“I alone cannot change the world,but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~Mother Teresa

Most of our reactions are based on pre-programed habituated behavior responses—not fully conscious choices. When we are fully conscious and connected to Source we realize our true purpose is to love and bring goodness to all; but we have to be fully conscious in order to be capable of truly loving.

Most people live life on cruise control, with little consideration for the miracle and meaning of existence. I believe it’s important to pause in the busyness of life, and to take time for reflection. This encompasses not only who we are at this moment, but more importantly, who we are capable of becoming, all while considering the role God plays in our journey.

Nourishing Selfless Love

I recently met a Holocaust survivor, a beautiful man who radiates love, gentleness, and hope. He shared with me that by living during the Holocaust and spending time in a concentration camp, he experienced the greatest sense of selfless love in his life. Although he is grateful and feels blessed for his long life, he has struggled with the cavalier, self-centered way of living that he has found to be the commonplace existence of most people. Despite being in the midst of the most horrific acts of humanity and in the presence of pure evil, he found a sense of pure love, self-sacrifice, kindness, and the presence of God, the likes of which he has never again experienced.

This caused me to reflect on how we must not allow evil or even complacency to become our conscious thoughts and weigh us down. Instead, we must to the best of our ability and through grace, rise above and focus on our reason for living, which is always to bring love and goodness to the world, in both small and big ways in accordance with our unique being.

It is important to realize that Love must reveal Itself in you before Love can fully reveal Itself to you. Love then must be shared with all of creation (Mark 16:15) and expressed in all we are and all we do. Even when—and perhaps especially when—things go wrong, Love (God) is constantly creating future possibilities for the good of all concerned. This is transformational when we participate, unite and change. By the way, failure is part of the deal. Remember, “If we’re not making mistakes, then we are most likely not doing anything,” and “Success is never final and failure is never fatal.” ~John Wooden

This requires us to be conscious of our real motivations and actual goals. It takes awareness and desire, or a petition (I want to change and can see myself in this new luminous Light) to ask for help in practicing honesty, forgiveness, courage and humility.

A Practice for Reflecting on Life

I often reflect on my life and my actions from my imagined “death bed.” I know this may sound depressing or disturbing—after all, our approach to death in Western society is often to ignore and disassociate ourselves from it, as though death will never happen to us. But I encourage you to try this practice.

You will find your entire perspective of what really matters, who you want to be, and how you want to live your life changes. This practice of reflection offers the opportunity to ask important questions, such as, “Have I spiritually matured in this life? Have I manifested my true reason for existence to the best of my ability?”

The answer for me keeps coming up as “No,” and encourages me to be more conscious each and every day about my intentions and my actions. I am fortunate that the many aspects of my life—as a practitioner, writer, teacher, leader as well as servant of two organizations, musician, cook, husband and father of three children—are the true manifestation of who I am. It is within each of these areas of my life that I am committed to living with integrity, clarity, and devotion. Taking time for reflection helps to keep me focused and on my true path.

Herbs as the Humble Face of the Divine

My love for herbal medicine grows stronger every day because to me it represents God’s humble love. Neither God nor the plant medicines are concerned with who receives credit for healing. Although this may sound irreverent (especially coming from an Eastern Catholic Franciscan and one who loves Jesus), I am not sure that God is concerned if we are religious, or even if we acknowledge His existence.

I believe that God is generous and humble, and cares more that we serve our true nature through focus, motivation, and joy; while loving and serving to the best of our ability with adoration, generosity and humility, which I view as ‘inner’ strength, abounding in our heart. Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt 11:29  

What is Spiritual Maturity?

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
~
Mother Teresa

One of my spiritual mentors, Richard Rohr OFM, says this: “Spiritual maturity is to become aware that we are not the persona (mask) we have been presenting to others. That is why saints are humble and scoundrels are arrogant. We must become intentional about recognizing and embracing our shadows. Religion’s word for this is quite simply forgiveness, which is pivotal and central on the path of transformation.” This requires grace, and he goes on to say, “Grace is just the natural loving flow of things when we allow it, instead of resisting it.”1

Living in Faith, Hope and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13)

“Faith—A trust in inner coherence itself. It all means something!

Hope—A trust that the coherence is positive and going somewhere

Love—A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me”1 and the who and why I exist really does matter.

Remember that there is not a destination we are striving for, but instead, we are on a pilgrimage that is an ever-evolving journey and encounter that is both internal (our being place) and external (our doing place). This encounter is sometimes even more omnipresent when things in the worldly sense go wrong—this is where Love creates new possibilities for the good of all.

Know it well, love its meaning. Who reveals this to you? Love.
Why? For Love
Remain in this and you will know more of the same
~Lady Julian of Norwich, Showing

42086864 – joy, sunlight, wheat.

Remember to look at people, the animals and even the flowers and trees, the ones you know and don’t know, and smile at them. “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
~Mother Teresa

References:

  1. Richard Rohr, pg. The Universal Christ (2019), pg. 66


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 I discovered that technology’s quest towards the unknown
requires us to accumulate more and more control,
whereas growing in virtue requires an altogether different capacity:
more and more surrender.
~Nipun Mehta

 

 

Believe it or not, I do not own a smartphone. I’m not averse to technology. But I spend so much time on my computer engaged in research and writing that when I take a break from my work, I truly take a break. I want to be fully present in life without the temptation of looking at my smartphone. Instead of focusing on my phone, I walk down the street enjoying my surroundings and smiling at people as I pass by. If I need directions, I ask someone directly, engaging in real communication with another human being.

