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 7 – From Spirit to Matter

Wabi-Sabi – Nature’s Imperfection

Seeing What Is 

Two years into California life I still felt unsettled, ungrounded. I had studied with amazing spiritual teachers, taken a trip around the world and photographed to my heart’s content. I was still living off of savings, not working. I sought advice from one of my teachers, guru Babaji, and decided to go back to school, to enter seminary. This provided routine, structure, and a community of like-hearted souls taking action in the world. It also created a great deal of angst as I vacillated between the idea of being a chaplain, or an artist, and worrying about how I would ever use any or all of my talents to create right livelihood. I had entered into another phase of integrating my NDE… the either/or mode, not this/not that, and couldn’t see the both/and  opportunities of being rather than doing. The more I struggled to understand the more resistant I became. One day my academic advisor suggested that I just step back and allow things to unfold.

Stepping back and allowing lead to a year in residence at Sonoma Ashram. There I learned how to breathe into a simple, albeit very structured, contemplative life. A life of seeing what is, no more – no less. I let go of more belongings, of inhibiting thoughts and negative beliefs. Baba would say, “Nothing is worth losing your peace.” And when I lost my peace, his reminder was, “Stop, take a step back…”  The daily practices opened my heart, I became more compassionate, and I learned to be still amidst the swirling Shakti energy that created daily paradox within our community of residents and guests.

Then the 2016 election happened. It felt like the earth shifted on its axis and she entered into a dark night of the planetary soul. I was ordained a couple of weeks later and it became apparent that my time at the ashram was ending. I needed to be out in the world, although I still didn’t know what I was to do. While I hunted for work, I sought refuge in my photography as a spiritual practice, walking every day, going to the ocean, or meandering around the ashram grounds. I found peace in nature and in seeing the Divine everywhere. Wabi-sabi – the imperfection of what is, nothing more – nothing less.  By summer I was on to my next adventure.

Visit more of my Wabi-Sabi collection HERE.

 

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”   –  Confucious