What a Gem

Thoughts to Contemplate by Dr. Luann Robinson Hull


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Spring Clearing ~ Resurrecting Love, Peace and Hope

originally posted on website April 25, 2011

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake; a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world”—Emmet Fox

Dear Friends,

Regardless of your political, religious, or spiritual persuasion, you may agree as you witness some of what is going on in the world, that humanity in general may not be “loving enough.” Emmet Fox, spiritual leader and Christian mystic, talks about the kind of love that transcends hatred, revenge, and righteousness in his teachings. Many religious and Indigenous cultures interpret these times, which seem to be burdened with fear driven behaviors, to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Texts, theories, and spiritual material abound on the subject—everything from the Bible, to the Koran, to the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, and countless “New Age” interpretations, address the possibility of where we are headed as a species. And of course, the famed Mayan calendar stops on December 21, 2012. Many wonder if this is a foretelling of “the end,” or just the end of our current status as a species. Could they have had some clues about the possibility for a “human upgrade?”

In the Bible, the-end-of-time paradigm includes the Rapture discussed in Revelations, which is perceived by some to mean that all “believers” will be chosen for a Divine rescue when Jesus returns and hence spared the consequences of our sinful ways (Armageddon). The Muslim fundamentalist version also has a messianic figure (The Twelfth Imam, preceded by eleven others), who will emerge out of humanity and bring together the chosen Islamic people causing them to reign over the world. A Jewish version of utopia includes the coming of a messiah, who will see their tribe as the “chosen” ones to prevail. One version of Hopi Indian prophecy suggests their exemption from inevitable disaster (due to the misguided actions of the white man), and that they have been chosen by “Great Spirit “to guard the planet, or whatever is left of it, until Creator’s return. There are many “New Age” versions of salvation. And from what I have gathered in my own experience with this genre, it is important to beware of any “self proclaimed gurus” (spiritual rock-stars, if you will), who seem to be the real deal until they promise you things like “instant enlightenment” if you exclusively subscribe to their method of “getting there.” Exclusivity is the key here, which is not so different from any religious dogma that proclaims there is only one, elite way to God (or salvation/ultimate enlightenment), and that way, is their way.

I understand that I have presented a radical simplification of some of the prevailing beliefs in religious and spiritual ideology, and therefore might not have provided what may seem to be a fair picture of the various different philosophies discussed. Nonetheless, before you are tempted to get hung up on whether or not this information is accurate, realize that my sole intention here is to present some probable common threads among many belief systems, and that there could potentially be a scientific explanation for our current human inclinations and behaviors.

Please consider the possibility of similar themes (outlined below) among the belief systems discussed. We will then explore what may be happening in our current brain circuitry to influence our thinking and beliefs.

Fall (humanity has fallen from Grace because we have allowed our sinful nature to take over); Redemption (we therefore need to be “saved”); And, regrettably, there will only be an exclusive, chosen few for this Divine rescue, who subscribe to a specific belief system (based on the perspective of whatever philosophy is being upheld). Further, whoever resists such a choice will be subject to the catastrophes for which humanity is doomed.

This theme of fall/redemption/rescue/exclusivity has been pervasive since time immemorial, and it has only been in the recent past that our current evolutionary status as a species is being more carefully examined from a scientific lens on what in our biology could be continuing to strengthen such a pervasive hold on this negative approach to our lives. Many of us believe, however, that we have come into existence with an “upgraded operating system” (Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus) already installed—one that will support us in accessing a much more favorable way to function in these human body suits. How do our brains really work, and what centers are most activated during this segment of our human development? Are we indeed wired for the upgrade in consciousness that the prophets through the ages have attempted to inspire us into recognizing (re-cog-nizant or being open to a more expanded perspective on how to look at things)? What is going on in this brain circuitry of ours and is it possible to optimize the blueprints, which are quite potentially already hardwired in us, ushering in an entirely new layer of expansion for our species? Haven’t we evolved before? I mean, at least we aren’t living in caves and hunting wooly mammoth anymore. And it must have taken enormous courage for our ancestors to transcend the challenges required of them to “listen” to the inner Force, which would support them in laying the foundation for our current evolvement. So isn’t it up to us to carry the torch, using our own will and fortitude to more fully activate that Inner Guidance system—the one that will direct us to our part in supporting the Divinely mapped course for human development?