Along with the benefit of being engaged in life, removing myself from the seductive pull of technology frees up time for my mind to wander, which is essential to creative thought and wellbeing.

On average, people in the U.S. check their smartphones 46 times per day (up from 33 times per day in 2014). And it’s worse for users in the U.K. A study by Nottingham Trent University found that adults ages 18-33 checked their smartphones 85 times a day, or once every 10 minutes—and they don’t even know they are doing it.1

We are giving up our uniqueness as individuals, becoming mere facts and statistics plugged into technology and artificial intelligence. Many believe this is a good thing and will improve our lives. But as we create smarter robots that are increasingly human-like, humans are at the same time becoming more robot-like. What happens to the human spirit in this race for technology?

I am deeply concerned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual price we are paying for technology, which is advancing at a speed that is impossible for us to adjust to. Drug addiction, drug overdosing, and suicide are epidemic in our society, and feelings of isolation are a primary cause. Social interaction is emerging as perhaps the single most important factor to a long, healthy and happy life, but overdosing on technology leads to isolation, not interaction.

My new motto has become: “Together we heal.”


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Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Winter Solstice are a good time for reflection and renewal as well as celebration. This year, I invite you to take time to consider the way that you view the world, and how you might shift your thinking to become happier, healthier, more compassionate, and more at peace.

In my work, I am acutely aware of the adverse effects of a pessimistic, negative view of life. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness continue to increase in our society. There is no doubt that these are challenging and unsettling times in our world. But the truth is that we have always faced the painful challenges of war, political strife, prejudice, and tragedies on a global and personal level.

I encourage you to not fall into the quagmire of pessimism, discouragement, negativity, or bitterness. I hear many people speak of their distress and their belief that the world is doomed. They see only tragedy, hatred, and destruction, and believe nothing good is happening in the world. Keep an open heart, my brothers and sisters. Take time for stillness, seek the truth, and devote yourself to acts of loving-kindness.

Devote yourself to acts of loving kindness”

Keep Your Focus on Responding, not Reacting

I find it helpful in life to focus on responding, not reacting. This is difficult when we are continually reacting to the barrage of information presented by technology. The more fast-paced and frenzied life becomes, the more we tend to react. Slowing down is a simple way of allowing the opportunity for thoughtful response.

We can begin to slow down by reducing our access to personal smart phones, computers, and electronics in general. Instead, take the time to meet a friend in the park or at a coffee shop. Relax, converse, and enjoy. This may sound radical, but occasionally leave your phone in the car or at home. You may be surprised at how much richer and more meaningful your interactions and life are when not lived through technology. We need to have fellowship, and we need to give love, receive love and feel a sense of belonging. This is spiritual nourishment, and without it we starve.


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Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a powerful natural biochemical with physical and psychological effects. Acting as both a hormone (affecting the endocrine system) and a neurotransmitter (affecting the nervous system), oxytocin is well known for enhancing sexual behavior, reproduction, childbirth, breastfeeding, and maternal bonding. Perhaps less well known is the role that oxytocin plays in generating compassion, empathy, trust, relationship building, and social bonding.

Oxytocin (Oxt; /ˌɒksɪˈtoʊsɪn/) is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide.

The Whole-Body Effects of Oxytocin

Produced by large neuroendocrine cells in the hypothalamus, oxytocin is transported to and secreted by the pituitary gland, where it is released into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body and brain.1 When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects the uterus and lactation, but when it is released into the brain, it affects emotional, cognitive, and social behavior, and enhances relaxation and psychological stability.

By helping the body adapt to highly emotional situations, oxytocin reduces stress and helps us respond appropriately to our social environment. Research shows that oxytocin benefits a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Oxytocin also regulates nonhomeostatic, reward-related energy intake, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, and the glucoregulatory response to food intake in humans. For these reasons, oxytocin may be helpful in the treatment of metabolic disorders, as well as helping to manage food cravings and weight.2-5


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I’m often asked what I consider to be the healthiest diet. Through decades of nutritional research and experimentation, I’m convinced that a diet of primarily organic, plant-based Mediterranean foods—including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy products (cow, goat and sheep milk derived) and healthy fats (mostly olive oil), with fish and seafood playing a key role as a main protein source—is by far the best diet for long term health. The term “pesca-flexa-vegetarian” comes closest to describing the diet that my family and I eat.

salmon-salad

 

 

 


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Closely related to the culinary herb sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is a plant with a rich history of use as a healing herb. Because this venerable herb has so many applications, it has become one of my favorites. I often include holy basil in adaptogenic tonics, and also find it useful for specific conditions, ranging from support for cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving skin health.

Native to India, holy basil is also known as tulsi, which means “the incomparable one.” Considered as sacred in the Hindu faith, most traditional homes and temples in India have at least one tulsi plant, which is used in prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is classified as a rasayana, an herb that nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and enlightenment and promotes long life.


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