Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Top Reasons To Cultivate Your Spirituality

Did you know faith makes for a healthier brain? According to research by Dr. Andrew Newburg, author of six books and leading researcher, studies reveal the impact of a spiritual practice on brain function.  This area of research is known as "neurotheology" and demonstrates the relationship between the brain and faith. 

In his book "How God Changes Your Brain", Newberg discusses many interesting ways faith directly impacts the brain. For more details, check out this article.

Just as there are many good reasons to work out, eat right, and stay fit, there are several very tangible reasons to develop your faith and spirituality. Here are a few of the major benefits:

1) increases longevity

2) improves brain health by reducing cortisol levels

3) reduces emotional reactivity

4) increases resilience to life's challenges

People who meditate, pray, and adhere to a spiritual practice are also less likely to suffer from depression and  anxiety and have better control of their emotions. I would venture to say that spiritually-minded folk are less likely to commit heinous crimes of violence. They value peace and harmony in both their inner and outer worlds. They value connecting to God and strive to live according to the values that respect and honor human life. Look at Gandhi and Martin Luther King as examples. They changed the world thru non-violent means and were both men of faith.

In this world of so much senseless violence, it is clear people need to make developing their spirituality a priority. Spirituality is very closely linked to emotions and out-of-control emotions are often what precipitate random acts of violence.  

I hope this article has motivated you to consider making your spiritual path a priority in your life. We all have spheres of influence and when one person changes we impact others around us. Be the change you want to see in this world. We are all in it together.

If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", please enter your email address in the box provided. I'd like to hear from you so please post a comment below.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 6: 4 Best Benefits of Meditation

How often do you sit down during the course of the day, close your eyes and just do and think nothing at all? Most people are so tired that when they do sit down and close their eyes they fall asleep. Others find it difficult or even uncomfortable to sit still and do nothing. I know, because I used to be this way myself.

As a single mom of two boys working at a mentally draining career while balancing the demands of home, health, and child-rearing, I wish someone would have suggested this to me years ago. Sit down and rest my mind. The second step in learning to discipline the mind is meditation, a practice which archaeologists and scholars believe has been around for over 5,000 years. The earliest documentation of meditation is found in the Hindu sacred text known as the Vedas from ancient India but it has its own place in Western religions as well.

As industrialization and the rapid advancement of technology have dramatically increased the pace of life, the hurry up, get-it-done-yesterday mindset has side-lined this important discipline. As the rate of stress-related illness soars, many are realizing this non-stop freneticism is not only unhealthy but unprofitable as well.

In the same way the body needs a good amount of sleep to restore and renew itself, so too does the mind.  Often, even when the body is asleep, the mind continues to churn away on the problems and issues of the day. No wonder we wake up feeling unrefreshed. The mind didn't know it was bedtime.

When we sit down to meditate, we allow the "mental clutter" to settle.

Benefit #1: Meditation calms our minds and our bodies. 
It slows the heart rate, the breath, and lowers the blood pressure. Also, it allows confusion to dissipate and clarity and creativity to spark so we can find answers to our problems.

There are different forms of meditation so whether your spiritual path is eastern or western, you can benefit from this ancient practice. In eastern religions, such as buddhism, the goal of meditation is to focus the mind on something constant such as the breath. The basic premise is that by focusing the mind, the practitioner becomes increasingly aware of the flow of thoughts as they occur and is able to disengage, clear the mind and enter the place of rest where the mind is calm. Some well-known forms of eastern meditation are Vipassana and Transcendental meditation.

Benefit #2: Helps us to connect with God
The practice of meditation in Christian religions is similar in that the goal is to focus and calm the mind. In addition, Christian practitioners also have the goal of calming the spirit and connecting more deeply with God which is done by reading or repeating phrases or words of Holy Scripture or Christian devotions. Early proponents of Christian meditation are St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. John of the Cross.

Benefit #3: Brings awareness of negative thoughts
Whatever your spiritual path is, meditation is an important skill that will help you in many areas of your life. I try to clear my mind once or twice a day. When I meditate, I find I am more mindful of the pesky negative thoughts that try to steal my peace and I am more easily able to dismiss them and carry on with my day. You will come to find stillness as a gift and look forward to your times of meditation.

Benefit #4: Increases sense of peace and well-being
Most of us run around all day frenetically going from one thing to another. As an ex-single parent, this pace became my norm. Now, when I feel like I'm moving too fast, I make myself sit down and meditate for 15 - 20 minutes. If I fall asleep, then that means I'm tired. I don't berate myself for falling asleep. Meditation helps us to become more aware of when we are feeling stressed and hurried and we will enjoy a greater sense of peace and well-being during our busy days.

