Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Purpose of Life

What is the purpose of life?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?  I would be very surprised if you haven't.  But what is the answer?

Would it surprise you to know that there are over 7 billion genuine, but different, answers?

The answer to the question "what is the purpose of life" is deep within you.  Or, rather, "what is the purpose of my life".  The word "MY" is key, and is the reason there are so many different answers.  We each have our own unique answer.

It is, of course, possible to generalize and thereby create a broad answer which fits many people.  For example, if I were to say "the purpose of life is to make the world a better place" I imagine many (but not all) of my readers would agree.  Some would want it phrased as "the purpose of life is to follow the will of God (or Allah)", but that would usually mean something very similar to the first generalized answer I gave.  Many others (those who believe in reincarnation) would agree that "the purpose of life is to learn important lessons", or "to become a better person".

My own view, actually, is that all four answers I have given in the above paragraph are true.  But do not feel that the answer for you has to fit within one or more of those models.  As I have said, there are over 7 billion answers, some of which will probably look quite different.

A broad answer, though, is really not good enough.  This is the most important question you will ever ask yourself.  You should dig deeper and find the answer which fits you.  The unique answer, the one in 7 billion which is what should be guiding your path through this life.

Tragically, most people never truly ask themselves this question.  They may ask it as a general question, not really addressed to themselves, and then decide there is no way to answer it.  If you pose it as a general question, then there IS no way to answer it.  The question must be specifically addressed to you as an individual, not as some broad philosophical enquiry.

If you go through life without ever asking yourself this question, and more importantly without getting an answer, you will waste your opportunity to make a difference.  If you do make a difference it will be more accidental than purposive.  You will also not be as happy as you should be, not feel as achieved, not gain the success you deserve.  After all, how can you be successful if you don't even know what "successful" means for you?  This is the reason you will find many people who would be regarded by most of us as "successful", yet who feel empty and not at all successful.  The success they have achieved is not fully aligned with their real purpose in life and therefore leaves them still feeling empty.

By now you may be asking "but how do I find my own purpose in life?"  That is a very good question.  Ask it!  Even by asking that question you are getting much closer to the answer than most people ever will, even those the world believes are successful.

Begin asking yourself this question, doing so regularly.  Don't get frustrated that there may not be an immediate answer.  Just sit and meditate with the question in mind.  Wait on the Universe, the Self, God, Allah, your Spirit Guide, or your Guardian Angel - whatever or whoever you believe will give you the answer.  Keep asking, and the answer will come.  And when it comes, make sure your desires and your goals are aligned with the purpose of your life.  Do this and you will be far happier and far more successful than the great majority who never even ask themselves this question.

What is the purpose of life?  I hope that soon you will be able to answer!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Thought Form Blocks

Have you ever tried to achieve something but found no matter what you did there was always something in the way completely blocking your progress?

Frankly, I will be amazed if you say this has never happened to you.  If you do feel you are an exception to the rule I would even suggest it has still happened to you but you were simply not aware of it at the time.

If you feel there is something blocking you, almost certainly there is.  It is unlikely to be pure coincidence.

Usually these blocks are internal, not external.  It is important to recognize this.  Do not start to think the universe is conspiring against you, or there is some evil spirit out there preventing you from achieving what you wish to achieve.

I can guarantee the universe is NOT conspiring against you.  The universe simply does not do this.  It may, though, be responding to unintended messages you are giving it.  For example, maybe you are studying to become a lawyer, but you fail every exam you sit even though you are studying really hard and you know you are intelligent enough to make it.  Why, then, do you keep failing?  I would suggest in a case like this it is because deep within you do not actually want to be a lawyer!  Perhaps you think you want to be a lawyer because your parents encouraged you from an early age to choose this career path.  Deep inside you don't really want to be a lawyer, but this resistance is hidden so deeply within you that even you cannot see it.  You cannot see it, but the universe can.  Your soul sends out messages telling the universe this is not what you want for your life, and the universe hears and responds.  This is not a conspiracy by the universe to stop you, but rather a co-operation by the universe with your inner self.

