Tag Archives: Love


When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me repeatedly “don’t act ugly, it’s not becoming.”  That mandate might seem trite to some or even inhibiting, but ultimately it became part of my own moral compass — an internal warning that measured whenever I was steering off-course.  Like  that time when I slipped and fell onstage — at the age of four and decided that the best response would be to stick out my tongue at those who giggled.  There my mother was — in the audience, reminding me that grace and poise is the most effective response to even the most embarrassing predicament.  Life’s most vexing situations are lessons in how to be dignified enough to get up, dust off, and move forward.  No one empathizes with a sore loser or an indignant tripper — especially one who acts ugly.

Acting ugly isn’t just something that we do in the physical, it is a state of consciousness that is devoid of love and compassion for others, as well as for ourselves.  When people acted ugly during the recent healthcare reform protests — by taunting and humiliating a man sitting on the ground with a sign that says he has Parkinson’s disease, they either lost their connection to Spirit or never had one in the first place.   When protesters resorted to racial epithets, anti-gay slurs and spitting — not to mention brick-throwing and death threats, they resorted to violence that is not merely punishable by law but is indicative of inner turmoil and confusion. 

The Book of Revelation calls our inner turmoil and confusion “worshipping the beast.”  No one could enter the temple — attain true inner mastery and come into oneness with God — as long as they acted ugly. (15:8)  Inner mastery takes place when our minds and hearts are clean and in one accord with Love.  Without self-mastery, we suffer the ill effects of our own hatred.  Revelation says that an “angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image” (16:2).  When we are hateful, our negative energy contaminates our own mind, body and soul. 

Self-mastery is illustrated by the Congressmen who were assaulted because of their mission to provide better health care for millions of Americans.  They didn’t press charges nor did they spit back.  They simply said that they had suffered even more in the process of fighting for civil rights.  They realized that acting ugly is not a sign of strength but of weakness.  They knew that the real battle is staying focused on the legislative issues at hand.  Anything besides the passage of this important piece of legislation would be a distraction.  Acting ugly is simply beneath them.

What those who act ugly do is not merely as important as what we do in response.  If we act ugly, we worship the beast too.  Our actions reflect that we are out of alignment with the loving energy of Spirit.  This struggle, this decision whether to act ugly or to be centered in the power of a love that blesses everyone is a battle that is fought in the consciousness of everyone — every single day.

Sometimes we wage this battle within our hearts.  Sometimes we wage it in a public forum.  Sometimes it even ends up televised for millions of viewers to see.  Sometimes we are not even aware that we are battling against forces and principalities that are aspects of our own consciousness of greed, lack and limitation.  But the Comforter reminds us to be alert, less we end up on national television — spitting and hurling insults in a desperate attempt to deny people health care.  Revelation says, “Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed!”  Blessed is he who takes a step back and looks at the big picture and remembers that we are our brothers’ keeper.  We owe our neighbor the same love, the same compassion and the same respect that we ourselves expect. 

God works through each and every one of us — regardless of politics, religion or race.  But if we are acting ugly, we miss the divine opportunity to do good and block the flow of the blessings that we will receive in doing it.  When we are bitter, hateful, and resentful, we are never productive.  Our ability to move forward with success is directly proportionate to the love that we have within. 

God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies, right in the midst of turmoil and strife.  It’s only when we are acting ugly that we fail to see the abundance and the infinite opportunity that the universe makes available to us.  God’s good is not exhaustible.  As the rap singer Common sings, “Common good is forever.  God’s memory is forever.”  Our good is forever, as long as we don’t block it — by acting ugly.  When we stand up with love, respect and decency for all humanity   — regardless of race, wealth or politics — we stand in the victory of God expressing through us.  It is only through this transcendent spirit of generosity that the mountains will move, the sun will stand still, the waters will part, and the walls — oh the walls, will come tumbling down.


