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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Message 8: Listen to Your Heart

Learn to listen to your heart. This is where Spirit puts our own personal instruction manuals. 

Follow its guidance. Our purpose is here - our calling. Follow that small voice, for that is the true voice of The Divine in our lives. Spirit usually works from this quite place and each one of us can access it in our own heart. When we have doubts, when we need guidance, it is there to lead us. 

In Heaven, I learned that Spirit gives us direct access to Divine guidance. It may not always be easy to access it, but it is there if we know where to look. Spirit's guidance is in what we call our “Heart.” Some of us may call it intuition or that internal sense of just knowing. It’s what can help lead us in our choice of career, spouse, home, route home from work, or even vacation destination.

It can sometimes be hard to hear this small voice. In the realm of Spirit, I learned that they can hear it clearly because there are fewer human distractions, so the connection to Divine is more direct. But in our physical bodies, living our daily lives, it can be hard to hear Spirit's guidance. The voice is often quiet, sometimes just a feeling (“gut feeling”). If we don’t know to listen, or how to listen, we might just miss it.

I was shown that praying is a way to strengthen this connection to the Divine Voice. Many of us pray with words and ask for help, which is welcomed, but sometimes we might try "praying" by being quiet, by simply listening. Spirit welcomes this kind of prayer because it opens us more fully to that Loving connection and guidance.

Even with practice, we still might not hear God’s voice over the chatter of our own minds. Practice stilling your mind too, not just your speech or hearing. Sometimes this quiet mind can happen spontaneously while you are doing something else: walking, cycling, riding on a train, or working on a craft. Have you had those times where the world has seemed to fade away and all of your being is enraptured by the task at hand? That is one way to practice the silence that you’ll need in order to hear God’s small voice inside of your heart. 

What will you experience? How will you know what Spirit is trying to communicate?

Sometimes it will simply feel like an inner knowing: perhaps knowing that you need to take a different route home from work, then later finding out your regular route had a two hour delay due to an auto accident. Or  knowing that if you date a particular person, it will only lead to heartache. Or just knowing, somehow, that it is OK to trust your new coworker. Or that a decision you’re making will be right because it simply feels right. If we listen to and acknowledge this type of knowing, it will become stronger and more clear over time. Listen to it. Try trusting it and see what happens.

Sometimes the Divine also sends us people and events to reinforce the instruction guide in our hearts. Have you noticed how sometimes the right person just happens to appear in your life at just the perfect time to help you with something you've been struggling with?

That’s the Divine at work.

Next: some of my experiences with listening to my heart.

More details, including my thoughts, overcoming fears, and additional exercises to help you listen to your intuition, are in the book: Awakenings from the Light.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Learn from the Past, Walk into the Future

Ruins of a stone foundation at Ft Union NHP, New Mexico

Ft. Union National Historic Park, New Mexico

Sept 1, 2014

I have the ruins of a Civil War era fort to myself this morning. No other living person is out here right now - it's just me, the bluebirds, the rustle of the prairie grasses in the wind, and a lone rattlesnake. Oh, and 150+ years of ghosts from sometimes-brutal clashes of culture along ancient trade and migration routes.

I sit on a bench that literally straddles the Santa Fe Trail - the same trail that, in the 1800s, brought European settlers from the eastern parts of North America to the "wild" Southwest. So many settlers came through here that our very young government decided to build an army fort in this spot, to help handle the clashes between cultures that they knew were coming.

These skirmishes and wars between Indians and settlers were only the last round in the culture clashes that started with the arrival of the Spanish in 1492. By the time the white settlers arrived, the tribes in the Southwest US were already decimated by centuries of epidemics and battles with the Spanish.

As the settlers from the east poured in during the mid to late 1800s, they took over land that was already occupied by dozens of tribes: the Apache, Kiowa, Navajo, Tewa, Zuni, Hopi, and many more. The ensuing conflict wasn't pretty. Many tens of thousands died in the years that followed, and the result? The Indians placed on reservations, their land divided among the white settlers. Resentment, hatred, and mistrust continues on all sides.