It is also quite unlikely there is an evil spirit blocking you.  I say this not because I don't believe in evil spirits.  Actually I DO believe in them.  But I also believe they do not normally interfere in this way unless you invite them in or a powerful magician evokes them specifically to act against you.  If you have undertaken an invocation ritual, in which you invite a spirit to take you over for a while, this could have got out of control and that spirit might now be blocking you in some way.  But if that has happened you will already know it!  Likewise, if you have upset a powerful magician enough to make them wish to cause you harm you will probably already know this too.  In both cases you will need deeper help than I can give you in a short blog article.

Most blocks are what I would call "thought forms" rather than evil spirits.  At some point in the past, maybe in your early childhood (and, if you believe in reincarnation, perhaps long before you were born into this existence), you created the block yourself.  You created an intention, for example an intention not to acquire wealth, and then you breathed life into that intention so it became a "thought form".  These thought forms are extremely powerful, especially if they have been around for some time and you have reinforced their power many times over.

Why would anybody do such a thing?  Is it very rare, or is it commonplace?

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurence at all.  I would go as far as to say that almost certainly you have a number of such self-created, negative thought forms surrounding with you. They travel with you, always there ready to block you in your endeavours which are contrary to what you originally told them you wanted.

There can be many different reasons for creating a thought form block.  More often than not, the reason is quite illogical.  Say, for example, as a young child you heard your parents arguing.  You didn't really understand what the argument was about, but you kept hearing the word money.  You therefore associated "money" with "arguments" and created a thought form block to prevent you acquiring money so that you wouldn't have to suffer the pain of arguments.  Every time there was an argument about money, the strength of this thought form increased.  It may also have been increased in other ways.  Perhaps an adult told you that money is the root of evil, or that it is wrong to want money.  Your thought form block has absorbed all such comments and increased its strength through them.  Anything that is said or that happens which contradicts the "world view" of your thought form block is just ignored, but everything that supports it is absorbed and strengthens it.  Over all the years since it was first created, this thought form has become extremely powerful, able to negate all the efforts you put in to becoming wealthy.

Thought form blocks can cover many areas.  A block on becoming wealthy is extremely common.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of us have such a block.  Another very common block is a relationship block.  This may have very similar roots.  Most couples have arguments from time to time, no matter how loving their relationship.  A small child may witness such an argument and then believe that if you enter into a relationship you will have arguments (which is almost certainly true, but is most certainly not the whole truth).  To a simplistic, childish logic the answer to avoid the pain of arguments is to avoid entering into a relationship.

How can you reduce the power of your thought form blocks, and eventually destroy those blocks altogether?

The first step you must take is to identify the blocks.  Sit quietly by yourself and begin meditating.  Focus on one of your objectives during that meditation.  See what thoughts and feelings arise as you meditate on it.  Try to become particularly sensitive to any negative thoughts and feelings that may arise.  As such thought forms appear, start to dissolve the block by using positive affirmation.  Feel the power of the block gradually disappearing as you focus on the positives.

In order to do this properly you will, of course, need a number of very good positive affirmations.  You will need to know why it is you want wealth, a good career, happy relationships, or whatever else it is you are gtrying to achieve.  Really feel the good, positive power of your objective.  It is this power you will use to confront the block that appears.

This is only one way of countering Thought Form Blocks.  There are many other ways of doing this, with perhaps the most effective being with the aid of a good coach specializing in this kind of exercise.  But the mere fact that you have now recognized the existence of the block is a major step forwards.  Once you have done this, keep up that forward momentum and you will start to see a big improvement in your ability to use affirmation properly and achieve your goals.

If you want to try out a coach specializing in this, you may be interested in a free program offered by Carol Tuttle.  You can find out more about this free program here.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Ethics of Money

A few weeks ago I wrote about money.  This is a subject many "spiritual" people find challenging.  But it is also something we must all address unless we decide to go and live on a desert island.  We each have our own slightly different take on the subject.  You may find you disagree completely with mine, but hopefully not.

What are the ethics of having and using money?

My belief is that correct stewardship of money is highly ethical.  It is something that is required of all of us.  Notice my choice of word here - "stewardship".  One definition of stewardship is "responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuable of others".  So do I mean that our money belongs to someone else, not to us?  Yes, I do!

