Put Love First

My last post was in August, about the time I officiated my nephew’s wedding to his beloved. Shortly after that blessed family event, I attended the International Association for Near Death Studies conference on the east coast and while there, had the opportunity to visit with, and offer comfort, for three life-long dear friends who had all lost loved ones this past year to untimely deaths. Without knowing it at the time, I was living the answer to the question I would soon ask Spirit. Sometimes what we need to see is right in front of us.

A couple of weeks after my east coast trip, I was off to Hawaii to plan a group retreat. In my experience, the energy of the Big Island has a way of burning off any obscuration that may cloud one’s heart. While there, I walked a labyrinth and, as is customary for me, I asked a question upon entering. “What is blocking my path to right livelihood? What am I not seeing?” Before I reached the center I heard, “Put Love First.” This stopped me in my tracks and prompted the following internal dialogue with my higher Self or Spirit, however one wishes to see it.

“Really,” I said, “That’s it?” That’s all you’re giving me, another koan?” Spirit has a tendency to speak to me in short koans with no explanations. (Read my previous blog posts about my NDE.)
“Yep.”
“Put love first. “Love of self, love of other, love of the world, what?” I asked.
“Yep, all of that.”
“Uh Huh, thanks,” I said. I kept walking in toward the center of the labyrinth, where I stood for a while bowing in all directions and giving thanks for the opportunity to inquire and listen.

As I took my time walking back out of the labyrinth, I let Put Love First percolate, repeating it in rhythm with my steps, letting it sink into my body as well as my psyche. Simple, yet profound, these three words have become my mantra, and the question I ask when discerning what direction or action to take, even what words to say to another.

Over the next several days in Hawaii, meditating on Put Love First shifted my energy from fear and lack, striving and resistance, to a relaxed state of gratitude and abundance. By putting love first for myself and another, I released a commitment that was no longer in alignment with either of us and kept a friendship intact. I recalibrated my intentions to complete my memoir, launch my private practice, and stay close to heart and home.

Put Love First became a theme to work with in my own spiritual direction sessions. It manifested in a healing collage, and ideas began to sprout for how to grow it into something to benefit others. It’s certainly not a new message, nor is it unique. It’s a basic tenant of many faith traditions, said in slightly different ways. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. – Christianity   Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are the four qualities of the heart that reside within everyone. – Buddhism

So as we enter this super-sized, consumerized holiday season full of glitz and gluttony, I share with you this gift from Spirit, Put Love First, and invite you to give the gift of your heart. It doesn’t cost anything to offer a kind word, a smile, a hug, or a slight bow to someone, acknowledging that the light in you sees the light in them.
Namasté, Peace, Salam, Shalom

Put Love First Healing Collage – features Rev Lisa’s original mandala artwork and photographs along with clippings from magazines.
©LjWinston November 27, 2019

Part 2 – From Spirit to Matter

LEARNING HOW TO SEE – Zen Contemplative Photography

Photography as a Spiritual/Healing Practice Post NDE

Only six weeks after I emerged from my month in the hospital and just a few weeks out of bed recovering at home, I immersed myself in a photo workshop, “learning how to see” with Zen Buddhist Abbot and master photographer, John Daido Loori, Roshi.  I was healing from surgery and almost dying, and to those who viewed my images, my wounds were revealed without ever telling them my story.  Our assignment was to take a photograph that expressed the feeling of, “making love with light.”  At the time I was feeling deep gratitude for being alive and love for my brother who was at the hospital every one of the 25 days I was there.  This was my photograph.

As we were guided through the meditation to look more deeply into, around and through our photographs, to feel them kinesthetically and emotionally, my dyad partner for this exercise said she saw blood cells pumping through a vein. Physically she said she felt cold, and emotionally she felt sad but full of wonder. I had not told her that I almost died six weeks earlier and had surgery to save my life.

That weekend workshop revealed clearly for me that our inner landscape and outer world reflect one another and that photography was a healing modality. A small group of us practiced together meditating with our photographs for a few years after that workshop, unearthing and sharing deeper meaning, deeper stories, and healing for ourselves through our images. I continue this healing photography practice today, and love sharing it with others.

Love, like a glass urn born of molten heat, fragile and transparent… yet capable of holding tears of joy and tears of sorrow.  (poem that I wrote to go with the photo)

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”  Photographer Dorothea Lange

Mosaic Water Dance

The endless patterns in the movement of water can be mesmerizing, meditative, soothing to watch. While on retreat in the desert in Joshua Tree I found myself drinking in the visual performance of this water feature. Nine separate images flow together in this mosaic water dance.

Mosaic Water Dance ©2016 LjWinston / LjW Divine Sight

Mosaic Water Dance

Contact me for sizes and pricing: diva@ljwdivinesight.us