Reverend Cecilia Loving                                 

Pastor, SPIRITMUV  (www.spiritmuv.com )


(All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving. )


This morning, I got up from my mat and walked.  And God revealed a universe so remarkable, it was as though I had climbed through Alice’s looking glass.  Just like Jesus told the man who had been lying by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, I got up from my mat and experienced the beauty of wholeness that was right in my midst.  It was as though I had put a foot in the healing water and then found myself wading knee-deep as the angels stirred in purpose, potential and endless possibility.  All I had to do was get up from my mat of anticipation, and open my heart to receive the absolute good that is always awaiting us.

I walked the streets uphill to Prospect Park, and the sweetness of the sun anointed my face.  I walked the wooden climb of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the symmetry of holy wings suspended me in a heavenly embrace.  I walked the upward path through the open arms of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and in the blink of an eye, I saw spring kissing winter good-bye.  In the Gardens, I went through opened arms to an oasis of beauty, serenity and squirrels on a spirit-filled mission of their own.  I walked uphill and downhill with anticipation of new life awakening with springtime, while summer lounged between moss-filled cracks, sleeping patiently.

I walked right outside of the box containing who I once was — magically opening to who I know I AM — weeding out fear and doubt, pulling beyond conventionality, pushing past the ordinary to the extraordinary energy of God.  I walked, baptized by fresh breezes; transformed by choirs of birds; sanctified by swaying trees.  It was as though I could hear Jesus saying, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  Get up from your contentment.  Get up from your misery.  Get up from your resentment.  Get up from your jealousy.  Get up from your pain.  Be bold enough to step into the present moment.  Enjoy the now.  Release the past.  Celebrate the awakening of a new season in your life.

Walk away from who you used to be.  Walk away from your old stories, and sow a new one.  Walk away from what you wished, or ought, or should, or would have done — and reap the salvation of what you are doing.  Walk away from laziness and procrastination and seize the day to begin again.  Walk away from the boundaries of your self-imposed limitations, and renew your soul with the unlimited power of Spirit.

Walk and see the seeds of prayers wiggling through shoots of green.  Walk and see daffodils dancing praises of deliverance.  Walk and see God painting the landscape with new expectations of tulips and hyacinths and lavender, narcissus, honeysuckle, azaleas, and lilies — all awaiting their bloom.  Walk and see the spaces where the fragrance of roses will ride the air, bless loving kisses, and witness.

Walk between the gaps of time where the Holy Ghost goes before you and awakens the glory of success.  Walk before the hopes that ignite the wind and spread the ideas that create, and bless, and are never seen again.  Days gone by have no space to hold the breath of infinite promises.  We cannot find the future in the past.  The best that we can possibly do is be liberated by the truth that nothing stays the same.

Freedom is the air.  The Hybrid Oak knows it, and reaches its arms out in  hallelujahs.  The Cypress knows it, and bends its branches in humble prayer.  The Shingle Oak knows it, and stands above the others in high praise.  Again and again and again, they welcome us as though they have come to the altar for the first time.

Walking in springtime is a meditation, an anointing, a shout, and a clap.  Come.  There is deliverance in the healing pool.  The angels of nature will stir the waters of your salvation.  All you have to do is take the time to see — really see God’s glory.


Reverend Cecilia Loving                                 

Pastor, SPIRITMUV  (www.spiritmuv.com )

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(All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving. )


I learned an invaluable lesson in the gym the other day when I was bench-pressing.  As usual, I was lifting a lot of weight.  But thanks to my trainer Goss, I realize the benefit of weight-training for women and know that increasing muscle mass is the best way to get in tip-top shape.  To many people’s surprise, I can bench press as much as the average man.  I was blessed to be trained by Goss because he never limited my training simply because I am a woman.  He believes in the infinite possibility of what we can all do — regardless of our sex.  He sees the pure potential of what the universe promises us, even when we cannot see it for ourselves.  He teaches that there is something more powerful in us than what we see in the flesh(see www.Goss_the_Steel.com).    