The evolutionary model of the human brain posits that our modern anatomy consists of three parts: The oldest (reptilian); paleomammalian (including the amygdala where the fight or flight response stimulates our emotions); and the most recently evolved layer, the cerebral /neo-cortex, which has initiated a surge of interconnections among the neurons from the other regions of the brain (Damasio, The Feeling of Emotions).

The reptilian brain (the most primitive, roughly originating 4 ½ billion years ago) was designed to keep us alive and the arousal from this region appears to have maintained a strong and powerful influence over our behaviors, which emphasizes predatory tendencies and aggression (no room for loving kindness or forgiveness from this bully-beast); the limbic brain (paleomammalian or mid-brain) is a few million years old. It fuels a variety of functions including emotions, which instinctively respond with resulting behavior (if not effectively intercepted by the cerebral cortex/heart connection); and the most recent addition, the cerebral/neo cortex/frontal lobes (holding the higher centers of cognitive function capable of supporting conscious choices like “turn the other cheek.”)

Antonio Damasio (University of Iowa College of Medicine) and Joseph LeDoux (professor of Science in the Center for Neural Science at New York University) have made some important contributions to the study of human consciousness providing a multi-tiered picture on our development and where we now stand in the process. Here is what LeDoux (1996, The Emotional Brain) says about our current developmental status as well as some optimistic possibilities for where we could be headed. “As things stand now, the amygdala has a greater influence on the cortex than the cortex has on the amygdala, allowing emotional arousal to dominate and control thinking. …The amygdala pathways to the cortex overshadow the pathways from the cortex to the amygdala. Although thoughts can easily trigger emotions by activating the amygdala, we are not very effective at willfully turning off emotions by deactivating the amygdala.” So, too much juice from the amygdala can flood our cognitive functions and cause them to “drown” before reason and heart can even begin to have a voice. This is why when we get triggered by something, unless we have done a significant amount of work to prepare ourselves for this moment (like some form of a spiritual practice—I don’t care what it is but it must be a spiritual practice that requires discipline on your part), your reptilian brain, having the most numerable and firmly entrenched pathways to the cortex, will take over and retaliate. Of course this region is further powered by the mid-brain centers (amygdala), which will exaggerate the fight or flight response by firing up your emotions. Naturally, if all of this occurs in the absence of a balanced brain (and heart), the resulting scenario is predictable.

Good news. LeDoux goes on to say that human primates have more cerebral connections than other mammals and that these could be strengthened to transcend the current hold that the amygdala and reptilian centers have on our species, or if the nerve pathways between the two can somehow even equalize “it is possible that the struggle between thought and emotion can strike a balance.”

Einstein said that you cannot resolve a problem at the same level of consciousness from which it originated. Maybe he was onto something. Is that why Jesus is asking us to “turn the other cheek” with full awareness that you must operate out of a different perspective than the one that created the difficulty if things are really going to get resolved? “He was the first in Western Civilization to call people to a radical transformation of consciousness at least six stages ahead of where they were at the time”(Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus). And coming from this highly advanced view, “turn the other cheek” had a multifaceted meaning, which included self advocacy and complete spiritual integrity. An earlier interpretation on how to manage things (“an eye for an eye”) hadn’t seemed to be working out so well when Jesus arrived on the scene of an earthly quagmire roughly 2011 years ago. And of course, this “eye for an eye” thing, retaliation, force against force, etc., is still pervasive on our planet today. Make your own observations on how well you think that modus operandi is working in our current world.

As I have mentioned many times in these postings, my fascination with the subject of human consciousness and the evolution of our species has been a life-long passion. And in my ongoing pursuit for answers, I have meditated in ashrams, sat with my feelings until I thought my guts would fall out, studied, contemplated, and researched for over twenty years, like many of you. Occasionally I think I am may be making some progress in transcending the biological firm hold of my ancient physiology. Even so, I still give way to anxious thoughts and act on feelings that do not originate in love. Though when I am able to look through the lens of love, this is what I see:

“The self that God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving. It seeks to share rather than to get; to extend rather than to project. It has no needs and wants to join with others out of their mutual awareness that Heaven is the natural state of all of the sons and daughters of God (not just a chosen few). And that forgiveness (both of ourselves and of others—being temporarily more for those who are temporarily less by turning the other cheek) is the means by which we will remember our true Divine nature,” the interpretation for which could be as many as 7 billion versions. Even so, each perspective when operating through impeccable Divinely actuated love can make a contribution toward expansion, growth, and ultimate freedom when the path chosen is fully dedicated to complete spiritual integrity. And despite a popular belief system that we are all originally sinful Matthew Fox, Episcopal Priest and spiritual visionary, made a breakthrough point in his book, Original Blessing, 1983. We all originate from the same Divine seed and therefore are originally blessed—each and everyone one of us. “Holding no one prisoner to guilt and blame (including ourselves) we become free and therefore set others free. Acknowledging Christ (Buddha or whatever your vision of a Spirit is) in all of our brothers/sisters, we see His Presence in ourselves” and therefore recognize the universal connection of all life forms on this planet and beyond (all quotes from the Foundation for Inner Peace, 1985).

Yes, I still get triggered, I still have periods of despair, I still feel defensive at times, I am still tempted to blame and project, I still occasionally feel separate, isolated and alone, and I still often wonder where in God’s name humanity is headed despite my frequent optimism that we as a collective do have the capacity, fortitude, and good nature, to move into a more favorable way of operating. As I have said to you many times in these postings, I am a work in progress. And here is one of my most recent epiphanies. I don’t have to make it so hard. I don’t have to have impossible expectations of myself (and others). And if I keep on opening to the Divine inspirations which are attempting to access my conscious awareness through any opening that I am willing to make available, I am destined for delivery into a more awakened state of being, where I can just allow the amygdala/reptile to do whatever it does without letting it take over. I know I can strengthen those cerebral connections by refusing to let my fear and emotions take hold before I have a chance to bring love and reason into the picture. I know I can move fully into my most optimal destiny in this life-form, which includes a permanent state of well being, happiness, freedom and peace. And I also know that if I can do it, so then can you.

I believe that for every fundamentalist and narrow interpretation of each tradition, ideology, or political belief that there is a more expanded understanding if we are just willing to look. The animal in us (reptile) is narcissistic, scared, and sees itself as separate and alone (it so wants to be “right,” “chosen,” and “special”). And if I can practice emphasizing calm and loving states when I am not in a fizz, the likelihood of my being able to access feelings of peace and compassion when I do start to escalate (and I am tempted to let the reptile take over), increases exponentially. Further, I believe that when I engage in practicing tolerance and love for myself and others (even when I am the most challenged to do so), I am contributing to the possibility of tipping human consciousness to another level.

The prophets and teachers, who have come to assist us in expanding into the upgrade for which we are fully wired (study the brain if you don’t believe me), taught us based on our limited ability to receive and translate the information into some version that could make sense to us based on our evolutionary development at the time. And regrettably we have interpreted much of their loving and wise teachings through the lens of fear. From this perspective what they shared can be twisted into a convoluted quagmire that ends up not even remotely resembling the wise and simplistic messages they were hoping to convey. Nonetheless, there has been help all along the way. All we have to do is pay attention.

Jesus made it very simple. He had no theology—just a direct line to God without the veil of ignorance and temporary amnesia to which humans have been subjected for reasons that may be beyond our understanding. The theological part of Christianity came later by those who invented it a few centuries after Jesus’ death. He simply said, “these things so can you do greater than I…and whenever two or more are gathered in “my name” (Love), the possibilities are endless.” Could He have meant that when greater numbers of us wake up the momentum from such a phenomenon will provide a much more substantial influence than with only one person (Him) operating out of conscious awareness? Kahlil Gibran a Sufi (the mystical side of Islam), is said to have “channeled” Jesus in his famous work “The Prophet.” Here is what he said on Reason and Passion: “Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody. But how shall I, unless you yourselves be the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?” And so from this vantage point, isn’t it up to us to exaggerate whatever positive qualities we possess to become those “peacemakers and lovers of all our elements?”

According to the ancient Maya we will enter a time when enlightenment (transcendence, the end of suffering, etc.) is more readily available but it will not be imposed. Instead, we are given free choice on whether or not to engage in the obedience, discipline, detachment, and surrender necessary to show the way for both ourselves and others (Redfield, The Twelfth Insight). With this potential in mind, is it possible that everyone on the planet is on a quest shared by all to access the soulful part of ourselves from which this consciousness springs, regardless of how it may appear? And I believe that it is the duty of those of us who are aware of such a possibility to become a beacon of light rather than feeding the dark forces of negativity, seemingly pervasive in every corner of our existence at this time. Then together, instead of protesting this darkness, we will transcend it.