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Until next time, I wish you peace and stillness and remember - keep looking up!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

6 Reasons Why You Should Forgive

Are you holding on to a grudge? Harboring bitterness or resentment towards anyone? Do you suffer from arthritis, cancer or other ongoing physical pain? If so, today's post is on the importance of forgiveness and how it can propel us forward in our relationships and personal lives by freeing us from emotional bondage and improving our physical and mental health.

First, let's talk about the damaging effects of unforgiveness. 
1. Destroys families and relationships
2. Steals our mental focus
3. Saps our energy, joy, and inner peace
4. Keeps us separated from God's blessings
5. Prevents us from moving forward in life
6. Causes physical and mental disease

When we hold on to negative thoughts and feelings, we are doing ourselves much harm. Negative feelings fester until they consume us. They keep us from being the kind and loving people we were created to be. They snare us into making hurtful decisions that further alienate us from others. Why do you think so many people have a sour look on their face? They are harboring unforgiveness and this affects the people around them. This may account for much of the violence we see in the world today.

In addition, holding onto hurts, either real or imagined, is not good for our health. Studies show that unforgiveness affects our health in more ways than one. Of all cancer patients, 61 percent have forgiveness issues. Now that is sobering news. But it doesn't have to be this way.

If we want to live long, healthy, and joyful lives and move forward in our personal goals, it is critical that we learn to forgive. Some of the benefits of practicing forgiveness are:

1.  Frees us from emotional bondage
2.  Energizes and strengthens us
3.  Promotes a positive and peaceful outlook on life.
4.  Allows us to focus on our dreams, goals, and aspirations.
5. Opens the path for good things to flow into our lives.
6. Heals damaged relationships.

Like most things good for us, forgiveness is a practice, just like exercise. It is tough at first, but over time it becomes easier and easier. Before we know it, it becomes part of who we are. Soon, we won't be able to tolerate discord in our relationships and we will know we need to forgive.

The difficulty we must overcome is that forgiveness goes against our ego and our pride.  This is why we need God's help. We can only truly forgive someone who has hurt us deeply by the grace of God. When I think of all God has forgiven me for, who am I to hold something against anyone else? And if you think you've never done anything wrong in the eyes of God, think again. We have all sinned and we all need to be forgiven by God.

In the end, it is a personal choice. We can either wallow in our misery and victim-mentality, stewing on past hurts or we can choose to let go and move forward into a freer and healthier life.

If the post has encouraged you, please leave a comment or click the +1 icon. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" enter your email in the box provided.

Until next time, search your heart and make sure you are not holding any negative feelings towards anyone. If you are, give it to God and be free and remember - keep looking up!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 6: Discipline Your Mind

Have you ever said something "without thinking"? Are you aware of all the thoughts that traverse your mind on any given day? What about when you're dreaming at night. What's going on then?
Step 6 to igniting the power within has to do with taming and training the unruly beast known as the mind.

Before we can talk about how to discipline the mind, we need to understand what exactly do we mean by "the mind". To keep this as simple as possible, the mind is the non-physical part of us that is composed of both consciousness and unconsciousness. It is separate from the physical part of the body known as the brain. The brain is the organ that is part of our central nervous system and controls our physical and bodily functions.

The mind, on the other hand, controls our emotions, our thoughts, and our will. Some believe that the mind is the eternal part of us known as the "soul". Undeveloped and unconstrained, the mind will take off like a runaway train or a wild horse. Buddhism calls this "monkey mind" meaning unsettled, capricious, restless, uncontrollable, confused. Picture monkeys you see in the zoo or the wild and how they flit from tree to tree hanging on and jumping around willy nilly. This is how undisciplined minds behave. Thousands of thoughts fly by in the course of everyday life, yet we are unaware of the majority of them.

 If we want to harness the power of our minds, we need to discipline it to think the right kind of thoughts. There are three main steps to cultivating a disciplined mind so today let's go over the first one.

 1. Feed your mind positive input
     Our minds are like computers. How they are programmed is how they will perform. If we feed our minds junk, violence, and negativity, this is what will come out of us. As motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, puts it "negative is normal". Many of us grew up in an environment of worry, anxiety, fear and the like. But we don't have to stay that way. We can retrain our minds and our thinking, but it does take effort on our part.

If we want healthy, vibrant bodies we will feed ourselves healthy, nutritious food and drink plenty of water. In the same way if we want healthy, peaceful and emotionally stable minds we need to feed our minds life-giving thoughts. Here are some examples of the kinds of thoughts and what to replace them with:
     - Replace fear with faith. 
       "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind". 
     - Replace timidity with boldness. 
      "The Lord is my rock and my fortress." 
      "No weapon formed against me shall prosper."
      "If God is for me, who can stand against me". 
     - Replace hatred with love. 
       "Love your neighbor as yourself"       
     - Replace strife with peace.
       "The Lord will give keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him."
     - Replace struggle with ease. 
        Instead of thinking "This is too much for me" think and say
       "I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me".
     - Replace "I'll never...." with the same phrase.
     - Replace thoughts of lack with thoughts of abundance and provision. 
       "My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus". 