I was training with Nadine, my training partner, and we were having fun as usual, minding our own business.  Everything was just fine until a man training nearby began to question the amount of weight that we were lifting.

He had just watched me bench-press nearly 200 lbs and had obviously observed more than he could tolerate.  So our beloved on-looker left his own work-out and began lecturing me about why Nadine should not attempt to lift the weight that I had selected for her.  He adamantly told me that she was not prepared to lift the weight yet because she actually needed help lifting the bar.  Fortunately, Nadine spoke up for herself, and refused to lift anything lighter.  She looked at me, and said, “I am ready.”     In hindsight, I realize what a powerful affirmation that is: “I am ready.”  I am ready to move beyond where I am.  I am ready to transcend the here and now and push beyond my comfort zone.  I am ready to lift what I have never lifted before.  I may appear to be small to you or even insignificant.  I may appear to be weak to you — or at least as not strong as you are.  I may appear to be unworthy or less qualified, but God has prepared me for what I need to do.

I am ready, even if I need help because through all things, God is working together for my greatest good.  I know what I’m doing.   I know I’m prepared for this.  I know that the universe has brought me to this point with everything that I need — the bone, the muscle, the stamina, the energy, the strength — but most importantly the faith that I can succeed.

This reminds me of the Israelites who were at the edge of the wilderness, when Moses blessed them for their journey into the promised land.  They were not just standing on the bank of a  river to cross.  They were on the threshold of a new consciousness.  They were not leaving the wilderness because they had traveled a certain distance, or mapped out a particular strategy, or had served a certain amount of time.  They were crossing over because they were ready.

The promised land, you see, is not a physical place.  It is a place in consciousness that gives us spiritual food that feeds our mind, soul and heart the unlimited feast of the Kingdom of God.  It is a place where we are no longer captive to the wilderness of our own negativity and grumbling and strife.  It is a place where the materialism of the Egyptians no longer enslaves us.  It is a place where the disenfranchisement of the Israelites no longer burdens us.  It is a place where the giants of Og no longer scare us.  But we cannot get there unless we are ready.

The number forty in the Bible symbolizes preparation rather than a specific number.  Forty years in the wilderness means as long as it takes to get ready.  We are ready when we realize that Spirit is always working together for our greatest good.  Spirit will always feed us enough manna, spiritual food, to sustain us.  We are ready when we stop worrying about what other people say or think.  As Terrie Cole Whitaker says, What You Think About Me is None of My Business.  We are ready when we are willing to make the sacrifices that need to be made to accomplish what we want.  We are ready when we learn to seek first the Kingdom of God, and realize that the Kingdom is within.

We are ready when we can bless even the appearances of life — whether they are bad or good — because we realize that they are the motivation that we need.   We are ready when we understand that love is the spiritual law that supersedes all others.  Love does not judge but is unconditional.  Love has an all-encompassing heart that fulfills the law with grace.  We can accomplish anything with the power of love.  If you are worried or doubtful or in need, all you have to do is bless the situation with the power of love.  Love allows us to be compassionate about everyone, even when they second-guess us, because we know that they are part of our blessing.  They serve as the catalyst that pushes us beyond our comfort zones.  They make us aim higher than we ever aimed before.

When Nadine and I were training, I really do not believe that she would have done as good a job, but for the man’s doubt.  After he voiced his disapproval, she was fired up.  She was ready to prove him wrong.  She had never bench-pressed two 45 lb plates before, but I have no doubt she’ll be doing it from now on.  She did a spectacular job.  I followed.  Inspired by her, as well as the man’s protest, the weight never felt lighter.

We cross over to the other side when we know that we are blessed with the anointing of God.  We never know how we are going to make it there.  But we can trust that God will put the right people on our path to push against our resistance and pull us across the threshold to something greater.

Yes, I am ready for the promised land.  I have spent enough time in the wilderness.   I am ready to do what God has called me to do.  I am ready to walk in the newness of life, and nothing and no one can stop me.


