success does not come, it is not important. If it seems important and resentment develops, then more ego expectations need to be stripped away. You must learn, once and for all, to stop measuring spiritual riches with a worldly yardstick.

If material success comes, it is often a test to see if you can transcend self-interest and greed. Material wealth, like all other gifts, is given that it may be shared with others. If you are holding onto wealth, you will not reap the reward of true prosperity, which is happiness and peace.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your lifework must bring in a large paycheck or meet with worldly success. On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you must be poor to serve God. A rich person can serve God as well as one of humble means if he is willing to share his riches. It matters not how much you hold in your hands. What matters is whether or not your hands are extended outward to your brother.

All men and women are entrusted with a gift. It does not matter how one person’s gift compares to that of another. What matters is that each person comes to embrace the gift he or she has been given.”

41vaTrm1cJL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Paul Ferrini – The Silence of the Heart

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