If we want to be more powerful and more successful, we need to be more positive and more confident in our abilities. We need to reprogram our thinking with truth and the best source of truth I know is the Holy Bible. Now you can use whatever sacred texts or affirmations you choose, but I suggest the Holy Bible and here's why.

God is obligated to fulfill His Word. He is not obligated to follow through on anyone else's word. The words of scripture have supernatural power in them and that is the missing ingredient in using anything else. Positive affirmations that are not the Word of God will only take us so far. Why?
Because God rewards Faith! He wants to know that we are depending on Him and him alone and not merely our own will and self. When we learn to depend on God more, and ourselves less, we will see strife, turmoil, and unease evaporate from our lives and we will enjoy more harmony, joy, and rest.

This covers the first step to disciplining our minds. Stay tuned for part 2 of the process of igniting the power within when next time we'll talk about the importance of meditation. 

If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email address in the box provided and I'll get it out to you.

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Until next time, keep looking up!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

What Parents and Dog Owners Already Know

Parents and dog owners know this already. When we ask our child to take out the trash, do their homework, or help tidy the kitchen and they willing cooperate, what happens? They get a reward, right? We smile and give them praise, a star on their chores chart, and maybe even dessert.

When cute little Fido or Fifi poops outside or comes when we call them, what happens next?
They get a treat, right? There is something to be said for immediate obedience, isn't there?

When we love someone, we want to do what they ask us to do. I know as a mom, it makes me happy when my children obey me without hesitation. I love it even more when they do it without me asking them.

Consider this. God likes immediate obedience even more. What do you think would have happened if Mary had said "It's not a good time right now," when the angel told her she was going to be pregnant with the son of God? What about if Jesus had said "I don't feel like it" when it was time to go to the cross? God is looking for people who will respond in immediate obedience.

Jesus feels the same way. In fact he says in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command." He also promises us a blessing in Luke11:28 "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

But we humans have a tendency to make excuses and put things off, don't we?

When I put off things God has told me to do, I get that nagging feeling that keeps me from being at rest in my spirit. I can't seem to move forward in the other areas of my life. It's like God is saying "Take care of this first and then I'll show you the next thing." Many of us want to be blessed by God, but we don't want to follow His directions.

Do you ever get that nagging feeling? Ever feel like you want to move forward but for some reason you are being held back? Could it be that God has asked you to do something you have not yet done? If you think about it for a bit, I'm sure God will reveal it to you.

If you enjoyed this post, please click on the like button, share with a friend or leave a comment. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" please enter your email address in the box provided.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Problem with "No"

Is it hard for you to turn down requests for your time, money, or attention? Do you struggle with feelings of guilt or shame when you can't meet someone's expectations? Do you say "yes" to activities, behaviors, or people and then regret it? Setting and experiencing boundaries is a skill many of us need to learn and to practice. Most of us want to be helpful and meet the needs of others, but there has to be a healthy balance and we who fall into the people-pleaser category have an even tougher time keeping this balance. This post is about boundaries and dealing with people who don't have any.

It's taken me years to learn to say that powerful two-letter word "No". In fact, I used to carry a laminated card around me with the word printed on it large red letters to remind me that my default answer should be "NO", not "Yes". I was always saying "Yes" to requests, people, and relationships that were not good for me. I was what they call "a people pleaser". This caused a lot of stress in my life. Stress, then guilt, then remorse. Perhaps you can relate.

And then I learned to use the N word. It wasn't overnight, mind you. It was a long process I got to practice over and over again. It took quite a while before I could say the N word easily. But it happened. Now it's become part of my nature. It's easier with people who are not so close to me. It's more difficult with those I really care about like my mom, my sons, and my close friends. But these relationships are opportunities to practice this skill as well. Relatives are just people who happen to be related to us. They are human beings the same as other people in my life. The good thing is that as I am learning, they are learning as well. Well, maybe not my mom. Setting boundaries is a skill most of us need to learn over time. There is, however, a small problem with saying no to some people. They don't like it.

Last week, for example, I called a friend to touch base about some weekend plans we had made. I left her a message and stated when I would and would not be available that evening so she would know when she had a better chance of catching me. I was going to be unavailable for thirty minutes, but the rest of the evening I was free. Well. She calls during the thirty minute time frame I was unavailable. When I called her back, she was miffed. In fact, she called during that half hour which was most likely an attempt to avoid actually speaking to me in person. This is known as passive-aggressive behavior. Now why would someone act like that, I wondered.