Reverend Cecilia Loving                                 

Pastor, SPIRITMUV  (www.spiritmuv.com )  (All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving. )


When I saw The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington, I was reminded of how we are all called by Spirit to do a special task.  We may not believe that we are worthy or that we have the requisite skills, but God will give us what we need to accomplish what we are appointed to do.  I was reminded of how difficult it is to “stay on the path; stay on the path” as Denzel’s character Eli had to tell himself repeatedly.   There is always something to distract us when we try to stay the course, but like Eli — we only need to stay centered in God.  

We can only imagine what contributed to Eli’s phenomenal training to protect the Bible during his 30 years in the wilderness.  Similarly, we speculate that Moses was trained by Pharaoh as an Egyptian Priest of the highest order, and that he spent 40 more years meditating and praying while serving as a shepherd on Horeb, the “mountain of God.”  So, like Eli, Moses was well-prepared for his mission.  In fact, Moses was so well-prepared that in Exodus 3:4, when God calls Moses from the burning bush, Moses simply says, “Here I am.”   

Here I am — ready to do what Spirit calls me to do.  Here I am — ready to push past the boundaries of my comfort zones.  Here I am — ready to leave who I used to be in order to accomplish God’s divine plan.  Here I am — regardless of what others may perceive as difficulties or setbacks or handicaps, I am ready because God is my strength, my might, and my salvation.

You see, we were called before our births in the physical realm.  The Buddhists ask “do you remember what your face looked like before your parents were born?”  Our spiritual face is the energy of our soul and the deepest intent behind our purpose.  Jeremiah said “Before we were  formed in the womb, God knew us.  Before we were born, God set us apart.”  (Jeremiah 1:4-6)  We may not remember exactly where we are going or know how we will get there, but Spirit will lead the way.  We are often of such little faith that we doubt our abilities — like Moses — and second-guess our talent, but God will give us the voice and the vision and the victory that we need.  God will soften even the hardest hearts of the egos in our midst — especially our own.  God will part the Red Sea of fear and trepidation, allowing  no one deter us from our path. 

As the Psalmist reminds us, God said, “Do not touch not my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm.”  (Psalm 105)  You are my beloved child; you are my heir to the throne.  The Kingdom of Infinite Possibilities is within you.  If you thirst, I will give you living water.  If you hunger, I will feed you meat and rain down bread from heaven.  I know what you have need of before you even ask.  All you have to do is trust.  I AM THAT I AM is not only where you are, but God is already at the place where you  are going.

Here I am — finally realizing that I am strengthened by the power of God.  I am lifted by the power of God.  I am energized by the power of God.  I am prospered by the power of God.  I am reborn by the power of God — one with every cell, every molecule and every atom of our being.  Here I am — and right where I AM is Spirit expressing as me.  Here I am — moving forward in unlimited potential and divinely guided to a consciousness where I can never falter, never sway, never miss the triumph of all that I AM. 

I will stay on the path of righteousness, regardless of what others think.  I once was lost but now, I have returned from the far country.  I am going about my Father’s business. 

I don’t want to just see the Promised Land; I want to be in the right consciousness to enter it.  I want to be a believer — not just in somebody else’s testimony, but I want to know God for myself.  I want to know Jesus Christ for myself.  I want to shut up and listen to the Holy Spirit for myself.  I want to maintain a clarity of heart and sincerity of purpose so true that it reaches beyond who I once was to liberate me in the unlimited power of all that I AM.  Only then can I walk the walk and talk the talk like Eli — with the sword of God’s power, watching a thousand fall at my side and ten thousand at my right hand and nothing come near me.  (Psalm 91) 

As long as I stay centered in God, I will succeed.  No matter what circumstances I meet on my path, nothing will be too great for God.