The same thing occurred earlier on other parts of the continent - what was happening in the Southwest was just the latest in the saga of migrations. Some of my distant ancestors were among those displaced in the northeastern US by early European settlements. The Sauk/Sac and Fox tribes moved from what is now Upstate New York to what is now Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and  Nebraska.

We can't change what happened. It was terrible. It wasn't right or fair or compassionate. But it happened.

Now the descendants of the survivors are making choices - to stay hostage to the past, mired in what was, or to accept where things stand right now and move on to make a brighter future for themselves and their families. People like my friend Valencia, a full-blood Navajo, are choosing the latter and I admire her (and those like her) greatly. It's not easy to let go and move on, but it's happening.

Many of us without this Native heritage can learn something too. All of us have negative "stuff" in our past that could hold us back from an amazing future if we let it. And many times, we allow it. It's comfortable in a way, familiar, and for a few, a guaranteed attention-getter. Millions in the US alone were victims of abuse or violence as kids, millions more as adults. Some of us dealt with poverty, gang violence, drugs, alcohol, or dysfunctional families and it all can affect our lives if we don't work to let it go. It's easy to stay stuck in a poisonous past.

But where does that get us? Mired in depression, anger, and very likely an unfulfilling life. We can't live our best life in the here and now if our minds can't let go of what was done to us back then. The potential given to us by Spirit, wasted.

It's not easy to let go of the hold we have on the past, or of the hold it has on us, but I believe it's our sacred duty to try. Spirit gives us trials as an opportunity to learn how to soar past barriers to be the amazing person we were meant to be. We can live our lives as a slave to the negativity of the past, or we can face "what is" and take action to make our futures brighter.

Choose to look at the past with a discerning eye, to learn the lessons there. Then turn ahead to the future to make better lives for ourselves and our families, keeping those lessons from the past in mind to help us on our way.

But it takes work to learn how to let go. Sometimes that work involves psychotherapy, sometimes talking to an elder in your religious circle, sometimes it involves relying on help from friends, or perhaps spending time in nature will do the trick. Sometimes it's sheer determination, just making the decision to turn away from victimhood and walk into a life of strength.

It's hard to let go of the apparent familiar comfort of a poisonous past, but the beauty of the human spirit is that it IS strong. It is courageous. It has love at its center. And our spiritual nature is there buoying us up. Our souls can make intents and take action to bring a brighter future into existence for ourselves and our families.

My wish is that we all choose to walk forward into a brighter future, with love and gratitude.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Eight Months of Gratitude

Eight months ago today, I nearly lost my life to a driver who was texting, not wearing her prescription driving glasses, and driving without a license. I've dealt with a lot of stuff (mostly positive) during this time, and my body continues to heal. The latest reports are good for my back and ribs, not great for my collarbone (although it still does not bother me in the least).

But today is a day of gratitude for me. I am deeply, deeply grateful to my family and friends who were, and are, there to help me out when I need it. I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, techs, nursing assistants, housekeepers, and all of the other professionals who gave me amazing care and continue to monitor my progress. And I'm grateful to my attorney who helped me navigate the insurance and legal systems with integrity and grace.

I am deeply grateful to the first responders: the Lafayette Police and Fire Departments and the good samaritans who stopped to help.

I'm grateful to The Divine and to my Guide for giving me the gift of seeing what comes after this life...and for giving me the knowledge and the opportunity to get it together to live an amazing life, here and now.

But today I am especially grateful to the woman named Annie who kept me from getting up after the accident. She gently held me stationary on the ground until the paramedics arrived to stabilize my back and neck. Without her knowledgeable and compassionate intervention, I'd at best be a paraplegic today (most likely a quadriplegic). Her assistance will allow me to get back most of the active life that I'm used to: hiking, photography, traveling, camping, mountain biking, and more. But no one can seem to find this woman - the State's Attorney's office tried for months and finally gave up. The only people Annie spoke with were me and one of the police officers on the scene (she declined to give him her full name). Anyway, Annie: whoever you are/were, you have my sincerest thanks. I hope someday to be able to thank you in person :-)

For some reason, this song seemed appropriate today:

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Coming Together to Support the Kids

Over the Labor Day weekend, I was treated to a heartwarming show of what "community" means in a small town in New Mexico.