Please join me in the practice of just being aware the next time you resist or feel yourself being betrayed by anything, whether it be Obama, war, Boehner (Speaker of the House), the government in general, a religious belief, your friends, intimate connections, family, etc. If we could just stop for a minute and consider what is happening in our physiology, caused by this trigger maybe we could take a breath and ask ourselves a simple question. “What would be most helpful here—to fire up and strengthen the ambush of chemicals that are telling me to retaliate? Or could I ask my head and heart to negotiate a more loving outcome? And maybe if I can keep practicing the latter method of operating over and over and over again, who knows how many of those cognitive pathways I will light up with the “God-fuel” that is destined to transcend all human error? My part is to enforce the discipline, determination, and obedience necessary to stay true to such a practice.

If we can persist in expanding our awakened hearts, by “loving enough” through this Divinely seeded soul of ours, eventually we just might see that each and every one of us on this planet is chosen, and that the only thing separating us from such an understanding is our fear that it may not be so. Let us join together in creating a reservoir of love so deep and vast that the sheer magnitude of its influence will fully transcend our fears and anxious imaginations. And this “love tank” is already available. All we have to do is keep making our donations and then watch in wonder as an unlimited supply of love, peace, and hope abundantly flows back in our direction. And all the while, the entire universe is benefitting because you have decided to become the change that you want to see in the world (Gandhi).

Believing in us,

Luann

Suggested reading:

The Twelfth Insight, by James Redfield

The Power of Constructive Thinking, by Emmet Fox

One River, Many Wells and The Original Blessing, by Matthew Fox

The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault

Happily Ever After…Right Now, Luann Robinson Hull

 

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Winter: A Happiness Experiment

originally posted on website December 10, 2010

“Happiness does not come automatically. It is not a gift that good fortune bestows upon us and a reversal of fortune takes back. It depends on us alone. One does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day. Happiness is constructed, and that requires effort and time. In order to become happy, we have to learn how to change ourselves”—Luca and Francesco Cavalli-Sforza

Dear Friends,

We last connected at the beginning of summer, which seemed to fly by in a blink. And now the mountain landscape outside my window is morphing from the last remnants of glorious amber-gold into a backdrop of white, white, and more white. For some reason I have settled in an alpine environment despite my lifelong intolerance to temperatures that fall below sixty degrees. Maybe I have some hidden fondness for perpetual cold, snowy, conditions when the sun rises over the mountain at ten a.m. and falls behind its shadow at three o’clock. This predicament allows for little more than five hours of full-on sunlight (assuming the sun is shining that day). And, winter here is definitely not a short season. It can sometimes last from the end of October to the middle of June. So how could it be that I have chosen to dwell in this tiny town nestled high in the mountains—currently all a twitter with talk of skiing and snowmobiling and sledding and whatever all else that folks do to create frolic and folly in a winter-resort-world (while I am daydreaming about the Caribbean)?

Having exhausted a good portion of my earlier life living quite a bit below neutral when it comes to the happiness quotient, I have spent most of my adult years in pursuit of a more friendly and comfortable way to live. i.e. way above neutral well into the happiness zone. And despite what may have appeared to be a genetic and conditioned propensity toward the negative, I am delighted to report at this writing that I have made considerable progress—though admittedly my improved state of mind did not occur “overnight.” Rather it has come with extensive “effort and time” and a desire to “change.” Now I wouldn’t call any of this “effort, time,” and desire to “change” business necessarily noble, and that is for a very simple reason. I had only two options. I could stay mired in a state of recycling misery, or choose to do something different. Fortunately, I selected the latter alternative.