Money is not something you keep forever.  For a start, you will not be taking it with you when you leave this life.  Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it was necessary to pay a bribe to Charon, the ferryman whose job was to take you over the river between life and death.  But "Charon's obol" was just a single coin, not all the wealth the deceased had acquired during life.

Money belongs to society, not to you.  Some of your money is taken directly by society in the form of taxes which pay for all the services you enjoy.  But even the money that is not taken in taxes still really belongs to society.  If you are looking after it properly it is not hoarded by you and kept locked away - it flows through you.  As it flows, you can enjoy the benefits which come to you.  Be grateful for those benefits, and at the same time make sure the flow is not interrupted.  Some people do not allow it to flow properly, trying to keep it and all its benefits just for themselves.  Those same people also usually do not feel or express any gratitude for the benefits their money brings.  This is a very short-sighted attitude.  It is not only unethical, but also self-defeating.  Those of my readers who are Christian probably know the following quote very well:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19)

Many people interpret that verse as saying it is unethical to acquire money.  But this is not what it says.  In my interpretation this verse tells me not to dam the flow of money, trying to keep it for myself, but instead to allow it to flow through me, bringing benefits not only to me but to those around me.

If you truly allow money to flow through you then you will find more and more comes to you.  Especially if you feel and show gratitude for it.  But if you have a very selfish attitude, feeling that only you should benefit from it and trying to stop the outward flow, you will find the inward flow also slows and less and less comes to you.  This is almost a law of nature.

Think about it for a moment.  When you use money it passes from you to someone else.  Presumably you receive something in exchange for the money, so you now have a benefit you did not have before the transaction.  This may be a very tangible, immediate benefit such as a nice meal at a restaurant.  Or it may be something less tangible and providing a benefit at some time in the future - for example a deposit on a holiday.  But whatever it is, you now have a benefit (or a right to a benefit) for which you should be grateful.  This is only one side of the transaction though.  The person to whom you paid the money now has more money.  If they are in business they may use some of that money to pay wages to their employees.  If enough money flows through them they may employ more staff.  So by allowing that money to flow through you, not only are you benefiting from whatever it is you are buying, but so are other people.  The business owner who may now be able to expand his or her business benefits.  So do the employees of that business who are employed only because you and others like you have allowed that money to flow.

As long as the people to whom you pay the money allow that money to flow through them as well, that flow continues on and on.  Just a small amount of money has a ripple effect that benefits so many people in so many different ways

This is why I think of the "ownership" of money as "stewardship".  You will not keep it.  It is your job to use it responsibly, allowing it to flow to others, bringing both you and them (and many others you have never even met) many different benefits.

Do not misunderstand me though.  I am not saying that you must go out and spend all your money, not saving or investing any of it!  That is not what I mean at all when I say you must allow it to flow through you.  It would most certainly not be ethical to spend it all and then rely on others to provide for your needs later.  Again, the word "stewardship" comes into play here.  Certainly invest your money so that you will have more to use in the future and will not have to rely on the charity of others or the safety net provided by the state.  Allowing money to flow is a state of mind, accepting that money belongs to the Universe, and that you are simply its custodian for a short period of time.  During that short time (your lifetime) it is your responsibility to see that it flows properly, providing the right benefits to you and to others.

Some of your money will (or at least should) be used mainly to bring benefits to others rather than to you.  For example any payments you may make to charities.  I say "mainly", though, as in reality this also brings you a benefit - the benefit of knowing you have done the right thing, of knowing you have helped others and that their lives are now better as a result of the gift you have made.

Think about how you are using your money, and make sure this is fully aligned with your core inner beliefs.  This is the true ethics of money - the ethics of right use, whether that is direct spending or investment.  You cannot be responsible for how others may end up using the money you have allowed to flow through you to them, but there are certainly some very obvious distinctions you can make when deciding how to use and invest your money.

From now on, never allow yourself to feel that money is evil, a burden, or something you have to grasp and hold on to.  Allow it to flow through you.  Channel it in ways that bring good into the world around you.  And feel and express gratitude all the time for the benefits that flow of money is bringing to you and all those in contact with you.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Learning from Ramadan

If you are reading this article at the time I have published it, Ramadan has just begun.  I am sure all of my Muslim friends reading this need no reminder, but those of us who are not Muslims may not have been aware.