The answer came today. People who don't have boundaries or who aren't comfortable using them, don't like it when someone else sets boundaries with them. They get defensive or play the blame and shame game to make you feel like you have done something wrong. It is still a struggle, I admit, to not let these feelings bother me, but something tells me that now that I know what is going on and why, I won't allow these feelings to settle in.

I feel liberated. The monkey is off my back, as they say. If other people don't like it when I tell them no, set a limit, or otherwise push back from what they want, it is not my problem, it is theirs. Healthy people are able to deal with boundaries. Here's another example.

A good friend called recently and offered a free ticket to a dance production in DC. I thanked her for the invite and explained that I really didn't enjoy that type of performance and suggested she ask someone who might enjoy it more. A few days later, I asked if she would like to attend a musical performance, and she politely explained that "it's not my cup of tea". This is how people with healthy boundaries operate. Healthy people are able to say and receive NO without getting defensive, feeling rejected, or making the other person feel badly.

How comfortable are you at saying and receiving NO? Is your default response "YES"? How often do you find yourself feeling guilty, overly tired or put upon? These may be signs your NO muscle needs a bit of a workout. I'd love to hear your feedback on this post. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.

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Until next time, keep looking up!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

3 Steps to a Deeper Relationship with God

Do you sometimes feel disconnected from others? Unloved? Alone? If so, you're not alone. We all struggle with these same feelings and doubts. We go through periods of time when we feel like everyone has deserted us and we are left paddling the streams of life all by ourselves. It is in these times that it is even more important to turn inward and to turn to God. Sometimes God allows these dry periods so we can come into a more intimate relationship with Him. We may not know exactly how to go about it so today I am going to share three steps to developing a closer relationship with God. An interesting question over the weekend precipitated this post.

I was at a good friend's wedding having dinner, when a gentleman shared that he had read my book, "The Power of Faith". He said he wished he had the same type of faith to get through the trials in his life and asked me if I thought if it was possible for anyone to develop a strong faith.

"Absolutely", I replied without a moment's hesitation.

In fact, God promises us this: "You will seek and find me when you search for me with all your heart," (Jer. 29:13). Just as healthy earthly parents want a good relationship with their kids, so our heavenly Father wants a close relationship with us. In the same way, if we want an intimate close relationship with another person we must be intentional about it.

"Well, how do you do that?" my typically shy and reserved friend inquired.

Now I know, many of us are stuck in this sensory world we live in. If we can't see, feel, hear, touch, or smell it, we don't believe it exists. God does exist only in another reality - the spiritual realm and we just have to get comfortable operating in this realm as well. The good news is the same steps we take when we are serious about getting to know someone are the same steps we can use in developing a relationship with God.

1. Have an open heart and an open mind.

In other words, we have to believe in our heart that it is possible to have a deeper relationship with God, that He does love you, and wants to have a relationship with you. God wants to connect with us, just as much as the spiritual part of us wants to connect with Him. Once we let this truth permeate our minds, we open the doors for an amazing adventure.

2. Spend more time together.

Getting to know God is much the same as getting to know another person. When we make it a priority to spend time with someone, we get to know them at a deeper level. We come to know who they are, their likes and dislikes, their values, how they think. We each have our own way of spending time with God. Some of us like to take a walk, a hike, or a bike ride in nature. Others
prefer to listen to comforting music or work in the garden. Still others find God in a communal approach such as a church setting or a meditation group. Whatever puts you in a calm and receptive state of mind is conducive to meeting with God.

3. Learn how God feels and thinks about things.

God is not some secretive, illusive being. He wants to make himself known to us, to speak to us, and to guide us - personally. These days, when we want to find out information about someone, we do a Google search and look them up on the Internet. We can do the same thing with God, believe it or not. We go to a reliable source and seek information. In fact, God has put much information about himself, his ways, his thoughts, and his ways of operating in in one collection of books known as the Bible. Now I know many people have a problem with the Bible, saying it's old and antiquated but not much has changed in the way of relationships since it was written. Did you know that the way experts determine the validity of a manuscript is by how many copies there are of it? Did you know that the Bible is one of, if the not the most copied manuscript in history?

When we make time to read Scripture, we learn who God is, what He thinks, and what is important to him. We also open up the channel of communication for Him to speak to us. You will be amazed when you start reading the Word, how some passage will jump right out at you and you will know that it is meant for you. Try it and see!

"One more thing," I said to my friend. "Just ask God to reveal Himself to you, and He will." My friend smiled and nodded.

So there you have it, friends: three steps to developing a deeper relationship with God. Do post a comment, and click the +1 Google icon to let me know you liked this post. If you'd like to receive my free guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email address in the box above. Until next time, keep looking up!