“Psychologists who study emotions from the evolutionary angle believe that they have evolved on the basis of their usefulness to our survival through their capacity to see us through life’s major exercises: reproduction, care for offspring, and relations with competitors and predators (Matthieu Ricard, Happiness, 2006).” And some theorists believe that our current consciousness (including the emotional state) has its roots in the Pleistocene period. This age was a time of catastrophic climatic change, which included tsunamis, earthquakes, ferocious flooding, and dramatic temperature fluctuations. In addition, saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoth, and other terrifying creatures freely roamed the planet back then. Therefore, it is speculated that our brains and emotions were originally trained and conditioned for catastrophe, or to be persuaded toward the worst case scenario so that our chances for survival would increase. And since the Pleistocene era prevailed roughly 10,000 to one million years ago—in the grand scheme of things (assuming everything got started about a few billion years ago), that phase really isn’t as far removed from us as it might appear.

Good news. My research over the last twenty years (including recent scientific studies) on the development of human consciousness and the possibility for homo-sapiens moving into an “enlightened” state where suffering is transcended—has brought me to one significant conclusion. Humans are hardwired for happiness. It’s just that we have to participate in “lighting up” this wiring of ours, since it has been mostly dormant throughout human history due to the heavy usage of our “survival brain.” I believe that we are meant to live our lives in a state of peace and happiness, both of which are always available to us. Now granted, our programming is firmly rooted in the below neutral range due to our catastrophic conditioning, which is why our negativity perseveres. (Recall what was going on in political campaigns prior to the Nov 2 election as an example.) Nonetheless, regardless of the persistent menace in our heads attempting to persuade us toward the worst case scenario, it is possible to see life through a more optimistic lens. And since we no longer have to focus on fighting off the saber tooth tigers, or looking for a brute to help us in our defense, we can shift our time and attention to using the upgrade that supports us in having a brighter perspective. How do I know this “upgrade” is possible? Because I am witness to many others who are choosing to go there rather than into the dramatic negative. Further, I am delighted to report at this writing, that I actually believe I am among them –well…most of the time J.

As many of you know, I have spent the past ten years of my life with a specific focus on this happiness project which has resulted in a 12 chapter book, Happily Ever After…Right Now. The book has recently been published and is currently available for purchase through my website (www.happilyrightnow.com) as well as Explore Booksellers in Aspen, Colorado (www.Explorebooksellers.com, go to “purchase book”). I will advise when it can be obtained on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobles.

My utmost desire is to support you from this work in creating a foundation for cracking your own code to unraveling the patterns, habits, and cycles, which have held you captive and kept you from reaching your very best destiny in this life form. Yes there will be a need for some effort, focus, and tenacity in your desire to move into the happiness zone—though it need not be a struggle if you are willing to discipline yourself in committing to making the changes necessary that will help you in your “happiness upgrade.”

The material in Happily Ever After…Right Now will support you in creating your own “happiness formula.” It provides basic scientific and philosophical information while motivating a depth of spiritual inquiry. The book has a three part focus: Education—to offer a fundamental historical and scientific perspective on why you repeat certain behavioral patterns, even if they don’t serve you or your growth. Awareness—to support you in being aware of what you are doing, so that you can strengthen the behaviors of your choosing, while letting go of all that no longer serves your growth and highest potential, and Transformation—to offer tools for completely transcending your outdated ways of operating while moving fully into your happily ever after…right now.

Oh, yes and about my living in this Colorado mountain town currently launching into a full-on-winter- deep- freeze. When I moved here nearly nine years ago, I was frequently prone to discouragement when it came time for the approaching snow. Maybe without knowing it, living here has been an integral part of my own “happiness experiment.” For even though, admittedly, I am much more enthusiastic about spring, I now know and can actually feel, that happiness is an inside job—where the embers of my heart will always keep things warm no matter what—blizzards and all!

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t you will leak away your contentment.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love.

Enjoy the “consequences of your personal effort” toward accessing and “insisting upon” your own happiness quotient. Going into the cozy womb of winter will be a good time to practice, don’t you think?

And if you happen to be in Aspen, Colorado on the 30th of December, 5:00 p.m., please stop by for the launching and first book signing of Happily Ever After…Right Now, at Explore Book Sellers, 221 East Main Street! I look forward to seeing you there!