One reason for writing about Ramadan is to make sure you know what it entails and do not inadvertently do anything which might cause your Muslim friends embarrassment.  This blog is all about personal development, and I believe a very important aspect of personal development is to learn to respect the beliefs of others even if you do not share them, and to avoid doing anything which might hurt those around you in any way.

Another reason is that I strongly believe there is much to be learned from the beliefs and practices of those who do not share our own beliefs.  Having studied what happens in Ramadan, and why, I find many things which I think are helpful to anyone learning to become a better person.

So, what actually does happen during Ramadan?  I am not a Muslim, so if any of my Muslim friends spots errors in what I have written, please let me know.  I have taken great care and tried to be accurate, but am happy to correct what I have written if I have misinterpreted anything.

Even my friends who have had little or no contact with those of the Muslim faith probably know one key fact about Ramadan - that it is forbidden to eat or drink from dawn until sunset.  There are some important and practical exceptions to this rule though.  If you are ill, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, or diabetic you do not need to fast.  The same applies if you are travelling.  It is really up to you to decide whether your own circumstances fall within one of those exceptions solidly enough to mean you should eat and / or drink.  Where practical you should then try to fast outside the month of Ramadan to make up for the fact that you could not do so during Ramadan.  Clearly this does not apply where the reason is simply that you are elderly or diabetic.

During Ramadan it is not permissible to make love between dawn and sunset.

Putting these two prohibitions together, this means during the daylight hours you are practising abstinence from what are perhaps the most compelling and enjoyable human pleasures.  Such a practice is a very good discipline for anyone learning to become a better person.  Why?  Certainly not because there is anything wrong with eating, drinking, or making love.  But because learning to practise self-discipline is a very important aspect of personal development.  The more self-discipline you have, the higher up the ladder of personal development you can climb.  Note, though, the important balance introduced in Ramadan.  Are we told to fast and abstain from sex throughout Ramadan?  No, we are not.  Only during daylight hours.  As long as you don't live in Rovaniemi (or even further north) this gives you plenty of time during which you can eat, drink and enjoy making love - every single night of the festival.  I believe balance like this is very important.  Struggling to remain abstinent for days or weeks at a time is really not necessary when learning self control skills.  You are much more likely to be successful if you follow the teachings of the Quran in this regard rather than trying to be completely abstinent, day and night, and perhaps finding your motivation to continue dwindles.

There are also other abstinences which you must observe during your fast, such as swearing, gossiping and lying.  Obviously you are not expected to do any of these things at any time, but it is especially important to abstain from them during Ramadan.  If you do any of those things, or anything else that is clearly wrong, it is as though you have also broken your fast.  You may as well not have bothered to fast in the first place.  In the case of these things you do not have an exemption during the hours of darkness.

Ramadan is not, though, simply about abstinence.  During Ramadan a good Muslim thinks deeply about his or her faith.  It is a time for spiritual development, a time to purify your heart and soul.  The time that would otherwise be spent eating, drinking (and perhaps also making love) is time that can be used instead for spiritual exercises.  For a Muslim, this period of reflection will most certainly include reading the Quran.  For my readers who are not Muslim and who want to adopt a practice similar to that of Ramadan for their own personal development, they may not wish to read the Quran, but I suggest it would be a very good idea to spend time reading spiritual works of one kind or another.

Just as bad deeds are strictly forbidden during Ramadan, good deeds are particularly encouraged.  This includes, but is certainly not limited to, giving generously to charity.  And "charity" is also very broadly defined anyway in this sense.  For example, when the fast is broken after sunset it is considered good to share one's food with others.  In many cases this is simply with family and friends, much as Americans share the blessings of the earth with family and close friends at Thanksgiving, but it is also considered good to share with those who may not be able to afford the good food you have perhaps kept aside for breaking your fast.

Now that you are more aware of what is involved in Ramadan, please try to remember this when talking and making arrangements with Muslim friends.  For example, remember that they are not allowed to eat or drink during the day, so please do not try to invite them to lunch, or even to dinner if it is early in the evening before the sun has set.

If you have read this far and are interested in any form of self development I hope you have seen that the practices of pious Muslims during their festival of Ramadan might be a good thing to practise in order to accelerate that self development.  It may even be that some Muslims will look at their own practices during Ramadan and realize they should be using their time during Ramadan more effectively for their own spiritual development. 