Namaste,   Reverend Cecilia Loving                              



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(All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving. )


haitian-children-1Last Sunday, Spiritmuv had a special guest.  She was three years old and about two and a half feet tall.  She arrived on time, took off her coat, hugged those who came, and asked if she could pray at the beginning of the service.  To our surprise, at the end of the service, she also took the initiative to step into the middle of the Spiritmuv prayer circle.  We thought that we going to bless her, but the truth is that she blessed us.  There was something about her purity of spirit that pulled us away from our “adult” cares and concerns to the sweetness and simplicity of Truth.  God is good, and that’s all that matters. 

haiti-children-6Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14 NIV)  The only way you can really see the goodness of Spirit is to look through the eyes of someone as genuine as a child.  This means knowing that our Mother-Father-Everything-Almighty God can protect us from whatever the boogey-man brings us.    This means seeing past appearances of disaster and despair to the inexhaustible supply of God.  

 haiti-children-4One of many things that bothers us about Haiti is to see the images of children suffering.  But we have to remember the words of Jesus when asked about a man born blind.  “Rabbi, who sinned,” the disciples asked, “this man or his  parents, that he was born blind?”  And Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  (John 9:2-3)  This happened so that the works of God might be made manifest.

 haiti-children-3That’s why we were given the gifts of faith, strength, wisdom, regenerating love, power, imagination, understanding, will, order, zeal, renunciation, and generative life.  (See Charles Fillmore, The Twelve Powers of Man (Unity Books: Unity Village, 1999))  We have the power to fix the broken, to cure the sick, to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to uplift the downtrodden, to be the healing balm, to plant new lives and to restore old ones.  As Jesus said, God is working through us to display something wonderful.  That’s why children have huge imaginations, divine ideas that haven’t been diminished by “growing up.”  

haiti-children-2 When we “grow up,” we often lose the sheer joy of being because we start judging by appearances instead of  by “righteous judgment.”  We allow everybody’s else’s stiff-necked foolishness to usurp our energy and our focus, instead of  just knowing that we are the manifestation of God’s good.  We don’t want to see with an  eye single toward the continuous stream of God’s good — when there is so much else to distract us.   We are distracted by the unknown, limited by what we do know, and crazed by what we think we know.

haiti-8-praying We say that we want to help Haiti, and giving money is a great start.  But we might also want to help the Haiti in us — the turmoil, the discord, the danger, and the destruction — by loving those who are right in our midst.  Have you told your parents how much you love them?   Have you kissed your spouse and showed her or him just how much you appreciate them?  Have you really been a friend to your so-called “friend”?  Have you reached out to give to those who have given so much to you?  Have you even been to church, or done anything to help in your community?  Imagine how different the people of Haiti would respond to the call to love those thousands of beings who were lost in the earthquake.

haiti-7 Are you willing to hang up your phone, or put down your glass of wine, or cut off your television long enough to join a circle of prayer?  God has embraced each and every one of us with a heart of love that is ever-lasting — but we refuse to give that love back.  We ignore our communities of faith and prefer to worship at the altar of despair.  We throw in the towel at the slightest interruption to serve God.  We stop going to church because we want to believe that community doesn’t matter.  But Haiti reminds us that it does.

 God told the grumbling Israelites as they made their way to the order-13Promised Land — not you, but “your children who do not yet know good from bad-they will enter the land.  I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”  ( Deuteronomy 1:39)  We cannot manifest our good until we stop grumbling and start allowing ourselves to be the vehicle through which God constantly recreates. 

 We have to start believing that we can say to a mountain “move” — and it will move.  We can say to the tiniest grain of mustard seed “grow” and it will grow.  We can run the race and not get weary.  We can walk and not grow faint.  No matter what the world looks like, we can call it all good because we are here so that the works of God may be made manifest.  And maybe, just maybe — through all of the chaos, we will actually see one or two or even hundreds of the miracles that God always expresses through us. 



Reverend Cecilia Loving                                 

Pastor, SPIRITMUV www.spiritmuv.com www.godisabrowngirltoo.com  (All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving.  Please click on the link below or go to  www.spiritmuv.wordpress.com for the Spiritmuv Bible in a Year Schedule.)  