Last week, I participated in a spirituality retreat in New Mexico. I learned quite a bit, but for me it was also a valuable reinforcement of the things I've learned over the last 8 months.

The retreat was supposed to last from Friday through mid-afternoon Sunday, but by Saturday afternoon my brain was full. Not one more shred of information could fit in there! I needed a break, a walk in the desert maybe, something outdoorsy and not too mentally taxing. I decided that Sunday I would visit a nearby National Monument and enjoy the scenery. That sounded about my speed.

Sunday morning came and I was out there on the trail enjoying the scenery and history of the area. Up behind me walked a man who seemed to be about my age, maybe a bit older. We chatted a bit. He asked if I'd like to walk with him so we could continue our conversation. He seemed interesting, fun, and harmless so I said "Sure." We continued along and at the end of the short walk he asked me if I'd like to accompany him to a local county fair, which I gladly agreed to. I loved fairs as a kid so I wanted a chance to see one out here, in the Southwestern US. We both drove separately over to the fairgrounds and started walking around.

Now, I haven't been to a county fair since the late 1980s, and that was in Illinois. There, the fairs lasted for at least a week and always bustled with thousands of people and even more farm animals. Events, games, and rides were going on all over the huge fairgrounds and there was no way one person could take everything in. Big, busy, noisy, and fun - that's how I remember county fairs from the midwest.

This little fair, out in rural New Mexico, was tiny in comparison. Makes sense considering the sparse population of the area, but it took me by surprise all the same. There was no midway, no rides, no games. There was a small poultry barn, some stalls for goats, sheep, pigs, and steers, a small rodeo area, and that's about it.

But what this little fair lacked in size it made up for in heart.

The only thing going on at the time we arrived was the junior livestock auction in the small, covered arena, so that's where we ended up for the afternoon. This event is where kids under 13 years old who were members of 4-H sold off the animals they had raised that year as part of their participation in the program. The kids were about an even mix of Indian, White, and Spanish, as was the small crowd of buyers.

We watched as these small kids, mostly girls, paraded their animals in front of the buying crowd while the auctioneer did an amazing job getting top dollar from the buyers. These little girls manhandled their 1200 lb steers and 300 lb hogs better than most adults! All of the animals were sparkling clean and adorned with ribbons, glitter, and sometimes a little paint. I'd never seen such pretty farm animals!

The way this worked is that the kids would benefit directly from the sale of their animal, as would their 4-H chapter. The buyer would go home with the animal either to continue raising it (usually for breeding, milk production, or even wool), or more often, to slaughter the animal for the freezer.

Indirectly, the entire community benefited from the kids' participation in the program. Rural New Mexico isn't exactly the Berkshires. Poverty is rampant, money tight for many families, and job opportunities are limited. The skills these kids learned in 4-H would better prepare them for a productive life as adults, and the money would be used to raise next year's animals. This program and auction is good for them, their families, and the community.

Over the afternoon, I noticed something really interesting and heartwarming. These animals were consistently going for top dollar, and in a very rural, poverty-ridden area no less. Most folks here didn't have a lot of money, but those who did shelled out, and gladly. I calculated it - the steers and hogs destined for the freezer would likely cost the buyer as much or more per pound (after processing) than simply going to the grocer and buying a cut of meat. Lambs were going for $800+ a head. Hogs $3/lb and up (mostly up). Same with steers. Some of the steers would cost their buyers upwards of $2500!

But the cost of the animal wasn't the point of the auction. It wasn't just about the money - it was to support the kids in the 4-H program. And this little town supported the kids with gusto! Not one animal went unsold. Not one animal was sold for rock-bottom prices. Buyers and sellers benefited.

And you want to know what warmed my heart even more?

Several of the buyers of hogs and steers donated the animal (after processing) to the local children's home/orphanage so that the kids there would have good food to eat for the next year.


Many thousands of dollars of pasture-raised steer and hog were gifted to the kids who needed it most.  And yes, I got choked up.

Taking care of each other - that's what "community" is all about. And community is something many of us in the big city are lacking today.

I am grateful to have seen this - it warmed my heart and gave me hope the there are still many parts of this world where people stick together and help each other.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2014. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.