If you are not a Muslim you may simply wish to pick out certain aspects as outlined above and see if you can incorporate them in your own practices.  But if you have Muslim friends maybe a good way to do this would be to ask them if they would mind if you tried to share their spiritual practices with them during Ramadan.  Don't push it if they seem less than enthusiastic, but you may find they like the idea and are very willing to share their beliefs and practices.  If so, this should not only help you develop practices which I strongly believe will help you in your self development, but also strengthen your friendship with Muslim acquaintances and increase your understanding of their faith.  Anything that increases understanding between people of different faiths has to be a very good thing in a world in which misunderstandings and prejudices are so common.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Love Yourself

Do you love yourself?  If not, why not?  If yes, how do you express that love?

You have probably heard the expression "charity begins at home".  Unfortunately it is frequently used just as an excuse to ignore help that people further from home really need.  But in essence it is true.  In the King James Bible, the word "charity" is an interpretation of the Greek word "agape", and it really means unselfish love.  A love that just keeps giving without needing anything in return.  Compassion.  It certainly does not mean paying some money to a worthy concern and then considering you have done your duty and do not need to be compassionate.

So let's rephrase.  "Love begins at home".  In fact, love begins with loving yourself.  If you do not love yourself you will find it very difficult to love others.  Conversely, if you truly love yourself you will find you begin to create room to love others, beginning with those around you and expanding to the point where you love the entire universe.

I am not talking here about narcissism.  I am talking about true love as contained in the word "agape".  A love that is committed to the well-being of its object.  If you are interested at all in personal development, this is the starting point.  You have to be committed to your own true well-being.  This really encompasses everything.  You will not abuse your body or your mind or your spirit, because you love them and wish them to be developed in the best possible way.  The mormons in particular talk about recognizing your body as a temple, as do most other Christians.  Treat it with respect.  Look after it.  Love it.  Do this and it will serve you well.  The same goes for your mind and your spirit.  Develop it.  Cherish it.

When you love someone you probably give them treats.  If you are married, can you remember what you did when you first went out with your spouse?  Did you give unexpected gifts?  Not just on birthdays and anniversaries and at Christmas, but at unexpected times?  Remember the pleasure that gave you as well as the pleasure it gave your spouse?  Do the same to yourself.  Give yourself treats.  Not all the time of course.  I am not encouraging you to be self-indulgent.  But get into the habit of treating yourself every so often.

You also need to spend time alone with the one you love rather than only ever being with them in a crowd.  Do the same for yourself.  Have "me" time.  I suggest you do this every day for at least a few minutes, and for much longer at least once a week.  Even an occasional full day of "me" time.  What do I mean by "me" time?  I cannot really answer that, as it will depend entirely on you.  It means different things to different people.  If you don't know the answer then that means you are certainly not spending enough time on yourself and must learn to love yourself more.

As you learn to love yourself more, and practise doing what you have learned, you will begin to see how you should love others more.  And so your self love will begin to blossom as love for others.

I suggest you incorporate both self love and love for others in a daily meditation practice.  Begin by feeling every bit of your body and start to feel love for it.  Feel a sphere extending from your centre and encompassing your whole body.  Then, as you become comfortable with this, expand this sphere so it includes your whole house and everything and everyone within it.  Keep centred and expand that sphere again.  Now it includes all your friends and relatives.  Expand it again to include all those you work with and those you have fleeting contact with.  Keep expanding, so it now includes people you have never met, people all over the world.  Feel deep compassion for them.  Then expand again so it includes not just all the people in the world but also the world itself and everything within it.  Now recognize that you are star dust (yes, you really are!) - so expand your love to include the whole universe of stars and of everything that has come from those stars.

Love is a two way street, even if sometimes it does not seem to be.  Yes, there will be times when your unconditional love is not returned to you by the object of your love, but it will still be returned to you from somewhere.  As you start loving yourself and then expanding outwards until that love encompasses the entire universe, so the universe will return that love to you.  This will happen gradually and not necessarily in very obvious ways, but happen it will.

So, beginning today, practice self love, expand it, and love the entire universe.  I think you will be surprised by what will start to happen in your life when you do this!