Loving you. Luann


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Holiday Reflections / New Year Ponderings

originally posted on website January 15, 2010

Dear Friends,

Yes, the holidays can be stressful, yes our emphasis on materialism as a culture is reflected in the season, and yes it is a time when “abundance rejoices, and want is keenly felt (David Rolph,1981).” Though most would have to agree – it is also a time when kindness and compassion can be more plentiful – when we take a moment to write a card, send a gift, or share a thought with someone we might otherwise forget – when we offer love more openly and with greater benevolence. And if we are really on top of our game, we remember to thank the garbage collector with some cookies, the mailman with a cup of hot chocolate, and the UPS delivery person with some Peligrino.

And now – it is mid-January. Perhaps some of you would agree that this is definitely the month with the worst reputation. Just following the time dubbed by Andy Williams (popular vocal artist of the ‘60s) as the “hap-happiest time of the year,” there doesn’t seem to be a lot to look forward to. Kids go back to school, adults return to work so they can pay off the debt they have accrued from holiday spending, and most of Northern America is in a deep freeze. Days are short, nights are long, and spring is something that happened last year. It is hard to imagine anything melting while we’re mired in the midst of a “winter wonderland.” There are resolutions to contemplate, goals to set, and of course, more than likely, some pounds to shed. After the last echo of Auld Lang Syne falls silent, it is time to hunker down and realize – we are ushering in a New Year – January or not.

On some level, unless you are enlightened like the Christ or Buddha, you are probably something of a seeker like me. You want to eliminate all of the proverbial January’s from your life (i.e. suffering ), and so you have studied, meditated, prayed, attended workshops, followed gurus, authors, and so on, in an attempt to awaken your heart and let go of the suffering for good. At times, you have epiphanies and ah ha moments when you think you have arrived. And then, whack, something pushes your buttons and you are right back with your mental chatter, analyzing the situation – often making something or someone wrong – quite frequently yourself.

We are all products of our conditioning or the deep trenches in our brains that get triggered when a situation we experience in the present hooks a belief system from the past. And like spinning on a gerbil wheel, when we continue to circulate the story in our monkey minds, we become more and more dizzy and numbed down if we take the bait of a pattern that emerges resulting from that hook. In such a state, our present time awareness is overshadowed by something that occurred long ago – having actually nothing to do with what is in front of us in this moment. And when there is a collective agreement that what is happening should be labeled “good” (as in the holidays) or “bad” (as in January), it seems even more challenging to create a fresh perspective on things.

What is really underneath all the triggers and hooks and everything else that might be happening in this internal world of ours? Are there untapped desires and unexpressed passions? Are your true talents being underutilized? Do you want more love, joy, prosperity, youthfulness, vitality, and health? Would you like to live with an open heart where suffering and pain move through you like a quick rushing wave rather than you getting swept up and tossed around in the undertow? Do you want to treat others with honor, respect, and compassion, and then have those virtues reflected to you in kind? Is it possible to experience all of the above and even expand beyond the boundaries of our limited imagination? If so, how can we move toward such experiences?

Don Miguel Ruiz, celebrated author of The Four Agreements (1997), a New York Times Best Seller, has just gifted us with a new book The Fifth Agreement (2009), which he wrote with his son, Don Jose Luis Ruiz. In The Four Agreements, Ruiz translates simple teachings from the wisdom of the ancient Toltec tradition that have been transformational for many: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take things personally, don’t make assumptions, and do the best you can. In The Fifth Agreement the two men suggest that by being skeptical and learning to listen, you can actually recover your original authenticity-or who you really are minus all of the hooks and charges that trigger you when you come face to face with the perceived dragons of your daily life. “ … the very last time we judge either ourselves or anybody else… is a day we accept ourselves just the way we are, and we accept everybody else just the way they are. When the day of our last judgment comes, the war in our heads is over …a dream of respect, love, and joy is the playground of life; it is what we are meant to live, and only awareness can take us to that place.”

And so how can we pay attention to what is going on in our heads – really noticing our thoughts, judgments, beliefs, and whatever else that is interpreted through our personal lens of perception? Can we watch the story run without getting hooked by it?

Perhaps we can start by just by making a commitment to being aware, and then becoming even a bit skeptical of this story of ours, noticing how quickly we can jump to conclusions about this or that. And when practicing this awareness with faithful discipline, who knows, maybe we will develop our skill at dropping the judgment-making ourselves available for what Ruiz describes as “the playground of life.”