SPIRITMUV meets every Sunday, at 2:30 PM , at the Unity Center of NYC, 213 West 58th Street.


Chicken Soup for the Soul tells the story of a priest who was so madly in love with his Christmas nativity scene that he often took a special inventory of his beloved life-sized plaster figurines and doted on his favorite, which was the Christ Child Jesus. So when the priest awoke on Christmas day to find the Christ Child missing from the manger, he almost lost his mind.  He chastised his congregation about the theft, repeating his tirade at each Mass. Yet, the manger remained empty. In order to calm down, the priest took a meditative stroll. Where is the Christ Child? He had to have pondered again and again. What happened? Where is Christ?

In John 14, Jesus said I might not always be with you in the flesh, but God is going to send the Counselor to be with you forever. Jesus called that Counselor “the Spirit of truth”, who Jesus said would live in us and be in us. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

In other words, Jesus Christ is not really in our nativity scenes, even though we remember him there. Jesus Christ is not really on our symbolic cross, even though we carry him there. Jesus Christ is not limited to plaster or plastic or wood or silver or gold. Jesus Christ did not limit himself to the physical but taught about the oneness of the spiritual realm. He said, I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you — not just in a manger or a scroll or a prayer. He said I am a reality that you touch every day. I am in every breath that you breathe and space that you take up.

In his wonderful book, Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, says that Jesus is born every time the Holy Spirit in us is touched. He says that “The Christ within us is waiting for each minute to be born again and again.” Thich Nhat Hanh says that “the Holy Son has been born in you as a baby, but maybe it’s not strong yet. You have to strengthen and cultivate the Holy Spirit in you.” You have to practice your awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Otherwise, you will miss the beauty of the Christ that is right within your midst.

The Chicken Soup story says that the priest — worried about the missing Christ Child — walked through his neighborhood. As he walked, he saw one of the smallest members of his flock — bundled shabbily against the cold, dragging behind him a brand new red wagon. The priest was touched by how much sacrifice the boy’s family must have made to get him a brand new red wagon. So, he quickly caught up with the boy to wish him a Merry Christmas. But when the priest caught up with the boy, he could see that the wagon was not empty. Right there, in plain view, was the Christ Child wrapped in a blanket.

Grimly, the Priest stopped the boy and lectured him profusely: stealing was a sin — and robbing the church of such a sacred image — was an even greater one.
“But Father!” the little boy cried out after the Priest’s tongue lashing was over , “I didn’t steal the Christ child. It wasn’t like that at all. It’s just that I was praying to Him for a red wagon for Christmas — and I promised him that if I got it, I would take him out for the first ride!”

Where is Christ? The Christ left the manger eons ago. The Christ was resurrected in us as the Holy Spirit to teach us the power of the Divine Mind — over the material world, over plaster and plastic, and even flesh. The Christ lives within us in a place that never grows old, never grows weary, never grows tired, never needs surgery, never feels the economic decline or its surge because it is full and complete in the inexhaustible everything of all that God is. Jesus did not leave us comfortless. He is always present as the Holy Ghost — to teach us all things. The great Hindu spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda, in The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, says that this is not the body but the omnipresent Christ Consciousness present in all creation.

During these weeks of Advent, the time during which many people prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ through prayer, meditation and other forms of worship, it is important to re-visit our spiritual practice so that we develop a consistent way to tune into the Holy Spirit within us. The most priceless gift that can be given now is the remembrance of this divine connection that unites us all. God is always calling us to greater works than those who have gone before us, always breathing into us the power to do better, create more, and evolve beyond the pure potential of the infinite realm of possibilities. Now is the time to release whatever we allow to block our good and allow Spirit to do its good work. Now is the time to stop chasing the plaster figurines of your Baby Jesus and know that the Christ within you has never left.