Cyntiha Bourgeault, wisdom teacher and Episcopal Priest, offers a simple explanation on why we do what we do in her brilliant book, The Wisdom Jesus (2008). She states that although we are “…wired for an upgrade, most humans are stuck in an egoic operating system” …based on scarcity, insufficiency, fear, and survival (the old reptile in us fighting for our lives). “…We walk through [life] perceiving, reacting, and attempting to negotiate the world ‘out there’ on the basis of this operating system. It is like being lost in a mirage…But we do have the capacity, if we so choose, to shift to a whole different basis of perception…” Through our willingness to accept the ‘upgrade’ to a new system, we will have to practice operating from the heart, which is “… usually perceived to be at the center of our emotional life. But this is not the way the wisdom tradition sees it. In the wisdom tradition the heart is primarily an organ of spiritual perception, a highly sensitive instrument for keeping us aligned…”

Would things be different in your life in the absence of anyone to blame (including yourself)? And what would it be like without the dramas to dwell on (either “good” or “bad”)? Is it possible that without such distractions there could be an opening for this wise and willing heart of ours to have a stronger voice?

Who knows, maybe with a little practice we can re-frame all of the proverbial January’s of our lives into “June-uary’s.” Perhaps with some “personal training” we can begin (or continue) to recognize the magnitude of love, joy, prosperity, and health, that is available to us in infinite supply, remembering all the while, that the external thermometer reading has nothing to do with the cozy warmth being cultivated in our internal world.

Oh, and one more thing, I haven’t put away my favorite holiday treasure (a bunny with a wreath around her neck). I am keeping her out as a reminder to remember the mailman all year (not just in December). Hope it works.

Loving you, Luann

PS. Spring is just around the corner.


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Sudden Passing

Dear Friends,

Today is the Spring Equinox and the eve of the full moon. Hallelujah! I am excited to come out of hibernation and begin communicating regularly with you again. It has been a while since we last connected. Many interesting and dramatic changes have occurred in my life since I began writing to you nearly two years ago. Throughout the scope of that time, I have continued to enjoy incredible, amazing, and serendipitous experiences, replete with all of the joy and pain that inevitably accompanies those. I have been to the heights and fallen to the very depths of my being as I open to the possibilities with which I am repeatedly gifted while attempting to open and awaken my heart and mind. (Admittedly, this exercise is done sometimes with valor, often with clumsiness, and frequently with trepidation.)

There have been moments of bliss when I believe I have “arrived”– thinking at last I will never again suffer the piercing pain of life, which can bring me to my knees–this pain that can threaten to stifle and stunt the very growth I have been attempting to develop. Only to find that it will and does continue to penetrate the ever widening spirit-door into the secret garden of my soul.

Whack, my father dies suddenly. Then the editor, Winnie Shows, with whom I worked closely for over two years, was taken by the cancer that had carved away at her breasts and body for so long. Those two, my dad and Winnie, were tenacious fighters–strengthened by the work they were passionate to continue pouring forth, which seemed to sustain them–even when it looked like their physical bodies were literally wasting away. Still they pressed on. My father was 91 years old when he died and while I was halfway across the globe in India when it happened, I would imagine that he sat at his desk just prior to his final visit to the hospital. Winnie, I am told, continued sharing her creativity, talents, and gifts until the very end.

And so what to make of the sudden passings of these two extraordinarily important people in my life–albeit in quite different roles?  Ah, another weary reminder of the impermanence of things, however cruel and unrelenting the constancy of change can appear at times.

But I know there is more– so much more to this. For even while I feel and feel deeply the sadness that soaks me to the core, if I can broaden the aperature of my vision just a little, I am certain to notice a contrast to those feelings however faintly fuzzy and out of focus it might appear.

What about the enhanced relationship with my brother, his sons and their children? What, about the extraordinary lesson that Winnie taught by leaving as she did. I think I always believed that she would be there ready to bounce something off of or share another thought. How utterly ironic that it was Winnie in the end, who showed me about the folly of forever–the  essence of the message in the book, Happily Ever After Right Now, of which she had been such an intimate and significant part. I thought I knew the lesson. I thought I understood about impermanence. And today, once again, I humbly admit, I am still learning and probably will be forever a student of this fascinatingly perplexing subject as long as I am drawing breath. 