Reverend Cecilia Loving
Pastor,SPIRITMUV http://www.spiritmuv.com http://www.godisabrowngirltoo.com
(All of the materials in SPIRITMUV email messages are copyrighted by and may not be used without the written permission of Cecilia Loving. If you want to be included in the weekly audio prayer distribution, please email us with your request. You can also blog atwww.spiritmuv.wordpress.com)

BREATHING LOVE by Michelle Bernard

yoga 3Every time I tell someone that I teach yoga, they respond by saying something like, “I can’t even touch my toes,” or “Do you have to stand on your head?” Most people assume that their body must be pretzel-like before they can do yoga.   What they don’t understand is that the practice of yoga is far richer than touching one’s toes and much more than the mere movement of one’s body. Yoga has been marketed with images of quirky, tattooed, thin, new age, free-spirits sitting in a lotus position, or posing with one leg stretched up to the heavens, or standing contemplatively on their heads.  So many people attend yoga classes hoping to tie their legs behind their necks, tone their bodies without becoming “bulky”, or sweat profusely in the hope of melting away excess pounds.

Western culture has placed more emphasis on the physical rather than the spiritual aspect of yoga, despite theYoga 6 profound transformational  potential of this ancient, spiritual practice on body, mind and soul. I found my way to my first yoga class in 1995.  I was in my twenties and living in Hollywood pursuing the life of an entertainer.  Ironically, I was also battling the demon of depression.  The path my life as a singer no longer felt fulfilling.

I was suffering from  the awareness of dishonorable choices that I had made in my personal Yoga 7life and was unable to free myself from them.  I needed desperately to change my life — both in terms of my career and my personal relationships, but I didn’t know how to begin.  I really didn’t know how to re-direct my energy.  Moreover, I had no idea who I really was beyond the person that I had turned into.

I knew that the latter was not me, but I didn’t know who I was beyond the identity that I’d developed so far.  I was afraid.  Fear devastated me.  I was living in darkness.  And in this darkness, I was blind. But something led me to the Hollywood Y, a place where I could teach step aerobics and stretch classes.  So when I took my first yoga class, I did it merely so that I could  learn new Yoga 12stretches to incorporate in my fitness classes.

The yoga class was held on the basketball court upon a sea of thick, blue and gray Velcro-attached gymnastic mats.  The teacher, a brown man draped in a white, cotton loin cloth and a crown of bound “locks” spoke very little, like a guide. All I remember about the physical poses was standing with my arms at my side and breathing (tadasana, the mountain pose), standing on one leg and breathing (vrksasana, tree pose), and lying on my back and breathing (savasana, corpse pose).  What I never forgot was how the brown man spoke.  He was gentle, calm, compassionate, loving.  He wasn’t speaking to the physical me; he was speaking to my soul.  He was moving in oneness with my spirit.

And for the first time, in a long time, I felt an inner peace, that flowed from my own spirit.  I remember how quiet I became inside.  He guided my mind towards my breath, breathing in and breathing out, in and out.  There was peace in the breath.  There was peace in the stillness.   I found comfort.  I could begin again in the darkness.  I could breathe through it; and it wasn’t as foreboding. When I thought about the transformation that I had witnessed through the love of  breath from my own body, I was moved to tears.  I cried on my walk home.  Ninety minutes of standing, rolling, moving, breathing . . . .  had awakened something. I kept attending the Yoga Class at the Y.  I kept standing in mountain pose, engaged in the deep breath, guided by my teacher.

Through the stillness, through the energy, through the breath, I began to see more clearly — despite the darkness within.   I began to look at life differently, and I began to listen.  And there it was.  An illumination.  Great Spirit was with me, speaking to my soul, and showing me more of my Self than I’d ever seen.  I saw the essence of me.  I saw new courage.  I saw that I was capable of releasing the old Self.  Spirit was breathing in me the strength to uproot and recreate in a direction I had never considered.

I aligned with a deeper part of my essence.  Yoga, I realized, was not simply stretching; it was stillness.  It was the stillness that I needed to go within, the stillness that I needed to hear the Great Spirit, the stillness that I needed to move forward in peace. From those yoga classes, my life changed forever. Michelle Bernard is a licensed yoga intructor and personal trainer, as well as the owner and creator of  exquisite and original jewelry — each piece of which is an original work of art. 