And so this pain, fully experienced, continues to do its work, which is to pierce, probe, and puncture. Our work is to feel the wounds to the extent that we are able, so that we can recognize what will be necessary to bring about the healing we are all so eager to enjoy.  If we remain numb to that pain, the wounds will ultimately fester and putrefy. On the other hand, if we do what is necessary for healing to occur (not always easy to be sure), we will ultimately grow strong in the broken places. Yes.  And the very injury which once caused so much suffering and anguish, will eventually be replaced by a bough in our hearts where the singing bird will come.

Thankfully, I have been gifted with a few boughs and birds already, and so I can trust, that the shock of these newly raw and tender “sudden passings” will eventuate in another singing bird or two. Of course, I will have to keep feeling it all in order for this phenomenon to occur. Once again, the feeling is the cue that will lead me to the cure. And as I am so led, the people, healers, places, circumstances, and events will (and do) continue to show up. A miracle? Maybe. Though I suspect all of this is much more normal than miraculous. All we have to do is to be open to believing that it can be so.  

Rest easy. It is always better and easier than we think.

Love, Luann

www.luannrobinsonhull.com I www.happyrightnow.com

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On Happiness and the Holidays

Often during this time of year, I am reminded of Christmases past during which my best friend, Darlene, and I spent many hours cranking up our funding requests for a local foster children’s organization. I will never forget what she once wrote in a letter requesting help back in 1981. “Christmas is a time when abundance rejoices and want is keenly felt.” It was a sobering statement, and inspired me to take a personal inventory. What more might I do to help others in that “want is keenly felt,” state, and how could I offer my support in a way of meeting them where they were without trying to fix them or make things better? How could I just join them, while offering my love and concern?

Recently, I returned from an intensive 21 day process/retreat in India, where participants were rigorously guided through a series of exercises/meditations to assist in removing emotional charges, including feelings of fear, separateness and insufficiency, while guiding us more into states of peace, compassion, and love. At the end of this experience, we were each initiated with the ability to offer the blessings with which we were repeatedly endowed during our time there. And to our great delight, many of us are now giving those oneness blessings to others to help them along in their process.

 On the eve of my departure from India, I answered the call I never really believed I would receive. It was from my son, Stephen, who compassionately launched the conversation with, “I don’t know how to tell you this….” The message which followed was that my father had died. Immediately after hearing the news, I was embraced by the love of what seemed to be a hundred fathers and mothers. People came from every corner to show their care and concern during this impossibly difficult time of loss and change. They prayed with me; they shared with me; they held me; they provided prayer circles in honor of my father; they turned down my bed; and stroked my head, and much more.

The days that followed were a surreal blur of travel, funerals, and family. I went straight from India to my father’s eulogy, in which I had no part, save my insistence that a song from my great nephew be included. Further, the last time I had seen Dad, he was in his perky yellow trousers, waving good bye to me as I boarded the plane. This time, he was boxed up in a brown, walnut casket.  

There were extraordinary moments of relief from this intolerable nightmare, like when I read the card accompanying a dozen white roses (Love from your sisters in room 11, India). The love had followed me halfway around the world. And then there was the long visit with a lifelong, treasured friend, Mary, who has an uncanny knack for making you believe you are the only one who matters. Ya… the love was everywhere. All I had to do was notice. 

As can often be the case following a spiritual intensive, despite all good intentions, you can be disillusioned upon “re-entry.” Alas, humanity is where humanity is. People, including you, continue to do what they do. Just because you went “off planet” for a few weeks, doesn’t completely immunize you from a world out of whack. It is how you deal with that out of whackness that will determine your peace or misery.  

As always, I have had some sobering reminders that this humanity of ours hasn’t quite reached the lofty goal I share with a multitude of others: That one fine day, we will all see ourselves as simply individuations of the ONE Source, which connects us. And that duality, competition, greed, insufficiency, fear, separation, wars (both personal and global), along with other atrocities, will only be distant memories of our ancient, primal past.

What to do in the meantime? Well, maybe we could start with finding a person or group, whose life/lives may be in that “want is keenly felt” place, and realize the joy of sharing friendship. Maybe we can emulate my friend Mary’s knack for making them feel as though there was nothing more important than being there with them right there and then. Ya…I think that is what happiness and the holidays means to me. Thank you, Darlene and Mary, for the reminder.

Happiness!

Love, Luann

www.luannrobinsonhull.com OR www.happyrightnow.com

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