See www.aboutpebble.com; www.thewanderingpebble.blogspot.com  Michelle is also facilitating two Retreat Workshops, “Breathing Love” and  “Transforming the Body.”

GOD’S LOVE EXPRESSING AS US by Sherri Roberts-Lumpkin

DSC08154[1]Mother Teresa put it aptly when she wrote, “I am a tiny pencil in the hand of God, writing a love letter to the world.” But would God use me — a brown girl — to express love in the world?   The answer is yes.  Love is part of the very fiber of our being — not separate from who we are; it was created when we were created and it never stops creating itself.  Love is in our hearts; and we are in the heart of love.  As John says, “[e]veryone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  (1 John 4:19) Many brown girls the world over suffer from a lack of self-esteem, which is really a lack of self-love and self worth. We are inundated with so many negative opinions of us — from the media, family and friends, or our own minds. We are obessessed with who we aren’t, what we aren’t, what we haven’t done, how we don’t look, where we haven’t been, why we can’t — rather than focused on the love of God blessing us and lifting us unconditionally.   Roberta Flack sings, “where is the love?”  To find love, we have to stop looking outside of ourselves and dig deep within.  We have to release the beliefs that society imposes on us, as well as our own self- imposed negative thoughts about ourselves. The best way to start loving yourself is through forgiveness.  We have to forgive society.  We have to forgive the world.  We have to forgive ourselves.  We have to forgive the haters and even the discriminators.  We have to forgive those who hurt us.  We have to forgive those who Sherri Lumpkin Photolost our trust.  The amazing thing is that forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for us.  Forgiveness opens our hearts to accept the love that is always inside — and by so doing, forgiveness creates spaces to accept the love of others.  Brown girls need love like everybody else.   Brown girls have a tremendous capacity to love too — because we are here to radiate the love of God as us — in our beauty, in our rhythm, in our warmth, in our strength,  in our wisdom, in our creativity, in our dance, in our song, in our power, in our intelligence, in our compassion.  The problem is that we need to believe that we are the best thing that ever happened to us — not a man or a job or an opportunity — just us.  When we brown girls truly begin to believe in our self-worth, then we will begin to pass our love to the world. The Ragbaby Exchange uses doll-making to help release the layers of self doubt and unforgiving attitudes to uncover the love and beauty of the brown girl.   The magic of making and embracing our love through dolls is healing. Doctors use dolls to calm patients with dementia. Social workers and therapist use dolls to help victims of abuse express what has happened to them. Children hold and play with dolls to comfort them but while playing they learn how to be nurturing. God is a Brown Girl Too 2010 Retreat 032The Ragbaby Exchange engages participants of all ages in doll-making as a way to express themselves. The dolls becaome their self-portrait.  This self-portrait begins the process of discovery that brings about a sense of acceptance of one’s own love and beauty. Through our doll-making workshops, we peel back the layers of negative thoughts and allow you to: • express your thoughts and emotions in healthy growth producing ways, • gain a sense of accomplishment, which helps move you toward self affirmation and divine potential, • learn to forgive, accept and value yourself and others, • see your own inner beauty and feel the love inside of you. Once we can see our own beauty and feel our own love expressed through this doll, we are able to be that tiny pencil. Through our release and acceptance of self, we become the words in God’s love letter.  When we decide to pass our beautiful loving self-image to another person, in effect, they are given a love letter from God, which says, “I love you.”  Peter said,  “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8) Change your life by joining me at God is a Brown Girl Too, and start a chain reaction of spreading God’s love with a little brown doll filled with your love.   Sherri Roberts-Lumpkin, Founder/Creative Director,  The Ragbaby Exchange, will be doing some fantastic workshops at the Retreat, using the power of dolls to transform a Brown Girl’s love and appreciation of herself.